vrijdag, februari 09, 2007

Pluralis Majestatis in the Holy Scriptures

Pluralis Majestatis in the Holy Scriptures.

Marcus Ampe

“And God (elohim – plural of deities) said, Let US (plural) make man in OUR (plural) image, after OUR (plural) likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26 (KJV)
Some would say that it was evidently to His only-begotten Son and the one “whom all things have been created through Him” that Jehovah spoke to when saying, “Let us make man in our image.”-(Ge 1:26) And since Jehovah is the one primarily responsible for all this creative work, that is why it is ascribed to Him.
In the Holy Scriptures plus the Torah, considered as the Word of God and the Koran God often refers to Himself using the word ‘We’. But this does not mean that Jews, Muslims and all the Christians believes in the existence of more than one God.

The King James Version of the Holy Bible inten...
The King James Version of the Holy Bible 1611

In both Arabic and Hebrew, there are two types of ‘we’. One is the plural pronoun used by English speaking countries (such as “we rode in the car together,” “we all come from the same country”…etc.). The second is the plural of respect.
In English I (the speaker/writer) is a first person pronoun, you (the listener/reader) is a second person pronoun, and he/she/it are third person pronoun. First and third person pronouns also have a plural form: we (first person plural) and they (third person plural), whereas you is both the singular and plural form. The form of the verb has to agree with person. For example, I am, you are, he is, we are they are. For regular verbs all forms are the same except in the third person singular present tense which takes -s (e.g. she laughs, it works) – this is agreement or concord.
Words often have alternative expressions for the same thing (‘car’ and ‘auto’), and a given word can carry different senses (‘river bank’ vs. ‘savings bank’) or function as different parts of speech (‘to steal’—verb; ‘a steal’—noun). Because languages naturally adapt to their situations of use and also reflect the social identities of their speakers, linguistic variation is inevitable and natural. [1](1)
English persons think mostly in the plural form when they hear “we”. Plural means “more than one.” English handles these things more simply than many languages. And they often seem to forget that when they read a translation from an other language or from a writing from an other culture. They also forget that they have similar plural forms they should use. In some noun phrases, the “head noun” gets the plural, even if it’s not at the end of the noun phrase: mothers in law, attorneys general, courts martial. (Such forms may be disappearing, but they’re still preferred.)
According the Wikipedia and other encyclopedias is We is the nominative case of the first-person plural pronoun in English.
== Etymology ==]] from Old English, which was pronounced something like way in modern English. It is related to Frisian wy, Dutch wij, German wir, and Danish vi.
Other Indo-European languages that have cognates with English we include Hittite, which has wês, and Sanskrit, which has vayam.
The Latin nos represents the enclitic form of the pronoun, which is preserved in English us.
The personal pronouns I and we are said to be in the first person. The speaker uses this in the singular to refer to himself or herself; in the plural, to speak of a group of people including the speaker, but is also used when the speaker is in a higher function speaking about himself in his function. It is used to refer to the speaker together with other people regarded in the same category: “nobody knows kids better than we teachers do”. “people in general: “we should eat as varied and well-balanced a diet as possible”.
To this day, if an English speaking person were to go to any Arabic speaking country and to read any official letter directed to a dignitary or high official (or even a newspaper), or to attend an official speech, they will find that the dignitary is always addressed as “they” and “them” and “you” (plural “you”). So, when addressing an ambassador, King, or leader of a nation for example, this ONE person is always addressed as “THEY have arrived,” not “HE has arrived.” Or “I gave THEM the sealed letter,” not “I gave HIM the sealed letter.” So we must ask, if “we,” implies a “Trinity,” then is this king or this dignitary also a “triune” dignitary? Is he three persons merged into one? The same argument applies when this Arabic-speaking dignitary refers to himself in a public speech. In such a case, he will almost always refer to himself as “We.” For example, he will say: “We, the leader of this great nation…” and so forth. Dr. Jamal Badawi once observed that since the Queen of England refers to herself in the plural form then is she too a “Trinity”?
The plural use is simply the nature of the Arabic language. This is how an Arab displays respect and humility. Even when speaking of one’s wife, a Muslim in many Arab countries usually does not mention her by name. Neither does he say “she” or “her” but rather “they” and “them.” This is also a form of respect for our wives, mothers and sisters. This is why we find that in the over one billion Muslims all over the world, even the simple Muslim shepherd in the desert does not pray to a “Trinity.” Because they know their language.
