Let's stick with names for this post. And it's another freeby - no question, just a little info on a few names we have used to refer to God and how they originated.
Ever wonder about the different names for God used by
Jews and Christians? God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, “THE LORD”. Probably not, but I did since I think word origins are interesting.
Even the English word “God” must
come from somewhere. This is what I found.
Since English is a relatively new language, many of
our words are derived from more ancient languages. This is true for the word we use to describe
the Creator – “GOD”. In English, God is
a transcription of the word in other languages:
Anglo-Saxon (or Middle Ages
German - Gott
Persian - khoda
Hindu – khooda
"Yahweh": (written in Hebrew: YHWH)
This is the most common word for God used in the Bible.
After God commissioned Moses to speak to the Pharaoh in order to
set his people free, Moses asked God for his Name and God replies with the
אֶהְיֶה, (’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh.)
God said, ‘I AM Who I AM. You must tell them: The One Who is
called I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:14)
Because the Hebrew writing system did not originally include
vowels, the name is written in the Hebrew Bible using only four consonants: יהוה (YHWH) - pronounced Yahweh. YHWH is referred to as
the tetragrammaton—a Greek
term meaning “the four letters.”
[Glad I wasn't born in Israel because those Hebrew characters look really confusing.]
The issue is complicated by the fact that, in the centuries just
before Christ, pious Jews were reluctant to even pronounce the divine name of
God. The Ten Commandments warn: “You shall not take
the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless
who takes his name in vain” (Exod. 20:7; cf. Deut. 5:11). Many Jews decided
that, to avoid the possibility of misusing the divine name, they would not even
speak it at all.
Jews began to substitute other words for it, such as Adonai—a Hebrew term
meaning “my lord.” When the Hebrew Bible
was translated into Greek in the 3rd century BC (called the
Septuagint), they often used the Greek word Kurios (“Lord”) where YHWH appeared
in Hebrew. This pious custom passed over into Christian circles, and when the
authors of the New Testament quote from the Old Testament, they generally
use Kurios where
the Hebrew has YHWH.
"Jehovah" (or, I’d like to buy a
When the Hebrew writing system began to include vowels (written as
small marks or “points” above, below, or inside the consonants), the scribes
had to decide whether to use the vowel points for Yahweh.
It was decided they wouldn’t. Instead, they wrote the consonants
YHWH using the vowel points for Adonai as
a reminder to say “Adonai” instead of “Yahweh.” This custom of writing the
consonants of one word with the vowels of another is where we get the English and
Latin word “Jehovah.”
In Latin, “YHWH” had become “JHWH,” and when combined with the
vowels of Adonai—a, o,
and a—it became “JaHoWaH”. Around the 13th century, Christian
writers began writing “Jehovah” whenever YHWH appeared.
[It is ironic to note that
the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to represent the “true, original version of
Christianity” and accuse far older traditional Christianity of distorting the
name of God by using “THE LORD” rather than “Jehovah” in their Bibles. (They claim, among other falsehoods, that
only “Jehovah” should be used to refer to God.)
However, they have chosen the very word (Jehovah) in their sect’s name
that is a later derivation created long after the Israelites and original
Christians used the original divine name: YHWH and Kurios.]
[The hit song Kyrie Eleison
by Mr. Mister – 1985 - is Latin for “Lord have mercy”]