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Sunday, March 24, 2013

ELOHIM - Plural 'God'


(From the RDB Files)

ELOHIM   (~yhla - BSTHebrew font)


Plural “God” (Elohim) And “Let US make man”


That the Hebrew plural is often used for a singular noun to denote “a ‘plural’ of majesty or excellence” is well-known by all Biblical Hebrew language experts and has been known from at least the time of Gesenius (1786-1842), who is still regarded as one of the best authorities for Biblical Hebrew!


Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (“long regarded as a standard work for students”), p. 49, shows that elohim, ~yhla (“God/gods”) is sometimes used in a numerically plural sense for angels, judges, and false gods. But it also says,


“The plural of majesty [for elohim], occurs, on the other hand, more than two thousand times.” And that elohim when used in that sense “occurs in a [numerically] singular sense” and is “constr[ued] with a verb ... and adjective in the singular.”


Gesenius - Kautzsch’s Hebrew Grammar, 1949 ed., pp. 398, 399, says:
“The pluralis excellentiae or maiestatis ... is properly a variety of the abstract plural, since it sums up the several characteristics belonging to the idea, besides possessing the secondary sense of an intensification of the original idea. It is thus closely related to the plurals of amplification .... So, especially Elohim ... ‘God’ (to be distinguished from the plural ‘gods’, Ex. 12:12, etc.) .... That the language has entirely rejected the idea of numerical plurality in Elohim (whenever it denotes one God) is proved especially by its being almost invariably joined with a singular attribute.”


Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary, 1925 ed. Pg. 224:

Elohim "is either what grammarians call the plural of majesty, or it denotes the fullness of divine strength, the sum of the powers displayed by God."

More modern publications (trinitarian Protestant and Catholic) also make similar acknowledgments of the intended plural of majesty or excellence meaning for elohim. (See the New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. v., p. 287.)


Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, describes elohim:


“The common plural form ‘elohim,’ a plural of majesty.” - Unger and White, 1980, p. 159


The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says:


“It is characteristic of Heb[rew] that extension, magnitude, and dignity, as well as actual multiplicity, are expressed by the pl[ural].” - Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984 ed., Vol. II, p. 1265.


Today’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1982, Bethany House Publishers, written by trinitarian scholars, says of elohim:


“Applied to the one true God, it is the result in the Hebrew idiom of a plural magnitude or majesty. When applied to the heathen gods, angels, or judges ..., Elohim is plural in sense as well as form.” - p. 208.


The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. xxi, July 1905 (Aaron Ember) tells us: “several phenomena in the universe were designated in Hebrew by plural expressions because they inspired the Hebrew mind with the idea of greatness, majesty, grandeur, and holiness.”


Ember also says:


“Various theories have been advanced to explain the use of the plural elohim as a designation of the God of Israel. least plausible is the view of the Old Theologians, beginning with Peter Lombard (12th century A. D.), that we have in the plural form a reference to the Trinity .... that the language of the OT has entirely given up the idea of plurality [in number] in elohim (as applied to the God of Israel) is especially shown by the fact that it is almost invariably construed with a singular verbal predicate, and takes a singular attribute.


“...elohim must rather be explained as an intensive plural denoting greatness and majesty, being equal to the Great God. It ranks with the plurals adonim [‘master’] and baalim [‘owner’, ‘lord’] employed with reference to [individual] human beings.”


The famous trinitarian scholar, Robert Young, (Young’s Analytical Concordance and Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible) wrote in his Young’s Concise Critical Commentary, p. 1,


“Heb. elohim, a plural noun ... it seems to point out a superabundance of qualities in the Divine Being rather than a plurality of persons .... It is found almost invariably accompanied by a verb in the singular number.”


Both Exodus 4:16 and 7:1 show God calling Moses "a god" (elohim).  This alone shows the error of some that the plural elohim must mean a "plural oneness" unless we want to believe Moses was a multiple-person Moses!


