How Many Gods Are There?
Every Christian I have encountered believes that there is one God only.
Many believe that this one God exists as a Trinity of persons. However, all instances in the New Testament of the word θεος (god) preceded by the article (the God) and with no other modifiers, has as its referent the Father alone, and NEVER a Trinity.
Jesus in His prayer to the Father, called Him “the only true God” and in the same sentence referred to Himself as someone other than the only true God.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God , and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)
If Jesus had said, ’ that they know You, Me, and the Holy Spirit as the only true God , then it would be clear that He believed in the Trinity of which He would have been a part.
However, what Jesus did say, indicates that He believed in only one true God.
Clearly, the apostle Paul also believed that there was only one God—the Father, and did not indicate Jesus as being that one God or part of that one God, but as someone other than that one God:
. … for us there is one God , the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV)
(There is) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6 ESV)
For there is one God , and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
(1 Timothy 2:5 ESV)
Elohiym is a plural noun in Hebrew, the singular of which is “Elowahh.” The word “God” frequently appears in the Old Testament in the singular form “Elowahh.” Here is one example:
They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God (Elowahh), Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them. (Nehemiah 9:17)
But strangely, the plural form of the word also appears to have been applied to God. Perhaps the most unusual example is found in Psalm 82:1. Here is the Douay translation (A Catholic translation that was published in 1609-1610)
God hath stood in the congregation of gods: and being in the midst of them he judgeth gods.
However, the word “he” doesn’t occur in the Hebrew. Without it, the verse would read:
God hath stood in the congregation of gods: and being in the midst of them judgeth gods.
Now the peculiar matter is that in this verse both the first word and the last word is the plural “elohiym.” The second occurrence was translated “gods” in the Douay, whereas the first is translated “God.” Is there any justification in translating the word in these two different ways?
By the way, in the phrase “congregations of gods” a different Hebrew is used for “gods.” It is “el ale.” This is said to mean “god-like ones.”
You may be interested in the way the words appear in the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew into Greek around 300 B.C.
ο θεος εστη εν συναγωγη θεων εν μεσω δε θεους διακρινει
Literally in English this would read:
The God is in [the] synagogue of gods and judges gods .
So the translators of the Septuagint obviously took the first “elohiym” to mean THE God, and the second to mean “gods,” that is, if they were translating from the same Hebrew text. However, they may have been translating from an older form of Hebrew such as was found in cave 4 of the Dead Sea scrolls, and the first word may have been the singular Hebrew word “elowahh.”