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This article discusses names for the monotheist notion of a singular God. See list of deities for theonyms more generally.
A diagram of the names of God in Athanasius Kircher's Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652–54). The style and form are typical of the mystical tradition, as early theologians began to fuse emerging pre-Enlightenment concepts of classification and organization with religion and alchemy, to shape an artful and perhaps more conceptual view of God.

Various monotheist religions have different names of God.

Contents

Abrahamic religions

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Judaism

In the Hebrew scriptures the Jewish name of God is considered sacred and, out of deep respect for the name, Jews do not say the name of God and do not erase it if it is written. (See Exodus 20:7) The tetragrammaton (Hebrew: יהוה, English: YHVH or YHWH) is the name for the group of four Hebrew letters which represent the name of God. The Tetragrammaton occurs 6,828 times in the Hebrew text in the Biblia Hebraica and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Neither vowels nor vowel points were used in ancient Hebrew writings.

Some claim the pronunciation of YHWH has been lost, other authorities say it has not and that it is pronounced Yahweh. References, such as The New Encyclopædia Britannica, validate the above by offering additional specifics:

Early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century, had used a form like Yahweh, and claim that this pronunciation of the tetragrammaton was never really lost. Other Greek transcriptions also indicated that YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh.[1]

Clement of Alexandria transliterated the tetragrammaton as Ιαου. The above claims were founded upon the understanding that Clement of Alexandria had transliterated YHWH as Ιαουε in Greek, which is pronounced "Yahweh" in English. However, the final -e in the latter form has been shown as having been a later addition. For a more in-depth discussion of this, see the article Yahweh.

Instead of pronouncing YHWH during prayer, Jews say Adonai ("Lord"). Halakha requires that secondary rules be placed around the primary law, to reduce the chance that the main law will be broken. As such, it is common Jewish practice to restrict the use of the word Adonai to prayer only. In conversation, many Jewish people, even when not speaking Hebrew, will call God "Hashem", השם, which is Hebrew for "the Name" (this appears in Leviticus 24:11).

A common title of God in the Hebrew Bible is Elohim (Hebrew: אלהים); as opposed to other titles of God in Judaism, this name also describes gods of other religions, angels, or even humans of great importance (John 10:34-36).

Christianity


English translations of the New Testament render ho theos as God and ho kurios as "the Lord".[citation needed]

Regarding the Old Testament, the Israelite theonyms Elohim and Yahweh are mostly rendered as "God" and "the Lord" respectively, although in Protestant tradition, the personal names Yahweh and Jehovah, based on the tetragrammaton, are also used. Jehovah appears in Tyndale's Bible, the King James Version, and other translations from that time period and later. Many translations of the Bible translate the tetragrammaton as LORD, following the Jewish practice of substituting the spoken Hebrew word 'Adonai' (translated as 'Lord') for YHWH when read aloud.[2] Many avoid using either Yahweh or Jehovah altogether on the basis that the actual pronunciation of the tetragrammaton has been lost in antiquity. They use God or The Lord instead.[citation needed] Similarly, the original Hebrew pronunciation of "Jesus" is unknown.[citation needed]

Jesus (Iesus, Yeshua, Joshua, or Yehoshûa) (Arabic: يسوع) is a Hebraic personal name meaning "Yahweh saves/helps/is salvation",[3]. Christ means "the anointed" in Greek. Khristos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah (Arabic: المسيح); while in English the old Anglo-Saxon Messiah-rendering hæland 'healer' was practically annihilated by the Latin Christ, some cognates such as heiland in Dutch survive.

In Messianic Judaism, generally regarded as a form of Christianity[citation needed], YHWH (pre-incarnate) and Yeshua (incarnate) are one and the same, the second Person, with the Father and Ruach haQodesh (the Holy Spirit) being the first and third Persons, respectively, of ha'Elohiym (the Godhead). YHWH is expressed as "haShem," which means 'the Name.'

The less evangelical branch of the Quakers often refers to God as The Light. Another term used is 'King of Kings' or 'Lord of Lords' and Lord of the Hosts. Other names used by Christians include Ancient of Days, Father/Abba, 'Most High' and the Hebrew names Elohim, El-Shaddai, and Adonai. The name, "Abba/Father" is the most common term used for the creator within Christianity,[citation needed] because it was the name Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah) himself used to refer to God.