And The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan Publishing, 1986, tells us:


Elohim, though plural in form, is seldom used in the OT as such (i.e. ‘gods’). Even a single heathen god can be designated with the plural elohim (e.g. Jdg. 11:24; 1 Ki. 11:5; 2 Ki. 1:2). In Israel the plural is understood as the plural of fullness; God is the God who really, and in the fullest sense of the word, is God.” - p. 67, Vol. 2.


The NIV Study Bible says about elohim in its footnote for Gen. 1:1:


“This use of the plural expresses intensification rather than number and has been called the plural of majesty, or of potentiality.” – p. 6, Zondervan Publ., 1985.


And the New American Bible (St. Joseph ed.) tells us in its “Bible Dictionary” in the appendix:


ELOHIM. Ordinary Hebrew word for God. It is the plural of majesty.” – Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1970.


A Dictionary of the Bible by William Smith (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 220, Hendrickson Publ.) declares:


“The fanciful idea that [elohim] referred to the trinity of persons in the Godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars. It is either what grammarians call the plural of majesty, or it denotes the fullness of divine strength, the sum of the powers displayed by God.”


And the prestigious work edited by Hastings says about this:


"It is exegesis of a mischievous if pious sort that would find the doctrine of the Trinity in the plural form elohim [God]" ("God," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics).


To show how ancient Jewish scholars themselves understood this we can look at the work of the seventy Hebrew scholars who translated the ancient Hebrew Scriptures (OT) into Greek several centuries before the time of Christ. The Greek language did not use the “plural of excellence” that the Hebrew did. So, if we see a plural used in the Greek Septuagint, it was really intended to represent more than one individual!


So how is elohim rendered in the Greek Septuagint by those ancient Hebrew scholars? Whenever it clearly refers to Jehovah God, it is always found to be singular in number (just as in New Testament Greek): theos ! Whenever elohim clearly refers to a plural (in number) noun, it is always found to be plural in number in Greek (just as in the New Testament Greek): theoi or theois (“gods”).


For example: “I am the Lord thy God [elohim - plural of excellence in Hebrew becomes theos - singular in the Greek Septuagint]” - Ex. 20:2. And “know that the Lord he is God [as always, the plural elohim, as applied to the God of Israel, becomes the singular, theos in the Septuagint] he made us...” - Ps. 100:3.


But when elohim really does mean plural in number, we see it rendered into the Greek plural for “gods” in the Septuagint: “Thou shalt not worship their gods [elohim in Hebrew becomes theois - plural in the Greek Septuagint], nor serve them .... And thou shalt serve the Lord thy God [singular - Greek].” - Ex. 23:24-25.


The plural elohim argument is no more proper than the plural “faces” argument: When the Hebrew scriptures speak of the face of God, they invariably use the plural Hebrew word which is literally “faces” (e.g. Ex. 33:20, Num. 6:25, Ps. 10:11). Obviously, according to this type of trinitarian reasoning, to have “faces” God must be more than one person!


It is apparent to any competent OT Bible scholar that “faces” is used in a similar manner to the plural “elohim.” That is, the plural “faces” is used in a singular sense in the ancient Hebrew idiom.


We only have to look at other uses in the Bible. King David, for example, is described with the plural “faces” usage: 2 Sam. 14:24 uses the plural “faces” twice for King David! This scripture, when translated into the ancient Greek Septuagint hundreds of years before Christ, used the singular “face” in Greek. The same thing has happened in many scriptures, e.g. 2 Ki. 3:14 (Jehoshaphat) and 2 Ki. 18:24 (an official).


Clearly, the Hebrew translators of that time did not understand a “multiple-person God” (any more than a “multiple-person David [or Jehoshaphat]”) or they certainly would have translated the plural Hebrew “faces” of God with the plural Greek word for “faces.” But they never did!


Likewise, as with the plural elohim, the New Testament writers never followed the Hebrew plural usage for “face,” but always used the singular “face” for God (e.g., Heb. 9:24). How extremely strange if they really believed God was more than one person!


