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Does the word Elohim in Genesis 1 point to God’s Triunity?

This post is meant to go with my series titled Elohim and the Trinity

The readers may already be aware of the fact that Elohim is a plural noun since the “im” at the end is a masculine plural suffix. This is why it is often translated as “gods” in contexts where the true God contrasts himself with and/or condemns the worship of other so-called divinities:

“And God (Elohim) spake all these words, saying, am the Lord thy God (Elohim), which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods (elohim) before me.” Exodus 20:1-3

“For the Lord your God (Elohim) is God (Elohim) of gods (ha’elohim), and Lord of lords, a great God (ha’El), a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:” Deuteronomy 10:17

God (Elohim) standeth in the congregation of the mighty (El); he judgeth among the gods (elohim)… I have said, Ye are gods (elohim); and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God (Elohim), judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.” Psalm 82:1, 6-8

As I sought to prove in the above-mentioned series, while Elohim does not prove that God is a Trinity, it does point to the fact of the one God existing as a plurality of divine Persons.

A common objection used to refute the assertion that Elohim serves as a prophetic hint to God’s multi-Personal nature is that, when it is used in respect to the true God, it is accompanied by singular pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and participles. This supposedly refutes any attempt of viewing Elohim as an indication of God’s uni-plurality. As the following Evangelical scholar puts it:

“… It is not uncommon to find Trinitarians arguing for the doctrine of the trinity on the basis of the fact that the word for God in the Old Testament is Elohim, which is the plural of the word El. Hence it is thought to imply a plurality in the Godhead.

“Unfortunately, this is indeed, as most Hebrew scholars recognize, a weak argument on which to base the doctrine of the trinity. When a numerical plurality is intended, the corresponding verb(s) in the context will be plural. When the one true God is referred to Elohim, however, the corresponding verbs are always singular… Hence it is easiest and best to understand the plural of Elohim when referenced to Yahweh as denoting a plurality of majesty…

“Even weaker is the argument that the Hebrew word for one (echad) used in the Shema (‘Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD’) refers to a unified one, not an absolute one. Hence, some trinitarians have argued, the Old Testament has a view of a united Godhead. It is, of course, true that the meaning of the word may in some contexts denote a unified plurality (e.g., Gen. 2:4, ‘they shall become one flesh’). But this really proves nothing. An examination of Old Testament usage reveals that the word echad is as capable of various meanings as is our English word one. The context must determine whether a numerical or unified singularity is intended. And, while the use of echad in the Shema leaves open the possibility of a unified view of the Godhead, one cannot at all base such a view of the Godhead on the word itself…” (Gregory Boyd, Oneness Pentecostals And The Trinity [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1992], pp. 47-48; bold emphasis ours)

To illustrate Boyd’s point, note what the first verse of the Holy Bible teaches:

“In the beginning God created (bara Elohim) the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

The verb for create, bara, is a singular masculine verb.

There are two major problems with Boyd’s objection. First, the Hebrew Scriptures are filled with examples where singular nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives etc., are used in relation to multitudes of persons. Take, for instance, the following passage where the tribes of Judah and Simeon, as well as the Canaanites and the Perizzites, are all described as if they were a single person or individual:

“Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up (ya’aleh – third person imperfect masculine singular verb) for us against the Canaanites (hakkana’ani – masculine singular noun) first, to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up (ya’aleh – third person imperfect masculine singular verb): behold, I have delivered the land into HIS hand. And Judah SAID (way’yomer – third person imperfect masculine singular verb) unto Simeon HIS brotherCome up (‘aleh – masculine singular imperative verb) with ME into MY lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites (ba·kana‘ani – singular masculine noun)and I likewise will go with THEE into THY lot. So Simeon went with HIM. And Judah went up (wayya’al – third person imperfect masculine singular verb); and the Lord delivered the Canaanites (hakkana’ani – masculine singular noun) and the Perizzites (wahapparizzi – masculine singular proper noun) into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men (‘ish – masculine singular noun).” Judges 1:1-4

Here is another example where the entire nation of Israel is described as a singular person:

“Let Israel (masculine singular proper noun) hope (yahel – masculine singular imperative verb) in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel (masculine singular proper noun) from all (mikkol – masculine singular construct) HIS iniquities (awonota – third person masculine singular verb).” Psalm 130:7-8

Therefore, just because singular verbs, pronouns etc., are employed in conjunction with Elohim this does not disprove the fact that the word points to God’s multi-Personal nature. The use of such singulars only proves that God is a singular Being, not a singular Person, and rules out his existing as a multiplicity of gods. Rather, he is one God who exists as more than one divine Person.

Secondly, and ironically, in the Hebrew Scriptures the true God is often described with plural pronouns, verbs, adjectives and participles, just as the following examples affirm:

And God (Elohim) said, Let US make (na’aseh – first person plural verb) man in OUR image (basalmenu – first person masculine singular plural noun), after OUR likeness (kidmutenu – first person singular plural noun): and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God (Elohim) created man in HIS own image, in the image of God (Elohim) created HE him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:26-27

Here, the God who made mankind describes himself as a plural Maker. This isn’t the only time where God is depicted as a plural Maker and Creator:

“But none saith, Where is God my maker (Eloah ‘Osay), who giveth songs in the night;” Job 35:10

‘Osay is a first person singular masculine plural participle, and literally reads “my Makers.”

“Remember also thy Creators (Bor’eka) in days of thy youth, While that the evil days come not, Nor the years have arrived, that thou sayest, `I have no pleasure in them.’” Ecclesiastes 12:1 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

Bor’eka is a second person singular masculine plural participle, and literally reads “your Creators.”

“For thy Maker (‘Osayik) is thine husband (Bo’alayik); the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” Isaiah 54:5

‘Osayik is a second person singular feminine plural participle, and Boalayik is also a second person singular feminine plural participle. Therefore, the text literal says, “your Makers are your Husbands.”

These texts all affirm that the one true God that made all creation is a plural entity, not a singular Person, a fact which the following inspired texts confirm:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…  That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14

Here we have a deliberate echo of the Genesis account of creation, particularly of Genesis 1:1 and 3-5:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God SAID, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

The Evangelist is basically telling his readers that Jesus is the eternal Word whom God used at the very beginning to create all things.

John isn’t the only one to identify Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of all things:

“who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he IS before all things, and by him all things consist.” Colossians 1:15-17

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high… But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever… And, Thou, Lord (the Son), in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” Hebrews 1:1-3, 8a, 10-12

What makes the passage from Hebrews all the more remarkable is that the inspired author took the following Psalm, where Jehovah is identified as the unchangeable Creator and Sustainer of all creation,

“Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” Psalm 102:25-27

And applied it to Christ!

Genesis itself mentions the Spirit of God as being active at creation:

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God (Ruach Elohim) moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

The Spirit as even said to be the One whom God used to fashion the heavens and make man:

By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.” Job 26:13

The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” Job 33:4

The Spirit is also the Agent whom God sends to resurrect the dead and replenish the earth:

“Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” Psalm 104:29-30

To top it off, the following Psalm,

“Heavens be made steadfast by the word of the Lord; and all the virtue of those by the spirit (Ruach) of his mouth. (The heavens were made by the word of the Lord; yea, all the host of them, by the breath from his mouth.)” Psalm 33:6 Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

Speaks of God employing both his Word and Spirit to create the heavens and all that is contained within them!

We, thus, have the Trinity described in the same verse, since the Word of God that created the heavens is He that became flesh in the Person of Christ, with the Spirit being God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all true believers (cf. John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 2:22; 1 John 3:24).

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