Oh, yay! I was going to do particular comments about the Shema next (including AeCHaD and the burning bush, too.)
III. Some Particular Comments About the Shema
I’m going to try to reserve larger scale comments about the Shema for a subsequent portion of my reply (probably toward the end), and instead address some shorter-range issues for now.
That is true, too; and I will be glad to amend that paragraph to reflect this. (e.g., “This God is described as AeCHaD, which although sometimes indicating a sheer singularity also often indicates a compound singularity in the Hebrew Bible.”)
I know you also (not long afterward) acknowledge that AeCHaD (and even other forms of the word behind YaCHiD) can refer to (what I anyway am calling) compound singularities. (I wrote this before reading your recent reply, where you emphasize that you don’t think AeCHaD ever once refers to compound singularities. But the sorts of things you acknowledge AeCHaD can refer to are what I am calling compound singularities: mathematically one ‘somethings’ which are also plural ‘somethings’.) This starts pretty early in the Bible, in fact, with Genesis 1:5, “there was evening and there was morning, Day One.” Again, Gen 2:24, a husband and wife become “one flesh”. Gen 3:22, Adam and Eve at “one” with God. Gen 11:6, the people are “one” together. In Gen 34, the Shechemites want to become “one people” with the Jews. In 2 Chron 30:12 God gives the people “one heart”, and in Jer 32:39 God reiterates that under the new covenant He will give His people “one heart”. Ezra 2:64, the congregation (of 42K+ people) is described as “one”. These are all uses of AeCHaD, if I am not mistaken.
The Trinitarian exegetical case does not depend on Deut 6:4 reading AeCHaD instead of YaCHiD; we would and in fact do also affirm the YaCHiD-ity of God (if I may put it that way), in the sense of there being only one ultimate God, not a multiplicity of ultimate Gods; also in the sense of God being uniquely precious. Heck, even in the sense of God being the only-begotten God! ) But it is worth asking: have I learned correctly or incorrectly, that YaCHiD is never used to describe God in the Bible?
Except, a “compound unity” is in fact numerically one. It just also happens to be numerically more than one.
Thus, one people is one people, but the “one” (in that case) also refers to a plurality. (Which is reflected in the grammar of the English phrase “one [singular] people [plural]”, by the way!) There is only one University of Tennessee football team called the Volunteers: there is only one team. But the ‘one’ also refers to a plurality of persons. One Elohim is numerically one Elohim, but… well, elohim is a plural term, isn’t it? Same with adonai. (I don’t mean that this automatically proves that the Elohim must be multi-personal while being numerically only one God; I am only pointing out that the term usage works okay here.)
Trinitarians, properly speaking, do not believe in multiple Most High Gods; so we emphatically agree that one still does means numerically one, even when the “one” is AeCHaD. We also recognize that the term (as you put it earlier) is sometimes (even commonly) used to refer to “absolute mathematical oneness with nothing further implied”–a reference which you seemed to agree was conceptually distinct from AeCHaD referring to a (mathematically singular) unity of plurals which it also commonly does. And you agree that AeCHaD does also commonly refer to (what I have been calling) compound singularities. We don’t in fact have any disagreement here.
May I propose an amended paragraph then, incorporating your own examples?
I could include your nine YaCHiD references, too, as examples for contrast.
Oh, btw, I don’t mind if you write replies before I’m through posting up pieces of mine; but while I’ll try to incorporate references to them as I go along, I may have to wait until later to address particular points of them (assuming I think it’s important to do so).
I’m having a difficult time seeing how anything can be both “numerically one” and also “numerically more than one.” If I say, “I have one cluster of grapes,” I don’t mean “numerically more than one cluster of grapes.” “One” still means “numerically one.” And I stand by my statement that “while AeCHad can modify both singular and collective nouns, it never means ‘corporate singularity.’” It can certainly refer to and modify a noun that is “corporate,” but it doesn’t change the meaning of AeCHad from “numerically one” to “numerically more than one.” AeCHad, when referring to how many something is (which, as far as I can tell, is what it always does), always denotes “numerical oneness.” So I guess the real question is, does the divine name “YHWH” denote more than one person like a cluster of grapes denotes more than one grape? Or does YHWH denote one person? And this is where I think the multitude of singular personal pronouns used by YHWH forcefully tip the scales in favour of Unitarianism.
Yes, “one” refers to a noun that denotes a plurality of persons, but “one” in both examples still means “numerically one,” not “numerically more than one.” Now, if elohim were being modified by AeCHad (“one”) and a person wanted to translate it into English to reflect the literal plurality of the word, it would be “one gods.” But every translation I’ve ever read translates elohim as “God” (singular) when the word is clearly referring to Yahweh. The translator recognizes that the word, although literally plural, takes on a singular meaning when referring to a being that speaks with singular personal pronouns. So let’s just be consistent here. If you think elohim, when referring to Yahweh, should be understood in its literal plural sense, then I would expect you to translate it “gods” or “Gods” - not “God.” There’s no in-between; it’s not “kind of plural but kind of not” (kind of like how AeCHad can’t both mean “numerically one” and “numerically more than one.”). Elohim should either be understood in a strict plural sense, or not. If so, then we’re talking about more than one g/God. If not, then we’re talking about one God.
Ok, so we’re in agreement that there’s only one “Most High God.” So (and I realize this is departing from our OT focus, but I couldn’t resist ) when we read of Jesus being referred to as the “Son of the Most High,” or the “Son of the Living God,” do you restrict the title “Most High” and “Living God” to the Father only?
As far as AeCHad referring to compound singularities, no I don’t think we have any real disagreement. What I would disagree with is the assertion that AeCHad ever means “compound singularity.” I say the word carries the inherent and unambiguous meaning of numerical, mathematical oneness, no matter what noun (whether singular or plural) it refers to. So again, I think the real question is, does the name YHWH denote more than one person like a cluster of grapes denotes more than one grape? Or does YHWH denote one person?
Well of course it’s hard not to do so, if the concept of representational agency, the thousands of examples of singular personal pronouns with which God speaks of himself, and certain idiomatic ways of speaking are not being taken into account! I would suggest that when we read such passages in that way, the “scriptural data” would, in fact, indicate that there is more than one YHWH and more than one elohim. But I think the reason you reject the idea that there is more than one YHWH and more than one (“true”) elohim is one of the main reasons why I think that the name YHWH and the title elohim both refer to one person - a single center of consciousness.
I guess, but no more so than the fact that elohim is a plural word…
But AeCHad is “obviously only singular” in meaning - at least, according to the scriptural data. Again, throughout the OT (and still today among the Hebrew people!) it is THE word to denote “numerical oneness” whenever the idea is being expressed. So when we consider the Scriptural meaning of the words, I’m not entirely sure why Maimonides chose YaCHiD to replace AeCHad in this instance. It is possible that he was already dealing with Trinitarians who were mangling the Hebrew, and thus chose to use a different word just to avoid debates or needless confusion among his Jewish brethren who, although knowing what AeCHaD meant, may have been exposed to Trinitarians who thought they knew better (maybe the same ones who attempted to “improve” the NT in a few places!). Or perhaps for Maimonides, the word YaCHiD simply better expressed and summed up the idea that “there is no other besides him” (Deuteronomy 4:35) - which seems likely, given the way YaCHiD is used in Scripture. But whatever his reasons, I see this as being a pseudo-issue.
Perhaps I missed it in the several posts, but how is Gen 3:22 handled by non-tinitarians?
Gen 3:22 22 "And the LORD God said, “man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil”. Here the number 1 is used. I’m asking because normally it might be stated “become like us” but here the word “one” is used. I don’t read hebrew so perhaps that word is not even there, perhaps it is? Also in conjunction with
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me
With the exception of a few words I’ve picked up while studying various subjects over the past few years, I don’t read Hebrew either. That’s why I try to rely on authorities as much as possible! My understanding of this verse can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=14&t=751&start=0#p8556
Gen. 3.22 “…he became as one [k-achad; where ‘k’ means like or as] from us [mimme-nu].” Don’t get hung up on the “from” us. Nothing metaphysical there. It’s a standard Semitic use of the preposition “from” to mean “of” in just the way we say “he’s become one of us…” HE is now one among the class of beings who know good and evil.
I wouldn’t put any theological weight (for trinitarianism OR against trinitarianism) upon the use of the first personal plural (“we”) for God here. The Quran has this as well, and there’s no question whatsoever about its incompatibility with trinitarianism. It could be God and the heavenly hosts, it could an honorific plural of respect. We still use it today in Arabic (a cousin Semitic language). I’ll sit opposite an Iraqi general and use the second person plural (“you all”) for him although I only mean the one him. No biggie.
To state my views very briefly, I believe that God (the self-existent Creator, Yahweh Elohim) is one Person and not three, and is identified by Jesus as “the Father” and “the only true God” (or “the only one who is truly God”). I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God (not “God the Son”), and that the Holy Spirit refers to the operational presence of God which, though sometimes personified, is not a person distinct from the Father.
By all means enjoy the popcorn (I prefer the Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper flavor myself ), but feel free to chime in any time, Mel! While I created this thread especially for Jason to respond to, all comments and input are welcome (unless it turns into a constant onslaught against my position, which wouldn’t be very fair )! Seriously though, if you see any “weak links” in my Unitarian arguments, please don’t hesitate to point them out. I’m sure I’ll hear about most from Jason, but he may not catch all of them
There’s a type of kettle-boiled potato chip (“Cape Cod” brand if I recall correctly) that my Mom and I love to eat in that flavor! Probably just as well for us that they stopped selling that particular version around here.
I should have a bunch of stuff posted up by the end of the day, grouped into topics.
Although I want to proceed as soon as possible to issues of plural emphasization and representative agency, I thought I ought to post up some replies first on prior comments so far.
