REVELATION OF GOD'S NAME
Paul S. Wong
Elohim - the One True God
Man had become conscious of God since the beginning of time. For the Christian concept of God, the Holy Bible is our only source of knowledge. From it we have the self-revelation of God. The Bible introduces God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It is difficult to trace the origin of words describing the Deity in various languages of the world, but the Hebrew word for God "El' in the singular form is derived from the root indicating strength or might. The plural form 'Elohim’ is commonly used in the Bible to denote God. The Hebrew people to whom 'Elohim’ revealed Himself, had never considered the plural form to be an allusion to a God who is composed of more than one Person. This usage in the plural form of the Hebrew language serves to intensify or enlarge the idea expressed in the singular. It is difficult for finite man to choose a perfect designation which will fully expresses the concept of an infinite and Supreme Being who fills the universe. Scholars who have attempted to translate the word 'Elohim' into Chinese, for instance, have always been divided and still are as to which word is the best. Three words being translated as God are (1) 'Tien-chu’ (Lord of Heaven), (2) 'Shang-Ti’ (Supreme Ruler) and (3) ‘Shen’ (Deity). In exalting the Deity to the supreme and highest order the translators have used an ancient Chinese method of leaving a blank space before 'Shen', thus giving Him the greatest honor and respect. This also indicate 'Shen' is incomparable and beyond description:
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33)
Revelation of the Name “YAHWEH” (LORD)
The Holy Bible is God's revelation given through inspiration to holy men over a long period of time (2 Pet. 1:21). "And God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘ I am the LORD (YAHWEH). I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty ( EL SHADDAI ), but by My name LORD (YAHWEH) I was not known to them" (Ex. 6:2-3). The true meaning of God's name "I AM WHO I AM" was first revealed to Moses when he was on Mount Horeb at the scene of the burning bush (Ex. 3:13-15). We discover that God had revealed His name to different people at various times. The Holy Bible very seldom prints the Name of God “JEHOVAH” or ''YAHWEH”. In Nathan Stone's book "Names of God" there is a logical explanation:
“To Israel of old righteousness and holiness were the two great attributes associated with the name "JEHOVAH." So holy and sacred was that name to them that they feared to pronounce it. Perhaps that fear was based on Moses' injunction that they should not profane that name, and the penalty of death imposed for blasphemy of the name "JEHOVAH" (Lev. 24:16), but to this day the name "JEHOVAH" is never read in the synagogue nor uttered by this people, the word "ADONAI” being substituted for it, and by many simply a word meaning "the Name." 'Thus the original pronunciation of that name we call "JEHOVAH," regarded as too sacred to be uttered, has been lost to this day." (page 5)
"The name 'ADONAI’ is translated in our Bibles by the word 'Lord' in small letters, only the first of which is a capital. Used as a name of God, 'ADONAI’ occurs probably some 300 times in the Old Testament" (p. 43). An interesting verse in Scripture having the two names of God "YAHWEH'' and "ADONAI” appearing is Psalm 110:1. "The LORD (YAHWEH) said to my Lord (ADONAI), sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool." One thing is very clear and beyond dispute concerning the terms "LORD" or "Lord". According to the biblical usage they are names of God for He says, "I am the LORD (YAHWEH), that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another" (Isa. 42:8).
The name of God "YAHWEH" was invoked by the Jewish worshipers and translated in our English Bibles as "LORD". It was revealed to Moses on Mount Horeb. God said, "This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations" (Ex. 3:14-15). The name "LORD" had been invoked throughout the Old Testament times and continued into the New Testament era even up till today. Since it is God's “name forever” we can expect to call Him by this name in the future eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
The name of God not only indicates how mankind should call upon Him but also reveals who He is, what He does and His active presence. "And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM"' (YAHWEH), which means God is the self-existent One who has been existing eternally by Himself (Ex. 3:13-15; 6:2-3). The Hebrew people considered His Name so holy and sacred that they dared not pronounce it. Whenever the Name "YAHWEH" appeared in the Old Testament they would pronounce or write "LORD". The term "LORD" has become the name of the Father (Ex. 6:2-3; Psm. 135:1; Isa. 42: 8; Jer. 16:21 33:2; Amos 9:6).
LORD in the English Bibles
In the creation story the Bible describes 'Elohim’ as the Creator, but in the second chapter of Genesis we discover another word 'LORD' preceding the word 'God'. Many English Bibles give the explanation of the word ‘LORD’ (spelt with all capital letters) as the translation of the Divine Name of God YHWH. Here are the explanations of some contemporary versions of the Holy Bible.
A. The New King James Version, published by Thomas Nelson,
1982 Edition, Preface page 5.
"The covenant name of God was usually translated from the Hebrew as "LORD" (using capital letters as shown) in the King James Old Testament. This tradition is maintained. In the present edition the name is also capitalized whenever the covenant name is quoted in the New Testament from a passage in the Old Testament."
B. Revised Standard Version published by the American Bible Society,
1971 Edition, Preface page 5.
"A major departure from the practice of the American Standard Version is the rendering of the Divine Name, the "Tetragrammaton." The American Standard Version used the term "Jehovah"; the King James Version had employed this in four places, but everywhere else, except in those cases where it was employed as part of a proper name, used the English word LORD (or in certain cases GOD) printed in capitals. The present revision returns to the procedure of the King James Version, which follows the precedent of the ancient Greek and Latin translators and the long established practice in the reading of the Hebrew scriptures in the synagogue."
C. New International Version, published by Zondervan,
1983 Edition, Preface page 8.
"In regard to the divine name YHWH, commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton, the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as LORD" in capital letters to distinguish it from 'Adonai’, another Hebrew word rendered "Lord," for which small letters are used. Wherever the two names stand together in the Old Testament as a compound name of God, they are rendered "Sovereign LORD."
This Article is the response of Paul Wong
to a discussion in the ARK Forum on July 16, 2003
For comments please write first to: [email protected]
May God bless you.
Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the
President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in Houston.
The ARK Forum on the Internet is international and non-denominational.