Thursday, January 22, 2015

What "pants" Teaches Us About "elohim" ("God")

Dale Tuggy makes a nice point about Biblical interpretation here.

I'll reproduce it below the fold:

A RANTING guy on Facebook recently wrote to me, in part:
The Hebrew word ELOHIM is PLURAL which is the real nature of DIVINITY. …The creator of the Heavens and the Earth in Genesis 1:1 is ELOHIM, a community of creativity!
I replied that the word elohim is plural in structure, just like the English word “pants.”But elohim is often singular in meaning, just like “pants.”
  • “These blue pants here are too dang low.”
I am only talking about one garment – there is one subject of my sentence, and that subject is not “plural in nature” just because the word for it is plural in structure (i.e. ends with an “s,” the way a plural word typically ends in English).
In the Hebrew Bible, they translate elohim as “God” when it is used along with singluar verbs and adjectives. “God” is its meaning in those contexts. In other contexts, where the adjectives and verbs are plural, it means “gods.” Just so, with pants.
  • “These guys’ pants are too dang low!”
“Pants” here is plural in meaning. My claim is about two pants.
From the odd plural structure of elohim, and the fact that it can mean “God” or “gods,” nothing whatever follows about the nature of God. Imagine: what would we think of someone who argued that pants are plural in nature based on the structure of the English word “pants”?
Educated trinitarians are quite correct in abandoning this line of argument.
And the doctrine that the one God is “a community” is going to smack hard against the consistent characterization of “God” in the Hebrew Bible as a unique god, as indeed the one God. Just by the meaning of the terms, no community is a god, and no god is a community – just as no man is a family, and no family is a man. Trinitarians are divided on this; only those flying the “social” banner want to characterize God as being, or being much like a community.

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