Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God.” Does this prove that He is God?

This is the second article in response to an article on the Trinity by the Gotquestions website.  The first article discussed the logical contradiction in the Trinity concept.  The current article responds to Gotquestions’ argument that “GOD THE SON IS DISTINGUISHED FROM GOD THE FATHER” and refers to Psalm 45:6-7 and Hebrews 1:8-9 for support.

The point is that Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God.”  But does this prove that He is God?  Hebrews 1:8-9 is a quote from Psalm 45.  I will, therefore, discuss Psalm 45 first.  After that, I discuss the first part of Hebrews 1, and conclude with verses 8 and 9.

But before I discuss Psalm 45, note that GotQuestions refers to “God the Son” and also to “God the Father.” We DO find the title “God the Father” in the Bible; about 20 times, but the title “God the Son” IS NEVER FOUND IN THE BIBLE.  The phrase “God the Son” is the product of the Trinity doctrine and does not come from the Bible.

All bold, underlining, UPPERCASE, font sizes and italics in this article were added by myself.  Bible quotes are mostly from the NASB.

Psalm 45

Let us now discuss Psalm 45.  Verses 1 and 2 read:

1 … I address my verses TO THE KING
2 … GOD HAS BLESSED YOU forever

This, therefore, makes a distinction between God and the king of Israel.  But verses 6 to 9 continue and refer to the king of Israel as God.  Addressing the king, it says:

6 YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED You

9 Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen.

This identifies the king of Israel as God.  This is confirmed by verse 9, which mentions the king’s wives.  But it also says, “GOD, YOUR GOD, has anointed You.”  In other words, the king of Israel is called God, but God is also his God.

Elohim

All four instances of the word “God” in the quote from the psalm are translated from the Hebrew word elohim, which Strongs defines as “God,” with a capital “G,” or “god,” with a small “g.”  The NASB translates elohim mostly as “God,” with a capital “G,” but also about 250 times with a small “g” “god” or “gods.

The word elohim is discussed in a separate article.  Another place where we see a human being described as “god” or elohim—literally “gods”—is in Exodus 7:1, where “The LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [that is elohim] to Pharaoh.

The king is a normal human being.  Why is he called elohim?  We will respond to that question below, after we have discussed Hebrews 1.

Why is elohim translated as “God?”

But before we turn to Hebrews, there is a second matter in Psalm 45 that requires our attention.  That is the question, why did the translators of the NASB translate the word “King” in verse 1 with a capital “K?”  And why did they translate elohim, when it refers to the king, as “God” with a capital “G?” Why did they not translate elohim with a small “god,” as they did in the case of Moses, and as they do for all beings that are not God, but who are referred to as elohim?

It is not because of anything in the psalm itself, for there is nothing in the psalm that goes beyond a normal human king.  The translators capitalized these words for two reasons:

Firstly, they know that Hebrews 1 refers to Psalm 45 and interprets the king in this psalm as a type of (a symbol of) Christ.

Secondly, the translators are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God.

What we must realize is that, to translate elohim when it refers to the king of Israel, as “God” with a big “G,” rather than with a small “g,” is an application of the Trinity doctrine.

With this background, we can now discuss Hebrews 1:

Hebrews 1

A primary purpose of Hebrews is to exalt Jesus.  The letter, for example, commences by saying:

    • That God appointed His Son as “heir of all things” (1:2).
    • That, through the Son, God, “made the world” (1:2).
    • That the Son “is … the exact representation of God’s nature” (1:3).
    • That the Son “upholds all things by the word of His power” (1:3), and
    • That the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).

Distinct From God

Note that “God” in verse 1 is identified as “the Majesty on high” in verse 3.

We discussed above how Gotquestions refers to “God the Son,” but these first verses of Hebrews make an explicit distinction between “God” and “His Son. If the Son is distinct from God, then the Son is not God, if we use the word “God” in the way that the New Testament uses it.

From verse 4 onwards, Hebrews explains that the Son is “much better than the angels.”  If the Son was God, as the Trinity doctrine requires, then there WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ANY NEED to argue that the Son is better than the angels.  Then the writer of Hebrews could simply have said that the Son is God.  See Jesus is not God for a further discussion of these principles.

Subordinate to God

We must also appreciate that these verses identify the Son as subordinate to God, for example:

    • God is the original Owner, because He “appointed” His Son as the heir of all things (1:2).
    • God is the Creator, for He made the world “through” the Son (1:2).
    • God is the true glory, for the Son is the radiance of His glory (1:3).
    • God is the ultimate Ruler, for the Son sits on His “right hand.”

