Oneness in Genesis

Ryan Gustason, Sun, 18 May 2008 05:05:28

The oneness of God is written throughout the Bible. Starting in the book of Genesis, we see that the God of Genesis was quite different than the deities of the day that surrounded Abram. Abram grew up in a polytheistic culture. The predominate gods of the day was Ashur, Tiamot, Marduk, et.al.
According to Scripture, Abram traveled out of Ur of Chaldees and settled with his father in Haran. There Terah died. Abram was called out of his familiar surroundings and sent to follow his God to a land God had prepared for him. It was because of the faithfulness of Abram that he obeyed the Word of the Lord and followed the one and only true God. Out of the chaotic mess created by the philosophy of man, a single man hears the voice of God and we usher in an era of monotheism that takes us back to the monotheistic beliefs of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Let us look into the text of Genesis and examine the Scriptures for the monotheism known by Abram and by extension all of Israel. In Genesis 1:1 we read of God being there in the beginning. God existed before the earth and the stars. In verse three God said let there be light. In order to have created light, light must have not existed. For light to not have existed, there must have been no energy, for light is but a visual form of energy in a wave length visible to our eyes. But that is straying a little from the purpose of this post.
The word God in both of the Scriptures referenced above is the Hebrew word Elohim. This is the plural form of the root word, Eloah which is defined as God. Ah, I see, because it is in the plural it must mean that God is a plurality of persons or beings right?
Not so fast. Elohim has plural morphological form in Hebrew, but it is used with singular verbs and adjectives in the Hebrew text when the particular meaning of the God of Israel (a singular deity) is traditionally understood. Thus the very first words of the Bible are breshit bara elohim, where bara is a verb inflected as third person singular masculine perfect. If Elohim were an ordinary plural word, then the plural verb form bar’u would have been used in this sentence instead. Such plural grammatical forms are in fact found in cases where Elohim has semantically plural reference (not referring to the God of Israel). There are a few other words in Hebrew that have a plural ending, but refer to a single entity and take singular verbs and adjectives, for example (be’alim, owner) in Exodus 21:29 and elsewhere.
Let us consider for a moment Genesis 1:26-27.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Again, Elohim is used with the word asah, which is ‘to do’ or ‘to make’. Tselem is also used, a plural masculine noun. Could this be considered evidence of a pre-incarnation trinity? No. The evidence is in the context of the next verse. The plural Elohim is again connected to a singular verb. What we see here is an example of a literary plural. In formal writing, a plural form is often used when referring to something that is above all else. In this form, God is speaking thus the use of the literary plural. In verse 27 we see the author reaffirming in his words, thus the use of the singular.
More posts will come, as I intend to do a series walking through the bible to explore the monotheism of God.

Filed under: Christology, Theology