Elohim and Jehovah – How They Help Us to Understand the Book of Genesis – and The Entire Bible

A little recognized but important factor about the record of creation which is related in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis is the original Hebrew words which are used therein for God.  The textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to The Scriptures, authored by the discoverer and founder of Christian Science thought and the leader of its movement, Mary Baker Eddy, makes the following not insignificant observation on page 523 in her chapter on Genesis:  “It may be worth while here to remark that, according to the best scholars, there are clear evidences of two distinct documents in the early part of the book of Genesis.  One is called the Elohistic, because the Supreme Being is therein called Elohim.  The other document is called the Jehovistic, because Deity therein is always called Jehovah, – or Lord God, as our common version translates it.”  In the next paragraph she continues “The different accounts become more and more closely intertwined to the end of chapter twelve, after which the distinction in not definitely traceable.  In the historic parts of the Old Testament, it is usually Jehovah, peculiarly the divine sovereign of the Hebrew people, who is referred to.”

In other words, the first chapter of Genesis, which can be readily seen to be a complete account of God’s spiritual creation or representation of man and the universe, was written from the point of view of God interpreted as Elohim.  The word “God” which appears in Genesis chapter one in the KJV was translated from the ancient Hebrew word Elohim or Elohoa.   The second chapter on the other hand, was authored from the point of view of the interpretation of God as Jehovah,  sometimes called Yahweh.  In the second chapter and beyond, the Jehovistic point of view is recognized through the use of the words “Lord God” in the KJV.  So, what were the differences between these two ways of understanding God?

What Does Elohim Mean?

The following explanation comes from the site hebrew4christians.com:

“The word Elohim is the plural of El (or possibly Eloah) and is the first name for God in the Tanakh: ‘In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1)
The name Elohim is unique to Hebraic thinking: it occurs only in Hebrew and in no other ancient Semetic language. The masculine plural ending does not mean “gods” when referring to the true God of Israel, since the name is mainly used with singular verb forms and with adjectives in the singular (e.g., see Gen. 1:26). However, considering the Hashalush Hakadosh (Trinity), the form indeed allows for the plurality within the Godhead.”

Hebrews4christains .com goes on to provide the most common English translations of other constructions using the word Elohim: (not all are given – see hebrews4christians.com for details)

God-Elohim
God of – Elohei
The Son of God – Ben Elohim
My God – Elohai
The God of Abraham – Elohei Avraham
The God of My Kindness – Elohai Chasdi
God our Father -  Elohim Avinu
The Living God – Elohim Chayim
Etcetera….

What Does Jehovah Mean?

Information on the deeper meanings of the term Jehovah is not given on hebrews4christians .com, so we present instead some insight on Jehovah from the dictionary site http://dictionary.die.net/jehovah

Jehovah

“The special and significant name (not merely an appellative title such as Lord [adonai]) by which God revealed himself to the ancient Hebrews (Ex. 6:2, 3). This name, the Tetragrammaton of the Greeks, was held by the later Jews to be so sacred that it was never pronounced except by the high priest on the great Day of Atonement, when he entered into the most holy place…….

The Hebrew name “Jehovah” is generally translated in the Authorized Version (and the Revised Version has not departed from this rule) by the word LORD printed in small capitals, to distinguish it from the rendering of the Hebrew _Adonai_ and the Greek _Kurios_, which are also rendered Lord, but printed in the usual type. The Hebrew word is translated “Jehovah” only in Ex. 6:3; Ps. 83:18; Isa. 12:2; 26:4, and in the compound names mentioned below. (see die.net for details)

It is worthy of notice that this name is never used in the LXX., the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Apocrypha, or in the New Testament. It is found, however, on the “Moabite stone” (q.v.), and consequently it must have been in the days of Mesba so commonly pronounced by the Hebrews as to be familiar to their heathen neighbours.”

This last paragraph  notes the important fact that the word “Jehovah” never appears in the New Testament or in other records of Jesus’ life, and is key to our discussion.  Remarkable but commonly unnoticed differences exist between the presentation of creation given in first chapter of Genesis and the records given in its subsequent chapters.  Assuming that there existed these two basic theological views of God according to the Hebrews of Biblical times, it is therefore logical to assume that the New Testament primarily reflects the Elohistic view, given the fact the term Jehovah is completely absent there.  There is of course the additional complicating factor that many of the New Testament texts were written in languages other than Hebrew, primarily in the ancient Greek.  But, it has been noted that the Jehovistic view of God, according to the best of Bible scholars, definitely prevails throughout the Old Testament with the exception of Genesis chapter one.  Though the differences in human theology between these two views among the ancient Hebrews are not clear from traditional Jewish definitions, and in consideration of the complication of the above referenced language factor, the differences between the theologies of the Old and New Testaments can be clearly distinguished from their context, tone, and content.  The Old Testament God  is in many instances presented as a human-like, changeable, even wrathful entity .  The New Testament and the life of Christ Jesus on the other hand present a consistently loving  God of salvation, not subject to human characteristics nor changeability.  The consistently loving tone of the New Covenant, corresponding more closely to the Elohistic view of God than does the Jehovistic, more closely matches the  teachings and practices of Christ Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Christians.  This is clearly evidenced in  general  tone and content of the New Testament God, where He is consistently presented as pure Love.

