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Does Elohim Provide Evidence For God’s Uni-Plurality? Pt. 3

Sam Shamoun

We resume from where we left off by focusing on certain objections which are often raised against the view which says that Elohim provides evidence for the prophets knowing that God is multi-personal, and that the term is therefore supportive of the Trinity.

Psalm 45:6-7 – An Example of a Plural of Intensification?

The following passage,

“Your throne, O God (Elohim), is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God (Elohim), your God (Eloheyka), has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;” Psalm 45:6-7

Is often used as an illustration that Elohim provides absolutely no support for believing in the uni-plurality of God, since this very text is cited in reference to Christ’s enthronement at God’s right hand:

"But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God (ho theos), is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God (ho theos), your God (ho theos su), has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’” Hebrews 1:8-9

The fact that Jesus is said to be the Elohim of Psalm 45:6-7, and is said to have an Elohim over him, disproves the assertion that the word Elohim points to God existing as a plurality of divine Persons. The reason is that this definition would mean that Jesus is not only the entire Godhead, but that he is also distinct from the entire Godhead, which would be a contradiction.

In other words, if Jesus is said to be Elohim, and if Elohim refers to the multi-personal nature of God, then this means that Jesus is identical to all the divine Persons within the Godhead.

To put this in the form of a syllogism:

  1. Elohim refers to God being multi-personal in nature.
  2. Jesus is called Elohim.
  3. Jesus is, therefore, the entire Godhead or all of the divine Persons simultaneously.

At the same time, Jesus is said to have an Elohim over him, and therefore excludes him from being a member of this multi-personal Godhead.

Here is what we would end up with if were to again set this up as a logical syllogism:

  1. Elohim points to the uni-plurality of God’s infinite Being.
  2. Jesus has an Elohim over him and, as such, is personally distinguished from Elohim.
  3. Jesus, therefore, cannot be one of the divine Persons that make up the uni-plurality of Elohim.

Suffice it to say, there are several problems with this assertion. In the first place, this is nothing more than a straw man argument since no informed Trinitarian would argue that every occurrence of Elohim in the Hebrew Bible always points to God being multi-personal in nature. Rather, as we clearly stated in the first part of our discussion, Elohim also functions as an intensive plural, also called a plural of intensification, where the emphasis lies on God possessing the whole plenitude of deity.

As such, Elohim in Psalm 45:6-7 would be a case of an intensive plural, stressing the fact that both the Father and the Son share the divine essence in all its totality. In the words of the Apostle Paul:

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity (theotetos) dwells (katoikei) in bodily form (somatikos).” Colossians 2:9 New American Standard (NASB)

Here are some other English translations that bring out the meaning of the underlying Greek text:

“For in Him the entire fullness of God's nature dwells bodily,” Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

“God’s whole nature is living in Christ in human form.” New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

“For in him, bodily, lives the fullness of all that God is.” Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

“For Christ is not only God-like, He is God in human flesh.” New Living Version (NLV)

Noted Evangelical scholar Murray J. Harris also helps us grasp the implication of the blessed Apostle’s inspired words:

"One verse beyond all others in the New Testament affirms that every divine attribute is found in Jesus. Paul does not say simply 'the plenitude of Deity,' but 'the entire fulness of Deity.' He emphasizes that no element of that fullness is excepted. Whatever is characteristic of God as God resides in Jesus. This includes both God's nature and his attributes. In the Greek text the verb lives (present tense) and the adverb 'in bodily form' are not found side by side but are separated, which suggests that two distinct affirmations are being made: that the entire fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ ETERNALLY and that this fullness now PERMANENTLY resides in Christ IN BODILY FORM. Thus, Paul implies both the eternal deity and the permanent humanity of Christ.” (Harris, Three Crucial Questions about Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1994], p. 66; bold and capital emphasis ours)


“… The separation of katoikei from somatikos suggests that two distinct affirmations are being made (cf. Vincent 906): that the total plenitude of the Godhead dwells in Christ eternally and that this fullness now permanently resides in the incarnate Christ in bodily form. It is true that before the incarnation the pleroma did not reside in Christ somatikos; it is not true that before the incarnation the pleroma did not reside in him at all. Thus Paul implies both the eternal deity and the permanent humanity of Christ. Moreover, katoikei… somatikos implies that both before and after his resurrection Christ ‘possessed’ a soma (cf. 1:22; 1 Cor 15:44; Phil 3:21).” (Harris, Exegetical Guide To The Greek New Testament: Colossians And Philemon [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI 2010], p. 89; bold emphasis ours)

This brings us to our second point. Not all scholars believe that Psalm 45 was initially about Christ. Some believe that this was originally composed in connection to the wedding celebration of one of the Davidic kings, perhaps Solomon, whom God anointed to sit on his earthly throne in Jerusalem as his human representative.

