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Old 10-26-2011, 09:17 PM
 
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The standard Hebrew word denoting the Hebrew deity is 'elohim, when not using a personal name such as Yahweh or 'El Shadday, etc. This usage has long puzzled readers with it's grammatical plurality, yet singular verb tense when referring to the god of the Israelites.

In expected West Semitic normal usage, one finds a singular noun for "a god" and then another for the expected "gods":
'el is the standard singular form of "god" or "God" (and verbal and adjectival tenses are singular), while
'elohim is the standard plural form of "gods" (and verbal and adjectival tenses are plural).
[Note: The addition to 'el before the masculine plural im has a separate transmission history - possibly 'eloah, or similar.]

The curious Biblical Hebrew usage is that 'elohim is frequently used to denote plural 'pagan' gods (and the verbal and adjectival tenses are plural, as expected), but that when used of the Israelite god 'elohim is used with singular verbs and adjectives - creating a grammatical monster in the latter case. Further confusing the portrait, is the fact that in several biblical instances the verbal and adjectival forms point to a definate plural usage in regards to the Israelite god: "Let us make", or "Let us go down", etc.
In this case, one of the more conservative explanations has been that it denotes the "royal We" or the "plural majesty" or "greatness" of God. One would take this explanation and apply it to the famous verse in Gensis:
"Let us make humanity in our image, in our likeness"
and come away with the result that it is still just one god, the One God, and He is speaking in the "royal We" mode. This interpretation, however, does not hold up to close scrutiny - since it is applying Shakespearean English to ancient Hebrew, and nowhere else in the Ancient Near East (or anywhere else back then, for that matter) is this usage attested. Ever. It is not even clear from the Hebrew that this is the intended usage.

Other suggestions refer to the many mentions of the 'Divine Council' of the gods (over whom Yahweh presumably presides) - as if [Yahweh + Other Gods = 'elohim (with singular tenses)]: thus explaining a grammatically plural noun with singular verb and adjectival usage. A similar usage might be found in Ugaritic where 'il ('el) denotes the chief god of the Pantheon ('El) and 'lhm ('elohim) denotes the 'Great Council' of the gods - with that juxtaposition of singular and plural.

In support of this latter interpretation, it's possible that CTA 2 from the Baal myth of Ugarit has a correspondence between Ugaritic usage and later Hebrew usage. The messengers of Nahar arrive at the Great Council to demand they hand over Baal, and all the gods are cowed - except for Baal, who angrily remonstrates with the Council:

Baal rebukes them:

Why, gods, have your lowered (your) heads
even to you knees,
even to your princely thrones?

As one must the gods answer,
the tablet of Yamm's messengers,
the embassy of Ruler Nahar!

Lift, O gods, your heads
off your knees.
off your princely thrones.

And let me answer Yamm's messengers,
the embassy of Ruler Nahar.

The gods then raise their heads
off their knees,
off their princely thrones.

(CTA 2 col. i, trans. Dennis Pardee)

The important part, for me, is where Baal declares that "As one must the gods answer". Perhaps this is merely a way of declaring that the gods must stop acting like cowards and must stand together to thwart Nahar - "Go, team, go!" Or perhaps this is a perfect example, or justification, for the singular verbal and adjectival tenses associated with the grammatically plural form 'elohim as attested in later Biblical Hebrew. I'm not sure if this particular passage has been discussed by others, or even referenced, in this light (it probably has somewhere) - but it might bear futher research, even if it has. At some point I will delve into the actual tablet and see what is to be found there, rather than relying on a translation at this point.

Anyways - perhaps food for thought for some.
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:18 AM
 
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I've always assumed that elohim come from 'king of kings'.

Blue Letter Bible - Lexicon
אֱלֹהִים

http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/...?strongs=H4428
מֶלֶךְ
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Old 10-27-2011, 05:31 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by granpa View Post
I've always assumed that elohim come from 'king of kings'.

Blue Letter Bible - Lexicon
אֱלֹהִים

Blue Letter Bible - Lexicon
מֶלֶךְ

No...
If you look at the two Hebrew words you have in your post, you'll find the roots are entirely different: 'lhm vs. mlk, and that's the easiest way to determine whether a word has a linguistic correspondence. Even when comparing singular to singular (a grammatical parallel) you get 'l vs mlk. Even in Ugaritic usage, it is the same idea: 'lhm vs mlk. Hint to prospective students of some of the semitic languages: what famous person helps you remember that the root mlk (of melek) means "king"?

If you follow the Strong's path from plural back down to singular using the etymological links on the right, he goes from 'elohiym to 'elowahhto 'el- which is roughly what I said, save for the transliteration of the Hebrew.


I don't know where you got the idea that it comes from "King of Kings" - perhaps an older translation or teaching? It might be something taught in place of the idea that some of the Biblical verses referenced plural gods and their actions. I notice that Strong lists "rulers, judges" as one of the definitions - in fact, he lists it as definition #1. I think I would disagree with Strong here - seeing what we have learned linguistically since his time - and relegate that definition to the bottom. It might have been used that way, playing off the idea that the word meant "gods" or "God" - such as in Exodus, where Yahweh tells Moses, concerning Aaron:

And he will speak for you to the people.
And it will be: he will become a mouth for you,
and you will become a god for him! (Exodus 4:16, CooT, Friedman)

In that case, 'elohim is used to refer to Moses' relationship to Aaron: Moses will tell Aaron what to speak, and then Aaron will speak it to the people, Pharoah, etc. In this instance, a previous translator might have preferred the term "King" - but it would be incorrect, I think. This translation works much better, and is closer to the Hebrew. Some translations use "God", rather than "gods" - which is also a possible reconstruction of the original Hebrew.
I do find one reference online to your "King of Kings" idea, and that's from the older Barnes Notes on the Bible, where he states "The word 'God' is used of persons who represent the Deity, as kings or judges, and it is understood in this sense here: 'Thou shalt be to him a master'." I still think this wold be a bad interpretation of this passage, and the word.


