« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
cation to false gods, the cause of its assuming the plural form in its primary application, may, after all, have been what we allege, the threefold distinction in the Divine unity. And, if these remarks be well founded, the reason which accounts for the use of the plural name of God, when a false deity is spoken of, will, of course, account also for the occurrence, on such occasions, of any peculiarities of syntactical phraseology which arise out of it.
4. Mr. Yates mentions, that many of the most learned Trinitarians have rejected the argument from the plural form of the name of God. Who these many are, I am not at present very careful to inquire. The argument may be a tolerably sound one after all ;-even although Calvin himself should have questioned it. That celebrated man,” says Mr. Yates, “ had too much learning, and too much sense, to build his system on such a sandy foundation." The answer to this is, So hade
We do not build our system on this foundation. It is only one consideration among many, which mutually derive and communicate strength to one another. Even if Mr. Yates should make out this to be sand, we have abundance of solid rock beside.
With respect to learning (that is, Hebrew learning—the only description of learning that has to do with the case) we have higher authorities on our side than Calvin.
The following is the conclusion to which Gousset draws his argument:-“ From these considerations it follows, that the plural form of speech concerning God, is to be taken strictly and in its full force, if we would comply with the idiom of the Hebrew tongue ; and that therefore it ought to be acknowledged, that by this phraseology, plurality in Deity is most distinctly and strongly affirmed."(Comm. Ling. Ebr. p. 52.) In the same connection he expresses himself in these remarkable words :-“ But you will say, this plurality is inconsistent with the nature of God: I ask, in return, How do you know that? The declaration of God, who knows, is of more weight than your reasoning, who do not know. There are other causes, you retort, of a plural form of speech. I answer, its proper and natural cause is plurality in the things signified. It is from this that the plural form of a noun usually arises ; nor could it have been indicated in a manner more effectual than by this description of phrase, at once elegant and consistent with use. Let
humble learner, therefore, of the word of God, settle it in his mind, to receive, in sincerity and truth, whatever He may dictate."
Kennicott himself, that master in Hebrew literature, maintains the validity of our argument. In mentioning the facts respecting the construction of ALEIM, when used as the name of the true God, I took for granted the correctness of the ordinary statement, that it is sometimes connected with plural verbs, as well as with plural adjectives and pronouns. In the following passage, Kennicott denies the accuracy of this statement, and places the argument in a different and interesting light :-“ Marsilius Ficinus, who also flourished in the middle of the 15th century, in a treatise on the Christian religion, chap. 30th, says—that in disputing against the Jews, he made liberal use of the translation of the Seventy, that he might overcome them with the excellent weapons of eminent countrymen of their own. The remark of this writer, which we are about to notice, respects a matter highly worthy of consideration, although he himself has touched it but lightly. It is this—In the second book of Kings" (in our Bibles the 2d book of Samuel) “the plural name of God is joined to a plural verb, • What nation is like the people Israel, for which God went, &c,'in the original Hebrew GODS WENT. He ought to have said, that three passages are adduced, in which the verb is now in the plural number, although in all of them the nominative ALEIM is, without controversy, to be understood of the one true God. The three passages are, Gen. xx, 13; xxxv, 7; and 2 Sam. vii, 23. It is well deserving of notice, that the following distinction is almost invariably observed; namely, when this plural name, Aleim, is used to signify false Gods, the verb connected with it is plural; but when it is a designation of God himself, the verb is singular. But the argument which rests on this distinction, frequently adduced to prove plurality, and yet unity in the Godhead, is not conclusively valid, unless all the verbs, without exception, which are so connected, either now are singular, or were so originally. Then, however, when it has been shown, that this rule of writing, so entirely peculiar, is observed by all the sacred penmen, and in every instance,-then, I say, you will obtain from the circumstance an argument, well founded, and, as it seems to me, incapable of refutation. It is, therefore, of no small consequence to observe, that the three verbs, in the cases of exception to this rule, are unquestionably corrupt readings; the two former being corrected by all the copies which have yet been discovered of the Samaritan Pentateuch ; and the third by the parallel passage in the Hebrew text itself, 1 Chron. xvii, 21.” (Dissert. Gener. p. 48, sec. 100.)
