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Author Topic: please dearly help me with this verse.... Elohim  (Read 1868 times) Average Rating: 0
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Christianus
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« on: February 22, 2010, 04:36:54 PM »

Doesn't Elohim literally mean gods?
Gen 1:1  בראשׁיתH7225  בראH1254  אלהיםH430  אתH853  השׁמיםH8064  ואתH853  הארץ׃H776 
why does it translate as God?
This verse is scaring me a lot, ever since I started reading the Hebrew old testament, I used to have such a peace in God, I was so happy...., but now I feel scared.
(strong's numbers)
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2010, 05:03:35 PM »

Your fear is understandable but rest assured "Elohim" is not implied literally, i.e. "gods", becuase almost all the pronouns (with a few exceptions eg: "Let us make man in our image") are singular (He/Him/I not We/They/Them). The use of referring to the one true God (YHWH) as Elohim (most of the time but not always) is deliberate for 2 reasons:

1) To amplify God's infinite power, glory and majesty (He is so great it's as if He is many): 1 Kings 8:27 "But will God really dwell on earth? Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built!

2) To contrast the one true God who is all powerful with the various false deities of the day, whom were worshipped by the surrounding cultures, all of whom were limited - there were many gods with specific powers but not one that was all powerful.

I hope this helps.

Be blessed.
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2010, 05:36:28 PM »

St Justin Martyr - Dilogue with Trypho
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These are the words: ‘And God said, Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil.' In saying, therefore, ‘as one of us,’ [Moses] has declared that [there is a certain] number of persons associated with one another, and that they are at least two.


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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2010, 05:51:01 PM »

Yeh but they're not different deities.
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2010, 07:55:09 PM »

Doesn't Elohim literally mean gods?
Gen 1:1  בראשׁיתH7225  בראH1254  אלהיםH430  אתH853  השׁמיםH8064  ואתH853  הארץ׃H776  
why does it translate as God?
This verse is scaring me a lot, ever since I started reading the Hebrew old testament, I used to have such a peace in God, I was so happy...., but now I feel scared.
(strong's numbers)
This is actually one of item of evidence I use when arguing against modalism.
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2010, 12:57:36 AM »

I feel scared because Judaism might have been polytheistic...
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2010, 01:34:52 AM »

I feel scared because Judaism might have been polytheistic...

Do not fear. Our Lord is One, Christ is One, the Trinity is One. False gods and demons exist, but there is only one Lord to whom all other beings and entities are subservient.

I think Judaism is clearly monotheistic: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One." [Deuteronomy 6:4]

In Christ all shadows of former things are fulfilled, and His Church is the guardian of Truth. So just stay close to Orthodoxy, avail yourself of the Sacraments, and know that "perfect love casteth out fear." [I John 4:18]


Selam
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2010, 01:47:12 AM »

There are three possible explanations that I am thinking of:

1. It is a reference to the whole choir of Heaven, the one natural God, as well as the other "gods" in the sense of those who participate in the divinity by grace, the angels.

2. It is using in the plural intensive, similar to the "royal we", in which the one God alone is being referred to in the plural for the purpose of denote His unique majesty and supremacy.

3. The ancient Jews actually did believe in the existence of other gods and were thus polytheistic or henotheistic and this was a reference to the gods collectively.

I think either 1 or 2 would still allow for the text to be "orthodox".
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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2010, 02:02:04 AM »

The ancient Jews actually did believe in the existence of other gods and were thus polytheistic or henotheistic and this was a reference to the gods collectively.

Even the most vehement enemies of the cross whose profession is Biblical textual criticism at this point unanimous agree that the ancient Israelis did not understand "Elohim" as referring to a plurality of gods.  This is not a pantheon speaking in Genesis.

There is plenty of evidence for henotheism in the Old Testament texts, but all of these texts see the other gods as impotent before the True God.  They will eventually fade away into nothingness because of the splendor of God.  

Anyway, trust me Christianus, this is not what you think it is.  The idea was popular in German intellectual circles in the 19th century, but the hypothesis has been effectively refuted.
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Christianus
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« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2010, 04:51:00 PM »

The ancient Jews actually did believe in the existence of other gods and were thus polytheistic or henotheistic and this was a reference to the gods collectively.

Even the most vehement enemies of the cross whose profession is Biblical textual criticism at this point unanimous agree that the ancient Israelis did not understand "Elohim" as referring to a plurality of gods.  This is not a pantheon speaking in Genesis.

There is plenty of evidence for henotheism in the Old Testament texts, but all of these texts see the other gods as impotent before the True God.  They will eventually fade away into nothingness because of the splendor of God.  

