Plurality of Majesty

I’ve been watching and learning through the YouTube video series of Anthony Rogers in his discussion of the Old Testament witness to the Trinity. One of the most common arguments against our Trinitarian reading of the plural verbs and nouns is the idea of the plurality of majesty. Are we to interpret Genesis 1:26 simply as a plurality of majesty? Was the LORD simply calling the angels to participate in and witness God’s act of creation in verse 27 as some read it? Or does the text favor a Trinitarian Interpretation and “that these passages [including Genesis 3:22,11:7, and Isaiah 6:8] in their immediate setting require recognition of personal plurality in the Godhead, and that they at least point in a trinal direction?”* According to Anthony Rogers, “the plural of majesty has no credibility in the Hebrew language. It is thoroughly rejected by the Hebrew scholars.” Here are the four scholars he cited that invalidate the above objection:

“The plural of majesty does not occur in Hebrew…, so this older explanation has been completely abandoned today.”

Claus Westerman (Genesis 1-11: A Commentary [Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1994), 145)

“… there are no certain examples of plurals of majesty with either verbs or pronouns…the verb used in Gn 1:26 (āśāh) is never used with a plural of majesty. There is no linguistic or grammatical basis upon which the ‘us’ can be considered to be a plural of majesty.”

Gerhard Hasel “The Meaning of ‘Let Us’ in Gn 1:26,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 13 (1975), 63-64)

“Of all these views the pluralis majestaticus has the least support. It is foreign to the usus loquendi of the earliest language; it is degrading instead of honoring to Deity, and Aben Ezra** (1089-1164) shows that the few seeming examples brought from the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Num. xxii. 6; Dan. ii. 36, do not bear it out – the latter, moreover, being an Aramaic mode of speech. If we depart at all from the patristic view of an allusion to a plurality of idea in the Deity [i.e. the Trinity], the next best is that of Maimonides (1138–1204)*** …”

Tayler Lewis (John Peter Lange, D.D., Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical, Vol. I, Genesis, translated from the German and edited, with additions, by Philip Schaff, D.D. (Grand Rapids, Michigan Zondervan], p. 173)

“Jewish grammarians call such plurals… plur. virium or virtutum; later grammarians call them plur. excellentiae, magnitudinis, or plur. maiestaticus. This last name may have been suggested by the “we” used by kings when speaking of themselves (cf. already I Macc. 10:19, 11:31); and the plural used by God in Genesis 1:26, and 11:7, Isaiah 6:8 has been incorrectly explained in this way… The use of the plural as a form of respectful address is quite foreign to Hebrew.

Emil Rödiger (Hebrew Grammar, eds. E. Kautzsch and A. E. Cowley, 418; emphasis original)

*Here is also a link to his article Let Us Make Man: A Trinitarian Interpretation, where he cited the church father’s understanding of the Trinitarian language in Genesis.

Here is also a link to an article The Plural of Majesty where he dealt with the plurality of majesty claim.

**Aben Ezra or Abraham Ibn Ezra is A master Torah commentator who foreshadowed biblical criticism according to Rabbi Louis Jacobs

***Maimonides is the greatest Jewish Philosopher of the Medieval Period and the leading rabbinic authority of his time.

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

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