The fundamental concept in the Trinity doctrine is that the Son is co-equal with the Father.  The entire remainder of the Trinity concept has been developed to reconcile this conclusion with the Bible.  If it is then found that the Son is subordinate to God, then the entire Trinity doctrine collapses.  For a further discussion, see, God is the Head of Christ.

Today I have begotten You

In verse 5, Hebrews 1 quotes from Psalm 2, saying “you are my son, today I have begotten you.”  In Psalm 2, these words refer to the king of Israel.  Hebrews, therefore, interprets the king of Psalm 2 to be a type of the Son. Hebrews quotes the Old Testament very frequently, for it was specifically addressed to the Hebrew Christians.

Worship the Son.

Hebrews continues and says that GOD COMMANDED ALL ANGELS TO WORSHIP THE SON (1:6).  If Jesus is worshiped, DOES THAT NOT MEAN THAT HE IS GOD?  Hebrews 1:6 is similar to Philippians 2:9-10, where we read,

God highly exalted Him (that is, Jesus),
and bestowed on Him the name which is above EVERY NAME,
so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW …
and that every tongue will confess
THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD,
TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.

God commanded His worship.

The question then is, if Jesus is not God, WHY IS HE WORSHIPED?  To respond to this question, notice the following:

FIRSTLY, both Hebrews 1:6 and Philippians 2 make an explicit distinction between God and Jesus.  Philippians 2, for example, says that “God exalted Him.”  Furthermore, “every tongue will confess THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.”  In other words; they will not confess Jesus as God.

SECONDLY, in both, IT IS GOD WHO CAUSES ALL BEINGS TO WORSHIP JESUS.  If Jesus was God, then THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ANY NEED for God to COMMAND His creatures to worship Him.

Proskuneó

THIRDLY, the Greek word that is translated “worship” (that is the word proskuneó) has a much wider meaning than the English word “worship.”  “Worship” implies that the one worshiped is God, but humans also proskuneó one anotherProskuneó simply means to show honor.  It literally means “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior.”  For example, the three wise men came looking for the “King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2).  When they found Him, “they fell to the ground and proskuneó Him” (v11); not because He is God, for they did not think of Him as God, but because He is “born King of the Jews.”

FOURTHLY, in Philippians 2, Jesus is worshiped “TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.”  He is not worshiped independently from God, but “to the glory of God.”  To glorify the Son is to glorify the Father.  We worship the Father through the Son.

But why do we worship Jesus?

Why do we worship the Son with the Father?  The reason is that WE CANNOT REALLY SEPARATE THE SON FROM GOD.  I like Tertullian’s metaphor.  For him, the Father is like the sun in the sky, and His Son is like the rays streaming from the sun.  God created all things through His Only Begotten Son and He still “upholds all things by the word of His (that is, His Son’s) power” (Heb. 1:1-3; cf. John 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17).  “In Him (that is, in Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  We therefore worship the Son, not only because God commanded us to, but because of who He is.  For a further discussion, see Jesus is worshiped.

Only Begotten Son of God

When people hear that Jesus is the Son of God, they think of human sons, who are in all respects equal to their fathers.  But the Bible does not teach that the Son is equal to God.  He is called the SON of God to reveal to us that He has a very unique relationship with God AS FAR AS HIS ORIGIN IS CONCERNED.  He is His “only begotten Son,” who, before His birth as a human being, existed “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:5).  To describe Jesus as the “only begotten Son” attempts to explain something in human language which human minds cannot comprehend.  He was not begotten as humans are.  We should not give our own interpretation of this symbolic language. We should allow the Bible to interpret it for us.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten Son of God.

Hebrews 1:8

Then, after describing the angels as “winds, and … a flame of fire,” we come to the verses that are the particular focus of the current article, namely verses 8 and 9.  I read:

8 But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. 9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU …”

This is a fairly exact quote from Psalm 45:6-7.  The author of Hebrews interprets the king of Israel in Psalm 45 as a type of Jesus.  The writer described Jesus as “God” in verse 8 because Psalm 45 refers to the king of Israel as “God.”  We now need to explain why the king of Israel, and consequently, the Son of God, are described as God.

“God” and the Greek word theos

The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos.  Theos, similar to the Hebrew word elohim, can be translated as “god” either with a capital “G” or with a lower “g.” It depends on who it refers to.  This requires further clarification.