Those who hold this view are quite clear that the use of Elohim for this human ruler doesn’t mean that the Psalter thought that the king was somehow fully divine or an incarnation of God. Rather, he was an Elohim in the sense of being anointed by the Holy Spirit of God and endowed with Yahweh’s authority to manifest Yahweh’s perfect rule, as well as to exhibit some of Yahweh’s divine characteristics (albeit to a very limited extent):

“… In whatever sense the king was divine, it was not an actual or intrinsic divinity that he possessed. Nor was the king regarded as an incarnation of Deity. Rather, he was ‘Yahweh's anointed,’ in the sense that he served as Yahweh's deputy on earth, exercising a delegated yet sovereign authority. And as anointed leader of God's chosen people, the king was, by the gracious divine will, God's adopted son (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; 89:27-28 [Engl. w. 26-27]). Yet, in accounting for this unique application of the title to a king, one must reckon with more than simply the king’s divine election and his unique role in standing in loco dei. The king may exceptionally be addressed as ‘God’ also because, endowed with the Spirit of Yahweh, he exhibits certain divine characteristics. In Psalm 45 ‘glory and majesty’ are ascribed to him (vv. 4-5a), as they are to God (e.g., Ps. 96:6); he is a defender and lover of truth and right (vv. 5b, 8a), just as God is (Ps. 33:5; 99:4; Isa. 61:8); he judges with equity (v. 7b), as God does (Ps. 67:5 [Engl. V. 4]; 99:4); just as God’s rule is eternal (Ps. 10:16; 93:2; 145:13), so is the dynasty to which the Davidic king belongs (v. 7a). Some weight must be given to the influence of the exuberant style of an oriental court (cf. v. 2: ‘my heart is bubbling over’). Psalm 45 is noteworthy for its superlatives in its description of the qualities and achievements of the king (vv. 3-8); elohim is not the only instance of hyperbolic language in the poem (see especially vv. 3, 6, 8). But verse 7 remains distinctive in that here ‘the royal compliments suddenly blossom into divine honors.’ With that said, it should also be emphasized that an occupant of the Davidic throne represented a dynasty with which God had made an eternal covenant (2 Sam. 7:13, 16) and from which God’s ideal vicegerent would come, so that these ‘divine honors’ should not be explained simply as verbal extravagance. A king of David’s line could be addressed as elohim because he foreshadowed the coming one who would perfectly realize the dynastic ideal, a godlike ruler who would embody all the ideals described in the psalm.

“The psalmist’s exuberance is tempered, however, by his theological propriety. It has been suggested above that the insertion of eloheyka after elohim in verse 8 may reflect the poet’s awareness of extraordinary use of elohim in verse 7. He forestalls misunderstanding by indicating that the king is not elohim without qualification. Yahweh is the king's ‘God.’ Such an explanation doesn’t rule out the possibility that the poet is also stressing the intimate and unique relationship that exists between the king and Yahweh, although eloheyka is also used in reference to individual prophets (e.g., 1 Kings 17:12; see de Fraine 268-76)…” (Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI: First paperback edition, 1998], VIII. The Throne of God (Psalm 45:7-8), C. Objections to the Traditional Interpretation, 4. Theological, pp. 200-201; bold emphasis ours)

Others, however, deny that this could be speaking about anyone other than Christ, since no mere human king could be spoken of in such exalted language:

