Elohim- what do the scholars say

by IP_SEC 6 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • IP_SEC

    Just curious about the word. In my reading I see it rendered as a "we" or "us" word. The JWs teach that it is plural in the sense of majesty. What do the Hebrew scholars say? Is plurality in the sense of majesty an acceptable rendering?

    Im sure this has been hashed out on a past thread. Perhaps just a link?



  • Narkissos

    The linguistic fact is that the plural form which can apply to several gods (Genesis 31:53; Exodus 18:11; 12:12; 34:15; Deuteronomy 10:17; Judges 9:9, 13 etc.) can also apply to one particular god, not only Yhwh (e.g. Kamosh, Judges 11:24, Ashthart, 1 Kings 11:5; Baal-Zebub, 2 Kings 1:2). Usually the plural or singular agreement of the adjective or verb shows whether gods or one god is meant (although some cases are debatable, e.g. 1 Kings 12:28, "your god" or "your gods"?).

    Interestingly this phenomenon is not limited to Biblical Hebrew. It can be found in Phoenician ('lm) and Akkadian ('ilanu). In the Achemenid period the graphic mark of the plural was used in Babylon to distinguish "God" or "the divine" in general from the particular god El.

    The interpretation is much more dubious. Traditionally this phenomenon has been explained as plural of excellence or majesty (e.g. Joüon § 136a). More recently another explanation has been favoured, namely a plural of abstraction, which corresponds to a wider pattern in Hebrew (e.g. ne`urim = "youth"). In this perspective (ha)-'elohim would basically mean "(the) divine" or "deity".

  • Leolaia

    On the background of 'lhym, it is also worthy to note Philo of Byblos' theogony, based on earlier Phoenician myths (closely related to Canaanite and early Israelite myths), wherein he states that "the allies of Elus [El], who is Kronos, were surnamed Eloim", and Ugaritic texts also referred to El presiding over a divine assembly (similar references are found in the OT). According to the OT, El had a title Elyon ("eternal"), and Philo also mentions a Phoenician god named Elioun, tho in the more polytheistic religion of the Phoenicians, Elioun was a seperate deity than El. The Aramaic Book of Balaam Son of Beor, dating to the 8th century BC, refers to the 'lhn (the equivalent of Hebrew 'lhym, 'lym) as a group of deities associated with El: "The gods ('lhn) came to him at night. And he beheld a vision in accordance with El's utterance. They said to Balaam, son of Beor: 'So will it be done, with naught surviving, no one has seen the likes of what you have heard!' " (COS 2.27, lines 1-4). These are likely the same "Shaddai-gods" (shdyn) mentioned a few sentences later (cf. Numbers 24:3-4, "The oracle of Balaan son of Beor, the oracle of the man with far-seeing eyes, the oracle of the one who hears the word of El, he sees what Shaddai makes him see").

    In the Priestly creation narrative in Genesis 1, the "us" and "our" likely refers to the divine council present at creation (cf. Job 38:6-7).

  • z
    The Judaic tradition > Basic beliefs and doctrines > Man > The image of God

    In Gen. 1:26, 27; 5:1; and 9:6 two terms occur, “image” and “likeness,” that seem to indicate clearly the biblical understanding of man's essential nature: he is created in the image and likeness of God. Yet the texts in which they are used are not entirely unambiguous; the idea they point to does not appear elsewhere in Scriptures; and the concept is skirted cautiously in the rabbinic interpretations. What the image and likeness of God or the divine image refer to in the biblical text is not made explicit, and, in the light of the psychosomatic unity of man that dominates the biblical concepts, it is not possible to escape entirely from the implication of “bodily” similarity. What the terms meant in their context at the time and whether they reflect mythological usages taken over from other Middle Eastern thought is a question that is by no means answered. Evidence of the problematic nature of the concept is found in rabbinic Judaism. Akiba (2nd century CE ) ignored the usages in Gen. 1 and 5 and emphasized 9:6, understanding it to mean, contrary to the usual interpretation, “after an image, God made man,” that is, in the Platonic sense of a heavenly archetype. He did not wish to allow any resemblance between God and any created being. Other interpretations sought to avoid the difficulty by rendering elohim (a plural form) not as “God” but as “divine beings” (i.e., angels: “God created man after the image of divine beings [elohim]”).

  • z

    singular Eloah (Hebrew: God), the God of Israel in the Old Testament. A plural of majesty, the term Elohim —though sometimes used for other deities, such as the Moabite god Chemosh, the Sidonian goddess Astarte, and also for other majestic beings such as angels, kings, judges (the Old Testament shofetim), and the Messiah—is usually employed in the Old Testament for the one and only God of Israel, whose personal name was revealed to Moses as YHWH, or Yahweh (q.v.). When referring to Yahweh, elohim very often is accompanied by the article ha-, to mean, in combination, “the God,” and sometimes with a further identification Elohim hayyim, meaning “the living God.”

    Though Elohim is plural in form, it is understood in the singular sense. Thus, in Genesis the words, “In the beginning God ( Elohim ) created the heavens and the earth,” Elohim is monotheistic in connotation, though its grammatical structure seems polytheistic. The Israelites probably borrowed the Canaanite plural noun Elohim and made it singular in meaning in their cultic practices and theological reflections.

  • Nate Merit
    Nate Merit

    What matters is how the word is actually used. The actual usage of Eloah and Elohim in the Hebrew scriptures is at variance with definitions found in most lexicons, because these works have an Ideology to uphold. The ideology of Jewish monotheism. The fact is, the Hebrew scriptures demonstrate polytheistic belief which later evolves into henotheistic belief (Man gods, but one chief god, from which the others gods were emanated or created by), to an iffy sort of monotheism. Christianity proceeds with a qualified henotheism, with there being the one supreme god and many lesser gods, the demons or archons.

    If you want to see how the word is actually used, get yourself a copy of Strong's, or find it online using Google, and do an exhaustive study. You'll discover, just as I did, the words eloah and elohim are very often plural.

    I have devoted a very substantial chapter of Jehovah Unmasked to laying out my findings, and taking the reader through a tour of how the words eloah and elohim are actually used in the OT, rather than stating an Ideology and then hammering the bible to fit, or conveniently explaining everything away with mental gymnastics, verbal contortions, and special pleading.

    Jehovah Unmasked is available as low as four dollars and thirty four cents.



  • Shining One
    Shining One

    It is often used to support the trinity teaching and the references to Genesis 1.1 and John 1.1-3 provide some support for this understanding of 'Elohim'. I believe that the critics are dishonest and have a pre-concieved notion about God that sways their opinion. They seem to be consistently promoting any theory that casts doubt on the authenticity of scripture. I also believe that this is the wrong place to ask for scholarly opinions. There are plenty of real scholars who research scripture daily and have the credentials to back it up.

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