We see exactly the same thing happening for translations of the plural elohim in the ancient Septuagint and in the Christian NT.


Yes, all the NT Bible writers, whether quoting from the OT or writing their own God-inspired NT scriptures, always used the singular “God” (theos) in NT Greek when speaking of the only true God of the Bible. (If the plural form had been used for the only true God, we would even discover a new “trinity” at John 10:34.)


It is absolutely incredible that John, Paul, and the other inspired NT writers would not have used the plural Greek form to translate the plural Hebrew form of “God” if they had intended in any degree to imply that God was in any way more than one person! [1]


“Let Us Make Man in Our Image”


Before we discuss the above-quoted use of plural pronouns by Jehovah at Gen. 1:26, we must fully understand the use of the word “through” (dia in NT Greek) and Jesus’ role in the creation of man.


The Watchtower Society believes and teaches that Jesus was the very first creation by Jehovah God (Jehovah became the Father at that point). Being the first (and only direct) creation by Jehovah makes Jesus “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15), and the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14), and “the only-begotten Son” of God (1 John 4:9).


Furthermore, Jehovah made all the rest of creation through Jesus, his firstborn Son who is the Master Worker. The proper understanding of the NT Greek word dia (“through”) clearly tells the whole story.


To illustrate: Suppose the one all-powerful ruler of the land decided to build a nice little palace out in the wilderness. He sends for his servant, the Master Worker, and commands him to build that palace. The King provides whatever materials are necessary for the Master Worker and tells him in great detail exactly how he wants it built.


The Master Worker sends for the chief stone mason, the chief carpenter, the chief artist, etc., tells them what their assignments are, and oversees their work.


It is clear that the king built the palace through his servant the Master Worker. It was at the command (and because of the will) of the King that the palace was created through the Master Worker (also through the stone mason, through the carpenter, etc.). This obviously does not mean the King and his servant both together, somehow, make up a mysterious two-in-one King!


The fact that both the King and his servant, the Master Worker, built the palace can be clearly explained by the word “through.” The King built the palace through his servant, the Master Worker. There is no mystery here. The King can properly say, “I built that palace;” the Master Worker can properly say, “I built that palace;” and even the stone mason can properly say, “I built that palace.” The word “through” can clear up any possible confusion there might be from these apparently conflicting statements.


Certainly the carpenter, stone mason, and even the Master Worker would not, in any way, intend to hint that they were equally the King! That honor can go only to the one person whose command and will caused the palace to be built. Certainly the faithful Master Worker would say, “not by my will but by your will, O King.” - Luke 22:42, John 4:34.


We can see that, in the ultimate sense of “source” or “originator,” there is only one person whose will, command, design, and supply of building materials allow him to be called “the only one who created the palace.” - See the BWF study. [2]


Notice how “through” solves any possible confusion in the following scriptures. Even though the Law was spoken of as “the Law of Jehovah” - 1 Chron. 16:40, and “the law of the God of heaven” - Ezra 7:12, and we are specifically told “there is only one Lawgiver ...” - James 4:12, NASB, we still see another person “giving the law”! Is that person, then, also equally God?


Yes, the inspired scriptures also tell us, “Did not Moses give you the law?” - John 7:19 NASB. And the same “Law of Jehovah” is also called “the Law of Moses” - Malachi 4:4. Must we conclude then, trinitarian-style, that Moses is Jehovah the God of heaven? Of course not!!


Even if we were unable to figure it out on our own, scriptures such as John 1:17 (“The law was given [from God] through [dia] Moses”) clearly explain it.


The Greek word dia is a “primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through”[3] - Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, #1223. There should be no confusion when Paul says:


“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through [dia] me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done” - Ro. 15:18 NIV.


