"Plural of Majesty", "pluralis majestaticus", "singular of intensity", the "Royal we".

God is one in unity, but three persons:
"Let US make man in OUR image". (Gen 1:26)

To those who think there is even a single example of the "Royal We" in scripture we say:
"We are not amused!"


A. What is the issue?

  1. Anti-Trinitarians and Unitarians alike, try to explain away the plural references to God in the Old Testament: "Let US make man in OUR image". (Gen 1:26)
  2. While Trinitarians expect to find such plural pronouns and verbs used in reference to God at face value, anti-Trinitarians fall all over themselves trying to find a way to avoid the obvious truth that there are three persons in the one God.
  3. As we will see, all of the Anti-Trinitarian arguments are invalid leaving us with no other conclusion then the fact that God is a plurality of persons, just as the Biblical trinity teaches.
  4. It is clear that these plural references to God in the Old Testament we hidden until fully revealed by Christ and his apostles with the proclamation of the deity of Jesus. Jews could look back and see Jesus there in Genesis!

B. Understanding the various terms used in this discussion:

  1. Plural of Majesty comes from the Latin, "pluralis majestaticus" and is also known as "singular of intensity".
  2. "Royal we" "we are not amused" (Queen Victoria)

C. History of the "Plural of Majesty" argument:

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"We are not amused"

Queen Elizabeth 1st would not be amused...
about they way Anti-Trinitarians twist every plural reference to God as a mere "Royal We". After all, Elizabeth was a Trinitarian, and would not be one bit amused that her own words were being used to trash the very trinity she believed in! "Let US make man in OUR image" (Gen 1:26) cannot be "Plural of Majesty" because this poetic device did not even exist in scripture until after the Old Testament was completed. The apostolic fathers had never heard of "plural of majesty", much less believe it. They unanimously interpreted Gen 1:26 as the Father speaking to the Son.

  1. There are no examples in the either the Old or New Testament of Plural of Majesty. At the end of this document, we refute 5 texts that anti-Trinitarian say contain Plural of Majesty.
  2. The earliest we find this poetic device being used in about the 4th century during the Byzantine era.
  3. Other cultures that lived during the time of Moses never used the plural "Elohim", the way the Bible does, but instead used the simple singular "el". This nicely silences two different sets of heretics: First, it silences the Bible trashing liberals, who falsely claim the plural "elohim" is a carry over from a previous polytheistic origin of Judaism. Second, it silences the anti-Trinitarians, who falsely claim "plural of majesty" was widespread in all cultures in history.
  4. The "Royal We" was made most famous by Queen Victoria when a vulgar joke was told in her presence. When she replied, "we are not amused", she clearly intended to speak on behalf of the other ladies whom she knew were equally offended.

D. False argument by Robert Morey often used by others:

"An Amazing Hoax: During the nineteenth century debates between Unitarians and Trinitarians, the principle of pluralis majestaticus was revealed to be a hoax popularized by the famous Jewish scholar Gesenius. It became clear that he used it as a ruse de guerre against Christianity." (Robert Morey, The Trinity, p95)

  1. William Gesenius wrote his lexicon but died before he had it published. Others finished the work for him posthumously: The Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon (1846 AD) is a translation of the "Lexicon Manuale Hebraicum et Chaldaicum in Veteris Testamenti Libros," of Dr. William Gesenius.
  2. William Gesenius couldn't be guilty of such a hoax, motivated by "a strategy of war", when the plural of majesty dates back to the 4th century! Even Calvin discussed the plural of majesty.
  3. Morey, although a Trinitarian, is correct in his view that Plural of Majesty is never used in the Bible, but this argument is invalid and needs to be withdrawn. He shoots himself in the foot by creating a false argument to teach something that is otherwise true. We need to be careful.