III.I AN INTERVENING EXCHANGE ON AECHAD AND SOME OTHER THINGS
Similarly, if we say there is one YHWH of three Persons, we do not mean numerically more than one YHWH of three Persons. One still means numerically one. But the term “one” still ends up also applying to that corporate unity of multiple grapes (or persons).
When a husband and wife become AeCHaD flesh, how is this AeCHaD flesh not a corporate singularity? Is this AeCHaD not corporate? Is this AeCHaD not singular? Which would you deny?
When evening and morning are AeCHaD day, how is this AeCHaD day not a corporate singularity? Is the corporateness what you deny–and if so, which are you denying the real existence of, the evening or the morning? Or is the singularity what you deny?–the evening and the morning are multiple days and not a single day?
This can be illustrated again by the fact that in many such Biblical examples, the noun being referred to by AeCHaD can be removed, without substantially altering the meaning. A husband and wife become AeCHaD. People (and nations) become AeCHaD in Israel. If somewhere in the OT we read that we are also Abraham’s seed, if we all are AeCHaD in the Angel of the Presence (or should that be if we all are AeCHaD in God?), would that mean we are all singularly-one-and-only-one person in that angel (and/or in God)? A modalist might insist “yes” (though even many modalists would not!)–but it seems to me that the answer is obviously no, we would not be singularly only one person, even though “one” would be used there without modifying a particular noun. (I have reasons for mentioning this example, which will be referenced later.)
The fact is that if there can be such a thing as a corporate singularity, and if AeCHaD can be properly used to describe such corporate singularities, then AeCHaD can mean ‘corporate singularity’. Just like ‘union’ and ‘united’, although those terms always in English include corporate singularity in their meanings. AeCHaD doesn’t always do that; but it can do that. (Unless you are prepared to deny that basic examples such as above–which could be greatly multiplied in scripture–have anything multiply corporate about them at all.)
Now, I have no problem at all going into more detail about AeCHaD in the text, because my original draft leaves over the inadvertent impression that AeCHaD is supposed to always (instead of only often!) describe compound unities, compared to YaCHiD which (in that form) would be far less appropriate for discussing compound unities.
(Call them compound unities if you prefer instead of corporate singularities, although I thought I was being a little more clearly emphatic about their singular property by calling such examples “singularities”. But out of the gate in the original upload, I also called such corporate singularities “compound unities”. I don’t know why the phrases wouldn’t be synonymous. Even in their singular instead of plural forms. (“unity” not “unities”, “singularity” not “singularities”.))
I could understand your criticism being that I left over an impression that AeCHaD is always supposed to describe compound singularities–even though I typically mention AeCHaD in context of a comparative contrast to YaCHiD. And, by the way, I never said in that draft that AeCHaD “means” or even “can mean” corporate singularity. I don’t recall exactly how we got onto that far more narrow topic–although now that we are here, I think you’re going to have trouble cogently denying that AeCHaD can mean corporate as well as absolute singularity, just like the English word “one” can mean a singular or a corporate singularity without a specific noun being modified by the “one”. (It’s still a singularity either way, it’s still “one”.)
But so long as you agree that AeCHaD can at least describe a corporate singularity (aka a compound unity), and that AeCHaD is the term used for God’s oneness instead of a term that is never elsewhere used to describe a corporate union, then my purpose for bringing this up has been achieved.
It’s admittedly a very limited purpose. But then, that’s why the digest isn’t only half a page long.
You mean, this is where you think the multitude of singular personal pronouns used by a not-YHWH entity pretending (with YHWH’s sanction) to be YHWH (or multiple not-YHWH entities pretending so), forcefully tip the scales in favor of Unitarianism.
But we’ll be getting back to that topic later.
It’s funny you put it that way, because this will be an issue I’ll be bringing up myself later–maybe even more forcibly! Until then: there are other contextual reasons besides immediate grammar why Elohim is translated singularly as God (both in English and in NT Greek–although GosMatt often speaks of the “kingdom of the heavens” plural, meaning “kingdom of God”, by application of a traditional Jewish euphamism); reasons that ontologically have to do with there being only one Most High God.
But there are other very serious contextual issues, too; one of which is why God would inspire people to use plural terms in regard to Himself, including in the two most popular ways to refer to Him, when the simplest result would be just what you yourself mentioned: “then we’re talking about more than one g/God!” But I’ll be getting to that toward the end of my set of replies. (First I want to talk more particularly about your topic of emphatic plurals, which is scheduled to be the next portion of my reply; as well as more particularly about representative agency, which will come afterward.)
Not to the person of the Father only, no. As a general rule we apply the description/titles “Most High” and “Living God” to the person of the Son (and to the person of the Holy Spirit) as well as to the person of the Father. Because they are all, corporately, the singular God Most High, the Living God. (The latter term would mean the God Who is actively self-existent. Or, God self-begetting, self-begotten and proceeding as God from the action of self-existence.)
But we’ll get to that when we move along to checking NT refs.
I wrote a bunch of notes (the bulk of my reply actually) on your replies about the Shema and angels etc.; but for sake of topical focusing I’m going to wait until I do particular comments about representative agency issues, until I submit them.
