Saturday, January 8, 2011

Elohim: Why "God" And Not "Gods"?

     Several years ago I heard a preacher say, "The word translated God in Gen. 1:1
is the Hebrew word elohim. It is grammatically plural and it could accurately be
translated 'gods' in this passage because it contains the concept of the trinity or a
plurality of  persons in the Godhead."  According to the author of an article titled
"How To Know If A Translation Is Faithful," not only could elohim be translated
"gods" in Gen. 1:1, but it must be so translated if one believes in the verbal
inspiration of the scriptures. He writes, "You must also believe every word of God
must be accurately translated as to its meaning, part of speech (noun, verb, pronoun,
etc.), and all of its grammatical information (masculine or feminine gender; first,
second or third person; verbal tense; etc.)." He went on to say in his article, "...every
word of the original Hebrew or Greek must be translated  and accurately as to its
meaning, part of speech, and all of its grammatical information, before any 
resulting translation (in whole or in part) can be considered faithful."
(all emphasis mine RD)

     Elohim occurs about 2570 times in the Hebrew text. It is a masculine plural
noun and is the general Hebrew word for deity. In Genesis 1:1 Moses wrote,
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Bereshith bara elohim
eth hashamayim we'eth ha'arets) Though elohim is plural in form, it is singular in
meaning. It is unlikely that a plurality of persons in the Godhead is Moses' focal
point by the use of elohim, (though a plurality of persons in the Godhead is taught
in many other texts throughout God's word), and it is certain that the word is not
to be translated or represented by the word "Gods" in the English text of Gen. 1:1.

     Elohim describes God as the sovereign creator of the universe. Everything is
subject to Elohim. Moses' use of Elohim is designed to denote the majesty of
the deity. Hebrew grammarians identify this use of Elohim as the honorific or
majestic plural. It is an intensive plural used in an honorific sense. It indicates God's
perfect, unlimited, and matchless qualities. Elohim is God of God's and beside
him there is no other! "For thus says Yahweh, who created the heavens (he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he
formed it to be inhabited!): I am Yahweh, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:18)

     In the opening verse of the Hebrew Bible, Moses introduces God (elohim) to
mankind as the incomparable, majestic, and supreme creator who made everything
with his powerful word. (cf. Psa. 33:6,9; Heb. 11:3)

     Elohim is translated "God" instead of "Gods" in Gen. 1:1 because it is singular
in meaning. There was only one God for all faithful Israelites and there remains
only one God for spiritual Israel today. Belief in monotheism was the guiding
idealogy of God's covenant people, and no loyal Hebrew would contemplate a
polytheistic concept such as believing that elohim implied many "gods" created
the heavens and the earth.

     The following sources may be consulted for more technical study on the use
of  elohim as an honorific or majestic plural (pluralis majestatis) in Hebrew
literature. An Introduction To Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Bruce K. Waltke and
M. O'Connor, pages 122-124; Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, E. Kautzsch and
A. E. Cowley, page 463; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird
Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, page 44; Theological Dictionary 
Of The Old Testament, G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and translated
by John T. Willis, volume 1, page 267-284; New International Dictionary of Old
Testament Theology and Exegesis, Willem A. VanGemeren, General Editor,
volume 1, page 405; A Bilingual Dictionary of the Hebrew and Aramaic Old
Testament, Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, pages 50-52; A Biblical
Hebrew Reference Grammar, Christo H.J. van der Merwe, Jackie A. Naude and
Jan H. Kroeze, page 185. 
                                                                                                                   RD

Copyright 2011

   

2 comments:

  1. It explains why there is the use of the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ in reference to God in the book of Genesis in chapters 1:26 & 3:22. It explains God’s words to Isaiah and the language of John 1:1, 14 & 1 John 1:1-3. Let’s look at these passages:
    Notice: Genesis 1:26 - God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness...

