Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

32 Comments

  1. What “pants” teaches us about “elohim” (“God”) | Blogging Theology
    January 6, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

    […] from Trinities a blog by Professor Dale Tuggy, Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New […]

  2. Yahweh Divides the Nations | spoiledmilks
    December 16, 2015 @ 9:29 pm

    […] the authority of members of Yahweh’s divine council. The other nations were assigned to lesser elohim as a judgment from the Most High, Yahweh” […]

  3. Mario
    January 22, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

    Rivers,

    thanks for your reply. As admitted by you previously, your “evidence” for 1 Corinthians 11:7-10 (and 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15) to provide support for the role of angels in the creation of man (and woman) is, at the very best, circumstantial.

    What I find interesting is Paul’s ambiguity and oscillations about the relationship between woman and man. On the one side, Paul is the great emancipator from the bonds of law and tradition (Galatians 3:28). On the other side, he upholds (not so much the Law, but) the most reactionary aspects of tradition as concerns the subordination of women and slaves.

    As for the angels being the necessary intermediaries of all God’s activities, that was an interpretation than had imposed itself gradually, by the 1st century CE, but was certainly NOT dictated by the OT text.

    And, of course, you have NEVER explained what would discriminate between an angel (= a distinct spiritual entity, a messenger of God, capable of assuming a visible and human – or quasi human – likeness) and an “angel” (= an appearance – human or non human – adopted by YHWH to manifest Himself to humans).

  4. Rivers
    January 22, 2015 @ 9:44 am

    Mario,

    Paul is interpreting and applying Genesis 1:26-27 in 1 Corinthians 11:7-10 just like he does in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15. There is no other text in the Hebrew scriptures that speaks of the creation order of the man and the woman or “Adam and Eve.” Paul derived his understanding of the subordination and submission of the women in the churches from that text.

    I think it’s evident that Paul understood “God” (ALHYM) in Genesis 1:26-27 to be referring to “the angels” (ALHYM, Psalms 8:5) because he gives “the angels” as “the reason” (1 Corinthians 11:10) the women were to be submissive on account of the order of the creation of the man and the woman (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). There doesn’t seem to be any other basis for including “the angels” in the application of the order of creation unless they were the ones (ALHYM) who established it.

    If you have an interpretation that you think is more plausible, Mario, please put forward the evidence. 🙂

  5. Mario
    January 22, 2015 @ 4:37 am

    … bumping it up to the top … just in case …

  6. Mario
    January 19, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

    … it seems likely to me that “the angels” in 1 Corinthians 11:10 are related to the “us” and “our” (ALHYM) in Genesis 1:26-27 since Paul alludes to all the other elements of the creation of the male and female when he is applying the implications of the passages to the churches.

    Rivers,

    you have never made a case, let alone a “solid” one, for your interpretation. Can you (try to) make it now?

  7. Rivers
    January 19, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

    Mario,

    1. I think it’s plausible that Ephesians 3:10 could be referring to the angels. I just thought you might have some evidence to make a solid case for that interpretation.

    2. Since you admit that there is nothing in the context of Ephesians 3:10 that relates to the subject in 1 Corinthians 11:7-10, then, even if angels are the “rulers” in Ephesians 3:10, the contexts would be unrelated. Thus, I don’t know why you would appeal to Ephesians 3:10 as any evidence against the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:10 that I offered (which is based upon the fact that Paul seems to be interpreting Genesis 1:26-27).

    3. I don’t have a problem with your interpretation of Ephesians 3:10 (as I think it’s plausible). However, I don’t think Ephesians 3:10 has anything to do with the interpretation of Genesis 1:26-27 that Paul seems to be giving in the context of 1 Corinthians 11:7-10.

    I don’t like to use words like “obviously”, but it seems likely to me that “the angels” in 1 Corinthians 11:10 are related to the “us” and “our” (ALHYM) in Genesis 1:26-27 since Paul alludes to all the other elements of the creation of the male and female when he is applying the implications of the passages to the churches.

  8. Mario
    January 19, 2015 @ 3:14 pm

    Rivers [January 19, 2015 at 10:21 am]

    1. Do you have any better suggestion?

    2. Nothing “that relates to the [alleged role of angels in] creation of the male and the female”, of course.

    3. Unless you have a better interpretation, Paul’s words are perfectly clear.

  9. Mario
    January 19, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

    Simply scoffing at everyone else’s opinions (especially when you have no substantial alternatives to offer) isn’t going to be to anyone’s benefit.