(That’ll be after I do a reply about your comments on emphatic pluralization, which is the next scheduled thing.)
IV. Particular Comments About Emphatic Pluralization (or not) in the OT
Admittedly so; though how many times is it used for emphasis, intensity and amplification of single personal entities? Pretty rarely, outside of God, isn’t it?
Considering the case of Joseph: the original non-voweled consonants are ADNY (42:30, 33), which can mean lords (adonai, plural) or lord of me (adonei, singular possessive) or lords of me (plural, also adonai) depending on how the vowels are assigned. In this case the characters (the sons of Jacob) are reporting about “the man ADNY the land”. The final vowel is not pointed like “lord of me” (compare with their address to Joseph earlier in the chapter v. 10), but neither is it exactly pointed like plural Lords (the divine title of God); but that may be setting up the prepositional phrase “of the land”.
Could the characters of the story be comparing Joseph to God Most High by use of the divine plural–and if so, why? Could it possibly be as a way of insulting him to their father?
The context does have some connections to that theory. Egyptian rulers are frequently deified–which to a devoutly monotheistic Jew would be considered blasphemous. (Which has to be agreed about, leaving aside whether it would be proper for God to make an exception by assigning faux-deity status to a not-God entity, or some unknown number of such entities, and expect strict monotheists to worship any such entity as if that entity was God Most High.) And this Egyptian ruler with the power of life and death (including but not limited to his control of the grain), treated them harshly for no clear reason. Thus, rendering the gist of it, “This man, who lords over the land as if he is God Almighty, spoke harshly to us and treated us like spies!” After all, they know (correctly as it happens) that Jacob is going to be hugely upset that Simeon has been left behind as a hostage to be swapped next time for Benjamin, and will blame them for it. It would be much in character for them to try to explain to Jacob the wildly egotistical unreasonableness of this foreign potentate as a way of trying to put the blame on that foreign potentate.
It is also possible they are saying that Joseph is their lord (singular) of the land. But considering the story contexts, the other seems more colorfully interesting.
Judges 11:24 is not a great example of this: the speaker is a character known as Jephthah, unfamiliar for a long time with the ways of his people (11:1-6), trying to negotiate with rank polytheists after living among other polytheists himself.
1 Kings 11:5 is a much better example, and probably shows the point to calling such false gods “gods”–for “Ashtoreth” is also considered plural elsewhere when talking about the idols of her. (2 Kings 23:14, to give one of several examples; compare to v.13 just previously in that chapter. The term “ashtoreth” isn’t used for the plural, but it would be like us saying “ashtoreths” in English.) The same goes for the Baals. (10:6, 10) When 2 Kings 1:2 is talking about Ahaziah sending messengers to go inquire of Baal-zebub, the “gods” of Ekron, that is because there were numerous “baals” set up as idols, even of one god “Baal-zebub” (who was, in turn, one of many such Baals or lords).
The example of usage, consequently, proves rather too much! A false god was occasionally called “gods” because there were multiple instances of that god scattered around as idols, with the idols themselves regarded as actually being the god themselves (even when the multiple idols were of the same god).
There are some much larger issues at stake here, which I’ll get to later in another portion of the reply (toward the end)–at which time I’ll comment on your Exodus 23 example, too. For now, I only want to point out that the typical examples of a single (lesser) god being called plural “gods”, do not fit the concept of emphatic pluralization. The actual rationale for the usage is very different. (Though it might be a precursor from which the notion of emphatic pluralization eventually developed.)
(Incidentally, I am rather pleased that I did not refer in the digest to the three parts of the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 and the famous Trisagion of Isaiah 6:3. I did refer to the tri-partite blessing of Jacob on his sons, but not for purposes of pointing to the tripartite nature of it. It was about that ‘angel’ again being reckoned on par with YHWH.)
The rabbi Tzvi Nassi (a lecturer in Hebrew at Oxford) wrote in a book from 1970 (The Great Mystery, published by Yanetz in Jerusalem), that “the majestic plural was a thing unknown to Moses and the prophets. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, David and all the other kings, throughout [the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa], speak in the singular, and not as modern kings in the plural. They do not say we, but I command.”
And yet, you have found a pagan king who apparently does so (Artaxerxes) and a Jewish king who… well, is not really speaking to other people as a royal plurality.
2 Chronicles 10:6-9; “Then King Rhehoboam consulted with the elders who had stood before his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel to answer this people [who are asking to be put under a lighter load and then they will loyally serve him, v.1-5]? And they spoke to him saying [be merciful and kind]. But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him who stood before him. So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me.”
In point of fact, he’s addressing a group of people for advice on how they, as a group (with himself as their leader of course), are to answer the plea.
Which of course explains why kings sometimes spoke in the plural: because they had counselors whom they got together with to formulate policy. Artaxerxes would be no different. (Indeed, the need for translators itself implies this! As does the fact that he immediately goes on to talk in first person and keeps on doing so.)
