Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Case of the "Royal We" and the Pagan "Elohim"!
The Judahites NEVER considered the plural use of "Elohim" to mean what the proponents of the Biune or Triune Godhead claim. The practice of pluralizing words of authority was common in the ancient Hebrew language, and the word for "God" quite often appeared in the plural to DENOTE A SINGULAR BEING! Unfortunately, those trying to promote the FALSE teaching of a pre-existent savior pounce on the plural usage of the word to claim that the Messiah was "God" before his human birth. This deceptive practice has done much spiritual harm to the people of YEHOVAH God.
by John D. Keyser
One argument often expounded by those who believe in a Biune or Triune concept of the Godhead, is that of the Bible's use of the plural for God. For example, the Hebrew word translated God is "Elohim" -- which is the plural form of the word "El" or "Eloah." It is interesting to note, however, that the translators DO NOT translate "Elohim" "gods" (plural) because of their basic monotheistic views. Of course, this is the paradox -- how can God be one and also two or three?
In the Preliminary Draft of the translation of the Book of Genesis (1994) in The Original Bible Project, we find the following footnote --
"2. The most common Hebrew word for God is 'elohim, which is a masculine plural form of 'el, meaning a "mighty one." It can refer to the one true God, the gods or idols of the Gentiles, to angels, or even to human judges and rulers (see Gen. 3:5; 6:2; 35:1; Ex. 12:12; Psa. 82:1, 6; 97:7, 9; Gen. 23:6; Ex. 22:8-9 for illustrations). The plural form 'elohim, when used of YHVH, the One God of Israel, functions as a SINGULAR NOUN and with rare exceptions takes a SINGULAR VERB and SINGULAR PREPOSITIONS. This plural form, sometimes called by grammarians the "plural of Majesty," expresses the idea of the One who represents the TOTALITY of Divinity ("mightiness"), that is, the 'ELOHIM of 'elohim, "GOD of gods," (see Gen. 14:18-19; Deut. 10:17)."
In reality, if you dealt logically with the plural "elohim" without an understanding of ancient Hebrew usage, you would need to translate Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, gods [plural] created the heavens and the earth." This, of course, would never do because there are many statements in the Bible that clearly show that God (YEHOVAH) is indeed ONLY ONE. Another argument raised by these believers in a Biune or Triune God is that God was speaking to the other person (or persons) of the Godhead when He said, "Let us make humanity in our own image." Who is the "us" in this verse? they ask. Of course, these arguments certainly deserve an explanation.
In the Bible reference Insight On the Scriptures, we find written --
"The Hebrew word 'elohim' (gods) appears to be from a root meaning "be strong." 'Elo.him' is the plural of 'eloh'ah (god). Sometimes this plural refers to a number of gods (Ge. 31:30, 32; 35:2), but more often it is used as a plural of majesty, dignity, or excellence. 'Elo.him' is used in the Scriptures with reference to Jehovah himself, to angels, to idol gods (singular and plural), and to men."
This authority goes on to say --
"When applying to Jehovah, 'Elo.him' is used as a PLURAL OF MAJESTY, DIGNITY, OR EXCELLENCE. (Ge. 1:1) Regarding this, Aaron Ember wrote: "That the language of the O[ld] T[estament] has entirely given up the idea of plurality in...['Elo.him'] (as applied to the God of Israel) is especially shown by the fact that it is almost invariably construed with a SINGULAR verbal predicate, and takes a SINGULAR adjectival attribute.... ['Elo- him'] must rather be explained as an intensive plural, denoting greatness, and majesty, being equal to The Great God." -- The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. XXI, 1905, p. 208.
"The title 'Elo.him' draws attention to Jehovah's strength as the Creator. It appears 35 times by itself in the account of creation, and EVERY TIME the verb describing what he said and did IS IN THE SINGULAR NUMBER. (Ge. 1:1-2:4) In him resides the sum and substance of infinite forces" (Vol. 1, page 968).
