The terms for God in Genesis 1 and 2: no contradiction!
In Biblical times a person’s name had deep significance and was often an expression of his or her origin, character or destiny.1 There are many terms for God in the Bible, all having special meaning or significance. Even the first book, Genesis, uses different terms, for very good reasons, as we shall see.
In Genesis chapter 1, Moses2 uses Elohim for God. This is the plural of El, which corresponds to God in English, theos in Greek and deus in Latin. Elohim means ‘the strong one’, and stresses the awesome omnipotence and power of the God who is Creator and Ruler over all of nature and the universe.
This Hebrew plural, Elohim, actually means ‘two or more’; however it does not mean ‘In the beginning gods created … ’, because it is used here (and over 2,000 times in the rest of the Old Testament) in the singular, i.e. with a singular verb (or adjective). Nor is it simply a plural of majesty, like the ‘royal we’, even though the meaning includes that God is the Supreme Ruler over all.3 Rather the use of Elohim tells us that there is something plural about God Himself. (See Does the Trinity feature in Genesis 1?)
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