2

Elohim is recognized as being in plural form when talking about false gods… However when talking about the Hebrew God, I have read that Elohim is thought to be referring to God in singular form. Is this correct?

Consider Genesis 1:26

Let Us make man in Our image.

That is plural.

In Psalms 110

The LORD said to my Lord

That is plural.

In John 1:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

This references the Father and the Son from the beginning.

Genesis 1, the explanation of creation:

In six days, Adonai created all things through His Word.

On the seventh day Elohim rested.

Can it not be said that Elohim refers to the Father, who is God, and the Son, who is God. Since Elohim is plural in form.

Know that the Father is greater than the Son.

I believe in Elohim, both the Father, Adonai, and the Son, Yehoshua the Messiah... So to me it makes sense that Elohim refers to both the Father and the Son...

As it says in the book of Hebrews, all was completed in 6 days, and on the 7th day Adonai rested. And therefore from the beginning there was another to marry back into God's fold after Israel committed adultery, that being the Word of God, the Messiah.

5
  • 1
    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your question. Please remember to take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. Here we need a specific text to analyse.
    – Dottard
    Mar 14, 2022 at 23:19
  • 2
    There is a difference between a plural noun and a collective noun. 'Humanity' and 'deity' are both examples of a collective noun which has a plural concept yet is grammatically singular.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 15, 2022 at 7:34
  • 2
    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! You have a good question, but it could be closed soon. Please edit it to keep it open. Here, we focus on specific ways to study the Bible. Use specific Bible passage references with chapter and verse and which translation in your passage quotes. And, focus this so it is about understanding 1. the meaning of "Elohim" and 2. whether or not it is appropriate to be translated that way in any passage where it appears. With that, you could clarify specifically what you want to ask about.
    – Jesse
    Mar 15, 2022 at 15:29
  • Does this answer your question? Why is Elohim translated as God rather than gods in Genesis 1:1? Mar 24, 2022 at 14:19
  • This references the Father and the Son from the beginning, is patently false when applied to John 1:1
    – Steve
    Apr 4, 2022 at 23:32

5 Answers 5

2

It is true that אֱלהִים is grammatically plural but is often treated as though it is singular such as with a singular verb. The noun occurs about 2600 times in the OT. For example, In Gen 1:1 we have "God created" - God is plural but the verb "created" is singular.

The singular form, אֱלוֹהַּ (eloah, #433) occurs about 60 times in the OT, mostly (but not exclusively) in poetic form such as Job and the Psalms.

Another form of the same word is אֵל (el, #410) which occurs almost 250 times.

3
  • @jwilhelms - you have now completely changed the question and these questions, while interesting are outside the scope of this site.
    – Dottard
    Mar 15, 2022 at 20:26
  • @jwilhelms the Father is greater than the son in so far as the Son chooses to be submissive. If three co-owners have equal share of the company, and one decides he will voluntarily work in the lobby, he remains fully co-equal. If one of the other owners comes into the lobby and asks him to fulfill a service in the capacity of a concierge, he will submit to the other co-owner’s requests and serve him. That doesn’t diminish his standing as equal co-owner. It matters the chronology. Jesus John17:5,24 says He was before Creation, meaning before heaven, angels, earthat that time he was no concierge Apr 5, 2022 at 1:01
  • It's not even guaranteed that it's grammatically plural (any more than English words ending in "s" are guaranteed to be plural), and it's rather doubtful in fact given that the predicates are usually singular. We might say that the end is homonymous with the plural. Mar 29, 2023 at 14:57
1

Isn’t Elohim in Bible plural in all cases

I will answer this from a grammatic Hebrew angle.

The Hebrew elohim (אֱלהִים), or God/god (Strong's H430) is plural as is designated by the -im at the end. When the elohim is used with a singular verb, elohim is referring to the one True God, aka Jehovah/Yahweh. Note the following references:

  • "God" topic from Insight on the Scriptures

    The Hebrew word ʼelo·himʹ (gods) appears to be from a root meaning “be strong.” ʼElo·himʹ is the plural of ʼelohʹah (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. ʼElo·himʹ is used in the Scriptures with reference to Jehovah himself, to angels, to idol gods (singular and plural), and to men.

    When applying to Jehovah, ʼElo·himʹ 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 . . . [ʼElo·himʹ] (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. . . . [ʼElo·himʹ] 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 ʼElo·himʹ 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.

    At Psalm 8:5, the angels are also referred to as ʼelo·himʹ, as is confirmed by Paul’s quotation of the passage at Hebrews 2:6-8. They are called benehʹ ha·ʼElo·himʹ, “sons of God” (KJ); “sons of the true God” (NW), at Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1. Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, by Koehler and Baumgartner (1958), page 134, says: “(individual) divine beings, gods.” And page 51 says: “the (single) gods,” and it cites Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. Hence, at Psalm 8:5 ʼelo·himʹ is rendered “angels” (LXX); “godlike ones” (NW).

    The word ʼelo·himʹ is also used when referring to idol gods. Sometimes this plural form means simply “gods.” (Ex 12:12; 20:23) At other times it is the plural of excellence and only one god (or goddess) is referred to. However, these gods were clearly not trinities.​—1Sa 5:7b (Dagon); 1Ki 11:5 (“goddess” Ashtoreth); Da 1:2b (Marduk).

