Doctrine Article
Expanded Internet Edition - October 1, 2007 

Elohim and the Son of God Part 1

by David Sielaff, October 2007

Read the accompanying Newsletter for October 2007

This article is Part 1 of the written form of the lecture I presented June 9, 2007 at the One God Conference in Albany, New York. I was invited to present a position contrary to that held to by most everyone at the conference. Organizer Ken Westby and host Sean Finnegan were exceedingly gracious with their facilities, time, and fellowship. I am thankful to them for the opportunity. Most of the teaching I presented will be familiar to readers of the ASK website (but not repetitive), largely reflecting the biblical and historical research of Dr. Ernest Martin.

MP3 audio track for Part 1: Listen  (13MB)

Ken Westby: Introduction. Our first presentation today is by David Sielaff. He is going to be presenting a position which I am sure is contrary to positions that some of us hold, and yet there is great similarity in other areas. I regard him as a good Christian friend and an old warrior in the cause over the years, and he certainly has an awful lot to offer and a lot of background. Presently [he] is working as the Director of the organization that Dr. Ernest Martin established a number of years ago, the Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, headquartered in the Portland area. His information is there in the brief biography in the booklet. If you want to add anything to that David, you are certainly free to do that. So I have given him a longer bunch of time here today, and also he is going to use some of that for fielding questions. And that as I mentioned last night there will be a tomato-throwing contest at the end of the thing. So without any further comment, a good friend, David Sielaff:

Thank you Ken. I like tomatoes, so that is not a problem. I have got a lot of ground to cover so I will feel free to offend just about everybody here. I took over when Dr. Ernest Martin died in January 2002 with the Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, but I certainly cannot replace him. I am very humbled by the position that I am in and I look forward to continuing and hopefully standing on his shoulders, if not in some small way on this, then perhaps on some of the Temple or even the Tomb information.

But to get on today’s topic “Elohim and the Son of God,” there are other Sons of God and they are not humans and they are not angels. They definitely existed before the foundation of the world as we will see. I think this is very significant and important because it has a bearing on Christ as to His nature and His situation as the Son of God” and “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Notice that the term “only-begotten” takes on new importance when you realize there are other Sons of God in the mix. So let’s get started.

Here are some of the issues I deal with, and as you can see I have quite an agenda. I cover the following important topics in varying detail:

This should keep me busy. There is clearly, according to the apostle Paul, only one God:

“But to us there is but
     one God, the Father,

          [out] of whom are all things, and we in him; and
     one Lord Jesus Christ,
          by
[dia, through] whom are all things, and
          we by
[dia, through] him.”

If we are through Him, then likewise “all things” (meaning all creation) are through Him in the same way as well. The same Greek word dia is used to express both thoughts. The connection is inescapable and intentionally made by Paul. Elsewhere Paul states again:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus …”

“Our” God

For Israel, the phrase “our God” (as expressed by Jews today in what is termed the Shema, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4) implies other gods. YHWH is their God, but other gods did in fact exist.

Hear, O Israel:

          The LORD     our God          is one LORD

This is best understood when the proper divine terms are inserted (which I do throughout this lecture):

          YHWH          our Elohim     is one YHWH

The Shema applies to YHWH only. And yet other Elohim are implied because YHWH is “our Elohim.” otherwise why does Moses bother mentioning it at all? It is obvious that there are other Elohim as we will see as we proceed. Look at the whole verse:

“Hear, O Israel:
     YHWH our Elohim is one YHWH:
And you shall love
     YHWH your Elohim
          with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Christ in Mark 12:29–30 uses this verse to powerful effect in answering a question as to what was the primary commandment.

Further on in Deuteronomy Elohim other than YHWH again are implied.

“For YHWH your Elohim [indicating that other people have other gods]
     is Elohi of Elohim, and Adoni of Adonim [KJV: “Lord of Lords”],
          a great El, a mighty
[El], and a terrible [El], which regards not
          persons, nor takes reward.”

Again, other Elohim are presumed. 1 “Elohi” is a plural form of Elohim used with a singular verb. Here it is used as a superlative (God of Gods, and Lord of Lords). There is a reason that the singular or plural is used in any particular context, especially when the plural form “Elohim” is used with singular prepositions and singular verbs. In the vast majority of instances “Elohim” refers to a singular being, the God of gods. God uses “Elohim”as a singular most often but it still conveys a plurality, even as it also expresses a singularity. God uses the plural form “Elohim” as a singular some two thousand times. He does so for clarity and precision, believe it or not.