So - no, I don't see any linguistic relationship between 'el, (or 'elohim) and melek at all - besides a relationship of ideas, possibly (God is King) - but that's entirely different.

Last edited by whoppers; 10-27-2011 at 05:48 AM..
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Old 10-27-2011, 06:05 AM
 
Location: 30-40°N 90-100°W
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It seems like I heard some Christians feel that as God is trinitarian he can, in some sense, refer to himself in a plural form. That might not be it or what you'd deem right, but I'm putting it out there.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:27 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Thomas R. View Post
It seems like I heard some Christians feel that as God is trinitarian he can, in some sense, refer to himself in a plural form. That might not be it or what you'd deem right, but I'm putting it out there.
Yes, thank you.
I am familiar with the later Christian interpretation that it points to the Trinity, but for our purposes of trying to understand the original Ancient Near Eastern context it doesn't help much: nowhere in the Tanakh (or anyhwere else, at that time, for that matter) is the idea of a Trinity even hinted at. The Israelites did not believe in the idea of a Trinity that included a character that had yet to be born and establish a new sect of Judaism with it's own interpretations of the Tanakh.

The issue is trying to understand how the ancient Israelites (or, at least the Biblical authors) would have understood the concept, and why they used it in the way they did. To do that - we must preclude the idea of the Trinity - and focus on what was on hand to the Biblical authors theologically.


But thank you for pointing that out!

An added note: Lady Wisdom of the Book of Proverbs is frequently attributed by some Christians to be Jesus, but the feminine language and clear language also preclude such an idea. How this adds to the discussion is the remarks that she was there alongside God in the beginning of it all. This could be just poetic language - though some have taken it literally to apply to either a godess of some sort (Sophia), or later - Jesus.
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:33 PM
 
Location: OKC
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Whoppers you continue to amaze me. Where did you get all this knowledge? Do you have a formal education on the subject, or was it all something you picked up on your own?
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Old 10-27-2011, 06:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
Whoppers you continue to amaze me. Where did you get all this knowledge? Do you have a formal education on the subject, or was it all something you picked up on your own?
I had a slightly formal education on some of the subject, and have been steadily supplementing it ever since with new knowledge, new perspectives, etc. I still learn something every single day on the subject (and others), and I hope this never ends - one thing leads to another, more fields open up, more subjects. It seems to take one as far afield as archaeaology, linguistics, anthropology, textual analysis, folklore studies, history, etc. I don't take the specialist approach that has been popular later - so perhaps I will be the proverbial hunter that hunted many foxes, yet caught none lol! I have been known to make plenty of mistakes, that I later look back at and say "Oh, of course!" Some of this comes from a lack of detailed research at the time, or from an accumulation of new knowledge down the road. I think we can all identify with that - once we think we know everything on a subject, we might as well assume we know very little heh heh! There's always something new to be learned. There's also a wealth of good information available out there, and much of it for low cost (though some of the material is hideously expensive to recoup costs accrued in releasing a monograph that will not be mainstream or popular). For anyone studying the Bible - I always reccomend the Anchor Bible series - they offer a fantastic dictionary, a commentary on each book, and a series of scholarly works dealing with particular subjects. There's also a wealth of journals out there, with digital access through JSTOR. I shouldn't mention Megabooks - a very good source - but I will. Free downloading mode works best, and turning off popups too...

I do admit - the biggest chunk has come from independent study and scholarly inquiry. I'm not saying that all my ideas are original - most are not, and I owe a great debt to those who came before me - in whatever disparate fields they have dealt; but it an idea strikes me, or leads to another - I will usually try to pursue it as far as I can. This has led me into the aforementioned sundry fields of study.

Thanks for the compliment! My biggest hope is that things like this help broaden someone else's perspective on the subject, and that they realize that it's not just an argument between atheists and christians, nonbelievers and believers - there's real good stuff to be learned and benefitted from. And I really hope it gets some people to go out, take the time to study some of the older languages and writing systems, and delve into all those old wonderful tales, legends, myths, tribal tales, traditions - from any Ancient Near Eastern field of study. Even without the language acquisition - it's still helpful to read the Babylonian myths, and the Ugaritic myths, and even the Hittite myths as well. A good knowledge of Homer helps point out the many Homeric parallels in the Biblical corpus, as well. Greek is a language I have yet to acquire - my main focus, right now, is honing my skills in the semitic languages - whether it's Akkadian, Ugaritic, Hebrew, etc. I have a great passion for cuneiform, and other writing systems - how language evolved, how words were passed from culture to culture, and ideas.

In the end, I guess - ceasing from learning is intellectual death, in my opinion. And I do not want that. I only regret that life will be far too short to explore it all, gosh dang it!! Someone had better come up with spine-and-brain transplants soon heh heh!
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Old 10-28-2011, 03:55 PM
2K5Gx2km
 
n/a posts
'Other suggestions refer to the many mentions of the 'Divine Council' of the gods (over whom Yahweh presumably presides)'


Well that is the correct answer. See Michael Heiser for some free and insightful articles.
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Old 10-28-2011, 05:50 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiloh1 View Post
'Other suggestions refer to the many mentions of the 'Divine Council' of the gods (over whom Yahweh presumably presides)'


Well that is the correct answer. See Michael Heiser for some free and insightful articles.
Thanks for the heads up! I will check them out.
The theory is my current favored one, personally.

The only hitch I run into is when clearly monotheistic writers use the term.
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