THERE IS NO WORD IN THE ORIGINAL GREEK TEXT THAT IS EXACTLY EQUAL TO OUR WORD “GOD.”  In modern English, we use the word “God,” with a capital “G,” to identify one specific Being; namely, the Uncaused Cause of all things.  The word “God,” with a capital “G,” functions in English as A PROPER NAME FOR THE SUPREME BEING.

The ancient languages did not have the modern differentiation between lower and upper case letters.  They only had words (such as theos and elohim) that are equivalent to our word “god” with a lower “g.” The word “god,” with a lower “g,” does not identify any specific being, but A CATEGORY OF BEINGS.  That group of beings includes the God of the Bible, but also includes other beings.  For example, Satan is also called theos, namely “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Therefore, to translate theos as “God” with a capital “G” or as “god” with a lower “g” depends on the translator’s interpretation, and since translators generally are Trinitarians, they translate the instances where the title theos is applied to Jesus, as “God” with a capital “G.”  But if one does not assume the Trinity theory, the reference to Jesus as theos in Hebrews 1:8 may also be translated as “god,” with a lower “g.”

It is a form of collective circular reasoning: First, the Trinitarian translator adds a capital “G.” Then the readers exclaim, SEE, it says “God!  Therefore Jesus is God!”  For a further discussion, see – The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

God Jesus has a God.

In conclusion, the fact that Hebrews 1:8 identifies Jesus as God does not prove that He is God.  The next verse actually proves that He is not God, for it says to Jesus, “GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU” (Heb. 1:9).  In other words, Jesus has a God over Him.  This makes one think of John 20.  That chapter similarly refers to Jesus as “God,” but in the same chapter Jesus refers to God as His God (compare verses 17 and 28). See – Did Thomas call Jesus “my God” in John 20:28?

Summary

Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God.”  Does this prove that Jesus is God?

The first verses of Hebrews 1, in a number of ways, make an explicit DISTINCTION BETWEEN JESUS AND GOD, and, contrary to the Trinity doctrine, represent Jesus as SUBORDINATE TO GOD.  According to verse 6, God commanded all angels to worship the Son.  This again shows that the Son is subordinate to the Father.  But we do not worship the Son only because God commanded us to.  We worship Him because of who He is, for God created all things through Him and still upholds all this through the word of His Son’s power.

Jesus is called theos (that is, god) in Hebrews 1:8 because:

(a) Hebrews 1:8 is a quote from Psalm 45.
(b) In that psalm, the king is called elohim (god).
(c) The writer of Hebrews interpreted the king of Psalm 45 as a type of Christ.

That Jesus is called theos does not prove that He is God, for theos can also be translated either as “god” with a small “g.”  But translators are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God.  To translate theos as “God,” with a capital “G,” rather than with a small “g,” when it refers to Jesus, IS PURELY INTERPRETATION.  It is an application of the Trinity doctrine.

BUT THE VERY NEXT VERSE PROVES THAT JESUS IS NOT GOD, for it says that Jesus has a God over Him.

 

What does the Bible teach about the Trinity? – A response to GotQuestions’ article.

I briefly explained the historical development of the Trinity doctrine to my daughter.  I started with the church fathers of the first three centuries, through the tumultuous events of the fourth century, with a brief overview of the history there-after.  She then apparently did some reading, and sent me a reference to the GotQuestions article – What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?  In the current article, I respond section by section to that article.

All bold, underlining, UPPERCASE, font sizes and italics in this article were added by myself.  Bible quotes are mostly from the NASB.

Gotquestions wrote:

The MOST DIFFICULT THING about the Christian concept of the Trinity is that there is no way to perfectly and completely understand it. The Trinity is a concept that is IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY HUMAN BEING TO FULLY UNDERSTAND, let alone explain. GOD IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN WE ARE; therefore, we should not expect to be able to fully understand Him.

Though we can understand some facts about the relationship of the different Persons of the Trinity to one another, ultimately, it is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, this does not mean the Trinity is not true or that it is not based on the teachings of the Bible.

God is infinite.

In response, I certainly agree that we are unable to understand God.  The LORD Himself declared:

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts
” (Is. 55:8-9).

We will NEVER be fully able to understand Him, even in eternity, because HE EXISTS WITHOUT CAUSE.  He exists beyond time, space and matter.  All else exist because He exists.  All things came forth from Him and exists within Him.  We can accept that He is infinite, omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent, but our finite minds cannot comprehend these things.  We are like a lone wanderer building a small fire at night in the desert.  In the light of the fire, we can see our immediate surroundings, but we can see NOTHING of the expanse of the earth.  We similarly know only a tiny bit about God, BUT WE UNDERSTAND NOTHING of His infinite greatness.