Certainly no one is so dense as to say: “This scripture shows that Christ has caused the Gentiles to obey God. And Paul, by his words and deeds, has caused those same Gentiles to obey God. Therefore, Paul IS Christ!” Even if we were gullible enough to fall for this type of dishonest argument, surely we would understand what was intended here by Paul simply by his use of the word dia (“through”)![4]


Because of the many changes in the English language in the last 400 years, the English rendering for dia in the King James Version is frequently misleading in modern English. What was translated “of” in the Elizabethan English of the KJV may mean “by” in modern English. And what was translated “by” in the KJV may mean “through” today. (Of course “by” sometimes includes the meaning of “through.”)


For example, the meaning intended by the KJV translators is shown in modern translations of Matt. 1:22 as “spoken by the Lord through the prophet.” - NASB. However, in the English of 1611, that very same meaning was expressed by these words: “spoken of the Lord by the prophet.” - KJV. This has a very different meaning in today’s English. It sounds to us today as if the KJV were saying that something was spoken about the Lord by the prophet. This is not what was intended in the language of 1611. - see any modern translation.


Keeping in mind, then, the clear distinction shown by the word dia (“through” in modern English) and the example of the king whose will and spoken command caused the palace to be created, carefully analyze the following scriptures:


Ps. 33:6, 8, 9 - “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made” “For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” - ASV. Also see Ps. 103:20, 21.


Ps. 148:5 - “Let them praise the name of Jehovah; for he commanded, and they were created.” - ASV.


Rev. 4:11 - “because of thy will [the will of the Lord God Almighty who is seated on the throne when Jesus, the Lamb, approaches him (5:6, 7)] they were, and were created.” - ASV.


Malachi 2:10 - “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?”


Acts 4:27 - “Thy holy servant Jesus” - Jesus is the Father’s servant.


Rev. 3:14 - “[Jesus] the beginning of the creation of God.” - ASV.


Prov. 8:22-30 - “Yahweh [Jehovah] created me when his purpose first unfolded, before the oldest of his works.” And, “I was by his side, a Master Craftsman [‘Master Workman’ – ASV], delighting him day after day.” - Jerusalem Bible (JB). This scripture (Ps. 8:22-30) has been understood to represent “Wisdom” as the pre-existent Jesus Christ by the majority of Christians since (at least) the time of the Apostle Paul. - See the BWF study.


Col. 1:15, 16 - “He is the image of the unseen God [‘no man has ever seen God’ - John 1:18] and the first-born of all creation ... all things were created through [dia] him and for him.” - JB.


1 Cor. 8:6 - "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through [dia] whom are all things and through whom we exist." - RSV


Even the trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan, (which attempts to show that “Sometimes ... dia seems to express ... the sole cause” and “may be emphasizing the agency, rather than the mediator”) has to admit: “On the other hand, in 1 Cor. 8:6 the function of God the Father as the source of creation is distinguished from Christ’s role as mediator of creation.” - p. 1182, Vol. 3.


John 1:3, 10 - “through [dia] him [the Word] all things came to be ...” and “He was in the world that had its being through [dia] him.” - JB.


We see, then, that just as all things must go up to God (the head of Jesus - 1 Cor. 11:3) through Jesus (man’s head - 1 Cor. 11:3), so too all things have come down from God through Jesus!


So how does Gen. 1:26 (“Let us make man in our image”) provide any real evidence for a three-in-one God? (Does Is. 1:18 prove Jews are God?)


Isn’t it obvious at Gen. 1:26 that Jehovah was speaking to his Master Worker, the first-born of all creation (and, possibly, to the rest of the angels also [5]), who was also made in God’s image, before commanding him to make man? It is still Jehovah God alone who created man through his Master Workman, Jesus!


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NOTES


1. One trinitarian defense of the “plural elohim ‘evidence’” claims that there are a few instances in the OT manuscripts where plural verbs are found with elohim. This is supposed to be evidence that elohim is one God composed of multiple persons. This “evidence” claims there are 4 such places: Gen. 20:13 (“They caused me to wander”); Genesis 35:7 (“They appeared to him”); 2 Sam. 7:23 (“They went”); and Ps. 58:11 (“They judge”).


But there are thousands of places where “God” has a singular verb and pronouns! What is the significance of only four instances that seem to contradict many thousands?