So, if the parallel is to be followed, then Isaiah would be a spokesman for angels of the heavenly counsel as well as for YHWH–Who consults with no one but Himself! (e.g. Isaiah 40:13-14.)
It is certainly “strange”, as the author of the entry on “God” writes, for the Hastings Dictionary of the Bible; but what is stranger is that he declares that the OT can scarcely be used as authority for the existence of distinctions within the Godhead, and then must give a tentatively phrased hypothetical answer to the strange Isaianic theophany there! (A theophany connected directly to Christ several ways in the NT; but that is for discussion later. )
Again, a king may represent a whole people, speaking for them as their representative–although aside from the Messiah on rare occasion being called “Israel” by overlapping reference, I can’t think of any such person in the OT (much less the NT) who does so in their own uniquely identifying name. (And offhand I don’t recall the Messiah, as even an implied OT character, speaking for the people as their representative while being called Israel. But I allow it’s at least possible. I do recall, but still rarely, the Messiah being talked about as “Israel”.)
The more typical OT (and NT) notion is that a people will be called by the name of the king/patriarch (such as Israel being first a name for Jacob, then afterward a name for the people; ditto Judah.)
2 Sam 24:14 is not really a countervailing example, even of the broader notion of a king speaking in a specially royal plural way as representative for the people (much less doing so as part of his own uniquely identifying name): David is speaking to the prophet Gad and including Gad in the recommendation for the action of the whole people as “us”, “Let us etc.” This is no more an example of royal representation of an actual plurality, much less a an example magnificent plurality (plurality for emphasis of royalty), than for someone on the forum to recommend to someone else on the forum that “we” all on the forum, including them, should do something.
Who will smite the Assyrians Himself] is simply a more emphatic way of saying “by Myself”
Why wouldn’t it be a way of stating that YHWH will deliver them by the some not-God Angel of the Presence? Isn’t that mere not-God angel functionally representative enough to be called YHWH their God? (He would sure seem to be elsewhere, dozens or maybe hundreds of times earlier, by the logic of your functional representation appeal! )
Or, if both this and the Shema (with the AeCHaD) are taken literally, it could mean that there is a corporate group of persons who are one YHWH. (Which the Shema certainly allows for. )
Next up, beginning some particular comments on representative agency issues.
V. Some Particular Comments on Representative Agency (or not) in the OT
Representative agency is by far the largest (and maybe even the most important) topic in my set of replies. Later, in my last portion of replies, I’ll talk some about how trinitarians can and do in fact accept and apply representative agency. Until then, although I’m going to be critical about a lot of details, please try to keep in mind that I’m not altogether against the notion of representative agency at all.
I’ll end this section having arrived at the specific topic of representative agency, but I’ll start with comments which may or may not involve representative agency topically, though; or where the topic is relevant yet never (or barely) came up in the discussion per se (such as Isaiah 9).
I have suggested some difficulties and alternate possibilities of translation myself, in a recent comment on this thread. Here I only want to point out that the term AeL GBWR is used in Isaiah again, where it sure seems to refer to God Most High. Which mighty God is rebel Jacob to return to in 10:21? Is it not YHWH, the Holy One of Israel (v.20)? Is “Mighty God” there supposed to only refer to some merely human king as (merely) representative of God on the battlefield, whom God empowers in a supernatural way? Will we be talking about the real Mighty God anytime soon, or only one of several created not-God substitutes?!
Notably, Isaiah isn’t using the multi-term Elohim here, but the shorter version of the singular, El (or AeL). I also notice that you don’t give any references to Isaiah using the term El in reference to a merely functional representative of Elohim Most High. (Except 9:6, I suppose. ) Are there any other examples of the Isaiah prophecies using AeL that way? I have heard, perhaps wrongly, that there are not.
Or at Is 10:21? What do you think?
Not really. Doctrinally the Son shares the substantial identity of the Eternal Father (“not dividing the substance”), as well as sharing the names of the Father; and the Persons are well distinguished in this (and many many other) passages (“not conflating the Persons”).
The term (‘ab) can also mean head of a household (a concept definitely applied to Christ elsewhere, such as the Epistle to the Ephesians), ancestor, the ‘patron’ of a class, or even one who bestows benevolence, respect or honor. Protector (as the NET Bible article comments) works, too. But Trinitarians aren’t put off by the name being Eternal Father (or Father Eternal), too, since the persons are well distinguished in the same passage. (Not any more than a unitarian would be put off, I suppose!–for if a unitarian considers all the other divine names to be proper as identification for a not-God entity like a merely human Jesus or a created angel, standing in for God, “AeL GBWR” shouldn’t be a problem either. )
That’s certainly possible (or not only possible but true, or so a trinitarian ought to agree, along with most other Christians and even non-Christian messianics I suppose!) But then we get back to the leader or originator of the coming age also being called Mighty God.
That is indeed a common view even among trinitarians; and if all of us humans can (corporately) be made in the (single) image and likeness of God (being rationally aware, spiritual creatures, plus also deriving our subordinate executive authority from Him that way), then the same could also be said of God speaking to already-created heavenly beings–maybe.