E. What scholars say about "Plural of Majesty":

  1. "Every one who is acquainted with the rudiments of the Hebrew and Chaldee languages, must know that God, in the holy Writings, very often spoke of Himself in the plural. The passages are numerous, in which, instead of a grammatical agreement between the subject and predicate, we meet with a construction, which some modern grammarians, who possess more of the so-called philosophical than of the real knowledge of the Oriental languages, call a pluralis excellentiae. This helps them out of every apparent difficulty. Such a pluralis excellentiae was, however, a thing unknown to Moses and the prophets. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, David, and all the other kings, throughout TeNaKh (the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa) speak in the singular, and not as modern kings in the plural. They do not say we, but I, command; as in Gen. xli. 41; Dan. iii. 29; Ezra i. 2, etc." (Rabbi Tzvi Nassi, Oxford University professor, The Great Mystery, 1970, p6, )
  2. "This first person plural can hardly be a mere editorial or royal plural that refers to the speaker alone, for no such usage is demonstrable anywhere else in biblical Hebrew. Therefore, we must face the question of who are included in this "us" and "our." It could hardly include the angels in consultation with God, for nowhere is it ever stated that man was created in the image of angels, only of God. Verse 27 then affirms: "and God [Elohim] created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them" (NASB). God--the same God who spoke of Himself in the plural--now states that He created man in His image. In other words, the plural equals the singular. This can only be understood in terms of the Trinitarian nature of God. The one true God subsists in three Persons, Persons who are able to confer with one another and carry their plans into action together--without ceasing to be one God." (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason Archer, p.359, commenting on whether Gen 1:26 is a "plural of majesty")
  3. "The best answer that they [Old Hebrew lexicographers and grammarians] could give was that the plural form used for the name (or title) of God was the 'pluralis majestatis,' that is the plural of majesty...to say nothing of the fact that it is not at all certain that the 'pluralis majestatis' is ever found in the Old Testament, there is an explanation much nearer at hand and much simpler, and that is, that a plural name was used for the one God, in spite of the intense monotheism of the Jews, because there is a plurality of person in the one Godhead." (The God of the Bible, R. A.Torrey, 1923, p 64)
  4. "Another very popular view in modem times is that God uses the plural, just as kings do, as a mark of dignity (the so-called "plural of majesty"), but it is only late in Jewish history that such a form of speech occurs, and then it is used by Persian and Greek rulers (Esdr. iv. 18; 1 Mace. x. 19). Nor can the plural be regarded as merely indicating the way in which God summons Himself to energy, for the use of the language is against this (Gen. ii. 18; Is. xxxiii. 10)." (Trinity, A Catholic Dictionary, William E. Addis & Thomas Arnold, 1960, p 822-830)

E. What the apostolic Fathers say about Gen 1:26:

Click to ViewClick here for more quotes from the fathers on Gen 1:26
Click to ViewClick here for more quotes from the fathers on the trinity
  1. "The plural "We" was regarded by the fathers and earlier theologians almost unanimously as indicative of the Trinity" (Keil & Delitzsch, Genesis 1:26, Vol. 1, Page 38) Note: after observing that that the unanimous view of the apostolic Fathers was that "we" referred to the three persons of the trinity, he then rejects this and adopts the plural of majesty view. This is most unfortunate. If only he had known plural of majesty did not exist historically among the Jews until after the Old Testament was written in about 200 AD.)
  2. 180 AD Irenaeus "It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor any one else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, "Let Us make man after Our image and likeness; " [Gen. 1:26]" (Against Heresies 4:20:1).

I. Plural nouns and pronouns with singular verbs:

  1. The easiest way to dismiss the argument that the plural pronouns applied to God can be explained as "Plural of Majesty" is to observe that the Hebrew has many examples of plural pronouns also being applied to single human individuals.
  2. Plural of Majesty fails because we find plural references to both God and individual men.
  3. If the Holy Spirit intended to use these plural references of God as "singular of intensity", then why does He intensify both creator and creation alike?
  4. Obviously the, "Plural of Majesty" does not explain these plural references.


Plural noun

Singular verbs

Gen 1:1

Elohim (God)


Genesis 46:7

Sons, grandsons, daughters, granddaughters, descendants


Judges 12:7



Nehemiah 3:8



II. Plural nouns for "lord/master" (adonai) that refer to single individuals:


Plural noun


Genesis 24:9,10,51


Abraham master of servant

Genesis 39:2,3,7, 8,16,19,20


Potiphar is Joseph's master

Genesis 40:7


captain of a guard is master

Genesis 42:30,33; 44:8


Joseph, the master of Egypt

Mal 1:6 and throughout the Old Testament


Yahweh, God. The second most common term applied to God is "Lord" and it is almost always plural.

