Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Plural of Majesty

Allah is neither Plural nor Majestic; or,
How Modern Muslims Have One-Upped Muhammad

By Anthony Rogers


Genesis 1:26 – Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 3:22 – Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”

Genesis 11:7 – “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”


Silence and Propaganda Are the Best Policy

In a lengthy paper entitled Let Us Make Man: A Trinitarian Interpretation of Genesis 1:26 (and Related Passages), I argued, in a long train of others before and since, on prima facie, exegetical, systematic and historical grounds that the plural pronouns used by Yahweh, the one true God, in places like Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, are only properly understood in light of the rich Trinitarianism of Biblical revelation rather than in terms of any kind of impoverished or sterile unitarianism (not to mention polytheism). Space was also devoted in the paper to refuting some of the more popular alternative approaches, including the old canard that the phenomenon found in these passages are only instances of some kind of literary plural or figure of speech – such as the plural of majesty, the plural of respect, the plural of deliberation, and the editorial “we”.

To date, no Muslim has refuted the kind of positive evidence I (and others) have provided, apparently going with the motto that silence on this score is the best policy, and no Muslim has thought it meet to address the problems with the alternative views that I (and others) have enumerated, but for all that Muslim dawagandists have not stopped repeating the idea that a literary plural – specifically, the plural of majesty – is in view, a tactic that amounts to nothing more than propaganda.1 In light of this, it seems to me that it is high time to once again explain the problem this view has, and add to the list of problems certain considerations that show that this way of explaining the passages is illicit, given what Muslim sources themselves tell us, and incongruous, given the Islamic view of God.

The Plural of Majesty Is a Late Convention of Speech

Although some modern writers – Jewish, Christian, and otherwise – can be cited in favor of the existence of such a figure of speech during the period of Biblical composition,2 and who also see it as explaining the divine use of the plural pronouns found in Genesis and Isaiah, other sources (and more careful scholarship) can just as easily be cited saying otherwise, pointing out that: 1) there are no unequivocal examples of the plural of majesty ever being employed in the Ancient Near East in the B.C. period that coincides with the writings of the Old Testament; and 2) even if there were bona fide instances, there is no example that such a figure of speech existed in Jewish culture of the relevant time period(s) or that it was ever employed by the Biblical authors. For example, Professor Tayler Lewis (LL.D), a classical and Biblical scholar, after mentioning several different interpretations on offer, said the following about the plural of majesty:

Of all these views the pluralis majestaticus has the least support. It is foreign to the usus loquendi of the earliest language; it is degrading instead of honoring to Deity, and Aben Ezra shows that the few seeming examples brought from the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Num. xxii. 6; Dan. ii. 36, do not bear it out – the latter, moreover, being an Aramaic mode of speech. If we depart at all from the patristic view of an allusion to a plurality of idea in the Deity [i.e. the Trinity], the next best is that of Maimonides ...3

Another case in point is Emil Rödiger (*) who was professor for oriental languages at the University of Halle and the student of the well-known German Orientalist and Biblical Critic, H. F. W. Gesenius, who is credited with inaugurating the scientific approach to Semitic Philology. After the death of Gesenius, Rödiger was appointed editor for the next editions of Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. In this capacity, he also added the following footnote that is frequently quoted:

Jewish grammarians call such plurals... plur. virium or virtutum; later grammarians call them plur. excellentiae, magnitudinis, or plur. maiestaticus. This last name may have been suggested by the "we" used by kings when speaking of themselves (cf. already I Macc. 10:19, 11:31); and the plural used by God in Genesis 1:26, and 11:7, Isaiah 6:8 has been incorrectly explained in this way. It is, however, either communicative…, or according to others, an indication of the fullness of power and might…; but it is best explained as a plural of self-deliberation. The use of the plural as a form of respectful address is quite foreign to Hebrew.4 (Emphasis in original; to access online, see here)

Eminent Old Testament scholar Claus Westermann, who was a professor at the University of Heidelberg from 1958-1978, said:

The plural of majesty does not occur in Hebrew ..., so this older explanation has been completely abandoned today; ...5

And for a final example, professor of the Old Testament, Gerhard F. Hasel of Andrews University, stated:

... there are no certain examples of plurals of majesty with either verbs or pronouns ... the verb used in Gn 1:26 (āśāh) is never used with a plural of majesty. There is no linguistic or grammatical basis upon which the ‘us’ can be considered to be a plural of majesty.6

The Plural of Majesty is an Innovative and Ad Hoc Explanation

Consistent with the fact that this convention of speech originated later and is foreign to the writings of the Old Testament, it is evident that this explanation of the passages held no favor among the Jews until sometime after the advent and spread of Christianity. Not only did this explanation appear de novo or from the blue, which shouldn’t have been the case if there was a well-known rule of Hebrew grammar that governed this kind of use of plural pronouns, but it shows that the real motivation for this position was to cut off a particularly powerful line of reasoning that was otherwise open to Christians.

All of this is evident from the fact that one can find a whole host of different and divergent explanations for these passages in such authoritative Jewish works as the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud,7 but will search the same in vain for even the slightest vestige of anything remotely approaching or resembling the so-called “plural of majesty”.8 To find such an interpretation one will have to look elsewhere and later for it. Indeed, when we do find the first glimmer of this kind of interpretation being put forward – and even then it is not the plural of majesty or the plural of respect as such, but the plural of deliberation – it isn’t until the latter half of the second century of the Christian era and it is in the context of a Jewish-Christian debate, namely, Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho (Ch. LXII).

This shows that at the very most Jews up to and through the first century simply had no idea that such a figure of speech existed in Biblical Hebrew, and at the very least that the idea that such a figure of speech was the proper explanation of these verses had not yet suggested itself to them or else did not yet enjoy any official recognition or approbation.

The Plural of Majesty Is Not Demonstrably Applicable

Even if the above points are ignored or can otherwise be surmounted and it can be reasonably assumed that the plural of majesty existed and was exploited on occasion by the Biblical authors, it still has to be demonstrated that when God said “Us” and “Our” in the above passages it was the divine intention that these words be understood as instances of such a figure of speech. The fact that a figure of speech exists doesn’t mean that the literal meaning or signification of certain words or phrases is no longer in circulation. The fact that plural pronouns could be used in such a way does not by itself prove that any or every particular use of these words is to be taken figuratively. In other words, a sound reason has to be provided why this explanation, out of the myriad of views that have been proposed, is in fact the correct one. Simply demonstrating that plural pronouns can be used figuratively doesn’t prove that they are being used figuratively in the relevant passages found in the Torah or the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Many writers who favor the plural of majesty view seem content to do little more than simply assert the existence of such an idiom, and those who go further to try and produce examples for it in ANE culture or in Biblical Hebrew do little more from that point than simply assert their own conclusion that it applies to those cases where God speaks in the plural number.

The Plural of Majesty and the Problem of a Plurality of Interpretations

In fact, and closely related to the above, if the mere existence of such a figure of speech is enough to show that these passage are properly interpreted figuratively, then why do we find unbelieving Jews throughout the centuries having such a difficult time coming to an agreed-upon explanation, with some saying God was speaking to His Word (e.g., the Jerusalem Targum, Targum Neofiti, the Fragmentary Targum), and others to the angels (e.g. The Talmud, Pappias, Rashi, et. al.), or to subordinate powers (e.g. Philo), or to the earth (e.g. Nachmanides, Kley Yakor, et. al.), or to heaven and earth (e.g. Rabbi Joshua b. Levi, Maimonides, et. al), or to preexistent souls (Tosephta), or still other sources that simply try to dispense with the plural words altogether (e.g. the Book of Jubilees 2:14, et. al.)? All this tends to show that a proper determination of the meaning of these passages comes down to more than simply saying, “A figure of speech exists that would explain these divine plurals to our satisfaction, and, therefore, these passages must be explained by such a figure of speech.”

