This is our first episode in our new series on the Bible’s portrayal of God! We are currently working on a theme video about God that will be released later in 2018.
In part 1, (0-8:33) Tim overviews the whole subject. He says later on in the discussion they will talk about the Trinity in the Bible, but for now, they will just focus on the development of the word God in the Bible.
In part 2, (8:33-37:34) Tim outlines the problems of modern conceptions with God compared with ancient Hebrew conceptions of God. Tim says that it comes down to how people use the word ‘God’. Today people use the word ‘God’ to refer to a personal being that exists. ‘God’ is both a title for a kind of being and a name for a specific being: the Judeo Christian God.
Tim says that if you look up “monotheism” in the dictionary, they define it as “the belief there is only one God, specifically in Judeo Christianity.” Tim asks how can this be the case if the Bible says things like “Lord of lords” and “God of gods”. How did monotheism today come to mean something that it didn’t mean to the ancient Hebrews?
Tim says the Hebrew word for “God” is ‘Elohim’. The short forms of this word is “el” and also “eloah”. Tim says that in Hebrew “Elohim” is plural.
In part 3, (37:34-54:05) Tim outlines a unique use of the word “Elohim” the story of Saul in 1 Samuel 28:12-13: Saul has a spirit-medium conjure up the presence of the deceased Samuel: “And the woman saw Samuel, and she cried out...and said ‘I see a elohim rising up from the ground.”
This refers to a human who exists apart from their body. This is not saying Samuel is “God” or a “god.” Rather, the word elohim apparently refers to the mode of existence: a member of the non-physical, spirit realm.
The later biblical authors developed vocabulary to talk about these beings to more clearly distinguish between them as elohim and the one elohim: Angel, demon, spirits, etc… The implications are Yahweh is an elohim, but not the only elohim (= spirit being). He is the most powerful, and authoritative, and he alone is the creator of all things, including the other elohim.
Tim cites this quote by theological scholar Michael Heiser: “Yahweh is an elohim, but no other elohim is Yahweh. Elohim is a place-of-residence term. The word tells you what the proper domain is for that being. By nature, the God of Israel, the many elohim of God’s council, demons, angels, the departed human dead like Samuel, they are part of a non-physical domain, that’s related to, but distinct from the physical, embodied domain. An elohim is by definition and by nature a disembodied entity, so the word can refer to many different beings who inhabit that realm.”
In part 4, (54:05-end) Tim outlines a New Testament example. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6: Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
Tim says Paul is telling the Corinthians that there are other “Elohim” but for the Hebrews, their is “one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ.” What does this mean to the Hebrews? Find out next time in episode 2!