“The 45th Psalm, from which the quotation is made, is considered by many interpreters as a marriage song on the nuptials of Solomon with an Egyptian princess–having, however, a mystical reference to the relation between Christ and the Church. We apprehended, however, that this opinion, which is inconsistent with that both of Jewish and Christian antiquity, is not only without evidence, but opposed to evidence. There is much to prove that the sovereign here celebrated is not Solomon–is not, indeed, any mere mortal monarch, but is Messiah our Prince. The hero of this divine poem is a warrior, who girds His sword on His thigh, rides in pursuit of His flying foes, thins their ranks by His sharp arrows, and reigns at last over His conquered enemies. Solomon was no warrior, but enjoyed a long reign of forty years of uninterrupted peace. The prince here celebrated has a numerous progeny. We do not know that Solomon had any other son than Rehoboam. No earthly prince could with propriety be addressed as God; and to no mortal could belong a perpetual dominion. Every particular in the description, interpreted according to the ordinary principles on which the Old Testament prophecy is explained, is applicable to the Messiah. Though we had no direct assertion that this is one of the Psalms in which ‘it is written’ of Christ, yet on these grounds we should have been warranted to have come to this conclusion. But with all who admit the divine inspiration of the writer of this Epistle, the words before us are of themselves sufficient to settle the question as to the subject and reference of the passage quoted. ‘Unto the Son he’–i.e., the psalmist or prophet–‘saith,’–or, ‘the Scripture saith;’ or, understanding it impersonally, ‘it is said’–‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.’” (John Brown, Epistle to the Hebrews [Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2009], p. 55; bold emphasis ours)

Brown also responds to those who would try to use this text to undermine the absolute Deity of Christ:

“It may be said, that He who is here addressed as God, is represented as having Himself a God: ‘God, even thy God;’ or, ‘O God, Thy God.’ But to the person who holds the plain scriptural doctrine, that the incarnate Son, as Mediator, is subordinate to His Father, who in the economy of grace sustains the majesty of the Godhead, there is nothing unaccountable in this. He who was God, equal with the Father, was, in His assumed character of the Mediator and Saviour, placed by the Father–who was His God, as the man Christ Jesus–on a throne elevated far above every earthly throne, secured from all fluctuation, and destined to endure for ever.

Those who deny our Lord's divinity have been greatly perplexed by this passage, and have attempted to get rid of the argument by rendering the words, ‘God is Thy throne for ever and ever.’ But this is not only contrary to the usage of the language, but it would utterly destroy the force of the Apostle's argument. If the words, ‘God is Thy throne,’ mean anything, they mean, ‘God is the support of Thy throne’–a declaration which is true of every throne. It also completely destroys that parallelism which is one of the characteristic beauties of Hebrew poetry. It is kept up when it is said, ‘Thy dominion is perpetual, Thy administration is righteous;’ but it is utterly lost when it is said, ‘God is the support of Thy dominion, and Thy administration is righteous.’” (Ibid, pp. 56-57; bold emphasis ours)

The following scholar agrees:

“… When in v. 6, the king is described as a mighty warrior, who subdues many nations, this does not at all suit Solomon who was engaged in no war, but agrees well with the Messiah, who likewise in Isa. 53:12. Ps. 110:5, and elsewhere, is represented under the powerful and victorious warrior. But the strongest argument for the Messianic interpretation is found in v. 7. There the king is addressed as God. The non-Messianic interpreters have here resorted to various expedients. Several of them take Elohim not as the vocative, but as the genitive. How unnatural this interpretation is, and how plainly the mere result of necessity, appears from the fact that no one of the ancient translators, among whom the Jewish certainly cannot be charged with doctrinal prejudice, ever thought of it. All translate in the vocative. The LXX: ho thronos sou ho theos eis aioona aioonos. Aquila: ho thronos sou thee eis aioona kai eti. Symmachus: ho thronos sou ho theos aioonios kai eti. The Chaldee [sic]: ‘thronus gloriae tuae, domine, stabilis in sempiternum.’ In favor of the vocative is the foregoing voc. Gibbor v. 4…” (Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Christology Of The Old Testament, And A Commentary On The Predictions Of The Messiah By The Prophets, Volume 1, p. 91; bold emphasis ours)

Dr. Robert A. Morey also concurs with Brown that such exalted descriptions can only be referring to God, and not to any mere human being:

David [sic] is clearly addressing the one true God when he says, ‘Thy throne, O God,’ because the throne of the person being addressed is ‘for ever and ever,’ i.e., eternal. Eternity is an attribute of deity.

“Also, in other psalms, David identifies that throne as Yahweh’s throne (Ps. 11:4) from which in heaven He rules over all things (Ps. 103:19) for eternity (Ps. 93:2). This cannot be applied to David or to Solomon or to any earthly king.

“If this is all the passage said, no one wild have the least difficulty in identifying God as the One to whom David [sic] is praying. The problem for the anti-Trinitarian is that David [sic] goes on to speak of God as being anointed by God!