Trinity Concept

However, we must distinguish between God and the Trinity concept. The Trinity concept is A HUMANLY DEVISED THEORY about the nature of God and the relationship between the Father, the Son, the and Holy Spirit.  Gotquestions claims that the Trinity concept is BASED ON THE BIBLE, but it is nevertheless a human interpretation of the Bible, and therefore fallible.  We, therefore, MUST TEST THE TRINITY CONCEPT AGAINST THE BIBLE.

But before we do that, it is the purpose of this article to evaluate the Trinity doctrine in a different way, namely to ask whether it makes logical sense.  This is the playground of philosophers.  Over the centuries, some of them have argued that the Trinity doctrine contradicts itself, and for that reason, cannot accurately reflect Bible revelation, for TRUTH DOES NOT CONTRADICT ITSELF.  Listen to Trinities podcasts 2 and 3 for arguments for and against the logical consistency of the Trinity doctrine.  Those podcasts discuss the Athanasian Creed, which is how the Trinity Concept was formulated more or less in the fifth century.  That creed was used throughout the middle ages and is considered important even to this day.

Three Persons, But One Being

Gotquestions defines the Trinity concept as follows:

The Father is God,
the Son is God, and
the Holy Spirit is God—
but there is only one God.

The Trinity concept contradicts itself when it says that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct and different Persons with different origins, different wills, and different roles, but one and the same Almighty Being in all respect:

Different

We agree that they differ, for example:

The Son is BEGOTTEN from the Father,
the Holy Ghost PROCEEDS from both the Father; but
the Father is NOT BEGOTTEN and
does NOT PROCEED from any other.

Further examples of differences between them are:

The Son “is seated AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” (Col. 3:1).  Stephan said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” (Acts 7:56).

Jesus said, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). THIS MEANS THAT THEY HAVE DIFFERENT WILLS.

One Being

In the Trinity doctrine they are one and the same Being, for the Athanasian Creed declares:

We are compelled … to acknowledge
every Person by himself to be God …
(but we are) forbidden by the catholic religion; to say,
There are three Gods.

The Trinity doctrine does not teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three parts of God.  It teaches that “EVERY PERSON BY HIMSELF TO BE GOD.”  In other words, whatever we can say about the Father, is also true about the Son, and vice versa.  To quote the Athanasian Creed:

Such as the Father is;
such is the Son; and
such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father is Almighty;
the Son Almighty; and
the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet
they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty.

More than one Almighty Being is logically impossible.  They are, therefore, only “one Almighty.”  Thus, we can represent the Trinity concept with the equation:

God  =  Father  =  Son  =  Holy Spirit.

One would, therefore, be able to say that the Son is also the Son’s Son.  To say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different Persons, with different origins, but one and the same Being is analogous to saying that Peter, John, and James are three persons, but one being.  The Athanasian Creed states that we are “forbidden … to say, There are three Gods,” but just saying that does not make it right.  It does not undo the logical contradiction of the doctrine.

Modalism

Some church fathers solved this contradiction by accepting that They are One Being, but by rejecting that They are three distinct persons.  They regarded Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three names for the same Being, and as different “modes” or “manifestations” of God.  This is known as modalism or Sabellianism, but was rejected by the church majority.

Christ’s Dual Nature

A further contradictory element of the Trinity theory is that Jesus is both FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN.  This is the teaching that He has both a human and a divine nature.  That makes Him a binary being, comparable to the view that God is a trinity.

This was the primary focus of the Chalcedonian Creed of 451.  This creed responded to the question:

If Jesus is “very God of very God,” WHY DID HE NOT KNOW THE DAY AND HOUR OF HIS RETURN?  WHY DOES ONLY THE FATHER KNOW THAT  (Mat. 24:36)?

And why does the New Testament so consistently present Him as
subordinate to God, the Father?  Why did He say, “The Father is greater than I?

The Chalcedonian Creed explains the subordination statements in the New Testament by saying that Jesus was speaking from His human nature.  Opponents of this theory point out that that then means that Jesus was not telling the truth when He said that He does not know, for in His divine nature He actually knew.  And if that was not a true statement, HOW CAN WE RELY ON ANYTHING ELSE THAT HE SAID? 

