God's Names and Titles
Dec 02, 2011
In my opinion, most Bible translations are too careless in their renderings of the names and titles of God. Because of this, many of these names and titles are not understood properly, and we miss their significance in Scripture.
On the other hand, some have used this issue to form entire denominations, and they feel it necessary to malign others for the use of such terms as God, Lord, or The Lord God. It is alleged that those who use such terms are guilty of blasphemy, for they ought to use the Hebrew terms Elohim and Yahweh.
It is usually argued that the Canaanite deity known as Baal means "Lord." And so, they say, anyone who refers to Yahweh by the title "Lord" is actually worshiping Baal or is blaspheming Yahweh by calling Him "Baal."
The problem with this view is that Baal can be translated by any number of English equivalents. A lord is also a master. Does this mean we should not call Yahweh by the term "Master"? Baal actually refers to an Owner of something, because an owner of something is its lord and master. It is primarily a position of power.
There are other titles that various cultures used in reference to their gods. One of them is Adonai, the god of various cultures. It literally means "my Lord." In Phoenicia, he was referred to as Adon, and in Greece, Adonis.
Among the most famous gods is the one known to us as Adonis. Adonis is the name he was given when imported into Greek myths. His name corresponds to the Phoenician Adon (lord), but it is most likely that his name was combined with Baal in some way. In Greek mythology, Adonis is ordered by Zeus to spend half the year in the netherworld and the other half in the real world. This myth has similarities to the one of Baal, Mot and Anath described above.
Scripture, too, uses the name Adon ("Lord") and Adonai ("My Lord") interchangeably with Yahweh. For example, Moses says in Deut. 10:17,
"For Yahweh your Elohim is the Elohe of Elohim and the Adonai of Adonim."
In other words, Yahweh is the TRUE Adonai, as distinguished from the Adonai of the other religions. In the same manner, the term Elohim itself is used of both the TRUE God and the false gods. We see this in the first commandment in Exodus 20:2 and 3,
(2) I am Yahweh your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (3) You shall have no other elohim before Me.
In verse 2, Yahweh identifies Himself as Elohim, while in verse 2 the same word is used of all other gods. In other words, elohim is a generic term for "god" and can refer either to the one true God of the Bible or to the gods of other religions. One has to look at the context in order to see how the term is being used.
Another name used by other religions (such as the Moabites) is Moloch or Molech. For example, see Lev. 18:21,
"Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your Elohim; I am Yahweh."
Molech means "King." It is similar to the Hebrew word melech, "king." If we were to use the logic that some use in regard to "lord," we would not be allowed to call Yahweh by the title of King.
The faulty logic is apparent: Baal means "lord," and therefore to call Yahweh by the title "lord" is blasphemy. If that assertion is true, then we can say the same thing about Molech. Molech means "king," and therefore to call Yahweh our "king" is blasphemy.
Yet Isaiah is bold in saying "For my eyes have seen the King [melech], the Lord [Yahweh] of hosts." (Is. 6:5)
Just because the Moabites used the term "king" in reference to their god does not mean we cannot call Yahweh our King. The same is true with God (Elohim) and Lord (Adon, Adonai, or Baal).
The problem is that the Phoenicians, Canaanites, and Moabites were exalting their FALSE gods to the position of Lord, God, and King. The sin occurs when men call false gods by these terms, for then they show faith in these false gods.
It is true, however, that the Jews often substituted the term Adonai when they came to the name Yahweh. Their fault was that they reverenced the Sacred Name too much. In their way of thinking, they did not even want to speak the name Yahweh, for fear of blaspheming such a Holy Name. So when they read Scripture aloud, they read Adonai instead of Yahweh.
When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek (beginning about 280 B.C.), they translated Yahweh by the Greek term Kurios, or "Lord." Actually, they were translating Adonai to Lord, since that is how the rabbis were reading the Sacred Name. Kurios was said to be the nearest equivalent of the term Adonai.
Keep in mind, however, that the term Adonai was used on its own many times in Scripture. The rabbis did change Yahweh to Adonai, but Adonai was also used in other parts of Scripture. In Psalm 110:1, we read,
(1) Yahweh said unto my Adonai, "Sit thou at My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool."
This was translated into Greek in the Septuagint as Kurios tou kuriou. Mark 12:36 quotes this verse directly from the Septuagint, where we read, "The Lord said to my Lord..." The verse was meant to tell us that Yahweh had established the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who would subdue all enemies and put all things under His feet.
Hence, the "Adonai" of Psalm 110:3 is identified as the "Lord" Jesus. There is nothing blasphemous about calling Jesus "Lord," even if Adonai was the name also used by the Phoenicians and Greeks for one of their own gods.
Some also criticize us for using the name Jesus, saying that we ought to use His Hebrew name Yeshua. In my view, it is indeed important to understand His name Yeshua, because this Hebrew name appears all through the Old Testament as a prophecy of Jesus Christ. However, there is nothing wrong with the Greek version, Iesus or Iesous. We have adopted the Greek term into English as Jesus. The Greeks did not have a "J" in their alphabet, nor did we until the late 1700's.
In fact, the original 1611 King James Bible spells "Jew" as Iewe. Our King James Version today has been updated from the original 1611, otherwise it would be quite difficult for us to read.
Even as the English language adopted the Greek term Iesus, so also did the Greeks adopt it directly from the Hebrew: Yah-sus, or Ie-sus. The name literally means Yah's Horse, because sus is the Hebrew word for horse.
The horse was a well-known symbol for SALVATION, because horses often "saved the day" in the midst of battle. We see this in Isaiah 31:3, where the prophet advises the people to seek their salvation, not from the horses of Egypt, but from Yahweh. The Hebrew word for Salvation is Yeshua, and Isaiah 12:2, 3 tells us that "God is my Yeshua" and that Yahweh "has become my Yeshua."
This word picture is presented to us in Rev. 19:11-14, where Christ and His armies come on white horses. At the creation, when God named the stars, He prophesied of the coming of Christ by the constellation Pegasus, "Chief Horse."
Those who are unaware of these things often make the claim that the name Jesus is a reference to Zeus, the father of the Greek gods. But Sus and Zeus are unrelated and are as different as our English words SUE and ZOO or between SAP and ZAP.
Dr. Stephen Jones