The Plural of Majesty is Discordant with Genesis 3:22 and Isaiah 6:8

It is often overlooked that even if certain uses of the words “Us” and “Our” are susceptible to a figurative use – again, assuming, contrary to fact, such a convention as the plural of majesty was then in existence – not all of the occasions when God says “Us” and “Our” are even grammatically consistent with such an idiom. For example, when the LORD used the word “Us” in Genesis 3:22, He didn’t simply say that man has become “like us”, but that man has become “like one of Us,” a construction that certainly indicates that more than one person is in view.

Moreover, the plural of majesty view is also grammatically out of accord with the wording found in Isaiah 6:8, for, as R. C. H. Lenski pointed out: “It simply cannot be the majestic plural, for the very sufficient reason that no speaker uses in the same breath the singular ‘I’ and the plural ‘we’ (‘us’).”9

The Plural of Majesty Flounders on the Contrast in Genesis 11

This view also seems to run contrary to the obvious and intended contrast found in Genesis 11, where the divine “Us” is set over and against a rebellious humanity. The latter said, and surely there is no hint of a plural of majesty here, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens” (v. 3); to which the divine response is, “Come, let Us go down and confuse their language” (v. 7).

Was it really a single person who pursued the building of a city and a tower that would reach to the heavens, as the plural of majesty view suggests if applied consistently? Or is there some non question-begging reason to say that the phrase “let us” in the first part of the verse carries an entirely different connotation from the same words when they are used in the second part of the verse?

The Plural of Majesty Is Contra-Muhammadan

Since observations like the above have all been passed over without a word, and since they are likely to continue to be ignored as the propaganda continues to make the rounds, it is high time for Muslims to be made mindful and/or be reminded of one particular observation that is especially devastating to their whole thesis: this explanation is not the explanation given by their “prophet”. According to the earliest of Muslim biographical material on Muhammad, the question of the meaning (or unmeaning, as we will see) of such divine expressions was once put to Muhammad, and Muhammad’s answer then was not at all the same as the answer that Muslims who tout the plural of majesty view so confidently offer us today.

Either because such divine expressions are found in the authentic Scriptures, or because Muhammad himself picked up and made frequent use of this way of speaking in the Qur’an, something he evidently did without first thinking through the implications, a deputation of Christians of Najran are reported to have argued:  “…he [i.e. Jesus] is the third of three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and so on, but He is He and Jesus and Mary.” And just here – along with several other challenges that are put to him, and never minding for now that the Christian view of the Trinity has been mischaracterized as belief in God, Jesus, and Mary, just like in the Qur’an – where Muhammad’s 21st century defenders tell us he should have shouted “the plural of majesty! the plural of majesty!”, we are told that “the apostle was silent.” Only later after the Surah of the Family of ‘Imran was sent down (translation: after Muhammad had time to think about it), do we get Muhammad’s actual answer:

‘He it is who has sent down to thee the book which has plain verses: they are the core of the book’, in them is the divine argument, the protection of (His) creatures, and the thrusting aside of controversy and falsehood. These are not subject to modification or alteration in the meaning which has been given. ‘And others are obscure’, they are subject to modification and interpretation. By them God tests His creatures as He tests them with things permitted and forbidden that they should not be changed into what is false and altered by declining from the truth. ‘But as to those in whose hearts is a deviation,’ i.e. turning away from true guidance, ‘they follow what is ambiguous,’ i.e. what can be otherwise interpreted to substantiate thereby what they have invented and introduced anew that they may have an argument and a plausible reason for their doctrine, ‘desiring fitna,’ i.e. confusion, and ‘desiring an arbitrary interpretation,’ e.g. the error they adopted in explaining ‘We created’ and ‘We decreed’. ‘And none knows its interpretation,’ i.e. what they mean by it, ‘except God; and those grounded in knowledge. They say, We believe in it. Everything comes from our Lord.’ So how can there be any controversy when it is one speech from one Lord? Then they carry over the interpretation of the obscure to the plain which can have only one meaning and thus the book becomes consistent, one part confirming another, the argument effective and the case clear; falsehood is excluded and unbelief is overcome. ‘None but the intelligent take heed’ in this way. ‘O Lord, Suffer not our hearts to go astray after Thou has guided us,’ i.e. Do not let our hearts swerve, though we swerve aside through our sins. ‘Grant us mercy from Thy presence. Thou art the Generous Giver.’ Then He says, ‘God witnesses that there is no God but He, and the angels and the men of knowledge too’ contrary to what they say ‘subsisting ever in justice,’ i.e. in equity. ‘There is no God but He, the Mighty the Wise. The religion with God is Islam,’ i.e. the religion you practice, O Muhammad, acknowledging the oneness of God and confirming the apostles. ‘Those to whom the book was brought differed only after knowledge had come to them,’ i.e. that which came to thee, namely that God is one without associate, ‘through transgression among themselves. And whosoever disbelieves in God’s revelations – God is swift to take into account. And if they argue with thee,’ i.e. with the false doctrine they produce about ‘We created,’ ‘We did’, and ‘We commanded’, it is only a specious argument devoid of truth. ‘Say, I have surrendered my purpose to God,’ i.e. to Him alone, ‘as have those who follow me. And say to those who received the book and to the gentile (converts) who have no book, ‘Have you surrendered? For if they have surrendered they will be rightly guided and if they turn their backs it is only incumbent on thee to deliver the message. And God sees (His) servants.’10

There are several things to note about this answer, which is really just an artful dodge: 1) it shows that Muhammad did put plural pronouns in Allah’s mouth without first understanding the significance of doing so, otherwise he wouldn’t have had to “wait” (i.e. fish around) for the explanation, which is consistent with the supposition that he originally, and unthinkingly, picked up this practice from Jewish and/or Christian sources; 2) when the answer does “come down”, it turns out to be no answer at all, and the divine use of plural pronouns is written off as merely a test to see who would still believe in Islamic monotheism over against Trinitarian monotheism, since the actual words are obviously more consistent with the latter view; and 3) the tacit acknowledgment that these expressions are amenable to Trinitarianism, but that they were only intended to tease out/test heretics,11 and that all of this can be explained (read: dismissed) on the makeshift grounds that other verses that appear before, after or elsewhere use singular words, can all be found in 5th century rabbinic writings that predated Muhammad:

Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman said in Rabbi Jonathan’s name: “When Moses was engaged in writing the Torah, he had to write the work of each day. When he came to the verse, AND GOD SAID; LET US MAKE MAN, etc., he said: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Why dost Thou furnish an excuse to heretics?’ (for maintaining a plurality of deity). ‘Write,’ replied He; ‘whoever wishes to err may err.’”12

And again,

Rabbi Simlai said: “Wherever you find a point supporting the heretics [e.g., Trinitarians], you find the refutation at its side.” They asked him again: “What is meant by, AND GOD SAID: LET US MAKE MAN?” “Read what follows,” replied he: “Not, ‘and gods created man’ is written here, but ‘And God created (Gen. 1:27).’” When they [the heretics] went out his disciples said to him: “Them you have dismissed with a mere makeshift, but how will you answer us?”13

In any event, since Muhammad did not explain these verses as the plural of majesty, where do modern Muslims get the temerity to do so? Do modern Muslims think they have more insight into the Qur’an than Muhammad did? Or perhaps our modern Muslim friends reject the reliability of what Ibn Ishaq has reported. In this case, even if Muslim advocates of the plural of majesty view want to say that the Sirah literature does not accurately represent the answer of Muhammad, which would only serve to further erode our trust in Muslim sources, something that Muslims in other venues boast of having so much of, not to mention our confidence in their ability to be reasonably objective and to not arbitrarily cast difficult facts behind their backs, this answer shows that the earliest Muslims were not aware of this modern literary expedient. This fact is as problematic as Muhammad’s own answer is unconvincing.

