My question is different from question why "elohim" is translated as singular "God" and not plural "Gods", because I like present a talking about about it is not "Elohim" is the subject, but "Elohim" is the subject, plus "Elohim Et" is a proper name of a singular entity, not fancy grammatical explanation that could be foreign to Moses, the writer of Genesis. Also, I pay the way that since "elohim et" together as a name, the translation should be by transliteration as "Elohim Et".

In Creation account especially Genesis 1:1-3 and 1:26, "elohim" and "us' and "our" are plural seem to indicate that there are at least three creator-gods, because William Sanford LaSor in his book "Handbook of Biblical Hebrew" 1979, vol.2, p.75, wrote about Hebrew noun,

"Originally, 3 numbers were indicated, singular (one), dual (two), and plural (three or more).

Could it be grammatically correct that in Genesis 1:1 "Elohim Et" is the personal name of a Creator-God, in Genesis 1:2 "Ruah Elohim" is the personal name of another Creator-God, in Genesis 1:3 "Elohim" is the personal name of yet another Creator-God, and the "us" and "our" in Genesis 1:26 are referring to these three Creator-Gods?

If it could be grammatically correct then it is consistent with one usage of Hebrew personal name is record current event, for example the name Jacob was to record that a baby boy has grabbed his brother's heel.

 [Strong's Concordance 2384. Iakób][1]

If it could not be grammatically correct then why "elohim" and "us' and "our" are plural in Genesis 1:1-3 and 1:26 ?

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ׃ והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על פני המים׃ ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי אור׃

ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו וירדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובבהמה ובכל הארץ ובכל הרמש הרמש על הארץ׃

  • Chin-Lee Chan Why do you assume God is addressing other gods? Why cannot he be addressing some or an Angel(s)? Why not 2 or 4 or 6 as no number is mentioned?
    – user26950
    Dec 7 '18 at 15:34
  • Largely answered here: Genesis 11:7 - Babel language confusion&lq=1
    – fdb
    Dec 7 '18 at 16:18
  • @fdb, I don't see your explanation as a particularly common construction in Biblical Hebrew. I believe people more often use the first person singular to express intent in the OT. Can you identify any other examples? Dec 7 '18 at 16:59
  • @ethos Even though I believe that angels were created on the first day before the Earth was created in Genesis 1:1. However in Genesis chapter 1 angels were not mentioned. So readers who start reading the Bible from Genesis 1:1 all the way to Genesis 1:26 should think that "us" and "our" are not thinking about angels but "Elohim Et", "Ruah Elohim" and "Elohim" because those are the three names introduced at the three verses of the chapter. Dec 9 '18 at 8:46
  • @Chin-Lee Chan Hoe about John 1:1-2 here?
    – user26950
    Dec 9 '18 at 11:10

It is a figure of speech called "The royal or majestic plural." Also another name for it is the "singular plural." The plural is used instead of singular to indicate formality or royalty. We see it used much concerning the kings of England and other royalty. Figures of speech are used to emphasize something beyond what normal wording would do. It is not to be understood as literal.

  • 1
    Thank you for bringing these ideas into the discussion! These kind of grammatical explanations are strange to the 3 Revelators who love everyone and like the readers of Their words to understand it more directly. With this common understanding, what do you think that Elohim Et, Ruah Elohim, and Elohim are three proper personal names of three entities and therefore the three corresponding verbs are singular ? Child readers can simply use the basic rule of personal name of a singular person matching with singular verb as the explanation for the seemingly mismatching of numbers. Dec 14 '18 at 12:41

There are a few flaws to this premise:

  1. Nouns have a single / dual / plural system, but verbs only distinguish single / plural, so it would require two entities, not three.

  2. There is no plural verb or noun related to God in Gen. 1:1-3 ("he created, he said"). However, there is in Gen. 1:26 ("let us make, our image, our likeness"). Interestingly, the verb for "said" is still singular there, so it's not Elohim who is plural (ruling out the idea that the plural-like ending confused editors).

  3. "Elohim Eth" is not a name, and not even a unit. Eth is a grammatical word that marks the definite direct object. You'll notice that it's repeated, connected to the heavens and the earth rather than to God: eth ha-shamayim w-eth ha-aretz.

  4. This leaves just two of your names, "Elohim" and "Ruakh Elohim". It's vaguely possible that Elohim and his spirit talk as two separate entities (like Jesus and his Father), but I think that'd be jumping a long way forward in theology from what was believed at the time of writing. Still, it's not impossible depending on your view of scriptural inspiration. But it would still not be multiple "creator gods".

  5. There are other possible explanations, such as speaking about angels. It might seem odd that humans would be made in the likeness of both God and angels, but it seems that all such entities are represented as essentially human in form when they appear at that stage in the Old Testament (for example, Abraham's three visitors in Gen. 18).

Incidentally, the reference to Jacob seems irrelevant — nothing about him is plural and nothing about the names of God here could refer to the act of creating.

So I would rule out this theory. As a final note, we do observe two distinct names of God appearing in Genesis: Elohim and Yahweh. Theories range from this being arbitrary to the choice representing distinct stages of writing or editing. A mainstream idea from source/textual criticism is that you can distinguish the Yahwistic narratives from the Elohistic narratives, and account for some duplicate material because these two traditions are interwoven in the version of the text we have now.

But no mainstream commentator would consider that this means the Israelites believed in two different gods who both took part in creation.

By the way, we're not obliged to consider Elohim a plural word. Take the French word fils "son". Looks like a plural ending, and the plural of that word is even spelled and pronounced identically. There's also a homograph in the plural word fils "threads". But fils "son" is clear a singular word in sentences like « Mon fils est beau » ("My son is handsome"). The singular just happens to end in the same spelling and sound as the plural because of the history of the word.

  • Thank you for your comment ! I will respond to you point by point. My theory is for the consideration of the mainstream commentators. Dec 9 '18 at 8:51
  • Regarding your point 1, referring to Hebrew nouns, "Originally, 3 numbers were indicated, singular (one), dual (two), and plural (three or more)." Handbook of Biblical Hebrew Vol. 2 by William Sanford LaSor, 1979, p.75 Please note that Hebrew plural is not 2 or more but three or more. So three entities are required. Dec 9 '18 at 8:57
  • @Chin-Lee Yes, but as I wrote, this is only true of nouns. Verbs and suffixes only distinguish singular/plural. Now, there are no plural nouns related to God in these passages, only verbs and possessive suffixes. Therefore, the threshold used for those plurals is 2. The alternative is to claim that everywhere else in the Bible where a plural is used, it's 3 or more, even when we know there are only 2 -- including Adam and Eve...! Dec 9 '18 at 13:23
  • Thank you for your comment! Regarding your point 2, the verbs are singular but Elohim in is plural and yet it is grammatical correct because the usage of Elohim Et, Ruah Elohim, and Elohim are the personal proper name of the three Creators. By the way, "Remember your Creators ...." Ecclesiastes 12:1, literally in Hebrew. Dec 14 '18 at 11:47
  • @Chin-LeeChan No, there's no particular reason "Elohim" should be considered plural. See the addition at the end of my answer. And I already explained why "Elohim Et" doesn't work, even a little bit, the second word being a grammatical particle. It's about as absurd as saying there were two heroic French maidens during the Hundred Years' War: Joan, and Joan Of. Dec 15 '18 at 16:09

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