Furthermore, if Jesus had both a divine and a human nature, THEN HE NEVER REALLY DIED and nobody died, for only His human nature died, which was part of Him.  But His death is a fundamental part of the gospel.  This theory causes more problems than it solves.

Religious Persecution

The Athanasian Creed starts and ends with the following words:

This is the catholic faith;
which except a man believe truly and firmly,
HE CANNOT BE SAVED
.


Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled,
WITHOUT DOUBT,
HE SHALL PERISH EVERLASTINGLY
.

This is a ridiculous claim.  In the first place, people are not saved by believing a doctrine.  They are saved by God’s grace through faith in Him.  They are saved when they love and support God’s suffering people (Mt. 25:34-40).

Secondly, Athanasius MADE A VERY TECHNICAL AND CONTRADICTORY STATEMENT OF BELIEVE A TEST OF TRUE FAITH.  And these were not idle words.  The Roman Empire was not known for religious tolerance, and after the emperor became the de facto head of the church, early in the fourth century, the church slowly adopted the character of the Roman Empire.  For example, immediately after the Nicene Creed of AD 325, a number of dissenting bishops lost their jobs and were exiled.  Constantine also destroyed all of Arius’ books and threatened to kill all people who hide his books.  Over the many years since that time, many Christians were persecuted for not accepting the prevailing theory of the nature of God.

Michael Servetus

Christianity.com has an article on Michael Servetus, who was burned for heresy in the town where Calvin was the pastor.  Michael was quite an astute scientist.  He studied mathematics, geography, astrology, and medicine. Gaining fame as a physician, he came close to discovering the pulmonary circulation of the blood.  In 1531 Servetus published a work called the Errors of the Trinity. Both Protestants and Catholics found the work blasphemous, and the emperor banned the book.

Michael continued to criticize Calvin and stated that, to believe in the Trinity, is to believe in the spirit of the dragon.  Calvin wrote to a friend that if Servetus ever fell into his hands, he would not allow him to get away alive.  Roman Catholic authorities arrested Michael for heresy. He escaped, however, and fled toward Naples by way of Geneva where Calvin was a pastor. He entered a church where Calvin was preaching, was recognized, and arrested on charges of blasphemy and heresy.  Calvin insisted with the rest that Servetus must die, but urged that in mercy, Servetus be executed by the sword, not by burning.  Servetus was nevertheless burned to death on October 27, 1553.

The Christianity.com article attempts to exonerate Calvin for his involvement, but his part in killing Servetus should really bother Calvinists, for Calvin did that after writing one of the most influential systems of theology the Christian faith had ever seen.  What does that say of the spirit of his work?

Things that have not been revealed

The Trinity doctrine attempts to explain THINGS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN REVEALED and is, therefore, a sin.  For example, the cornerstone of the Nicene Creed is the statement that the Father and Son are of the same substance (Homoousios).  Where is that revealed in the Bible?  And where is it revealed that the Son has both a human and divine nature?

Add the persecuting spirit, which entered the church in the fourth century, after it became the official state church, to doctrines based on things that have not been revealed, and we have a deadly combination.

Summary

This series responds to the GotQuestions article – What does the Bible teach about the Trinity? 

The Trinity concept may be summarised as that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God—but there is only one God.

Gotquestions argues that is not possible to understand the Christian concept of the Trinity for it is impossible to understand God.  However, that argument confuses God with the concept of the Trinity.  The Trinity concept is A HUMANLY DEVISED THEORY about the nature of God, and must be tested against the Bible.

This article agrees that we are unable to understand God, but claims that the Trinity doctrine contradicts itself because it claims that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are THREE DISTINCT AND DIFFERENT PERSONS with different origins, different wills, and different roles, but that each of them is the entirety of THE SAME ONE TRUE GOD; not three parts of the God-Being.  If the Trinity concept contradicts itself, then it cannot accurately reflect what the Bible teaches, for TRUTH DOES NOT CONTRADICT ITSELF. 

Some church fathers solved this contradiction by accepting that they are One Being, but by rejecting that they are three distinct persons.  These church fathers believed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three names for the same Being.  This is known as modalism or Sabellianism, but was rejected by the church majority.

Some New Testament passages explicitly present Jesus as inferior to the Father in knowledge and authority; not only when He was on this earth, but still today and in all eternity (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:28).  The Trinity theory responds to these passages by teaching that Jesus is both FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN, and only inferior to the Father in His human nature.  Opponents of this theory point out that that then means that JESUS DID NOT TELL THE TRUTH when He said that He does not know, for in His divine nature He actually knew.  It would also mean that JESUS NEVER REALLY DIED, while His death is a critical salvation concept.

