What is God’s name: What the Abrahamic Religions say

Christ, Allah, And Elohim: Christians worship Jesus, Jews worship Yahweh, and some people say that it doesn’t matter who they believe in, that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God, but they call him different names. What do the names of God mean in different religions and why disrespect for God even in our time causes religious conflicts.

Does it matter which Church you go to?

“Hallowed be Thy name, “says the main Christian prayer,”our father.” “The concepts of the name of God and the glory of God were inseparable even in the old Testament, so it is no accident that in the mouth of Jesus they are also interconnected. It is no accident that the prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples begins with a request for the name of the Father “hallowed be Thy name”, and ends with a reference to His glory “for Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory…” — writes Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), head of the Department for External Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Jews who first uttered this prayer understood the words “Thy name” unambiguously — as Yahweh, the name of God revealed by himself to Moses.

“A Holy place is never empty,” they say in Russia. If people forget God, someone else takes his place. This happened in Russia during the persecution of the Russian Church in the XX century. When the “new Christian Church” was created in Ukraine, probably those who created it did not think so much about the name of Christ as about the national interests, and instead of praying, they preferred to gather people for meetings. However, now this structure is not recognized by any local Orthodox Church, except for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which created it. But people go to her temples without even thinking about who they pray to.

This is the result of not knowing the name of God. People who understand this name differently begin to argue among themselves, and sometimes these disputes result in religious conflicts. But Christ had warned them: “There comes a time when he who kills you will think that he is serving God. This is what they will do, because they have not known the Father or Me” (John 16: 2-3).

True, non-religious people claim that it doesn’t matter what God they believe in, that Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Buddhists all believe in the same God, only worship him differently. But it doesn’t matter to God-the main thing is “that the person was good”.

Such people know that there is a God, but they perceive him as some distant being who has nothing to do with their personal life, and therefore they do not show any personal interest in religion. The formula is enough for them: “Someone’s out there somewhere.”

But how can such an attitude lead to communion with God, which, in fact, is the meaning of religion? If a person who is going to get married knows only that he or she exists about the bride or groom, can his or her intention to start a family be considered serious?

To change this attitude, you need to “introduce” a person to God, and familiarity begins with the name. In ancient times, it was believed that the name reflects the essence of the person to whom it is given, and they took names very seriously. And of course, the most serious thing was the attitude to the name of God. So serious that some religions forbade the utterance of the name of God for no good reason, and then forbade it altogether.

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Why know the name of God

The name of God interested representatives of all the Abrahamic religions (who consider their forefather Abraham as their founder) – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In the Bible, we read that Jacob, who was struggling with God, asked him to give his name. The wrestler did not give his name but gave a new name to his opponent — Israel. Moses asked God the same question before the flight of the Jews from Egypt: “What is Your name?” God gave His name. In Russian, it can be translated as “Existing”, but there is still debate about how it sounds in Hebrew. The most common version is that it was pronounced as “Yahweh”.

However, the question of which name of God is the most correct, interests people even today. “For a person who prays, it is necessary to know the name of God in order to address him. For those who do not pray, it may just be interesting,” says Andrey Desnitsky, a consultant At the Institute for Bible translation.

“The name of God is an essential question for Judaism,” says Boruch Gorin, head of the public relations department of the Federation of Jewish communities of Russia. — Moses, having met God, asks Him the main question: what is the name of the highest? A person who is interested in religion will come to the Rabbi’s synagogue and ask the same question.”


Many people strive to find the truth. And, reasoning logically, they may well come to the conclusion that they were created by a single God, in which followers of all Abrahamic religions believe, believes the head of the staff of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Imam Rushan Abbyasov. After all, according to him, every person, ” whether he believes in God or not, is also a creation of the Almighty.” The old Testament mentions two main names of God — Eloi and Yahweh. Eloi means God. “The word “Eloi” in our Jewish brothers has the same root system as the word Allah, ” explains Abbyasov.

The name of Yahweh is mentioned in the Bible more than seven thousand times. God himself revealed it to Moses. Once the name was known to every Jew. Take for example the most popular book of the Bible — the Psalter. The prophet David uses it constantly in his Psalms, as Russian-speaking readers can see if they mentally replace the word “Lord” with the word “I Am”.

What does the name Yahweh mean?

The word “Yahweh” does not have an unambiguous translation. “I am”, the widely accepted interpretation of this name — is only one possible. “This name is similar to the form of the verb” to be”, but it can not be said that it is its regular form, ” said Desnitsky.

God’s answer to Moses sounds like a cross between “I am”, “I was” and “I will be”, a name that is timeless, explains Gorin. “But none of these words are pronounced as the Tetragrammaton (God’s four-letter name) is written. — Approx. ed.),” he says.

How was Yahweh’s name pronounced?

Tetragrammaton-spelling of the name “Yahweh”. According to Gorin, Jews are allowed to designate these four letters, but everything on which they are written cannot be destroyed — they must be “kept forever”. “Sacred texts are buried in graves like a person,” says a representative of the Federation of Jewish communities. In modern Judaism, it is even debated whether it is possible to type the Holy name on the keyboard of a computer, and if so, whether it is necessary to store this device forever after? Since the computer is not a permanent text carrier, many Jews believe that it is possible to write and store forever a disk with the name of Yahweh is optional.

