Occasionally our good Trinitarian friends point to Bible verses that seem to describe God with plural pronouns (verses like “let us make man in our image”). Then they use these plural pronouns to teach that God is more than one person. They believe these plural pronouns support the Trinity doctrine, which teaches that God is three distinct persons who are all capable of relating to each other.
But when we begin to look carefully at the way the Bible applies pronouns to God, we see that God is actually singular in his nature, not plural. Trinitarians teach that God is three persons; Oneness Christians, however, recognize that the Bible constantly refers to God as a singular person with singular pronouns.
Pronouns describe identity
When we talk about God and pronouns, we need to get one little detail out of the way first: God uses personal pronouns. God is not a thing; God is not an “it.” The Lord is not some impersonal spirit-force that can be described with impersonal pronouns. God is a person; God is a “he”—and this is how any discussion about God’s nature must begin. Pronouns are such little words, but they can have a big impact for our theology. When we do not properly understand God’s personal pronouns, we end up with huge misconceptions about who he is.
Personal pronouns must match the noun they describe in gender and number. Take the following sentence as an illustration: “Laura walked into the music store so she could buy a violin.” In this sentence she is a personal pronoun that points back to “Laura.” The pronoun isn’t he because Laura isn’t a man; and the pronoun isn’t they because Laura isn’t more than one person. Laura is one female person, so she is described with a singular feminine pronoun. Her pronouns match her identity.
The same goes for God; his pronouns match his identity. If we sit down and open the Bible to almost any page, we will see that God is constantly described as a single person with singular pronouns. God calls himself an “I,” not a “we.” People speak to God as a “thou,” not a “y’all.” When people describe God, they call him a “he,” not a they. When God inspired the Bible, he repeatedly describes himself as a singular person with singular pronouns.
How many do we have here?
Let me ask our good Trinitarian friends a question: if God is more than one person, which person of the Trinity is speaking in these verses?
I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: that they may know…that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else (Isa45:5-6).
The original Hebrew uses the first person pronoun אני; any standard Hebrew grammar will tell you that this word refers to a single person. Which person of the Trinity can say, “there is no God beside me“?? These verses, and countless others, describe God as a singular person; and this uni-personal description begins in the very first chapter of the Bible.
In the beginning God ברא/he created the heaven and the earth…And God יאמר/he said, Let there be light…And God ירא/he saw the light…and God יבדל/he divided the light from the darkness. And God יקרא/he called the light Day (from Gen1:1-5).
Repeatedly in Genesis 1 God uses singular masculine verbs to describe how he operates. All throughout scripture, God reveals himself as a “he,” not a “they.” He is one person.
What about Genesis 1:26?
Since he is a single person, God is always described—and always describes himself—with singular pronouns. That said, there are a couple verses that seem to describe God with plural pronouns; Genesis 1:26 is the most popular one that Trinitarians go to whenever they want to prove that God is a “we” instead of a “he.” So let us (pun intended) take a look at this verse in its context.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply….And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed
Plural pronouns like “us” and “our” definitely imply multiple persons, no doubt about it. But it doesn’t imply that God is multiple persons. Before we can understand the “let us” part, we have to understand the other verbs around it.
Notice all of the things God did in this passage: God “said,” “created,” “blessed,” and “said.” Every last one of these verbs in Hebrew is in a singular form: “he said,” “he created,” “he blessed.” In verse 29 he says, “I have given…”. In this passage, God is still describing himself as a singular person. If God were a Trinity, these verses would have plural verbs—“they said,” “they created,” “they blessed,” “we have given.”
“Let us” definitely implies multiple persons. But the context plainly shows that God is only one of those persons. When God says “Let us…” he is not talking to himself.
This is still how language works even today. I am only one person. If I told my buddy, “Hey, let’s [let us] go get some coffee,” I am one person and my buddy is another person. There are multiple persons in the conversation—but I am not multiple persons.
The context of Genesis 1 shows us that God is only one person; God is a “he.” In verse 26, he said to someone other than himself, “Let us make man…”. One individual spoke to another individual. “Let us” implies multiple individuals, and it implies that one individual is speaking to another individual. The singular pronouns and verbs in Genesis 1 make it perfectly clear that God is one individual person; and in verse 26 he spoke to someone else, and said, “Let us…”.
Even if God is a Trinity—he isn’t, but let’s assume for a second that he is—“Let us” means that one person is speaking to someone else. Genesis 1:26 says, “And God said, Let us…,” which means that all three members of the Trinity said something to someone else. Even if God is a Trinity…who was the Trinity talking to?
Who was God talking to when he said, “Let us make man in our image”?? To be honest, I’m not sure that I know. For me, the most convincing answer is the angels. They were present at creation of the world (Job 38:4,7), which means that they existed prior to creation. There are other places in scripture where God says, “us” when he means himself and the angels (Isaiah 6:1-4). And throughout history Jews have understood the “us” to refer to God’s angelic council. At the end of the day, we simply don’t know who God was talking to. The Bible doesn’t tell us. And it is always a bad idea to try to explain what the Bible leaves unsaid.
One thing we know for sure: the Bible in general and Genesis 1 in particular make it clear that God is only one person. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us” because one person (God) was speaking to another person (someone else).