The Judahites -- who were the keepers of the Old Testament -- never considered the plural use of "Elohim" to mean what the proponents of the Biune or Triune Godhead posit. They have ALWAYS maintained a strict monotheistic view of the Deity.
In Smith's Bible Dictionary we find this explanation of "Elohim":
"Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures TWO chief names are used for the ONE true divine Being -- ELOHIM, commonly translated God in our version, and JEHOVAH [YEHOVAH], translated LORD. Elohim is the plural of Eloah; it is often used in the short form EL (a word signifying strength), as in EL-SHADDAI, God Almighty, the name by which God was specially known to the patriarchs. Gen. 17:1; 28:3; Ex. 6:3. The etymology is uncertain, but it is generally agreed that the primary idea is that it properly describes God in that character in which he is exhibited to all men in his works, as the creator, sustainer and supreme governor of the world.
"The plural form of Elohim has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred to the trinity of persons [or duality of persons] in the Godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars. It is either what grammarians call the plural of majesty, or it denotes the fullness of divine strength, the sum of the powers displayed by God" (page 220).
The plural use of "authority" words is easily explained by the concept and former use of the "Royal We." It was quite common for monarchs of old to "pluralize" their edicts by saying, "We have decided" rather than "I have decided" -- which was most probably the truth. This practice is still in use occasionally today. The reasoning behind it is this: in order for someone to be a king, it is necessary that they have a kingdom and subjects to reign over. Without a realm and subjects to exercise authority over, a person would, in reality, not be a king! Therefore, as the representative of their most sovereign state, their edicts -- even though unilaterally decided -- were often prefaced with the plural "we." For example, the king might say, "We have decided to raise taxes" when, in fact, it was his decision alone.
The practice of pluralizing words of authority was also common in the ancient Hebrew language. Although the practice was disappearing at the time the Bible was composed, there remain a number of examples of its usage. The words for lord, master and God might appear in the plural to DENOTE A SINGULAR BEING if that being held authority. If the context expressed control and/or authority, the verb might be pluralized also. In Hebrew usage, "God" (Elohim) always appears in the plural for obvious reasons. According to the principle of authority and control, God (YEHOVAH) is the ultimate sovereign: the One who sets up kings and removes them (Daniel 4:17ff).
Now, in Genesis 39:2, the Bible states that Joseph was in the house of his "master" the Egyptian. The translators render "master" correctly as singular in this instance -- even though the word is PLURAL in the Hebrew text! A similar pluralization takes place in Exodus 21:9, speaking about the "owner" of an ox with the tendency to gore. The word is translated in the singular even though it also occurs in the plural. Again, the substantive reason for pluralizing the above two examples in the Hebrew text is because both "master" and "owner" denote authority and control -- thus qualifying under the principle of the "Royal We."
Another great example -- and one that demonstrates contextually the use of the "Royal We" principle -- is found in Isaiah 6:8. After describing God ("Elohim") on the throne (an obvious allusion to the monotheistic God), Isaiah records His challenge as He inquires concerning who should be sent to a corrupt Israel:
"Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
In this verse we have both the singular "I" and the plural "us" in the same manner of usage as in Genesis 2:17, "Let us make humanity in our image" -- giving a perfect example of the use of pluralization when conveying particular authority. Something similar occurs when God (YEHOVAH) confuses the languages in Genesis 11:8 -- notice:
"Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth..."
Many other examples could be cited, but this should suffice to underscore the principle involved. Trinitarian (and those who believe in the duality of the Godhead) arguments derived from the pluralization of authority titles collapse under close scrutiny. It is just another example of shallow scholarship which turns their theology into a "tempest in a teapot" when examined in depth and in context.
Who Was YEHOVAH Talking To?