    Rivers,

    I have offered the alternatives. Not only do you have attention and memory problems, but, it seems, reading problems. 🙁

  10. Rivers
    January 19, 2015 @ 10:21 am

    Mario.

    Here are a couple of questions about your reference to Ephesians 3:10. How would you answer them (in light of the discussion about 1 Corinthians 11:10):

    1. How do you know that “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” is referring to angels in the context of Ephesians 3:10?

    2. What do you see in the context of Ephesians 3:10 that relates to the creation of the male and the female that Paul was addressing in the context of 1 Corinthians 11:7-10 where Paul explicitly mentions “the angels”?

    3. How would the authority resulting from the created order of the male and the female in Genesis 1:26 (that is associated with “the angels” in 1 Corinthians 11:7-10) have to do with making the wisdom of known to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” during the time of Paul’s ministry?

  11. Rivers
    January 19, 2015 @ 10:10 am

    Mario,

    I don’t care if you agree with the interpretation of the evidence I’ve put forward or not. It isn’t my responsibility to convince you.

    However, it’s fallacious to ignore the biblical usage of words like “Image” and “likeness” and LOGOS and then fabricate an interpretation of Genesis 1:26-27 and John 1:1-14 to conform to your own “pretend” definitions of the terms (even if you may be trying to parrot a couple of Church Fathers or scholars to try to make it seem like you have some authority behind your ideas).

    I’m just trying to encourage you to do legitimate exegetical research for your own good. Simply scoffing at everyone else’s opinions (especially when you have no substantial alternatives to offer) isn’t going to be to anyone’s benefit. I think it would be more helpful if you’d at least try to present a reasonable alternative (with evidence) when you don’t agree with something. 🙂

  12. Mario
    January 19, 2015 @ 9:30 am

    Rivers

    1 Kings 22:19-22 is about the Lord selecting a spirit from the heavenly assembly to lead Ahab astray. Job 1-2 is about Satan persuading the Lord to put Job to the test. If it “seems likely” to you that, in Genesis 1:26-27, God was addressing the heavenly assembly so they would carry out the task of creating “Adam”, “male and female”, go ahead and enjoy, by all means.

    If you feel more at ease understanding the Hebrew words “image” (tselem) and “likeness” (demuwth) in Genesis 1:26-27 in a physical sense, go ahead and enjoy, by all means.

    If you feel more at ease understanding the Greek word logos in John 1:1,14, 1 John 1:1, Rev 19:13 as a “name” for Jesus, attributed in hindsight by the Johannine author because Jesus “embodied God’s message”, go ahead and enjoy, by all means.

    Just don’t pretend (first of all to yourself) that your choices have better “scholarly standing” … 🙁

    P.S. 1 Corinthians 11:10 is a rather obscure verse. Perhaps, instead of reading it as a “strong indication that he [Paul] understood ALHYM to include ‘the angels’”, you should consider Eph 3:10.

  13. Mario
    January 19, 2015 @ 8:03 am

    As long as you continue to favor making up your own nonsensical definitions of biblical words, you’ll never understand the simple meaning that the authors intended.

    … sure … sure … 🙂

  14. Rivers
    January 18, 2015 @ 4:37 pm

    John,

    You’re right. We can’t always be “certain” about the correct interpretation of passages like Genesis 1:26-27. Thus, we have to be very careful to take all of the evidence into consideration and then defer to what is the most plausible meaning intended by the original writer.

    Besides the evidence in the Hebrew text, I think Paul’s inspired commentary on Genesis 1:26-27 that we have in 1 Corinthians 11:7-10 is a strong indication that he understood ALHYM to include “the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10). What other reason does the context suggest that Paul would make reference to “the angels” when he is explaining the significant difference between the creation of the male and the female to the Corinthians?

    I think Mario blatantly scoffs at a lot of this stuff because he hasn’t done enough research to be aware of some of the better interpretive options.

  15. Rivers
    January 18, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

    Mario,

    What you’re not taking into account is that, in all the examples we have of YHWH conversing with his heavenly host of angels, it is for the purpose of commissioning the angels to carry out His purpose on the earth (1 Kings 22:19-22; Job 1-2). Thus, it seems likely that this is why such a conversation would have taken place in Genesis 1:26-27.