But the ease of this solution is masked by our habit of translating Elohim as we know to be a single entity, “God”, even though the term is plural. Then God(s) (plural noun but referring to one entity) said (singular verb) “Let us (plural pronoun) make (plural verb) man in our (plural) image (singular) and in our (plural) likeness (singular).” If it wasn’t for the plural verb for ‘make’, and the plural pronouns, wouldn’t this be considered only done by God (despite His plural description)?
For example, if we read there, “So God(s) created the man in His image (singular), in the image of God(s) He (singular) created (singular) him; male and female, He (singular) created them.” Would we think the singular God (despite the plurality of His name) was creating mankind (singularly and plurally) in His own image? Or would we think more persons were involved in creating us in the singular image of the God Whose name is God(s)?
Which of course is how the creation goes when we get down to verse 1:27! Where are the heavenly lesser beings God was supposed to be creating us with?
If God Himself is plural as well as singular, though, then both grammatic statements apply to God without any problem.
Whether the original author of Genesis (the human author anyway) understood the plurality in God’s creation of mankind in terms of the Trinity, I personally also doubt. But as you note from Wehham’s word commentary, it came very quickly to be considered that way among Christians. The question there is whether they were following some kind of (legitimate) lead from teachings represented by the canonical NT (going back ultimately to Jesus).
We’ll be getting back to that later. I’m glad you acknowledge that a divine person is sitting on the one throne of God there.
(Well, maybe you don’t think that this is the one throne of God Who is AeCHaD; or perhaps you would say that someone else less than God could rightly sit there and delegate prophets to go out and speak for him, while being declared by angels as YHWH of Armies Whose glory fills the whole earth, also being acknowledged as ADNY and YHWH of Armies by Isaiah who laments that he must be destroyed for his eyes have looked upon YHWH. But up to this point, in talking about this scene, you haven’t indicated that this is less than God Most High of Whom the Shema is said. Up to this point. )
Oh, reeaallly? More on that later, whenever we get around to the NT portions of the digest.
That would only be true if adonei (my lord) and Adonai (lords) could not be applied to the same person. (They’re spelled the same in written Hebrew, too, ADNY. But the NT does testify to at least one meaning being adonei, my lord. What else it does or does not testify to, in regard to Psalm 110, including that first verse, remains to be seen.)
At any rate, Psalm 110:1 does testify to some kind of distinction of persons, since YHWH is speaking to ADNY. Which, incidentally, is why one post-Christian rabbinic tradition involves this poem being spoken by an anonymous court poet to David, so that David could be the “my lord” (adonei) of the ADNY and thus certainly not the divine title Adonai!
He seems personally distinct somehow compared to the Ancient of Days; and you acknowledge YHWH/ADNY as being the title of God Most High. So it will make a difference whether the Messiah is not only called by those divine titles but is referenced back to OT scripture where YHWH/ADNY/Elohim Most High is in view. (If He ever is?!)
I will however note that Dan 7:9 some plural number of thrones are set up–despite the fact that only one throne is ever mentioned as being sit upon (by the Ancient of Days, also verse 9). More interestingly, when one of the figures standing by volunteers to interpret the vision for Daniel (15-38), the singular Son of Man seems to be described plurally as “holy ones of the highest one”. How the various NT authors (and Jesus by report) deal with this will be discussed later.
Incidentally, there was apparently quite a bit of “confusion or ambiguity” about those multiple thrones in non/pre-Christian Jewish religious tradition. But one thing the Jews (both Christian and non-Christian) agreed on: there was not supposed to be two thrones at the same highest ‘level’ but only one at that level, on which it would be the height of rebellion and falsehood for any not-God entity to sit (especially in judgment).
Having arrived fully at the topic of representative agents of God, the next section will (no surprise) be about more particular proposed examples of those.
VI. More Particular Comments on Representative Agency (or not) in the OT
I realize you’re quoting from the NIV Study Bible article, but we’ve been discussing creational agency and identity in Gen 1 already. More such instances could be adduced between Gen 1 and Gen 16, too (including a couple more plural pronoun grammar examples). The phrase “angel of the Lord” first shows up in Gen 16, though (perhaps).
If it turns out that the NT is speaking about Christ using references to angel-of-the-Lord incidents in the OT, then that “traditional Christian interpretation” is going to go back pretty far! And if it turns out that the NT is speaking about Christ using references to YHWH/ADNY/Elohim in the OT where the angel-of-the-Lord isn’t specifically being mentioned, then what?! (But a discussion for later.)
Are you sure you want to go with that answer? Because the text at verse 24 says YHWH did so: the Hebrew is quite clear, “YHWH rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire (or sulfurous fire) from YHWH out of heaven.” Not ‘the angels’ much less ‘one of the angels pretending to be YHWH with YHWH’s approval’, or anything else of that sort.
