The ways the Bible declares, nuances, and connects God’s names are manifold; it’s far from systematic. Here are five examples:
1. A name of God is sporadically mentioned early in the Canon only later to grow in meaning and importance. For example, the OT infrequently refers to God as Father; when it does, he is known as a father to Israel (Deut 32:6). However, God as Abba, Father – personal and for all people groups – is boldly declared and expanded in the NT (Gal 4:6). Similarly, there are messianic names that are initially found in kernel form but more “fully” understood as the Bible takes shape. For example, the impact and identity of the coming “seed,” mentioned to Eve and Abraham, is not “fully” grasped until Paul declares Jesus as the Seed (Gal 3:19). Correspondingly, Jesus’ messianic calling and divinity is “hidden” to most during his lifetime, but it’s openly understood and declared after his resurrection, as witnessed by some of the great Christological passages of the NT (e.g., Matt 16:16, Rom 1:1-4; 1 Cor 8:6; Phil 2:5ff; Col 1:15ff; Heb 1:1-4) and the “I am” declarations of John’s gospel and the book of Revelation.
2. A name of God is succinctly declared, amplified, and then a foundational concept throughout the entire Bible that informs other names of God. For example, Exo 3:14-15 succintly declares the name of the LORD; the Bible however, unpacks its meaning in Exo 34:6-7 and most of the Bible’s authors launch their key theological thoughts about this name from this foundation. For example, the words and thoughts of Exo 34:6-7 are specifically repeated (Neh 9:17; Psa 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2) or echoed throughout the entire OT (e.g., Psa 57:10; 108:4). Further, in this regards, the OT understanding of the name of the LORD is also essential for the key thoughts of every NT writer (Matt 9:36; Mark 1:41; Luke 15:20; Rom 2:4; Heb 4:16; 2 Pe 3:10; James 4:6; 1 John 4:16; Jude 1:1). The LORD is an important name for God! Even today, within some Orthodox Jewish circles, this name is not pronounced for fear of violating the third commandment. In such settings, instead of mentioning the Hebrew word for LORD, one utters the name Adonai (Lord) in its place or refers to the LORD as “the Name.”
3. The Bible’s authors take all that is good around them to explain God, by appending to their core names for God – names like Yahweh, God, Lord, Jesus, Spirit – other common words, referents, and concepts. For example, the Bible’s authors use common words, concepts, and titles to refer back to the central names of God, giving holy meaning to these “pointing” words: words from family (Husband), government (King), military (Commander), trades (Shepherd, Priest, Housewife), body (Head), and people groups (God of Israel) but also concepts (Immanuel), human characteristics (A Jealous God, My Strength, My Peace), and natural elements, the latter of which are typical causal (Consuming Fire, Spirit/Wind, light), solid and stable (Rock), or dynamic (Seed, Vine, Branch) in nature. God is also referred to in anthropomorphic terms; e.g., he’s called the God who sees, hears … and has hands.
4. With the same analogous goals of amplification found in point three above, but now including mystery and overlap, there are Trinitarian names that explain, unite, correlate, and connect various names of God while allowing each Triune Person to have similar characteristics (e.g., Eternal, Holy) and parallel activities (e.g., Savior, Comforter, Creator) yet distinct names and functions within those activities (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). For example, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally described in the Bible as truthful, eternal, and holy.
5. Hebrew OT names and characteristics of the LORD now take on new meaning and become Christian NT names equally identified as being about Jesus and being for all people, regardless of ethnicity. And, not just one NT author does this: Paul (cf. Isa 45:23’s use in Phil 2:10-11; Rom 14:11) and John (cf. Isa 44:6’s use in Rev 1:17; 2:8; 22:13) as well as Luke and Peter (cf. Psa 22:3 use in Acts 2:27, Acts 3:14) substitute Jesus into OT texts the refer to Yahweh.
Oy vey! This is why a systematic naming of God has proven to be a difficult and dangerous task, yielding much disputation within Christian ranks. However, with respect to the above five points: I hear within my ears and have resonating in my heart melodies about God that create a great symphony, one orchestrated by the Living God that can both strengthen the soul and be sung to those who would hear the song of God; I’m immersed in a mighty river – formed by merging streams mentioned above, capable of sweeping me and others into God’s width and depth, power and vastness – living waters flowing from God’s throne and temple (Ezek 47:1-12; Rev 22:1-6).