All of this historical background can get a little dry and intellectual, but its purpose is this:  First, to present to the reader the remarkable agreement between the Elohistic, principled, loving view of God and spiritual man presented in Genesis chapter one with the teachings of Christ Jesus and the early Christians, including the later generations of early Christians including Paul and John of Patmos.  And second, to present to the reader the remarkable agreement between the Jehovistic interpretation of the Adam-man derived from the Jehovistic God, and the nature of the fleshly and carnal man addressed and healed in the teachings of Jesus, his disciples, Paul, John of Patmos, and others.  These teachings strees that this carnal man or Adam man is the man we are each to “put off” if we hope to find heaven.   These differences, logically considered, suggest the possibility of inconsistencies in some traditional popularly accepted doctrines held by various Christian faiths.  No condemnation or disagreement is intended here, but only a statement of observations based upon a desire to find absolute truth.

In her textbook (ibid) in the same chapter on Genesis, Mrs. Eddy elaborates:

“The eternal Elohim includes the forever universe. The name Elohim is in the plural, but this plurality of Spirit does not imply more than one God, nor does it imply three persons in one. It relates to the oneness, the tri-unity of Life, Truth, and Love. “Let them have dominion.” Man is the family name for all ideas,–the sons and daughters of God. All that God imparts moves in accord with Him, reflecting goodness and power. “ (516:32) A few pages later she writes “Throughout the first chapter of Genesis and in three verses of the second,–in what we understand to be the spiritually scientific account of creation,–it is Elohim (God) who creates. From the fourth verse of chapter two to chapter five, the creator is called Jehovah, or the Lord. ” (523:22)

Seen in this historical and factual light, Christian Science presents the story of Adam and Eve and the events which transpired in the Garden of Eden not as a literal physical account, but as a spiritually interpreted allegorical explanation of the nature and presence of what is called in Christianity “fallen man.” In other words, how did man, made in the spiritual image and likeness of God and already accounted for in Genesis chapter one as entirely good, perfect, and living in a completed and perfect creation, in which evil was neither created nor present, end up “fallen”?  The answer lies in understanding the meaning of Genesis chapter two in its original intent.  Is it not possible that the author of Genesis one and two (assumed by most to be Moses but held by some scholars to have been authored by independent sources) may have himself maintained a pure and Elohistic view of God, and that chapter two was presented from the commonly assumed Jehovistic perspective as an illustrative tool for all future generations to discover the hidden spiritual truth about themselves and God?  The intention of such an illustration would be to present the Jehovistic understanding of God, which was the common perception of the people,  as a flawed view of the creator – as man’s erroneous misunderstanding of himself and God through an imaginative hypothetical situation.

This would also suggest that man’s own interpretation of himself and of his own consciousness must also be flawed because it is based upon his misunderstanding of a flawed creator, the “Lord God”. In Genesis thus interpreted, each time the “Lord God” is mentioned, the story is referring to the fallen man’s misunderstanding of God and the resulting carnal man, in contrast to the more advanced, or Elohim understanding of the true God and the resulting spiritual man.  Is it not then a possibility that tradition falsely credits chapter two as a literal account of history, whereas its real spiritual meaning is actually deeply symbolic?  Let’s take a closer look.

Genesis chapter two verse four is the turning point between the Elohistic and spiritually accurate account of creation and the allegorical Jehovistic account. “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”

The “Lord God” is Jehovah, and this verse contains the very first reference to Jehovah.  All previous discussion refers only to God only with the word “God”, or Elohim.   It is as if verse four is saying “We have presented the Elohistic and perfect record of spiritual creation above in chapter one.  From here on out we will be presenting it from the Jehovah view which carnal man holds and believes about God and himself.”

Then the story proceeds to begin the record of creation all over again, in spite of the fact that man has already been created in God’s image and likeness, complete and perfect, in chapter one.  But this time, the record says that man is not spiritual, but is composed of dust, matter.  There was no record of dust in the already complete account of spiritual creation by God, Elohim.  From whence did dust come? Dust, matter, was created by the “Lord God”, Jehovah, carnal man’s misunderstanding of God.  Dust did not originate from God, Elohim.  God, in the interpretation as Jehovah, then supposedly takes His own infinite and eternal nature, and with it he is supposed to animate the opposite of Himself, a finite and limited man.  Is this possible?