“I am YHWH your Elohim [singular] 2 ...
     You shall have no other Elohim [plural] before [plural] me.
     You shall not make you any graven images [of Elohim], or any
          likeness
[of Elohim]
     You shall not bow down yourself unto them [plural], nor serve
          them
[plural]:
for I, YHWH your Elohim [singular] am a jealous El [singular].”

Note that both the singular and plural usage of Elohim are in the same context. Other Elohim exist, they are real, and can be served, and bowed down to. 3 Singular and plural are used purposefully. Note the categories:

Elohim, notoriously and purposefully takes singular verbs almost always, with few exceptions. Here is what I am looking to put forth today: “Elohim” communicates plurality even when it is used singularly. We can know this because:

Therefore, use of the plural form is intentional to communicate plurality.

Elohim as a Collective Noun?

The term Elohim is a “collective noun.” Here is the definition from my American Heritage Dictionary:

collective noun n. Grammar. A noun that denotes a collection of persons or things regarded as a unit.

“USAGE NOTE: In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in The family was united on this question. The enemy is suing for peace. It takes a plural verb when it refers to the members of the group considered as individuals, as in My family are always fighting among themselves. The enemy were showing up in groups of three or four to turn in their weapons. (In British usage, however, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals) ...

Among the common collective nouns are committee, clergy, company, enemy, group, family, flock, public, and team. Group as a collective noun can be followed by a singular or plural verb. Group takes a singular verb when the persons or things that make up the group are considered collectively: The dance group is ready for rehearsal. Group takes a plural verb when the persons or things that constitute it are considered individually: The group were divided in their sympathies.”

I would include and add the words “army,” “navy,” “ekklesia, and Elohim. In fact, the term “Elohim” is the archetypal example of a collective noun. 4

So What Are “Elohim”?

  1. YHWH is an Elohim. This is clear from Psalm 95:3, 7.
     
  2. Pagan gods are Elohim as is shown in Deuteronomy 6:14.
     
  3. Angels are Elohim by comparing Psalm 8:4–5 and Hebrews 2:9 (a direct citation of Psalm 8:4–5).
     
  4. Cherubim are Elohim according to Ezekiel 28:14.
     
  5. Sons of God are Elohim, according to Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7; and Psalms 29:1, as well as Psalms 82:1, 6, and 89:5–8.
     
  6. Jesus Christ as the Son of God is definitely an Elohim.

Human beings (in their present pre-resurrection state) are never identified as Elohim in the Old Testament. I know that such a statement goes against all Jewish commentaries and against most Bible commentaries in general. 5 But, if human beings are Elohim, then the use of the term loses all of its meaning. It is true, as I shall show, that human beings are given authority of Elohim, i.e., Moses (Exodus 7:1, 21:6, 22:8–9; Psalm 45:6). Human beings are compared to Elohim, but they are not Elohim (yet). Words of comparison such as “like” or “as” are used in these verses to indicate that some human beings have been given the power of attorney, the authority of Elohim.

1. YHWH Is an “Elohim”

“For a great El is YHWH, and a great King above all Elohim. …
For he is our Elohim; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”

“Our Elohim,” the possessive, shows that there are other Elohim. YHWH and El are singular in this passage. YHWH is an El of the Elohim. He is one El of the group called Elohim. The phrase “all Elohim” in verse 3 is plural by virtue of the word “all” and confirmed by the LXX rendering of the Greek Old Testament. The phrase that YHWH is “our Elohim” is used as a singular. Again, this is all intentional, and it goes back and forth because this is the way God wants it to be understood.

2. Pagan Gods Are “Elohim”

“You shall fear YHWH your Elohim, and serve him, and shall swear by his name.

You shall not go after other Elohim, of the Elohim of the people which are round about you;
 
(For YHWH your Elohim is a jealous El among you) lest the anger of YHWH your Elohim be kindled against you …”

YHWH and El are singular (verses 13, 15). YHWH, an El, is of the Elohim (verse 15). In the phrase “Elohim of the people,” Elohim is plural (verse 14). The phrase “your Elohim” is used singularly (verse 13, 15).

3. Angels Are “Elohim”

“Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all you gods [Elohim in Hebrew].”

