Christian Churches of God

No. 220





The Etymology of the

Name of God

(Edition 2.0  19970825-20130825)

Many people seem to make an issue of the pronunciation or the use of the name God and also of the name Jesus. The derivation of the name God and the names applied to the beings in the Old Testament and to Messiah in the New Testament are examined for the basis and meaning of the names within language, both Hebrew and Greek as well as English.



Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright ©  1997, 2013  Wade Cox)


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The Etymology of the Name of God


Objections to the use of the word God stem from the understanding that the Babylonian deity of fortune was Baal-Gad (pronounced gawd). It is then assumed that the term is pagan if the word God is used.


The term God in the ancient Anglo-Saxon comes from the word Goode, or Goot as in the Dutch and German. The word is actually a Hebrew word from which gad itself in the sense of SHD 1410 is derived. The word is Guwd (SHD 1464, pronounced goode). The tribes of Israel, when taken into captivity, took with them this name. It was used also by the Assyrians who captured them. It is a prime root meaning to crowd upon or attack and this means to invade or to overcome. It is this sense of overcoming, as God is the centre of power, that the term is used. Guwd or Goode is not the same as gad or Baal-Gad worshipped by the Babylonians. One is a perversion of the concepts of the other.


The word God is derived from the old Teutonic form gudo which means that which is invoked (or worshipped) by sacrifice (cf. Oxford English Universal Dictionary, art. ‘God’, p. 808). This was adapted among the Teutonic tribes in the variant forms.


The words are further misunderstood from a symbolism adopted in the early Hebrew and among the Semites. This was instanced in the practice of referring to the deity by the symbolism of a bull. The clear indication comes from Psalm 22:12. The strong bulls of Bashan, which are associated with Gilead are of the word from SHD 47. This word and the word from SHD 6499 are combined in usage, and both are termed bulls.


The word rendered strong bulls is actually the word abbiyr derived from SHD 46 'abiyr meaning mighty one and spoken of God. SHD 47 abbiyr means angel [heavenly messenger], bull or chiefest, mighty one, stout, strong or valiant.


The terms occur in Psalm 22:12 where the bulls are also reduced to lesser beings. They occur in Psalm 50:13; 68:30; Isaiah 34:7; and Jeremiah. 50:11. Jeremiah 52:20 refers to the twelve brazen bulls under the altar by the term baqar (SHD 1241) in distinction to the term abbiyr which he uses elsewhere.


The representation of the loyal heavenly Host as bulls representing God is ancient, even being found in pre-Hebrew culture. The Babylonian system in its mystery cults adopted the bull-slaying typology, which carried into Mithraism. The bull-slaying typology is a representation of the wars in the heavens (see David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, Oxford, 1989 for the cosmology; Perseus is the bull-slayer for the Mysteries). This symbolism is carried on in the association with the mighty one and the centrality of goodness or Gott or Goode.


The English word God, via the Teutonic Gudo and the earlier forms, is associated with the ancient Semitic and Hebrew as we see above. Thus the bull was both symbol of reverence and the significant sacrifice. Hence, the name came to be associated with the bull. This pointed towards the sacrifice of Messiah as the Bull of Atonement. This understanding was long held among the Semites from Shem as high priest from the post-flood epoch. From recent finds, it seems this was further distorted in the system at Ur.


Yahovah is the Bull of Israel. He is Messiah as the Great Bull of Heaven acting for the Father, the centre of ultimate goodness. God, in this sense, forms the centrality of ultimate goodness and it is in this sense only that it is used. In the same way, a tribe of Israel is named Gad. Does this mean that the patriarchs were pagans? No, it does not. Gad means that troop or The Host. The Gadites were called thus from SHD 1425. We will see that it means the overcomers or perhaps the invaders – perhaps even in the sense that the Assyrians could be called God’s hammer. This name in the Greek is rendered Gad from SGD 1045.


One of the twelve spies (from Manasseh) was named Gaddi or Gaddiel (SHD 1426,1427). This differs from Gaddi father of Menahem (SHD 1424). The name means blessed or fortunate. Gaddiel means Blessing of El rendered by Strong as Fortune of God. The term fortunate in the English is an incorrect term. The word might be more correctly blessed. The term translated blessed in Hebrew is actually two word roots. The one is barak (SHD 1288) meaning to kneel and, hence by implication, to bless God as an act of adoration and vice versa. It is also used as an act of treason by euphemism. The other term is 'esher (SHD 835) meaning happy and, hence, blessed. This is a masculine plural construction as an interjection, hence Happy! Gad and gaddi[el] is the sense of the actual results of the blessings.