    Gen. 3:22 - And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as ONE OF US, to know good and evil…
    Isa. 6:8, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?”
    Why the use of plural pronouns? Because more than one being was involved in the Creation.
    Notice further:
    John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    John 1:14 – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

    Who is this ‘word’ that was made flesh? Who was this Word that was God and who was the God that the Word was with?
    It is Jesus. He was involved in the creation, and was God (or divine in nature) and also with someone called ‘God’. Who was this?

    Notice a few other passages that will provide the answer:
    1 John 1:1-3 - That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

    Thus, the Father was one of the ‘us’ in Gen. 1 and the Son, Jesus (called the ‘Word’ in John 1, was the other and both were involved in the Creation.

    We find also in Gen. 1 the mention of the ‘Spirit of God’. Who was this referring to? To understand this, let us notice a statement of Job.

    Job said in Job 33:4, “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”
    Compare the wording in Gen. 1:2, “…the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”.
    Gen. 2:7, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
    Do you see why Job says: “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”
    What can we conclude from this?

    There are 3 beings referred to as ‘divine beings’ or God in the Bible.
    They are also referred to as the “Godhead”.
    We read of the ‘Godhead’ in connection with the creation. Speaking of God, we find in Rom. 1:20 – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead…”
    The apostle Paul in condemning the idol gods in Athens , mentioned the “Godhead” in Acts 17:29 – “we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.”
    What is this Godhead? It refers to all the beings that are divine in nature and that were involved in the Creation and that thus make up God.
    The term God is not a title, or a name, such as my name ‘Roger’; but it refers to a class of beings…’divine beings’.
    My name is Roger, but my nature is human.
    God is a term that refers to the nature of divine beings and there are 3 such beings: the Father, the Word which later became flesh (Son), and the Holy Spirit (Ghost).
    The word ‘God’ is defined as simply divinity; as opposed to humanity. God is not

    ReplyDelete
  2. It explains why there is the use of the plural pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ in reference to God in the book of Genesis in chapters 1:26 & 3:22. It explains God’s words to Isaiah and the language of John 1:1, 14 & 1 John 1:1-3. Let’s look at these passages:
    Notice: Genesis 1:26 - God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness...

    Gen. 3:22 - And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as ONE OF US, to know good and evil…
    Isa. 6:8, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?”
    Why the use of plural pronouns? Because more than one being was involved in the Creation.
    Notice further:
    John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    John 1:14 – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

    Who is this ‘word’ that was made flesh? Who was this Word that was God and who was the God that the Word was with?
    It is Jesus. He was involved in the creation, and was God (or divine in nature) and also with someone called ‘God’. Who was this?

    Notice a few other passages that will provide the answer:
    1 John 1:1-3 - That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

    Thus, the Father was one of the ‘us’ in Gen. 1 and the Son, Jesus (called the ‘Word’ in John 1, was the other and both were involved in the Creation.

    We find also in Gen. 1 the mention of the ‘Spirit of God’. Who was this referring to? To understand this, let us notice a statement of Job.

    Job said in Job 33:4, “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”
    Compare the wording in Gen. 1:2, “…the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”.
    Gen. 2:7, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
    Do you see why Job says: “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”
    What can we conclude from this?

    There are 3 beings referred to as ‘divine beings’ or God in the Bible.
    They are also referred to as the “Godhead”.
    We read of the ‘Godhead’ in connection with the creation. Speaking of God, we find in Rom. 1:20 – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead…”
    The apostle Paul in condemning the idol gods in Athens , mentioned the “Godhead” in Acts 17:29 – “we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.”
    What is this Godhead? It refers to all the beings that are divine in nature and that were involved in the Creation and that thus make up God.
    The term God is not a title, or a name, such as my name ‘Roger’; but it refers to a class of beings…’divine beings’.
    My name is Roger, but my nature is human.
    God is a term that refers to the nature of divine beings and there are 3 such beings: the Father, the Word which later became flesh (Son), and the Holy Spirit (Ghost).
    The word ‘God’ is defined as simply divinity; as opposed to humanity. God is not

    ReplyDelete