Of course it should be mentioned that whatever the explanation is of the Qur’anic use of plural pronouns for Allah, it would be/is inadmissible when it comes to determining how they are being used in the Old Testament, for the Qur’an is more properly viewed as a medieval rather than an ancient text, and it is written in Arabic rather than Hebrew. The fact that Allah is not God and Muhammad was not a prophet doesn’t help either.

(For further discussion of the implications of the challenge put to Muhammad by the Christians of Najran, as well as additional plurality problems created for Muslims by the Qur’an, see the following article: The Qur’an, Allah and Plurality Issues.)

The Plural of Majesty is Incongruous with Islamic Monotheism

As if that wasn’t enough, the very suggestion that God is referred to in the plural in order to stir up or evoke notions of majesty is more than a little bit like giving up the store. It seems to suggest that a barren oneness doesn’t communicate such a notion, and that verbal expressions that betoken fullness, plentitude, indeed, plurality, are especially appropriate to induce such an idea. This observation taps into the inescapable truth that a “god” who is thought of along consistently unitarian lines, a “god” who is held to be one in every sense of the word, a “god” who is thus a unity of nothing, is really a blank and empty idea and more of an abstraction than a person, all of which is far from majestic.

No doubt some Muslims may want to say that Allah is not a barren oneness as indicated by the fact that he has many names and attributes, but if Allah’s unity in one sense does not rule out plurality in these other senses, then the principled basis on which many Muslim objections to the doctrine of the Trinity are based – that unity and diversity are contrary or contradictory to one another, that God can’t be one in one sense and more than one in another sense, etc. – falls to the ground. Furthermore, if Allah is perceived to be majestic because of his many names and attributes, and if this is taken as the rationale for God speaking of Himself using plural personal pronouns, or at least if it is taken as the rationale for why there are conventions of speech that associate plurality and majesty in this way, then how much more is the doctrine of the Trinity consistent with the rise of such a verbal convention? A plurality of attributes after all is not a plurality of persons, but in the Trinity we have just this, a God who is truly more than just a blank unity but a majestic plurality within unity, a God who is one in being but has many attributes and exists Tri-personally.14

Even though it proves to be unhelpful for the Muslim position, the above answer, that Allah has a plurality of attributes and thus isn’t a blank, isn’t really even available to Muslims, since according to Islam, Allah does not have an essence, meaning that the names and qualities that are “attributed” to Allah, are really only a way of describing his arbitrary decisions or actions, and not a way of describing who or what he really is.15

In the end, then, we must conclude that the plural of majesty explanation is not only false in its own right, but that it is fundamentally contrary to Islam in so far as it wasn’t the answer that Muhammad himself offered. The Muslim appeal to the plural of majesty explanation must also be rejected because it suffers from a devastating incongruity, assuming as it does that majesty is more appropriately associated not with a blank unity, such as we find in the case of Allah, but with richness, plentitude, fullness, and diversity, such as we find in the Triune God, who exists in all the fullness of His attributes and in the divine persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Whereas Islam leaves its followers with a god that is neither plural nor majestic, the Triune God is both:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,

‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
the whole earth is full of His glory.’

And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ He said, ‘Go and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.’ (Isaiah 6:1-10)



1 Sami Zaatari recently averred for this view, as can be seen here and here, as did Abdullah Andalusi in a recent debate with David Wood, something the former reiterated in the comments section at the Answering Muslims blog, all of which can be found here. Paul Williams, by way of a brief e-mail exchange which he initiated with this author, has also recently made this claim. Of course Zaatari, Andalusi and Williams are not the only Muslims to put forth this idea, but they are among some of the more recent examples of those who do so.

