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Is it God or gods?

Submitted: 4/21/2008
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Question: In Daniel 4:8-9 the Scripture talks about Daniel having the spirit of the holy Gods (plural). The KJV, NIV, NLT, use 'Gods' in their renditions. The NKJV, NASB, MSG, and the Amplified Version use God(singular) in their renditions. What I would like to know is what version is correct when refering to this scripture?

Answer: The reason for the disparity is the Hebrew word 'Elohim,' which is commonly translated God in the Old Testament. The problem is, this is a plural noun. In the Hebrew language, plurality does not always mean more than one (although it can); it can also mean vastness or bigness. For example, the word translated 'heaven' is also a plural noun. The problem comes in when the context is ambiguous. Although this is rarely the case, it does occur a couple of times in the Bible. In these cases the translator must decide whether the Scripture is referring to multiple false gods or to the one true God. For example, Deuteronomy 6:14-15 says, 'You shall not go after other gods [elohim], the gods [elohim] of the peoples who are all around you for the LORD your God [Elohim] is a jealous God [Elohim] among you)....' In this passage the context makes it clear that in the first two cases, elohim is referring to multiple false gods, and in the second two it is referring to the God of Israel. In the passage you referenced in Daniel, we believe it is referring to the one true God; therefore, we believe the singluar word 'God' is the correct translation.