In the movement Imiaslavie ("Name glorification") opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church, the name of God is God Himself and can be used to evoke miracles.[citation needed]

The Assemblies of Yahweh is currently the only Christian group to use the name Yahweh exclusively and consistently.[citation needed]

Shangdi 上帝 (Hanyu Pinyin: shàng dì) (literally King Above) is also used to refer to the Christian god in the Standard Mandarin Union Version of the Bible. Likewise, Korean Christians and Vietnamese Christians also use cognates of this name, to refer to the Biblical god.[citation needed]

Shen 神 (lit. God, spirit, or deity) was adopted by Protestant missionaries in China to refer to the Christian god. In this context it is usually rendered with a space, " 神", to demonstrate reverence. (An alternate explanation for adding a space is that doing so simplified typesetting with two versions carrying 神 or 上帝 made parallel.)[citation needed]

Zhu, Tian Zhu 主,天主 (lit. Lord or Lord in Heaven) is translated from the English word, "Lord", which is a formal title of the Christian god in Mainland China's Christian churches.[citation needed]

See also: Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament.

Islam

Allah is the most frequently used name of God in Islam. It is an Arabic word meaning "The God" [4], and was used in polytheistic pre-Islamic Arabia to refer to the Creator god, who was their supreme deity.[5] The word Allah is a cognate of the Hebrew word Eloah.

A well established Islamic tradition enumerates 99 names of God, each representing certain attributes or descriptions of God; in which God is seen as being the source and maximum extent of each name's meaning. The names Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem are the most frequently mentioned in the Qur'an, both meaning the "Most Merciful", but with different emphasis of meaning, either of which are also often translated as the "Most Compassionate" or the "Most Beneficent".

Besides these Arabic names, Muslims of non-Arab origins may also sometimes use other names in their own languages to God, such as the Ottoman anachronism Tanrı (originally the pagan Turks' celestial chief god, corresponding to the Ancient Turkish Tengri), or Khoda in Persian language. The use of the word "God" in English is also seen as acceptable to Muslims.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í scriptures often refer to God by various titles and attributes, such as Almighty, All-Powerful, All-Wise, Incomparable, Gracious, Helper, All-Glorious, and Omniscient.[6] Baha'is believe the greatest of all the names of God is "All-Glorious" or Bahá in Arabic. Bahá is the root word of the following names and phrases: the greeting Alláh-u-Abhá (God is the All-Glorious), the invocation Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá (O Thou Glory of the Most Glorious), Bahá'u'lláh (The Glory of God), and Bahá'i (Follower of the All-Glorious). These are expressed in Arabic regardless of the language in use (See Bahá'í symbols).[7] Bahá'ís believe Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, is the "complete incarnation of the names and attributes of God".[8]

Indian religions

Vedantic Hinduism

Mainstream Vaishnava and Vedantic Hinduism is clearly monotheist. See Hindu views on monotheism.

Radha and Krishna Venerated within several traditions of Hinduism as the Supreme God, svayam bhagavan and his shakti, or as manifestations thereof. Referred to by the popular recitation of the holy names.

Within Hinduism, there are a number of names of God which are generally in Sanskrit, each supported by a different tradition within the religion. Brahman, Bhagavan, Ishvara, and Paramatma are among the most commonly used terms for God in the scriptures of Hinduism.

Sikhism

There are multiple names for God in Sikhism. Some of the popular names for God in Sikhism are:

  • Waheguru, meaning Wonderful Teacher bringing light to remove darkness, this name is considered the greatest among Sikhs, and it is known as "Gurmantar", the Guru's Word.
  • Ek Onkar, ek meaning "one", emphasizes the singularity of God. It is the beginning of the Sikh Mool Mantra.
  • Satnam meaning True Name, some are of the opinion that this is a name for God in itself, others believe that this is an adjective used to describe the "Gurmantar", Waheguru (See below)
  • Nirankar, meaning formless One

God according to Guru Nanak is beyond full comprehension by humans; has endless number of virtues; takes on innumerable forms; and can be called by an infinite number of names thus "Your Names are so many, and Your Forms are endless. No one can tell how many Glorious Virtues You have."[12]

Chief gods in polytheistic religions

The distinction between a chief deity presiding a pantheon, worship of a single god in the sense of monolatry, and genuine monotheism is gradual. A number of polytheistic religions have chief deities with some aspects of monotheism.

  • in Chinese folk religion (see also Chinese terms for God):
    • Shangdi 上帝 (Hanyu Pinyin: shàng dì) (literally King Above) was a supreme deity worshipped in ancient China.
    • Shen 神 (lit. God, spirit, or deity) is commonly used to refer to various spirits, including gods.
    • Tian 天 (lit. sky or heaven) is used to refer to the sky, but is not a personification of the sky. Whether it possesses sentience in the embodiment of an omnipotent, omniscient being is a difficult question for linguists and philosophers.[citation needed]

Taboos

Several religions have taboos related to names of their gods. In some cases, the name may never be spoken, only spoken by inner-circle initiates, or only spoken at prescribed moments during certain rituals. In other cases, the name may be never freely spoken, but when written, more limited taboos apply. To avoid saying names of God, they are often modified, such as by clipping and substitution of phonetically similar words.[13] It is common to regard the written name of one's god as deserving of respect[citation needed]; it ought not, for instance, be stepped upon or dirtied, or made common slang in such a way as to show disrespect. It may be permissible to burn the written name when there is no longer a use for it.[citation needed]