Mr. Yates, with a contemptuous appeal to those who have learned Hebrew,” is pleased to school me for speaking of the plural name for God, and of certain constructions connected with it, as anomalies, or irregularities. (pp. 136, 138.) Does Mr. Yates, then, deny the existence of any principles of general grammar ? If their existence is admitted, then peculiar idioms, even although uniform in their use in the particular language where they occur, are, with reference to such principles, in strict propriety of speech, anomalous or irregular. And it becomes a matter of curious, and sometimes interesting speculation, to trace such idioms to their respective origins. Even if Mr. Yates had made it out that the constructions in question were agreeable to a uniform rule of Hebrew syntax, they would still be deviations from the principles of general grammar, and, in this view, anomalous. But we have seen that, so far from the rule which he quotes being uniform, he has not made it out to be even common : so that I am still warranted to say, that in Hebrew syntax itself the constructions in question are anomalies, or irregularities. In the latter of the two instances, indeed, in which he finds fault with me for so calling them, he fully admits that they are, after all, what he had just before denied them to be :
" In the third place,” says he, “ Mr. Wardlaw argues for a plurality of persons in the Godhead, from the construction of the Hebrew names for God with verbs, sometimes in the singular number, and sometimes in the plural. This construction he calls an anomaly or irregularity. But those who have learned Hebrew know, that, when a plural noun is used to denote a single object (which is the case in various instances) the verb is sometimes put in the plural, out of
regard merely to the plural termination of the noun.” (p. 138.) This is curious. He had before quoted with triumph the rule-"Nouns that express dominion, dignity, majesty, are commonly put in the plural.” Now, we know that the occurrence, in the Hebrew Scriptures, of words expressive of such qualities, is very frequent :-yet here, in lieu of common rule, we have the reduced and qualified phraseology," it is the case in various instances.” And with respect to the construction of such nouns with verbs in the plural, he says,—"the verb is sometimes put in the plural, out of regard merely to the plural termination of the noun.” Now, surely, that which is done only in various instances, and sometimes, is admitted to be a deviation from the customary practice, or established usages of the language ;-that is, to be an anomaly or irregularily.
I now come to Mr. Yates's strictures on the passages in which Deity is represented as speaking of Himself in the plural number :“ Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”
- Let us go down, and there confound their language :” “Whom shall I send, and who will
for us?" My first remark here is, that Calvin, that “celebrated man,” had neither so much learning, nor so much sense as to reject the argument for the Trinity derived from these : • I am aware,” says he, " that our inferring a distinction of persons from the words of Moses, when he introduces God as saying, · Let us make man in our image,' has been matter of mockery to many scoffers. The pious reader, however, will be sensible how tamely and inappropriately this would be introduced by Moses in the form of conversation, unless there subsisted a plurality of persons in the one God. Those whom the Father now addresses were, without doubt uncreated; but nothing is uncreated excepting God, and God is one," &c. (Institutes, b. i, chap. 13, section 24.)
My next observation is, that when Mr. Yates represents us as setting these three texts in opposition to the “ thousands and tens of thousands” of passages which, by the use of singular pronouns, imply the unity of God, he forgets, or rather tries to make his reader forget, that we see no opposition between the thousands and the three ;-that we consider the distinction implied in the three to be a distinction perfectly consistent with the unity implied in the thousands; and that we are as decided friends to the latter as to the former. Mr. Yates
says, in another part of his work, (p. 59,)—When God appears to Abraham, he thus speaks, Gen. xvii, 1, 2, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect: and I will make my covenant between me and thee.' To represent the address of more persons than one, the following language would have been employed: We are the Almighty God (or Almighty Gods ;) walk before us, and be thou perfect; and we will make our covenant between us and thee."--But this supposed language is precisely parallel to the language under discussion. We
say that such language in the three passages in question does imply plurality of persons; while at the same time, the unity of God being so decidedly a doctrine of the same book, we conclude that this plurality must (although in a way inexplicable by us) be consistent with unity. But what does Mr. Yates? He states the language which would be used if a plurality of persons were intended; and yet,
Vol. V.-January, 1834. 7
when such language is used, he refuses to admit that it has any reserence to plurality at all, and endeavors to explain it as the language of majesty. But alas ! if this same language of majesty be also the language which would have been used, if three persons (by which Mr. Yates means three gods) had been intended, what a cloud would in that case have been thrown over the evidence for the fundamental article of the Divine unity, if the language of majesty had been uniformly employed by the Great Supreme !
