The common English name for the Deity is God, which in these days,
is sometimes erroneously derived from good to describe His
beneficence. Its real derivation seems lost in antiquity. It is
significant, however, that the languages of inspiration, though
they have many different appellations, do not call Him by this
attribute. Indeed, in English, we do not think of His goodness by
this term, unless our attention is directed to this supposed
derivation. We think of His deity, His creatorship, His supremacy,
His godhood. As our conception of its meaning has been molded by
constant contact with His inspired revelation, it has become
adjusted to the function it performs. One of the divine titles of
the original certainly should be translated "God." This name
should represent Elohim.
The problem of finding acceptable names and titles for the
Deity, to correspond with those used in the original Scriptures,
has usually been a difficult and perplexing one, especially among
idolatrous nations where such terms are used for false divinities.
In Chinese this has led to much discussion. In English it should
not be so trying a task as it seems, for we have several terms
which are not used in the Bible, which have close equivalents in
the Hebrew. Is it not strange that no mention of the "Deity"
occurs in Holy Writ? Yet I am quite sure that one Hebrew title,
Al El, has no closer English equivalent. So with the
"Supreme," which is a perfect rendering of Oliun, ON, upper,
In order to arrive at a satisfactory reason for the use of
the plural form we must understand the meaning of Elohim, or
Aleim, as it is in the ancient, unpointed Hebrew. It is only in
certain relations that this idiom was used. In invoking the aid of
a superior, or when subjects addressed their king, the plural was
deemed a mark of respect. Is there anything in the name to suggest
such a relation? An analysis of the title, and a study of the
family of words to which it belongs, will show that Elohim means
the Invoked, the Deity to Whom all mankind instinctively appeals
for aid in moments of stress, irrespective of race, language, or
religion. This being so, the idiom is in perfect accord with the
custom of the people and the usage of the language.
One of the most difficult of the Hebrew roots is al
(usually translated el). Yet it is also one of the most vital,
for from it several of the divine titles are derived. From it
comes that greatest of all names, Elohim (literally
transliterated Aleim), which our translators render "God." Our
first task is to fix the essential meaning of this root. We must
find some idea which is common to all the words which are derived
from it. At first this seems impossible, for it is hid in such
diverse terms as no, neither, nay, not, nor, God, power, great,
mighty, these, unto, with, against, at, upon, on, before, after,
among, because, of, through, beside, out of, touching, toward,
near, about, for, whether, according, concerning, that, by, hath,
where, within, over, both, and, etc., in the A.V. With a slight
addition it makes curse, swear, adjure, oath, execration, oak,
teil tree, elm, etc.
If we study the translations we will be bewildered. It is
only as we reduce each group of occurrences to a concordant basis
that light dawns. This confines the various renderings to the
names of the Deity, the connective to, the pronoun these, the
verb invoke, adjure, the nouns adjuration or execration and oak tree. The negative terms
belong to another root, and need not be considered.
First, fixing our attention on the oft-recurring connective
to al, and the pronoun these al, we see that they have the
common idea which may be expressed by the word DISPOSE. To and
these indicate the direction or disposition. "The waters are
flowing together to one place" (+Gen.1:9) disposes of the waters.
"These are the generations" (+Gen.2:4) places the generations.
This is the underlying thought. Hence the divine title Al, which
is exactly the same in form, brings before us the great
Disposer. This is notably confirmed by the Greek equivalent,
Theos, which comes from the, PLACE, and signifies the
This meaning is most appropriate to many of its occurrences.
This is the title which is used in the appellation Al Shaddai,
usually rendered "God Almighty." Shaddai is the Sufficient One.
Hence the signification is Disposer of Bounties, or some such
There are many and various explanations of this Hebrew name
of God, but none seems so satisfactory as this. On the one hand,
it agrees with the underlying idea in the root. On the other, it
is the same as the literal meaning of its Greek equivalent.
Besides this, it is in thorough accord with all of its
occurrences, and brings before us the essence of Deity. We rightly
say, "man proposes, but Deity disposes." The central truth as to
God during the eons is that all is out of Him and through Him and
into Him. He alone decides the destiny and controls the course of
the cosmos. It is a name worthy of Him, which is fraught with
untold blessing when its significance is understood and
acknowledged. The great culmination of His purpose is involved in
it, for all is to al Him. This thought inheres in three of His
titles, Al, Ale, Aleim Elohim, which we translate Deity and
The name "Disposer" would be a good name for God, especially
in all the contexts in which the shortest form Al occurs. The
first occurrence (+Gen.14:18-20), is characteristic. Melchizedek
was a priest of the Supreme Disposer. Does not this fit the
circumstances perfectly? In English, however, we already have an
unused name which may be more acceptable, and which is in the
right relation to the name "God" for Elohim. This is "Deity."