“How can the God of Israel sitting on His throne ruling the universe be anointed by God? For the Trinitarian, this is no problem at all. But for the Unitarian, this text represents a huge problem.

“The historic Christian interpretation is that ‘it is clear from this passage that there are at least two Divine Personalities who are eternal and omnipotent.’ This was the ancient Jewish view as well…” (Morey, The Trinity: Evidence & Issues [Christian Scholars Press, Las Vegas, NV], Part II. The Old Testament Evidence, Chapter 7. A Multi-Personal God, pp. 98-99; bold emphasis ours)

Comparing the way the Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible, commonly referred to as the Targum, renders this particular Psalm shows that Morey is basically correct:

Your beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than the sons of men; the spirit of prophecy has been placed on your lips; because of this the Lord has blessed you forever. The throne of your glory, O Lord, lasts forever and ever; the scepter of your kingdom is an upright scepter. Because you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness – because of this the Lord your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your fellows.” Psalm 45:3, 7-8 (Edward Cook, Targum of The Psalms: An English Translation; bold emphasis ours)

Amazingly, the Targum took the words that were attributed to the King and applied them to Yahweh! Thus, instead of understanding this to be a reference to the King reigning forever as G/god, the Targum took this to be a statement concerning the eternal, glorious rule of Yahweh himself!

It is not hard to see why the compilers of the Aramaic Targums interpreted this phrase in reference to Yahweh’s glorious enthronement. The Hebrew Bible repeatedly asserts that Yahweh is the Elohim that reigns forever:

“Rise up, Lord God (YHWH El)! Lift up Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted. Why has the wicked person despised God (Elohim)? He says to himself, ‘You will not demand an account.’ But You Yourself have seen trouble and grief, observing it in order to take the matter into Your hands. The helpless entrusts himself to You; You are a helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil person; call his wickedness into account until nothing remains of it. The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations will perish from His land. Psalm 10:12-16

“Come and see the wonders of God (Elohim); His acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. He turned the sea into dry land, and they crossed the river on foot. There we rejoiced in Him. He rules forever by His might; He keeps His eye on the nations. The rebellious should not exalt themselves. Selah Praise our God (Eloheinu), you peoples; let the sound of His praise be heard. He keeps us alive and does not allow our feet to slip. For You, God (Elohim), tested us; You refined us as silver is refined. You lured us into a trap; You placed burdens on our backs.” Psalm 66:5-11

The LORD reigns forever, your God (Elohayik), O Zion, for all generations.” Psalm 146:10 – cf. Pss. 9:7-8; 29:10; 93:1-2; 102:12; 145:13; Lamentations 5:19; Micah 4:7

Hence, these OT texts, along with the Targum, provide weighty evidence for the claims of both Brown and Morey that such a description could never be made of a mere human sovereign, no matter how exalted he may have been.

This may have been one of the key factors which led even non-Christian Jews to interpret this Psalm messianically. e.g., the Jews saw that this Psalm pointed to the Messiah since he is the only figure who could fulfill it in the ultimate sense. In fact, the Messianic interpretation of Psalm 45 is quite old, going back to at least the first century AD:

“… The Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:8) proceeds on the assumption that it is the future Christ, the Son of God. It is supported in this view by a tradition of the ancient synagogue, in accordance with which the Targumist renders Psalm 45:3, ‘Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than that of the children of men.’ This Messianic interpretation must be very ancient…” (Keil and Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament; bold emphasis ours)

Another factor that would have led the Jews to interpret specific psalms such as Psalm 45 in reference to the Messiah is that none of the Israelite kings ever reigned forever or subdued all their enemies. Nor did these kings ever rule over the entire world, even though Psalms such as 2, 72, 89, and 110 said that they would. This caused the Jews to take such psalms to be messianic in nature. Renowned Jewish Christian scholar Dr. Michael L. Brown does a great job of explaining this:

“So this royal descendant of David is called ’elohim: ‘Your throne, O God [’elohim], will last for ever and ever’! To attempt to translate the key verse with ‘your divine throne’ or ‘your throne is God’ is forced, to say the least. The most natural and obvious meaning is, ‘Your throne, O God,’ spoken to the Davidic king!