"And if I am a master [plural adonai], where is My respect? says the Lord of hosts" Mal 1:6

III. Five "Royal We" Biblical Proof Texts refuted:

The "plural of Majesty" (royal we) is never used in the Bible. Arians (Jehovah's Witnesses, Anti-Trinitarians (Christadelphians), Unitarians and Modalists (UPCI United Pentecostal church international), will appeal to the following Bible texts as proof of "plural of Majesty". These texts clearly are not examples of "the royal we" being used in the Bible.

A. "the document which you sent to us has been translated and read before me." (Ezra 4:18)

  1. The letter was addressed, not to the king alone, but many others as well, so this certainly is not an example of the "Royal We": "To King Artaxerxes: Your servants, the men in the region beyond the River, and now " Ezra 4:11

B. "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony." (John 3:11)

  1. The "we" refers to Jesus and the Father, as seen in many other passages: "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father." (John 8:38); "I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me." (John 12:50); "If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true." (John 5:31)
  2. Jesus' use of the plural WE (Jesus and Father) is also in response to Nicodemus' use of WE (John 3:2: Nicodemus and the other leaders). Jesus emphasizes the "us vs. them" challenge of authority between human and divine.

C. "just as he is Christ's, so also are we. For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame" 2 Corinthians 10:7-8

  1. The use of WE and OUR refer to Paul and Timothy, who sent the letter (2 Cor 1:1).
  2. It may also refer to Paul and the other apostles, since the whole context is Paul defending his apostleship.
  3. To suggest that Paul uses the "Royal We" here, is as wrong as it is unwarranted.

D. "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Galatians 1:8

  1. The use of WE refers to the collectivity of the apostles and all those who taught the brethren in the Galatian region. This would include, Timothy, Titus, Barnabas and Silas.
  2. No "Royal We" here.

E. "But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. So he said to them, "What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, 'Lighten the yoke which your father put on us'?" (2 Chronicles 10:8-9 and 1 Kings 12:9)

  1. The obvious and natural meaning of "we may answer this people" is the King and his buddies, who collectively would formulate an answer together.
  2. No reason this is the "Royal We" here.


A. Jehovah's Witnesses and other Unitarians argue that Elohim (Gods) and Adonai (Lords) are and example of "plural of unity" or "plural of majesty/intensity".

  1. "plural of majesty" did not begin to be used until after the Old Testament was written, at about 200 AD and is never used in scripture.
  2. It is wrong to take modern day poetic devices and read them back into a period of history when they did not exist.
  3. It is wrong for Jehovah's witnesses to read, "blood transfusions" back into the Bible's prohibition against eating blood, when such a medical practice did not exist. (Of course just as drunkenness is condemned, except when you are getting your leg amputated for medical reasons, so too are blood transfusions exempt from all prohibitions on blood, on the basis of medical necessity.)

B. The evidence that "Let US make man in OUR image". (Gen 1:26) refers to the Trinity is irrefutable.

  1. The Unitarians and Christadelphians are wrong because they say Us refers to God and the Angels. But man is not created in the image of angels, but of God. Jesus is not included in their view of US.
  2. The Jehovah's Witnesses are right to include Jesus and the Father in the US of Gen 1:26, but make Jesus the created arch-angel Michael. But Heb 1:5 proves Jesus cannot be, nor ever has been an angel. Further, in their self contradictory doctrine, they have Jesus the creature, as our co-creator (Jn 1:3; Col 1:16). But this violates Rom 1:25: "worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator". This passage teaches that if Jesus is the creator, as the Bible says he is, then he cannot be a creature. Jesus cannot be creator and creature at the same time!

C. Plural of Majesty is not the correct explanation as to why plural, nouns, verbs and adjectives are applied to God, because we find similar examples in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament that apply plurality to common creatures and things.

D. Such occasional usage's of plural, nouns, verbs and adjectives of God, man and material objects, are best explained as typical and normal for the Hebrew language. Its just they way they expressed things at times.

E. The plural nouns and pro-nouns applied to God, like WE, US, OUR, Elohim, Adonai are powerful evidence of the Trinity hidden in the Old Testament, to be discovered after the coming of Christ. The almost exclusive use of the plural elohim for God and adonai for Lord, make a strong case that any honest seeker could see. This extensive pattern is hard to argue away as plural of majesty.

F. To those who think there is even a single example of the "Royal We" in scripture we say: "We are not amused!"

By Steve Rudd
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