Anyway, trust me Christianus, this is not what you think it is.  The idea was popular in German intellectual circles in the 19th century, but the hypothesis has been effectively refuted.
ok man I'm going to trust you, but just tell me what number the perfect of "created" was, singular perfect or plural perfect. in that verse.
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« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2010, 06:26:51 PM »

An early hint at the community of the Trinity.
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« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2010, 06:58:04 PM »

An early hint at the community of the Trinity.

I highly doubt that the writers of Genesis believed in the doctrine of the Trinity.
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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2010, 07:21:36 PM »

An early hint at the community of the Trinity.

I highly doubt that the writers of Genesis believed in the doctrine of the Trinity.
Agreed, but the Spirit who inspired them to write did believe in the Trinity.
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« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2010, 07:31:07 PM »

I highly doubt that the writers of Genesis believed in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Even in the Oriental church in which you are in inquirer, the Old Testament is meant to be understood in the light of the New.  So even though the Holy Trinity is not explicitly defined in the New Testament, all of surviving apostolic Christendom from ancient times until now unanimously accepts this as the truth from the beginning of time.  While it might seem anachronistic to the modern mind to "impose" the Holy Trinity into the book of Genesis, we must understand the truth as eternal and understood indirectly by the inspired author.

Did "Moses" or the compiler(s)/editor(s) of the book of Genesis understand Elohim to refer to the Holy Trinity?  No.  Is that what was really happening?  Absolutely.
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« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2010, 08:08:15 PM »

An early hint at the community of the Trinity.

I highly doubt that the writers of Genesis believed in the doctrine of the Trinity.
Agreed, but the Spirit who inspired them to write did believe in the Trinity.

Sure. But the writers still didn't understand "Elohim" to indicate any reference to the Trinity. They probably didn't even have any conception of the Trinity. And the Holy Spirit did not dictate the words of Genesis to them. That is different from inspiration. So the intended meaning of it in Genesis was not the Trinity.
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« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2010, 08:11:04 PM »

I highly doubt that the writers of Genesis believed in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Even in the Oriental church in which you are in inquirer, the Old Testament is meant to be understood in the light of the New.  So even though the Holy Trinity is not explicitly defined in the New Testament, all of surviving apostolic Christendom from ancient times until now unanimously accepts this as the truth from the beginning of time.  While it might seem anachronistic to the modern mind to "impose" the Holy Trinity into the book of Genesis, we must understand the truth as eternal and understood indirectly by the inspired author.

Did "Moses" or the compiler(s)/editor(s) of the book of Genesis understand Elohim to refer to the Holy Trinity?  No.  Is that what was really happening?  Absolutely.

Sure the Trinity created the universe. But when the Book of Genesis says that "Elohim" created such and such it is not meaning that the Trinity created such and such because the author did not mean that and had no conception of the Trinity. We can understand that the Trinity was really there and working in the events depicted in the Old Testament, but as for what the words themselves indicate, I don't think we can go so far as to impose the Trinity in that sense.
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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2010, 11:05:28 PM »

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.
 
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« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2010, 11:16:13 PM »

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.
 

I agree.


Selam
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« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2010, 11:35:27 PM »

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.
 

What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.
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« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2010, 11:43:14 PM »

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.
 

What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps Moses recognized the Trinity in a mystical way, and knew that his purpose was not to theologize about this mystery but only to give the record of creation and other events described in Genesis.

I look at it this way: We know more about God today than perhaps Moses did. But Moses knew and experienced God far deeper than we do today.


Selam
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« Reply #20 on: February 23, 2010, 11:47:21 PM »

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.
 

What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps Moses recognized the Trinity in a mystical way, and knew that his purpose was not to theologize about this mystery but only to give the record of creation and other events described in Genesis.

I look at it this way: We know more about God today than perhaps Moses did. But Moses knew and experienced God far deeper than we do today.


Selam

The idea that Moses had a conception of God being anything other than one is pure speculation and most likely not true.
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« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2010, 12:40:06 AM »

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.
 

What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps Moses recognized the Trinity in a mystical way, and knew that his purpose was not to theologize about this mystery but only to give the record of creation and other events described in Genesis.

I look at it this way: We know more about God today than perhaps Moses did. But Moses knew and experienced God far deeper than we do today.


Selam

The idea that Moses had a conception of God being anything other than one is pure speculation and most likely not true.

I agree. Remember, the Trinity is One.


Selam
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« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2010, 12:43:13 AM »

I agree. Remember, the Trinity is One.

