By Moshe Gold
According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word Elohim is the most used name translated into English as God. This noun, used in the plural, is consistently associated with singular verbs, adjectives and pronouns. As the Rabbis attest, it defines the plurality of majesty within the Godhead. Furthermore, among the Semitic languages, Hebrew is the only one where the plural form occurs. In Genesis 1:2 and verse 26 this word appears for the first time.
Elohim is the subject of all divine activity revealed to man, and also is the object of all true reverence and godly fear that comes from man. Often Elohim is used in conjunction with the most personal name of God, Yahweh or Jehovah (Genesis 2:4-5; Exodus 34:23; Psalm 68:18 [Hebrew Bible verse 19]). In its use with Jehovah, it refers to the title given to God in three categories. In Isaiah 45:18 God is referred to as the creator “God himself that formed the earth and made it.” In Jonah 1:9 He is called “the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” A second category of titles expresses God’s sovereignty. Isaiah 54:5 refers to Him as “the God of the whole earth.” In 1 Kings 20:28 He is the “God of the hills.” In Jeremiah 32:27 He is the “God of all flesh.” In Genesis 24:3, He is “the God of heaven, and the God of the earth,” (cf. Deuteronomy 4:39; Joshua 2:11).
In Deuteronomy 10:17, He is the “…God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward [bribes].” In short, He is “God Most High” (Psalm 57:2 [in Hebrew Bible verse 3]). As the Sovereign of creation He is also described as Judge (Psalm 50:6; Psalm 75:7 [in the Hebrew Bible verse 12]).
Another category shows Elohim to be the “God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45) and “God of Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 32:19). The two titles above portray God as the Savior of His people, as does the simple phrase “God of Salvation” (1 Chronicles 16:35; Psalm 18:46 [in the Hebrew Bible verse 47]; cf. Psalm 88:1 [in the Hebrew Bible verse 2]).
In time, Alexander the Great (336 -323 BC) spread his empire to most of the known world. One of the keys to his success, called Hellenism, was the syncretism of Greek culture with the culture of the conquered people. At that time the word Elohim was replaced by the Greek word Kurios as evidenced in the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint. This also equated the Hebrew name for God, Elohim, with the word Yahweh making Elohim equal to Yahweh. In time, the title God the Father became synonymous with Elohim/Yahweh. When the New Testament was composed the Greek word for Lord, Kurios, was used to refer to the Lordship of Jesus. This use confirmed not only the plurality of majesty within the Godhead, but identified Jesus as equal to God the Father.
The Scriptures provide proof of Jesus as Lord. Psalm 110:1, which is quoted in Matthew 22:44 (cf. Matthew 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42; 22:69; Acts 2:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1 and Hebrews 1:3, 13; 10:12; 12:2). While the Jewish interpretation of Psalm 110:1 looks forward to the Messianic future for its reality, to those with faith in Jesus this hope is transferred to the present. This is just one small example of the deification of Jesus, identifying Him with the Elohim of the Hebrew Scriptures. The full effect of Jesus as Kurios/Lord will not be realized until His promised return, when He will be crowned as King of the earth. At that time, all nations will be required to worship Him in Jerusalem and send a representative delegation to worship and bring gifts to Him every year on the Feast of Tabernacles, (Zechariah 14:16). Those that choose not to be represented in Jerusalem at that time will suffer punishment (Zechariah 14:17-19).
The scriptures show clearly, from a literary and theological point of view, the link between Elohim and Kurios and is seen in the person of Jesus.