“When I first started studying Hebrew in college, I asked my professor, a very friendly Israeli rabbi, to translate for me the words kis’aka ’elohim ‘olam wa‘ed. He replied immediately, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever,’ explaining, ‘These are praises to the Almighty.’ I then asked him to read the rest of the psalm, clearly addressed to the king, and his face dropped. How could this earthly king be called ’elohim? To repeat: This is the most natural and obvious meaning of the Hebrew, and no one would have questioned such a rendering had the entire psalm been addressed to God. How then can the earthly king be called ‘’elohim’?

Obviously, when we apply this verse to Jesus the Messiah, there is no question or difficulty. In fact, he is the answer to the question and the solution to the difficulty. But this psalm was originally addressed to an entirely human ‘son of God’ and later applied in its fullest sense to Jesus, the last and greatest Davidic king. How can this be? …

“The answer is very important and helps to provide a key to understanding Messianic prophecy. The word ’elohim can mean God, god, gods, or angels, all of which refer in some sense to ‘divine beings.’ It is also important to note that in the Ancient Near East, the kings of Mesopotamia and Egypt were considered gods themselves. This, however, was not the case in Israel. Rather, the Davidic king was a highly exalted human, recognized as God’s unique son. Here in Psalm 45, the Hebrew language was stretched to its limit, speaking of the Davidic king as ’elohim, a ‘divine one.’ But this daring concept serves as the perfect introduction to the real divine sonship of the Messiah. He truly is ’elohim! So this verse applied in a limited sense to the earthly, Davidic king, and it applies in its full sense to Jesus, the Davidic Messiah.

“This may seem a little complex, but it really is very simple. Every time a new Davidic king was installed, there was an elaborate ceremony, and it appears that psalms such as Psalm 2 were read, proclaiming the king to be God’s son, the anointed (mashiach) of the Lord (cf. Ps. 2:2), and promising him rulership over the entire world (see Ps. 2:8-9). Eventually, these psalms became part of the Hebrew Bible, and as each new king failed to live up to the high prophetic expectations, disappointment set in. But these were God’s words and God’s promises. How could they fail to reach their fulfillment? It was this kind of tension that caused people of Israel to begin to look for a greater son of David, the anointed one (mashiach) par excellence.

“When Jesus the Messiah finally came into the world, these royal psalms reached their goal. Here was one who truly was God’s Son, who in a unique way was ’elohim among us, and who was David’s lord, to be worshiped and served by all mankind. Thus, the royal psalms had their partial application to the earthly sons of David, but they were only fulfilled through Yeshua, the greater son of David. This understanding alone does justice to the truth of the Hebrew Bible and the truth of history.” (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 2000], Volume 2. Theological Objections, 3.3 God doesn’t have a son, pp. 43-44; bold emphasis ours)

The Theological Implications of Psalm 45:6-7

With the foregoing in perspective, we can now more adequately address the objection.

If we take the view that the Psalm was originally written about an Israelite king who was meant to typify or foreshadow the coming Messiah, then Elohim does not function as an intensive plural. Rather, Elohim refers to the Godhead which the human ruler spoke for.

After all, as we saw in the previous parts, there is clear evidence that David and all the Israelite kings that came after him, knew and were aware that the God they served was multi-personal, in fact tri-personal in nature (cf. Genesis 1:1-2, 26-27; 2:4-7; 6:3, 17; 7:15, 22; 16:7-14; 28:10-22; 31:10-13; 35:1-7; 48:15-16; Exodus 3:1-15; 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 24; 23:20-24; 31:1-6; 35:30-31; Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29; 20:14-16; 22:22-38; 24:1-3; Joshua 5:13-15, 6:1-2; Judges 2:1-5; 6:11-23; 13:3-24; 2 Samuel 14:17, 20; 23:1-3; 2 Kings 19:32-37; 1 Chronicles 21:11-30; Job 26:13; 27:3; 33:4; 32:8; 34:14-15; Pss. 34:7-8; 104:29-30; 110:1-5; 143:10; 149:2; Proverbs 30:3-4; Ecclesiastes 5:6; 12:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-2; 52:13-15 [cf. 5:16; 6:1-5; 2:11-17; 33:5, 10; 57:1]; 54:5; 63:7-16; Hosea 12:2-5). Lord willing, we shall produce more evidence from the Hebrew Bible to support this assertion in some of the upcoming installments of this series.

Therefore, they would have surely known that they were representing the Triune God in their rule over the people.

