Names of God: Wikis


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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.


Abrahamic religions



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).


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.


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.


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]


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]


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.


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)


  • 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.


  • 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


  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. "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. 
  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. ^
  15. ^ Goofs for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


External links

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


—Biblical Data:

Like other Hebrew proper names, the name of God is more than a mere distinguishing title. It represents the Hebrew conception of the divine nature or character and of the relation of God to His people. It represents the Deity as He is known to His worshipers, and stands for all those attributes which He bears in relation to them and which are revealed to them through His activity on their behalf. A new manifestation of His interest or care may give rise to a new name. So, also, an old name may acquire new content and significance through new and varied experience of these sacred relations.

It can readily be understood, therefore, how the divine name is often spoken of as equivalent to the divine presence or power or glory. In Ex. xxiii. 20-23 it is promised that Yhwh's angel will lead and give victory to His people, who must yield reverent obedience, for, the Lord says, "my name is in him." The devout Israelite will not take the name of a false god upon his lips (Ex. xxiii. 13; Josh. xxiii. 7; Hosea ii. 16-17; Ps. xvi. 4). To make mention of Yhwh's name is to assert confidence in His strength and present and efficient aid. The name excites emotions of love, joy, and praise (Ps. v. 11; vii. 17; ix. 2; xx. 1, 7). That name is, therefore, especially connected with the altar or sanctuary, the place where God records His name (Ex. xx. 24), or "the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there" (Deut. xii. 5; comp. I Kings viii. 16, 29; ix. 3; Jer. vii. 12). The Temple is "the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion" (Isa. xviii. 7). In one or two comparatively late passages "the Name" ( השם ) is used absolutely, doubtless as an equivalent for "the name of Yhwh" (Lev. xxiv. 11, 16; comp. Deut. xxviii. 58).


Of the names of God in the Old Testament, that which occurs most frequently (6,823 times) is the so-called Tetragrammaton, Yhwh ( יהוה), the distinctive personal name of the God of Israel. This name is commonly represented in modern translations by the form "Jehovah," which, however, is a philological impossibility (see Jehovah). This form has arisen through attempting to pronounce the consonants of the name with the vowels of Adonai ( אדני) = "Lord"), which the Masorites have inserted in the text, indicating thereby that Adonai was to be read (as a "keri perpetuum") instead of Yhwh. When the name Adonai itself precedes, to avoid repetition of this name, Yhwh is written by the Masorites with the vowels of Elohim, in which case Elohim is read instead of Yhwh. In consequence of this Masoretic reading the authorized and revised English versions (though not the American edition of the revised version) render Yhwh by the word "Lord" in the great majority of cases.

This name, according to the narrative in Ex. iii. (E), was made known to Moses in a vision at Horeb. In another, parallel narrative (Ex. vi. 2, 3, P) it is stated that the name was not known to the Patriarchs. It is used by one of the documentary sources of Genesis (J), but scarcely if at all by the others. Its use is avoided by some later writers also. It does not occur in Ecclesiastes, and in Daniel is found only in ch. ix. The writer of Chronicles shows a preference for the form Elohim, and in Ps. xlii.-lxxxiii. Elohim occurs much more frequently than Yhwh, probably having been substituted in some places for the latter name, as in Ps. liii. (comp. Ps. xiv.).

In appearance, Yhwh ( יהוה), is the third person singular imperfect "kal" of the verb ( היה) ("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. iii. 14, where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person—"I am" ( אהיה, from היה, the later equivalent of the archaic stem הוה). 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 Yhwh 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. I Kings xviii.; Isa. xli. 26-29, xliv. 6-20; Jer. x. 10, 14; Gen. ii. 7; etc.). So familiar is this conception of God to the Hebrew mind that it appears in the common formula of an oath, "hai Yhwh" (= "as Yhwh lives"; Ruth iii. 13; I Sam. xiv. 45; etc.).

