Elohim

Theo1689

Well-known member
Hello everyone,

I'm in a discussion with a Mormon, who is trying to defend Mormonism by pointing out that "Elohim" in Gen. 1:1 is in the plural, so therefore the correct translation and understanding should be that "the gods" (plural) created the heavens an the earth.

I have an inkling of what the problem is with this interpretation, but since neither he nor I read Greek, I would prefer this be addressed by someone who is fluent in Hebrew.

Thanks,
 
who is trying to defend Mormonism by pointing out that "Elohim" in Gen. 1:1 is in the plural, so therefore the correct translation and understanding should be that "the gods" (plural) created the heavens an the earth.
I don't think this understanding is possible.


I'm not fluent in Hebrew, but maybe this will be of some value. The verb that is used in Genesis 1:1 is third person singular. I would expect a plural verb if a plural subject had been intended (בראו, if I'm not mistaken); this ("Elohim" with a plural verb) is what we see in Genesis 1:26. It is also worth noting that the translators rendered "Elohim" in the singular ("θεός", not "θεοί") when translating the Hebrew version of Genesis 1:1 into Greek.
 
I'm not fluent in Hebrew, but maybe this will be of some value. The verb that is used in Genesis 1:1 is third person singular. I would expect a plural verb if a plural subject had been intended

Yes, I pointed this out as well.

It is also worth noting that the translators rendered "Elohim" in the singular ("θεός", not "θεοί") when translating the Hebrew version of Genesis 1:1 into Greek.

Yes, I pointed this out as well.

Thank you for your input, I would still appreciate comments from those fluent in Hebrew.
 
Ellicott commentary for English Readers Excursus B / On the names Elohim and .....
"Throughout the first account of creation (Gen. i. 1 — ii. 3) the Deity is simply called Elohim. This word is strictly a plural of Eloah, which is used as the name of God only in poetry, or in late books like those of Nehemiah and Daniel. It is there an Aramaism, God in Syriac being Aloho, in Chaldee Ellah, and in Arabic Allahu — all of which are merely dialectic varieties of the Hebrew Eloah, and are used constantly in the singular number. In poetry Eloah is sometimes employed with great emphasis, as, for instance, in Ps. xviii. 31 : "Who is Eloah except Jehovah?" But while thus the sister dialects used the singular both in poetry and prose, the Hebrews used the plural Elohim as the ordinary name of God, the difference being that to the one God was simply power, strength (the root-meaning of Eloah) ; to the other He was the union of all powers, the Almighty. The plural thus intensified the idea of the majesty and greatness of God ; but besides this, it was the germ of the doctrine of a plurality of persons in the Divine unity." (p176/Vol 1).​

I deliberately crossed out the last thought, as it doesn't pertain to the Hebrew conception of God, nor the Greek conception of God (see below): only the Trinitarian conception of deity. I like this Cambridge commentary also:

"God] Elohim: LXX ὁ Θεός: Lat. Deus. See Introduction on “The Names of God.” The narrative begins with a statement assuming the Existence of the Deity. It is not a matter for discussion, argument, or doubt. The Israelite Cosmogony differs in this respect from that of the Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, &c. The Cosmogonies of the ancients were wont to be preceded by Theogonies. The existence and nativities of the creating divinities were accounted for in mythologies which were often highly complicated, and not seldom grotesque. The Hebrew narrator, by beginning with the Creation, emphasizes his entire freedom from, and exclusion of, polytheistic thought. If Polytheism had existed in the earliest Hebrew times, it had been abandoned in the growing light of the Israelite religion. “God” is infinite; He was before all time: “In the beginning God created.” Upon the subject of the Divine Existence prior to “the beginning” the writer does not presume to speculate."​
Professor Davidson, On the plural form of the word Elohim (as following on from the above):

“The plural form of the word Elohim might be supposed to have some bearing on the question of unity. And, indeed, by many it has been supposed to bear testimony to the plurality of gods originally worshipped among the Semitic peoples; and by others, who seem to consider the name Elohim part of God’s revelation of Himself, to the plurality of persons in the Godhead. The real force of the plural termination … is not easy, indeed, to discover. But a few facts may lead us near it. In Ethiopic the name of God is Amlâk, a plural form also of a root allied to melek—a king. All Shemitic languages use the plural as a means of heightening the idea of the singular; the precise kind of heightening has to be inferred from the word. Thus water—מַיִם—is plural, from the fluidity and multiplicity of its parts; the heavens—שָׁמַיִם—from their extension. Of a different kind is the plural of adon—lord, in Hebrew, which takes plural suffixes except in the first person singular. Of this kind, too, is the plural of Baal, even in the sense of owner, as when Isaiah uses the phrase בְּעָלָיו אֵבוּם (Genesis 1:3). Of the same kind, also, is the plural teraphim, penates, consisting of a single image. And of this kind probably is the plural Elohim—a plural not numerical, but simply enhancive of the idea of might. Thus among the Israelites the might who was God was not an ordinary might, but one peculiar, lofty, unique. Though the word be plural, in the earliest written Hebrew its predicate is almost universally singular. Only when used of the gods of the nations is it construed with a plural verb; or, sometimes, when the reference is to the general idea of the Godhead. This use with a singular predicate or epithet seems to show that the plural form is not a reminiscence of a former Polytheism. The plural expressed a plenitude of might. And as there seems no trace of a Polytheism in the name, neither can it with any probability be supposed to express a plurality of persons in the Godhead. For it cannot be shown that the word is itself part of God’s revelation; it is a word of natural growth adopted into revelation, like other words of the Hebrew language. And the usage in the words baal, adon, rab, and such like, similar to it in meaning, leads us to suppose that the plural is not numerical, as if mights, but merely intensifying the idea of might. Nor can it be shown to be probable that the doctrine of a plurality of persons should have been taught early in the history of revelation. What the proneness of mankind to idolatry rendered imperative above all and first of all, was strenuous teaching of the Divine Unity.” Davidson’s Theology of the O.T. pp. 99, 100 (T. and T. Clark)"​
 
Thank you for your input, I would still appreciate comments from those fluent in Hebrew.
I completely understand. I only responded because this forum is dead, and the people who are fluent in Hebrew no longer post here, unless cjab has learned Hebrew to fluency in the last few years.
 
