Elohim and the Son of God - Part 1
Text of Psalm 82:1–8
Parties involved: (Psalm 82:1): Elohim stands in the congregation of El; He judges among the Elohim.
a. Complaint: (verse 2) How long will you
- judge unjustly, and
- accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
b. Commission violated:
- (verse 3) Defend the poor and fatherless:
- do justice to the afflicted and needy.
- (verse 4) Deliver the poor and needy:
- rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 15
c. Result to people of failure:
- (verse 5) They know not,
- neither will they understand;
- they walk on in darkness.
d. Result to earth of failure:
- all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
e. Judgment/doom pronounced: (verse 6) I have said, You are Elohim; and all of you are children [sons] of the most High. (verse 7) But
- you shall die like men [like adam], and
- fall like one of the princes [like human rulers].
f. Reassignment of covenant to another: (verse 8) Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth: for you shall inherit all nations.
The “sons of the most High” had limited sovereignty and dominion delegated to them to judge the nations under their charge justly. Psalm 82 is a Davidic Psalm. That dominion was proclaimed to be taken from them some time during David’s reign. Later, during the time of Jeremiah, the judgment of Psalm 82 was put into effect. Guess who verse 8 (“You shall inherit all nations.”) is talking about? Sovereignty is taken away from the Sons of God and then it is given to “the Son of God” who is Christ.
Conclusions from Psalm 82: Verse 6: Elohim are equated with “the Sons of the Most High (Hebrew, ’elyon),” and they are being judged. 16 Verse 6: the Elohim who are those “the Sons of the Most High” can die! Elohim can die! 17 “The Sons of the Most High” are not humans (or so-called judges). 18 “The Sons of the Most High” are not angels by virtue of Hebrews 1:5, a key verse.
The Greek Old Testament mistakenly applies the term “angels” when it should not when it is talking about the Sons of God and they get mixed together. They are mixed in the Book of Enoch, they get mixed in the Book of Jubilees, they get mixed in Josephus, and in the writings of Philo. Things got so mixed up that the author of the Book of Hebrews, Paul, took it upon himself to correct the text and went against what, in some cases, the Greek Old Testament says.
John Chapter 10, Jesus Quotes Psalm 82
At the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication Jesus was asked:
“Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, ‘How long do you make us to doubt? If you be the Christ [Messiah], tell us plainly.’”
Jesus answers and refers them to His sheep and His works as testimony whether He was the Messiah.
“‘My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.’ Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works have I showed you from my Father [which they saw and acknowledged]; for which of those works do you stone me?’
The Jews answered him, saying, ‘For a good work we stone you not [admitting He did good works]; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God [Greek, theos].’”
[Jesus answered them] Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, You are gods?’ [citing Psalm 82:6] If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say you of him, whom the Father  has sanctified [makes holy], and  sent [sends] into the world, ‘You blaspheme’; because I said, ‘I am THE Son of God?’”
They understood there were other Sons of God. They knew exactly what He was quoting in Psalm 82:6.
“‘If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.’ Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand.”
Observations: Jesus statement that He was “the Son of God” was defended by His quoting Psalm 82, He was referring to all of it. 19 Jesus’ reference to the “gods” meant “the Sons of the Most High” in Psalm 82:6. The Jews understood this. Jesus identifies Himself with the Elohim in Psalm 82:8! Jesus was saying that He was to be given all the authority taken from the other Sons by God the Father. This is the reason they sought to stone Him. Compare these verses:
“Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth: for you shall inherit all nations [goyim, the nations].”
“Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen [goyim, the nations] for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”
“The seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ [Messiah]; and he shall reign for ever and ever [eons of the eons].’”
The Book of Hebrews
Here is the sequence of events: God took away the inheritance from the Sons of God in Psalm 82:8. He did not assign it to Jesus Christ right away. It was not given to him until later, as it says in Hebrews. Who was running things in the meantime? The Prince of Persia, the Prince of Grecia, other angels, the King of Tyre (a cherub). You see this reflected in the pagan writings. The lesser gods did not respond like the older gods did, like the ancient gods did who went away about 600 B.C.E. using our timeframe. There is a radical shift in history and religion during the time of Jeremiah. 21
“God, … has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,
- whom he has appointed heir of all things [cf., Psalm 82:8],
- by [through] whom also he made the worlds [eons];
- Who being the brightness of his glory, and
- [being] the express image of his person, and
- upholding all things by the word of his power,
when he [the Son] had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Being made so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance [allotment 20
] obtained a more excellent name than they.”
“See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”
This involved everything and all nations in the world. At that time those Sons of God had their sovereignty taken away and the pronouncement of Psalm 82:8, which was announced in the time of David, was enforced. God gave them quite a long waiting period before He enacted the punishment. Like most, if God delays judgment they think nothing will happen. Israel did, Judah did, probably so did the Sons of God. There are accounts, which I will not go into here, where there are distinctions between the idols which are seized and the gods, the Elohim, who are taken captive. Does that mean that if they are going to die like men then they are limited to the physical? Maybe. Maybe they were stuck in the physical realm and they cannot get out of it, and that they are subject to death. God pronounced their death in Psalm 82:6. They have to die somehow. It does not mean God will just zap them. What does it mean for an Elohim to die?
Jesus as the Son of God
“Being made so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance [allotment] obtained a more excellent name than they. 22
For unto which of the angels said he at any time,
- “You are my Son, this day have I begotten you?” And again,
- “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?”
Jesus was a Son of God, but more importantly He was the Son of God (with the definite article).
The author of Hebrews is talking about the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and in verse 8 he calls the Son “God” (using the common term Greek for God, theos). Let us look at Psalm 45:6–7 (cited in Hebrews 1:8–9):
“But unto the Son he says,
‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever [the eon of the eon]: a
sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God,
even your God, have anointed you with the oil of gladness above your
“Your throne, O Elohim, is for ever and ever [olam and beyond]: the sceptre of your kingdom is a right sceptre.
You love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore Elohim, your Elohim, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.”
- The Son is an Elohim, comparing Hebrews 1:8 with Psalm 45:6; this conclusion is inescapable.
- If the Son did not exist (did not have consciousness) until His incarnation, then WHEN did the Son become an Elohim?
- If the Son did not exist (did not have consciousness) until His incarnation, then who were His “fellows” talked about in Psalm 45:7 and in Hebrews 1:9?
- What then is the relationship between the Son of God, the Sons of God, and these “fellows”?
- WHEN were they “His fellows,” because the Sons of God existed and died (most of them) before the Son was incarnated? At the time of Psalm 82 most were sentenced to death and I maintain that was carried out during the time of Jeremiah. There is no problem if Christ, the Son of God was the means whereby God the Father created the other Sons of God. 23
- Comparing Hebrews 1:9 with Psalm 45:7, the “fellows” could only be the other Sons of God told about in Genesis 6, Deuteronomy 32, Job, Psalm 29:1, Psalms 82 and 89, et al.
What then is the true characterization of the Godhead? Martin P. Nilsson, in his article “The High God and the Mediator” 24 talks about henotheism, quoting a passage from a pagan Greek philosopher, Maximus of Tyre who wrote in 2nd century C.E. several decades after New Testament times:
You also get this concept in the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo, and you get this somewhat in Josephus. This is not unique idea in ancient times. So then, what or who are Elohim? Once again, going through the list:
“In spite of all the dissension (on other matters), one finds in the whole world a unanimous opinion and doctrine that
there is one God, the king and father of everything,
and many gods, who are the co-regents of God.
So says the Greek, so says the barbarian.”
- YHWH is an Elohim (Psalm 95:3, 7)
- Pagan gods are Elohim (Deuteronomy 6:14)
- Angels are Elohim (Psalm 8:4–5, Hebrews 2:9)
- Cherubim are Elohim (Ezekiel 28:14)
- Sons of God are Elohim (Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7; Psalms 82, 89)
- Jesus Christ as the Son of God is an Elohim (Hebrews 1:8–10, Psalm 45:6–7)
Human beings are never identified as Elohim in the Old Testament, but they are given authority of Elohim, i.e. Moses (Exodus 7:1), and there are comparisons made using “as” or “like” Elohim.
Let us define then the terms of the various concepts about God:
- Monotheism – “The doctrine or belief that there is only one God.”
- Polytheism – “The worship of, or belief in, more than one god.”
- Henotheism – “Belief in [worship of] one god without denying the existence of others.”
Henotheism is exactly what Israel was commanded to do, worship YHWH alone while acknowledging that other gods existed. Look at the example of Solomon. Solomon had no problems until he started worshipping the foreign gods and building temples for them (see 1 Kings 11:1–40). He had no problems at all until that time. He could acknowledge the other gods as the Phoenicians. Israel always acknowledged YHWH, even when they built the golden calf to represent the “gods” that brought them out of Egypt (Exodus chapter 32). This also shows that Israel knew there were gods other than YHWH. It was all right for Israel to acknowledge that other gods existed, but they were only to worship YHWH and no other gods. That is what they were commanded to do by God and Moses.
Henotheism in my view describes best the biblical reality, but all such terms have a limited application including binitarianism, because they are all non-biblical. Of course, YHWH is not a trinity, nor is God the Father part of a trinity!
Dixon Cartwright, 26 when I spoke with him a while back, tried to put labels on me, and he said, are you this or are you that? I said, well, I believe YHWH is one God the Father, and there is one Lord Jesus Christ. That would make me a monotheist. There are other Elohim that I understand are out there and are real gods (small “g”), but they are Elohim. That would make me a polytheist. I would only worship one God, yet I acknowledge the existence of other gods, that would make me a Henotheist. You can call me what you like: a monotheist, a polytheist, a henotheist, a binitarian, just don’t call me late for lunch. I would take offense at that.
David Sielaff, October 2007
|This article is Part 1 of the written form of the lecture I delivered on June 9, 2007 at the One God Conference in Albany, New York. It continues on directly from Part 2 located on the ASK website at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d071015.htm. |
|I want to encourage you to also read the “October 2007 Newsletter Part 2” (http://www.askelm.com/newsletter/l20071018.htm) which both introduces PART 2 and provides additional background information.|
- Note another example, Joshua 22:22 where the phrase “El of Elohim” is used. The “El” is singular of the plural Elohim. Once this concept is understood then much of the Old Testament doctrine about God begins to clear up and make perfectly good sense.
- Here Elohim is used as a singular, yet other peoples and nations other than Israel have different Elohim.
- If other Elohim did not ontologically exist, if they were not real beings, then why would YHWH get upset about Israel worshipping fantasies? Why would God care about nonexistent beings? He could explain to Israel that these gods are not real and do not exist. But, if other Elohim did exist (and they do exist), then there is a real reason that God warns Israel and even the ekklesia against idolatry. First Corinthians 10:14 and 1 John 5:21 are just two New Testament examples.
- The term “United States” is a collective noun (like Elohim). British author Christopher Hitchens notes the following about the use of “United States” as a compound noun gives an explanation:
“President Madison’s words on this occasion could scarcely be bettered: ‘It is a settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute. The United States, while they wish for war with no nation, [they] will buy peace with none.’ [Then Hitchens comments:] (The expression ‘the United States is’ [as a singular] did not come into usage until after Gettysburg.)”
“Unlike the great States of Europe and Asia and many of those of America, these United States are wasting their strength neither in foreign war nor domestic strife.”
“These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions.”
- I differ with the majority view: “Contrary to Greek and many Western languages, compound nouns are not characteristic of Hebrew. The Hebrew plural is formed by adding -im to masculine nouns (seraphim, cherubim), and modifying the feminine ending to –oth.” See Walter Elwell, ed., Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), S., p. 334. Elsewhere this Encyclopedia indicates that Elohim, although plural in form is singular. This is definitionally characteristic of a compound noun according to usage.
- It is frustrating that most English translations render the important and basic titles for God by terms that obscure their full meaning for the reader. This is done by using different type faces, or styles, or capitalizations to somehow “distinguish” the titles for God. For example, consider the use of LORD (YHWH) and Lord (Adonay) in Psalm 110:1 as one example in the King James Version. If translators would simply use the transliterated terms YHWH (or Yahweh), El, Elohim, Elohi, Eloah, and Elim then the use and familiarity of those terms would reinforce their meaning in context. This applies to the Old Testament only.
- The Sons of God “saw” and “took” (Genesis 6:2) the women just like Eve, the first woman, “saw” the tree and “took” fruit from it in Genesis 3:6.
- Nor is there any indication anywhere in Scripture of this incident being a matter of fornication. 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 are talking about angels, not Sons of God. The incidents are completely different.
- See Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32 and the Sons of God” in Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (January 01), pp. 52–74. This article is available online at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_...-Deut32-BS.htm, and on Dr. Heiser’s website (see note below).
- While both angels and Sons of God are Elohim, Scripture distinguishes each from each other.
- For a thorough analysis of the textual issues of this passage and its implication, see the works of Dr. Michael S. Heiser regarding the Divine Council of YHWH at http://www.thedivinecouncil.com. See particularly the explanation in his article “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God” at note 9 above.
- Begin with E. Theodore Mullen, Jr., The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986). Other aspects of the Divine Council can be found in Michael Heiser’s “Divine Council 101: Lesson 2: The elohim of Psalm 82 – gods or men?” at http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/. Go there for a full list of the major technical sources.