“And again, when he brings in the first-begotten [firstborn] into the world, he says, “And let all the angels of God worship him.”

Hebrews 1:6 is quoting Psalm 97:7. All angels are Elohim but not all Elohim are angels. YHWH is not an angel.

“What is man, that you are mindful of him? and the son of man, that you visit him? For you have made him a little lower than Elohim [Hebrew], and have crowned him with glory and honor.”

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.”

Once again the Greek Old Testament has “angels.” This rendering is confirmed in Hebrews 2:9 which changes “Elohim” into “angels” because the author of Hebrews had the authority to make that change. Or, perhaps he was clarifying the Hebrew text and validating the Greek Old Testament. There are occasions when the author of Hebrews totally contradicts the Hebrew Old Testament, changing the meaning radically. There are other examples of this in the epistle of Hebrews.

4. Cherubim Are “Elohim”

This is rather a unique translation to Young’s Literal Translation but it is a valid possibility as a translation. After all, if angels are Elohim, why would it be surprising to think Cherubim are also Elohim?

“You are an anointed cherub who is covering, And I have set you in the holy mount, Elohim you have been, In the midst of stones of fire you have walked up and down.

This translation makes more sense than the usual translation. See the King James Version for the majority translation and understanding of Ezekiel 28:14.

5. The Sons of God Are Elohim

Who are the mysterious Sons of God of Genesis chapter 6?

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply … That the sons of God [beni ha-Elohim] saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”

The wives that the Sons of God took, they married those women. 7 This is a different situation and a different sexual situation than what is talked about in the epistles of Peter and Jude. Peter and Jude talk about fornication. There is no fornication in Genesis 6. 8 They married these women and they bred with them successfully. Unfortunately the giants were evil, and their descendants bred multiple generations.

“There were giants [nephilim] in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

Who are these Sons of God? There are two general and common theories. 9 Both are wrong:

1.  They are men — incorrect

2.  They are angels — also incorrect

The Sons of God are Elohim, a different “class” of Elohim than angels. It is a well-populated creation that God made through Jesus Christ.

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before YHWH, and Satan came also among them.”

Satan is not a Son of God because he looks reptilian. He is not in the image or likeness of God. He is a dragon-type being. This is the description you have in the Book of Revelation (12:9). It says he came “also among them.” It does not say he was one of them.

The Sons of God had access to heaven, according to Job who wrote some time before the Exodus. That is why there is no explanation in Genesis 6 as to who the Sons of God were. No explanation was needed. The Israelite audience that Moses was writing to knew and understood who the Sons of God were because they had access to the book of Job. The Sons of God had access to heaven during the time of Job and during times before Job, even before the creation of earth.

Some here [at the One God Conference] believe that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, did not or could not exist prior to His incarnation. There were other sons of God in creation in fact, existing before the physical creation. Yet we are expected by some to believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God” did not exist prior to His incarnation or prior to His birth from Mary. It is clear from Scripture that Sons of God are not human beings, nor are they angels.

“Where were you WHEN I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding.

WHEN the morning stars sang together, and [when] all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Angels Cannot be Sons of God

These Sons of God were present before “the foundations of the earth” were laid. That is how I read that passage. These Sons of God were present, yet the Son of God” was not present, supposedly. 10

“For unto which of the angels said he at any time,
     [1] ‘You are my Son, this day have I begotten you?’ And again,
     [2] ‘I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?’”

I believe Paul wrote Hebrews (as Dr. Martin believed) and that Paul repeats in a very short amount of space the same rhetorical question which has a negative answer: “which of the angels said He?” And again, “I will be to him a Father …?” 

Conclusions from Hebrews 1:5: Angels can never be called a “son,” ever, no angel anywhere, not even the angel of the Lord. Likewise, the Son of God” is not an angel. No Sons of God are angels. That does not mean the Sons of God cannot carry messages, but they are not designated with the official title of “messenger” (malaka in Hebrew or aggelos in Greek). Likewise, angels can never call God their “father.” Finally, angels are never “begotten.” The Sons of God, however, were the gods of the nations:

“When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL. For YHWH’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his [YHWH’s] inheritance.”