However, when this Psalm is applied to Christ then Elohim functions as an intensive plural in order to stress the fact of Jesus being truly God in essence, and the exact representation of the infinite, uncreated substance of God the Father:

“… When He again brings His Firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And all the angels of God must worship Him.’ In speaking of the angels He says, ‘He makes his angels spirits, and His servants flames of fire.’ But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness beyond Your companions.’ And: ‘In the beginning, Lord [the Son], You established the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain. They will all wear out like clothing; You will roll them up like a cloak, and they will be changed like a robe. But You are the same, and Your years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 6-12

Here we have the inspired author describing Jesus as the preexistent, divine Son and Heir whom all the angels worship, as well as the divine Agent of creation who personally created and sustains all things by his own powerful word.

The writer even takes specific OT texts which refer to Yahweh as the unchanging Creator and Sustainer, and the divine Object of angelic worship, and applies them to Christ!

Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye his angels. Psalm 96[Eng. 97]:7 LXX

Let this be written for another generation; and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord. For he has looked out from the height of his sanctuary; the Lord looked upon the earth from heaven; to hear the groaning of the fettered ones, to loosen the sons of the slain; to proclaim the name of the Lord in Sion, and his praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kings, to serve the LordIn the beginning thou, O Lord, didst lay the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest: and [they all] shall wax old as a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them, and they shall be change. But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. The children of thy servants shall dwell [securely], and their seed shall prosper for ever. Psalm 101[Eng. 102]:18-22, 25-27 LXX

The only way that the author could take OT texts concerning the worship and divine characteristics of Yahweh and ascribe them to Jesus is if he was operating under the assumption that Jesus is Yahweh God in the flesh (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit).

In light of the above, it is apparent that when the inspired writer calls Jesus Elohim (Gr. ho theos) he must have meant that Christ is God in an absolute and eternal sense. As the following scholars explain:

“… Here we have a vocative even in Hebrew as well as in the LXX and in Hebrews, and only the unwillingness of commentators to have the Son addressed so directly as ’Elohim, ho theos (the article with the nominative is used as a vocative), ‘God,’ causes the search for a different construction.

“When in his Psalmen Delitzsch justifies this ’Elohim he reduces its meaning by pointing to governmental authorities who are also called ’Elohim (he might have pointed to Ps. 97:7 which is discussed under v. 6 where the word is applied to angels) and by pointing to ‘God, thy God,’ in the following lines as beneath ‘his God.’ But such interpretations are inadequate: the Son is ‘God’ in the fullest sense of the word.” (Richard C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James (Lenski's Commentary on the New Testament) [Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2008], p. 54; bold emphasis ours)


“For the author of Hebrews, however, the address O God, drawn from Psalm 45, is to be understood literally of the Davidic Son. His throne endures forever; his rule knows no end. He is worshipped by angels as ‘God’ (according to v. 6; Deut. 32:43), identified as the ‘Lord’ who created the universe (in vv. 10-12; Ps. 102:25-27), and here hailed as God (through Ps. 45:6a). The application of O God to the Son thus declares his superiority to angels–he is divine, he is the creator of all things, including the angels, and he is worshipped by them.” (Peter T. O’Brien, Letter to the Hebrews, p. 73; bold emphasis ours)


“There is debate over the translation of the passage, for on a strictly grammatical basis, one could render it ‘God is Your throne’ rather than ‘Your throne, O God,’ and, of course, this is exactly the argument presented by all who deny the deity of Christ. But again the context indicates otherwise. Without going into a lot of detail, the writer to the Hebrews is demonstrating the superiority of Jesus Christ to the angels. He says that all the angels of God worship the Firstborn. This is true religious worship, as the context demands. Such worship is only given to God. He contrasts the worship by the angels of the Son with the description God uses of angels as mere ‘winds’ and ‘flames of fire.’ But, in opposition to this, the description God uses of the Son is striking. Quoting from Psalm 45:6-7, God (the Father) makes reference to God (the Son), saying, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’ … Not only is Jesus the object of divine worship in verse 6, but we will see that in verses 10 through 12 He is identified as Yahweh. Since Christ is shown receiving worship immediately before this passage, and identified with Yahweh immediately thereafter, there can be nothing strange about the Father referring to the Son as ‘God’ in verse 8.” (James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN 1998], 5. Jesus Christ: God In Human Flesh, pp. 74-75; bold emphasis)