There is another fact we should consider -- the scribes used the word "ELOHIM" to replace the name of YEHOVAH in the Bible. The plain and simple fact is that the Creator was never known as a "god" in any of the original writings! The PAGAN word "god" comes from the word "El" (singular, "god") or "Elohim" (plural, gods). The Interpreter's Dictionary tells us what the words "El" and "Elohim" really mean --
"A. IN THE OT. 1. Daimonism. a. Daimon. The Hebrew equivalent of 'demon' (daimon) in the original sense is simply [...] or [...] ('elohim), commonly rendered 'god'" (Vol. 1, page 817).
The words El-Elohim (god) -- like the words Baal-Adonai (lord) -- came from the Canaanite vocabulary and worship. These Canaanite words were accepted into the Hebrew language many years after the original writings of the Old Testament. The Encyclopedia Judaica explains:
"Most of these terms were employed also by the Canaanites, to designate their pagan gods. This is not surprising; since on settling in the Promised Land the Patriarchs and early Israelites made "the language of Canaan" their own (Isa. 19:18), the Hebrew language would naturally use the Canaanite vocabulary for terms designating their own Deity" (Vol. 7, page 674).
Not long after these Canaanite titles were incorporated into the Hebrew language, the people of YEHOVAH slowly, but surely, forgot the Name of their Creator. In fact, His Name eventually was NEVER mentioned, except on the Day of Atonement, and then only by the High Priest -- and in such a low voice that no one could even hear it. The Encyclopedia Judaica tells us that "at least until the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. this name [YHVH] was regularly pronounced with its proper vowels, as is clear from the Lachish Letters, written shortly before that date. But at least by the third century B.C.E. the pronunciation of the name YHWH [YHVH] was avoided, and Adonai, "the Lord," was substituted for it..." (Vol. 7, page 680).
Eventually this substitute name for YEHOVAH crept into the Scriptures. At the same time the pagan name "Elohim" was also substituted for YEHOVAH's true Name at many places in the Old Testament. Notice --
"The men who copied the Hebrew Scriptures from the days of Ezra up to the time of Jesus were called scribes or sopherim. In the course of time these began to TAKE LIBERTIES in making textual changes. In fact, Jesus himself roundly condemned these would-be custodians of the Law for assuming powers that did not belong to them (Matt. 23:2, 13)" (All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial, page 307).
Continues this reference:
"The scribal successors of the sopherim in the centuries after Christ came to be known as the Masoretes. These took note of the alterations made by the earlier sopherim, recording them in the margin of the Hebrew text. These marginal notes came to be known as the Masorah. The Masorah listed the fifteen extraordinary points of the sopherim, namely, fifteen words or phrases in the Hebrew text that had been marked by dots above and below. Some of these extraordinary points do not affect the English translation or the interpretation, but OTHERS DO and are of importance. The sopherim allowed their superstitious fear of pronouncing the name Jehovah to ensnare them into altering it to read Adonay (Lord) at 134 places AND TO READ ELOHIM (GOD) AT SEVENTEEN PLACES. The Masorah (marginal comments on the text by the Masoretes) lists these changes" (ibid.).
You can now see why the true Name of YEHOVAH was forgotten. In ALL instances YEHOVAH's Name was replaced with the titles of the PAGAN GODS of the Canaanites; and soon after people began to think that Lord God or Lord Gods (plural -- as in more than one god: a "Trinity" or a "Duality," depending upon the group) created the heavens and the earth!
As we have seen in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, the words "EL" or "ELOHIM" (commonly rendered "god") -- and rendered "Theos" in the New Testament -- simply means "DEMON"! Unfortunately the word "Elohim," to the detriment of the understanding of the majority of the Christian world, has been written into Genesis 1:26-27. Had the Name of YEHOVAH not been replaced by the pagan title "Elohim" in these verses, there would not be the CONFUSION that is rampant at this time!