And are these 4 instances really exceptions? I have three Hebrew Interlinears: The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, John R. Kohlenberger (JRK), Zondervan, 1980; The Interlinear Bible, Green, Baker Book House, 1982; and The Interlineary Hebrew and English Psalter (Psalms only), Bagster, Zondervan, 1979 printing. These are all trinitarian publications!


Gen. 20:13 “He make wander” - JRK; “had made me wander” - Green.


Gen. 35:7 “They appeared to him” - JRK; “revealed himself” - Green.


2 Sam. 7:23 “They went” - JRK; “went out” - Green.


Ps. 58:11 (12) “Ones judging” - JRK; “judging” - Green; “judging” - Bagster.


It’s not surprising that trinitarian-published interlinears would support a trinitarian interpretation. But notice that at least one trinitarian interlinear (two for Gen. 20:13 and Ps. 58:11) in each of the above four examples has not given such an interpretation!


It’s entirely possible that in only four verses (out of thousands) the Hebrew manuscript is ambiguous enough or simply not clearly understood well enough so that a trinitarian interpretation can be one possibility. This is not proof nor even good evidence.


For example, at 2 Sam. 13:39 it says of King David: “she longed” to go to Absalom - see JRK. Proof positive that King David is actually the Holy Spirit (which is always feminine in the OT Hebrew), right? No, we know from thousands of other scriptures that David nearly always has masculine verbs just as we would expect. But if I wanted King David to be God, I could make my own definitions of “David” and “God” which would “prove” my case! (See the DAVID study and the REDEF study.) No matter what straightforward scriptural statement anyone could find proving that David is not God, my own variable definitions for “God” and “David” would counter them. Is this the kind of “proof” we should find acceptable?


However, it appears that a trinitarian interpretation in these four verses is not even an honest possibility. When I examined a number of trinitarian Bible translations, I found that not even the most avid (nor the ones which were most “free” in their translating - such as GNB and LB) translated any one of these four scriptures in any way resembling a trinitarian interpretation. This simply would not be the case if there were even the slightest chance that this was an honest interpretation. Not only did GNB, LB, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NAB, KJV, NIV, NEB, REB, The Amplified Bible, the Septuagint, and Lamsa’s translation from the ancient Syriac not give any indication of a plural verb in these scriptures, but many of them actually indicated a SINGULAR verb and pronoun instead!


For example, GNB, RSV, NRSV, AB, NIV, NASB, NAB (1991 and 1970), NEB, and REB say, “revealed himself” at Gen. 35:7. NASB, NIV, NKJV, Septuagint, and Lamsa have, “went out to redeem as a people for himself” at 2 Sam. 7:23. And GNB, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NEB, NIV, KJV, NKJV, the Septuagint, and Lamsa all say at Ps. 58:11 (12), “A God who judges [‘judgeth’ - KJV]”. And “judges” [“judgeth”] is strictly a SINGULAR verb!


And, of course, all the verbs in question here (like all other verbs and pronouns which are clearly applied to God) are also singular in the Septuagint! But if God were actually a trinity, there would be thousands of clear instances in scripture where plural verbs and plural pronouns would be used for Him!


We should compare what are probably the two nearest parallels to what trinitarians would like us to believe about the Bible writers’ understanding of God.


The nation of Israel began, of course, with the man named Israel who was also earlier named Jacob. The Bible, then, most often calls the nation God has chosen: Israel. It also calls that nation ‘Jacob’ at times. When it speaks of the nation of Israel, or Jacob, it will sometimes use singular verbs and pronouns. In this sense it is referring to the man from whom the nation sprang as representing the entire nation (‘Israel gives his sacrifice to God’). At other times it will use plural verbs and pronouns (‘all Israel gave their thanks to God’). In this sense it is referring directly to all those who make up the nation of Israel. The point being, that, even though we can see Israel used in a plural or a singular sense to refer to the same thing, it is frequently used both ways. And we know from the history so carefully laid out in the Bible why it can be used both ways.