Elohim is a plural form but when used for the One and Only God it is used in a sense of a "plural of majesty", like the royal "we".
 
Elohim is a plural form but when used for the One and Only God it is used in a sense of a "plural of majesty", like the royal "we".
It's also used as an intensive plural. That's a very common way of Hebrew usage even with other words that are not a numeric plural.

There is such a thing as numeric plural but also the intensive plural.
 
According to Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, ed by E. Kautzsch, 2nd English ed (1910) revised in accordance with the 28th German ed (1909) by A.E. Cowley (Oxford 1910). [this is not the latest edition but the 29th ed was too expensive for me], pages 398-399, §124g :

"the plural excellentiae or maiestatis, as has been remarked above, is properly a variety of the abstract plural, since
it sums up the several characteristics* belonging to the idea. It is thus closely related to the plurals of amplification,
... which are mostly found in poetry.
So especially {Elohim} Godhead, God (to be distinguished from the numerical plural gods, Ex 12:12, etc.). The supposition
that {Elohim} is to be regarded as merely a remnant of earlier polytheistic views (i.e. as originally only a numerical
plural) is at least highly improbable, and, moreover, would not explain the analogous plurals (see below). That the
language has entirely rejected the idea of numerical plurality in {Elohim} (whenever it denotes one God), is proved
especially by its being almost invariably joined with a singular attribute, ... e.g. {Elohim tzadik}[the righteous God]
Psalms 7:10, etc. Hence {Elohim} may have been used originally not only as a numerical but also as an abstract plural
(corresponding to the Latin numen, and our Godhead), and, like other abstracts of the same kind, have been transferred
to a concrete single god (even of the heathen).
----------
{There is a footnote to the first sentence:] * The Jewish grammarians call such plural {ribu hakohot}[the plural of strength]
plu. 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 First Macc. 10:19, 11:31);
and the plural used by God in Gen 1:26. 11:7; Isa 6:8 has been incorrectly explained in this way. ...... according to others,
an indication of the fullness of power and might implied in {Elohim}.....
 
According to Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, ed by E. Kautzsch, 2nd English ed (1910) revised in accordance with the 28th German ed (1909) by A.E. Cowley (Oxford 1910). [this is not the latest edition but the 29th ed was too expensive for me], pages 398-399, §124g :

"the plural excellentiae or maiestatis, as has been remarked above, is properly a variety of the abstract plural, since
it sums up the several characteristics* belonging to the idea. It is thus closely related to the plurals of amplification,
... which are mostly found in poetry.
So especially {Elohim} Godhead, God (to be distinguished from the numerical plural gods, Ex 12:12, etc.).

The supposition
that {Elohim} is to be regarded as merely a remnant of earlier polytheistic views (i.e. as originally only a numerical
plural) is at least highly improbable, and, moreover, would not explain the analogous plurals (see below). That the
language has entirely rejected the idea of numerical plurality in {Elohim} (whenever it denotes one God), is proved
especially by its being almost invariably joined with a singular attribute, ... e.g. {Elohim tzadik}[the righteous God]
The weakness of this explanation is its over reliance on the emergent meaning of “elohim” as defined by rabbis who descended from the Pharisees. It ignores the historical fact of different sects of Judaism going all the way back to 7th century BC or earlier where polytheism was evolving into the idea of many gods (Elohim) under a supreme God. Moreover, there are scholarly works which demonstrate ancient Hebrews held polytheistic ideas. What this explanation above is basically saying is that the popular meaning of elohim today is the only one that counts and that whatever ancient Hebrews intended it to mean has been lost to time. Except modern archaeology is recovering what it meant to ancient Hebrews. See “The Great Angel” by Margaret Barker. What was lost has been found. What it means is another matter.

Psalms 7:10, etc. Hence {Elohim} may have been used originally not only as a numerical but also as an abstract plural
(corresponding to the Latin numen, and our Godhead), and, like other abstracts of the same kind, have been transferred
to a concrete single god (even of the heathen).
----------
{There is a footnote to the first sentence:] * The Jewish grammarians call such plural {ribu hakohot}[the plural of strength]
plu. 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 First Macc. 10:19, 11:31);
and the plural used by God in Gen 1:26. 11:7; Isa 6:8 has been incorrectly explained in this way. ...... according to others,
an indication of the fullness of power and might implied in {Elohim}.....
 
Elohim is plural (gods)
Adonai is plural (lords)

"Elohim judge" is a plural - like, "they" judge

God is three persons, not one person
there is only one (capital G)od, and God is a compound one (Echad)
like Adam and Eve as husband and wife make up one flesh (basar echad)
God is completely unique in this way from any created person

Father, Son, and Spirit are referenced in the testament of Enos
and
David's sermon in book of Gad
so God's nature was known to some (prophets)
 
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