Just What Is God?
To ask the question “What is God?” seems to depersonalize the concept that most people feel defines “God.” This is true. However, the Bible looks upon the Father and Christ as distinct personalities and use of the terms “Father” and “Brother” make this clear. (The New Testament shows that Christ is our Elder Brother). But if we ask, “What is God?" this allows us momentarily to redirect our concept of defining “God” as a personality. It will permit us to arrive at a fuller meaning of the Godhead as shown in the Holy Scriptures. So, we begin our search by asking “What is God?”
Let us look at the Old Testament Hebrew word Elohim itself to find out what that term really means. First of all, Elohim is clearly a plural word. The two terminal letters “im” make the word to be plural. Etymologically, the word Elohim is derived from the Hebrew words “El” and “Eloah” which are singular words that signify what we in English call “Strong,” “Mighty” or “Power.” 1 Since Elohim is plural, the simple meaning of Elohim is “Powers” or “Powerful Ones.” However, we will see that when Elohim is governed by a singular verb (which occurs often in Scripture), the stress coalesces the plural meaning into a singular understanding (but still with plural significance).
The plural is fused into meaning a singular “Group of Powers” or, worded differently, a “Congregation of Powers.” This single “Group” or “Congregation” can easily take a singular verb. Note that the English words “Group,” “Congregation”, and “Assembly” (Greek: Ekklesia) need singular verbs to modify them, while the words themselves have the significance of plurality inherent in their meanings. Thus, when Elohim is governed by singular verbs, it means a “Group of Powerful Beings” united as ONE entity. But if a plural verb is used with Elohim, then Elohim returns to its simple plural meaning and signifies “Powers” or “Powerful Ones.”
When the singular verb is used, it tends to “institutionalize” the significance of Elohim. This institutionalizing of “God” is found in the use of Elohim in Exodus 6:7 (note the use of the first “God” in this verse): “I will be to you a God: and you shall know that I am the Lord [YHVH] your God.” This emphasis makes the first use of “God” in the verse as denoting a “Thing,” not a personality alone. It focuses its meaning into being a “What” rather than a “Who.” The Hebrew of this verse is clearer in showing this.
The English “God” is translated from the Hebrew word Elohim. No matter what we have been taught over the years about the singularity of God, the word Elohim is a simple plural. If we wish to use the English word “God” as its translation, we must (to be grammatically harmonious and consistent) place the letter “s” on our word “God” throughout the Hebrew scriptures. It makes no difference if some theologians object to this plural usage, the “s” should be attached to the translated English word “God” if it translates the Hebrew word Elohim. It is grammatically correct to do this no matter what the theological objection. True enough, the word Elohim most often takes a singular verb to modify it, but it still must be understood (grammatically) as a plural word. Using a singular verb with a plural noun may seem like a contradiction, but it is not. In the Hebrew, when Elohim is kept plural with a singular verb, it makes a “what” out of the word and not a “who.”
Many modern examples in English show the legitimacy of this conclusion. Look at the following statement: “Since the end of the Cold War, the United States is the singular world power on earth.” This clause makes perfectly good sense to anyone reading it today. Of course, the United States is a “What.” It is not a “Who,” though it is made up of a multitude of human beings. The United States is not considered a personality. It is an institution, a political power governed by human beings who are its citizens. Its grammatical usage is very similar to that of Elohim when governed by singular verbs. Note that though the United States is plural in form, it is a single power, not a multiplicity of states acting independently in foreign affairs, and it normally takes a singular verb to describe its actions.
In fact, we in the world today know of ONE United States of America and no other. Likewise, “God” is described in the same way as being the ONE “God” and no other. And like the word “God,” the USA is also one state made up of many individual states of lesser rank. This usage is similar to what Jewish theologians call the Shema statement of their faith in the oneness of God as recorded in the Law of Moses. The Shema is supposed to be the heart and core of Judaism. It defines the fervent declaration of their belief in the unity and the singularity of God as defined in the Bible. It is what Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 6:4–5. It reads,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord [YHVH] our God [Elohim] is ONE Lord [YHVH]: And thou shalt love the Lord [YHVH] thy God [Elohim] with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
This statement is clear enough except in one major point. The English word “God” in the above two verses was not understood correctly by the King James translators because the Hebrew word Elohim is plural and if one wishes to retain the English word “God” one must put an “s” on “God” each time it is used. By stating this, I would normally be subjected to ridicule by those who read and use the Hebrew language because it is evident that in the great majority of cases Elohim, though plural in grammatical construction, is governed by singular verbs and must be understood in a singular manner. Yes, but still I state dogmatically that the only way to make sense out of the Hebrew in regard to understanding the Godhead is to put the letter “s” on the end of every word translated “God” in the English language if the Hebrew word is Elohim.