This portion “according to the number of the children of Israel” does not make any sense. What does that mean? Does that mean there are only 12 nations in the world? Genesis chapter 10 there are 70 nations listed. Does that mean that the 70 people who went down into Egypt with Jacob? Is that what it is referring to? There is no correspondence anywhere else in Scripture relating “the number of the children of Israel” to the nations. Zero. Israel certainly is not qualified to rule the nations and have them as an inheritance, not now nor in the past, and certainly during the time of the Exodus, and certainly not when Deuteronomy was composed by Moses.

The correct rendering is this, and it is in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the Greek Septuagint, and in other places. It is a technical issue and frankly the Hebrew text is wrong, 11 but almost all technical scholars agree that this is the correct rendering of the text:

“When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of THE SONS OF GOD [beni ha-Elohim]. For YHWH’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.”

In other words, this is where the myths of the pagan gods of the nations came from. They were the Sons of God of Genesis chapter 6, Job chapters 1, 2, and 38:7, Psalm 29:1, Psalms 82 and 89, along with this mention in Deuteronomy 32:8. They were called the olden gods by many nations. In Greek mythology they were called the Titans. Sons of God were the “gods” [Elohim] of the nations. The Jewish historian Josephus identifies the Sons of God and the Greek Titans.

Originally YHWH parceled out and delegated one Son of God to oversee one nation. Of course they mingled, mixed, and fought. The pagan myths are so mixed up there is no way to figure out who did what to whom or when. And in the pagan myths they have the gods breeding with women, just as in Genesis chapter 6. These are not fantasy stories. This is real life, real history. Some unfortunate people had to live through those times and had to live with the offspring who were the incredibly evil giants, the nephilim. The last of them were apparently killed off in Palestine in the time of King David.

The Sons of God were the Elohim of the nations. The nations were allowed to worship the beni ha-Elohim. And the Sons of God responded to worship. They were allowed to. However, they bungled that responsibility and God punished them. Note five points made in Psalm 89 which refer to these Sons of God:

“For [1] WHO in the heaven can be compared unto YHWH? [2] WHO among the sons of the mighty [sons of Elim] can be likened unto YHWH?

El is greatly to be feared in [3] the assembly [council] of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all [4] them that are about him. O YHWH

[5] Elohim of hosts, who is a strong YAH like unto you? or to your faithfulness round about you?”

This passage mentions several different groups who are around the throne of YHWH. Together they form “the assembly of the saints [Holy Ones].” Note that there are comparisons made to YHWH. It talks about “the Sons of the Mighty,” Sons of Elim, which are the same as the beni ha-Elohim, with a use of “Elim” instead of Elohim. Technical scholars term them as either the Divine Assembly or the Divine Council. 12

In fact there are parallels in Ugaritic writings for some Bible passages, particularly Psalm 82, which are almost word for word. Some technical scholars say that Psalm 82 took the words from Ugaritic poems. It is the other way around. The biblical text informed Ugaritic. 13

Elohim of hosts, who is a strong YAH [an abbreviation of YHWH] like unto you? or to your faithfulness round about you?”

The Sons of God were among those in the divine council. Jesus Christ as the Son of God is an Elohim. Psalm 82 is a fascinating little psalm. It is 8 verses long and it is in construction what is called a rîb lawsuit in Hebrew, a divine covenant lawsuit. The people of Israel made a covenant with God. That covenant was structured in a way similar (not identical but similar) in form to the covenants that nations would make and have treaties with other nations. Some treaties related a suzerain over a subordinate. Other treaties were between equals, and other treaties were from a subordinate to a superior.

Israel’s covenant with God was from weakness. God was the superior, the suzerain. He was the king. There is no doubt about it and it was reflected in the nature of the covenant. Israel’s covenant with God can be compared with other covenants that the Assyrians made with their vassal states of Syria or other nations. The form is quite striking. When one party violates the covenant there is a format by which redress can be gained. God is constantly threatening Israel throughout the Old Testament, even up to the destruction of the northern kingdom and later the destruction of the southern kingdom, He is constantly warning them that He will invoke the punishments in Deuteronomy, if they do not shape up. He does it according to the lawsuit formula.