 

Before answering this question, first take a moment to contemplate just what infinity is, and just what an image and likeness is.  It’s easiest to grasp the concept of infinity by looking up at the sky and realizing the vast endlessness of the universe.  And it is easiest to grasp what an image and likeness is by thinking of your own reflection in a mirror.  If you were to make an image and likeness of this infinity and desire put in it a physical place, could that be done?  This is like asking if the ocean can be stored in a glass of water.  Can the infinite be completely and perfectly represented in the finite?  No!  How can all of the eternal and infinite wondrous characteristics of God be stored in a material and temporal body?  The material body is born and dies, yet God is eternal.  What does that make the body?  Is it the exact and perfect  image of God?  Obviously not.  So represented, mortal man is not the image and likeness of a perfect and infinite God.  His material body is only the manifestation of his own limited (mortal) view of himself as a human being.   Man’s eternal nature is only expressed in infinite Spirit, reflected, and never in a material embodiment, however transcendental that may see right now.  Could infinite and eternal  God be reflected and imaged forth as a finite man who is born and dies?  Again, can we fit the ocean into a drinking glass? No!

So, you may ask yourself, how can the eternal, always existent and undying nature of God be reflected in a mortal man who is born and dies? It really cannot, but if your attempted answer includes the word “Soul”, then you are on the right track.  This mortal man is assumed to have a finite “soul” which is injected into matter at birth and ejected from the body through death by the laws of matter.  But there is really no finite soul. How can there be if man’s soul reflects God’s infinite spiritual nature and is eternally alive?  How can you pack the infinite nature of God into a finite soul?  Or, again, how can the ocean be crammed into a drinking glass?  The answer is that man, the real and spiritual man, does reflect God’s infinite nature, through Soul (with a capital S), but not through a finite, temporal and material body.  The finite, temporal and material body are but presentations of the carnal man’s complete misinterpretation of man’s being as a finite and limited mortal approximation of God’s image and likeness. Carnal man is born and dies to the carnal senses.  But this carnal sense is not at all known by the perfect Elohistic God. Carnal man is only the product of man’s own belief in a finite nature.  And this carnal man is the man which Paul tells us must be “put off”.  Carnal man justifies his belief in a mortal nature by assigning to God the false and impossible responsibility of giving him material birth and death. The resulting justification for the understanding of his apparent conditions is a belief in a finite and manlike Jehovah God.  Spiritual man really exists in eternity and reflects all of the characteristics of infinite and perfect God, Love.  In truth, we are the spiritual man now, but this fact is obscured by our own mortal beliefs.  In one breath, through an erroneous understanding of his selfhood, misunderstanding the truly eternal nature of God as subject to limitation and flaw, carnal man creates his own version of himself and God via a great illusory misunderstanding.

Genesis 2:16, 17 tell us that in the midst of the Garden of Eden is a “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.  The Lord God, Jehovah, then tells Adam and Eve not to eat of it.  Man is told not to eat of this tree, but there it is, smack dab in the middle of the garden.  How could they avoid seeing it?  This tree of the knowledge of good and evil placed in the midst of the garden represents the suggestion that God has presented us with the temptation to partake of evil, and then he has told us not to do it.

What interpretation of God suggested this?  It was Jehovah, the man-God,  and not Elohim the spiritual God.  Our real spiritual creator does not and cannot tempt us. On page 527 (ibid) Mrs. Eddy says “Here the metaphor represents God as tempting man, but the Apostle James says: ‘God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.’  It is true that a knowledge of evil would make man mortal.  It is plain also that material perception, gathered from the corporeal senses, constitutes evil and material knowledge.  But is it true that God, good, made “the tree of life” to be the tree of death to His own creation?  Has evil the reality of good? Evil is unreal because it is a lie, – false in every statement.”

What was it that caused Adam and Eve to give in and to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil?  The metaphor tells us that it was a talking serpent, the representative of the voice of evil.  In Genesis 3:4, 5 we read “And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

What do we know about the representative of evil?  Evil lies in every case and in every situation.  Here, evil tells the woman that God knows that it is good to partake of this source of evil.  What lie could be bigger? The serpent also tells the woman that it is good to partake of evil, and that God knows this — that God knows you will become as gods and that you will gain things you did not already have if you partake of this evil, and if you partake of belief in a finite life (of matter).  Another blatant lie. This liar says that  partaking in sin and matter will give you more than you previously had, in spite of the fact that before partaking of sin and matter man already possesses infinite perfection and resources.  The lying serpent says that God’s goodness can be expanded upon by including evil.  But, was the woman really susceptible to evil?  Who put the tree in the garden to tempt man?  A Jehovah concept of God put that supposed tree there, and not Elohim.  From the Elohim perspective, no tree of the knowledge of good and evil exists.  This is why it was not included in the Elohim account of creation.  The woman’s chosen recognized God was Jehovah, the Lord God.

