Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

The Seven Names of God

The name of a person is sacred.  By knowing someones name, you are able to exercise a certain amount of power over them.  For example, if you are walking down a hall and your name is called out you turn around.  The person who called your name caused you to stop and change direction by the mere utterance of your name.  If our names are sacred, how much more is the name of God.

Exodus 20:7 mandated the special care over the name of God – which the Scribes exercised diligently.  The Jews, out of respect for the holiness of God did not pronounce the tetragrammaton YHWH meaning the “Eternal One or Eternal Lord”.  In the Holy Writ, the revealed name of God is often replaced by the divine title of “Lord” (Adonai in Hebrew or Kyrios in Greek).  The title of Lord is also ascribed to Jesus which is a proclamation of His divinity.  Due to the sacredness of the name of God, and the vigilance to respect His name, titles were given so the Name would not be spoken.  i

Below are the traditional Seven Names of God.  For this reason it was sometimes common in the Middle Ages to refer to God as The Seven:

  • El
    • This is the most common Semitic stem in forming the words about God.  it is most often translated as God or God of power (etymology is uncertain).
    • Common names that use this stem include: Michael, Who is like unto God; Gabriel, The power of God; Raphael, The healing of God; Israel, One who wrestled with God; etc.
  • Elohim
    • This name appears several thousand times in the Old Testament.  It is the Hebrew plural form of El and is usually used to denote the plural of gods of the other nations or groups.  Using a shortened form of this it can also be used as an address to the Father i.e., Jesus’ cry from the cross “Eli, Eli…” (Matthew 27:46) is an example.
  • Adonai
    • In English, it means Lord.  It is also recognized in the Latin – Dominus and Greek – Kurios.  It is the most common substitute for the unspeakable NAME.  Jesus uses this title to proclaim his divinity.
  • Yahweh
    • This is the English rendering of the unspeakable NAME.  It is first used in Genesis 2:4.  The mistaken Protestant form is Jehovah.
    • Out of respect for our Jewish brethren, Catholics have been asked not to use the English form or the unspeakable NAME except in the rare need of biblical studies.
  • Ehyeh-asher-Ehyeh
    • This is the sole answer given to Moses when God is asked who He is.  Literally, “I AM WHO AM.”  it speaks of the simplicity of being.  Ehyeh means, “I will be” which is the imperfect tense in Hebrew to underscore an action that has not been completed.  It is a circumlocution of the tetragrammaton (way around the four-letter word).
  • El Shaddai
    • Usually translated as the Lord of the Mountain or Mighty God.  It is usually translated as the Pantocrator in Greek according to Genesis 17:1, 35:11 and Exodus 6:3.  This is the title that God used to Abraham and Jacob.
  • Zebaot
    • The typical translation is “Heavenly Host”.  When used as an action towards people it is translated as war.

As we can see there are many names for God in Scripture.  When you think of the New Testament what title for Jesus is closest to your heart? One of my personal favorites is Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

7 Responses to The Seven Names of God

  1. Mrs. Nod says:

    And because of your teaching on the power of names all those years ago, Nod and I carefully prayed and chose all of our children’s names. Our names were frequently chosen because of the root meaning of the name. I believe the Lord guided us in the choices of all our children’s name. That said, our first-born and fourth-born were very clearly God-inspired!

    • Q says:

      Thanks! Names are often overlooked. I think as a culture we struggle with understanding the needs for symbols that express mystery. The name is a great example of that. Funny thing is, everybody wants mystery but then wants to destroy symbols. Too much technology and too little reflection. Result: WYSIWYG….sad!

  2. Nod says:

    Yes, this is cool.

    One question: you did not provide any explanation or etymology for Zebaot? I am curious about this one.

    • Q says:

      Zebaot: The typical translation is “Heavenly Host”. When used as an action towards people it is translated as war.

  3. Jeff Stevens says:

    The belief that knowing someone’s name gives one power over them is ancient and I have heard much of it. However, I have frankly never understood it. While, yes, speaking my name gets my attention, I still retain the authority and power to choose to ignore it.

    Perhaps someone could expand on it and explain it?

    • Q says:

      Jeff,

      I am planning on answering your question this week since I intend to touch on baptism and the power of the Name. I have been backed up with Lent, Triduum and Easter. Anyway, didn’t forget about you.

  4. Q says:

    Your blog site is interesting. I am intrigued that you linked over the this post.

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