What is God’s Name?

Question from a Site Viewer
I have a simple question for you. What is God’s name?

Tim’s Answer
You ask what is the name of our God. In the Bible, God has many names.

The name most often used in the Old Testament for God is what is known as the Tetragrammaton, composed of four Hebrew letters (yod, he, vav, he). Because of the command not to take the name of the Lord in vain and in reverence to the name, the Jews never pronounce this name, but when they quote a passage where this name occurs in Scripture (and it occurs over 6,800 times in the Old Testament), they substitute the Hebrew word “Adonai” which means lord or master. In the early middle ages, some will argue earlier but there is no firm evidence, the name “Jehovah” appeared as an attempt to pronounce this name of God. However, most scholars today believe that the correct pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is “Yahweh.”

This name gained prominence with God’s interaction with Moses (Exodus 3:15), where God said that this was His name for all generations. This name was translated into the Greek as “Kurios,” a Greek word that means “Lord.” As you can easily see, the word “Kurios” does not sound anything like “Yahweh” or “Adonai.” In our English Bibles, we use yet another word with different sounds to translate the Greek into English, the word “Lord.”

But the name “Yahweh” or “Lord,” though the most prominent, is not the only name of God. There are many names of God both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. He is termed “Elohim” over 2,500 times in the Old Testament, a word that some see as a title and some see as a name. The word is translated into English as “God.” He is called “Adonai” 450 times in the Old Testament, another Hebrew word meaning “lord” or “master.” Again, some see this as a title and some see this as one of God’s names. He is called “El Elyon” translated as “God most High.” He is called “El Shaddai” which is generally translated as “God Almighty.” In Exodus 34:14, God self-identifies His name as “Jealous.”

In the New Testament, God is known primarily to us through the second person of the Trinity, whose name is “Jesus.” This name appears over and over in Scripture and is given a place of preeminence higher than any other name (Philippines 2:9-11).

I do not know the background for your question. It may be that you are caught up in the debate in some parts of the world between Muslims and Christians about whether the word “Allah” is the proper name of God. The word “Allah” is a word related to the Hebrew word “El,” since Hebrew and Arabic are related languages. But the word “Allah” is never found in the Jewish or Christian Scriptures. This does not necessarily resolve the debate. The word “God” that we find throughout our Bibles is an English word that is never found in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages that were the original languages in which Scripture was written. And as noted above, when the name “Yahweh” was translated into Greek by the Jews before the time of Christ, they translated it with the Greek word “Kurios” rather than trying to transliterate the sound of the Hebrew word into Greek. So applying totally different sounds to the name of God was not for them a problem.

It may be that you have run into some people who stress the importance of pronouncing the name of God, and getting His name “right.” There are some people who stress that just as it is important for us that people know us by our proper names, so it is with God. However, this view is not supported from Scripture.

Jesus almost never uses a name for God the Father when He addressed Him, and neither did the apostles address God by name. Rather, overwhelmingly Jesus taught us and the apostles echoed the teaching that we are to address God the Father as “Father.” God is not angry with us or disappointed with us because we are not using “The Name.” He is delighted that we are relating to Him as children to their father. Most children do not call their father by their father’s names.

Moreover, Jesus used many terms in referring to Himself (“Son of Man,” “Son of God,” “Shepherd,” “Door,” “Light,” “Truth,” “Way,” “Life,” etc.) Jesus is not insulted if we call Him “Friend,” “Christ,” “Sent One,” “Redeemer,” “Savior,” “King,” or “Lord.” The writers of Scripture used all of these terms and more in speaking about and to Christ.

While the name of God is important, it is not the most important matter for true believers. His Word is more important. In Psalm 138:2, we are told that God has magnified His word above all His name. It is most important that we take the time to read, study, search out, and find out who God is from His Holy Word. It is a treasure that God has given to us so that we can come to know Him.

May the Lord Jesus guide you in knowing Him.

a servant


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