The Trinity doctrine is a very technical and ambiguous theory, but still, over the centuries, the church made it a test of the true faith and it persecuted Christians, such as Michael Servetus during the reformation, for not adhering to it

The Trinity doctrine tries to explain things that are not revealed in the Bible.  Combining that with persecution is the spirit of the beast.

Gotquestions argues that we cannot understand this because we cannot understand God, but the next articles in this series will show that the Trinity concept is inonsistent with the Bible.  The next article in this series discusses Hebrews 1:8, which Gotquestions uses as evidence that Jesus is God.

In the Trinity doctrine, God is more than one Person. Does elohim support this view?

Purpose

ElohimElohim (אֱלֹהִים) is the Old Testament Hebrew word that is most frequently translated “God.”  Elohim is plural in form, for it has the plural suffix im.  Plural nouns normally signify multiple instances of that noun, which is also true of elohim.  The Bible applies elohim more than 400 times to pagan gods.  In such instances it is translated as “gods” and is associated with plural verbs and plural adjectives.  For example, “My people have forgotten Me, They burn incense to worthless gods.”

Some Trinitarians argue that the Old Testament writers used elohim because they thought of God as a multi-personal Being.  The purpose of this article is to show that this is not true.

Plural of Majesty

Firstly, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about elohim:

The plural ending is usually described as a plural of majesty and not intended as a true plural when used of God. This is seen in the fact that the noun ’elohim is consistently used with singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular.

An example of this is Genesis 1:26: “God (elohim) said, “Let Us make man in Our image.  Here plural pronouns are used but the verb “said” is in singular, which implies that “God” is a single Person.  This further implies that the “Us” and “Our” include persons other than “God.”  In the New Testament, God made the world through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2).  “God” therefore refers to the Father, and the “Us” in Genesis 1:26 may include the Son.

An example where elohim is used for a human being as a plural of majesty is Exodus 7:1, where “the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [elohim] to Pharaoh.”  Here, God told Moses that He was going to make Moses appear great in the eyes of Pharaoh, as we see in Exodus 11:3:

The man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.

IT WAS GENERAL PRACTICE AMONGST THE HEBREW PEOPLE TO PLURALIZE NOUNS WHEN THEY DESIRED TO EXPRESS GREATNESS OR MAJESTY.  It is then not a numerical plural.  For example, adonim is the plural form of adon, which means “lord” or “master.” In spite of its plural form, it frequently refers to a single person in an exalted position, for example to Abraham (Genesis 24:9, 10, 51).  Another example is Adonay, which is also a plural form of adon, and which always refers to God.  Still other examples are Baalim and Behemoth.  The Old Testament also sometimes refer to God as “the Holy Ones,” but used with singular verbs.

Monotheism

The distinguishing maxim in Judaism was and still is:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4)

This slogan stood in opposition to the polytheism of the day.  The Hebrew mind had a firm understanding that there is only one God.  The pervasive monotheism of the Old Testament denies any idea that the authors of the Old Testament used elohim because they thought of God as existing in multiple Persons.

Translations

The New Testament was written in Greek.  In Greek, the word for “god” is theos. The plural form of theos is theoi, which is used to refer to multiple “gods,” for example, “When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying ‘The gods (theoi) have become like men and have come down to us.’” (Acts 14:11).

Although theos has a plural form, the New Testament always uses the the singular form for God.

This is also true when the New Testament quotes passages from the Hebrew Bible.  The New Testament writers always translated the Hebrew word elohim with the singular noun theos, for example in Mark 12:29.  If elohim really indicated that the one true god consists in multiple Persons, then the New Testament writers would have also used the plural form of theos.

SeptuagintThe Septuagint is the ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek.  When used for the God of Israel, the Septuagint also always translates elohim with the singular theos.

Dictionary Definitions

On the basis of this ample evidence, dictionaries define elohim as a plural of majesty.