- This is due to a misdating of the Ugaritic history and archival documents. Note the close similarity of terms and concepts:
Ugaritic CTA 16. VI. 45–54 spoken to Kirta
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- 2 How long will you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
- 3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
- 4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
- 5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
- 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for you shall inherit all nations.”
- You do not judge the case of the widow,
- Nor do you judge the case of the wretched.
- You do not drive out the oppressor of the poor!
- You do not feed the orphan before you, Nor the widow behind you.
- You have become a companion of the sick-bed,
- You have become a friend of the bed of sickness!
- Descend from the kingship that I might reign,
- From your dominion that I might sit enthroned over it!
Translation in Mullen, Divine Council, p. 235. In Ugarit Kirta is the son of Ilu, the equivalent of El, the chief god. “the offspring of the Gracious and Holy One. Do gods die? [yes], Does the offspring of the Gracious One not live? [yes]” in William W. Hallo, K. Lawson Younger, et al., The Context of Scripture. Leiden; New York: Brill, 1997, S. 339.
“The concept of the divine council, or the assembly of the gods, was a common religious motif in the cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Canaan, Phoenicia, and Israel.”
- For background on God’s covenant lawsuits against Israel (there were several), see J. Carl Laney, “The Role of the Prophets in God’s Case against Israel” in Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 138. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1981; 2002, S. 138:313–324. “The most vivid depiction of the pronouncement of judgment within the assembly itself is found in Psalm 82” (Mullen, Divine Council, p. 228). Covenants had penalties which were adjudicated in a formalized manner. Psalm 82 is a “courtroom scene” of judgment against violators of a covenant between YHWH and some (probably most) of His sons. See the information and sources in my article “Idolatry and God’s Punishment” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d070301.htm.
- This is what all judges are supposed to do, but in Old Testament times there was a format and a formula for redress. God as King is talking to these violators, these unjust judges. The result to the people as a result of the failure in part c. above. The violators were to do justice for those that were subordinate and in their charge. The result is in part d. above.
- The phrase “Most High” and “adam” are distinguished from each other in Deuteronomy 32:8, which together with Psalm 82:6, together show that the “sons” cannot be humans.
- This at first seems shocking, but Jesus Christ was an Elohim before His incarnation. He could and did die. Only He has been resurrected.
- Clearly Israel lived in a death cult society. Death was all around. To placate God at Israel’s cult they had to sacrifice and kill animals all the time as substitute for their own death. They knew that everything died. There is no way that a human judge in Israel would think that he could not die and that God needs to come along and pronounce a death sentence on a human being.
- Understand that in the Book of Hebrews and in much of the New Testament when a verse is cited it refers to the larger context containing that verse. There is an old joke about comedians who sit around and just speak punch lines of jokes. People listening did not know what they are laughing about. One comedian would say a punch line and all the other comedians would laugh and laugh because they all knew the story leading up to the punch line. Likewise the Scribes, the Pharisees, and even the common people in the Temple knew exactly what Jesus was referring to. He quoted a particular portion but He was referring to all of Psalm 82. By saying “You are gods,” Jesus identified Himself with the Sons of the Most High. He could do this as “the only begotten Son of God.” He was different. He was totally unique. He was “begotten.” The other Sons were not.
- Which God assigned and gave to Him in Psalm 82:8.
- See Dr. Martin’s article “Prophetic Birth of Our Civilization” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p020701.htm.
- What allotment? The inheritance allotment of Psalm 82:8. What name was given to Him? What is the “more excellent name” that He has than angels?
- The problem is this: beings called the Sons of God did exist before the creation of God. This is undeniable from Job 38:7. Many proponents of the One God concept hold that Jesus did not exist until His incarnation. If the Sons of God were created, lived, were punished, and were gone and dead some 500 years before Jesus was incarnated, then who are the “fellows” referred to in Psalm 45:7 and Hebrews 1:9? Angels cannot be those “fellows” because angels are not Sons as shown by Hebrews 1:5. They are not on His level. He is far, far above them. The purpose of Hebrews chapters 1 and 2 is to distinguish the Son from angels.
- Harvard Theological Review 56/2 (1963), p. 106.
- Occasionally the pagan philosophers understood the true nature of the Godhead, although we should not go to them for information. Whether they are informed by the Old Testament (as Christian historian Eusebius believed) or by observation of nature, as the apostle Paul speaks about in Romans chapter 1, cannot be determined.
- Editor and publisher of The Journal, News of the Churches of God (www.thejournal.org).
Continue on Part 2.1