Checkmate!  Cheesy
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« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2010, 12:50:29 AM »

Quote
What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The fullness of the revelation was found in the NT accounts but there are hints and shadows of it in the OT. I would not doubt that some of the authors understood more than they could communicate.
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« Reply #24 on: February 24, 2010, 12:52:12 AM »

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.
 

What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps Moses recognized the Trinity in a mystical way, and knew that his purpose was not to theologize about this mystery but only to give the record of creation and other events described in Genesis.

I look at it this way: We know more about God today than perhaps Moses did. But Moses knew and experienced God far deeper than we do today.


Selam

The idea that Moses had a conception of God being anything other than one is pure speculation and most likely not true.

I agree. Remember, the Trinity is One.


Selam

The Trinity is one and three.

I just said the idea that Moses had a conception of God being anything other than one (i.e. Him also being three) is pure speculation and most likely not true.
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« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2010, 12:54:54 AM »

Quote
What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The fullness of the revelation was found in the NT accounts but there are hints and shadows of it in the OT. I would not doubt that some of the authors understood more than they could communicate.

The idea that certain people understood divine realities before they were revealed is pure speculation and even potentially dangerous given that it seems it might render the revelation itself unnecessary.
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« Reply #26 on: February 24, 2010, 01:06:10 AM »

Quote
What you're saying is shocking me. It sounds like you are saying that the Trinity was not a particular revelation of the New Testament as found at Christ's Baptism, His Transfiguration, and at the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The fullness of the revelation was found in the NT accounts but there are hints and shadows of it in the OT. I would not doubt that some of the authors understood more than they could communicate.

The idea that certain people understood divine realities before they were revealed is pure speculation and even potentially dangerous given that it seems it might render the revelation itself unnecessary.

I understand your concern, and I know you are trying to guard against the potential danger you point out. But the other side of that coin is the danger of saying that the Saints who wrote the OT were less divinely enlightened than we are. That's whay I said that although we may know more about God than Moses, Moses knew God more. (Does that make sense?)

Selam
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« Reply #27 on: February 24, 2010, 01:17:54 AM »

The Holy Trinity is in the Bible. The Masoretic text has "Adonai" for the episode of Abraham and the Visitors in the plains of Mamre giving the impression that its speaking about about angels. However Peshitta Tanakh written before Jesus clearly has...MarYah (God) instead of Adonai in that passage. This therefore is proof of a compound unity in the Godhead. Further, I suggest reading the works of Philo who taught a Tri-unity, and further the mysticism of the Zohar, where the Trinity are either the three upper sephiroth or the three pillars:



Keter, Hokmach and Binah. The Sephira of Wisdom (Hokmah) is analogous to the Qnume of the pre-incarnate Word in Eastern Syriac thought.

Quote
In Jewish mysticism, it denotes the first intermediate step between Keter and the rest of the sephiroth, forwarding and channelling Or Ein sof through the rest of the sephiroth.

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. -1 John 2:23
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« Reply #28 on: February 24, 2010, 01:39:24 AM »

A Good study of this compound unity within the Godhead is Isaiah chapter 11. The Tree of Jesse, the 7 Spirits. The Zohar is an extra-scriptural source which was tampered by several gnostic groups before finally being written down, thus only affords a glimpse of the mysticism John the Aposlte was versed in when he wrote a book such as Revelation. I actually don't recommend reading that book because of this reason.
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« Reply #29 on: February 24, 2010, 01:46:25 AM »

My faith is waning because I Don't know what happened to the pre-Christian peoples' souls, most of the world was polytheistic, only the Jews were monotheistic.
What happened to them?
I remember what peace I used to have when I became a Christian, then when I lost some of my faith, my heart felt troubled and scared, it was a panic attack.
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« Reply #30 on: February 24, 2010, 02:00:46 AM »

My faith is waning because I Don't know what happened to the pre-Christian peoples' souls, most of the world was polytheistic, only the Jews were monotheistic.
What happened to them?

They met the Logos when He descended into Hades.
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« Reply #31 on: February 24, 2010, 02:04:03 AM »

My faith is waning because I Don't know what happened to the pre-Christian peoples' souls, most of the world was polytheistic, only the Jews were monotheistic.
What happened to them?
I remember what peace I used to have when I became a Christian, then when I lost some of my faith, my heart felt troubled and scared, it was a panic attack.

