The Council of My Nation – Idolatry – Plural Terminology

C. Plural Terminology

Another category of verses that Christians quote in an attempt to justify their theology are those passages in which God is spoken of in plural terminology.

This category can be further classified into three subdivisions. There are verses in which a plural term is used to describe an action of God or even to describe God Himself. Then there are passages in which God speaks about Himself in a manner which seems to indicate plurality within God. And finally, there are passages which refer to God by several names, which Christians see as an indication of plurality.

An example for the first category of an indication of plurality within God, and perhaps the best known of this type of proof-text, is the verse in Genesis 1:26 where God says “let us make man in our image”. (There are actually two points that must be analyzed in this one verse. There is the issue of plural terminology, and then there is the issue of anthropomorphism – the verse seems to be indicating that God has an image. Presently we will address the plurality issue. We hope to address the issue of anthropomorphism separately.) The Christian argues that this is a clear proof to the concept of plurality within the larger concept of God. Why else would God talk of an action that He plans to do in the plural. The Jewish position is that God is talking to His heavenly court. Christians ridicule this interpretation. Why would God have to discuss things with the angels? Doesn’t Isaiah tell us “with whom did He (God) take counsel?” (Isaiah 40:14). God doesn’t need to discuss things with His servants! I must admit that these sound like good objections. But let us note that these objections are not textual. The text itself reads perfectly fine according to the Jewish interpretation. The objections to this interpretation are theological in nature and based on the larger context of scripture. In other words the Christian is telling us that God never meant this line in scripture to be read outside of the larger context of theological truths that were taught by God. This is the basis for the Jewish position. God revealed Himself to the Jewish people at Sinai, and that revelation is the context within which they read scripture. This is the context that God Himself provided for scripture – the revelation at Sinai came before scripture was presented to the Jewish people. And it is this larger context which prevents the Jew from accepting the Christian interpretation.

The fact is that scripture clearly describes God as operating through the counsel of a heavenly court. 1Kings 22:19 has God sitting on His throne and the host of the heavens are standing to His right and to His left. God asks of them “who will go and persuade Ahab to go to Ramot Gilead?” After a discussion on the matter, a certain spirit volunteered for the task, and God asks the spirit “how are you planning to do this?” The spirit responds by describing his plan, whereupon God agrees, and the spirit goes forth.

Does God need the counsel of the angels to accomplish His objectives? Certainly not! Does God need a spirit to help Him devise a plan of action? Again, no! But that is how the scripture describes the way God operates. This is either a metaphor, helping us understand the severity of the judgment about to befall Ahab, or this is telling us about certain spiritual forces, who are but creations of God, and are the methods through whom God chooses to operate.

In the book of Isaiah (6:8) we also find God sitting on His throne surrounded by the heavenly host. In that passage God also asks “who will go for us?”, implying a discussion with the angels that surround His throne. There is no reason to believe that the passage in Genesis is not putting forth the same imagery.

Another category of scriptural quotations that seem to ascribe plurality to God are those which speak of God Himself in plural terminology. The verse in Joshua 24:19 is an example of this manner of speaking. Joshua describes God as holy, but the Hebrew word that Joshua uses for holy is in the plural format as if it were applying to more than one entity.

This should be nothing new to one who reads the scriptures in the original Hebrew. When speaking of single human beings, scripture also uses plural terminology. Genesis 39:20 refers to Potiphar as “the masters of Joseph”. This is not an isolated irregularity. The same chapter in Genesis repeats the plural phraseology in verses 2,3,7, and 8. The same usage of plural wording in reference to specific people can be found in Exodus 21:4,6,29,32, in 1Kings 22:17, and in Isaiah 19:4. In other words, the fact that scripture uses plural terminology to describe an individual does not turn him into a trinity.

Yet another type of passage quoted in support of the Christian notion that sees God as a plurality are those which have God speaking of himself in the third person. An example would be Hosea 1:7 where God tells us that He will save the Jewish people through the Lord their God. Christians argue that one entity within the godhead will be using another entity to render salvation for the Jewish people – plurality within the godhead! The problem with this interpretation is that we find human beings speaking the same way. Genesis 4:23 and 24 has Lamech speaking to his wives while referring to himself in the third person. David commands his servants (2Samuel 20:6,1Kings 1:33) to take the slaves of their master – a reference to himself. Numbers 24:3 and 4 has Bileam describing himself in the third person. This is obviously a common usage of the Hebrew language and no indication of plurality within the nature of the speaker.

Originally posted on: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/the-council-of-my-nation/

Check out the other parts to this series here 

Have any queries or questions? Email us at [email protected]