« PreviousContinue »
the progress of his philological rcasoning to make a remark not quite foreign to the subject, and which is, in my humble opinion, so momentous in itself, and so well stated, as to deserve the notice of all devout inquirers after Divine truth. It is “ that, whatever may be the etymology of these two words, and whatever the true interpretation of either, it cannot be without some reason,-it cannot be, as some have pretended, from the mere caprice of language,-that the plural word is so much oftener used in the Scriptures as a name of God than the singular. That the plural word is used with the design of intimating a plurality in the Godhead, in some respect or other, it is strange that any one should doubt, who has observed that it is used in places, in which, if there be in truth no plurality in the Godhead, the inspired writers must have been determined, by the principles of their religion, studiously to avoid the use of a plural ; * especially as they had singulars at command. The plural is used in that very precept, which prohibits the worship of any God but one. I Jehovah am thy Gods that brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Be not unto thee other Gods beside me;' and in every subsequent part of the Decalogue, where God is mentioned, the plural word is introduced. In the second commandment, “For I Jehovah am thy Gods. In the third, “ Take not the name of Jehovah thy Gods in vain.' In the fourth, “The Sabbath of Jehovah thy Gods.' In the fifth, · The land which Jehovah thy Gods is giving thee. Whoever will suppose, that this plural appellation of God, thus constantly used in the language of the law, which of all language should be the most precise and accurate,-thus used in Jaws asserting and upholding the single Deity of the God of Israel,-has no reference to the plurality of persons in the Godhead, should be able to demonstrate some other plurality in the Godhead, to which the expression may refer.”
* “ The Talmudists themselves were so persuaded of a plurality expressed in the word Elohim, as to teach in Title Megilla, c. i. fol. 11, that the LXX interpreters did purposely change the notion of plurality, couched in the Hebrew plural, into a Greek singular, as they did also on Gen. i. 26 and xi. 7. lest Ptolomy Philadelph. should conclude that the Jews, as well as himself, had a belief of Polytheism. That was taken notice of by St. Jerom, in his preface to the book De Quæst. Hebr.” Allix's Judgment of the Ancient Jewish Church. p. 124.
After mentioning and refuting the absurd supposition of Abenezra, and some Christian Divines and Critics, “ that this plural word is used of God for honour's sake, according to a usage of the language ;” the Bishop adds, We have, however, the admission of this learned Jewish Grammarian, that deep mystery is involved in the plural form of the Divine name Elohim. What mystery that may be, but some plurality in the Godhead, it is not easy to divine.
One cannot but suspect, that it is to avoid a confession of the Christian doctrines, that he pretends to help us over the difficulty, by alleging a plurality, not in God, but in external things. But we have a right to challenge those who follow him in this admission, to allege some other plurality in God Himself, than that of the persons, to which the word
allude." The Bishop then returns to his immediate subject,—the etymology of the word; and after mentioning “ the derivation of the singular 5N, (Eloah) and the plural Dubs, (Elohim) from the Hebrew word iko to swear, or bind by an oath, which we find first in some of the Jewish Grammarians, after them in Cocceius,* and, last of all, in the Hutchinsonian school;" he allows “ that it commends itself at first sight by two circumstances, First, its great simplicity, inasmuch as it rejects all fanciful and uncertain compositions of more roots than one. Secondly, In that it is, or at least means to be, purely Hebrew; not going to search the archives of idolatry for the theological phraseology of the true religion.
After stating and rejecting the modes in which the Jewish grammarians and Cocceius have derived these Divine names from the root oobs, to swear, the former referring it to the prerogative of
* See also Kircher, Avenarius, Hulsius, Buxtorf, and Robertson.
Judges and Magistrates to administer oaths, and the latter to a right of malediction as vested in sovereignty;— his Lordship proceeds: “ The divines, however, of the Hutchinsonian school, from this same etymology, which they adopt in common with Cocceius, deduce interpretations of the two words very different from this, and certainly not liable to the same exceptions. Deducing both these words, as Cocceius deduces them, from Abs, to swear, they put a great difference between the two, making the plural Elohim active in its signification, and the singular Eloah passive. In the plural Elohim, they understand a reference to a certain transaction and compact between the persons of the Holy Trinity, relating to the great work of man's redemption before the world began, which is certainly represented, both in the Old and New Testament, under the notion of an oath; and the singular Eloah they expound as the appropriate title of the Second Person of the Trinity, characterizing Him by the part which he engaged to sustain in the wonderful scheme of mercy. These interpretations certainly arise very naturally out of the etymology, being founded on the primary and literal sense of the word, which these Divines, with Cocceius, take to be the root. Their exposition is conformable to the view which the Holy Scriptures give of the first plan and project (if it be allowed so to speak) of redemption; and it has this particular advantage, that it
holds forth (in conformity with the whole tenor of the Scriptures) such a foundation of love, mercy, gratitude, between God and the pardoned sinner, as particularly suits the innumerable passages in which, as hath been before shown, the plural Elohim seems to be introduced as involving, in its proper signification, such a relation: and though some have affected to be shocked at the manner of the application of the singular Eloah, in the Hutchinsonian scheme of interpretation, to the Second Person, there is nothing in it but what may be fully justified by the manner in which the Holy Scriptures speak of the incarnate God, as submitting to be made a curse for man.”
Having made these important concessions in favour of the etymology and interpretation, ascribed by the Hutchinsonian school to the
, surely to prejudice a reader strongly in their favour; the Bishop proceeds to state his objections to this derivation, on which with sincere and respectful deference to his Lordship’s name and ability, I shall venture to offer you a few remarks.
The first objection which the Bishop makes, is built on what may be safely admitted without bringing the Hutchinsonian interpretation into any difficulty. It is that the letter vau, introduced after the second radical, does not necessarily constitute the verbal noun passive in its signification. This may readily be granted; but instances to
concessions calculated-,אלהים and אלוה words