Search Related Sites

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

God and gods

It's surprising to find that so many have not found the abundant knowledge that the scriptural words for "god" had more than the meanings of 'true God" and "false god."

Even most trinitarian scholars will admit the truth of the scriptural use of the words rendered "god," "gods," and "God."

The Trinitarian-written NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985 tells us:

"In the language of the OT ... rulers and judges, as deputies of the heavenly King, could be given the honorific title 'god' ... or be called 'son of God'." - footnote for Ps. 82:1.

And, in the footnote for Ps. 45:6, this same study Bible tells us: "In this psalm, which praises the [Israelite] king ..., it is not unthinkable that he was called 'god' as a title of honor (cf. Isa. 9:6)."

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Zondervan, 1986, tells us:

"The reason why judges are called 'gods' in Ps. 82 is that they have the office of administering God's judgment as 'sons of the Most High'. In context of the Ps. the men in question have failed to do this.... On the other hand, Jesus fulfilled the role of a true judge as a 'god' and 'son of the Most High'." - Vol. 3, p. 187.

The popular trinitarian scholar W. E. Vine tells us:

"The word [theos, 'god' or 'God'] is used of Divinely appointed judges in Israel, as representing God in His authority, John 10:34" - p. 491, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

B. W. Johnson's People's New Testament says for John 10:34-36:

"Is it not written in your law. In Psa. 82. I said, Ye are gods? It was there addressed to judges. Christ's argument is: If your law calls judges gods, why should I be held guilty of blasphemy for saying that I am the Son of God? Sanctified. Set apart."

And Barnes' Notes tells us in commenting on John 10:34, 35:

The scripture cannot be broken. See Matthew 5:19. The authority of the Scripture is final; it cannot be set aside. The meaning is,

'If, therefore, the Scripture uses the word "god" as applied to magistrates, it settles the question that it is right to apply the term to those in office and authority. If applied to them, it may be to others in similar offices. It can not, therefore, be blasphemy to use this word as applicable to a personage so much more exalted than mere magistrates as the Messiah.' - Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

Young's Analytical Concordance of the Bible, Eerdmans, 1978 Reprint, "Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation":

"65. GOD - is used of any one (professedly) MIGHTY, whether truly so or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to false gods, magistrates, judges, angels, prophets, etc., e.g. - Exod. 7:1; 15:11; 21:6; 22:8, 9;...Ps. 8:5; 45:6; 82:1, 6; 97:7, 9...John 1:1; 10:33, 34, 35; 20:28...."

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Abingdon, 1974 printing,

"430. [elohim]. el-o-heem'; plural of 433; gods

in the ordinary sense; but spec. used (in the plur. thus, esp. with the art.) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: - angels, ... x (very) great, judges, x mighty." - p. 12, "Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary."

The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, 1979, Hendrickson, p. 43:

Elohim: "a. rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power.... b. divine ones, superhuman beings including God and angels.... c. angels Ps. 97:7..."

Angels are clearly called gods (elohim) at Ps. 8:5, 6. We know this because this passage is quoted at Heb. 2:6, 7, and there the word "angels" is used (in place of elohim in the OT) in NT Greek. The very trinitarian New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., 1970, says in a footnote for Ps. 8:6 -

"The angels: in Hebrew, elohim, which is the ordinary word for 'God' or 'the gods'; hence the ancient versions generally understood the term as referring to heavenly spirits [angels]."

Some of these trinitarian sources which admit that the Bible actually describes men who represent God (judges, Israelite kings, etc.) and God's angels as gods include:

1. Young's Analytical Concordance of the Bible, "Hints and Helps...," Eerdmans, 1978 reprint;

2. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #430, Hebrew & Chaldee Dict., Abingdon, 1974;

3. New Bible Dictionary, p. 1133, Tyndale House Publ., 1984;

4. Today's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 208, Bethany House Publ., 1982;

5. Hastings' A Dictionary of the Bible, p. 217, Vol. 2;

6. The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, p. 43, Hendrickson publ.,1979;

7. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, #2316 (4.), Thayer, Baker Book House, 1984 printing;

8. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, p. 132, Vol. 1; & p. 1265, Vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1984;

9. The NIV Study Bible, footnotes for Ps. 45:6; Ps. 82:1, 6; & Jn 10:34; Zondervan, 1985;

10. New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., footnote for Ps. 45:7, 1970 ed.;

11. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures, Vol. 5, pp. 188-189;

12. William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 317, 324, Nelson Publ., 1980 printing;

13. Murray J. Harris, Jesus As God, p. 202, Baker Book House, 1992;

14. William Barclay, The Gospel of John, V. 2, Daily Study Bible Series, pp. 77, 78, Westminster Press, 1975;

15. The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible (John 10:34 & Ps. 82:6);

16. The Fourfold Gospel (Note for John 10:35);

17. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Jamieson, Fausset, Brown (John 10:34-36);

18. Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:6-8 and John 10:35);

19. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible (Ps. 82:1).

20. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament ('Little Kittel'), - p. 328, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985.

21. The Expositor's Greek Testament, pp. 794-795, Vol. 1, Eerdmans Publishing Co.

22. The Amplified Bible, Ps. 82:1, 6 and John 10:34, 35, Zondervan Publ., 1965.

23. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, John 10:34, 35.

24. B. W. Johnson's People's New Testament, John 10:34-36.

And, of course the highly respected and highly popular Jewish writer, Philo, had the same understanding for "God"/"a god" about the same time the NT was written.

And the earliest Christians like Origen and others - - including Tertullian; Justin Martyr; Hippolytus; Clement of Alexandria; Theophilus; the writer of "The Epistle to Diognetus"; and even trinitarians Athanasius and St. Augustine - - also had this understanding for "a god." And, as we saw above, many highly respected NT scholars of this century agree. (For example, Ernst Haenchen tells us in his commentary on the Gospel of John:

"It was quite possible in Jewish and Christian monotheism to speak of divine beings that existed alongside and under God but were not identical with him. Phil 2:6-10 proves that. In that passage Paul depicts just such a divine being, who later became man in Jesus Christ". - John 1, translated by R. W. Funk, 1984, pp. 109, 110, Fortress Press.)

All of this shows the scriptural understanding (as well as the same understanding by Christian writers of the first centuries) of "god" as applied to angels and certain men who were trying to follow God or who were representatives or ambassadors for God. Just because it sounds strange to our modern ears is no reason to ignore the facts. And no reason to take advantage of that fact by claiming that only two understandings of the words theos and elohim are possible: "God" and "false gods."

For more, see
Is There Only One True God?
WHO IS “the Only True God”?
Identifying the Only True God
“Those Who Are Called ‘Gods’”