We also have the example of Man. When “man” is used in the generic sense, the Bible will sometimes use singular pronouns and verbs with it and, at other times, it will use plural pronouns and verbs. For example at Gen. 1:27,28 we read:


“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and ....” - NIV.


And at Gen. 5:1, 2 we read:


“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.’” - NIV.


Again, the point is that, even though we can see the generic “man” being used in a plural and a singular sense to refer to the same thing, it is frequently used both ways. And we know from the history so carefully laid out in the Bible why it can be used both ways (the name of the first man, Adam, was the same word for “man”).


Therefore, if “God” or “Jehovah” could be used with either a plural or a singular sense (as trinitarians must try to do at various places in scripture) in the Bible, we would see many instances of both usages. But if one or the other (plural or singular) were the actual intended meaning at all times, then we would have only that one usage throughout the Bible.


And, sure enough, in spite of the “plural’ form of the word elohim and the singular form of the name Jehovah, they (and other singular words in the original Bible languages which mean “God”) always use (many, many thousands of times) only singular verbs and pronouns with them.

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2.   We can see this understanding of a powerful person creating or building something without ever lifting a hand in the process of creation or building in Scripture:


There are many instances of this (look in a concordance under “built,” for instance), but here are a few. 1 Kings 6:2; 6:14; 7:1; 8:27; 9:10; 15:23; 22:39; 2 Chron. 26:9; Ezra 5:11, etc.


1 Kings15 23 - Now the rest of all the acts of Asa and all his might and all that he did and the cities which he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? - NASB.


1 Kings 22:39 - Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did and the ivory house which he built and all the cities which he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? - NASB.
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3. 
Here’s what Thayer tells us about dia:

III. …. 1. Of one who is the author of the action as well as its instrument, or of the efficient cause…, Ro. xi. 36; also Heb. ii. 10 …. 2. …. a. in passages where a subject expressly mentioned is said to do or to have done a thing by some person or by some thing: … Lk. i.70; Acts i.16 …. B. in passages in which the author or principal cause is not mentioned, but is easily understood from the nature of the case, or from context: …. Jn i.3; 1 Cor viii.6...Col. i.16 … cf. Heb. i.2 (Philo de cherub.” - p.133, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1977.

There are scriptures stating that Jehovah (or the Father) created everything. In fact the very use of the title ‘Father’ indicates that He is the source. And, in addition, we see at 1 Cor. 8:6:

“yet for us [Christians] there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through [dia] whom are all things and through [dia] whom we exist.” - NRSV.

And,

Heb. 1:2 - "but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through [dia] whom he also created the worlds." - NRSV.


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4. Walter Martin in his The Kingdom of the Cults, 1985 ed., frequently accuses Jehovah’s Witnesses of “dishonesty,” “blatant deception,” “unparalleled deceit,” etc. Often his “proof” for such statements disregards evidence from recognized “orthodox” trinitarian scholars which support teachings of the Watchtower organization and its NWT.


At other times, however, Martin will dishonestly set up a “straw man.” This technique is used when a person dishonestly claims that his opponent teaches a certain thing or backs a certain principle. He then proceeds to easily discredit (tear down the “straw man” he has built) this nonexistent condition.


For example, Martin, on p. 94, implies that the Watchtower supports an interpretation of Jesus’ glory at John 17:5 (see “Glory” in the MINOR study) whereby para (“with” in NT Greek) is to be understood as “through” (dia in NT Greek). I have been unable to find any support for such a claim in any Watchtower publications. I have found them upholding the meaning of “with” for para in their interlinear, but not “through”! I have determined Martin’s implication to be completely false by examining Watchtower discussions of John 17:5 in the 1988 Insight book and the 1962 Watchtower Magazine (pp. 476 and 561).


So, when Martin tells us that somewhere some unnamed “average Jehovah’s Witness interviewed recently” suggested that para in John 17:5 really meant “through,” he has manufactured his own “straw man” so he could beat the stuffing out of it. Para does not mean “through” at Jn 17:5 (although Thayer lists “from” as a possible meaning for para under certain conditions - p. 477) and the Watchtower Society doesn’t claim that it does!!


What is even more interesting here is Martin’s insistence on the proper use of dia when “through” is truly intended by a New Testament writer. This, he admits, shows that the individual involved is merely an intermediary and not the source of the subject under discussion. In other words, when scripture tells us that the Law came to Israel through (dia) Moses then we know Moses was not the origin or source of that Law.


But when Martin refers to scriptures that are supposed to “prove” that Jesus was the Creator (or the Source of creation) he never seems to notice the word dia! For example, John 1:3 really says “all things came into existence through [dia] him.” But Martin is forced to use the nearly 400-year-old KJV here (p. 75) because, when the KJV was written, the word “by” actually meant “through.” Modern translations, however, use modern English and therefore translate it “all things were made through him.” - RSV. The use of dia here proves, as Martin himself admitted above, that Jesus cannot be the source of Creation but merely an intermediary. Martin’s use of Col. 1:16 (p. 124) to prove Jesus is the Creator also ignores the actual meaning of dia - compare 1 Cor. 8:6 (see pp. 4-5 in the BWF study).

…………………………….


The following correspondence (Nov. 2014) has caused me to look more closely at the word dia:

Timitrius asked me:

I'm confused about Romans 11:36 and Hebrews 2:10, which both use the word "through".

Hebrews 2:10 MIGHT be referring to Jesus, but many translations and commentaries, including the WTS, say that it refers to the Father.

Romans 11:36 is a doxology to God, and quotes verses referring to Jehovah, but then says that all things are "through" (dia) him and "for" him, which Colossians 1:16 says of Christ.

Can you help me understand this?

 
……………………

My answer:

The preposition dia (“through”) can have more than one meaning. According to my copy of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BAG), University of Chicago Press, 1957, it may be used for the author or originator of an action. Among the scriptures listed under this meaning as used for God (p. 179) are Ro. 11:36 and Heb. 2:10b.

And another use of dia is that of an intermediary. “Christ as an intermediary in the creation of the world J[ohn] 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16” - p. 179. (Cf. p. 133, Thayer.)


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5. Other comments by trinitarian translators and scholars:


“The plural ‘us,’ ‘our’...probably refers to the divine beings who compose God’s heavenly court (1 Kg. 22:19; Job 1:6).” - Gen. 1:26 footnote in The New Oxford Annotated Bible (1977).


And “Perhaps the plural of majesty .... But possibly the plural form implies a discussion between God and his heavenly court.” - The Jerusalem Bible footnote for "us" in Gen. 1:26.

And noted trinitarian scholar Dr. William Barclay agrees: “[God’s angels] were thought of as God’s senate; God did nothing without consulting them. For instance, when God said: ‘Let us make man’ (Genesis 1:26), it was to the angel senate that he was speaking.” - p. 17, The Letter to the Hebrews, Revised edition, “The Daily Study Bible Series,” The Westminster Press, 1976.


The trinitarian NIV Study Bible (1985, Zondervan) says in its note for Gen 1:26, "us ... our. God speaks as the Creator-King announcing his crowning work to the members of his heavenly court." And, in this same work, the footnotes for Job 1:6 and 38:7 say concerning “the sons of God”: "1:6 angels came to present themselves. .... They came as members of the heavenly council who stand in the presence of God." And "38:7 .... When the earth was created, the angels were there to sing the praises of the Creator, but Job was not."

Dr. Charles Ryrie explains the plurals as plurals of majesty: "Gen. 1:26 us . . . our. Plurals of majesty" (Ryrie Study Bible, NIV, p.6).

"The explanation of the first person plural forms is probably that the Creator speaks as heaven's King accompanied by His heavenly hosts" (The New Bible Commentary, p. 82).

"It is possible that this plural form implies a discussion between God and his heavenly court... Alternatively, the plural expresses the majesty and fullness of God's being" (New Jerusalem Bible, p. 19).