This system is not restricted to the Arabs alone. The Arabs are a Semitic tribe, and their Semitic cousins, the Jews, also use the same system to refer to God. In the Old Testament, the Jews refer to God as “Elohiym” Elohim {el-o-heem}. “Elohiym” is the plural form of “’elowahh” {el-o’-ah}, which means “god.” We will notice that the Jews also do not pray to a “Trinity,” even though their book refers to God in the plural form. This is the way the Semitic languages of Arabic and Hebrew work.
In the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary we read the following explanation of the word “Elohiym”:
“As a name or designation of the God of Israel, the term is understood as a plural of majesty or an intensive plural, indicating the fullness of the supreme (or only) God … the canonical intent is clearly monotheistic, even where the accompanying verbs or adjectives are grammatically plural (e.g. Ge20:13, Ex 22:9 [Mt 8])”
Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, edited by Allen C. Myers, William B. Eerdmans Publishers, p. 331
The exact same system is also used in the Urdu language of Pakistan and India, as well as to a more limited degree in the French language. For example, a French king might be addressed as follows: « La présence de votre majesty est un honneur pour notre ville, vous avez apporte avec vous le bonheure. » In French we sometimes also find the person not put in plural but the verb. This gives for example in French the first person plural form “Je parlons”. In the sixteenth century this was common usage. [2](4)
Now that we see the true meaning of the Hebrew, Arabic, Urdu, and French use of the word “We” in reference to God Almighty we should take the Words of God when He says “we” as the acceptable way of speaking by the Most Highest. Also for us it is the most respectful way to hear Him talk as the Only One Creator of everything, the most Devine.
Used in formal contexts for or by a royal person, or by a writer or editor, to refer to himself or herself: in this section we discuss the reasons. We call it an editorial we when editorial columnists in newspapers and similar commentators in other media refer to themselves as we when giving their opinions. Here, the writer has once more cast himself or herself in the role of spokesman: either for the media institution who employs him, or more generally on behalf of the party or body of citizens who agree with the commentary.
Popes used the we as part of their formal speech up until recent times. John Paul I was the first to dispense with this practice, instead using the singular I. John Paul II continued to use the singular.
In historical writings we do find a lot of examples of the use of the plural form to indicate only one person. This second person “we” for a singular person is also called the royal weor ‘royal plural’ (Pluralis Majestatis) and is the first-person plural pronoun when used by an important personage to refer to himself or herself. or the “Victorian ‘we’” because it has usually been restricted to august personages such as monarchs, bishops, popes, and university rectors.
The idea behind thepluralis majestatis is that a monarch or other high official always speaks for his or her people. For example, the Basic Law of the Sultanate of Oman opens thus:
On the Issue of the Basic Law of the State We, Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman… [3]
In the English language, the Queen of England refers to herself as ‘We’ instead of ‘I’.
Used in certain formal contexts by bishops and university rectors, though the person himself or someone talking about such one person uses “we” as Pluralis majestatis (“majestic plural”)refers to one person alone. There is no intention at all to indicate to more than one person.
Today in many countries and in different languages this is still an ordinary form of speech and in writing used by several persons. Monarch still say “We, the king of … (Belgians).” Or in speeches we find“As Minister of state we …” then it does not mean that there are different ministers or different or more then one king. Teachers still often say “we think” or use “we” for the school or institution. (In Afrikaans, Dutch and Flemish the plural form is used by a higher person.)
“It’s I,” which, though “right” — traditionalists will tell you it is in the nominative case, and that a copulative verb requires the same case in the subject and the predicate — is too stilted for all but the most formal situations. “It’s me” sounds a thousand times more natural. If you like being the sort of person who says “It’s I,” that’s fine, but know that most of your audience, including most of the educated part of your audience, will find it out of place. When something would be affirmed or accentuated more often you shall find that the person is going to say: “ It is we …”, though it is only him that is saying something. Nobody shall think it would be more than one person saying something.
Some languages, in particular the Austronesian languages, Dravidian languages, and many others such as Taiwanese and Mandarin have a distinction in grammatical person between inclusive we, which includes the person being spoken to in the group that is included in we, e.g.:
·We can all go to the zoo today.
This contrasts with exclusive we, which excludes the person being spoken to, e.g.:
·We mean to stop your evil plans!
English does not draw this distinction in its grammar. In terms of pronoun usage, most Native American languages are far more specific than Indo-European languages, regardless of the languages’ families. Cherokee, for instance, distinguishes between four forms of “we.” These are: “you and I (inclusive dual)”; “another and I (exclusive dual)”; “others and I (exclusive plural)”; and “you, another or others, and I” (inclusive plural). Fijian goes even further with six words for “we,” with three size categories—dual, small group (three or four people), and large group—and separate inclusive and exclusive forms for each size category.
