Hebrew vs. Greek Nature of YHWH
Written by Brad Scott
We are now going to begin to take several concepts and discuss them from a scriptural (Hebrew) view and a gentile or world view. These are the two contrasting views of life. These are very general terms to describe what can be broken down into more precise views, but most perspectives, other than scriptural, fall under the gentile umbrella. I think it is imperative that we begin with the nature of Elohiym first. I will continue to use the term 'Greek' to describe the western, hellenistic world or gentile point of view. The term 'Hebrew' will generally describe the view of the writers of the Scriptures.GREEK VIEW
As we have discussed previously, in Greek literature there were and are many gods. Sha'ul touches on this in 1 Corinthians 8:5, "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there are gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one Elohiym . . .". We have discussed some of the names of these gods in past lessons. The Greek gods, though they resided in the heavenlies, were also in the likeness of men. Many great Greek heroes, such as Alexander, were looked upon as gods. The gods to the Greeks had the same characteristics of man. They could love, kill, hate, have pity, burst into fits of rage, do evil, and exact revenge at every whim. When the gods changed, so did the worshipers. Each generation was subject to the changing tides of the gods.
To the Greek mind there was so much diversity to be seen that there could not be just one God. This is why there could be just as much change and diversity in ethics and morals as well. There were no foundational guidelines for moral behavior. Behavior changed as the times changed, and each philosopher was no more or less correct than the last one. This is not to say that there were no morals in Greek culture. Morals were generated democratically, a concept which Plato hated. Why? Because Plato disdained the working class, and the working class was in the majority. To rule democratically was to rule by the people. Because there were no moral guidelines from the gods, the people were to rule themselves according to what the majority of the population dictated. This is, of course, what our nation has become.HEBREW VIEW
The Scriptures are very specific about the nature of Elohiym. He is one. "Sh'ma Yisrael, YHWH Elohenu YHWH echad". Hear, O Israel, YHWH is Elohiym, YHWH is one. The Scriptures are replete with proclamations about the one Elohiym (D'varim 6:4-5, Yeshayahu 44:6-8, 43:10, 45:5-7, 22, 46:9, 1 Corinthians 8:4, Yochanan 17:3). Take the time now to read M'lakhim Alef 8:56-61. As you can see, the result of Israel obeying Elohiym is that all the people of the earth may know the "YHWH is Elohiym, and there is none else". When there is only one Elohiym then there is only one source of moral behavior. There is only one moral compass and guideline.
There is only one measuring stick. There may be much diversity in our dress, hairstyle, looks, physical abilities, interests, and talents, but we are all measured by His word. When the world sees unity in morals and behavior, they see a unified source and none else. This is one reason why Elohiym is adamant about His oneness. This is why the Sh'ma is so sacred to Jews, and proceeds forth from their lips three times a day. The Sh'ma asserts that YHWH is one. The unity of Elohiym implies several things. First, Elohiym is unique. None other is like Him. Second, Elohiym is one alone, there are no others. Third, Elohiym is the ultimate; all being, all life, begins with him.
There is no reality beyond Him, no power above Him, no other source of vitality. This stands opposed to the majority of religious thought in the world, which means it also stands against the majority of thinking among most people living on the earth as we speak. Christian teaching from the first century has taught that there is but one Elohiym, however, much Christian theology betrays this intellectual proposition about Elohiym. The early disciples, all Jewish, remained faithful in every way to the Sh'ma. All doctrine in the book of Acts attested to this fact. In the middle of the second century the church was dominated by gentiles, and gentile thought began to flow naturally into Greek thinking.
While continuing to 'confess' that YHWH was one, they had to contend with what appeared to be different doctrinal positions declared in the Old and New Testaments. At this time an influential teacher named Marcion was fueling the controversy. Marcion, Philo, and others were steeped in Hellenistic thinking as this was the culture they were immersed in. As we have discussed before, Marcion taught the demiurge of the Old Testament as opposed to or replaced by, the logos of the New Testament. Although this thinking was rejected by most notable 'fathers' of the church, many did carry on his theology, while denying his assertion of more than one Elohiym.GREEK VIEW
According to the Greeks, the gods were constantly changing, and were unconcerned with the mundane affairs of man. One reason is because life in their view was seen as linear. Time was an endless point in the past and continued to an endless point in the future. History was on this time line as a pointless series of events, one after the other. Ages came and ages went. Man was progressing, or evolving, and needed to change as he progressed. Each age was distinct and exclusive from the other, and the past was, for the most part, irrelevant, except for the purpose of man learning from his mistakes. The gods were still worshiped and revered and praise for them continued to flow from their lips.HEBREW VIEW
In Hebrew thought, however, Elohiym never changes. He is immutable and is not like man (Mal'akhi 3:6, Sh'mu'el Alef 15:29, Mizmor 102:26-27, Ivrim 6:17-19, Ya'akov 1:17). This is one of the most important attributes of Elohiym, and it cannot be separated from scriptural faith. One of the biggest pillars of trust is the confidence that what you are trusting in is immutable, unmovable, and unchanging. This is primarily because man does change, and by nature, adamic that is, wants to change his theology as well. This results in a changed god, who changes his theology. Man is constantly evolving and progressing and 'God' must change with him. Hebrew thought teaches no such thing. Elohiym knows the end from the beginning and can speak, direct, and instruct from the beginning with eternal application. He does not change with the times or evolve with respect to His essence or His theology. The Elohiym of scriptural thought is cyclical not linear. He brings to His creation cycles, cycles of righteousness and instruction. You can see this clearly in His creation.
The celestial glories go through their cycles. The moon passes through it's phases every month. As a matter of fact, this is the background for understanding the New Covenant. The moon is RENEWED every month. The word for moon is "chodesh" which is the cognant of the word for new which is "chadash". The idea is something 'renewed'. Elohiym placed the seasons in their cycles. The woman has her monthly cycles. The sun, moon, and stars are cyclical and are placed in the heavens for signs (le'otot or times) and for seasons (mo'ediym or appointed festivals). The guideline for mankind's times and feasts are cyclical just as His Sabbaths and feasts are cyclical. In these sabbaths and feasts, Elohiym is constantly and cyclically reminding man of who He is and who man is. This is a big part of what it means to be unchanging. Elohiym is not linear and He is not flippant.
There are many aspects of the nature of Elohiym that differs in these two contrasting cultural views. The two most important ones with respect to scriptural doctrine are found in His oneness and His unchangeableness. In Hebrew thought, His nature is intimately tied to His commands and instructions. Many religions may 'confess' that He is one and unchangeable, but they betray that confession doctrinally. This is because Greek thinking is embedded in our own thought process, and a mere confession of beliefs about Elohiym is truly missing the mark. Believing things about Elohiym is not the same as believing Elohiym