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

-Romans 2:12-16


Ignore everything ignorant Baptists tell you about "Hell" and so forth. The Bible clearly says that Hell was made for the Devil and his angels not for human beings, and that we should instead focus about whether we are worthy to get a place in the Afterlife or not. If somebody lived without the Law, it is fair to say that God will be more lenient to him and judge him by what he knew and only that...not what he didn't know.
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« Reply #32 on: February 24, 2010, 02:05:36 AM »

My faith is waning because I Don't know what happened to the pre-Christian peoples' souls, most of the world was polytheistic, only the Jews were monotheistic.
What happened to them?
I remember what peace I used to have when I became a Christian, then when I lost some of my faith, my heart felt troubled and scared, it was a panic attack.

This happens when we begin to rely on our own logic and understanding. Whenever we try to figure everything out, put it neatly in a box, and wrap it up with a nice tidy bow, then we will become frustrated and our faith will be shaken.

I am guilty of this myself, and it has occasionally caused me great doubts. But when I entered Orthodoxy I determined to trust the Church of Our Lord and humble my logic before divine mysteries. I still try to understand things; but now when things seem contradictory or unreasonable, I just focus on the Cross and say the Jesus Prayer.

The Cross of Our Lord is the salvation of all who embrace it. Noah entered the Ark, which was a type of the Cross, and he was saved along with his family. Christ and His Cross were typified and prefigured to all those who were saved in the OT.

Do not fear. Focus on what you know to be true: we are sinners in need of Our Lord's mercy. And His mercy endures forever. Satan can't fight that!

Peace to you my friend.

Selam
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« Reply #33 on: February 24, 2010, 03:08:21 AM »

Doesn't the church teach that Jesus descended into hell to preach to the dead?
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« Reply #34 on: February 24, 2010, 03:12:48 AM »

Yeh but they're not different deities.

NO, it was just simply a reference to the compound unity of the Trinity. Even the hebrew word for "one" when used to describe God in the OT has multiple contexts in which it can be used. The Trinity is one God in three persons, not three self existing gods.
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« Reply #35 on: February 24, 2010, 03:24:14 AM »

Hades you mean. Yes, God freed the Just from Abraham's bosom in Hades.
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« Reply #36 on: February 24, 2010, 03:27:44 AM »

My faith is waning because I Don't know what happened to the pre-Christian peoples' souls, most of the world was polytheistic, only the Jews were monotheistic.
What happened to them?
I remember what peace I used to have when I became a Christian, then when I lost some of my faith, my heart felt troubled and scared, it was a panic attack.

Christ died for in order for all men to have a chance at salvation.

1 Pet 3:18-20
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."

There's an old saying that "if Christ did not die for everyone, then He did not die for anyone" even though I can't find who it was that originally said it.
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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #37 on: March 01, 2010, 06:21:18 PM »

I feel scared because Judaism might have been polytheistic...

Judaism no, but the Israelites however did dabble in polytheism from time to time. In Joshua Terah (Abraham's father) is said to have worshipped other gods:

Joshua 24:2 Then Joshua said to all the people, "Thus said YHWH, the God of Israel: In olden times, your forefathers - Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor - lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods.

Abraham probably also worshipped other gods before YHWH called him.

There are three possible explanations that I am thinking of:

1. It is a reference to the whole choir of Heaven, the one natural God, as well as the other "gods" in the sense of those who participate in the divinity by grace, the angels.

2. It is using in the plural intensive, similar to the "royal we", in which the one God alone is being referred to in the plural for the purpose of denote His unique majesty and supremacy.

These are the two popular interpretations among Rabbis, which IMO are possible secondary meanings.

3. The ancient Jews actually did believe in the existence of other gods and were thus polytheistic or henotheistic and this was a reference to the gods collectively.

I think either 1 or 2 would still allow for the text to be "orthodox".

I've only ever seen scenario 3 argued by the "faithless" (Atheists, Agnostics, etc.), go figure.

I do not see why the author of Genesis can automatically be considered less knowledgeable about the nature of God than any other author of Scripture. If Moses wrote, assembled or edited the book we call Genesis, he could have perfectly understood that aspect of God.

This I agree with, actually there are and have been few Jews who have ever argued that the nature of God is exclusively singular like the Muslim doctrine of Tawid, case in point, Kabbalah:

Quote

and from the Zohar itself:

Quote
Come and see the mystery of the word YHWH: there are three steps, each existing by itself: nevertheless they are One, and so united that one cannot be separated from the other. The Ancient Holy One is revealed with three heads, which are united into one, and that head is three exalted. The Ancient One is described as being three: because the other lights emanating from him are included in the three. But how can three names be one? Are they really one because we call them one? How three can be one can only be known through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. (Zohar, Vol III, 288; Vol II, 43, Hebrew edition. See also Sonclno Press, Vol III, 134.)