If the explanation of the form above given be the true one, the original pronunciation must have been Yahweh ( יַהְוֶה) or Yahaweh ( יַהֲוֶה). From this the contracted form Jah or Yah ( יהּ ) is most readily explained, and also the forms Jeho or Yeho ( יַהְוְ = יְהַו = יְהוֹ ), and Jo or Yo ( יוֹ contracted from יְהוֹ ), which the word assumes in combination in the first part of compound proper names, and Yahu or Yah ( יָהוּ = (image) in the second part of such names. The fact may also be mentioned that in Samaritan poetry ( יהוה), rimes with words similar in ending to Yahweh, and Theodoret ("Quæst. 15 in Exodum") states that the Samaritans pronounced the name 'Iαβέ. Epiphanius ascribes the same pronunciation to an early Christian sect. Clement of Alexandria, still more exactly, pronounces 'Iαουέ or 'Iαουαί, and Origen, 'Iα. Aquila wrote the name in archaic Hebrew letters. In the Jewish-Egyptian magic-papyri it appears as Ιαωουηε. At least as early as the third century B.C. the name seems to have been regarded by the Jews as a "nomen ineffabile," on the basis of a somewhat extreme interpretation of Ex. xx. 7 and Lev. xxiv. 11 (see Philo, "De Vita Mosis," iii. 519, 529). Written only in consonants, the true pronunciation was forgotten by them. The Septuagint, and after it the New Testament, invariably render δκύριος ("the Lord").

Various conjectures have been made in recent times respecting a possible foreign origin of this name. Some derive it from the Kenites, with whom Moses sojourned, Sinai, the ancient dwelling-place of Yhwh, having been, according to the oldest tradition, in the Kenite country. A Canaanite, and, again, a Babylonian, origin have been proposed, but upon grounds which are still uncertain. Various explanations of the meaning of the name, differing from that given above, have been proposed: e.g., (1) that it is derived from הוה ( "to fall" ), and originally designated some sacred object, such as a stone, possibly an acrolite, which was believed to have fallen from heaven; (2) or from הוה ( "to blow" ), a name for the god of wind and storm; (3) or from the "hif'il" form of הוה ( "to be" ), meaning, "He who causes to be," "the Creator"; (4) or from the same root, with the meaning "to fall," "He who causes to fall" the rain and the thunderbolt—"the storm-god." The first explanation, following Ex. iii. 14, is, on the whole, to be preferred.


The most common of the originally appellative names of God is Elohim ( אלהים ), plural in form though commonly construed with a singular verb or adjective. This is, most probably, to be explained as the plural of majesty or excellence, expressing 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. The singular, Eloah ( אלוה ), is comparatively rare, occurring only in poetry and late prose (in Job, 41 times). The same divine name is found in Arabic (ilah) and in Aramaic (elah). The singular is used in six places for heathen deities (II Chron. xxxii. 15; Dan. xi. 37, 38; etc.); and the plural also, a few times, either for gods or images (Ex. ix. 1, xii. 12, xx. 3; etc.) or for one god (Ex. xxxii. 1; Gen. xxxi. 30, 32; etc.). In the great majority of cases both are used as names of the one God of Israel.

The root-meaning of the word is unknown. The most probable theory is that it may be connected with the old Arabic verb "alih" (to be perplexed, afraid; to seek refuge because of fear). Eloah, Elohim, would, therefore, be "He who is the object of fear or reverence," or "He with whom one who is afraid takes refuge" (comp. the name "fear of Isaac" in Gen. xxxi. 42, 53; see also Isa. viii. 13; Ps. lxxvi. 12). The predominance of this name in the later writings, as compared with the more distinctively Hebrew national name Yhwh, may have been due to the broadening idea of God as the transcendent and universal Lord.


The word El ( אל ) appears in Assyrian (ilu) and Phenician, as well as in Hebrew, as an ordinary name of God. It is found also in the South-Arabian dialects, and in Aramaic, Arabic, and Ethiopic, as also in Hebrew, as an element in proper names. It is used in both the singular and plural, both for other gods and for the God of Israel. As a name of God, however, it is used chiefly in poetry and prophetic discourse, rarely in prose, and then usually with some epithet attached, as "a jealous God." Other examples of its use with some attribute or epithet are: El 'Elyon ("most high God"), El Shaddai ("God Almighty"), El 'Olam ("everlasting God"), El Ḥai ("living God"), El Ro'i ("God of seeing"), El Elohe Israel ("God, the God of Israel"), El Gibbor ("Hero God").