“(a) From Philo onward, Jewish commentators have generally held that the plural in Gen 1:26 is used because God is addressing his heavenly court, i.e., the angels (cf. Isa 6:8). Among recent commentators, Skinner, von Rad, Zimmerli, Kline, Mettinger, Gispen, and Day prefer this explanation. ….

“(b) From the Epistle of Barnabas and Justin Martyr, who saw the plural as a reference to Christ,… Christians have traditionally seen this verse as [foreshadowing] the Trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural meant to the original author.” (World Biblical Commentary  http://www.amazon.com/Word-Biblical-Commentary-Vol-Genesis/dp/0849902002#reader_0849902002 ).


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Note: Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian ‘proof’ being examined in this paper. The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS. They truly believe it is false, even dishonest. Therefore some of the preceding information, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian “proofs,” may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics (especially when I have presented a number of alternates). Jehovah’s Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. – RDB.

4 comments:

vonmitchell said...

Wonderful artical!!

Elijah said...

Thank you.

Joey said...

"The fact that both the King and his servant, the Master Worker, built the palace can be clearly explained by the word “through.” The King built the palace through his servant, the Master Worker. There is no mystery here. The King can properly say, “I built that palace;” the Master Worker can properly say, “I built that palace;” and even the stone mason can properly say, “I built that palace.” The word “through” can clear up any possible confusion there might be from these apparently conflicting statements."

I don't thing the owner, master worker, or mason can really say the statement, "I built that palace" Now, I might be over-analyzing the illustration but I think the owner, when referring to the actual building process can only say "I 'had' that palace built". The master worker can say, "I built that palace" or "I helped build that palace", and the mason must say, "I helped build that palace". for had the mason said, "I built that palace" my response would have been, "By yourself"?

I can illustrate by the fact that my father was the owner of a construction company. When passing by the target he built in my town, I'll quickly say to a friend, "my father built that"...but then I'll describe more accurately(correct myself) what I really meant by saying, "well he didn't actually build build it, he had it built but overlooked the process."

SO it seems the Jesus is really the only person who can say I made it(unless Jehovah had direct involvement in the making process) Jehovah can say "I had it made by Jesus". And the holy spirit can only say "i helped" of course though I don't believe the Holy Spirit to be a person.

Does this kinda attack at your illustration hurt your point at all though? I don't really think it does because the Owner, Master worker, and mason are three distinct and different people.

Anonymous said...

@Joey

I appreciate this article is 4 years old, but it's come up in Google results for something I'm researching. So I'll reply anyway.

I get your point but I think it's pedantic and assumes that a person must say everything in a sort of legal-speak else his listener misunderstands this or that detail. I think you're describing a personality trait (the need to ensure you're not misunderstood) more than an actual flaw in logic or language use.

The key to looking at whether an expression can reasonably be construed to mean one thing is in looking at precedent. In this discussion you might look at Acts 7:47. There it says that Solomon built the temple. A thinking person would assume that Solomon didn't physically do the construction work.

So, if a person asked "What? By himself?" then one could elaborate. But it wouldn't be fair to assume everyone else would make the same mistake, so it isn't necessary to clarify every detail.

However, depending on how you look at it, it may be perfectly acceptable to say Jehovah created or made everything even if you do insist on a literal interpretation. How so?

To illustrate. Suppose I want to make a building, or even construct a town. Instead of collecting all the materials by hand and moulding everything, by hand, and building everything brick by hand-placed brick, I could do something else. I could make tools. The tools would make my tasks easier. I could make "intelligent" tools (such as robots that construct cars on assembly lines) to lay pipes, bricks or construct roves. As I am solely responsible for the constructing the things that do more constructing - than I can accurately say I constructed the town.

So for the purpose of this illustration, Jesus is a tool of his father's. Jesus said "I can't do a single thing of my own initiative", and his intellectual and physical ability to "make" things also came from God. So ultimately God can rightly be called the creator and maker of everything.