Again, note this. We know the “United States” is plural in rendering, but we still use a singular verb to modify it. If we do this with Elohim (plural) in the same manner, things will begin to make sense. True, by keeping Elohim plural (as it actually is in the Bible), we would ordinarily recognize a major disharmony in normal English renderings. It is contrary to our basic understanding of grammar when the plurality of a noun does not agree with a singularity of a verb. This clanging disharmony in sound and usage may disturb our concept of balance and agreement in using our English laws of language. But it need not be that way. Notice again how grammatically harmonious it is in English to say, “The United States IS located in the Western Hemisphere.” That is NOT a cacophonic statement inharmoniously clanging to our ears.
In similar fashion, Elohim (as a plural) was not discordant to the early Hebrews when a singular verb was used to modify the word. To the early Hebrews there was often a concordant consistency and harmony in letting Elohim (plural) be governed by singular verbs. It is just this grammatical feature of the Hebrew language that provides us with an understanding of “What” the Godhead really is, and by deduction we can learn “Who” the Godhead are as far as its personalities are concerned. This is so important to understand that I do not apologize for being repetitious.
In Elohim, there is not the slightest disharmony with using a plural noun governed by a singular verb. Now note this. Use of the plural with a singular verb “institutionalizes” the word and places the emphasis outside the grammatical environment of signifying personalities. The usage could easily describe a plurality of offices or ranks that a person may hold within an institution. Indeed, we find the Hebrew word Adonai as a plural means “Lords” or “Masters” showing a singular person having a plurality of ranks. 2 I will discuss the use of Adonai as a plural word later in this chapter. The fact is, the plurality of the Godhead is everywhere shown in the Holy Scriptures. It is a cardinal doctrine of God.
But for now, look again at the Shema declaration found in Deuteronomy 6:4. If one puts an “s” on the end of the words translated “God,” those words obviously become “Gods” (plural). There is no verb “is” in the original of the Shema statement. (Note that “is” in the KJV is italicized, showing there is no written verb in the original Hebrew.) Still, we recognize (correctly) that a singular verb can be used in the Shema statement because the very text itself says that Elohim (“Gods” plural) is ONE. This cardinal point emphasizes the singularity of the plural word Elohim. But how can a plural word have singular attributes buttressed by the use of the Hebrew word “ONE” that governs the clause? It may seem strange that “ONE” can be MANY, but it can.
There is not the slightest argument that the verb connecting Elohim with “one” should be the singular “is.” But the plural noun with a singular verb makes a “What” into a “Thing” out of the plural word “Elohim.” It institutionalizes the word “Gods” much like we reckon the “United States” as a plural in form while we understand it as a single institution. The singular, on the other hand, emphasizes the “group” rather than the individuals of the “group.” “The United States is committed to supply troops to NATO,” is a perfectly good sentence that is not grammatically discordant to English speaking people.
The same is the case with the Hebrew Elohim that English translators most often translate as “God” (singular). But we need to return to the original Hebrew manner of using Elohim, and should always keep it plural (or, understand it as a plural). This means that Elohim should be translated as “Gods” (or something similar) and recognized as a plural in the same way we in English use our political term “United States.” Pluralizing the word has the effect of “institutionalizing” its meaning, which can then be governed by a singular verb. When this is done, we can use a perfectly good English word to describe the Deity.
What word? There is an English word that is better than our word “God” or “Gods” that can denote an exact equivalent of Elohim, and it also means an institution — a “Group of Powerful Ones.” That word is “Headquarters,” a word connected with the idea of “power” the same as Elohim is associated in Hebrew with “power.” Though the word “Headquarters” is plural, the headquarters of an army (and even the headquarters of a corporation in the business world) are most often used in the singular sense. Usually there is only ONE “headquarters” (that is, ONE power center) normally made up of a commanding officer or a chief executive with lieutenants under him who manage a staff with associated offices all under the top leadership. And so it is with Elohim. The word denotes a heavenly “Headquarters” with God the Father as the head, but with lieutenants (other officers called “Sons of God”) and a staff (various angels) under Him who comprise the singular institution. God the Father is chief in command and under Him is His Firstborn Son, Christ Jesus.