    You also continue to disregard what the Hebrew words “image” and “likeness” meant in the Hebrew scriptures (just as you ignore the meaning of LOGOS in the apostolic scriptures). As long as you continue to favor making up your own nonsensical definitions of biblical words, you’ll never understand the simple meaning that the authors intended.

    Your “spiritual image of God” idea has absolutely no exegetical merit. None of the Hebrew vocabulary the writer used in Genesis 1:26-27 could warrant such an interpretation (especially when the distinction between male and female is related to “the image of God” in Genesis 1:27).

  16. Mario
    January 18, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

    John

    I am yet to be pursuaded, and I’m sure that NO ONE can provide an answer with 100% certainty. So my response to you is “maybe’

    Fair enough. You may want to consider the alternatives.

    a. The plural elohiym are the “persons” of the trinity.

    b. The plural elohiym, and also the singular YHWH, are “could also be used interchangeably for God the Father and angels who acted on His behalf”.

    c. Your suggestion.

  17. John
    January 18, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

    Mario
    “For the umpteenth time God with the repeated plural, have addressed his heavenly court..”
    I have several friends whom I respect immensely, who hold this view.

    I am yet to be pursuaded , and I’m sure that NO ONE can provide an answer with 100% certainty.

    So my response to you is “maybe’

    Blessings
    John

  18. Mario
    January 18, 2015 @ 11:42 am

    I don’t think there’s any significance to the use of the singular pronouns in Genesis 1:27 simply because ALHYM and YHWH could also be used interchangeably [sic!] for God the Father and angels who acted on His behalf (Genesis 18:1, Genesis 19:1, 29). ALHYM and YHWH were also used together (translated “the Lord God”) throughout the creation story as well (Genesis 2:4; Genesis 3:8).

    Rivers,

    so now you are taking the step of affirming that it doesn’t matter if elohiym is used with a verb in the singular (NOT ONLY “created” – Gen 1:27, BUT ALSO “said” – Gen 1:26, BTW), “because ALHYM and YHWH could also be used interchangeably”. So, according to you, NOT ONLY elohiym can be used to refer to angels, BUT ALSO YHWH.

    On the contrary elohiym, when used with a singular verb, is a generic name for “God”, a title (just like “king” would be). YHWH, instead, is the proper name of the One and Only God, that He (reluctantly) revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:13-15).

  19. Mario
    January 18, 2015 @ 11:29 am

    John,

    for the umpteenth time, God may well, with that repeated plural (“Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” – Gen 1:26) have addressed His heavenly court. (#) Does it mean that the heavenly court took active part in the creation of man? No, it is sufficient to consider that the role of the heavenly court consisted in offering praise (see Job 38:7). Does it mean that it was their “image and likeness” that God was referring to, rather than His own? Of course not! In any case, in Gen 1:27, the Hebrew verb translated “created” (bara’) is in the singular.

    (#) The plural is the normal way of speaking in a “royal court” (that is an assembly of which the king is part), not only when the king is speaking (2 Chron 18:5), but also when one is speaking in front of the “royal court”:

    This [is] the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. (Dan 2:36)

  20. Aaron
    January 18, 2015 @ 1:12 am

    Dale,

    This was a good post. Short, interesting, and easy to understand for anyone. Even as an (open) Trinitarian I think this argument (and the “echad” argument) is just grasping for straws.

  21. Rivers
    January 18, 2015 @ 12:45 am

    John,

    Those are good points. ALHYM was also used of the angels (Psalms 8:5). It seems to be a plural form becuase the ancient Hebrews understood that YHWH ruled along with the angelic host (1 Kings 22:19; Job 1-2).

    The evidence that Mario seems to disregard is that the biblical writers always understood that “no man has seen God at any time” (John 1:18) and that God the Father is “unseen” (1 Timothy 6:16). Moreover, these things were even written after Jesus Christ appeared.

    The words “image” and “likeness” always refer to the physical shape or appearance of something in biblical Hebrew. Thus, “the image and likeness of God” must mean something that the Hebrews could see that represented God (ALHYM) in a physical form. The idea that “the image of God” was something “spiritual” or intellectual or relational makes no sense of the Hebrew vocabulary.

