Vol. 7, No. 2
Since You Asked
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Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.
Hi there, I am dealing with a Jehovah's Witness who, as I am sure that you know, deny the Deity of Jesus, deny the resurrection, so forth and so on. Here is my question. I was using Genesis 1 to prove the Deity of Christ, i.e. 'elohim (God) being plural (the plural of 'el as used in Malachi 2:10 for example). In looking at creation, Jesus must be included in 'elohim, keeping in mind John 1 and Colossians 1:16. Also we read, "Let us make man in our image," followed by, "In the image of God ('elohim) created He (singular) him." This Jehovah's Witness proceeded to tell me that the Hebrew language uses plurality such as 'elohim, us, and our as a way to express the majesty of Jehovah; that it does not indicate more than one. Of course that sounds bogus to me, but do you have any insight on how best to refute it? Many thanks, Roland
Anciently through the present, conservative Bible students have always understood the plural for God in Genesis Chapter One and the accompanying plural pronouns to refer to the three persons in the Godhead. Especially the New Testament clearly teaches that there are three persons in the one Godhead. More recently, religious liberals who handle the Bible with less esteem have sought alternatives to admitting the divine origin of the Bible, much less that there are three divine persons in the one Godhead. Guy N. Woods summarizes the evidence respecting the plural references to God in Genesis Chapter One.
The word "God" is from the Hebrew Elohim, plural of El. ...The word occurs 57 times in the singular, and about 3000 times in the plural in the Old Testament. ...The appearance of the plural form of God in Genesis 1:1, Elohim, and the use of plural pronouns in reference to God (Genesis 1:1; 1:26), has long been regarded by conservative scholars as an indirect allusion to the three persons comprising the godhead. Advocates of modernistic and liberal views touching creation deny this, alleging that the plural form is a relic of polytheism, or a form of majesty, or a reference to the manifold attributes of deity, or association with angels. There is no evidence that the "we" of majesty existed in Moses' day and other efforts at explanation are the products of unbelief. ...Why should there be any difficulty whatsoever in accepting the plural form as an allusion to that which is so clearly and often taught in subsequent scripture? (227-228)
Additional resources likewise confirm the longstanding appreciation of the plural form of God in Genesis Chapter One and the accompanying plural pronouns as referring to three divine persons in the Godhead. The "plural form is obscurely taught, at the opening of the Bible, a doctrine clearly revealed in the later portions of it--namely, that though God is one, there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead, who were engaged in the creative work (Prov 8:27; John 1:3-10; Eph 3:9; Heb 1:2; Job 28:13)" (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown). Adam Clarke also affirms the common understanding from antiquity that the three divine persons in the Godhead appear in Genesis Chapter One.
The original word 'Elohim (OT:430), "God," is certainly the plural form of 'Eel (OT:410), or 'Eloah (OT:433), and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence, the doctrine of the TRINITY, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. ...The text tells us he was the work of 'ELOHIYM (OT:430), the Divine Plurality, marked here more distinctly by the plural pronouns US and OUR; and to show that he was the masterpiece of God's creation, all the persons in the Godhead are represented as united in counsel and effort to produce this astonishing creature.
Still another resource contrasts the false notion that one divine person in the Godhead manifests himself in three different ways. "Further, the God of the Bible is not one Person who shows Himself to human beings in three ways or forms (an error called Sabellianism). There are three separate Persons comprising one God. This is suggested or taught in such passages as Gen. 1:26; 11:7; Ps. 2:7" (Karleen). James Burton Coffman concludes that the only reasonable appreciation of Genesis Chapter One with its plural references to Deity and plural pronouns referring to Deity is that it correlates with the three divine persons in the Godhead, commonly called the Trinity.
"God created ..." The word for "God" here is "['Elohiym]," a plural term, and by far the most frequent designation of the Supreme Being in the O.T., being used almost 2,000 times. Despite the plurality of this name, it is connected with verbs and adjectives in the singular. Thus, in the very first verse of the Bible there would appear to be embedded embryonically in the very name of God Himself a suggestion: (1) of the Trinitarian conception more fully revealed in the N.T., and (2) also a witness of the unity of the Godhead. Some have questioned this, of course; but we have never encountered any other adequate explanation of it [emphasis added]. ..."And God said, Let us ..." The plural word [~'Elohiym] is used here; and the most logical understanding of it is that of seeing in it a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity revealed ages afterward in the N.T. Such views as making it like an editorial "we," or the majesterial plural, or as an inclusion of angelic hosts or other heavenly beings are totally inadequate. It cannot be believed that God discussed the creation with the angels and included them as participants in His decision to create man. John 1:1, which affirms that the Word was God, and in the beginning with God, and that without Him there was nothing made that hath been made, supports the thought that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (revealed in Gen. 1:2 as active in the creation) should be understood as included in "us" and "our" here. Thus, it appears from the very beginning that God is represented as a compound unity.
