For us, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elohim is the name of the Father. Here we will study the use of the word Elohim as a name and as a title. I share these words with feelings of reverence.
Elohim, The Name of the Father
Possibly without exception, Elohim is used within the restored Church to speak of our Heavenly Father. On 30 June 1916, a little over a hundred years ago, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, gave, in part, the following declaration: “God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title ‘Elohim,’ is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of the spirits of the human race” (The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve, Improvement Era, August 1916, p. 934).
Elohim, in the Hebrew Bible
Some of the meanings of the word Elohim (אֱלֹהִים) found in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament include: (1) God, (2) false gods (e.g., 1 Kings 11:5, Joshua 24:15), and (3) idols (e.g., Isaiah 37:19, where idols are sarcastically referred to as no gods, לֹא אֱלֹהִים).
Please note that in Hebrew there is no distinction between capital letters and lower case, and so translators have to use context to distinguish between the true God and false gods or idols. Lexicons tend to also include, (4) angels under the definition of Elohim. Psalm 8:5 is often translated as: “For thou hast made him [man] a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” In Hebrew, “a little lower than the gods” [מֵאֱלֹהִים]”.
Elohim, a shared title with the Son
I ask for your patience as we move on to discuss this point, which comes as a shock for those who are not acquainted with the Scriptures in Hebrew. While at first it may seem confusing, I hope that once understood the concept will be uplifting.
Christ is known by many titles, among which is Son of Man. Why? Because the Father is known as Man of Holiness (see Moses 6:57; 7:35). According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, God the Eternal Father apparently has another name-title, Ahman (see D&C 78:20; 95:17). In these sections of D&C Christ is referred to as Son Ahman, perhaps we could say ben Ahman or Son of Ahman). Also see Orson Pratt, JD 2:342, in relation to the pure Adamic language.
There are several titles, however, that depending on the context, may refer to God the Eternal Father or to His Beloved Son. Among such terms we find these five: (1) Creator, (2) Father, (3) Elohim, (4) God and (5) Lord (this last example, only when it is not a translation of the word Jehovah, as Jehovah [יהוה] is always used for Christ).
Next, we shall focus on the title Elohim as it is utilized in relation to Jesus the Christ, our Redeemer, in the Old Testament. Since Christ often shares His titles with us, is it really so strange that the Father would share some of His titles with the Son?
The Lord God (יהוה אֱלֹהִים)
In the Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, the word Elohim appears thousands of times. In the vast majority of them (with some exceptions), it refers to Jehovah or Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament.
The Hebrew expression יהוה אֱלֹהִים appears hundreds of times beginning with Genesis 2:4. It is translated as “Lord God” (with Lord in all caps) into the KJV English, and “Jehovah God” into the Spanish Reina Valera. Spanish-speaking members are shocked with the literal translation, while English speaking members are doubly shocked. One word is new in Spanish, and both words are new in English. The literal translation of יהוה אֱלֹהִים is “Jehovah Elohim” (sometimes given as “Yahweh Elohim”).
Once we get past that initial shock, we can rejoice, because knowing that Jehovah, that is, Christ, is called יהוה אֱלֹהִים, constantly reaffirms the sublime truth regarding the divine nature of Christ. I see this expression in almost every page of the Old Testament. Because all of my ancestors on my father’s side, and some on my mother’s side, are Jewish, I rejoice in my testimony and proclaim, truly, Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the very Son of God!
Chávez, M. (1992). Diccionario de hebreo bı́blico (1. ed.). El Paso, Tx: Editorial Mundo Hispano.
Ringgren, H. (1977). אֱלֹהִים. G. J. Botterweck (Ed.), J. T. Willis (Trans.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Revised Edition, Vol. I, pp. 267–284). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
This is the third article in the Searching the Scriptures series.