Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning God created...
Did you know the word used here for God is “Elohim” which carries a plural ending?
Glad you asked.
I had a rabbi once say to me, “it’s as if by proclaiming the name of Elohim, the people of Israel would have been saying to the tribes they encountered, ‘all of your gods are contained in our one.'”
This is a powerful claim.
The claim is taken a step further with the introduction of Jesus. The following tidbits were part of the cultural background of the Jesus story.
- There were many religions that claimed to center around the son of God.
- The Roman Caesar called himself the Son of God – and came up with the phrase, Caesar is Lord.
- There were religions that believed their god was raised from the dead
- And their god was raised on the third day.
- There were religions that used wine as a foundational element.
- There were religions that believed their god went into the underworld and came out having defeated death.
After learning about this cultural background in a religious studies class in college, my roommate asked me if they made me question my faith. You see, there were many kids in the class who had grown up in Christian homes, but never learned these things in Sunday School (I hadn’t either - not common or popular topics for the flannel board). It made them uncomfortable, to say the least. They saw these facts as threats to the validity of their faith. I saw it differently, thanks to that rabbi who explained Elohim.
I think it’s a beautiful thing. It’s as if God said, ‘Look, you see all these gods, all these beliefs? I am going to send my son in order to show you who I am. I will encompass them all.'”
And the beauty is in the differentiation.
Son of God not to carry out oppression but as an outpoouring of love.
Raised from the dead not as an act of retribution but as an act of reconciliation.
And on and on and on.