More particularly, God’s prophet to David was also Gad using exactly the same name. If this was a problem, do you not think that God would have chosen and instructed His own prophet without correcting him? The term gad comes from the sense of distributing and derives its sense of fortune and fortunate. Fortune is derived from the Roman deity Fortuna and Luck is an Egyptian deity. This became Baal-Gad with the Babylonians. The sense of distribution found in Gad denotes Good. Hence, God is the centrality of this good or distribution or blessings.


Baal-Gawd is the Canaanite-Semitic equivalent of the term Lord-God who we know as the Father. We see the blessing comes from the centrality of goodness whereas the Babylonians, the Semites and Canaanites personalised the term to another single deity making it the Lord of Distributions or Bounty. This is like a cargo cult mentality.


This was a perversion of the original understanding where God was the centre of goodness and the deity of the Host or the troops of the heavens. Hence Gad, as tribe and prophet, indicates that the cause of the blessings and the numbers of Israel is the God of Hosts, the God of Israel.


Using the word God is no more blaspheming than if the voodoo witch doctors in Haiti started using biblical names for pagan practice. Their blasphemy does not undermine our proper use any more than the practice of Rome invalidates Christianity.


The attack on the term Christian also stems from ignorance as to the formation of the Bible text. Both Paul and Peter were proud to be tried and ultimately to die under the term Christian (cf. Acts 26:28). Peter says that by persecution under that term we glorify God (1Pet. 4:16). The term is rendered as Christian from the Aramaic Peshitta also (see Lamsa, The New Testament from the Ancient Eastern Text). The argument as to the writing of the New Testament in Hebrew is without foundation. The New Testament was written in Aramaic and in Greek, and we have the texts. The attack on the term is an attack by Messianic Judaism on Paul, and the New Testament in general, to undermine it.


The Sacred Names issue comes from the imperfect understanding of the people taking issue over the use of the names. We now know for certain that the root name Yah was actually pronounced Yaho from the Elephantine texts. Yahovah is the correct pronunciation of the subordinate elohim of Israel. This being who later became Messiah was Yahovah (SHD 3068) and he spoke for Yahovih (SHD 3069) or Yahovah of Hosts.


The consonants form the tetragrammaton of YHVH. The later vav in Hebrew is pronounced as a v or a quiescent w and thus the English speakers have rendered it as a w and make it out as Yahweh by leaving out the o also. This is technically incorrect and was done prior to the publication of the Elephantine texts.


When the term Yaho is used in conjunction with other syllables to form compound names the o can be left in or dropped as preferred. When the Yah is on the end of the word the o or the consonant vav and the vowel is often dropped. Thus, the name Abijahuw (WhY:kIa}) which means Father of worship or Father Yahovi, Father to be worshipped rendered as worshipper of Jah (Yahovi) by Strong (the Yahovih or object of worship, i.e. Eloah, God the Father, the source of the law; cf. Ezra 4:24 to 7:26 – and here it is without the final consonant of the tetragrammaton) becomes Abiyah (hY:kIa}), rendered Abijah in the English, which becomes the normal pronunciation as the vowels. It can also be rendered Abia, Abiah (cf. SHD 29; and also 1Chr. 3:10; 24:10; 1Kgs. 14:1). It can also be Abiyel or the Father of El (rendered possessor of El; cf. SHD 22). Again, God the Father is involved. When rendered as Abijam (SHD 38) it becomes father of the sea.


Yahoshua becomes Yashua in some instances and, for American usage, the term Yeshua becomes a pronunciation because their vowel a is a hard version from a pre-Oxford English dialect. Thus the English language has introduced its own variations into the Hebrew. The J was introduced in place of the Y from the post-Reformation variations to the translations and thus the KJV imported more variations, as well as a false theological interpretation, which resulted in the disguising of the names of God on a large scale. This disguising extended to the names of the people in the Bible story also, including the apostles and the family of Christ, as we will see below.


Another incorrect argument is introduced around the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton. It is contended that Yahovah is derived from the construction hovah (pronounced hoovaw) and means the God of ruin or mischief. This view completely misapprehends the nature of the tetragrammaton, the consonants involved, and their meaning.


The word hovah (SHD 1943, pronounced hoovaw) does mean ruin and mischief. It is derived from havvah (SHD 1942) which has the sense of rushing upon or falling upon. This is a negative sense of the prime root at SHD 1933. It and the prime root are both made up of three consonants He Vav He (hwh). These three consonants also form the last three consonants of the tetragrammaton. The tetragrammaton is Yot He Vav He or YHVH. There is no w in the tetragrammaton. Vav is pronounced as v or a quiescent w (see Strong’s). It is not a w in the sense that Americans use it. The German language also has a form of this.


