Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Echad: a "compund unity" or a unity of One?

Compiled by Xavier

Christian Orthodoxy proposes that the Hebrew word for one, the numeral one (1 = echad), really means “compound one.” Echad occurs some 960 times in the Hebrew Bible, and it is the numeral “one”. It is a numeral adjective when it modifies a noun. “One day,” “one person,” etc. Echad is the ordinary cardinal number, “one.” Eleven in Hebrew is ten and one. Abraham “was only one,” says Eze 33:24: “only one man” (NIV).

The Hebrew word for one operates as does the word “one” in English. You can have one thing, one person. And of course the noun modified by echad may be collective, one family, one people, one flesh, as a single unit composed of two — Adam and Eve, in that case. But to say that “one” carries the meaning of “compound one” is misleading in the extreme. The basic meaning of echad given by the lexicons is “one single,” even the indefinite article “a.". Sometimes “the only one,” or even “unique” is the proper translation of echad.

YHWH, the personal name of the One God, occurs some 6,800 times. In no case does it have a plural verb, or adjective. Furthermore, never is a plural pronoun put in its place. Pronouns are most useful grammatical markers, since they tell us about the nouns they stand for. The very fact that the God who is YHWH speaks of Himself as “I” and “Me” and is referred to as “You” (singular) and “He” and “Him” thousands upon thousands of times. This should convince all Bible readers of the singularity of God. The fact that God further speaks of Himself in every exclusive fashion known to language —“by myself,” “all alone” etc., —only adds to this proof.
“There is none besides Me...” Isa 45.5

“...none before Me” Isa 45.6

“...none after Me.” Isa 45

“I alone am Elohim, and Yahweh.”

“I created the heavens and the earth by Myself; none was with Me.”
Gen 1:26: “And elohim said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”

Elohim and Adonay, Hebrew words for God, occur in the plural. If this literally meant a plurality of persons, it would be translated “Gods/gods”. But the Jews, being truly monotheistic and thoroughly familiar with the idioms of their own language, have never understood the use of the plural to indicate a plurality of persons within the one God.

Elohim is not the only word that is pluralized for emphasis (although when the plural does not seem to be good grammar, the translators usually ignore the Hebrew plural and translate it as a singular, so it can be hard to spot in most English versions):

After Cain murdered Abel, God said to Cain, “the voice of your brother’s bloods cries to me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10). The plural emphasizes the horror of the act.
  • In Gen 19:11, the men of Sodom who wanted to hurt Lot were smitten with “blindness.” The Hebrew is in the plural, “blindnesses,” and indicates that the blindness was total so Lot would be protected.
  • Leviticus tells people not to eat fruit from a tree for three years, and in the fourth year the fruit is “an offering of praise to the Lord” (Lev. 19:24). The Hebrew word for “praise” is plural, emphasizing that there was to be great praise.
  • Psa 45:15 tells of people who are brought into the presence of the Messiah. It says, “They are led in with joy and gladness.” The Hebrew actually reads “gladnesses,” emphasizing the great gladness of the occasion.
  • In Eze 25, God is speaking of what has happened to Israel and what He will do about it. Concerning the Philistines, He said, “the Philistines acted in vengeance…I will carry out great vengeance on them” (Ezek 25:15, 17). In the Hebrew text, the second vengeance, the vengeance of God, is in the plural, indicating the complete vengeance that the Lord will inflict.
Although many more examples exist in the Hebrew text, these demonstrate that it is not uncommon to use a plural to emphasize something in Scripture.

1 comment:

IATS said...

Peace of God!
I want to thank you for this explication.
In peace,
IATS