Psalm 82

Psalm 82 also has a rîb lawsuit format against the Sons of God. As verses 2 and 8 indicate the subject of Psalm 82 is judgment. The psalm begins with the parties at controversy listed. Then a formula is followed:

Psalm 82 does not precisely fit other covenant lawsuits compared to biblical instances and secular ancient archival documents; this Psalm is recognized as a formal judicial procedure. The word in Hebrew occurs some 62 times and denotes a controversy that requires settlement of judgment. 14

Text of Psalm 82:1–8   

Parties involved: (Psalm 82:1): Elohim stands in the congregation of El; He judges among the Elohim.

a. Complaint: (verse 2) How long will you
    judge unjustly, and
   
accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

b. Commission violated:
     (verse 3) Defend the poor and fatherless:
     do justice to the afflicted and needy.
    (verse 4) Deliver the poor and needy:
     rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 15

c. Result to people of failure:
    (verse 5) They know not,
     neither will they understand;
     they walk on in darkness.

d. Result to earth of failure:
     all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

e. Judgment/doom pronounced: (verse 6) I have said, You are Elohim;
    and all of you are children
[sons] of the most High. (verse 7) But
   
you shall die like men [like adam], and
   fall like one of the princes [like human rulers].

f.  Reassignment of covenant to another: (verse 8) Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth:
   
 for you shall inherit all nations.

The “sons of the most High” had limited sovereignty and dominion delegated to them to judge the nations under their charge justly. Psalm 82 is a Davidic Psalm. That dominion was proclaimed to be taken from them some time during David’s reign. Later, during the time of Jeremiah, the judgment of Psalm 82 was put into effect. Guess who verse 8 (“You shall inherit all nations.”) is talking about? Sovereignty is taken away from the Sons of God and then it is given to the Son of God” who is Christ.

Conclusions from Psalm 82: Verse 6: Elohim are equated with “the Sons of the Most High (Hebrew, ’elyon),” and they are being judged. 16 Verse 6: the Elohim who are those “the Sons of the Most High” can die! Elohim can die! 17 “The Sons of the Most High” are not humans (or so-called judges). 18 “The Sons of the Most High” are not angels by virtue of Hebrews 1:5, a key verse.

The Greek Old Testament mistakenly applies the term “angels” when it should not when it is talking about the Sons of God and they get mixed together. They are mixed in the Book of Enoch, they get mixed in the Book of Jubilees, they get mixed in Josephus, and in the writings of Philo. Things got so mixed up that the author of the Book of Hebrews, Paul, took it upon himself to correct the text and went against what, in some cases, the Greek Old Testament says.

John Chapter 10, Jesus Quotes Psalm 82

At the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication Jesus was asked:

“Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, ‘How long do you make us to doubt? If you be the Christ [Messiah], tell us plainly.’”

Jesus answers and refers them to His sheep and His works as testimony whether He was the Messiah.

“‘My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.’ Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works have I showed you from my Father [which they saw and acknowledged]; for which of those works do you stone me?’

The Jews answered him, saying, ‘For a good work we stone you not [admitting He did good works]; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God [Greek, theos].’”

[Jesus answered them] Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, You are gods? [citing Psalm 82:6] If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say you of him, whom the Father [1] has sanctified [makes holy], and [2] sent [sends] into the world, ‘You blaspheme’; because I said, ‘I am THE Son of God?’”

They understood there were other Sons of God. They knew exactly what He was quoting in Psalm 82:6.

“‘If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.’ Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand.”

Observations: Jesus statement that He was the Son of God” was defended by His quoting Psalm 82, He was referring to all of it. 19 Jesus’ reference to the “gods” meant “the Sons of the Most High” in Psalm 82:6. The Jews understood this. Jesus identifies Himself with the Elohim in Psalm 82:8! Jesus was saying that He was to be given all the authority taken from the other Sons by God the Father. This is the reason they sought to stone Him. Compare these verses:

“Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth: for you shall inherit all nations [goyim, the nations].”

“Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen [goyim, the nations] for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”

“The seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ [Messiah]; and he shall reign for ever and ever [eons of the eons].’”

The Book of Hebrews

“God, … has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,

[1] whom he has appointed heir of all things [cf., Psalm 82:8],
[2] by [through] whom also he made the worlds [eons];
[3] Who being the brightness of his glory, and
[4] [being] the express image of his person, and
[5] upholding all things by the word of his power,

when he [the Son] had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Being made so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance [allotment 20 ] obtained a more excellent name than they.”

