Just for fun, and in the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, what about "God?"


#1

I’ve often wondered whether something got lost in translation when English culture seized upon the Germanic term “God” as the cultural equivalent of “Elohim” in Hebrew culture.
Yes, I know that borders on an inaccuracy for the sake of brevity, but take a look at the etymology of “God.”


Now, who among us enough of a Hebrew scholar to offer some observations on this question, and perhaps on the constellation of issues that surround it? Any other way you, as a Christian, like to refer to “God?” Any and all “Hebrew-oriented” comments welcomed.


#2

So, any comments on this?
In Strong’s 410, 411, 412, and 413, we find the various translations of a single Hebrew root word or word particle.
At 413, we have a rather active idea, “denoting motion towards” combined with a more “quiescent” position --“near, with or among.”
The overall idea of “Elohim” would seem to incorporate a uniplural, quiescent, calming, “coming towards” and “being among” of the active and majestic God.
Is that sustainable, given the Hebrew nuances involved?
Do we want more drama from God than is, at least usually, His actual nature and character?
Would really love scholarly feedback from courageous Hebrew linguists who want to help us all understand that God is dynamic, not static.
@jack.collins, @jongarvey, @swamidass, anyone who’s studied this?
The immanent Presence of the transcendent God.
Cheers!


#3

In my understanding of theology, the teaching of Scripture is not about “God”, some nameless deity of theism. Rather it is, ultimately, of the named and living God we find by way of Jesus. Even in the OT, the name of God, Yahweh, is sacred, holy because it is only known by the Great I Am’s self-disclosure, and not known by natural revelation.

This is why I am not a “theist.” My understanding of theology is not reducible to an unnamed God. Scripture, also, does not even insist that God is the only deity. Rather is is the God of all Gods. The Creator of all things, and the only one worthy of worship, but it does not appear to insist that He is the only one that exists, but perhaps He is the only one Living. “God” it seems is such a flexible notion than we think, and can even include non-living entities, like man-made idols! The image of theism I see in Scripture is as just another man-made god, unworthy of worship.

Jesus, on the other hand, He is real and He is good. He also lives. The God I find by way of Jesus is worthy of worship, and is not made by man.


#4

How does this shape your view of the supposed “anthropomorphisms” in Genesis 2? Or, maybe just let that question hang in midair, if it’s too different a topic.


#5

@swamidass,

I should point out that the Old School use of “Theist” involves ONLY those people who are asserting a personal god. It is the new age usage that broadens the use and meaning to the literal nature of the root word: “Theos” of “Theism”.


#6

I’m not denying that God is real. I’m just saying we only have a fixed non-manmade notion by way of Jesus.


#7

The etymology of “elohim” may well be as you say, and may have been coined for those reasons. However, it is worth considering that “Elohim” probably represents an intense, rather than a plural, concept.

And also that “El” was a deity in Canaanite religion, probably derived from a Meospotamian model, so that Israel may have been doing what we’ve done with “Gott” in adopting that term as both their generic name for a god, and their more generic term for Yahweh.


#8

My semantic “analysis” was a bit of a club rather than a quill, but the implication that God is meant to be understood as dynamically active remains. That is, the Hebrew conception would be a lot closer to the idea of “officer” or “paramedic” than to “judge.” There’s an inherent action-orientation in it.
Which makes, “do you believe paramedics exist?” a question which must be answered with more than a simple affirmation or negation.
Did you see that “gott” had, at one point, the meaning of a "spirit that hung out around a burial mound? " Hardly the stuff out of which to build an adequate conception of an active, creating, sovereign “Officer.”


#9

If it helps, that dynamic idea fits the self-explication Yahweh gives to Moses of his own name. “I am what I am” has less the sense of “I am existence” than of “I’m here and active.” So we don’t need to worry about how the Canaanites saw things.


#10

I’m more concerned with how @Patrick sees these things.
Otherwise, it’s too easy to default to his “so what? Who cares?” questions.
These forums are about the very real difference that placing of our trust in the active and benevolent “Presence” makes.


#11

Sorry, I wasn’t following the thread closely. I’ll look at all the discussion and let you know if I have any questions on it. Thanks for asking.


#12

Ok, I studied this thread. I did like the online etymology as it did answer several questions about where certain names for God and god phrases came from. So for that I found it useful knowledge and worthwhile.
It gives a good historical context to phrases that we say readily. I myself find me texting OMG, and for politeness still say God Bless You when someone sneezes, When I say the Pledge of Alligence, usually I forget to stay silent for the “under God” addition of 1954. Interesting material, thanks.


#13

Hi, Guy (and guys). I have to be brief, so I’ll just reply to Guy’s OP. The entries in Strong’s to which you refer are actually to different words. No. 412 is to an Aramaic word, while no. 411 is a variant of another Hebrew word, no. 428 (both mean “these”).

So the question is whether nos. 410 and 413 have any connection. They don’t. No. 413 is a preposition.

The words rendered “God” in Biblical Hebrew are shared with other Semitic peoples; they have been “appropriated” for the Biblical usage. We might say they denote “that being who is suitably designated by these words, so long as you pay attention to the way these words are used in canonical texts.”

I don’t really know what “static” and “dynamic” mean with respect to God, TBH. These became buzz-words in the 20th century, and they tend to reflect the intellectual climate of that period rather than in the Biblical materials themselves. Harumph.


#14

Generally, the words “God” imply something like “supreme power.” That’s why they’re suitable for denoting God.


#15

Thanks for the note @jack.collins. That is I suppose why I’m not sure I like it as a term terribly much…

The name of God is important, rather than a generic supreme power, and that is obscured in the term.


#16

AND… the point is completely irrelevant to the questions at hand.


#17

It’s completely relevant to try to get at the constellation ideas that inhered with the term “Elohim” so that we don’t end up neglecting the true nature of God.


#18

@Guy_Coe

Please indicate the first indication that anyone here (besides Patrick) is neglecting the “true nature of God”.

I am most eager to see this… not because I welcome it, but because it will put some concrete quality to concerns like yours … which at the moment seem to be flapping around in the warm, soothing winds of the Holy Spirit.


#19

Thanks for your analysis, Dr. Collins --I knew the “club” I had resorted to was a bit indelicately wielded; I was partly exploring whether the Hebrew mind would, even accidentally, associate the different words psychologically, like we do for “good” and “God.”
Regardless, I’d love hear any original discussion of the ideas you might offer, rather than an analysis of mine.
How do we “climb into the ancient Hebrew mind” as regards understanding what “Elohim” meant to them?
Cheers!


#20

I’m not sure I follow. I’m just telling you what’s there. I gather there’s a story behind your aversion, which you can tell me later, with suitable beverages. (I’m supposed to be writing my Psalms commentary!)