Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

THEOLOGY > God > Names of God > Elohim and Theos 


Elohim is the Hebrew word translated “God” in the NJKV and other translations. It appears in Genesis 1:1 and many other passages, over 2500 times in the Old Testament. This noun, a common word referring to deity that is even used of idols, is the most general word for God in the Old Testament. Related forms are: El, used over two hundred times; Elah, found in Ezra and Daniel; and Eloah, which appears mainly in the poetical literature.

Elohim is from the root el, meaning “strong one.” Some suggest the root is Alah, meaning “to proceed” or “to be afraid”; therefore, God is viewed as the Leader or the One to be feared. When applied to the God of Scripture, the word speaks of God as the Strong One, the Mighty One. He is the One to be feared; He is the creator God (see: Elohim: The Creator), the transcendent God—the One above and beyond man. The word speaks of God’s majesty and authority and His exalted position and absolute power.

Elohim is the plural form of the word and is the form appearing most often in the Old Testament. Several explanations have been offered for the use of the plural word for the God who is affirmed to be one God:

One, the form is a verbal vestige of polytheistic thought. As man has evolved so his concept of deity has evolved; the evolutionary process has gone from animatism (aliveness in nature—the rustling of the leaves) to animism (belief in spirits) to polytheism (many gods) to henotheism (worship of one god while believing in many gods) to monotheism (belief in one God). Thus, the plural is a reflection of man’s evolving concept of a higher power.

Two, being an intensive word the plural form is a plural of fullness or majesty. So the plural “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 and the plural “waters” in Genesis 1:2 which speak of fullness or completeness. With reference to God the word speaks of His fullness, completeness, majesty, and the plenitude of His existence.

Three, the plural form contains the latent concept of the Trinity that is revealed more fully later in Scripture. In Scripture we find God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the three in one. Thus in this single word in the first verse of the Bible we have an anticipation of the teaching concerning the Trinity that is progressively revealed by God in the rest of the Scriptures.

It is important to note that though the form of the word is plural, most often the accompanying verb or adjective is the singular form as in Genesis 1:1. (Genesis 20:13 is an exception where Elohim has a plural verb.)  This is a strange combination, a plural noun using a singular verb. What is the significance of such a construction? In the form of the noun Elohim—(“God,” a plural noun) and in the form of the verb bara—(“created,” a singular verb) we have the incipient teaching of a profound Christian truth: the one God (suggested by the verb) who exists in three persons (suggested by the noun).

Andrew Jukes felt that the plural form “spoke of One whose very Being involved a covenant-relationship which never could be broken”; the three exist “in a bond of Love which is eternal and is indissoluble” (Names, 35-36). Thus, this covenant-union within God Himself is the basis for God’s covenant with those He has chosen, the covenant being His union with His people.

Theos is the Greek word translated “God” in the New Testament of nearly all of the modern translations, and in the Septuagint it is used to translate most frequently the Hebrew Elohim, also on occasions translating El and YHWH. It is a general word used for deity, even being used of pagan deities.

Return to Names of God; Next Article: El and the Compounds

For overview of THEOLOGY, see: Site Map - Theology
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.