“Elohim is a plural form which is often used in Hebrew to denote plentitude of might.” — (Hertz, The Pentateuch & Haftorahs)

“The form of the word, elohim, is plural. The Hebrews pluralized nouns to express greatness or majesty.” — (Flanders, Cresson; Introduction to the Bible)

“The Hebrew noun elohim is plural, but the VERB is singular, a normal usage in the OT when reference is to the one true God. this use of the plural expresses intensification rather than number and has been called the plural of majesty.” — (New International Version Study Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, p. 6)

“The plural form of elohim has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred to the Trinity of Persons in the godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars.” — (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

Counterarguments

Despite this strong evidence, some still attempt to show that elohim “allows for” a plurality of divine Persons within God.  To support this claim, they point to a few exceptions where the Old Testament uses plural verbs, pronouns, adjectives, participles etc. with elohim.  But a handful of exceptions can never negate the evidence from more than 2500 instances where the Old Testament uses elohim for God with singular verbs.  It is much more probable that the few plural verbs, etc. are part of the Jewish practice of using plurals to express greatness.

What is His son’s name?

AnsweringIslam uses Proverbs 30 to support its claim that God is a Trinity:

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. … I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One (qadoshim – the NRSV renders this as “holy ones). Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name?” (Proverbs 30:1-4)

Since Agur speaks of “the holy ones,” of God’s incomprehensible acts and of “his son’s name,” AnsweringIslam concludes:

That “the holy ones” refer to the Father and the Son;
That “his son” refers to the pre-incarnate Jesus;
That they are equal;
That both incomprehensible;
That this text established the deity of the Son of God; and
That God has a multi-personal nature.

However, the Old Testament does not contain the concept that God has a Son, as we know Him from the New Testament. To find evidence of the existence of the Son in a few isolated and ambiguous verses is wishful thinking.  AnsweringIslam’s conclusion is therefore astounding.  To base all these conclusions on such an ambiguous passage is to hang a mountain on a camel’s hair.  “His son” is possibly just a metaphor to emphasise that, for Agur, as well as for us, God is utterly incomprehensible.

For a further discussion, see End Times Prophecy.

In the Bible, is Jesus the Almighty and the Alpha and the Omega?

Purpose

I received a comment from a reader which claimed that Jesus Christ knew who He was, namely “the Almighty,” for that is exactly how He identified Himself, and as the Alpha and the Omega. 

I had a similar comment in the past and thought that it might be wise to respond by means of a short article.  The purpose of this article is, therefore, to determine whether the Bible applies titles “the Almighty” and “the Alpha and the Omega” to Jesus, and the implications thereof.

Introduction to Revelation

The phrase “the Alpha and the Omega” is found only in the book of Revelation.  Furthermore, of the ten times that the title “Almighty” appears in the New Testament, nine are in Revelation.  For this reason, this article commences with a discussion of Revelation’s introduction.

Jesus is distinct from God.

Revelation begins with the words:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him” (1:1). 

This immediately sets a distinction between God and Jesus.  This distinction is repeated in the next verse:

John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ.”   

The point is not that Jesus is distinct from the Father, for that all agree, but that Jesus is distinct from God, which implies that Jesus is not God.

The same John who wrote Revelation also wrote the gospel of John.  The opening verse of that gospel reads,

(a) In the beginning was the Word,
(b) and the Word was with God,
(c) and the Word was God.

The Word was GodPart (b) makes a distinction between God and the Word, but part (c) informs us that “the Word was God.”  A series of articles on the website discusses this and shows that part (c) has a special grammatical construct which should be translated “the Word was like God.”  This is, therefore, similar to Philippians 2, which says that, before His incarnation, that Jesus “existed in the form of God.”  For is a discussion of these two passages, see:

John 1:1
Jesus in Philippians

Him who is and who was and who is to come

Revelation 1:4-5 refers to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as follows:

Him who is and who was and who is to come;”
The seven Spirits who are before His throne;” and
Jesus Christ;”

Him who is and who was and who is to come” is, therefore, a title for the Father.  The Father is also identified by this title is 4:8 (cf. 11:17).  It is possible that this title is an interpretation of God’s title in Exodus 3:14, where “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM”.

Since “the seven Spirits … are before His throne,” the Father is the One who is often mentioned in Revelation as “sitting on the throne” (4:2, 9, 10; 5:1, 7, 13), and who is identified as “our Lord and our God” (4:11) and as “God” (5:9, 10; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:4).  Jesus said, “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (3:21).  This confirms that it is the Father’s throne.

Jesus has a God.

1:5-6 continues as follows:

To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.

The Father is therefore also Jesus’ God.  In 3:2 and 3:12 Jesus similarly refers to the Father as “My God:” 

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God

The key verse

The purpose of the analysis above is to explain the first verse in Revelation that refers to the “Almighty,” namely  1:8, which reads as follows:

“’ I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’.”