The following are Dr. Adam Clarke's remarks on this subject:• The original word Doh Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of 4x el, and has long been supposed by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the Sacred
Writings, to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the TRINITY, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of Divine Revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbin, Simeon ben Joachi, in his comment on the sixth section of Leviticus, has these remarkable words: “Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim : there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet, notwithstanding, they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other.” He must be strangely prejudiced indeed, who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in Unity, is clearly expressed in the above words. The verb xa bara, he created, being joined in the singular number with this plural noun, has been considered as pointing out, and not obscurely, the Unity of the Divine Persons in this work of creation. In the ever-blessed Trinity, from the infinite and indivisible unity of the Persons, there can be but one will, one purpose, and one infinite and uncontrollable energy.'
Mr. Watson expresses himself to the same effect, as follows :
• In examining what the Scriptures teach of this self-existent and eternal Being, our attention is first arrested by the important fact, that this one Jehovah is spoken of under plural appellations, and that not once or twice, but in a countless number of instances. So that the Hebrew names of God, acknowledged by all to be expressive and declaratory of some peculiarity or excellence of His nature, are found in several cases in the plural as well as in the singular form, and one of them, ALEIM, generally so; and, notwithstanding it was so fundamental and distinguishing an article of the Jewish faith, in opposition to the polytheism of almost all other nations, there was but one living and true God. I give a few instances. Jehovah, if it has not a plural form, has more than one personal application. “ Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” We have here the visible Jehovah, who had talked with Abraham, raining the storm of vengeance from another Jehovah, out of heaven, and who was therefore invisible. Thus we have two Jehovahs expressly mentioned, " the LORD rained from the LORD,” and yet we have it most solemnly asserted in Deut. vi, 4, “ Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah."
The very first name in the Scriptures under which the Divine Being is introduced to us as the Creator of heaven and earth, is a plural one, Jose Alelm; and to connect in the same singular manner as in the foregoing instance, plurality with unity, it is the nominative case to a verb singular. “In the beginning, Gods created the heavens and the earth.” Of this form innumerable instances occur in the Old Testament. That the word is plural, is made certain by its being often joined with adjectives, pronouns, and verbs plural; and yet, when it can mean nothing else than the true God, it is generally joined in its plural form with verbs singular. To render this still more striking, the Aleim are said to be Jehovah, and Jehovah the Aleim : thus in Psalm c, 3, “ Know ye that Jehovah, He, the Aleim, He hath made us, and not we ourselves.” And in the passage before given, “ Jehovah our Aleim, (Gods,) is one Jehovah." SAL, the mighty one, another name of God, has its plural D'78, Alim, the mighty ones. The former is rendered by Trommius 80s, the latter @ol. 738 ABIR, the potent one, has the plural o'yx ABIRIM, the potent ones.
Man did eat the bread of the Abirim, “ angels' food,” conveys no idea ; the manna was the bread provided miraculously, and was therefore called the food of the powerful ones, of them who have power over all nature, the one God.
D'3178 Adonim is the plural form of 1178 Adon, a Governor. I be Adonim, masters, where is my fear?" Mal. i, 6. Many other instances might be given, as, “ Remember thy Creators in the days of thy youth.”. “ The knowledge of the Holy Ones is understanding.” “ There be higher than they." Heb. High Ones; and in Daniel, “ The Watchers and the Holy Ones.”
Other plural forms of speech also occur when the one true God only is spoken of " And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” “ And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become like one of us.' “ And the Lord said, Let us go down." 6 Because there God appeared to him.” Heb.“ God they appeared,” the verb being plural. These instances need not be multiplied: they are the common forms of speech in the sacred Scriptures, which no criticism has been able to resolve into mere idioms, and which only the doctrine of a plurality of persons in the unity of the Godhead can satisfactorily explain. If they were mere idioms, they could not have been misunderstood, by those to whom the Hebrew tongue was native, to imply plurality; but of this we have sufficient evidence, which shall be adduced when we speak of the faith of the Jewish Church. They have been acknowledged to form a striking singularity in the Hebrew language, even by those who have objected to the conclusion drawn from them; and the question, therefore, has been to find an hypothesis, which should account for a peculiarity, which is found in no other language, with the same circumstances.*
* The argument for the Trinity, drawn from the plural appellations given to God in the Hebrew Scriptures, was opposed by the younger Buxtorf; who yet admits that this argument should not altogether be rejected among Christians; " for upon the same principle on which not a few of the Jews refer this emphatical application of the plural number to a plurality of powers or of influences, or of operations, that is, ad extra; why may we not refer it ad intra, to a plurality of persons sonal works? Yea, zoho certainly knoros what that was which the ancient Jews understood by this plurality of powers and faculties ?"
and to per