Similar to the editorial we is the practice common in academics of referring to a generic third person by we (instead of the more common one or the informal you):
By adding three and five, we obtain eight.
“We” in this sense often refers to “the reader and the author”, since the author often assumes that the reader knows certain principles or previous theorems for the sake of brevity (or, if not, the reader is prompted to look them up), for example, so that the author does not need to explicitly write out every step of a mathematical proof.
Famous examples of purported instances:
·We are not amused. — Queen Victoria (in at least one account of this quotation, though, she was not speaking for herself alone, but for the ladies of the court.)
·The abdication statement of Nicholas II of Russia uses the pluralis majestatis liberally.
·We are a grandmother. — Margaret Thatcher announcing the birth of Mark Thatcher’s son Michael in 1989.
·In January 1996 Hillary Clinton became the first US First Lady to be subpoenaed to appear before a criminal grand jury, in connection with the Whitewater affair; objecting to the release of documents, she said “I’m not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers – we are the President.”
Another view of the form is that it reflects the fact that when a monarch speaks he or she speak both in their own name and in the name of their function, office or status.
United States Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover told a subordinate who used the royal we: “Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?” This was said as the subordinate was speaking for superiors without authority as well as in an unofficial capacity.
It is to be distinguished from pluralis modestiae, also pluralis auctoris (inclusion of readers or listeners). For instance:
Let us calculate! — Leibniz
We are thus led also to a definition of “time” in physics. — Albert Einstein
In some Romance languages including Spanish and Catalan, the word for “we” (from Latin nos) is supplemented by the word for “others” (nosotros and nosaltres “we-others” — similarly in the Quebec French locution nous autres).
Written and formal spoken French retains “nous,” but in colloquial French, “nous” is almost entirely replaced by the third person singular pronoun on (“one”). Verbs are conjugated to the third person singular. The direct and indirect object form is nous, and the possessive is notre/nos, but the reflexive form is that of on (se; e.g. On se calme vs. Ils nous agacent).
The oblique case of we in English is us; the genitive case is our, and the possessive predicate adjective is ours. [4]
Prescriptivists follow the tradition of the classical grammars of Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, which aimed to preserve earlier forms of those languages so that readers in subsequent generations could understand sacred texts and historical documents. [5]
Descriptivists would point out that English has made no distinction between the adjective and adverb forms of ‘fast’ for over five hundred years, but prescriptivists are not concerned about that. As to “They don’t have none’ or ‘any,’’ descriptivists would observe both forms in common use, thereby demonstrating their grammaticality. Descriptivists might also note that different social groups favor one expression or the other in conversation, while only the latter appears in published writing. Prescriptivists have argued that such “double negatives” violate logic, where two negatives make a positive; thus, according to this logic, “They don’t have none” should mean “They do have some” (which, descriptivists note, it clearly does not mean). On logical grounds, then, prescriptivists would condemn “They don’t have none,” while descriptivists would emphasize the conventional character of ways in which meaning is expressed. (1)
‘y’all’ is frequently heard in the American South and ‘yous’ among working-class northeastern urban residents of the United States, as well as elsewhere in the English-speaking world. In those communities, a distinct word for plural you has proven useful. (Most prescriptivists would condemn ‘yous’ because it is an innovation, disregarding the argument that distinct singular and plural forms are desirable.) As to ‘between you and me’ and ‘between you and I,’, descriptivists would note that both are used by educated speakers, though the latter seldom appears in edited writing. Prescriptivists would argue that, despite educated usage, pronouns should have objective forms after prepositions (“Give it to me/us/them”); thus, only “between you and me” is correct. [6]
Similar we find for They the English third person nominative plural personal pronoun. Them is the accusative form sometimes the use to indicate only one person. The singular they is a special case of that pronoun where they is used as a gender-neutral singular rather than the plural, although this use is disputed. (See also: English personal pronouns). [7]
Elohim, a plural name of the Hebrew deity Yahweh.
This use of the plural form we do find as well in the a common name of God in the Hebrew Bible:Elohim (Hebrew: אלהים). Elohim (אֱלוֹהִים , אלהים) expresses high dignity or greatness: comp. the similar use of plurals of “ba’al” (master) and “adon” (lord). In Ethiopic, Amlak (“lords”) is the common name for God. concepts of divinity. It is apparently related to the Hebrew word ēl, though morphologically it consists of the Hebrew word Eloah (אלוה) with a plural suffix. Elohim is the third word in the Hebrew text of Genesis and occurs frequently throughout the Hebrew Bible.