    I think the most reasonable conclusion is the the “us” and “our” refer to the angelic host because they were not only called ALHYM (Psalms 8:5), but were also present during the time of the Genesis creation (Job 38:7), associated with the order and purpose of the creation of the man and the women (1 Corinthians 11:7-10), and called “God” (ALHYM) when they appeared to the Patriarchs (Genesis 19:1, 29).

    I don’t think there’s any significance to the use of the singular pronouns in Genesis 1:27 simply because ALHYM and YHWH could also be used interchangeably for God the Father and angels who acted on His behalf (Genesis 18:1, Genesis 19:1, 29). ALHYM and YHWH were also used together (translated “the Lord God”) throughout the creation story as well (Genesis 2:4; Genesis 3:8).

  22. John
    January 18, 2015 @ 12:15 am

    Mario,
    How do you reconcile Genesis 1v 26 with Genesis 1 v 27?

    V 26 “Let us make man in our image…”
    v27 “God created man in HIS image, in the divine image HE created HIM…”

    Have you noted how ‘elohim’ is used as a ‘plural of intensity’ – to denote GREAT judges and priests?

    Blessings
    John

  23. Rivers
    January 17, 2015 @ 6:57 pm

    Mario,

    I wasn’t asking for a recap of all of your scoffing remarks. It’s useless to criticize others when you have nothing to offer of your own.

    I would like you to offer an interpretation of Genesis 1:26 that accounts for the use of the plural pronouns with the word ALHYM. What is ALHYM referring to? Why were the plural pronouns used in that particular context?

  24. Mario
    January 17, 2015 @ 9:20 am

    Rivers,

    it is you who evidently have some attention/memory problems. This is what you can read at thread Word and Spirit: the “Everlasting Arms” of God:

    [Rivers – January 14, 2015 at 12:59 pm] 2. In Genesis 1:26, the word ALHYM (“God”) is used with the plural pronouns “us” and “our.” This suggests that God doesn’t refer only to YHWH himself when man is being created.

    [Mario – January 14, 2015 at 4:33 pm] 2. I evidently need to repeat that God may well, with that plural (“Let us make” – Gen 1:26) have addressed His heavenly court. Does it mean that it was their “image and likeness” that God was referring to, rather than His own? Of course not! In any case, in Gen 1:27, the Hebrew verb translated “created” (bara’) is in the singular. Sorry, no angels … 🙁

    [Rivers – January 14, 2015 at 5:00 pm] Your objections to the points I made about the angels and creation are certainly warranted. The evidence is circumstantial.

    [Mario – January 15, 2015 at 1:57 am] I am sorry for all the years that you seem to have expended researching, but is not only “circumstantial”, but very, very weak, to be kind.

    [Rivers – January 15, 2015 at 9:26 am] 2. (…) I see no grammatical or contextual evidence to suggest that “us” are “our” in Genesis 1:26 refers to “divine attributes” either. Thus, I’m not persuaded by your interpretation.

    [Mario – January 15, 2015 at 10:42 am] 2. I obviously never affirmed that “us” or “our” in Genesis 1:26 refers to God’s “divine attributes”. This would be sheer nonsense, as attributes are NOT persons.

    [Rivers – January 15, 2015 at 11:39 am] 2. Yes, attributes are not persons. That is another reason that angels (who like like male human beings) is a much more plausible understanding of ALHYM and “us” and “our image and likeness” in the context of Genesis 1:26-27. There is no evidence that YHWH himself was multiple persons either.

    [Mario – January 15, 2015 at 12:38 pm] 2. There is no qualitative difference between the plural verb and adjectives used for YHWH God addressing His heavenly council (but the singular verbs associated with ‘elohiym making it clear that ‘elohiym is referred to God, NOT His heavenly council – Gen 1:26-27) and the mix of plural and singular used for Israel’s king Ahab addressing his assembled prophets:
    So the king of Israel assembled 400 prophets and asked them, “Should we [plural] go against Ramoth Gilead for war or should I [singular] refrain?” They said, “Attack! God will hand it over to the king.” (2 Chron 18:5)

    [Rivers -] no further comments

  25. Rivers
    January 17, 2015 @ 8:47 am

    Mario,

    Who do you think the “us” and the “our” were referring to in Genesis 1:26?

    Instead of simply scoffing at everything you don’t want to agree with, please offer a substantial interpretation of your own for us to consider. 🙂

  26. Mario
    January 17, 2015 @ 7:10 am

    … the use of the plural “us” and “our” with ALHYM in Genesis 1:26 could infer that other ALHYM (like the angels, Psalms 8:5, 1 Corinthians 10:11) were involved in the creation of the man and the woman.