Here is the sequence of events: God took away the inheritance from the Sons of God in Psalm 82:8. He did not assign it to Jesus Christ right away. It was not given to him until later, as it says in Hebrews. Who was running things in the meantime? The Prince of Persia, the Prince of Grecia, other angels, the King of Tyre (a cherub). You see this reflected in the pagan writings. The lesser gods did not respond like the older gods did, like the ancient gods did who went away about 600 B.C.E. using our timeframe. There is a radical shift in history and religion during the time of Jeremiah. 21

“See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

This involved everything and all nations in the world. At that time those Sons of God had their sovereignty taken away and the pronouncement of Psalm 82:8, which was announced in the time of David, was enforced. God gave them quite a long waiting period before He enacted the punishment. Like most, if God delays judgment they think nothing will happen. Israel did, Judah did, probably so did the Sons of God. There are accounts, which I will not go into here, where there are distinctions between the idols which are seized and the gods, the Elohim, who are taken captive. Does that mean that if they are going to die like men then they are limited to the physical? Maybe. Maybe they were stuck in the physical realm and they cannot get out of it, and that they are subject to death. God pronounced their death in Psalm 82:6. They have to die somehow. It does not mean God will just zap them. What does it mean for an Elohim to die?

“Being made so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance [allotment] obtained a more excellent name than they. 22 For unto which of the angels said he at any time,

     [6] You are my Son, this day have I begotten you?” And again,
     [7] I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

Jesus as the Son of God

Jesus was a Son of God, but more importantly He was the Son of God (with the definite article).

“But unto the Son he says,

                ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever [the eon of the eon]: a
                sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom.

      You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God,
      even your God, have anointed you with the oil of gladness above your
      fellows.’”

The author of Hebrews is talking about the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and in verse 8 he calls the Son “God” (using the common term Greek for God, theos). Let us look at Psalm 45:6–7 (cited in Hebrews 1:8–9):

“Your throne, O Elohim, is for ever and ever [olam and beyond]: the sceptre of your kingdom is a right sceptre.

You love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore Elohim, your Elohim, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.”

Observations:

Henotheism

What then is the true characterization of the Godhead? Martin P. Nilsson, in his article “The High God and the Mediator” 24 talks about henotheism, quoting a passage from a pagan Greek philosopher, Maximus of Tyre who wrote in 2nd century C.E. several decades after New Testament times:

“In spite of all the dissension (on other matters), one finds in the whole world a unanimous opinion and doctrine that

    there is one God, the king and father of everything,
     and many gods, who are the co-regents of God.

So says the Greek, so says the barbarian.”

You also get this concept in the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo, and you get this somewhat in Josephus. This is not unique idea in ancient times. So then, what or who are Elohim? Once again, going through the list:

  1. YHWH is an Elohim (Psalm 95:3, 7)
  2. Pagan gods are Elohim (Deuteronomy 6:14)
  3. Angels are Elohim (Psalm 8:4–5, Hebrews 2:9)
  4. Cherubim are Elohim (Ezekiel 28:14)
  5. Sons of God are Elohim (Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7; Psalms 82, 89)
  6. Jesus Christ as the Son of God is an Elohim (Hebrews 1:8–10, Psalm 45:6–7)

Human beings are never identified as Elohim in the Old Testament, but they are given authority of Elohim, i.e. Moses (Exodus 7:1), and there are comparisons made using “as” or “like” Elohim.

Let us define then the terms of the various concepts about God:

  1. Monotheism“The doctrine or belief that there is only one God.”
     
  2. Polytheism“The worship of, or belief in, more than one god.”
     
  3. Henotheism“Belief in [worship of] one god without denying the existence of others.”

Henotheism is exactly what Israel was commanded to do, worship YHWH alone while acknowledging that other gods existed. Look at the example of Solomon. Solomon had no problems until he started worshipping the foreign gods and building temples for them (see 1 Kings 11:1–40). He had no problems at all until that time. He could acknowledge the other gods as the Phoenicians. Israel always acknowledged YHWH, even when they built the golden calf to represent the “gods” that brought them out of Egypt (Exodus chapter 32). This also shows that Israel knew there were gods other than YHWH. It was all right for Israel to acknowledge that other gods existed, but they were only to worship YHWH and no other gods. That is what they were commanded to do by God and Moses.

Henotheism in my view describes best the biblical reality, but all such terms have a limited application including binitarianism, because they are all non-biblical. Of course, YHWH is not a trinity, nor is God the Father part of a trinity!