Elohim has plural morphological form in Hebrew, but it is used with singular verbs and adjectives in the Hebrew text when the particular meaning of the God of Israel (a singular deity) is traditionally understood. Thus the very first words of the Bible are breshit bara Elohim, where bara ברא is a verb inflected as third person singular masculine perfect. If Elohim were an ordinary plural word, then the plural verb form bar’u בראו would have been used in this sentence instead. Such plural grammatical forms are in fact found in cases where Elohim has semantically plural reference (not referring to the God of Israel). [8]
In most English translations of the Bible (e.g. the King James Version), the letter G in “god” is capitalized in cases where Elohim refers to the God of Israel, but there is no distinction between upper and lower case in the Hebrew text.
Its exact significance is often disputed. The “we” who created is denoting a singular person, Thé One God. Despite the -im ending common to many plural nouns in Hebrew, the word Elohim, when referring to God is grammatically singular, and takes a singular verb in the Hebrew Bible. The word is identical to the usual plural of el meaning a god or magistrate, and is cognate to the ‘lhm found in Ugaritic, where it is used for the pantheon of Canaanite Gods, the children of El and conventionally vocalized as “Elohim” although the original Ugaritic vowels are unknown. When the Hebrew Bible uses elohim not in reference to God, it is plural (for example, Exodus 20:3). There are a few other such uses in Hebrew, for example Behemoth. In Modern Hebrew, the singular word ba’alim (“owner”) looks plural, but likewise takes a singular verb.
Another popular explanation comes from the interpretation El means power; and so Elohim is the plural construct-powers. Hebrew grammar allows for this form to mean “He is the Power (singular) over powers (plural)”, as the word Ba’alim above, means owner. He is lord (singular) even over any of those things that he owns that are lordly (plural).
Other scholars interpret the -im ending as an expression of majesty (pluralis majestatis) or excellence (pluralis excellentiae), expressing high dignity or greatness: compare with the similar use of plurals of ba‘al (master) and adon (lord).
While the words El, Elohim, and eloah are clearly related, with the word El being the stem, some have claimed it is uncertain whether the word Elohim is derived from El through eloah. These have suggested that the word Elohim is the masculine plural of a feminine noun, used as a singular. This would imply indeterminacy in both number and gender from Canaanite texts in Ugarit, this is what appears to be intended in this case. However, to many this is speculative and confusing, although consistent with many other Jewish and Christian views of the nature of the Godhead. [9]
In the Pentateuch the name elohim connotes a general concept of God; that is, it portrays God as the transcendent being, the creator of the universe.
In appearance, Yahweh or Yahaweh prologued to ya(h)wa(h), ya(h)wa(h)y, or the like [10] /Jehovah is the third person singular imperfect “kal” of the verb “to be”, meaning, therefore, “He is,” or “He will be,” or, perhaps, “He lives,” the root idea of the word being, probably, “to blow,” “to breathe,” and hence, “to live.” With this explanation agrees the meaning of the name given in Ex. 3:14, where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person—“I am”, from, the later equivalent of the archaic stem. The meaning would, therefore, be “He who is self-existing, self-sufficient,” or, more concretely, “He who lives,” the abstract conception of pure existence being foreign to Hebrew thought. There is no doubt that the idea of life was intimately connected with the name Yahweh from early times. He is the living God, as contrasted with the lifeless gods of the heathen, and He is the source and author of life (comp. 1Ki 18.; Isa. 41: 26-29, 44: 6-20; Jer 10:. 10, 14; Gen 2:. 7; etc.). So familiar is this conception of God to the Hebrew mind that it appears in the common formula of an oath, “ai Yhwh” (= “as Yahweh lives”; Ruth 3:13; 1Sa. 14: 45; etc.). [11]
The One and Only One “Who is who He is”, the “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14) is “a God; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God… .” (Ex 6:7 ASV) “”I am ADONAI your God.” (Ex 20:2 CJB) He is the Holy one. ( Le 19:2) the God of gods. ( (De 10:17) “The Only One God” (NB) (Ex 29:46; 2Sa 22:32)) Yahweh/Jehovah our Father (Isa 9:6; 64:8; Jo 14:28) the God of Israël who is holy (Re 4:8)and sanctifies us (Ge 35:10;Le 11:45; Ex 4:22; 31:13; Le 20:8; 21:8, 23; 22:9) Thé One (Le 18:5). “Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, which they hallow unto me, and that they profane not my holy name: I am Jehovah.” (Le 22:2 ASV) We should not profane Jehovah’s holy name (Ex 20:7) in the things they are sanctifying to the Lord of Lords because He only can say. “I am Jehovah.” (Ex 6:3; 9:16; 20:7 Mt 12:21; Php 2:9) “31 “And YOU must keep my commandments and do them. I am Jehovah. 