Monday, May 23, 2005

Elohim

One of the places supporters of the doctrine of the Trinity point when looking for the Trinity in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word "Elohim". This word, which is translated as "God" in English, is a plural word, and not just a plural but a plural indicating three or more. What more evidence could we need?

But this is where the critical reading of the Bible tugs at our sleeve, wanting a word with us. Can we legitimately claim that the authors of these ancient Jewish scriptures had some insight into the Triune nature of God? Some would point here to the influence of the Holy Spirit, saying that even if the human authors didn't know about the Trinity, the Holy Spirit did. Even so, the human authors chose this word, so it must have meant something to them. What did it mean?

The use of the plural word, "Elohim", certainly does not mean that the authors had a sneak preview of the Trinity. The rest of the text just doesn't support such a view. The unity of God is unquestioned, and the philosophical framework for something like a doctrine of the Trinity just doesn't exist. Besides this, God being plural in number would not support the doctrine of the Trinity, which like all monotheism believes that their is only one God.

But if God is not plural in number, then how is God plural? God is plural in majesty. That is, by using the plural "Elohim" for God, the Hebrew authors are indicating that the One referred to by this term encompasses much more than we can know.

In short, "Elohim" means "we aren't going to put God in a box."

Now, is this a disappointment for us in our search for the Trinity in the Old Testament? It shouldn't be. Far from being a disappointment, this is our first signpost on the way to a well-formed understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Too often we treat the doctrine of the Trinity as if it were some fact that we knew about God, similar, for instance to knowing the Jesus was 5'3" tall. But that's not the kind of thing the doctrine of the Trinity is meant to tell us. It doesn't tell us that God happens to have three heads or some such trivia. Rather, it tells us something very mysterious, something we can't quite comprehend but can only grasp intuitively.

And this is how the meaning of the word "Elohim" should contribute to our appreciation of the doctrine of the Trinity. It reminds us that God is more than we know and warns us against forming too tightly defined dogmas about God.


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4 Comments:

Blogger Carly's Rose said...

The Jews in all likelihood did have a sneak peak into the Trinity, or understood it in a different way (could the Trinity involve Enki and Enlil?), because the Trinity is in our DNA. Our tRNA, which to my understanding builds our DNA, is in the shape of a cross. Of course the scientists call it a "t", but clearly, God is in our DNA.

There are conspiracy theories that our DNA has been altered, however, and if that is true, than the Trinity could mean something sinister.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

Finally we have some honesty about the word "Elohim" surprisingly from a trinitarian. I've never heard any trinitarian share an honest view of that topic. It's always an explanation on a plurality of persons. I don't agree with Carly's point that the Jews had a sneak peak into the trinity. There are many instances in scriptures that reveal clearly that the Jews thought of God as one and not three. I'll give one example: In the New Testament,the was one instance where the Jews wanted to stone Jesus,and their reason was,"Because You being a Man try to make Yourself God!" There's nothing there to give an indication that those Jews thought of God as three persons. Jesus was ONE individual accused of making HIMSELF God. If God were three persons,I would think that there would've had to be more than one person there trying to make THEMSELVES God. Maybe it's just a casual play of words and it may sound like I'm trying to be unreasonable,but let's look at this factor as well: The Jews must've had a correct view of the one indivisible God because even when they said they have one Father,Jesus never corrected them and furthermore He answered them saying,"If God WERE YOUR FATHER(you see right there? God is identified as the Father),you would love Me.." This is where the Jews had problems. Understand,for them,it was one versus the other. How can this Man think He's God when we only know of one God? It wasn't that they were arguing among themselves asking if this Man was one of the persons of a trinity. They struggled with trying to decipher which was which. Isn't God alone the Father and God? Where does this Man get off trying to be this one God? If the Jews,going from generation to generation,had a trinity view of God,wouldn't there at least be an argument or accusation which sounded like,"You being One individual try to make Yourself God?! God is three persons! Who are You trying to be by Yourself?" But the response is,"You,being a Man(one individual)try to make Yourself God!" It's debatable and it can be discussed at length. This DNA stuff won't fly with me. That would beg the question: Am I a trinity of three persons in one? Are we all individually three persons in one? God did make man in His own image so what does that mean? Is my spirit a separate person from myself? Is my body a different person from my spirit and soul? I'm just trying to understand where we go from here.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Ken True said...

Barasheet Bara Elohim. The first three words of the Torah. (Notice the third word is Elohim)
Why should God inspire Moses to write this word when there are words in the Hebrew that describe a singular God?
And why did Moses write words like "let Us go down" or "unless they become like one of us" is God suggesting that he needs help in making a decision on mankind from the angels, his other creation? God forbid.
Elohim I believe to be the first indication of the trinity. I believe in one God but made up of three persons. Just because our mortal minds cannot fathom how exactly this works does not mean to say that it is not so. John Wesley once said "Show me a worm that can comprehend man and I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God" have faith and believe.

2:26 AM  
Anonymous bullet said...

Just because your mortal mind can't fathom how god is one and only one that does not mean its not so! Was Isaiah nuts when he said the lord of hosts is the first and the last how many first and last can there be?or when he said the lord that maketh all things that stretches forth the heavens alone ! That spreadeth the earth by myself?!or how about colossians 2 9 in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily speaking of Jesus. Trinitarian doctrine just muddies up the word! How can the father be greater if they are co equal? Or Jesus having all power? Gods a spirit. Spirits are not persons GOd father and spirit are not names but titles. Funny I'm a father and I happen to be a son and I'm a man but last I checked I was not triune! If there are 3 why is there only one thrown? Every knee will bow to Jesus does that include the father and holy sprit? I don't know about you. All but I didn't teach my kids 10+10 is 17 then later on tell them its really 20 its just easier to start with the whole truth. I see no where in scripture where god changes what truth he started with to only change it later so why do it with the so called trinity? Makes no sence and my GOd is not the author of confusion.the same yesterday today and forever

6:34 PM  

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