Defending God's Word_02 (9)

The higher critics argue that every Bible verse that contains the Hebrew word for God, (Elohim), set off by itself has its own writer, designated by the capital “E” (“Elohist”). On the other hand, any verse that contains the Tetragrammaton, (Jehovah, Yahweh), God’s personal name, is attributed to yet another writer, “J” (“Jawist”). (Cassuto, 18-21) Let us see how they explain this. The critics argue that “God” (Elohim) is restricted to use exclusively in the first chapter of Genesis (1:1–31) in relation to God’s creation activity, and that starting in Genesis 2:4 through the end of the second chapter we find God’s personal name.E. Friedman speaks of a discovery by three men: “One was a minister, one was a physician, and one was a professor. The discovery that they made ultimately came down to the combination of two pieces of evidence: doublets and the names of God. They saw that there were apparently two versions each of a large number of Biblical stories: two accounts of the creation, two accounts each of several stories about the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, and so on. Then, they noticed that, quite often, one of the two versions of a story would refer to God by one name and the other version would refer to God by a different name.” (R. E. Friedman, 50)

E. Friedman speaks of a discovery by three men: “One was a minister, one was a physician, and one was a professor. The discovery that they made ultimately came down to the combination of two pieces of evidence: doublets and the names of God. They saw that there were apparently two versions each of a large number of Biblical stories: two accounts of the creation, two accounts each of several stories about the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, and so on. Then, they noticed that, quite often, one of the two versions of a story would refer to God by one name and the other version would refer to God by a different name.” (R. E. Friedman, 50)

Different settings, however, require different uses. This principle holds true throughout the whole of the entire Old Testament. Moses may choose to use (Elohim) in a setting in which he wants to show a particular quality clearly, like power, creative activity, and so on. On the other hand, Moses may choose to use God’s personal name (Jehovah, Yahweh) when the setting begs for that personal relationship between the Father and his children, the Israelites, or even more personable, a one-on-one conversation between Jehovah God and a faithful servant.

AN OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE DIFFICULTY COMMENTARY

The Divine Names: The weakness of claiming multiple authors because of the different names used for God is quite evident when we look at just one small portion of the book of Genesis in the American Standard Version (1901). God is called “God Most High,” “possessor (or maker) of heaven and earth,” “O Lord Jehovah,” “a God that seeth,” “God Almighty,” “God,” “[the] God,”[1] and “the Judge of all the earth.” (Genesis 14:18, 19; 15:2; 16:13; 17:1, 3; 18:25) It is difficult to believe that different authors wrote these verses. Moreover, let us take a look at Genesis 28:13, which says: “And, behold, Jehovah stood above it, and said, I am Jehovah, the God [“Elohim”] of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed.” Another scripture, Psalm 47:5, says: “God is gone up with a shout, Jehovah with the sound of a trumpet.”[2] (ASV) In applying their documentary analysis, we would have to accept the idea that two authors worked together on each of these two verses.

Many conservative scholars have come to realize that in a narrative format one will often find a ruler being referred to not only by name but also by a title, such as “king.” M. H. Segal observes: “Just as those interchanges of human proper names and their respective appellative common nouns cannot by any stretch of the imagination be ascribed to a change of author or source of document, so also the corresponding interchanges of the divine names in the Pentateuch must not be attributed to such a literary cause.”* If one were to look up “Adolf Hitler” using Academic American Encyclopedia, within three paragraphs he will find the terms “Führer,” “Adolf Hitler,” and simply “Hitler.” Who is so bold as to suggest that there are three different authors for these three paragraphs?

Dr. John J. Davis[3] helps us to appreciate that there is “no other religious document from the ancient Near East [that] was compiled in such a manner; a documentary analysis of the Gilgamesh Epic or Enuma Elis would be complete folly. The author of Genesis may have selected divine names on the basis of theological emphasis rather than dogmatic preference. Many divine names were probably interchangeable; Baal and Hadad were used interchangeably in the Hadad Tablet from Ugarit[4] and similar examples could be cited from Egyptian texts.[5]

In fact, we now know that there were many deities in the ancient Near East that had multiple names. As stated above with the Babylonian Creation account, the Enuma Elish, the god Marduk (Merodach), chief deity of Babylon, also had some 50 different names.[6] It would not even be thinkable to apply any of the Documentary Hypothesis analysis to any of these works. Why? Not only because we can see that ancient writers are no different than modern writers and are able to use different names and titles interchangeably within their work, but they were written on stone, so to speak. If one has one clay tablet that has both a personal name and two different titles for the same king, it would be difficult to argue that there were two or three different authors for the one tablet. Bible scholar Mark F. Rooker has the following to say about the use of Elohim and Yahweh in the Old Testament:

Moreover, it is clear that throughout the Old Testament that the occurrence of the names of God as Elohim or Yahweh is to be attributed to contextual and semantic issues, not the existence of sources. This conclusion is borne out by the fact that the names consistently occur in predictable genre. In the legal and prophetic texts the name Yahweh always appears, while in wisdom literature the name for God is invariably Elohim. In narrative literature, which includes much of the Pentateuch, both Yahweh and Elohim are used.[7]* Yet consistently the names do not indicate different sources but were chosen by design. The name Elohim was used in passages to express the abstract idea of Deity as evident in God’s role as Creator of the universe and the Ruler of nature. Yahweh, on the other hand, is the special covenant name of God who has entered into a relationship with the Israelites since the name reflects God’s ethical character. (Cassuto, 31) Given the understanding of the meaning of these names for God, it is no wonder that the source which contains the name Yahweh would appear to reflect a different theology from a selected group of texts which contained the name Elohim.”[8]

Let us, on a small scale, do our own analysis of the divine names in the first two chapters of Genesis. The Hebrew word (elohim) is most often agreed upon to be from a root meaning “be strong,” “mighty,” or “power.”[9] It should be said too that by far, most Hebrew scholars recognize the plural form (im) of this title elohim to be used as a plural of “majesty,” “greatness,” or “excellence.” The Hebrew word (elohim) is used for the Creator 35 times from Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a. Exactly what is the context of this use? It is used in a setting that deals with God’s power, his greatness, his excellence, his creation activity, all of which seems appropriate, does it not?

Moving on to Genesis 2:4b–25, we find God now being referred to by his personal name, the Tetragrammaton (YHWH, JHVH), which is translated “Jehovah” (KJV, ASV, NW, NEB, etc.) or “Yahweh” (AT, NAB, JB, HCSB, etc.). It is found in verses 4b–25 a total of 11 times; however, it comes before his title (elohim).[10] Why the switch, and what is the context of this use? This personal name of God is used in a setting that deals with his personal relationship with man and woman. This is not a second creation account; it is a more detailed account of the creation of man, which was only briefly mentioned in chapter one in passing, as each feature of creation was ticked off. In chapter two, the Creator becomes a person as he speaks to his intelligent creation, giving them the prospect of an eternal perfect life in a paradise garden, which is to be cultivated earth wide, to be filled with perfect offspring. Therefore, we see a personal interchange between God and man as He lays out His plans to Adam, which seems very appropriate, does it not when switching from using a title in chapter one to using a personal name in chapter two? In chapter two, we have the coupling of the personal name “Jehovah” with the title “God,” to show that we are still talking about this ‘great,’ ‘majestic,’ ‘all powerful’ Creator, but personalized as he introduces himself to his new earthly creation.

A NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE DIFFICULTY COMMENTARY

Thus, there is no reason to assume that we are talking about two different writers. No, it is two different settings in which a skilled writer would make the transition just as Moses did. It would be no different from if a modern-day news commentator were giving a report about the United States President visiting Russia to meet with Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, in which he used the title President predominately. The following week the same news commentator may be covering the President visiting a hospital with injured children who had survived a tornado and refer to the President as Donald Trump. It isn’t difficult to see that one is an official setting where the President needs to be portrayed as powerful, while in the other setting; he needs to be portrayed as personable. The same principles used herein apply to the rest of the Pentateuch and the Old Testament as a whole.

Defending God's Word_02 (7)

[1] The title Elohim preceded by the definite article ha, giving the expression ha Elohim.

[2]. See also Psalm 46:11; 48:1, 8.

[3]. John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Salem: Sheffield, 1975), 22–23.

[4] . G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends (New York: T. & T. Clark, 1971), 70-72.

[5]. For example, see the “Stele of Ikhernofret” in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, pp. 329–30.

[6]. K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 424–5.

[7] Similarly, Livingston has pointed out that the cognate West Semitic divine names il and ya(w) appear to be interchangeable in the Eblaite tablets. (The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment, 224.)

[8]. Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 26–27.

[9]. Ibid., 27.

[10] “Jehovah God.” Heb., Yehwah Elohim.