Posted by Stella Clark

Elohim Cover
Elohim is a plural formation of eloah, the latter being an expanded form of the Northwest Semitic noun il. It is the usual word for "god" in the Hebrew Bible, referring with singular verbs both to the one God of Israel, and also in a few examples to other singular pagan deities. With plural verbs the word is also used as a true plural with the meaning "gods". The singular forms eloah and el are used as proper names or as generics, in which case they are interchangeable with elohim. The notion of divinity underwent radical changes throughout the period of early Israelite identity. The ambiguity of the term Elohim is the result of such changes, cast in terms of "vertical translatability" by Smith (2008); i.e. the re-interpretation of the gods of the earliest recalled period as the national god of the monolatrism as it emerged in the 7th to 6th century BC in the Kingdom of Judah and during the Babylonian captivity, and further in terms of monotheism by the emergence of Rabbinical Judaism in the 2nd century AD. In Hebrew the form of the word Elohim, with the ending -im, which normally indicates a masculine plural, however with Elohim the construction is usually grammatically singular, (i.e. it governs a singular verb or adjective) when referring to the Hebrew God, but grammatically plural (i.e. taking a plural verb or adjective) when used of pagan divinities.

Elohim occurs frequently throughout the received text of the Torah. In some cases (e.g. Exodus 3:4, "... Elohim called unto him out of the midst of the bush..."), it acts as a singular noun in Hebrew grammar, and is then generally understood to denote the single God of Israel. In other cases, Elohim acts as an ordinary plural of the word Eloah, and refers to the polytheistic notion of multiple gods (for example, Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me.").

The choice of word or words for God varies in the Hebrew Bible. According to the documentary hypothesis these variations are evidence of different source texts: Elohim is used as the name of God in the Elohist and the Priestly source, while Yahweh is used in the Jahwist source. The difference in names results from the theological point being made in the Elohist and Priestly sources that God did not reveal his name, Yahweh, to any man before the time of Moses.

While the Jahwist presented an anthropomorphic God who could walk through the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve, the Elohist frequently involves angels. For example, it is the Elohist version of the tale of Jacob's ladder in which there is a ladder of angels with God at the top, whereas in the Jahwist tale, it is just a dream in which God is simply above the location, without the ladder or angels. Likewise, the Elohist describes Jacob actually wrestling with God.

The classical documentary hypothesis as developed in the late 19th century assumed that the Elohist portions of the Torah were composed in the 9th century BCE (i.e. during the early period of the Kingdom of Judah). This is far from universally accepted today, as there is evidence of a later "Elohist redaction" (post-exilic) during the 5th century BCE which makes it difficult to determine whether a given passage is "Elohist" in origin, or only as a result of late redaction.

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This entry was posted on 2 January 2011 at Sunday, January 02, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .