One God Versus Many

One God Versus Many - The Plurality is in the Pronoun (Part 1)

(Read the article on one page)

The Hebrew/Christian concept of monotheism has invaded the far corners of the earth, and many people have heard its doctrine; however, it continues to cause confusion and controversy, just as it did in the days following the life of Jesus Christ. People all over the world are familiar with the concept of the Hebrew/Christian god. This monotheistic, or singular, God as both the Jews and Christians describe him, is referenced in the plural many times in their own holy books. How does this coincide with the beliefs they are promoting? Let us begin at the beginning, or with Genesis rather, which is the first book of the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah.

“And God said, let us make man in our image.” Genesis 1:26
“And the Lord God said, Behold, then man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” Genesis 3:22
“Let us go down, and there confound their language.” Genesis 11:7

Yet, in the verse following Genesis 1:26, god is referenced with a singular pronoun:

“God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

The idea of a plural god can be shown here before the Christian concept of Trinitarian doctrine was introduced. Yet how does this god—whom from the beginning the Jews insisted was only one entity—refer to himself in the plural, contrasting the author who referenced him in the singular? There are a few arguable explanations, but first let us first look at the plural pronouns in the Hebrew Tanakh, or holy book, as these are what is being translated here.

The pronoun used for God in many references is Elohim, a plural form of the Hebrew pronoun El, meaning ‘god’. Rabbi Tovia Singer, director of Outreach Judaism, explains this use according to Hebrew tradition.

“The word  Elohim possesses a plural intensive syntax and is singular in meaning. In Hebrew, the suffix ים ( im), mainly indicates a masculine plural. However with  Elohim the construction is grammatically singular, (i.e. it governs a singular verb or adjective) when referring to the God of Israel, but grammatically plural  elohim (i.e. taking a plural verb or adjective) when used of pagan divinities (Psalms 96:5; 97:7).”

Singer goes on to say that other singular pronouns used throughout the Jewish scriptures also end with the same plural suffix and are paired with singular articles and verbs, a usage known as the ‘plural intensive’. This plurality, as he explains it, is in reference to intensity, not number.

Some critics argue it to be a plural verb of the word for ‘strength’ and thus making this mean ‘the strength of strength’ as used by royalty, as opposed to the plurality of a personal pronoun, though this interpretation is not historically sound. Yet the obvious, initial interpretation cannot be ignored: that the god being quoted is saying exactly what it means and, thus, the text literally means what it says.

The invent of modern Christianity explains these versus by decoding them using the following verse in the 1 John of the New Testament:

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” 1 John 5:7

Christian believers who promote the concept of the Trinity claim that these passages could not have been understood until the appearance of Jesus Christ, the second person in the godhead, which is why the concept itself was not mentioned until the New Testament, or the second half of the Christian scripture, which takes place after the life of Christ. They claim the plural pronoun being used with singular verbs are evidence that God is referencing himself in multiple persons, and go even further by assigning a specific number, even though Genesis only mentions ‘us’ and ‘our’, with no explanation as to how many gods are being referred to. Though Christians try to explain the Old Testament references in this manner, it is obvious the followers of Judaism, the religion in whose scripture the verses originally appear, do not ascribe the same meaning to these verses.  

This triune concept is puzzling to many, though the question it attempts to answer is even more puzzling. Was there more than one god during the creation described in the Hebrew Torah? If so, which one is the one “true” entity that they worship?

By E.C. Rammel

References

The Skeptic's Annotated Bible

Plural References to God

'Let us' in Genesis

The Doctrine of Trinity

Comments

The Account of Creation in the Bible is extended and brought to life in Sumerian cuneiform records translated by Zechariah Sitchin. It's echoed in the Urantia Book, the Oahspe, the Gospels of Barnabas, of the Holy Twelve, the Essene Gospels of Peace and the Book of Enoch.

NOBODY gets educated, nor can one resolve any discrepancies in the text by only reading one book. The Name of the Sovereign Creator God, YHVH, is articulated or implied in ALL these Books. His Story is the Story they tell. So read them all, and maybe you'll know something.

Windstalker's picture

Interesting article. For another take on the apparent plurality see: http://thechronicleproject.org/PDF1/chroniclemaster.pdf Scroll down to page 17 to see a continuous paraphrased English version without the Hebrew.

"It's freedom for everyone or it's freedom for no-one..." The Windstalker

Darren Pellichino's picture

Is there a possibility that we have only one creator but there are multiple gods?  I ask this because I keep mentally coming back to the phrases that describe God.  He is the light and the creator of life.  He also abolishes darkness as well as created the world and heavens.  I immediately think of one particular object that has done this locally, our Sun.  Our planet and heavens is the solar system, the light and life are obvious as we have come to understand that the sun touching the chemicals made life spark to...Life.  Is this the possible reality of a being made of pure energy, possesing a conciousness and an ability control everything in it’s solar mantle?  Then there is actually many Gods in existance, like the nucleus of thousands of solar systems.  Some of these solar systems have dual or even triple gods.  The loss of immortality is the hardest concept for most to swallow.  But I wonder if there is ever a concrete truth that a GOD must be immortal.

100

One point to bear in mind is that the Jewish 'Bible' was only written in its present form after The Return from Babylon in the the 5th century BC. It had several scribes/editors and numerous, (mainly oral) sources, including material from the Babylonian archives. Until exiled to Babylon the Jews, (although nominally monotheists), were mostly polytheists. (The Prophets were always ranting against this tendency). It should not be surprising, therefore, that polytheistic ideas occasionally appear in their Bible.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Open Book Photo
A legend is a tale regarded as historical even though it has not been proven, and the term “myth” can refer to common yet false ideas. Many myths and legends describe our history, but they are often treated skeptically. This is because many of them, while explaining a phenomenon, involve divine or supernatural beings.

Ancient Places

Some of the Mitla mosaics.
Unique and curious designs plaster the walls of the most popular Zapotec archaeological site in Mexico. They are called the Mitla mosaics and are unrivalled in their precision and quality of workmanship. But a mystery surrounds the carved symbols as some researchers suggest they contain a coded language just waiting to be deciphered.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article