  • "'One Jehovah'–In What Sense?" article from Awake! Nov. 22, 1978

    Let us consider the assertion based on the plural word for God in Hebrew, namely, elohim. By no means does this have to mean that God is more than one person. Frequently a plural word in Hebrew designates a single thing or person. Aaron Ember writes in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures (Vol. XXI, July 1905): “Several phenomena in the universe were designated in Hebrew by plural expressions because they inspired the Hebrew mind with the idea of greatness, majesty, grandeur, and holiness.” By way of illustration, Ember points out that “the Persian king . . . is designated in a number of passages in the O[ld] T[estament] by the pl[ural] melakhim ‘kings,’ i.e., The Great King, and the Persian Empire by the pl[ural] mamlakhoth, ‘kingdoms,’ i.e., The Great Kingdom.” With regard to the Hebrew word for God, the same author states:

    “Various theories have been advanced to explain the use of the plural form elohim as a designation of the God of Israel. Least plausible is the view of the old theologians, beginning with Peter Lombard (12th century), that we have in the plural form a reference to the Trinity. . . . That the language of the O[ld] T[estament] has entirely given up the idea of plurality in elohim (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. . . . elohim must rather be explained as an intensive plural, denoting greatness and majesty, being equal to The Great God. It ranks with the plurals adonim [“master”] and baalim [“owner,” “lord”] employed with reference to human beings.”

    So there is no basis for arguing from the plural Hebrew word elohim that God is more than one person.

  • "God" topic from the New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6, pg 272

    Even the word Elohim, used more than 2,500 times in the texts to indicate not only ‘‘God’’ and ‘‘the God’’ specifically, but also ‘‘a god’’ and the ‘‘gods’’ generically (e.g., Ex 20:3), need not imply any genuine form of polytheism. When used to refer to the God of Israel’s faith (Gn 1:1) the plural Elohim always takes a singular verb, indicating that, like the royal we, the plural of excellence, not number, is meant. ‘‘To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God (Elohim); there is no other besides him (Dt 4:35).

2
  • No further argument or debate needed. Well extracted, + 1. Mar 18, 2022 at 23:09
  • There is NO evidence of a “royal we” in ancient text. This idea is a relatively modern construct to obfuscate from God being echad. God or Elohim is plural in every instance, even if it makes the monotheists who make claim to Elohim mad, even if others are wrongly accused of polytheism in the secular understanding of the word. God is NEVER said to be ONE singular in the Hebrew. In the NT whilst Jesus was incarnated the Greek makes the point once but reverts back from monos to hen in the Greek after His ascension and He did that to show obedience to the divine plan not hierarchy Apr 5, 2022 at 1:13
1

Look at other terms in Hebrew that are always plural, such as מַיִם (water). To the Hebrew mind and their concept of the world water was everywhere. Indeed, anywhere humans could survive required water.

While there are singular terms translated life in Hebrew, the term חַיִּים is considered to always be plural. Consider חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה (the life of Sarah) in Genesis 23:1. It is described as 123 years, thus one life. But, like water, there is something continuous and flowing about life, making it difficult to limit to the singular.

When we look at God, he is limitless. He is present everywhere, all powerful, all knowing, characteristics that lead to the plural form in Hebrew. The plural form is also well fitting with the Trinity. However, we should avoid Tritheism. It does counter modalism.

0

Yes, the word Elohim can be considered to be plural. However, there is another option that no one seem to have considered - that Elohim is two separate words. Like another name of God, El Shadday (Genesis 17:1), the name Elohim אֱלהִים can be divided into El אל and Him הים. It doesn't have to be one single word. This would better match the naming of the sumerian goods like En-lil and En-ki, where the term "En" means lord.

The names of God would then be

  • El Shadday
  • El Him

Perhaps the word Him derives from הום (strong 1949) meaning "roar".

2
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Apr 4, 2022 at 22:37
  • 1
    @Coragi, consider Deuteronomy 6:4 - 6:5 - the Shema, both words for God are Masculine Plural in form. Elohim in Genesis 1:1 - is referenced as Plural as well.
    – jwilhelms
    Apr 5, 2022 at 0:17
0

The account of Elohim is an account of many gods,however one way to describe the singular verb would be to imagine as if we were talking about a football team. The individual players would be in the account but when spoken of as team a singular verb would be appropriate. Perhaps a group of gods in the text referenced as one unit that could be called powerful explains the mystery!

2
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    May 21, 2022 at 12:59
  • Lee, we're glad to have you on Hermeneutics! I must tell you that we can't allow anecdotal Answers here. As written, this is purely a personal opinion without any source, no quote from a scholar, no explanation from history or language, and no demonstration of how we arrive at this conclusion while studying the text, which is what this site is about. Please edit your answer to at least cite a scholarly source, otherwise it will be deleted, and I don't want that. Visitors want to know where this idea comes from. All the best!
    – Jesse
    May 23, 2022 at 5:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.