The existence of the supreme deity is assumed at the beginning of the Bible.  The word in the English language that captures this is God, a derivative of an ancient root probably meaning "to ask" and thus, the one to whom petitions are made with the expectation of answers.[1]  The Semitic term, in the Hebrew form transliterated as El, Eloh and Elohim, are from a root that indicates not the ability but the strength of the deity.  The direct translation for this word into English would be "Mighty One."  Lesser beings, be they angels or men, might rightfully be called "elohim" since they too are "mighty ones."  In English capitalization accomplishes what only context can do in Hebrew.

In Hebrew, the general term for the Creator -- and thus the supreme deity -- is Elohim, a plural form of Eloh when it is used by itself.  Eloh is used when a relationship is given (that is, your God, our God, or my God).  When God is described by a modifier, the simplest form, El, is used.

Up until Moses' encounter with a manifestation of God's presence in the form of a fire that did not burn, God was known primarily as Eloh (God) or El Shaddai (God Almighty).  When asked for a name, though, the voice out of the fire said simply "I am who I am. Tell them that 'I am' has sent you."  From this, Moses was forced to coin a word, which God honored when addressing Moses while giving the Ten Commandments: "I am YHWH your God."  The third commandment, requiring reverence for this name, led later Jewish scholars to shun pronouncing the name.  Consequently it can only be surmised that the four letters ("tetragrammaton") is a form of the verb "to be" and most likely something like "He Is." The best guess by linguists, based on the use of vowel points used on words of unknown vocalisation, is "Yahweh." The shortened form of this name is Yah which appears mostly in Hebrew poetry and in combination with words in names.[2]

Names and Attributes

Adonai (אֲדֹנָי), literally "my master," is used in combination with the tetragrammaton, and sometimes alone, as a personal name for God. The root word, "adon" is used for God in about five places. This name emphasises God's relationship to all of creation, but especially to the relationship with those who worship Him.

Elohim (אֱלֹהִ֑ים) is the primary name of God in the Old Testament. This form is plural, but does not imply plurality of Gods. After the time of Moses it is used almost interchangeably with the covenant name given to Moses (see below). The root word for this name is El which means "mighty." This name emphasises the power of God above all others.

El (אֵ֥ל) is usually accompanied by a modifier. However, the word is used in combination in personal names (Elijah: My God is Yah; Daniel: My judge is God) and place names.

El Elyon (אֵ֥ל עֶלְיֽוֹן). Translated "God Most High" or "Most High God" in many English translations, this name is used 53 times in the Old Testament. With this name, God is put above all others that might claim authority. It is used by Melchizedek referring to God as both possessor of heaven and earth and as the One who had given Abram victory in time of battle.
El Shaddai (אֵ֣ל שַׁדַּ֔י). Translated "God Almighty" or "Almighty God" this is the name by which God introduces himself to Abram at the time He affirmed the covenant with him. The all-sufficiency of God is emphasised by this name. Some linguists believe the word "shaddai" comes from the root "shad," meaning "breast." If this is so, then the power of "El" is multiplied for His followers when they walk close to him. (Gen. 17:1)

YHWH (יהוה). These four letters ("tetragrammaton") are faithfully recorded by Moses to reflect the "name" God told him to tell the Israelites. God had said "I am who I am, tell them 'I am' sent you." Later, God once again spoke to Moses (Exodus 6:3) and confirms the name to be YHWH. And then, in the Ten Commandments, God establishes the name as sacred. This name proclaims the God Who Is. No more need to be said on the matter, God just IS. In His essential being, then, God is self-existing. Being thus, all of the other attributes flow "naturally" out.

By just these names, it can be seen that God is the Creator and sustainer of the universe. As such, it is up to God to run things the way He wants to do them. As Adonai and Elohim, His power can be seen as absolute. As El Shaddai, His personal relationship with mankind is revealed. As El Elyon, his position as ruler over all things is clear. And finally, in revealing his name in covenant with Moses and the Israelites, "Yahweh" is "set in stone" for all time.

What is not revealed in the names is that God is a spirit by nature[3], though as the Son of God, became man[4] in the Incarnation.


See full article: Trinity

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity was formulated in the first 300 years as believers came to realize the full deity of both Jesus and the living Spirit that sustained them. Clues were throughout the letters of Paul as well as those of John.

In short, the definition of God as One God, but in Three "persons" became necessary to fully bring glory to God in worship. The name of Jesus means "Yah Saves" (that is YHWH saves). Since the man Jesus is the promised Savior, then the prophet's declaration that 'there is no Savior but YHWH" has to be fulfilled in him. When Jesus refers to God as His Father, and to himself as the Son of God, the two "persons" of God are defined in that relationship. See Son of God.

In all four gospel the Holy Spirit ("the Spirit, the Holy One") is treated as personal. In the Acts, "the Holy Spirit" is used in parallel with "God" in a way to equate the two. And finally, in John's gospel Jesus speaks of the Spirit as "another Comforter" to come after he leaves them for heaven. In Acts, the work of the Spirit becomes evident. See Holy Spirit.

As this wiki grows, this section will be augmented with the growing list of attributes of God. For now this survey of God's names must suffice. If any reader of this page wishes to contribute to this page, leave a comment and an administrator will incorporate constructive suggestions into the article. Due to the nature of this site, and this page in general, no unsolicited edits will be allowed.


  1. This page surveys several dictionaries. The oldest word known to come from this root is the Sanskrit hu.
  2. The "iah" in Jeremiah and Isaiah, for instance.
  3. John 4:24
  4. John 1:14
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