The commonly accepted derivation of this name from the Hebrew root ( אול ), "to be strong," is extremely doubtful. A similar root has been explained from the Arabic as meaning "to be in front," "to be foremost," "to lead," "to rule," which would give the meaning "leader," "lord." But the fact that the e in El was originally short, as seen in such proper names as Elkanah, Elihu ( אֱלִיהוּא אֶלְקָנָה ), and in the Assyrian "ilu," is strong evidence against this derivation. As in the case of Elohim, it is necessary to admit that the original meaning is not certainly known.

Shaddai and 'Elyon.

The word Shaddai ( שַׁדַּי ), which occurs along with El, is also used independently as a name of God,chiefly in the Book of Job. It is commonly rendered "the Almighty" (in LXX., sometimes παντοκράτωρ). The Hebrew root "shadad," from which it has been supposed to be derived, means, however, "to overpower," "to treat with violence," "to lay waste." This would give Shaddai the meaning "devastator," or "destroyer," which can hardly be right. It is possible, however, that the original significance was that of "overmastering" or "overpowering strength," and that this meaning persists in the divine name. Another interesting suggestion is that it may be connected with the Assyrian "shadu" (mountain), an epithet sometimes attached to the names of Assyrian deities. It is conjectured also that the pointing of ( שַׁדַּי ), may be due to an improbable rabbinical explanation of the word as (image) ("He who is sufficient"), and that the word originally may have been without the doubling of the middle letter. According to Ex. vi. 2, 3, this is the name by which God was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The name 'Elyon ( עליון ) occurs with El, with Yhwh, with Elohim, and also alone, chiefly in poetic and late passages. According to Philo Byblius (Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," i. 10), the Phenicians used what appears to be the same name for God, 'Eλιον.

Adonai and Ba'al.

Adonai ( אֲדֹנָי ) occurs as a name of God apart from its use by the Masorites as a substituted reading for Yhwh. It was, probably, at first Adoni ("my Lord") or Adonai ("my Lord," plural of majesty), and later assumed this form, as a proper name, to distinguish it from other uses of the same word. The simple form Adon, with and without the article, also occurs as a divine name. The name Ba'al ( בעל ), apparently as an equivalent for Yhwh, occurs as an element in a number of compound proper names, such as Jerubbaal, Ishbaal, Meribaal, etc. Some of these names, probably at a time when the name of Baal had fallen into disrepute (comp. Hosea ii. 16, 17), seem to have been changed by the substitution of El or Bosheth for Baal (comp. II Sam. ii. 8, iv. 4, v. 16; I Chron. viii. 33, 34; ix. 39, 40; xiv. 7).

Other titles applied to the God of Israel, but which can scarcely be called names, are the following: Abir ("Strong One" of Jacob or Israel; Gen. xlix. 24; Isa. i. 24; etc.); Ḳedosh Yisrael ("Holy One of Israel"; Isa. i.4, xxxi. 1; etc.); Ẓur ("Rock") and Ẓur Yisrael ("Rock of Israel"; II Sam. xxiii. 3; Isa. xxx. 29; Deut. xxxii. 4, 18, 30); Eben Yisrael ("Stone of Israel"; Gen. xlix. 24 [text doubtful]).


See main article: Sabaoth


  • Gray, Hebrew Proper Names, London, 1896;
  • Driver, The Book of Genesis, excursus i., pp. 402-409, London, 1904;
  • Spurrell, Hebrew Text of Genesis, Appendix ii.;
  • Driver, on the Tetragrammaton, in Studia Biblica, vol. i., Oxford, 1885;
  • Kuenen, Religion of Israel (English transl.), i. 41-42;
  • Monteflore, Religion of Hebrews, pp. 50-53, London, 1893.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

The Rabbis as well as the cabalists steadfastly maintained their belief in monotheism. Hence they recognized only one proper name for the Deity, considering the other names as appellations or titles signifying divinity, perfection, and power, or as characterizing His acts as observed and appreciated by mankind in the various stages of their development. The cabalists illustrate this by the instance of one who looks at the sun through various-colored glasses, which change the impressions produced upon the observer, but do not affect the sun.

The Name.