But what does orthodox theology say?  It says that Jehovah and Elohim are one and the same, not recognizing that Jehovah represents man’s assignment to God of evil characteristics which he cannot possess, such as the characteristic of tempting man with evil, or setting man up to fail.  On the basis of that misguided misunderstandingof the nature of the Lord God, orthodox theology insists that man must be susceptible to evil.  It mistakenly believes that everything presented to human consciousness, even the evidence of the material senses, is valid.  But the material senses in actuality have their origin only in the false belief of a flawed Jehovah God.  Traditional religion, by unwittingly misunderstanding the nature of God, has fallen for the serpent’s temptation, and is sadly self defeatingly ignorant of this fact. It insists on the verity of its beliefs because it has believed the lie of the serpent, a serpent whose present possibility it accepted through its erroneous conception of God as the man like Jehovah rather than as Elohim, or spiritual law.  Carnal man is now called “fallen” because he has “fallen” for the lies of evil, which has been sanctioned by nothing more than false belief  in a God which would allow evil,  and not by a perfect God, Elohim.

It is not God, but only carnal man’s false misguided sense of God who would put this poisonous tree in the middle of our life and then tempt us to eat from it.  Elohim, the pure God of Love, could do no such thing, and does not.  It is then the Lord God, Jehovah, carnal man’s chosen version of God, who would make it possible for man to have a free will to choose evil.  God, Elohim, presents man with no such choice, for He is forever ignorant of evil, which is but the supposed opposite of God’s infinite goodness.  Mortal man’s concept of God twists God around so as to make it possible for man to justify man’s partaking in sin and evil.  A belief in a God who allows evil and tempts man to partake in it enables carnal man to blame God with a self justifying attitude.  He can say that God made it possible for him to choose evil, and so he could not help doing it.  Only the false belief in a Jehovah characteristic of God says that man is made susceptible to evil.

But our real identity is not this Adam man or this Eve woman.  Our real identity is described in the complete and perfect creation of Genesis chapter one.  It is simple.  God made man male and female in His image and likeness. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made (Genesis 2:3) That is the END of the story of spiritual creation. And this is the man whom Christ Jesus came to reveal, and whom he taught Christians to live and to be, putting off the old erroneous concept of a flawed God and man, putting off mortality, and putting on immortality, putting off the old man and putting in the new man.(Eph 4:24 and Col 3:10)

In further support, Paul tells us in I Cor 15:20-22 “now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (Adam). For since by man came death (of the Adam man) came also the resurrection of the dead (the manifestation of man’s eternal spiritual nature). For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  What further evidence do we need of Christ’s demand that we must shed the Adam man and his crude concept of God if we ever hope to find eternal life?

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2 comments on “Elohim and Jehovah – How They Help Us to Understand the Book of Genesis – and The Entire Bible

  1. I understand a different entomology for “Jehovah”. Ancient Hebrew had no vowels and YAWEH was written “YHWH” (in Hebrew of course). As you noted, Hebrews never said this sacred name and instead in the Tanak “ADONIA” or LORD was inserted above. Later these two different renderings were mixed by Protestant translations and became “Jehovah.” But this was never a historic Hebrew Bible name for GOD.

    This will say it better…
    http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/The%20Many%20Names%20of%20God.htm
    JEHOVAH: The Biblical reference to God as Yehova (Jehova), spelled out with Hebrew characters, first appeared in c. 800 AD. At that time Jewish scholars (called the Masorites) translated the Greek translation of the (Old Testament) Bible back into Hebrew and added vowel points to the Hebrew language, which had originally only been written with consonants. Since that time, Hebrew Bible manuscripts have inserted the vowels from the Hebrew word “Adonai” (Lord) within the Tetragrammaton (“the four letters), YHWH, as a reminder that readers should say “Adonai” instead of the sacred name which Jews believe must not be spoken. The pronunciation of “Jehovah” was unknown until 1520 AD when a biblical scholar named Galatians introduced it. This pronunciation was contested by other scholars as being against grammatical and historical propriety. However, when Protestant scholars began their vernacular translations (into their common languages) of the Old Testament using the Jewish Masoretic translations, they also mixed the four consonants of YHWH (JHWH in German) with the vowels of Adonai in the mistaken belief that this was the correct pronunciation of the Sacred Name, and from then on, YHWH appeared in Protestant Biblical texts as “Jehovah”. This rendering is most frequently used in the King James Version translations as in, “Let them be put to shame, and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth” (Psalms 83:18). Modern scholars do not recognize this form as a legitimate name for the Hebrew God and dismiss it as a misreading or mispronunciation.

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