2 It should be pointed out that even when some advocates of the existence of what they call a plural of majesty use this terminology to explain what is going on in Genesis, they are not always thinking along the same lines as those who use it to deny the Trinity (or at least who deny that the Trinity is in view in these passages). For many scholars, the plural of majesty is suggestive or inclusive rather than exclusive of a Trinitarian understanding. In other words they hold that such expressions provide a hint about the nature of God’s being and inner life, which is not characterized by a static unity but by a rich diversity, thus leaving the door open for a Trinitarian understanding, especially as greater light is shed upon it through further revelation. And so, for example, Oswald T. Allis, who held academic degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Berlin, and who taught for nineteen years in the Department of Semitic Philology at Princeton Theological Seminary, could at once rule out a polytheistic understanding of the Hebrew word Elohim (Heb., God), on the grounds that it is a plural of majesty, and then go on to explain the Lord’s use of plural pronouns thusly: “It is best to regard this as the language of soliloquy, God talking with Himself, and as involving in germ the doctrine of the Trinity.” (O. T. Allis, B.D., Ph.D., D.D., God Spake By Moses, An Exposition of the Pentateuch [Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed], pp. 9, 13)

Or, in an example that is more to the point, Keil (D.D.) and Delitzsch (D.D.), after demonstrating problems with other views, say:

No other explanation is left, therefore, than to regard it as pluralis majestatis, - an interpretation which comprehends in its deepest and most intensive form (God speaking of Himself and with Himself in the plural number, not reverentia causa, but with reference to the fullness of the divine powers and essences which He possesses) the truth that lies at the foundation of the Trinitarian view, vis. that the potencies concentrated in the absolute Divine Being are something more than power and attributes of God; that they are hypostases, which in the further course of the revelation of God in His kingdom appeared with more distinctness as persons of the Divine Being.” (Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 1, the Pentateuch (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1866), p. 62-63; online here.)

3 John Peter Lange, D.D., Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical, Vol. I, Genesis, translated from the German and edited, with additions, by Philip Schaff, D.D. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan), p. 173.

4 Hebrew Grammar, eds. E. Kautzsch and A. E. Cowley, p. 418. This quote is often attributed to Gesenius himself, but this is not correct. (For an excellent discussion of this and other matters of interest to this discussion, see the following article by Jochen Katz: The Likeness of a Donkey Carrying Books?)

5 Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1994), 145

6 Hasel, “The Meaning of ‘Let Us’ in Gn 1:26,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 13 (1975), 63-64

7 Although not put down in writing until 200-500 A.D., it is commonly recognized that the Talmud embodies oral traditions and teachings that go back much earlier.

8 For a representative sampling of what the Talmud conveys on the matter, such as that God was speaking to angels, which is the predominant view represented there, see here.

9 R. C. H. Lenski, The Eisenach Old Testament Selections (Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1925), p. 641

10 A Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah (Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 271-274

11 A fruitful study could be made of how often Muhammad, when caught in a pickle, either for contradicting himself, giving a false impression, or telling an incredible tale, often resorted to saying that it was all a test to see who would still believe, as for example in the instance of changing the Qiblah (S. 2:143), and in connection with the incredible tale of the supposed Night Journey, which the Meccan’s responded to as an incredible absurdity (S. 13:62 cf. Ibn Ishaq, p. 183).

12 Genesis Rabbah, VIII. 8, p. 59

13 Ibid., VIII. 9, p. 60

14 Hebrew professor James Murphy wrote in his commentary: “Does the plurality, then, point to a plurality of attributes in the divine nature? This cannot be, because a plurality of qualities exists in everything, without at all leading to the application of the plural number to the individual, and because such a plurality does not warrant the expression, “let us make.” Only a plurality of persons can justify the phrase. Hence we are forced to conclude that the plural pronoun indicates a plurality of persons or hypostases in the Divine Being.” (J. G. Murphy, LL.D., T.C.D., Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Genesis (Minneapolis, MN: James Publishing, 1863), p. 68. (For an online source, see here.)

15 Indeed, Abdullah Andalusi granted as much in the aforementioned debate with David Wood, saying that Allah has no essence/substance, but is pure will.