18. Some, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, attempt to downplay the use of the verb “worship” here, insisting that it doesn’t always mean “worship” in the full sense. While this is quite true, it is also true that the context will determine the meaning of the word, and if there is any place where true and religious worship is in sight, it is here in the very heavenly realms itself. No mere “relative worship” or “obeisance” will meet the meaning of this term

22. Another way the context dictates the understanding of this passage is seen in the parallel between the vocative (i.e., direct address) use of “Lord” in verse 10 and that of “God” in verse 8. Both passages are spoken to the Son, and in verse 10 the speaker uses the vocative. Hence, the parallel would indicate that the vocative is being used in verse 8 as well. (Ibid., p. 204; bold emphasis ours)

With the foregoing in perspective, it becomes apparent that when Psalm 45 is applied to the Person of the Messiah then the word Elohim takes on a different emphasis from when it is applied to a mere human ruler. In the case of the Messiah, Elohim functions as an intensive plural, stressing the fact that both the Father and the Son are God in an absolute and eternal sense. Elohim basically means that both God and his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, possess the whole entire font of divinity fully and eternally.

As it stands, the passage of Hebrews 1:8 provides one of the clearest testimonies to the absolute and eternal Deity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

“But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God.” This supplies us with one of the most emphatic and unequivocal proofs of the Deity of Christ to be found in the Scriptures. It is the Father Himself testifying to the Godhead of Him who was despised and rejected of men. And how fittingly is this quotation from Psalm 45 introduced at the point it is in Heb. 1. In v. 6 we are told that all the angels of God have received command to “worship” the Mediator, now we are shown the propriety of them so doing – He is “God!” They must render Divine honours to Him because of His very nature. Thus we may admire, once more, the perfect order of Scripture. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of Hebrews [Sovereign Grace Publishers Inc., 2002], Volume 1, pp. 58-59; bold emphasis ours)

Concluding Remarks

The evidence which we presented concerning the meaning and application of Psalm 45:6-7 basically led us to two interpretations. First is the view that this Psalm was initially composed for an Israelite king in celebration of his marriage, which then finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah. The second explanation says that this Psalm could not have been addressing a mere human figure, and therefore must have been written in regard to the Messiah from the very start. Therefore, one’s view of the text will have a direct bearing on how one is to understand the meaning of Elohim.

For instance, if this Psalm is understood to be a about the Israelite king then Elohim is meant to reveal the fact that the God whom the ruler represents is a multi-personal Being. The Psalm is basically highlighting the point of the Davidide being commissioned by the Triune Godhead to reign on their behalf as their earthly representative. In this way, the king had the responsibility of visibly manifesting the impartial and righteous rule of the Triune God.

In other words, the reason why the king is called an Elohim is because he stood in the place of his Elohim, who happens to be Triune in nature.

However, when the text is applied to the Messiah then the word Elohim takes on a different meaning. In this respect, Elohim doesn’t refer to the Trinity, but to God the Father anointing his unique, beloved Son who also happens to be Elohim.

This view essentially means that Elohim (theos in Greek) is being used here to show that both the Father and the Son are truly God in essence, since they both possess the divine essence completely and equally. As the following authors explain:

“Related to this, in Hebrews 1:8 the Father gives His own testimony regarding Christ’s identity. Here, the Father is seen addressing the Son, and says, ‘Thy throne, O God [Greek, Theos], is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.’ This is a direct quote from Psalm 45:6-7, where ‘God’ is seen addressing ‘God’ (using the Hebrew word Elohim). Though the concept of the Trinity is inscrutable to finite minds, this and other passages show us that the Father and the Son are co-equal and co-eternal–as Elohim. Neither is greater or lesser than the other in their divinity. Neither has existed longer than the other. They are equal yet distinct. And, of course, the same is true of the Holy Spirit.” (Ron R. Rhodes & Marian Bodine, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons [Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 1995], 15. The Person of Jesus Christ in Mormonism, pp. 279-280; bold emphasis ours)

Thus, the Messianic understanding of Psalm 45 implies that Elohim is basically functioning as an intensive plural, or plural of intensification, in order to denote the fact that both the Father and the Son are truly God in essence, since both of them possess the entire fullness of the infinite, uncreated substance of God.

We have now come to the conclusion of this part of our analysis. Lord Jesus willing, we shall have a lot more to say concerning the use of Elohim, as well as other plural nouns, in future installments of this particular series.