The claim that Yaho was dropped from the Babylonian captivity is unsubstantiated conjecture as the Elephantine texts show. As we have seen, the form YH is pronounced Yahoo or Yaho when used as a syllable on its own. This is the form rendered Jah in the KJV. Yahovah is held by Strong to be made up of the combination of Yaho and SHD 1961 which has the same consonants He Vav He but it is pronounced hayah meaning to exist. This is the sense of existing or becoming as used in 'eyeh 'asher 'eyeh. This is derived from the word SHD 1933 which is the root of the tetragrammaton hava or havah meaning to breathe or to become in a wide application. Thus the tetragrammaton means I become. It was used by Christ in this sense when he said I Am. He was the Yahovah who spoke to Moses. He spoke for Yahovih or Yahovah of Hosts, God the Father, the Elyon, or Most High, who is Eloah. In this sense, the pre-incarnate Messiah was also the Messenger or Angel of Yahovah as elohim in Zechariah 12:8.


The LXX has the words rendered Mighty Counsellor (KJV) in Isaiah 9:6 as the Angel of Great Counsel. Thus Messiah was both Yahovah and Yashua or Yahoshua. This is misconstrued by the Yaweh/Yehshua lobby arguing against Yahovah as god of ruin or mischief. For example, a reading of Strong’s on SHD 3068 would point the reader back to the root forms at SHD 1961, which would then direct them to the correct root form of the tetragrammaton at SHD 1934 and 1933. They should have seen that their construction based on SHD 1943 was completely without foundation and a negative application of a positive form. They should have seen the real linguistic basis of the name.


The Temple at Elephantine and the Temple at Jerusalem were referred to as the Temple of Yaho. This Temple at Elephantine was destroyed in 410 BCE by the priests of the god Khnub in Egypt (Pritchard, The Ancient Near East..., Princeton, 1958, pp. 278-279). The reconstruction of the Temple referred to in Ezra-Nehemiah was contributed to by the Hebrews at the Temple of Elephantine circa 419-400 BCE. They and the Aramaic speakers there made contribution for the God Yaho. There was an estimated equivalent of 123 contributions of 2 shekels each (ibid.) and some were even made on behalf of Ishumbethel and Anathbethel (ibid.). These are assumed Aramaic deities but may refer to functions of the House of El (Bethel), i.e. the personified pillars or such like. We have no absolute knowledge of the significance. What we do know beyond doubt is that the name Yaho was used at the beginning of the fourth century BCE after the return of the exiles and at the construction of the Temple at Jerusalem.


The term HaShem came also from this point in time. This was from the pagan idea that the name had to be protected so that its correct pronunciation by magicians would not enable the capture of the city of the deity (in this case, Jerusalem or the Temple at Elephantine). It was a practice adopted by the Egyptians and the Babylonians and the Romans. The Jews spoke the terms Yahovah (SHD 3068) as Adonai and Yahovih (SHD 3069) as Elohim. Thus they elevated one above the other in accordance with Psalm 45:6-7: one was Lord, the other was true God. The true elohim or haElohim was Eloah.


The name Yahovah is derived, as we see, from Yaho and havah. Havah (SHD 1934) is itself the equivalent of SHD 1933 meaning to breathe or to be or to have. It does not contain the concepts of ruin as in hovah or hoovaw. The prime root is havah.


Eloah or Yahovah of Hosts declared Himself through Messiah as 'eyeh 'asher 'eyeh or I will be what I will become (Ex. 3:14; cf. fn. to The New Oxford Annotated Bible RSV and The Companion Bible). This name formed the basis of Yahovah (YHVH) as an extended being and more than two beings in the Bible carried this name or were referred to by this name (see the paper The Angel of YHVH (No. 024)).


Yahovah is in reality the name given to the secondary deity of Israel in the Old Testament acting for the primary deity. This being was sent to Israel and was allocated Israel by the Most High God (Deut. 32:8; see RSV, LXX and DSS) Yahovah of Hosts (Zech. 2:3-13; cf. Ps. 45:6-7).

The Jews never pronounced the name Yahovah. They pronounced Yahovah as Adonai and Yahovih as Elohim (see SHD 3068 and 3069). They thus preserved the distinction in the names. From the Elephantine texts, we see they also used the term HaShem which means simply The Name. This was used in place of Yahovah to avoid the confusion of the Messenger of Yahovah, or Yahovah with the Father who sent him. The Father was Yahovih or Yahovah of Hosts (cf. Zech. 2). Christ used the term Eli Eli lama sabachthani (the Peshitta says Eli Eli lemana shabakthani), quoting the Old Testament Psalm 22:1: Ely Ely lemah 'azabany. No Jew at this time spoke the name Yahovah. As we have seen from the Elephantine texts, we know that from the fourth century BCE Judah also rendered this name as HaShem or The Name. This practice continued on and is found today in translations such as Stone’s edition of the Chumash where the word Yahovah is rendered HASHEM.