Melchizedek and Abram worshiped the Supreme Deity. As the English
term includes the idea of One to be invoked, so the Hebrew usage,
especially in its first few occurrences, is connected with worship
such as is due to the Supreme Disposer or Deity.
We are now prepared to study a development of the root al,
DISPOSE. The letter e (usually transliterated h) is often
added, making ale. This letter has the force of toward, making
it DISPOSE-toward, with the sense of invoke, in the Hiphil,
cause to invoke, adjure (+1 Sam.14:24). Micah's mother did not
"curse" anyone for stealing her silver, but invoked Jehovah
concerning it (+Judges 17:2). It was customary to invoke God in
making a covenant (+Hosea 10:4).
The Chaldee name for God, Ale, therefore denotes the one
who is invoked, and is used of false deities (+Dan.3:12) as well
as the true (+Dan.3:17). Our principal interest in it in this
connection is the fact that it does not use the plural form unless
more than one is intended. The Hebrew idiomatic plural is not used
in Chaldee. If the Scriptures had all been written in Chaldee, God
would not have been called by His plural name. This shows that it
is not a logical plural, but an idiomatic one. It is a Hebrew
usage, and is not followed in the Chaldee or Greek portions of the
inspired Scriptures, because these languages have no such idiom.
They give the literal sense.
So much has been said concerning the plurality of God's
name in Hebrew that it is sometimes supposed that this title is
always in the plural form, Elohim. The singular, Alue (or
Eloah), occurs more than fifty times, scattered from Deuteronomy
to Habakkuk. It occurs most frequently in Job. It is evident, from
+Daniel 11:37,38,39, that a false god is not honored by the
plural. Both singular and plural are used in this passage. If we
render it literally, the great enemy of the end time will appear
as a monotheist opposing polytheism! It would read thus: "And he
shall not understand the gods of his fathers, nor what wives
covet, nor understand any god, for he shall magnify himself over
all, and he shall glorify the god of strongholds on its base,
and a god which his fathers knew not shall he glorify with gold
and with silver and with precious stones and with that which is
coveted. And in fortress strongholds he deals with a foreign
This singular form occurs only eleven times outside the book
of Job, where it is more frequent than the plural. The mere fact
that it differs from Elohim in number does not justify a
separate and distinct title. It appears to be used especially when
a plurality of false gods is in view. When Israel turns to other
gods and leaves the Alue Who makes him, they sacrifice to
demons, which are not Alue (+Deut.32:15,17). Jehovah asks "Is
there a real alue, without it be I," (+Isa.44:8). A false god is
given this title (+Hab.1:11).
One of the main arguments in favor of the trinity is the
plural form of the word for God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Elohim
is found comparatively seldom in the singular, and, if the
"Trinity" is correct, our Bibles should read, "In the beginning
Gods created the heavens and the earth." No translator will be
responsible for this rendering, however, except as an argument for
the Trinity. The fact that our lord sanctioned its translation in
the singular as well as in the plural, should settle the question. Used of the true God, He always made it singular. As
this is one of the main props of the trinitarian heresy, we will
examine the facts more closely.
One of the best methods of testing the number of the name
Elohim is to try it out in contexts where two members of the so-
called "Trinity" use it of each other. In the forty-fifth psalm
God speaks to the Son and says, "Thy throne, O Elohim, is for
the eon and further" (+Psa.45:7,8). Here the title is used of the
Son, as distinct from His Father. If Elohim is plural, then the
Son is a plurality as well as a part of the "Trinity." This is
even clearer in the next verse, where we read. "Therefore God, Thy
God, anoints Thee." According to this the Son not only is a
plurality of Gods Himself, but has a plurality of Gods, if
Elohim means more than one. Elohim, in this passage, cannot be
plural. Such an idea is contrary to other scriptures which
definitely protest that there is only one God (+1 Cor.8:4,6).
Moreover, it is evident from the form of the verb. It is not that
many Gods anoint, but one God anoints. Elohim nearly always
takes a singular verb.
That Elohim is always singular in this passage is
absolutely settled for us, and put beyond the possibility of
debate by God Himself, when He quotes it, in the first chapter of
+Hebrews (1:8,9). In Greek the number cannot be confused. The
plural form of "God" is used in +John 10:34,35; Acts 7:40; 14:11;
19:26; 1 Corinthians 8:5,5; Galatians 4:8. But God deliberately
used the singular for Elohim whenever referring to Himself or His
Son. For me this is final. Men may take sides and discuss this
matter interminably, for there seems to be a show of evidence on
both sides. What better course can be pursued than to call in an
Umpire Who is qualified to decide the point? And this is just what
God has done. He knows the meaning of His own name. He inspired
the Greek forms which represent it. He says it is singular when
applied to Himself or to His Son. Who is a better Hebrew grammarian than the Author of the Scriptures?