My faith is waning because I Don't know what happened to the pre-Christian peoples' souls, most of the world was polytheistic, only the Jews were monotheistic.
What happened to them?
I remember what peace I used to have when I became a Christian, then when I lost some of my faith, my heart felt troubled and scared, it was a panic attack.

The Prophets often wrote on YHWH's behalf to gentile polythestic nations, at times they repented and at other times they did not, so not all those "pre-Christian" souls were completely ignorant of Him. In this verse God tells the Israelites that He had also been involved in the lives of other nations:

Amos 9:7 To Me, O Israelites, you are Just like the Ethiopians -- declares YHWH. True, I brought Israel up From the land of Egypt, But also the Philistines from Caphtor And the Arameans from Kir.

Provided that the soul wants to be saved, God promises that He will do what ever He has to in order to save him/her:

Isaiah 50:2  2 Why, when I came, was no one there, Why, when I called, would none respond? Is my arm, then, too short to rescue, Have I not the power to save? With a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, And turn rivers into desert. Their fish stink from lack of water; They lie dead of thirst.

2 Peter 3:9 MarYah does not delay in his promises as men consider delay, but he is long-suffering because of you, in that he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but rather [that] everyone should come to repentance.

Yeh but they're not different deities.

NO, it was just simply a reference to the compound unity of the Trinity. Even the hebrew word for "one" when used to describe God in the OT has multiple contexts in which it can be used. The Trinity is one God in three persons, not three self existing gods.

Yes I know what you're trying say and I'm not arguing against the compound unity of YHWH Elohim and I'm aware of what ekhad means. But first I needed to point out that polytheism is not implied by the word "elohim" as Christianus assumed that it might have been. Christianus seems to be aware of the doctrine of the Trinity, he was asking for linguistic clarification of the Hebrew word in context of the Hebrew text.

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« Reply #38 on: March 01, 2010, 08:26:42 PM »

Keep in mind, as well, that while angels were often referred to as the "elohim" (and then there is that long debated passage regarding the nephilim), and the early, pre-Mosaic Hebrew religions might have believed in the existence of other gods, that the "I AM" who sent Moses quite clearly states in the first two Commandments that all other "gods" are subject to him, and that there is to be none above him.  The early Jewish people may have believed that the "gods" of surrounding cultures might have been massing an attack upon the One, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob demonstrated time and again his overall superiority.  Starting from Egypt, where a god supposedly sat on the Pharaoh's throne, and then moving on to the wilderness, where the forces of the Baals, Molechs, and Chemoshes were arrayed in all their might, the LORD our God consistently proved his might. After the settlement of Canaan Dagon learned just how powerful this One is, and the Philistines carted the Ark back to a beaten people cause God kept making Dagon look silly.

Oddly enough, the surrounding cultures seemed to get the point better than the Israelites or the Jews.  Time and again when the Chosen people would backslide into pagan practices and were conquered by others, the conquerors reveled in the fact that the Jews had abandoned their God, leaving them open to subjugation.

By the time of the Babylonian captivity the people finally started to get it. 

Keep in mind as well that the other gods of the pagan religions during the start of Christianity were equated with demons by none other than St Paul himself (we'll save St Paul's other remark about idols being just sticks and stones for a later thread).  There were also many interesting things going on in Hellenic philosophy developing it's own monotheism.  To a pagan peer of Abraham or Moses pretty much any spiritual being could have been a god, spirits of the dead were just as good as "spirits" of fertility or commerce.  By the time of Christ there were pretty much only three options for the Educated Man: pantheism, monotheism, or atheism.

Our relatively recent culture has started disbelieving in the existence of anything spiritual (though we seem to be emerging from that "phase"), so the idea that the Hebrew weren't strict monotheists from the first can be a little faith-shaking.  Regardless, from the first pronouncement to Moses on, the Hebrews knew the "I Am" our God is One, and that there is none higher.

As for the salvation of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, well, "Abraham had faith, and this was counted unto him as righteousness".  Despite any heterodox opinions Abraham might ("might", remember that) have held regarding the existence of other gods, he followed his (and our) God above all else.

And for the salvation of "righteous" pagans... well, it's not an Orthodox source, but you cannot worship Tash with righteousness.  Whatever the name that might come from one's lips in prayer, one's deeds proclaim much more the devotion and to whom it is given.  (this is, of course, no escape route for those who learn of Christ and deny him).
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