This aspect of HaShem is also dealt with in the paper Azazel and Atonement (No. 214). This seems to stem from the ancient practice of guarding against the use of the name of the patron deity so that the sorcerers or magicians of other nations did not get hold of the name and, thus, by its correct usage bring the overthrow of the nation concerned. Thus, Sacred Names theology has its origins in pagan practice (see the paper Abracadabra: The Meaning of Names (No. 240)). Judah seems to have never pronounced the name Yahovah from the Babylonian captivity onwards.


We are now in a position to understand the complex issues involved. The object of worship is Eloah, and as Yahovah, is an extended being which we will all become as elohim like the Angel of Yahovah at our head (Zech. 12:8). Eloah is the object of our adoration and worship.


The name of God as it applies to the extended sense of Yahovah

As we have seen above, the name Yahovah (or its short form Yaho) and the shortened Yah are found in many name derivatives – both Messianic and otherwise. Yahovah is itself derived from the 'eyeh 'asher 'eyeh which is actually I will be what I will become. This name indicates that God is becoming something (cf. Eph. 4:6).


The name of the Messiah was Yahoshua. The variations in this are Hosea, Hoshea, Jehoshua, Jeshua, Jeshuah, Jesus, Osea, Oshea, and Joshua. This practice continues today among our people. The Irish name O'Shea is a variation on this theme. Cox is contraction of Isaac according to the English heralds, although in the ancient Gaelic it means “red”.


SHD 3091 is a combination of SHD 3068 Yahovah and SHD 3467 and means Yahovah-saved or Yahovah saves. The short form of the name Yahovah is Yaho. It is rendered as Yah or Jah in the KJV (Ps. 68:4), but the Elephantine texts show us that the actual form was, and is, Yaho (see James Pritchard, The Ancient Near East..., Vol. 1, Princeton, 1958, pp. 278-279). Thus the full correct name is Yahoshua which is shortened to Yashua. In this sense also, Hoshea means deliverer (being derived from SHD 3467), as does Oshea and Hosea (cf. SHD 1954).


The standard translation into the Greek for Joshua or Yahoshua was 'Iesous. It is 'Ie for Yah or Yaho, and Sous (pr. shou or shous or zhou/s) for Shua. This occurs in the Old Testament Septuagint (LXX) and the New Testament not only for Christ but also for all Joshua usage. Yeshua is a shortening of the original word. The variations on this theme occur throughout the Bible. The Greek language has to write the letter Y as 'I. The grammatical rules in the Greek for endings differ with the case but the sense of the original Hebrew is retained for the Hebrews who were then using Aramaic.


Yudah the name of Messiah’s brother is rendered Jude from 'Ioudas in the Greek. Joses, the root name of both his brother and his cousin, is 'Iosetos in the Greek for the cousin and Ioseph for the brother who is obviously named after his father Yoseph, Mariam’s husband. These names are disguised in the KJV and all English versions by Trinitarian theology and by Mariolators. Yames or James is actually 'Iakobos from Yacob or Jacob, but is also 'Iakobou according to case and so on. The rendering of Simon his brother and Symeon and Simeon, his cousins and nephews and their descendants, is likewise varied over time and at the same time.


Messiah’s mother was Mariam. It was his aunt (Mariam’s sister) the wife of Cleophas that was named Maria. Other variations were Miriam and who knows what else. Maria, wife of Cleophas or Clophas, named her sons 'Iakobos called little Yacob[os] or little James, and Yosetos (Mk. 15:40). These names of Messiah’s cousins differed from the names of the brothers of Christ which were 'Iakobos or Jacob[os] rendered James, 'Ioseph or Joseph, Simon, and 'Ioudas (Judas) or Jude (from Yudah or Judah) (Mat. 13:55). Messiah’s sisters are not named; this was the practice of genealogy of the time. We can, however, be sure that one would have carried the name of Mariam and probably, Elizabeth, and perhaps also, Maria. The general practice was to name the grandchildren after their grandparents as there was no standard practice of surnames as is the case today. Thus, the names of the wife of Heli and Joseph’s mother would also be included. The names of Messiah’s brothers and sisters and cousins are deliberately obscured in the English versions to promote the illusion of the perpetual virginity of Mariam, wrongly called Mary, in idolatry. This myth is carried on today even by Catholic historians who know better – such as Malachi Martin (cf. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, pp. 42-44).


The names of the apostles in the English vary even from the Greek. The conventional usage is often necessary to have a comprehensible conversation with the rest of the world. If the actual names of the people in the New Testament were used correctly, virtually all- comprehensible biblical conversation with the unconverted world would be difficult – if not impossible.


Certainly, there is no salvation issue in the question of the pronunciation of the names concerned. The assertion that there is a salvation issue in exclusive pronunciation is a form of self-righteousness and blasphemy against the nature and self-revelation of God. More particularly, the names advanced show a misapprehension of the theology and the beings involved.


See also the paper The Names of God (No. 116)