Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Echad (One)

By Anthony F. Buzzard

It is customary for some Binitarians and most evangelical Trinitarians (especially Messianics) to propose that the Hebrew word for one, the numeral 1 (echad), is really “compound one.” This is a clever device which confuses logical thought.

occurs some 960 times in the Hebrew Bible, and it is the numeral 1 [“one"]. It is a numeral adjective when it modifies a noun. “One day [noun],” “one person [noun],” etc. Echad is the ordinary cardinal number 1, “one.” Eleven [11] in Hebrew is ten [10] and one [1]. Abraham “was only one,” said Ezekiel 33:24 (NASU), “only one man” (NIV).

Just as the famous Armstrongian phrase “uniplural” does not appear in the Webster’s (thus it represents the DIY grammatical venture on which Worldwide theology was done in respect to defining God), “compound one” as a definition of echad is also not recognized in standard texts describing the grammar of the Hebrew language. It is an invented grammatical category which confuses and divides.

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.

Suppose now we say that “one” implies more than one. We could prove our point like this:
  • In the phrase “one tripod,” is it not obvious that one really implies three?
  • Does not one dozen mean that one is really 12? Or one million?
  • Is one equivalent to a million? Does this not suggest the plurality of “one”?
  • What about “one quartet” or “one duplex”?
To carry this madness to an extreme, we could argue that in the phrase “one zebra,” the word one really means “black and white.”

What is happening here?

We are being asked to believe that in the phrase “the LORD [YHWH/Adonai] our God is one LORD [YHWH/Adonai],” that “one” is “compound.” That “LORD” is more than one LORD, perhaps two or perhaps three. We are being lured into a complete falsehood that “one” implies plurality. We are asked to believe this on the basis of a tiny fraction of the appearances of echad when it modifies a compound noun (the vast majority of the occurrences of echad when it does not modify a compound noun are left unmentioned). Even when “one” modifies a compound noun — one family, one cluster — the word “one” retains its meaning as “one single…”

There is no such thing as “compound one” as a definition of echad.

This procedure is to confuse the numeral adjective “one” with the noun it modifies. It is to “bleed” the meaning of a compound noun back into the numeral. This will take the unwary by surprise. Thus “one flesh” is supposed to mean that one can mean more than one. The point, obviously, is that “flesh” as a combination of Adam and Eve does have a collective, family sense. But one is still one: “One flesh and not two fleshes.”

“One cluster (singular) of grapes” does not in any way illustrate a plural meaning for the word “one.” “Cluster” has indeed a collective, plural sense. But one is still one: “one cluster” and not “two clusters.”

Just imagine if at the check-out the clerk announces that your one dollar purchase is really “compound one.” You could become bankrupt.

So then, YHWH, the personal [Divine] name of the One God, occurs some 6,800 times. In no case does it have a plural verb, or adjective. And 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 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,”
  • “none before Me”
  • “none after Me.”
  • “I alone am Elohim, and Yahweh.”
  • “I created the heavens and the earth by Myself; none was with Me.”

A Sample of the Use of echad (one)

Genesis 42:13: “Joseph’s brothers said, ‘We are 12 brothers, sons of one (echad) man, in the land of Canaan. The youngest is this day with our father and one (echad) is not.’”
  • Verse 16: “Send one (echad) of you.”
  • Verse 19: “Let one (echad) of your brothers…”
  • Verse 27: “One (echad) of them opened his sack.”
  • Verse 32: “One (echad) is not.”
  • Verse 33: “One (echad) of your brothers.” There are well over 900 other examples in the OT.