Bereshit barà Elohim:en

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Bereshith bara Elohim... (in the beginning, God created...) is a transliteration from Hebrew of the first words of Genesis.

A theme dear to the hearts of the Raelian Movement is that the Bible clearly demonstrates that there is more than one God, because Elohim is a plural word, as can be seen from the fact that it ends in -im.

In Hebrew, the Raelians go on, the -im ending is only ever used for male, plural nouns. Therefore, since Elohim ends in -im, it must refer to a name of male gender, and plural. Gods. Which of course means aliens.

This is not true. It may sound reasonable, but it is not true either in italiano (where words like ipotesi, tesi, antitesi e sintesi have the -i ending of the masculine plural form, while indicating feminine singular concepts (ipotesi, hypothesis, is female in Italian - we say una ipotesi, not uno ipotesi. And while perversely tesi and ipotesi are also male plurals of teso and ipoteso in Italian, meaning strung-up and having low blood pressure respectively, sintesi is only female singular. There's no such word as sinteso), nor in English (where news is treated as singular even if it is structurally the plural of new: this is good news), and more to the point... it is not true in Hebrew.

In Hebrew, the "plural" form does not only indicate true multiplicity, but also extension, both in space and time, and greatness. Not unlike the tradition of majestic plural, by which Kings and Queens speak of themselves in the first plural person: "We are not amused", we have

  • panim: the face
  • tzawarim: the back of the head
  • achorim: the back

All three words end in -im, and according to Raelian logic ought to be male plural nouns. You'd have to say My backs ache, not My back aches. You just might explain this with a "cultural" interpretation of the word: after all, in English you might translate panim as my features.

This explanation is demolished by two facts that go in the same direction: one, this behaviour is only observed when we're talking of extended objects. You say wide face, a large back, but never a long coffee machine.

And in a context where this extension is negated, the behaviour reverts: a narrow back becomes singular again, achora.

And when they make a toast to Life, Hebrew people say: l'Chaim!. According to Raelians, since it ends in -im, that ought to be a toast to Lifs: Jeff "Lif" Haynes, Líf Rolfson, LIF connectors...

These are things anyone can easily verify, with no need of actually knowing or speaking Hebrew. Which leads me to underline that it is quite unfair to ask for knowledge of Hebrew to give the lie to the Raelian thesis, when it is, first, unnecessary, and secondly, not even Raelians themselves enjoy such knowledge: since no true Hebrew speaker would ever utter such balderdash as "-im always ends plural masculine nouns" and/or "Hebrew does not have majestatic plural".

And just to drive home the concept, one of the very books Raelians quote, the Grammar of Biblical Hebrew of Father Jouon, SJ, says (1947 french edition, pages 216-217):

 La finale masculine ordinaire est -im; this is to be found in all masculine adjectives, many masculine nouns, and some female nouns.
 Some words are only used in the plural; they mostly are abstract names with meaning in the singular...

And at page 236, there we find the majestic plural:

 la Sagesse, sorte de pluriel de majesté...

Again in Hebrew, Egypt is written Mitsrayim. And when Joseph becomes Lord of Egypt at the Pharaoh's behest, in Genesis 42:30, we read...

   When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying,
   "The man, who is Adonay of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country.
   "But we said to him, 'We are honest men; we are not spies.'"

Since there surely was only one Joseph, and he was Adonay, and Adonay is Elohim, should we conclude that Joseph had been cloned?

The single golden calf, forged by the Hebrews, is referred to by Ezra in Nehemia, 9:18, with the term - what else? - Elohim. Moses is called Eloha, "God" in the singular, but Exodus 4:16 and 7:1, in key moments, he too doubles himself, since the Bible defines him, Elohim.

And then we have a particularly rich example, in Solomon's Song: a wife extols the charms of his husband, and invariably refers to him in the singular form - which is good, or someone would talk of orgies - except than in one point, chapter 5, verse 16, where it is usually translated

 His mouth is most sweet, and he is all lovely. Such is my beloved, such is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

in Hebrew we find (http://bibledbdata.org/onlinebibles/hebrew_translit/22_005.htm)

xkv mmtqym vklv mxmdym zh dvdy vzh rjy bnvt Yrvslm

  • "most sweet": mamtakim (mmtqym)
  • "all lovely": mahamaddim (mxmdym)
  • "Jerusalem": Yerushalayim (Yrvslm)

This verse has been thoroughly studied because "all lovely", "mahamaddim", or "mahmaddim", almost sounds as... Muhammad. This has originated a long querelle between the Islam equivalent of the Raelians and those who spoke Hebrew; none of the latter has ever dreamed of dismissing the question argumenting that "mahmaddim" couldn't be Muhammad since it is plural... and this is because mahmaddim is singular. "Beautiful as all get-out", "the beautifullest of all".

In the same way, god in Hebrew is eloha, but God is Elohim. Because we are no longer referring to your everyday god, but to the God of Israel, the goddest of all.

And just as Solomon's spouse said "most sweets is his mouth, and he is beautifuls", i.e., she treated a plural form as if it was singular (as obviously it had to be), so does the Bible say: Bereshith bara Elohim, in the beginning Gods he made. Not barau, they created, but bara, he created: it is a single Being that performs the act of Creation, even if it is such a Being as to warrant an extensive, majestic plural.

In the whole of the Bible, only in three places of the host where Elohim is named, does this word connect with a verb in the plural form. Three only in the whole of the Bible.

  • Genesis, 24: "God, THE ONE God in Heaven, WHO THEY made me wander"
  • Genesis, 35: "called the place El Betel, because there it was that God WERE (plural) revealed (singular)"
  • Samuel, 7: "YOUR (singular) people [...] which YOU (plural) have redeemed"

This is explained by Gesenius's Hebrew Grammar as a phenomenon of attraction, whereby a verb takes its singular or plural form not from its subject but from nearby words. These three places too have been subjected to endless scrutiny, not because they don't match the one God of Hebrews, nor Raelians' many aliens, but because it would nicely fit the idea of a God which is at the same time one and three, as the Christians believe. And the consensus among the scholars is that, unsurprisingly, the Hebrew Torah does not lend itself to any interpretation except the Hebrew's Adonay echad: the Lord is one.

Finally, Hebrew isn't the only Semitic language in which this pluralization appears. The same thing happens in Akkadian, where the word "God" is often (not always) written in plural form even when it's referred to the Sun God, or to the Pharaoh of Egypt, that were surely singular; and when it is written in plural form, the verbs it goes with are invariably in the singular. The same again in Sumerian with the word King: "We praise the KINGS and his generosity..."

So to recap, there is no reason to believe that Elohim, its plural suffix notwithstanding, indicates (speaking of the God of the Bible) a plural concept. There are hundreds of examples where instead it is used with clearly singular intent; and the same thing happens for other, above suspicion words, and in other Semitic languages.

As Sherlock Holmes, the famous investigators (it ends in -es, so it must be plural!), say, the case is closed.