It is of course true that it says two “messengers” went on to Sodom, and they claim (ahead of time) to be involved somehow in the forthcoming destruction. But they are not referred to as YHWH; rather they talk about YHWH sending them there to destroy it. (v.13)
Only if this is taken out of context with the rest of the scriptures. If YHWH was singular but multi-personal, this would work as well here, too. Either because YHWH shows back up with the two angels, or perhaps the trinitarians who relate this as a manifestation of the Trinity are right after all! But YHWH acting as one or as two distinct persons can still be one singular YHWH–if YHWH our Elohim is AeCHaD. (So in fact the Shema of Israel does allow for that.)
Is there evidence that there is some kind of switch or addition between the angels and someone else? Yes, actually there is: for as “they” are taking Lot and his family outside the city, once outside “he” says to Lot–and after that it’s all singular. (Except for Lot calling “them” either Adonai or adonei, which might or might not be plural who knows? ) Lot addresses this person(s) saying, “Your servant [Lot] has found grace in your sight and you have magnified your mercy which you have shown to me in saving my life.” Who is having mercy on Lot? YHWH, back in verse 16 (which may be where YHWH shows back up again as the men are taking Lot and his wife and daughters by the hands.) This person takes personal responsibility for destroying Sodom, and accepts Lot’s plea to spare the little suburb of Zoar (where Lot flees to). After which YHWH rains down the fire from YHWH in heaven.
The appeal to mere representative agency could fix things briefly there at verse 24; that’s admittedly true. But how far back would you recuse that agency? If the person speaking and acting as YHWH (and maybe Adonai) from verse 17 through 23, is not really YHWH, though, then is the person Abraham ate with really YHWH? Maybe the YHWH in heaven isn’t really YHWH either but is only another representative agent! How far back does the recusing go?
Moving on to Psalm 45…
Perhaps we should just stick then, as I did, with the verses that would later be appropriately applied to Jesus, and leave aside the verses that cannot be properly applied to Jesus (except in a highly figurative sense).
Unless God is such that He can become the most handsome of the sons of men while still being distinctively God (and having a distinction of Divine Persons as well). Such a king would in fact have companions among the sons of men, being himself a Son of Man. That the Father cannot be personally anointed beyond His companions by anyone, is nothing to the point, if this is not the person of the Father but a person (both a son of man and also Elohim) being anointed by the Father (also Elohim).
In other words, your rebuttal only works if you are the one reading a theological restriction into this verse. That’s a metaphysical debate, not an exegetical one.
Also, the figurative statements you adduce from vv.4-11 are statements figuratively applied elsewhere to God Most High, are they not? They do not necessarily have to apply only to a not-God human person, do they? And, are these kinds of statements not the ones I didn’t discuss in my initial paragraph on the matter?–in fact, when NT authors (particularly the Hebraist) refer to Psalm 45, do they refer to these verses? Or to the verses about Elohim, addressed vocatively as Elohim by Elohim, having the throne of Elohim?
My point is that so far I am having trouble figuring out which verses you would “properly” apply to Christ, compared to verses you would say cannot be properly applied to Christ except in highly figurative language. So far it all seems to look highly figurative (except for him being one of the sons of men)!
Bird-dogging off a moment, since you bring these up as examples to compare with Psalm 45:
Psalm 82:1-8 is not a very good example of elohim “in a representational or functional sense” being applied to a single person (or even to plural persons–considering that they are rebels!) If it wasn’t for a particular NT application of this, would anyone think anyone but Elohim Himself (with singular grammar) was taking His stand in the midst of judgment to judge the rebel judges whom He appointed as gods but who now are judging against Him? (But more on that later.)
Ex 7:1 and 4:14-16 are admittedly more problematic, at least on the face of it: Moses will be Elohim in relation to Aaron who will be his mouth (since Moses cannot talk very well). Even then, the reference involves a corporate teamship between the two, so the comparison is that two persons (Moses and Aaron) will be acting analogously to Elohim (a plural term for a single entity) Most High. It’s true, Aaron is referred to as being (in effect) Moses’ “prophet” in this relationship. But as shall be discussed later, this isn’t going to simplify (much less solve) a crucial issue of divine representative agency.
(I do have to fix my references to account for both places, however, by the way; and to correct that Moses is who is specifically being sent as elohim.)
Back to Psalm 45 commentary.
Not just “a degree”! More like the totality of divine power and authority–sitting on the throne, beyond all his companions, as Elohim (Thy throne O Elohim), into forever! Non-Christian Jews themselves are quite aware of how dicey this is (which is why in the current JPS Tanakh the editors translate “Elohim” out of the vocative and apply it as an adjective to the throne instead. It’s still the king’s “divine throne”, but at least he isn’t being called Elohim now! )
Or we would have one person of the multipersonal Elohim anointing another person of the multipersonal Elohim. Especially if that throne is meant to be reserved for the one and only God Most High creator of heaven and earth, by Whom and for Whom all things are made and hold together and in Whom all things exist and apart from Whom nothing exists that exists–higher than any angel because they were created by Him, and self-existently eternal in Himself compared to anything else in reality.