These sounds and currents aren’t always neat, orderly, or systematic. Further, today’s postmoderns aren’t given to systematic thinking. So I write that these names be efficacious melodies that help all of us “know God and make him known,” that the forthcoming “lyrics” glorify God and bring goodness into the lives of readers that they might be better proclaimers.
In order to make some sense of the above thoughts, this book has groups and names that are both linguistically and thematically divided but also artistically and devotionally nuanced. Its methodology isn’t perfect or its scope exhaustive, but hopefully it’s as helpful to you, if not more so, as it is and has been to me.
Sections, Connections, and Chapters: Six important points explain the book’s four chapters and eleven sections.
The four chapters are naturally broken up between the Old Testament names (chapters one and two), the New Testament (chapter three), and thoughts about the Holy Spirit and God’s “I Am” declarations (chapter four).
The following four points explain the sections found within each chapter and how these various sections connect across the chapters:
1. All listed names of God are typically recorded in the order of their first canonical appearance in the Bible; at times, however, this sequences is ignored in order to identify the name with its most significant or memorable mention in the Bible; e.g., The LORD, My Shepherd is listed with Psa 23:1.
2. Names that typically relate to each other by linguistic form or a specific subject are listed within one of the main eleven sections mentioned in the Table of Contents; e.g., all compound names for God that use the Hebrew word translated as LORD are listed in section three – “Hebrew Names with LORD.” Similarly, all messianic names for Jesus are listed in one particular section found in chapter two.
3. Comparable names of God are connected together and subsumed under a particular “branch” name, when they’re thematically or linguistically associated with that “branch” name. For example, the name Creator is found in Chapter two’s section entitled “Other Primary Hebrew Names for God.” Under this “branch” name, Creator, you’ll find listed other similar names: Possessor of Heaven and Earth, Former of the Earth, God of Heaven Who Made the Sea and the Dry Land, Jesus the ruler of God’s creation. The name Creator is a “branch” name, because other names of God “branch” forth from this one.
4. If applicable, a “branch” name is connected thematically or linguistically to its “trunk” name. For example, the “branch” name Creator points back to the first entry of this book: God. (Though the name God is broadly used in the Bible, it’s often identified with themes of creation or God’s sovereignty.) Listed under the various “trunk” names are any applicable “branch names.” For example, the “trunk” name God lists several “branch” names: Creator, Potter, and The God Who Gives Life to the Dead and Calls Things That Are Not as Though They Were. The name God is a “trunk” name, because other names of God “branch” forth from it.
Grammar and Languages: I don’t believe God is a “he,” as we understand that term; however, when one attempts to rectify this point, things get complicated very quickly and sometimes concepts become opaque and elusive rather than clear and precise.
The first four sections of this eBook find their origin from the Hebrew Bible and are undergirded by its original language. Because various levels of readers may use this document, these words are in many forms: original language, academic transliteration, informal transliteration, and phonetic pronunciation.
Alphabet charts for both Hebrew and Greek are in the Appendix. Because the Hebrew alphabet is foreign to the Western mind, Hebrew words are transliterated (formally and informally) and written phonetically; this phonetic aid is not done for the Greek words, as Greek and English are both Indo-European based languages and something and familiar to those able to read English.
Each name of God within these first four sections includes a title (the English name of God), its Hebrew and Greek equivalent, a brief description of the name’s contextual setting and reference scripture, and a footnote. This footnote provides the academic transliteration of the name, how to pronounce it, and the Greek equivalent found in the LXX. At times, the LXX’s exact Greek translation of the MT’s Hebrew name is not inserted, either because the LXX uses a participle to represent a noun in the MT or because the LXX uses several different Greek words, depending on its context, to represent the same Hebrew name. In the case of the latter scenario, the most prevalent Greek phrase is used.
Unless noted, scriptures are from the New International Version, 1984; word searches were done within the BHS or NA with the help of Accordance software, which also provided word definitions and electronic access to the below resources.
BDAG A Greek English Lexicon of the NT, Bauer, Danker, Arndt & Ginrich
BDB Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon
BHS Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia
LK Linguistic Keys to the NT
MT Masoretic text
NA Nestle-Aland Greek NT, edition 28
NIVSB New International Version Study Bible (notes)
RWP Robertson’s Word Pictures of the NT
TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
TWOT Theological Wordbook of the OT
WBC World Biblical Commentary