The name Yhwh is considered as the Name proper; it was known in the earliest rabbinical works simply as the Name; also as Shem ha-Meyuḥad ("the Extraordinary Name"; Sifre, Num. 143); as Shem ha-Meforash ("the Distinguished Name"; Yoma vi. 2); as Shem ben Arba' Otiyyot ("the Tetragrammaton" or "the Quadriliteral Name"; Ḳid. 71a); and as Yod He Waw He (spelling the letters of Yhwh). The pronunciation of the written Name was used only by the priests in the Temple when blessing the people (Num. vi. 22-27); outside the Temple they used the title "Adonai" (Soṭah vii. 6; p. 38a). The high priest mentioned the Name on Yom Kippur ten times (Tosef., Yoma, ii.; 39b). R. Johanan said the sages delivered to their disciples the key to the Name once in every Sabbatical year. The sages quoted, "This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (Ex. iii. 15). Here the word "le-'olam" (forever) is written defectively, being without the "waw" for the vowel "o," which renders the reading "le-'allem" (to conceal; Ḳid. 71a). See Shem ha-Meforash.

The restriction upon communicating the Name proper probably originated in Oriental etiquette; in the East even a teacher was not called by name. For naming his master Elisha, Gehazi was punished with leprosy (II Kings viii. 5; Sanh. 100a). After the death of the high priest Simeon the Righteous, forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, the priests ceased to pronounce the Name (Yoma39b). From that time the pronunciation of the Name was prohibited. "Whoever pronounces the Name forfeits his portion in the future world" (Sanh. xi. 1). Hananiah ben Ṭeradion was punished for teaching his disciples the pronunciation of the Name ('Ab. Zarah 17b). It appears that a majority of the priests in the last days of the Temple were unworthy to pronounce the Name, and a combination of the letters or of the equivalents of the letters constituting the Name was employed by the priests in the Temple. Thus the Twelve-Lettered Name was substituted, which, a baraita says, was at first taught to every priest; but with the increase of the number of licentious priests the Name was revealed only to the pious ones, who "swallowed" its pronunciation while the other priests were chanting. Another combination, the Forty-two-Lettered Name, Rab says, was taught only to whomever was known to be of good character and disposition, temperate, and in the prime of life (Ḳid. 71a; comp. Rashi to 'Ab. Zarah 17b). Maimonides, in his "Moreh," thinks that these names were perhaps composed of several other divine names.


The Incommunicable Name was pronounced "Adonai," and where Adonai and Yhwh occur together the latter was pronounced "Elohim." After the destruction of the Second Temple there remained no trace of knowledge as to the pronunciation of the Name (see Jehovah). The commentators, however, agree as to its interpretation, that it denotes the eternal and everlasting existence of God, and that it is a composition of היה הוה יהיה (meaning "a Being of the Past, the Present, and the Future"). The name Ehyeh ( אהיה ) denotes His potency in the immediate future, and is part of Yhwh. The phrase "ehyeh-asher-ehyeh" (Ex. iii. 14) is interpreted by some authorities as "I will be because I will be," using the second part as a gloss and referring to God's promise, "Certainly I will be [ehyeh] with thee" (Ex. iii. 12). Other authorities claim that the whole phrase forms one name. The Targum Onḳelos leaves the phrase untranslated and is so quoted in the Talmud (B. B. 73a). The "I AM THAT I AM" of the Authorized Version is based on this view.

The name Yah ( יה ) is composed of the first letters of Yhwh. There is a difference of opinion between Rab and R. Samuel as to whether or not "hallelujah" is a compound word or two separate words meaning "praise ye Yah" (Yer. Meg. i. 9; Pes. 117a). The name Ho ( הו ) is declared to be the middle part of Yhwh and an abridged form of the Name (Shab. 104a; Suk. iv. 5).