When God spoke to Moses out of the flaming thorn bush, He
revealed Himself as the Elohim of Abraham, and the Elohim of
Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob (+Ex.3:16). Our Lord refers to
this in proving the necessity of resurrection (+Matt.22:32; Mark
12:26; Luke 20:37), and Stephen brings it before the Sanhedrin
(+Acts 7:32). Neither translates Elohim as plural. We may be
sure that the elders in Israel were eager to find flaws in
Stephen's address. He would not stand before such a critical body
and mistranslate the name of the Deity. Of course, he may have
failed on this point. But did our Lord fail? Each one will answer
that question according to his estimate of Him. His word settles
it for me. He says that Elohim is singular when used of the true
God. I refuse to question His decision.
Moreover, our Lord did not always translate Elohim by the
singular. On one occasion He definitely made it plural (+John 10:
34,35; cf Psa.82:6; Ex.22:28). This should convince us that the
form of this word does not determine its number. This must be
derived from its context. This is our Lord's method. We are safe
in following Him. In the Psalms we read, "I say you are gods
elohim, and all of you sons of the Supreme" (+Psa.82:6). The
context applies it to a plurality, hence it is theoi, gods. A
little later in the psalm Elohim occurs again, in exactly the
same form in the Hebrew, but with a singular verb. "Rise, O
Elohim! Judge the earth, for Thou art being allotted all the
nations" (+Psa.82:8). This refers to our Lord Himself. Elohim is
applied to Him, and to the rulers whom He replaces, without any
change in form. Surely He is the One Who will judge the earth.
His God, Who commands Him to do so, cannot be included in the
We might well appeal to the Septuagint translation to prove
that Elohim is singular in number, for it renders it so more than two thousand times, but we do not wish to
base our belief on any fallible human evidence, however
overwhelming it may seem. The Jewish scholars who translated the
Septuagint certainly knew that Elohim was plural in form, for
they recognized this on several occasions, as we have seen. But,
when used of God, they always made it singular. The whole weight
of Jewish learning in the centuries surrounding the first advent
was unanimous on this point. But we prefer to appeal to the One
infallible Rabboni Who set His seal on the diverse renderings of
the Septuagint. The whole nation of the Jews may have been wrong,
but He was never in error. He never conceded that Elohim was
plural when used of God or of Himself.
As compilers of the CONCORDANT VERSION, we are inclined to be
prejudiced against the idea that elohim may be either singular
or plural. One of the prime principles of translation of a
concordant version seems to be violated. Frankly, we would
translate elohim as plural always, if it were possible. But it
is not wise to press even a great principle to irrational
extremes, in the face of contrary evidence. Since the subject is
cleared up in the Greek Scriptures it is the part of wisdom to
follow our Lord's lead and accept His decision.
Finally and conclusively: Let those who teach a "Trinity"
hear the "Trinity." Let them listen to the Father and the Son and
the holy spirit! Speaking through Stephen, the holy Spirit
translates Elohim in the singular (+Deut.18:15; Acts 7:37). The
Son insists that Elohim be construed in the singular (+Deut.
6:5; Luke 10:27). The Father confirms their findings by treating
Elohim as singular (+Psa.45:7; Heb.1:9) What better evidence can
be offered? Those who will not heed their own "Godhead," cannot be
Here are the passages, rendered concordantly for safety, and
checked by the Hebrew and Greek originals: "A Prophet from among
your brethren, as you, will Jehovah your God Elohim raise up for you" (+Deut.18:15).
Stephen, by the holy Spirit quotes: "This is the Moses who says to
the sons of Israel, `A Prophet will God singular be raising up
to you from among your brethren, as me.'" This is the Spirit's
Again: "Hear, O Israel! Jehovah your God Elohim is one
Jehovah! And you love Jehovah your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your vehemence" (+Deut.6:4,5). The
Son listens to a lawyer quoting a part of this. "You shall be
loving the Lord your God singular out of your whole heart, and
in your whole soul, and in your whole strength." Did our Lord
rebuke him for making a mistake? He did not. He said to him, "You
answer correctly." It was the lawyer's business to know. His
evidence is valuable. Our Lord's words put His seal upon them.
Elohim is singular.
The Father confirms this evidence. Speaking to the Son He
says: "God Elohim, Thy God Elohim anoints Thee" (+Psa.45:7).
This is quoted in Hebrews thus: "God singular, Thy God
[singular], anoints Thee" (+Heb.1:9). This is the seal of the
Father. Thus the entire "Trinity" is engaged in affirming that
there is but one God, even though His name, in Hebrew, seems to be
in the plural form.
Source: Unsearchable Riches Magazine, Vol. 24, 1933 - pp 171-180