32 And YOU must not profane my holy name, and I must be sanctified in the midst of the sons of Israel. I am Jehovah who is sanctifying YOU, 33 the One bringing YOU out of the land of Egypt to prove myself God to YOU. I am Jehovah.” (Le 22:31-33) or “I am the only One who sanctifies you” (NB) or “we are the only One who sanctify you” Yahweh/Adonai Jehovah, the Lord your God. “I, Thé One am God over you” (NB) (Le 23:22) He the only one is our God (Le 26:1; Jer 10:10).the King of Kings (Ps 22:28; 33:12; Isa 66:10; Ezr 7:12; Zc 6:11; Na 1:2; 1Co 10:26) who makes the best laws (Ps 19:7; Isa 33:22; Ac 21:14)“See now that I, even I, am he, And there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; And there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (De 32:39 ASV) He of whom is said “we created the earth” is “The We who are” “See now that I, [even] I [am] he, and [there is] no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither [is there any] that can deliver out of my hand.” (De 32:39 Webster) “39 SEE now that I—I am he And there are no gods together with me. I put to death, and I make alive. I have severely wounded, and I—I will heal, And there is no one snatching out of my hand. “ (NWT) “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, Jehovah, the first, and with the last, I am he.” (Isa 41:4 ASV) “…“I, Jehovah, the First One; and with the last ones I am the same.” (NWT) (Isa 44:6; Re 22:13)
Jehovah was the One who created everything. (Ge 1:1; Pr 12:1; Re 4:11) Out of respect for the one who gives us everything we should be aware that he is the most righteous person to use the majestic plural form. Jehovah is the Highest of all high placed persons. He is more than any V.I.P. (Ps 83:18; Da 4:17; Lu 1:32; 6:35) The Royal we is what is due to Him. As such it is also used in Genesis. As well as in the Torah as in the Koran we are told who is the Only One to receive full honour because nobody can be like Him. (Ex 20:5; Nu 25:11; Na 1:2; 1Co 8:4)
“Say: He is Allah the One (and only). Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He neither begets nor was he begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” [ Qur’an, al-Ikhlas(112).] (1Co 8:4; Eze 31:8)
“Allah! There is no God but Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedes with Him save by His leave? He knows that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He will. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous.” [Qur’an, Al-Bakarah(2):255] (Ge 17:1; 25:23;1Sa 1:3; Isa 40:18; Col 1:18; Ps 150:2)
“Your God is One God; there is no God save Him, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” [Qur’an, Al-Bakarah(2)163.]
“Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. He has revealed unto you (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. Aforetime, for a guidance to mankind; and has revealed the Criterion (one of the names of the Koran). Verily! those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a heavy doom. Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite (the wrong). Verily! nothing in the earth or in the heavens is hidden from Allah. He it is who fashions you in the wombs as pleases Him. There is no God save Him, the Almighty, the Wise..” [ Qur’an, A’al-Umran(3):2-6] (Ge 21:33; De 33:27; Ps 9:7; 46:1; 111:10; 119:89, 160; Isa 26:4; Jer 10:10; Ex 15:18; Isa 24:23)
“Allah (Himself) is witness that there is no God save Him. And the angels and the men of learning (too are witness). Maintaining His creation in justice, there is no God save Him, the Almighty, the Wise. Verily! religion with Allah (is) ‘Al-Islam’ (the surrender). Those who (formerly) received the Scripture differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. Whoso disbelieves the revelations of Allah (will find that) Verily! Allah is swift at reckoning. And if they argue with you, (O Muhammad), say: I have surrendered my purpose to Allah and (so have) those who follow me. And say unto those who have received the Scripture and those who read not: Have you (too) surrendered? If they surrender, then truly they are rightly guided, and if they turn away, then it is your duty only to convey the message (unto them). And Allah is Seer of (His) bondmen.” [Qur’an, A’al-Umran(3):18-20.]
The plural “we” is a from of surrender. It is the most respectful way of the Highest Person speaking. The Lord of Lords has to be honoured and receive reverence. His Words may come to us as the Words of the King of Kings, He that may reign over everything, and call Himself We Jehovah God of gods.

[1]Edward Finegan, professor of linguistics and law at the University of Southern California. He is author of Language: Its Structure and Use, 4th ed. (Thomson Wadsworth, 2004) and Attitudes toward English Usage (Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1980) and co-editor (with John R. Rickford) of Language in the USA (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
[2] The First Person Plural Form: Je Parlons
Alexander Hull
The French Review, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Dec., 1988), pp. 242-247
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralis_Majestatis
[5] Edward Finegan
[6] Edward Finegan
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elohim#Hebrew_grammar
[10]G. R. Driver