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Sean Finnegan
Elohim

 

by Sean Finnegan

 

Yahweh is referred to as Elohim in the first sentence of the first page of the first book of the Bible. "In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens of the earth" (Genesis 1:1). IN fact, Yahweh is the Elohim of elohim – the God of gods (Deuteronomy 10:17; Joshua 22:22; Psalms 136:2). He is the Supreme Being. He is the God Who is above all other so-called gods.

Psalms 96:5
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD [Yahweh] made the heavens.

I Corinthians 8:4-6
Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.

For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Yahweh is the supreme Elohim, the only true God, the source of all existence, and the sustainer of everything. However, there is considerable question over the word "elohim" because it has a plural form.  Many believe that since elohim is plural, God must have some inherent plurality.

In order for a Hebrew noun to be a numerical plural, three criteria must be met: 1) the word must have a plural ending, 2) the verb used must be plural, and 3) the adjective(s) used with it must be plural. The word "elohim" does have a plural ending. In Hebrew, the suffix "im" works like "s" or "es" in English. In addition, many times elohim is used with a plural verb and a plural adjective.  In these cases, elohim is translated "gods" and has a plural meaning. However, virtually every time when elohim is used of the God of Israel, Yahweh, it is accompanied by a singular verb and/or a singular adjective. When this is the case, elohim is understood to be a singular noun but with an intensified meaning (i.e., instead of "God," "great God"). When referring to a single individual, it expresses plenitude of power not plurality. If elohim were plural, it would lead to a literal translation of Genesis 1:1 being "In the beginning Gods created the definitions taken from a couple of well-respected Bible dictionaries. heavens and earth." This would lead one to the conclusion that there are multiple gods, not that there is only one God who exists in plurality of persons, as Trinitarian doctrine teaches. It would suggest one person in three gods, not one God in three persons (because the singular personal pronoun and singular verb are used). Consider the following definitions taken from a couple of well-respected Bible dictionaries.

Elohim "is used, as an ordinary plural, of heathen gods, or of supernatural beings (I Samuel28:13), or even of earthly judges (Psalms 82:1, 6; John 10:34); but when used of the One God, it takes a singular verb. As so used, it has been thought to be a relic of prehistoric polytheism, but more probably it is a 'plural of majesty' such as is common in Hebrew, or else it denotes the fullness of God" (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings, 2001, p. 299)

 

Some Christians have explained the plural as an anticipation of the Trinity. But again, without a commonly used singular no one in OT times could have developed trinitarian ideas from the word alone. The plural would suggest polytheism more readily than trinitarianism were it not for hints other than the word itself being used with a singular verb....The plural form is better understood as indicating a plenitude of power.  Though the etymology is obscure, the word may have come from a root meaning "strong." (Wycliffe Dictionary of Theology, ed. Harrison, Bromiley, Henry, 2000, p.239.

 

These dictionaries agree that elohim when used of Yahweh is plural not in multiplicity but in majesty or plentitude. Thus, Yahweh is not just God, but He is the God of gods and the Lord of lords; the great, the mighty, and the awesome God (Deuteronomy 10:17).

"It also needs to be stated most emphatically that elohim either refers to more than one god, or to some kind of majestic way of referring to one god (whether Israel’s God or another god). There is no 'third option ' where elohim refers to some mysterious 'plurality in one god'. That is a fantasy inspired by a desire to see the historic Christian conception of God within the Tanakh [Old Testament]. It has absolutely no linguistic basis. Anyone who so insists is simply not schooled in the Hebrew language." - from The God of the Hebrew Bible and His Relationship to Jesus, Lindsey Killian & Dr. Laura Emily Palik, 2005, p.11.

 

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