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The difficulty of reproducing the name of Yahweh from the point of view of Judaism is that the Tetragrammaton consists of four consonant letters. The absence of vowels gives a variety of pronunciation options: if you add arbitrary vowels to these four consonants, you will mathematically get more than a hundred names. However, our interlocutor did not want to give examples, because a Jew is not allowed to pronounce aloud even the wrong variants of the name Yahweh.

In old Testament times, when the high priest went once a year to the Holy of holies in the temple in Jerusalem, he “pronounced the name of God correctly.” In the Jewish tradition, there are references to special people who knew how to pronounce it correctly. “This knowledge is the cornerstone of Judaism,” emphasizes Gorin.

Today, no one on earth knows how to correctly pronounce the name of Yahweh. Jews believe that this knowledge was lost even at the time of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans — in 70 ad. Therefore, the name of God will be revealed again on earth, if the temple of God is revealed, explains the representative of the Federation of Jewish communities.

Today, Jews do not pronounce the main name of God, replacing it with various synonyms. A traditional Jew — one who lives according to traditional Jewish thought, based on Jewish literature, from the Middle Ages onwards — calls God “Ha Shem”, which means simply “name”.

There is also a substitute for prayer: “Adonai” is literally ” my Lord.” “In modern Judaism, there is no prayer or ritual where someone says the name of God (i.e. Yahweh. — Ed. note),” – claims Gorin.

Is it true that you can not pronounce the name of Yahweh?

“Jews were forbidden to pronounce the name of God out of respect for the commandment of Moses,” do not take the name of God in vain, ” says father Igor Kovalevsky, General Secretary of the conference of Catholic bishops of Russia.

However, in the commandments of Moses, this name is originally present. The Russian translation of the Bible with the restored name of God gives an idea of what this commandment of Moses might have looked like in the eyes of the ancient Israelites (the original Hebrew words are enclosed in brackets): “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord thy God will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).


In some Latin translations of the Bible, the name of God was written in the same way as in Hebrew, in four letters without vowels-YHWH. The modern version of the Vulgate uses the Latin translation of the word” Being ” — Ego Sum. The Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint, conveys the name of Yahweh by the synonym “Lord”, in Greek “Kyrios”. However, there are also ancient lists of translations of the Septuagint, in which the Tetragrammaton “Yahweh” was written in Hebrew letters. In particular, this can be seen in the Qumran manuscripts, but not only.

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“Existing” among Semitic peoples

In ancient times, many peoples had theophoric names — that is, those that contain the name of a particular God. Therefore, in some Semitic names, the name of Yahweh is present. But can theophoric names give an idea of the sound of the name that God revealed to Moses? They can, but not completely because they change phonetically and are not used in their full form, according to Desnitsky. “Although, for example, in the name of the prophet Isaiah — “Ishayagu” (“Yahweh saved”) — there is a part of the name of Yahweh,” explains the biblical scholar.

And how do Muslims understand the name, Yahweh? In Arabic, this name sounds like “al-Wajid” and is translated as “Existing” or “being constantly with a person”. The verb “to be” in Arabic reads “waja” and has a common root with the word “Yahweh”. “This name means that the Supreme is always with us, He does not have such qualities as dying or arising, He is in constant communication with all mankind and with everything that exists,” explains Rushan Abbyasov.

Jesus Christ and Yahweh

“The word Yehoshua, or, as it is rendered in Greek, ‘Jesus’, means: “Yahweh, the one who Exists, saves.” It was widely used by Jews in Palestine during the old Testament. Joshua is the most famous of these names, ” says Desnitsky.

The gospel testifies that Jesus Christ himself uttered the name of God, although Jews were forbidden to do so. “Christ said in the gospel of John,’ I am that which I Am.’ “Ego Aimee” — “I Am”. When the Saviour spoke of Himself: “Before Abraham was, I Am”, the Jews were enraged because it sounded like blasphemy to them,” explains Kovalevsky.

In Christianity, still by tradition, the name “I am” refers to Christ. On Orthodox icons of the Savior in the nimbus often write O WN. This is the perfect form of the verb “Aimee”, “to be” – a literal translation of the word “Yahweh” in Greek.

Jesus Christ is the perfect name

The word “Christ” means “anointed” — it is a translation into Greek of the Hebrew word “Moshiach”, or “Messiah”, which has the same meaning. This was the name given in Israel to those who were anointed with fragrant oil. God’s anointed people in Ancient Israel were priests, prophets, and kings. At the same time, the Jewish prophets, beginning with Moses, spoke about the coming of a priest-king who would deliver the people of Israel from all their troubles and correct all the imperfections of this world.

Christians believe that Jesus is the same Christ who, being God, became a man, and by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, delivered the world from the main imperfection — death.

The Apostle Peter says: there is no other name by which one can be saved, except the name of Jesus Christ (acts 1: 1). 4:12). According to Desnitsky, saying “there is no other name” is the same as saying “there is no other person”. “It hardly implies a name as a combination of sounds or letters. This is a concept that is identical to a person, ” the expert adds. Jesus Christ is the Saviour of mankind, and this is essential for all Christians. “From the point of view of Christianity, the meaning of the name Jesus is very close to the mission of Jesus Christ on earth — he saves humanity. This is a perfect match of the meaning of the name with what the person who bears this name did, ” explains Desnitsky


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