Vine refers to Elohim as "a plural of majesty." Some resources simply acknowledge that various persons adopt contradictory positions respecting Genesis Chapter One and its references to God (Wycliffe; Nelson's). Keil and Delitzsch also recognize that some contemporary commentators discount references to the Trinity in Genesis Chapter One, but old scholarship throughout the centuries has always regarded Genesis Chapter One as part of the overall biblical evidence of three divine persons in the one Godhead.
The plural "We" was regarded by the fathers and earlier theologians almost unanimously as indicative of the Trinity: modern commentators, on the contrary, regard it either as pluralis majestatis; or as an address by God to Himself, the subject and object being identical; or as communicative, an address to the spirits or angels who stand around the Deity and constitute His council. [emphasis added]
Especially New Testament commentary on the Old Testament respecting the Trinity (a thoroughly biblical doctrine though the summary word with which it is labeled does not appear in the Bible) validates use of the plural form of God in Genesis Chapter One, along with the plural pronouns, as authentic references to the three divine persons in the one Godhead. The same principle by which Genesis 3:15 is understood to be a Messianic prophecy (cf. Galatians 3:16; 4:4; John 12:31-33), the plural word for God and plural pronouns of Genesis Chapter One are understood properly as references to the Trinity (cf. John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:16-17).
Adam Clarke's Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU Press, 1989.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Karleen, Paul S. The Handbook to Bible Study. CD-ROM. New York: Oxford UP, 1987.
Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. New Updated Edition. CD-ROM. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1986.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1985.
Woods, Guy N. Questions and Answers. Vol. II. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1986.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.
Hi I was wondering if you could possibly answer a few qustions for me, but first let me explain myself. I'm 15 going-on-16 i am reading the Left Behind Series for kids i am on book number 27. While reading these books a have developed an intrest in whats goning to happen and when, do you think you could helop me with this? Also I would like to no if I was to commit myself to God what would happen if I sinned or messed up? Also how do I commit myself to God what do I do and how do I do it? Also how do I no that I've done it right, do I feel something? And one more question how do I get other people to believe as I do, like faimly and close friends? Well thank you for your time. ~ Amy Mellon P.S. is there any signs to the end of time, do think it's near? If so please tell me what you beleive.
The Left Behind series of books represents religious fiction; they are more fiction than biblically correct. These books capitalize upon a popular religious doctrine called premillennialism, which concerns the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, at which time he supposedly will establish a 1,000-year physical kingdom with his throne in Jerusalem. Premillennialism is based on the mistaken and non-biblical ideas: (1) Jesus Christ failed to establish the kingdom when he came the first time. (2) The type of kingdom Jesus Christ came to establish was a physical kingdom and not a spiritual kingdom. (3) Jesus Christ established the church as a temporary substitute for the kingdom he came to establish. (4) Signs of the times will indicate when Jesus will return.
The truth is: (1) To ascribe failure to Jesus Christ in a failed attempt to do anything he purposed to do would essentially dethrone Jesus as Christ and from consideration of possessing the qualities of Deity. (2) Jesus plainly told Governor Pilate that our Lord's kingdom was not a physical kingdom, but that it was a spiritual kingdom. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36). Pilate could not have been loyal to the Roman Emperor had he believed Jesus meant to establish a physical kingdom when Pilate said, "I find in him no fault at all" (John 18:38). Jesus had already refused two offers to be king over a physical kingdom (Satan's offer, Matthew 4:8-10; contemporary Jews in the first century, John 6:15). (3) Jesus used the terms "church" and "kingdom" interchangeably (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus also gave Peter the "keys of the kingdom," which he used to open the doors of the church (Acts 2). The church was in the eternal purpose of God (Ephesians 3:10-11). The power with which Jesus said the kingdom would be established within the lifetime of the people to whom he was speaking brought the church into existence (Mark 9:1; Acts 2:1-4). The church and the kingdom, as well as the body and the house of God, etc. refer to the same divine, spiritual institution.
