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Elohim

by Keith H. Meservy

Elohim (God; gods; Heavenly Father) is the plural form of the singular noun 'eloah (compare Arabic Allah) in the Hebrew Bible, where it is used 2,570 times as compared to 57 times for its singular. But as one commentator has noted, why this "plural form for "God' is used has not yet been explained satisfactorily" (Botterweck, Vol. 1, p. 272).

SINGULAR USAGE. Elohim appears in the Hebrew Bible as a common noun identifying Israel's God: "In the beginning God ['elohim] created [singular verb] the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). It was also frequently used interchangeably with Jehovah, the proper name for Israel's God: "And Jacob said, O God ['elohim] of my father Abraham,…the Lord [Jehovah] which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country" (Gen. 32:9; see also Jehovah, Jesus Christ).

Latter-day Saints use the name Elohim in a more restrictive sense as a proper name-title identifying the Father in Heaven (see God the Father). The First Presidency of the Church has written, "God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title "Elohim,' is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race" (MFP 5:26; see also Doctrinal Expositions of the First Presidency, "The Father and the Son," appendices, Vol. 4).

PLURAL USAGE. Ancient Israelites used 'elohim also as a proper plural form to refer to gods of nations other than Israel. At such times, the accompanying verbs and adjectives used were also plural. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3; here "other" is a plural adjective).

Occasionally, Latter-day Saints use Elohim in its plural sense as a common noun to refer to the plurality of gods known to exist (TPJS, pp. 371-74). However, despite their belief that many lords and gods exist in addition to Elohim, Jehovah, and the Holy Ghost (D&C 121:28-32), they follow the example of Jesus and Paul, who worshiped the Father in Heaven (Matt. 19:17; 1 Cor. 8:4-6). (See Adam-God's Last Stand)

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Teachings About the Godhead home page; Teachings About God the Father home page)

Bibliography

Botterweck, G. Johannes, and Helmer Ringgren, eds. "Elohim." In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, rev. ed., Vol. 1, pp. 267-84. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1977.

Talmage, James E. The Vitality of Mormonism, pp. 317 ff. Boston, 1919.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Elohim

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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