I’ve been questioning things in the bible since I started teaching Sunday School to younger kids when I was in the eighth grade. Yes, I was more of a babysitter than a teacher, but I didn’t know that at the time. So I took my job seriously. While preparing for one of my Sunday morning lessons, I read Genesis 1:26, which says: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
That is when the questioning started. Who is the “us” and the “our” in that passage? Through the years I have posed the question to numerous religious scholars with less than satisfactory answers. Ike Fehr, my guest blogger, offers the first plausible explanation to satisfy my curiosity.
(ProbeNote: In an effort to authenticate, at the bottom of the guest post, I provided notes that offer more information about the experts quoted.)
The Plurality of Gods by Ike Fehr
(IkeNote: In these posts Bible quotations are printed in red. Quotations from other writers are in blue, and my own quotes and paraphrases are in pink.)
At the declaration that one believes in more than one God, one is branded a heretic, lunatic or a pagan. However, in this brand of theology, the word “God” no longer carries the connotation that it has held throughout church history.
If one believes that the God of the Old Testament is a saucerian, it is logical to suppose that He is not the only being who developed to this point of eminence. Therefore, one can surmise that there are also other gods of a like nature. This thought brought to its conclusion is the basis on which “Spaceship Theology” rests.
For the benefit of those astronomers who are searching outer space for signs of intelligent life; for scholars, and sceptics, who say there is no evidence that extraterrestrials have ever visited our planet, let me quote…
…people throughout the Early World believed that E.T’s, from the Pleiades, civilized their people and that these beings were worshipped as gods. ( Alien contact – Fact or Fiction. By: Leonard Farra)
Concerning the multiplicity of the gods, the Epic of Gilgamesh tells us that:
the gods are created beings. When on high the Heavens had not been named, firm ground below had not been called by name…when no gods whatever had been brought into being, uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined – then it was that the gods were formed within them. (Archaeology and The Old Testament, James B. Pritchard, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.)
The first part of this quote has such a strong resemblance to Genesis 1 that one cannot help but believe that the writer of Genesis copied from the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Let’s look at a few quotations from the Biblical records.
In the beginning God (Gen.1:1). Even fundamentalist believers accept that the word, God, is a plural form of the word. Dr. James Strong, a Methodist Theologian, in his Dictionary of Hebrew Words of the Old Testament gives this definition of the word, God:
The plural form of the Deity, in English especially used with the article.
Therefore, using Strong’s definition, we should read Gen.1:1 like this: in the beginning the gods created the heaven and the earth.
The words, God and Gods — according to Dr. Strong — were the same. He reasons that at the time the Old Testament was written, the word was used in speaking to or about magistrates. For this reason the word, God, is not the majestic word Bible teachers have led us to believe it is.
The “Us” in Scripture
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26). The obvious question arises: to whom was God speaking when he said: let us make man in our image?
He must be speaking to more than himself. Why would He say our image if there were only one God? If these gods were only one God, why would he speak to Himself? Why not just think, “I will make man in my own image”, and then proceed to do it?
Eugene F. Roop, president of Bethany Theological Seminary and author, writes about the plurality of the gods in his commentary on Genesis. He says: God speaks to a group, stating that the man and the woman have become ‘like one of us.’ …Yahweh sits in the company of other divine beings. (Believers Church Bible Commentary – Genesis. Eugene F. Roop, (Herald Press. Scottdale, Kitchener, Ontario.)
Then, it seems that, almost as an afterthought, because that statement does not fit church theology, he adds, for example, angels. Surely, no traditional or evangelical Bible student believes that angels are divine beings. It seems, that Roop is trying to cover up the truth he uncovered in his Bible study. Not that this is unusual among Bible students. His study led Roop to state that there is a plurality of Gods, but then he tries to diminish that finding by calling those other gods, angels.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Gen. 1:27). Again, changing the singular to the plural, as Dr. Strong says we need to do, we read it like this, So the gods created man in their own image, in the image of the gods created they them; male and female created they them.
Gods of Egypt
I will pass through the land of Egypt…and I will smite all the firstborn…and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment (Ex.12:1).
Strong says that the definition for the word, gods, in: gods of Egypt, is the same as the definition for, God, in the phrase, in the beginning God created heaven and earth. In this instance, are we going to take the Bible literally? Or are we going to say—as the church at large does — it doesn’t mean what it says?
If the Egyptians called on Ra, Isis or Osiris by name; and if they believed that their gods heard them; are we really in any position to say that their gods were only idols and not real forces?
This argument, of course, does not diminish the fact that the Bible very clearly speaks of idols; those things made of inanimate objects that are worshipped as gods. The prophets of the Old Testament, speaking to the Jews, made it a point to denounce the worship of such items because Jehovah, their God, had told them not to make any graven image to worship. That simple fact indicates that some other real, living gods, did not mind if their followers made images of them.
A Primitive Religion
Isaac Asimov, famous American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, said:
It is clear from the Old Testament that the early Hebrew religion was a very primitive one… The religion was polydaemonistic and polytheistic, so the Old Testament explicitly affirms. (Guide To The Bible. Isaac Asimov, Avenol Books. New York).
Here we might insert one of the verses Meek mentions, Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods (Joshua 24:2).
The most we can claim for Moses in it, (Joshua 24:2), is monolatry. Neither here nor anywhere else does he deny the existence of gods other than Yahweh, nor does he assert the sole existence of Yahweh. (Hebrew Origins. Theophile James Meek, Harper Torchbooks. 1960).
Monolatry means, worship of only one God, although others may be believed to exist.
More about the Experts
In the order of appearance.
(ProbeNote: Leonard Farra is the author of The Pleiades Legacy, an account of religions, legends, and traditions of early people in the Old World. He is a columnist and shares his works on various websites such as the World Mysteries blog.)
(ProbeNote: James B Pritchard is an American archeologist who received the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement in 1983 from the Archeological Institute of America. He is also author of Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament which provided reliable translations of texts that offered insight into the context of Ancient Near Eastern history and the Hebrew Bible. For a synopsis of his book see ProbeNote below.)
(ProbeNote: A synopsis of James Pritchard’s book, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, from Amazon:
This anthology brought together the most important historical, legal, mythological, liturgical, and secular texts of the ancient Near East, with the purpose of providing a rich contextual base for understanding the people, cultures, and literature of the Old Testament. A scholar of religious thought and biblical archaeology, James Pritchard recruited the foremost linguists, historians, and archaeologists to select and translate the texts. The goal, in his words, was “a better understanding of the likenesses and differences which existed between Israel and the surrounding cultures.” Before the publication of these volumes, students of the Old Testament found themselves having to search out scattered books and journals in various languages. This anthology brought these invaluable documents together, in one place and in one language, thereby expanding the meaning and significance of the Bible for generations of students and readers. As one reviewer put it, “This great volume is one of the most notable to have appeared in the field of Old Testament scholarship this century.”)
(ProbeNote: The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, is said to be the first great work of literature. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems. Gilgamesh is a demigod with superhuman strength and is generally seen by scholars as a historical figure, since inscriptions have been found which confirm the existence of other figures associated with him in the epic. Influences of the Sumerian civilization, the oldest known culture, can be seen even today. )
(ProbeNote: James Strong was a Methodist biblical scholar, educator, and theologian. He is the creator of Strong’s Concordance which is a comprehensive cross reference of every word in the King James Version of the bible back to the word in the original text.)
(ProbeNote: Isaac Asimov is best known for his science fiction and popular science books. He is considered by some to be one of the foremost science fiction writers during his lifetime. He wrote I, Robot which was made into a popular movie.
(ProbeNote: Theophile James Meek is cited for having suggested that the Song of Solomon from the bible has similarities to the Babylonian fertility myth. He has been published widely on archaeology and was a frequent contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica.)
About Ike Fehr
My guest blogger graduated from Columbia College in Vancouver, B.C. He also graduated from Columbia Bible College after three years of intensive Bible and pastoral training. He has devoted over forty years to biblical research in hopes of discovering answers.
Ike starts his blogspot, which he calls Spaceship Theology, with an intriguing statement:
Considering all the advancements in the various fields of study in the last few hundred years, it is interesting that theologians are not willing to look at the Bible again and read there what it really says.
After all these years of searching for the answer of who God was talking to when he said us and our, it seems scholars and experts who have studied sacred doctrines, such as the Bible, present an argument that implies God was talking to others like him.
What do you think? And who is God and his others? I love hearing from you.