Judaism

Most observant Jews forbid discarding holy objects, including any document with a name of God written on it. Once written, the name must be preserved indefinitely. This leads to several noteworthy practices:

  • Commonplace materials are written with an intentionally abbreviated form of the name. For instance, a Jewish letter-writer may substitute "G-d" for the name God. Thus, the letter may be discarded along with ordinary trash. (Note that not all Jews agree that non-Hebrew words like God are covered under the prohibition.)
  • Since the Divine presence (or possibly an appearance of God) can supposedly be called simply by pronouncing His true name correctly, substitute names are used.
  • Copies of the Torah are, like most scriptures, heavily used during worship services, and will eventually become worn out. Since they may not be disposed of in any way, including by burning, they are removed, traditionally to the synagogue attic. See genizah. There they remain until they are buried.
  • All religious texts that include the name of God are buried.

Zoroastrianism

Most Zoroastrians believe that once a product bears the name or image of Zoroaster or Ahura Mazda it cannot be thrown away in the garbage. Yet, it does not have to be kept indefinitely. There are several ways to dispose of the item:

They can be thrown away if they mix back with the seven creations :

  • Placed in a river, lake or other body of water
  • Buried in the ground (earth)

Islam

  • In Islam, the name (or any names) of God is generally treated with the utmost respect. It is referred to in many verses of the Qur'an that the real believers respect the name of God very deeply. (e.g. stated in 33/35, 57/16, 59/21, 7/180, 17/107, 17/109, 2/45, 21/90, 23/2 ) On the other hand the condition is openly stressed by prohibiting people from unnecessary swearing using the name of Allah. (e.g. stated in 24/53, 68/, 63/2, 58/14, 58/16, 2/224) Thus the mention of the name of God is expected to be done so reverently. In Islam there are 100 different names of Allah, 99 of which are known to mankind, and 1 which, in the Islamic religion, is told to those who enter heaven.

Christianity

  • In Christianity, God's name may not "be used in vain" (see the Ten Commandments), which is commonly interpreted to mean that it is wrong to curse while making reference to God (ex. "Oh my God!" as an expression of frustration or anger). A more natural interpretation of this passage[citation needed] is in relation to oath taking, where the command is to hold true to those commands made 'in God's name'. (The idea that Christians should hold to their word is reinforced by certain statements by Jesus in the Gospels - cf Matthew 5:37) God's name being used in vain can also be interpreted as trying to invoke the power of God, as a means to impress, intimidate, punish, condemn, and/or control others.[citation needed] This can also be used to refer to the idea of saying that one acts "in God's behalf" when doing things that are clearly personal actions.[citation needed]
  • Different Christian cultures have different views on the appropriateness of naming people after God. English speaking Christians generally would not name a son "Jesus", but "Jesús" is a common Spanish first name. This taboo does not apply to more indirect names and titles like Emmanuel or Salvador.[citation needed] The word "Christian" is sometimes used as a first name, and is currently the name of about 1 out of every 1500 males in the United States.[14]

Literature and fiction

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 12, 1998, Chicago, IL, article "Yahweh," p. 804.
  2. ^ NASB (1995). ""Preface to the New American Standard Bible"". New American Standard Bible (Updated Edition). Anaheim, California: Foundation Publications (for the Lockman Foundation). Archived from the original on 2006-12-07. http://web.archive.org/web/20061207004013/http://www.bible-researcher.com/nasb-preface.html. "There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8). This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. Therefore, it has been consistently translated LORD. The only exception to this translation of YHWH is when it occurs in immediate proximity to the word Lord, that is, Adonai. In that case it is regularly translated GOD in order to avoid confusion." 
  3. ^ Bible Dictionary by William Smith LLD 1948 p.307; An Expository Dictionary of NT Words by W.E. Vine 1965 edition p.275, Websters English Dictionary; etc.
  4. ^ "Allah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ L. Gardet, "Allah", Encyclopedia of Islam
  6. ^ Adamson, Hugh C. (2007). Historical dictionary of the Bahá'í Faith. Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5096-6. 
  7. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "greatest name". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 167–168. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  8. ^ Effendi, Shoghi (1991). The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 112. ISBN 0877432317. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/WOB/wob-37.html#pg112. 
  9. ^ Gupta, Ravi M. (2007). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami. Routledge.  p.36
  10. ^ Krishna explained in the Srimad Bhagavatam
  11. ^ B-Gita Chapter 10, texts 12-13
  12. ^ Guru Granth Sahib p. 358
  13. ^ Allan, Keith (2001). Natural language semantics. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 156–157. ISBN 0-631-19297-2. 
  14. ^ http://names.mongabay.com/male_names.htm
  15. ^ Goofs for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

References

External links


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