(I have very specific reasons for listing out those characteristics, in reference to Psalm 45. But those reasons will have to wait until we get to NT testimony. )
Also, in the hierarchical economy of the Trinity, it is in fact the Father Who empowers the Son and from Whom the Son receives (and gives back) everything. If the begetting of the Son happens as an eternally active fact (which will be discussed much later in the NT part of the digest; though I may have to expand it to include some forum discussion I’ve had since then elsewhere), then the Father is always (metaphorically) anointing the Son to exist as the Son.
Trinitarians who prefer to go the route of privative aseity (where God as the Trinity simply statically exists without being actually and actively and eternally self-begetting and self-begotten) can still work with Psalm 45 as a prophecy of the descent and (progressive) re-ascension of the Son. (Which positive aseitists such as myself certainly have even less problem with. A pouring out, self-sacrificial voluntary death, and re-ascension, are the sorts of thing we would expect in the Incarnation, by nature of the eternal relationship of the 2nd to the 1st Person.)
Time to talk for a while about Cyrus the Tyrant Pagan Messiah, and Isaiah 48 (which sure doesn’t seem to be talking about any pagan tyrant ).
At the risk of going against much scholarly consensus (including by well-meaning trinitarians), I am relatively sure that Cyrus the Tyrant–an anointed messiah to be sure, but one who did not even know the Lord (45:4) and who was being instructed (ultimately unsuccessfully!) by God through Isaiah the prophet (or maybe by someone of his school subsequently) to worship YHWH alone (“there is no other; beside Me there is no God”) --was not declaring such things publicly from the first from the time such things took place, that “I am He, I am the First and the Last” and “Surely My hand established the Earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand together.” He does not even seem to have been declaring such things to be true about God Most High from the first.
Whereas if he was declaring such things from the first about himself, that would be excellent evidence he did not know God and should be exhorted by a monotheistic prophet to worship God alone! Especially since Cyrus was about to whomp Babylon who was making similar claims! (And in some ways not even as extensively so.)
Also, the prophecies concerning Cyrus (as you referenced) are so loaded with such cosmic level final eschaton language, that Cyrus himself quickly drops out of view, with YHWH taking center stage. If Cyrus and his forthcoming overthrow of Babylon (who blasphemes by figuratively claiming divine self-existence (47:8), a blasphemy no less serious for being figurative) is being treated as an analogy for something that will ultimately happen later, who is the ultimate judge and king Cyrus is a type for? On the page, only YHWH is in view! But as you yourself know, Cyrus is also widely considered a type for the King Messiah to come. But if this King Messiah is himself only a type and not in identity God Himself, then there must be a final judgment to come after the King Messiah, too. Except that there isn’t. The King Messiah is the final ultimate judge of rebellion against God; and God is the final ultimate judge of rebellion against God; and this judicial authority and enactment is not sequential (unlike with Cyrus).
Put another way, when verse 16 says, “YHWH loves him, he shall carry out his good pleasure on Babylon”, the only person in view isn’t Cyrus. He dropped out of sight long ago. In fact, the last time he was on the page was back near the beginning of chapter 45. Everything after that might have been spoken to Cyrus, but it isn’t necessarily about Cyrus. (On the contrary, it is a warning about idolatry!–which Cyrus the pagan would have been as guilty of as anyone. Also, Cyrus didn’t fulfill many of those prophecies when he did come; both of which are reasons why interpreters tend to see more than Cyrus in ultimate view here. Neither has Jesus, yet!–which is one reason why non-Christian Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah. The typical Christian answer is that we expect Jesus to fulfill them later. But I am not aware of anyone, Christian or non-Christian, who expects Cyrus the Tyrant to fulfill those as-yet-unfulfilled prophecies later.)
The statement “YHWH loves him” looks rather to be an answer to the question “Assemble all of you * and listen!–who among you has declared these things?” If it happens later that the Messiah is himself attributed with foundational creation and with the identity and properties of “I AM HE” and “I am the first and the last”–deeds and attributes that ought to be unique to YHWH alone (Whose glory He will not give to another, v.11 just previously)–then there will be an even stronger answer to who (or Who rather) is being spoken of in vv. 14-15.
Yet again, in the transition to Chapter 49, the Messiah Israel (prince of God) is in view, redeemer of rebel Jacob (thus Israel as a nation, which is who needed the redeeming, is not who is being spoken of as “Israel”). Cyrus is waaaaaay out of view by this point. The one whom God has been talking about the whole time, springboarding off Cyrus as a typological figure (and off Israel, too), is now revealed.
I think it is interesting, by the way, that you would consider the speaker at the end of verse 16 going into 17 to be Cyrus a man who does not even know God (and who certainly didn’t convert to being a Jewish high prophet for the people). Would it not be more reasonable (if a second person of YHWH must be excluded by metaphysical principle!) for this to be the human man delivering the message?–namely Isaiah (or some prophet from his school afterward)?
I’m not sure how to transition into the topic of angels giving the Law, so I’ll just announce that the next comment will be dedicated to that topic. *