    An unsupported and unwarranted claim, as already commented … 🙁

  27. Rivers
    January 15, 2015 @ 10:19 am

    Mario,

    Yes, in the context of Psalms 96:5 that is the case.

    Likewise, the use of the plural “us” and “our” with ALHYM in Genesis 1:26 could infer that other ALHYM (like the angels, Psalms 8:5, 1 Corinthians 10:11) were involved in the creation of the man and the woman.

  28. Rivers
    January 15, 2015 @ 9:37 am

    Jon,

    That’s a good point (although it can be derived from the biblical usage, and doesn’t need the sanction of an anti-Christian Jewish rabbi on YouTube.).

    ALHYM (G/god/gods) was probably more like our word “management” or “government.” It could refer to the power of an individual, or to a collective group of individuals with the same status.

    When I look at the plural word “waters” (Genesis 1:2), I see that the Hebrew writer developed the plural distinction right in the same context (Genesis 1:6-7, 9). He also did the same thing with “heavens” (Genesis 1:8) later in the context where he differentiated between where the lights are, and where the birds fly (Genesis 1:15-18, 20).

  29. Mario
    January 15, 2015 @ 9:34 am

    Of course, the plural pronouns are sometimes used with ALHYM as well …

    Sure! Like here, for instance:

    For all the gods [‘elohiym] of the nations are worthless [‘eliliym, usually referred to idols], but the Lord made the heaven. (Psalm 96:5)

    Of course, the similarity and assonance between ‘eliliym and ‘elohiym is fully intentional.

  30. Jonathan Jensen
    January 15, 2015 @ 9:22 am

    Mario,

    Don’t they always crop up? They’re like weeds that won’t go away…

    Rivers,

    Regarding the waters and heavens: I was watching this Jewish rabbi on youtube one time who said that it had to do with the all-encompassing nature of them — that is to say, the totality of that water, or the totality of that heaven. For God, then, it’s as if to say the Most High or the totality of greatness, I guess. For instance, with “waters”, it would be the same as when someone says, “the powers that be”, although they are only talking about one particular power. Somewhat similar, although slightly blasphemous in the way people say it, is when people say such-and-such about “the gods”. When saying “the gods”, they either ridicule the ancient polytheists for superstition or seemingly say it to be trendy, but it is also apparently used in the same way as “the powers that be”. Does that sound reasonable?

    -Jon

  31. Rivers
    January 15, 2015 @ 9:01 am

    Dale,

    I agree that nothing about the ontological “nature” of ALHYM (G/god/gods) follows from the plural form of the Hebrew word. However, it might be a bit of an oversimplification to suggests that the plural form is only incidental.

    For example, even though the word “pants” (plural) can be used with a singular or plural subject, the word itself is probably plural because our understanding of the word assumes that “pants” cover two legs (plural). Thus, if a Trinitarian knew of a three-legged pair of pants, he might have a plausible analogy to offer.

    We use a few other plural nouns (e.g. physics, gymnastics, eyeglasses) in the same way (to refer to a single concept or object). However, these words are plural in form because “physics” involves many different physical elements, gymnastics involves many different feats, and eyeglasses have more than one glass piece.

    Likewise, the term ALHYM (G/god/gods) in biblical Hebrew is probably plural because it connotes more than just the rule of YHWH himself. The usage of the word shows that it also incorporated the angelic host (Psalms 8:5) as well as human authorities in relation to YHWH (Pslams 82:6). Thus, I think we need to be careful not to underestimate the semantic range of this word even though it is often used with the number “one” or the singular subject “YHWH.” Of course, the plural pronouns are sometimes used with ALHYM as well (Genesis 1:26).

    There are other plural nouns in biblical Hebrew that were probably derived the same way. For example, “heavens” (Genesis 1:1) and “waters” (Genesis 1:6) were probably plural nouns because the ancient Hebrews understood that the same sky had different levels (air, clouds, lights) and the same water was gathered into different places (rivers, seas).

  32. Mario
    January 14, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

    Dale,

    this post is incredibly opportune, in view of the bizarre comments on elohim (or ‘elohiym) that keep cropping up in recent comments in other threads … 🙂