Jesus, Moses (& Others) Were Called "Elohim"
(Excerpt from – "The Prophet Like Unto Moses")
by WILLIAM WACHTEL
A startling and important fact to this writer is that early in the process of God's dealing with His people Israel, He could describe His chosen human instruments as being, themselves, "God" [Elohim]. When God called Moses, He declared that Aaron would be, to Moses, a mouth--just as Moses would be, to Aaron, "Elohim" (Exo. 4:16). The English versions tend to soften this slightly to: "instead of God" (KJV), "as if you were God" (NIV), "as God" (NASB). Later, God could say to Moses, "See, I have given you [to be] God [Elohim] to Pharaoh" (Exo. 7:1). Again, the English versions soften the very clear Hebrew and say: "I have made thee a god to Pharaoh" (KVJ), "like God to Pharaoh" (NIV), "as God to Pharaoh" (NASB).
There is no question that in some sense and in some situations Moses was "Elohim." And it was Yahweh Himself--the only real Elohim--who called him that! It was the true God who also addressed the leaders of Israel as "Elohim" (Psalm 82:6), which text Jesus later quoted to refute the claim of His enemies that He was making Himself out to be God in the absolute sense (John 10:29-36).
From this we gather that the term "God" (Greek theos, Hebrew Elohim) can in a sense legitimately be used for a being other than the One True God, our Heavenly Father. God Himself has authorized this usage, and it should form an important part of our mental perception of the word and its associations. If God calls someone "God" then in certain situations that person is Elohim, or serves as Elohim. We have already seen that God declared that Moses and the leaders of Israel were "Elohim" by God's own appointment.
The Hebrew Scriptures envisioned the coming of One to be called "Elohim" and to fulfill as a human being in the fullest way possible all that God had in mind whenever He designated a man to be "Elohim." This is clear from Psalm 45:6, where the Messiah is described as "Elohim," whose throne will last forever and ever and who receives that appointment from His Elohim. Two beings are clearly in view--the "appointed" Elohim and the "appointing" Elohim. The only one having the authority to appoint others to be "Elohim" is of course the One who is the real and absolute Elohim, God the eternal Father, the "Only True God" (John 17:3).
Jesus makes much of the fact that His relationship to the Father is such that He can be viewed by other men as though they were seeing God Himself. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9) is a well-known summary of this truth. Jesus represents Himself as being able to forgive sins, to raise the dead, and to execute all judgment (John 5:21-29; Mark 2:1-12)--these prerogatives ultimately having their source in the Father who alone is Yahweh - Elohim, God in the absolute sense. But Jesus as the Christ and Son of God is given authority to function as Elohim and to be honored as Elohim in relation to other human beings. "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him" (John 5:23).
These texts and others like them make little sense if Jesus is in fact the One True God himself. However, they make tremendous and thrilling sense if He is in fact thoroughly a human being who operates with the authority of God - from God!
It was the Apostle Paul who said that "God was in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:19) and who depicted Him as the "image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4). We submit that an "image" is not identical to the "original," or else words lose meaning. Some trinitarians have confessed embarrassment at the fact that there are no Scriptures teaching unequivocally that Jesus is God in the sense THEY mean that! There are texts, that call Jesus "God," but these can all be understood in harmony with the clear statements throughout the Bible that there is only one Person who is Yahweh, the Eternal One, and that Jesus, the Messiah, is not that One, but is His Son! The Gospel of John--so often quoted by trinitarians as supporting their position--in fact declares its purpose to be that of convincing men that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31).
Moses, the Lawgiver, was prophet to Israel in a very exalted and special sense. God Himself announced, "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD" (Num. 12:6-8; cf. Exo. 33:9-11,17-23; Deut. 34:10-12).
God told Moses that in time He would raise up from among His people a prophet like Moses, a prophet to whom all people must hearken on pain of death (Deut. 18:14-19; John 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22,23; 7:37). Jesus, "the Prophet like unto Moses," also spoke with God "face to face" and beheld God's "form" (John 5:37, 19). If Moses was "Elohim" in his generation, much more is Christ "Elohim"--not only to His own generation but to all further generations--for He is "alive forevermore" (Rev. 1:18).
Understanding this approach to what we might call the "Elohim concept," we are able to give full honor to our Heavenly Father as the "only true God" and at the same time to appreciate the office and work of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5). Then we can recognize that Jesus Himself is-- apart from sin--a man in the fullest sense. This not only avoids the Greek philosophizing that led to trinitarianism in the first place, but also preserves the clear Biblical witness to the absolute oneness of the personality of God!