Dixon Cartwright, 26 when I spoke with him a while back, tried to put labels on me, and he said, are you this or are you that? I said, well, I believe YHWH is one God the Father, and there is one Lord Jesus Christ. That would make me a monotheist. There are other Elohim that I understand are out there and are real gods (small “g”), but they are Elohim. That would make me a polytheist. I would only worship one God, yet I acknowledge the existence of other gods, that would make me a Henotheist. You can call me what you like: a monotheist, a polytheist, a henotheist, a binitarian, just don’t call me late for lunch. I would take offense at that.

David Sielaff, October 2007

This article is Part 1 of the written form of the lecture I delivered on June 9, 2007 at the One God Conference in Albany, New York. It continues on directly from Part 2 located on the ASK website at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d071015.htm. I want to encourage you to also read the “October 2007 Newsletter Part 2” (http://www.askelm.com/newsletter/l20071018.htm) which both introduces PART 2 and provides additional background information.


1 Note another example, Joshua 22:22 where the phrase “El of Elohim” is used. The “El” is singular of the plural Elohim. Once this concept is understood then much of the Old Testament doctrine about God begins to clear up and make perfectly good sense.

2 Here Elohim is used as a singular, yet other peoples and nations other than Israel have different Elohim.

3 If other Elohim did not ontologically exist, if they were not real beings, then why would YHWH get upset about Israel worshipping fantasies? Why would God care about nonexistent beings? He could explain to Israel that these gods are not real and do not exist. But, if other Elohim did exist (and they do exist), then there is a real reason that God warns Israel and even the ekklesia against idolatry. First Corinthians 10:14 and 1 John 5:21 are just two New Testament examples.

4 The term “United States” is a collective noun (like Elohim). British author Christopher Hitchens notes the following about the use of “United States” as a compound noun gives an explanation:

“President Madison’s words on this occasion could scarcely be bettered: ‘It is a settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute. The United States, while they wish for war with no nation, [they] will buy peace with none.’ [Then Hitchens comments:] (The expression ‘the United States is’ [as a singular] did not come into usage until after Gettysburg.)”

“Unlike the great States of Europe and Asia and many of those of America, these United States are wasting their strength neither in foreign war nor domestic strife.”

These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions.”

5 I differ with the majority view: “Contrary to Greek and many Western languages, compound nouns are not characteristic of Hebrew. The Hebrew plural is formed by adding -im to masculine nouns (seraphim, cherubim), and modifying the feminine ending to –oth. See Walter Elwell, ed., Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), S., p. 334. Elsewhere this Encyclopedia indicates that Elohim, although plural in form is singular. This is definitionally characteristic of a compound noun according to usage.

6 It is frustrating that most English translations render the important and basic titles for God by terms that obscure their full meaning for the reader. This is done by using different type faces, or styles, or capitalizations to somehow “distinguish” the titles for God. For example, consider the use of LORD (YHWH) and Lord (Adonay) in Psalm 110:1 as one example in the King James Version. If translators would simply use the transliterated terms YHWH (or Yahweh), El, Elohim, Elohi, Eloah, and Elim then the use and familiarity of those terms would reinforce their meaning in context. This applies to the Old Testament only.

7 The Sons of God “saw” and “took” (Genesis 6:2) the women just like Eve, the first woman, “saw” the tree and “took” fruit from it in Genesis 3:6.

8 Nor is there any indication anywhere in Scripture of this incident being a matter of fornication. 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 are talking about angels, not Sons of God. The incidents are completely different.

9 See Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32 and the Sons of God” in Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (January 01), pp. 52–74. This article is available online at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/05-Deuteronomy/Text/Articles/Heiser-Deut32-BS.htm, and on Dr. Heiser’s website (see note below).

10 While both angels and Sons of God are Elohim, Scripture distinguishes each from each other.

11 For a thorough analysis of the textual issues of this passage and its implication, see the works of Dr. Michael S. Heiser regarding the Divine Council of YHWH at http://www.thedivinecouncil.com. See particularly the explanation in his article “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God” at note 9 above.

12 Begin with E. Theodore Mullen, Jr., The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986). Other aspects of the Divine Council can be found in Michael Heiser’s “Divine Council 101: Lesson 2: The elohim of Psalm 82 – gods or men?” at http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/. Go there for a full list of the major technical sources.

13 This is due to a misdating of the Ugaritic history and archival documents. Note the close similarity of terms and concepts:

Psalm 82:2

Ugaritic CTA 16. VI. 45–54 spoken to Kirta

2 How long will you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the
     wicked? Selah.

You do not judge the case of the widow,
Nor do you judge the case of the wretched.