This “Headquarters” can even be personified as a “he” (as it would be in Hebrew) if the commanding officer or an inferior officer representing the top authority is the person being discussed in the context. Our English word “Headquarters” (a power center) is what the word Elohim actually signifies when considered in many biblical texts. When we speak of “Headquarters” we normally do NOT think of the physical buildings with the actual rooms that contain the various offices, physical furniture, and the office machines. No, by “Headquarters” we almost always think of the personnel, the individuals, who make up the top command — from the commanding executive officer on down through the complete staff who comprise all the personnel of “Headquarters.”
So it is with Elohim. It has the meaning of “Headquarters” (a center of Powerful Ones). The word Elohim signifies the combined group (an Ekklesia or assembly of powers). Those individual powers are the powerful Father, the powerful firstborn Son and all their powerful staff in the various offices and ranks which they hold at Headquarters. Elohim is a word indicating those plural offices or ranks at the single Headquarters in heaven. This Headquarters as a single authority has the legal right to act, even in unison, as a creator. As a matter of fact, “Headquarters” (Elohim) can be reckoned as the creator itself. Look at Genesis 1:1. The verse could be rendered, “In the beginning, Headquarters created the heavens and the earth” — one must understand this as the Divine Headquarters in heaven doing the creating with the Father, the “Sons of God” and other staff helping Christ.
Similar to “Headquarters,” the word “Elohim” (plural) could also mean Deity or Divinity, or the Divine as a group. This Divinity group when it creates is made up of “Creators” who act in unison. And though we are told by the apostle Paul that the chief executive in charge of the creation was the firstborn Son, Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:15–19; Hebrews 1:2, 10), Paul shows that Christ did this under the authority of the Father with many helpers. 3 Indeed, Solomon in the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes 12:1 shows that the human race was made by “Creators” (plural). In Hebrew, the Creators are always reckoned to be Elohim. This is why the plurality of the word should be retained in regard to the Godhead (the Divinity). This rendering is why our English plural “Headquarters” (that is, a Power center with a plural emphasis) is an accurate and useful meaning of Elohim (Powers or Powerful Ones).
Since the Hebrew Elohim is a clear plural, it is better to retain the plural rendering in all our English translations. Thus, the plural word “Headquarters” could be accepted as an English equivalent of the Hebrew Elohim that makes sense. And to further buttress this suggestion, even the word Adonai, which means “Lord” or “Master,” is often used in the plural while its emphasis is to a single entity (e.g. Genesis 42:30, 33; Isaiah 22:18; 51:22; Ezra 10:3; Malachi 1:6). In the case of Adonai being plural, the scholars state this means a plurality of rank — one or more persons having several offices and ranks that he or they hold. This is like the President of the United States who is the top person at the “Headquarters” of the executive branch of government. Though there are individual cabinet officers in Washington, D.C. who actually head the several branches of executive government, the President is technically the chief officer over them all. He is the one who wears “all the caps” of headship. In Hebrew, the President would be called the “Lords” (plural) of those various offices. So “Headquarters” comprises all those offices as does Elohim and the plural of Adonai.
There is more. The word Elohim and the plural of Adonai are not the only plural words designating the Godhead in Scripture. As I have already mentioned, we are told of the “Creators” of humans on earth (Ecclesiastes 12:1, see Hebrew). But even the patriarch Job called his creator “my Makers” (Job 35:10, plural in Hebrew). In Isaiah 54:5 the words “Maker” and “Husband” referring to God are both in the plural. And this plural usage is reflected in Isaiah 6:8 where the Lord said to Isaiah, “whom shall I send, and who will go FOR US.” There is also Genesis 1:26: “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.” Even the word “make” in Genesis 1:26 is a plural verb. And remember Genesis 11:7 where Elohim says, “Let US go down and confound their language.” These plural forms are placed in the Bible in a plain way to emphasize the plurality of the Godhead (a Divine Group of Powerful Personalities). And remember, Genesis 1:26–27 states that the plural “Godhead” includes members that are both males and females. The “female” aspect of the Godhead is emphasized along with the “male” in the first chapter of Genesis, and we are told by the apostle Paul that there are “Sons” and “Daughters” of God (2 Corinthians 6:18).
