De Moor IV:2: Is "God" a Name of Essence? or of Office? (Part 2)

Deus/God, says RUFFINUS, in Symbolum, opera Hieronymi, tome 4, page 103, as far as the human mind is able to conceive, is an appellation of His nature or substance, which is above all things.


Neither does Socinus prove the contrary, either, α. from the consent of the Jews, according to whom the Name אֱלֹהִים/Elohim everywhere denotes a Judge and avenger, and so is a name of Office and Power: compare BUXTORF’S[1] Dissertationem de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 39, 40, Dissertatione philologico-theologica quinta; VRIEMOET’S[2] Adnotationes ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, part I, chapter III, pages 124, 125. 1. Indeed, the authority of the Jews among us is not so great that they are able to bury the Divine Essence in this name to such an extent that only judicial power is connoted. 2. The Learned have already thoroughly refuted this opinion also, both by other arguments, and from the covenant promises, I will be to thee for a God, לֵאלֹהִים:[3] and among the Jews themselves Abarbanel[4] has set himself against this opinion, who asserts in BUXTORF’S Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 39, 40, Dissertatione philologico-theologica quinta that the Name אֱלֹהִים/Elohim primarily and properly agrees, not with Judges, but with God: at the same time, he maintains that by this Name He is set forth as the Omnipotent Author and Producer of all things by Creation.


Or, β. from this name sometimes being transferred to Magistrates also and Angels, Psalm 82:6[5] compared with John 10:34,[6] Psalm 97:7[7] compared with Hebrews 1:6:[8] likewise to Benefactors, in which sense CICERO said in his Oratione post Reditum ad Quirites, chapter V, “Publius Lentulus, consul, the parent, the god of our safety, life, fortune, memory, name:” likewise pro Sestio, chapter LXIX, “I see Publius Lentulus, whose father I consider the God and father of my fortune and name, and of my brother, and of our affairs, etc.:” and also VIRGIL concerning Augustus:


God made for us these leisures.

Certainly he shall always be a God to me, etc.


This is found in Eclogue I, verses 6, 7, in which place consult the notes of Emmenessius.[9] But, 1. we do not deny that the Essential Name of the Divine Nature connotes a certain power and dignity; but the highest, infinite, and independent, which agree to Him only that is by Nature true God, and is founded upon His Divine Nature. Similarly the Name of the Divine Essence connotes Divine Goodness, out of which God confers blessing upon the creatures, Matthew 19:17. 2. But these are secondary notions: and in accordance with these secondary notions the Name of God is applied to creatures κατ᾽ ἀναλογίαν, by analogy, on account of a similarity of Majesty and Beneficence. In a similar manner, we say of an extraordinarily excellent Poet that he is the Virgil or Ovid[10] of our age, on account of his similarity with Virgil or Ovid in the Poetic art: it does not at all follow from this that the name of Virgil or of Ovid is the name of an art, not of a person. 3. The Scriptural Use of the Name God, more than the Pagan Use, comes into account here.


It no more helps Socinus, γ. that the Name of God is sometimes attributed to the true God Relatively: for from a particular no conclusion is drawn; elsewhere the same Name is attributed to God absolutely, and in both ways it is suited to Him; and indeed absolutely because of His eternal and immutable Divine Essence. But relatively it is attributed to God, 1. either with relation to men Covenanted with Him, as He is said to be the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; but this presupposes the highest Divine Nature, which brought it to pass that He might receive Abraham, etc., into covenant: at the same time, that God, covenanted with Abraham, was the object of Abraham’s religious worship, and that because He is φύσει Θεὸς, by Nature God. 2. Or with relation to those called Gods by participation or abuse, when He is called the God of Gods: but again this does not bear away His more sublime Nature, but rather implies it; while God in this manner is declared to be infinitely more excellent than all that might bear this Name either in a lesser sense or only according to the false imagination of men.


On § 2 consult SPANHEIM’S Decadum Theologicarum III, § 4, 5, opera, tome 3, columns 1205, 1206. Whether the word אֱלֹהִים/Elohim be a proper Name, or an appellative, and in what manner the same might be attributed to others besides the true God, VAN ALPHEN[11] considers in his Commentario in Danielem, chapter IX, pages 114-117.

[1] John Buxtorf, Jr. (1599-1664) succeeded his father as Professor of Hebrew at Basel (1629-1664), and was perhaps the equal of his father in Hebraic learning.


[2] Emo Lucius Vriemoet (1699-1760) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian and Orientalist, serving as Professor of Oriental Languages at Franeker.


[3] For example, Genesis 17:7: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after theeלִהְי֤וֹת לְךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים) וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֖ אַחֲרֶֽיךָ׃).”


[4] Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508) was one of the great Spanish rabbis of his age and a stalwart opponent of Christianity, in spite of the danger. He held fast to a literal interpretation of the Scripture, over against Maimonides’ philosophical allegorizing. He commented on all of the Law and the Prophets.


[5] Psalm 82:6: “I have said, Ye are gods (אֱלֹהִ֣ים אַתֶּ֑ם); and all of you are children of the most High.”


[6] John 10:34: “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods (θεοί ἐστε)?”


[7] Psalm 97:7: “Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods (כָּל־אֱלֹהִים).”


[8] Hebrews 1:6: “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God (πάντες ἄγγελοι Θεοῦ) worship him.”


[9] Jacobus Emmenessius (died 1679) was a Dutch scholar. He produced an annotated edition of Virgil, with Servius’ notes.


[10] Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17 AD) was a Roman poet.


[11] Hieronymus Simons Van Alphen (1665-1742) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian; he served as Professor of Theology at Utrecht (1714-1742).

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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