(4) The only signs of the times in the New Testament refer to the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred already in A.D. 70. The disciples of Jesus were impressed with the grandeur of the Temple compound and dumbfounded when Jesus said it would all be completely destroyed (Matthew 24:1-2). The disciples mistakenly thought the buildings were so massive that nothing short of the end of the world could destroy them (Matthew 24:3). Jesus, though, answered two questions posed by his disciples (the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24:4-35; the end of time and the Second Coming, Matthew 24:36-51). The signs of the times pertain to the destruction of Jerusalem and appear in that context. The Second Coming part of the context begins with the affirmation of Jesus that he did not know when the Second Coming would be: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36).
Jesus did not leave humanity without information regarding how one's past sins may be taken away. Summarized, Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Earlier, Jesus had also included repentance (Luke 13:3) and telling others about one's faith in him (Matthew 10:32). Hence, man's part of initial salvation includes belief or faith (John 8:24), repentance (Acts 2:38), professing Jesus Christ to be the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37) and immersion (a burial) in water for the remission of sins (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
Assurance of salvation is not owing to a subjective, emotional feeling, but is based on knowledge of God's Word with which one complies [obeys, Hebrews 5:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9]. A good feeling based on biblical evidence and one's compliance with the Word of God is not subjective but certain--certified by the written Word of God. Please allow me to assist you further respecting God's redemptive plan, or contact a local congregation of the churches of Christ in your community.
What did Jesus mean when He said, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, from the cross? Thank you in advance Ms Cookie
Luke 23:34 reads: "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34 is the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12, including the intercession the Messiah made for his murderers. Barnes' notes respecting this verse:
The Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son of God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed, that he was "innocent," and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that he was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country.
Clarke concurs and adds:
...these persons well knew that they were crucifying an innocent man; but they did not know that, by this act of theirs, they were bringing down on themselves and on their country the heaviest judgments of God. In the prayer, Father, forgive them! that word of prophecy was fulfilled, He made intercession for the transgressors, Isa 53:12.
James Burton Coffman expands on this saying of Jesus in his comments on Matthew 27:66:
The chief business of the cross was forgiveness, and Christ moved quickly to get on with it. Were those men, then and there, forgiven? No! Forgiveness has two centers, human and divine; and on the human level, Christ forgave those men without either request or repentance on their part. Their forgiveness in heaven took place when they repented and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:36-38). That forgiveness of Christ on the personal level, even while they were crucifying him, was in line with his command that men must forgive if they are to be forgiven (Matt. 6:14,15). Luke 17:3 is not a permit to withhold forgiveness pending others' repentance, but is an admonition against the withholding of it even after they repent. Thus, Stephen forgave Saul of Tarsus on the human level, even while Saul stood by consenting to his death (Acts 7:60); but Paul was forgiven in heaven when he had "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine" (Rom. 6:17). Therefore, it appears that even with Christ himself praying for a person, as in the case here, that person will be truly forgiven in heaven only when he obeys the gospel. To view this otherwise would be to make a special case of the soldiers who crucified Jesus. Some of those, at least, who were guilty of his crucifixion (Acts 2:36) were forgiven when they repented and were baptized; to suppose that those soldiers did not need to do so, merely because Christ prayed for them, is to set aside the plain word of Scripture that all must believe, repent, and be baptized unto the remission of sins. Thus, we view the prayer of Christ in this first solemn word from the cross as an example for his disciples in their behavior toward those who sin against them, and not as an abatement of the Scriptural terms of redemption.
Coffman in his notes at Luke 23:34 writes:
This was the first of the seven utterances of Jesus from the cross; and it has the utility of indicating two centers of forgiveness, one on the earth, the other in heaven. It may not be supposed that Jesus' prayer for the forgiveness of the soldiers who crucified him implied their immediate forgiveness in heaven. Jesus, AS A MAN, forgave them; but the matter of their eternal forgiveness was still contingent upon their faith and acceptance of the terms of the Christian gospel.
The remarks of Jesus in Luke 23:34 were consistent with his teaching to his disciples. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). The apostle Paul continued to teach such principles demonstrated by Jesus in his teaching and in his ministry (including his death); "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:20-21; see also 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). The apostle Peter commended Jesus in his nobleness at the crucifixion: "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9). Jesus lived what he preached up to and including his death on the cruel cross.
Adam Clarke's Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
Barnes' Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU Press, 1989.