So the Godhead in the Hebrew language is filled with plural significance, and not limited to three personalities as the false Trinity doctrine teaches. We in English have little difficulty with such plural/singular concepts when we view the United States as a single political state (as an institution) in foreign affairs with other nations. The United States of America is a single political state in the way foreigners look at us from their external point of view, but internally we are made up of 50 individual states when reckoned in the domestic sense. Now, rephrasing the Shema statement as an example for illustration, one might say: “Hear, O World, the United States is ONE state.” All political scientists would recognize instantly the validity and propriety of such a sentence. In the case of the United States, even the word “one” associated with it (to show it is a single political state) still includes the plurality of the 50 separate states that make up the single state known as the United States. This usage is used in the word “ONE” (Hebrew: echad) found in the Shema declaration. So, it is quite common to think of “one” as “many.”
The Hebrew word “one” can actually carry the meaning of more than “one” (a single person). Note carefully when Adam was married to Eve, they became “ONE flesh” (echad), though they represented two separate personalities (Genesis 2:24). But the Hebrew word echad is more expansive in the plural meaning than that. When the Lord (YHVH) went down from heaven to view the people of the earth building the Tower of Babel, He said, “Go to, let US go down, and there confound their language” (Genesis 11:7). Then notice what happened. God, as Commander in Chief of Supreme Headquarters in heaven, because all the people who lived in the world at the time had been rebellious to the Godhead, said, “Let US go down. ... for the people is ONE [echad], and they have all ONE language” (verses 11:6). This usage is well known in the Holy Scriptures.
The word “ONE” [echad] is very expansive in its meaning. Its usage includes all people on earth within a single unit. This biblical use of the word “ONE ” included all female members of humanity as well as all the males. They were all reckoned as ONE [echad]. That’s right! All the people at the Tower of Babel were simply and plainly ONE [echad]. They were united as ONE society. And indeed, in the very same manner, the Godhead is represented as “ONE ,” and there is not an iota of difference in the meaning of the words. This is similar to the United States (plural) being ONE country (singular) with all 50 states representing ONE entity.
So also the plural Elohim refers to ONE Godhead made up of many individuals (the Father, the Firstborn Son, and other “Sons of God,” along with female members, see Proverbs 8:22–31), and the apostle John included spirit-filled humans in it (1 John 3:1–2). Altogether, the Divine Group of individuals represents the ONE divine Headquarters called the Family of God (with both males and females in it). Because males govern in the Family apparatus the most, we seldom hear of the female side of the Godhead, but it is there as sure as the male side (2 Corinthians 6:18).
This oneness in plurality is even shown in the Shema statement. It states emphatically that Elohim is ONE [echad]. But we should recognize that the Hebrew word echad can mean two people who are married and reckoned as ONE flesh or the word can embrace the whole of the human race, depending on the context in which it occurs.
The same usage is found in the Greek of the New Testament. The apostle Paul applied the same usage for “ONE” and referred it to the whole of the Ekklesia (wrongly translated the church) in Ephesians 5:31. Paul used the same term (“ONE”) and said that as Adam and Eve became ONE flesh, so Christ has become ONE flesh with a group of people whom He identified as the Ekklesia. He said this group represents ONE Body made up of many members (1 Corinthians 12:12–27, 30).
“For as the Body is ONE, and hath MANY members, and all the members of that one Body, being MANY, are ONE Body: so also is Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12
“The Body is not one member, but MANY” (verse 14).
“Now are they MANY members, yet but ONE Body” (verse 20).
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (verse 27).
I have emphasized the word “ONE” for a reason. In the Bible ONE can mean MANY:
“For as we have MANY members in ONE Body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being MANY, are ONE Body in Christ.”
Never forget! All of us are members of ONE Body because all of us are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14). But Christ is also in the Father. This means we are also in the Father because Christ said, “I and the Father are ONE” (John 10:30). This indicates in the theological terms of the Bible that ONE can be reckoned as TWO when the Father and Christ are unified in purpose. But it goes further than that. Christ said in His prayer to the Father that all people on earth are given to Christ by the Father and they are also ONE with Him as Christ is ONE with the Father.
“Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one as we are [ONE].”