Elohim denotes multiplied power, that is, the Almighty, and describes God as the Creator of nature. R. Jacob Asheri, the author of the Turim," in his annotations to the Pentateuch, says the numerical value of the letters in אלהים ("Elohim") equals the value (86) of those in ( הטבע ("nature"). Elohim represents the force of "din" (fixed laws), while Yhwh is the modification of the natural laws and the elements of "raḥamim" (mercy and leniency) as reflected in the developed state of mankind. In the Zohar, R. Simeon says the Divine Name (Yhwh) was mentioned only when the world was perfected, and quotes Gen. ii. 4 (Hebr.)—"in the day that Yhwh made the earth and the heavens." The word "'asot" is interpreted as "perfected," after the Creation (Zohar, Yitro, 88a, ed. Wilna, 1882). El is part of Elohim, meaning simply "power" (= "mighty"). "Shaddai" is explained as "the selfsufficient" ("she-dai hu lo").

The sacredness of the divine names must be recognized by the professional scribe who writes the Scriptures, or the chapters for the phylacteries and the mezuzah. Before transcribing any of the divine names he prepares mentally to sanctify them. Once he begins a name he does not stop until it is finished, and he must not be interrupted while writing it, even to greet a king. If an error is made in writing it, it may not be erased, but a line must be drawn round it to show that it is canceled, and the whole page must be put in a genizah and a new page begun.

The Seven Names.

The number of divine names that require the scribe's special care is seven: El, Elohim, Adonai, Yhwh, Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, Shaddai, and Zeba'ot. R. Jose, however, considered Zeba'ot a common name (Soferim iv. 1; Yer. R. H. i. 1; Ab. R. N. xxxiv.; "Sefer Yezirah," ix.). R. Ishmael held that even Elohim is common (Sanh. 66a). All other names, such as Merciful, Gracious, and Faithful, merely represent attributes that are common also to human beings (Sheb. 35a). The prohibition of blasphemy, for which capital punishment is prescribed, refers only to the Name proper—Yhwh (Soferim iv., end; comp. Sanh. 66a). In many of the passages in which "elohim" occurs in the Bible it refers to Gentile deities, or in some instances to powerful or learned men ( comp. Gen. iii. 5; כאלהים והייתם ),to judges (Ex. xxi. 6), or to Israel (Ps. lxxxi. 9, lxxxii. 6; see Tan., Ḳedoshim). Adonai sometimes refers to a distinguished person (comp. Gen. xviii. 3). Even the name Yhwh, misused in the narrative of Micah (Judges xvii. 2, 3, 13; xviii. 6), is not a divine name, according to the decisive authority (Sheb. 35b). A list of all the doubtful divine names found in the Scriptures is given in Soferim and in the codes.

The Talmud says Shalom ("Peace"; Judges vi. 23) is the name of God, consequently one is not permitted to greet another with the word "shalom" in unholy places (Shab. 10b). The name Shelomoh (from shalom) refers to the God of Peace, and the Rabbis assert that the Song of Solomon is a dramatization of the love of God: "Shalom" to His people Israel = "Shulamite." "King of kings" in Dan. ii. 37 refers to God. "'Attiḳ Yamin" (ib. vii. 9) refers to the Ancient One of the universe (see Yalḳ., Chron. 1076). The pronoun "Ani" (I) is a name of God (Suk. iv. 5). The first verse in Ezekiel ("we-Ani") refers to God (Tos. Suk. 45a). Hillel's epigram "If I [am] here everything is here" (Suk. 53a) is interpreted as referring to God. The divine names are called in the Talmud "Azkarot," or "Adkarata" in the Aramaic form. Divine names that occur in the handwriting of minim should be excised and buried in the genizah (Shab. 116a; Cant. R. ii. 4). God is named also Ha-Geburah ("The Majesty"; Shab.87a), but generally Ha-Maḳom. ("The Omnipresence"),accompanied with Baruk-hu ("Praised be He"). For other appellations see list below.

It became the custom at an early period to use the name of God in personal greetings, as "The Lord be with thee," or "The Lord bless thee" (Ruth ii. 4; Ber. ix. 1; comp. Mak. 23a). The Greek inquisition in Judea prohibited the utterance of God's name, but when the Hasmoneans became victorious they decreed that the Name should be mentioned even in notes and documents. The formula began: "On . . . in the year of the high priest Johanan, the servant of the Most High God." The sages, however, opposed this innovation, as they thought the Name would be defiled when the notes were canceled and thrown away as useless. Consequently on the third day of Tishri following, the record says, the Rabbis forbade the mention of God's name in documents (Meg. Ta'anit; R. H. 18b).