3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and
     needy.

You do not drive out the oppressor of the poor!
You do not feed the orphan before you, Nor the

4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

   widow behind you.

5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in
   darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

You have become a companion of the sick-bed,
You have become a friend of the bed of sickness!
Descend from the kingship that I might reign,

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for you shall inherit all nations.”

From your dominion that I might sit enthroned over it!

    Translation in Mullen, Divine Council, p. 235. In Ugarit Kirta is the son of Ilu, the equivalent of El, the chief god. “the offspring of the Gracious and Holy One. Do gods die? [yes], Does the offspring of the Gracious One not live? [yes] in William W. Hallo, K. Lawson Younger, et al., The Context of Scripture. Leiden;  New York: Brill, 1997, S. 339.

“The concept of the divine council, or the assembly of the gods, was a common religious motif in the cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Canaan, Phoenicia, and Israel.”

14 For background on God’s covenant lawsuits against Israel (there were several), see J. Carl Laney, “The Role of the Prophets in God’s Case against Israel” in Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 138. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1981; 2002, S. 138:313–324. “The most vivid depiction of the pronouncement of judgment within the assembly itself is found in Psalm 82” (Mullen, Divine Council, p. 228). Covenants had penalties which were adjudicated in a formalized manner. Psalm 82 is a “courtroom scene” of judgment against violators of a covenant between YHWH and some (probably most) of His sons. See the information and sources in my article “Idolatry and God’s Punishment” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d070301.htm

15 This is what all judges are supposed to do, but in Old Testament times there was a format and a formula for redress. God as King is talking to these violators, these unjust judges. The result to the people as a result of the failure in part c. above. The violators were to do justice for those that were subordinate and in their charge. The result is in part d. above.

16 The phrase “Most High” and “adam” are distinguished from each other in Deuteronomy 32:8, which together with Psalm 82:6, together show that the “sons” cannot be humans.

17 This at first seems shocking, but Jesus Christ was an Elohim before His incarnation. He could and did die. Only He has been resurrected.

18 Clearly Israel lived in a death cult society. Death was all around. To placate God at Israel’s cult they had to sacrifice and kill animals all the time as substitute for their own death. They knew that everything died. There is no way that a human judge in Israel would think that he could not die and that God needs to come along and pronounce a death sentence on a human being.

19 Understand that in the Book of Hebrews and in much of the New Testament when a verse is cited it refers to the larger context containing that verse. There is an old joke about comedians who sit around and just speak punch lines of jokes. People listening did not know what they are laughing about. One comedian would say a punch line and all the other comedians would laugh and laugh because they all knew the story leading up to the punch line. Likewise the Scribes, the Pharisees, and even the common people in the Temple knew exactly what Jesus was referring to. He quoted a particular portion but He was referring to all of Psalm 82. By saying “You are gods,” Jesus identified Himself with the Sons of the Most High. He could do this as “the only begotten Son of God.” He was different. He was totally unique. He was “begotten.” The other Sons were not.

20 Which God assigned and gave to Him in Psalm 82:8.

21 See Dr. Martin’s article “Prophetic Birth of Our Civilization” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p020701.htm.

22 What allotment? The inheritance allotment of Psalm 82:8. What name was given to Him? What is the “more excellent name” that He has than angels?

23 The problem is this: beings called the Sons of God did exist before the creation of God. This is undeniable from Job 38:7. Many proponents of the One God concept hold that Jesus did not exist until His incarnation. If the Sons of God were created, lived, were punished, and were gone and dead some 500 years before Jesus was incarnated, then who are the “fellows” referred to in Psalm 45:7 and Hebrews 1:9? Angels cannot be those “fellows” because angels are not Sons as shown by Hebrews 1:5. They are not on His level. He is far, far above them. The purpose of Hebrews chapters 1 and 2 is to distinguish the Son from angels.

24 Harvard Theological Review 56/2 (1963), p. 106.

25 Occasionally the pagan philosophers understood the true nature of the Godhead, although we should not go to them for information. Whether they are informed by the Old Testament (as Christian historian Eusebius believed) or by observation of nature, as the apostle Paul speaks about in Romans chapter 1, cannot be determined.

26 Editor and publisher of The Journal, News of the Churches of God (www.thejournal.org).

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