The Hebrew people knew that the Name of YEHOVAH was replaced with the pagan title "Elohim." The Anchor Bible, Genesis gives us their excuse for replacing YEHOVAH's Name with the titles of the Canaanite gods in Genesis 1:26, saying --
"26. For the singulars "my image, my likeness" Heb. employs here plural possessives, which most translations reproduce. Yet no other divine being has been mentioned; and the very next verse uses the singular throughout; cf. also ii 7. The point at issue, therefore, is one of grammar alone, without a direct bearing on the meaning. It so happens that the common Heb. term for "God," namely, Elohim ('elohim) is plural in form and is so construed at times."
On the subject of grammar in the Old Testament, Unger's Bible Dictionary (under the topic of "Gods, False") explains the tendency of the pagan Canaanites to employ PLURAL FORMS of the gods to summarize all the various manifestations of godship or godhead --
"In Canaan there was a tendency to employ the plural forms of deities Ashtoreth (Ash- toroth), Asherah (Asherim), Anath (Anathoth) to summarize all the various manifesta- tions of this deity. In like fashion the Canaanite plural Elohim ("gods") was adopted by the Hebrews to express all the excellencies and attributes of the one true God" (page 412).
The so-called Church Fathers pounced on these plural forms in their attempt to justify the pagan Greek doctrine of the Trinity and/or the doctrine of the duality of the Godhead. The doctrine of two or three gods has been perpetrated on Christianity because of a FALSE reading of this scripture in Genesis!
The fact that the word "Elohim" replaced the Name of YEHOVAH in the Old Testament, incorporating the pagan tendency to employ plural forms, which the Hebrews then adopted into their language, proves THREE things in the Bible:
1) This FACT disqualifies the use of Genesis 1:26-27 as a proof that Christ (Yeshua) pre-existed; because --
2) YEHOVAH is ALONE in creating mankind; and --
3) It clearly proves that the copyists and/or translators tampered with the Scriptures, replacing YEHOVAH's Name with titles, which do NOT fit grammatically or Scripturally into the Hebrew or English languages.
The point is (which is readily admitted) the CONFUSION arises because the Hebrews used the titles of Canaanite gods to replace the Name of YEHOVAH in the Scriptures. And then, to compound the confusion, most translators have followed the same path by reproducing the error -- even though they know -- and admit -- that it is grammatically wrong to do so! The amount of spiritual harm this has done to all that have read this deception down through the centuries is immeasurable.
Of course, those who want to promote the FALSE teaching of a pre-existent savior will pounce on these same verses saying, "It was Jesus that God was talking to"! Being both unlearned and ignorant of the Plan of YEHOVAH -- much less the fundamentals of the Hebrew language -- they DECEIVE YEHOVAH's people into believing in a FALSE savior.
Genesis 1:26-27 in the Preliminary Draft of the translation of the Book of Genesis (1994) in The Original Bible Project shows the pagan title "Elohim" in these verses --
"And ELOHIM said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the flying things of the heavens, and over the animals, and over all the earth, and over every moving thing that moves upon the earth.' And ELOHIM created the man in his image: in the image of ELOHIM he created him, male and female he created them."
The same verses in The Revised Standard Version show the word "God" being employed instead of "Elohim" --
"Then GOD said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.' So GOD created man in his own image, in the image of GOD he created him; male and female he created them."
However, had the Name of YEHOVAH been retained in Genesis 1:26-27 -- as it should have -- these verses would CORRECTLY read as follows:
"Then YEHOVAH said, I will make man in My image, according to My likeness. They will have rulership over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So YEHOVAH created man in His own image, in the image of YEHOVAH He created him; male and female He created them."
YEHOVAH God was not speaking to anyone! He was simply putting His Plan into words for mankind -- just as we read in John 1:1-14 and I John 1:1-6. YEHOVAH God was revealing His great Plan -- in words -- so mankind could understand the great Plan that YEHOVAH has for building and expanding the YEHOVAH Family! YEHOVAH was ALONE at Creation -- there was NO pre-existent savior at His side!
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