For the following reasons, this is the Father speaking:

(1) This is the One “who is and who was and who is to come,” who has been identified above as the Father.
(2) He is described as “Lord God,” and the previous verses three times made a distinction between God and Jesus, and once even said that the Father is Jesus’ God. 

This distinction between God and Jesus is a consistent pattern in the New Testament and in Revelation.  See the articles:

Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God? and
The NT distinguishes between God and Jesus.

The important conclusion is as follows: Since this is the Father speaking in 1:8, it is implied that the phrases, “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the Almighty” do not refer to Jesus, but to the Father.

Almighty

As stated, the title “the Almighty” is used 10 times in the New Testament, but only once outside Revelation.  In 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 Paul quotes from the Old Testament and identifies “God” as “the Lord Almighty.”  In Revelation “the Almighty” is used as follows:

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8).

The Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come” (4:8)

Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were” (11:17)

Those who had been victorious over the beast” sang, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty.”  (15:2-3)

The altar says, “O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments” (Rev. 16:7)

The “spirits of demons … go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14)

A great multitude,” says, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come’” (Rev. 19:6).

The Word of God … treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:13-15).

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22)

Almighty God JesusIn all nine instances, “the Almighty” is God.  The last three instances make an explicit distinction between the Almighty and the Son (the Word of God and the Lamb).  In other words, “the Almighty” is always the Father.  This title is never applied to Jesus.   

Alpha and the Omega

On the other hand, Jesus said, “I am the first and the last” (1:17; 2:8).  This phrase “the Alpha and the Omega” describes the Father in 1:8, and appears twice more in Revelation.  21:5-6 reads:

He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ … Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end’.”

He who sits on the throne” is the Father.  In 22:12-13 an unidentified Person says:

I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

This could be Jesus, for:

(1) Jesus in 3:11 similarly said, “I am coming quickly.”  
(2) Jesus is “the first and the last” in 1:17 and 2:8, and this title is never used for the Father.

Whether 22:12-13 refers to the Father or to Jesus does not really matter, for Jesus is already explicitly called “the first and the last,” and this probably has the same meaning as “the Alpha and the Omega.” 

Conclusion

The question is then, how could Jesus be “the Alpha and the Omega” if He is not “the Almighty?”  This is explained as follows:

Firstly, God created all things through Jesus. 

John, who wrote the Revelation, also wrote, “All things came into being through Him (the Word = pre-incarnate Jesus), and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3; cf. Col. 1:16).  The term “through” implies that God created all things “through” the Word.  This is explicit in Hebrews 1:1-2:

God … in these last days has spoken to us in His Son … through whom also He made the world.

The different roles of God and the Word make a distinction between Jesus and the Almighty Creator.  We need to recognize and respect the distinction which Revelation. and the rest of the New Testament consistently make between God and Jesus. 

Secondly, Jesus is the Beginning. 

The Person or Persons in 22:13 and 21:6 are also called, “the beginning and the end.” Jesus is similarly “the Beginning of the creation of God” (3:14).  This is not understood as to mean that He is a created being, for He has been begotten.  In fact, He is “the only begotten” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16).  “Begotten” is human language for a mystery which beyond human understanding, and which describes the origin of the Son.

If God created all things through the Word, then the Word already existed in the beginning.  But the point here is that He Himself is “the Beginning:” 

He is the beginning” (Col. 1:18).
He is “the Beginning of the creation of God” (3:14). 
Justin Martyr also described Him as “a Beginning.”

It is therefore proposed that God created all things by begetting Him.  

Thirdly, the Word upholds the universe.

A number of times we read that “in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17; cf. Heb. 1:3). This concept should not be separated from the concept that God created all things through Him: It is the same thing.  It is therefore proposed that God upholds the universe through the Word.  (The term “Word” is here used for the pre-incarnate Jesus, for that is how John described Him, not only in His pre-incarnate state (John 1:1-3) but also when He returns to earth (Rev. 19:13).  

Therefore, He is the Alpha and the Omega.

To conclude; God exists beyond time and He created time.  Jesus Himself is the Beginning of time and of everything else.  And since “in Him all things hold together,” He is the entire existence of the Creation.  He is, therefore, the “Alpha and the Omega” of the creation.

But that does not make Him “Almighty” or equal to “the Almighty,” for it is still God who created and upholds all things “through” Him.  Both the Father and the Son are eternal, for both existed as long as time existed.  Therefore both are the “Alpha and the Omega.”  But they are not co-equal and co-eternal, as in the Athanasian Creed, for in the incomprehensible infinity beyond time, the Father is the Great Source that begat the Son.