Cabalistic Use.

The cabalists, in their system of cosmology, explained the significance of the names and added other divine names. The most important name is that of the En Sof ("Infinite" or "Endless"), who is above the Sefirot. The Forty-two-Lettered Name contains the combined names of (image) (image) (spelled in letters (image) (image) = 42 letters), which is the name of Aẓilut ("Animation"). The cabalists added the Forty-five-Lettered Name as being the equivalent in value of Yhwh ( (image) (image) = 45). The name is derived from Prov. xxx. 4—"what is his name?" The numerical value of the letters (image) (= "what") equals 45 (Zohar, Yitro, 79a). The Seventy-two-Lettered Name is derived from three verses in Exodus (xiv. 19-21) beginning with "Wayyissa'," "Wayyabo," "Wayyeṭ," respectively. Each of the verses contains 72 letters, and when combined they form the following names:

The first and third verses are to be read forward and the second verse backward, one letter of each word respectively in the above order from right to left. Rashi, also, in his comment to Suk. 45a, mentions this scheme (see Zohar, Beshallaḥ, 52a, and Appendix, 270a, ed. Wilna). A combination of the Seventy-two-Lettered Name appeared on the Urim and Thummim, consisting of the names of the Twelve Tribes (50 letters), of the Patriarchs (13 letters), and of the "Shibṭe Yisrael" (the tribes of Israel; 9 letters). When the Urim and Thummim were consulted in regard to any matter this divine name lit up the letters, which were brought into relief according to R. Johanan, or into such a combination, according to Resh Laḳish, as to make the answer intelligible (Yoma 73b). Ibn Ezra figures the Seventy-two-Lettered Name as the equivalent in value of the name Yhwh spelled with the names of the letters (image) (=72).

The divine names of God, the Haggadah says, were used to perform miracles by those who knew their combinations. King David, on making excavations for the Temple, and finding that the deep was moving upward, asked for permission to stop its rising, which threatened to destroy the world, by inscribing the name of God on a potsherd and throwing it into the deep. His minister Ahithophel, who was well versed in the Law, permitted it (Mak. 11a). The manipulation of the sacred letters forming the divine names was the means used to create the world ("Sefer Yeẓirah," ix.). By a similar method some of the Talmudists are credited with having created living animals (Sanh. 65b, 67b); in later times others succeeded by the same means in creating the golem (see Golem).

Divine Names in Print.

Awe at the sacredness of the names of God and eagerness to manifest respect and reverence for them made the scribes pause before copying them. The text of the Scriptures was of course left unchanged; but in the Targumim the name Yhwh was replaced by two "yods" with a "waw" over them, thus: (image) , which letters are equal in value to Yhwh (=26). In their commentaries the authors substituted Elohim by Elokim ( אלקים ) and Yhwh by Ydwd ( ידוה ). For other changes see list below. In Kimhi's commentary on the Prophets (ed. Soncino, 1485) the printer apologizes for changing the "he" of Yhwh to a "dalet" and the "he" of Elohim to a kof," "in honor and reverence for His Name, for sometimes copies may be lost and become liable to misuse." In Hebrew literature generally and in Hebrew letter-writing the name of God is represented by the letter "he" or "dalet" with an accent over it, thus: ’ ה or ’ ד. Authors of Hebrew theological works begin their introductions generally with four words whose initial letters form the name Yhwh (e.g., (image) (image) ).

The following names and transcriptions of the names of God are found in rabbinical writings (the names mentioned in the Bible also are not given):

  • see For the Name of Yhwh.
  • see table
  • see Cabalistic.
  • see Special Appellations.


  • Maimonides, Yad, Yesode ha-Torah, vi.;
  • idem, Moreh, i. 60-62;
  • Shulḥan Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 276;
  • Maḥzor Vitry, pp. 692-694;
  • Ibn Ezra, Sefer ha-Shem, Fürth, 1834;
  • Yesod Moreh, § 11 and notes, Prague, 1833;
  • Eleazar Fleckeles, Mel'eket ha-Ḳodesh, Prague, 1812;
  • Zunz, S. P. p. 145.
This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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