And since we Christians as a group (being members of the singular Body of Christ) are now ONE with the Father, then the word “ONE” embraces all of us within its meaning (and also within the Shema statement). Indeed, all members of the Ekklesia are called the single “Body of Christ.” This “Body” is like “Elohim,” a plural significance in a singular form. Indeed, the New Testament term Ekklesia can apply to the Hebrew Elohim as meaning a plurality of powers. It is unusual in the Bible to find it otherwise. Thus, the Hebrew word for “monotheism” (one-God) means a plurality of beings.
There is still more. A modern word for “Body” is “Corporation.” Our English word “corporation” is derived from the Latin word “body.” But no one conceives of a corporation being made up of one person. In the business world a corporation usually denotes a vast number of people governed by a Headquarters, and like Elohim it can take a singular or a plural verb. We could say that the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) is a large institution, or as it is quite common in Britain to say, “the BBC are a large corporation.” And so it is with Elohim, or with the “Body of Christ” (which could be legitimately rendered as being the “Corporation of Christ”). Many members make up that ONE “Body” or that ONE “Corporation.” And recall, the “Body of Christ” is ONE Body. This is why the word “ONE” in the Shema declaration can also include a vast multitude of individuals who comprise the ONE Family who governs the universe. The apostle John made it clear that we, even though we are still in our human flesh during this age, are presently reckoned as the Children of God — actual born children!
“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God [the Greek means “children of God” here]. ... NOW ARE WE THE SONS OF GOD [“children of God”], and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:1–2
The reason Christ Jesus came into this world to die on the tree of crucifixion and to be resurrected from the dead was to provide the entire human race with our divine destiny. That destiny is to be the children of God and brothers of Christ. The apostle Paul made this doctrine a cardinal one to him.
“We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he by the grace of God should taste death for EVERY MAN [all men died]. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of ONE: for which cause he [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them BRETHREN [BROTHERS], saying, ‘I will declare your [GOD’S] name UNTO MY BRETHREN [BROTHERS]’.”
The apostle Paul says in the above verse that “all things” were made FOR Christ and that “all things” were made BY Christ. Paul also said that we are all ONE in the Father and in Christ, and we are “brothers” of Christ. Being called “brothers” means we are all of the same Family. It is a divine Family made up of all the children of God the Father, with Christ being our Elder Brother. And in Christ, Paul said we “ARE ALL OF ONE.” All of us make up ONE Body and ONE Family. We (plural) all make up the ONE monotheistic Family of God. And females are as much a part of that divine family as males. Paul said we are all “sons and daughters” of God the Father (2 Corinthians 6:18). And since Paul taught that all Christians are collectively in the ONE Body of Christ, called the Ekklesia (1 Corinthians 12:12), and that we all are acknowledged as being seated together in Christ who as a singular person sits at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1), then we Christians are also reckoned as EQUALLY sitting on the Father’s right side.
“But we are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Ekklesia [a divine group] of the firstborn [Greek: FIRSTBORN ONES, plural], which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.”
Christians are acknowledged as having their names written in a manner denoting our membership in the heavenly Ekklesia, of which the earthly Ekklesia is a type and we are acknowledged as firstborn ones. And in the resurrection we will be able to meet personally with the spirits of just men made perfect. These will be other deified individuals. Indeed, all mankind (who were made FOR and BY Christ) are destined to become the very children of God the Father through no works of their own, but through the grace and works of Jesus Christ (His life, death and resurrection).
So, “Just What Is God?” Elohim is the ONE divine Family to which all of us belong and into which we will be born at our resurrections from the dead. All of us of the human race have a glorious future awaiting us. We are all destined in Christ Jesus to partake of the Godhead (divine Headquarters of the universe) and be members of that ONE Family for the rest of eternity. This is not “New Age” teaching. It is “Old Age” doctrine that comes directly from the plain statements of the Holy Scriptures. It is the truth of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. What the so-called “New Agers” have done is to take a central truth of the Scripture and color it with the errors of eastern pagan mysticism. And true enough, we are not only to become “Gods” (deified) in the very Family of God, but we are already acknowledged as members of that Family in our present human existence (1 John 3:1–2). This doctrine of the Deification of the human race did NOT originate with the “New Agers.” It comes directly from the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
1 Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, pp. 42–44. ELM.
2 Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 11, Col. A, #147. ELM.
3 Read Psalm 103 starting with verse 19 and the first 24 verses of the next Psalm (104) — which has a long single context on the subject of creation. ELM.
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