A third lecture in a seven part series on the Godhead.

 Joshua P. Stewart
 April 2017
Vestal, NY

The Historical Names of God

There are really only two historical names of God... one of power, and the other of relationship. Of power He is Elohim. Of relationship, He is Jehovah [1]. We will also find that there are other dispensational names under which God has revealed Himself in time, one of which is "Father". But let us be clear: all the historical and dispensational names of God include all three Persons of the Trinity, with the exception of "Father".

"Elohim" - the Mighty One

Elohim is the common name for God [2]. Elohim means "the mighty one", and it refers to God in the strength of His being. "El" and "Eloah" are other versions of the same name. Elohim is the creator, and as the Creator is to Him that intelligent creatures must answer. Elohim is a plural word, which in the Hebrew language means "three or more". Clearly, whenever we get Elohim it is the Trinity, if no further specification is given. But there are times when more is given, and a specific Person may be in view, such as in Gen. 1:2; "And the Spirit of Elohim moved upon the face of the waters".

If Elohim is the general name for God in the Old Testament, what is the New Testament equivalent? The Koine Greek name for God is "Theos", but it is a general word used for deity. In the Septuagint, Theos is used to translate the Hebrew word Elohim most frequently, and also occasionally to translate Jehovah

Elohim is first introduced with respect to creation, in Genesis 1:1; "In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth." We have Elohim framing the universe with His words, and we see the effect of His mighty power, but he is unapproachable, and incomprehensible. His "eternal power and deity" (Rom. 1:20) are conveyed, but we do not yet see God in relationship with man, only as Creator.

"Jehovah" - The Self-existing One

Yahweh, which is transliterated Jehovah is God's name of relationship with men, especially with Israel. Hence we have in Genesis 1 we have only "Elohim", the Creator; but in Genesis 2 we have "Jehovah Elohim," because the relationship of God with men is brought in. Jehovah means, Him who IS. In other words, "the One who exists". The extension of this expression is found in the New Testament, stated in a way that Gentile minds can more readily understand, Jehovah is the One “which is and which was, and which is to come” (Rev. 1:4, 8:4, 8; 16:5). Past, present and future are terms that we think in, but not needed by God. His existence is outside of time: in the past God IS, in the present God IS, in the future God IS. His is called by another name, "The Same" (Heb. 1:12, etc.) which has to do with His immutabilityIn Exodus 6:6 Moses is instructed to tell the children of Israel when they asked who has sent Moses, “I am Jehovah,” in connection with their covenant relationship to God. So, intrinsically (in Himself) Jehovah is the ever existent One; and extrinsically (toward man) He is the One who seeks the blessing of man!

As the name of God in His relationships with men, the One who appears is always Jehovah. When Jehovah appears to man in the Old Testament, He is called "the Angel of Jehovah". It was Jehovah that walked in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8), that appeared to Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 16:7), that appeared to Hagar (Gen. 18:1), that appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exo. 3:2) and on Mt. Sinai when He showed Moses His glory; "And Jehovah spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Exo. 33:11). It was Jehovah that appeared to Balaam's dumb ass (Num. 22:22), that appeared to Gideon (Judges 6:12) to Manoah's wife (Judges 13:3), and to Solomon (1 Kings 9:2). As the One who appears, it is fitting that the New Testament identifies "the Word", the Person of the Son, with these Old Testament appearances. Connect these two verses:

"In the year of the death of king Uzziah, I saw the Lord [a visible manifestation] sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple." (Isa. 6:1)

"These things said Esaias [previous quotation from Isa. 6] because he saw his glory and spoke of him [Jesus]." (John 12:41)

These verses clearly identify Jesus with the visible manifestations of Jehovah in the Old Testament! However, it would be wrong to say Jehovah was exclusively the Son. But I believe it would be correct to say that the appearances of Jehovah were the pre-incarnate Son of God, for He alone is the Word or expression of God.

Note: "Adonai" is a title "Lord" or "my lord" which is a way used to address Deity that indicates submission and reverence. In the New Testament, the Greek word for "lord" is "Kurios".

The Dispensational Names of God

In His "eternal power and deity" (Rom. 1:20), God is always Elohim or Theos. However, in relationship, Jehovah reveals himself under various dispensational names:
  1. Bringing Abraham (individuals) into blessing...........Almighty
  2. Bringing Israel (a nation) into blessing.......................Jehovah
  3. Bringing the Church into blessing...............................Father
  4. Bringing Heaven and Earth into blessing...............Most High

"El Shaddai" - God Almighty

This name as the thought of protection over those who are called by Him... power on behalf of His people. A special name of character and relationship with those to whom God was revealed as such. God was revealed under the name "El Shaddai" first to Abraham, when he said "I (Jehovah) am El Shaddai; walk before me" (Gen. 17:1). Again, He revealed Himself to Jacob (Gen. 35:11). Is "Lord of Hosts" a similar name? The Greek work for God Almighty is "Pantokrator".

"Jehovah" - The Self-existing One

This name has the thought of the ever-existing One come forth in relationship to His people. "Jehovah" was often used by the patriarchs (occurs 195 times [1]), showing that God was always known personally to be the self-existing One, but in Exodus 6:3 we read:

"I am Jehovah; and I appeared unto Abraham as El Shaddai: (in) my name Jehovah was I not (made) known to them."

This shows that God as Jehovah was not identified in a covenant relationship to a specific people until Moses. Israel knew God as "Jehovah our Adoni (Lord)" (Psa. 8:1), and referred to it as "the name". Hence, we read of the Israelitish woman's son who "blasphemed THE NAME" (Lev. 24:11).

"Ab" or "Pater" - Father

This name has the thought of special love for those who are His children. "Father" is the special Name under which God has revealed himself to the Church (called out ones) in the New Testament (2 Cor. 6:18). The name is connected with God the Father, distinct from the God the Son (sent to reveal the Father), and distinct from the God the Spirit (which causes us to cry, "Abba Father"; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

"El Elyon" - the Most High God

This name has the thought of the Possessor and Blesser of the universe. "Most High" is a name God takes in connection with men; setting Himself above all idolatrous gods, all demons and all earthly and angelic powers, as the "possessor of heaven and earth." God saw fit to force the greatest earthly monarch that has ever reigned (Nebuchadnezzar) to be "driven from the sons of men", to live like and animal... "till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will" (Dan. 5:21). God is "El Elyon" for all time, but this Name will be fully declared in the Millennium when the inheritance is taken by Christ. The Greek word for Most High is "Hupsistos".

The following chart attempts to show the dispensational names of God as they are revealed throughout history. Notice that the disproportional names of God were revealed in connection with the callings. This is why we do not have a dispensational name revealed to Noah, or David. Abraham is the first man "called out", Israel was the first nation "called out", and the Church also is totally unique in her calling. Notice that the dispensational names of God disappear in the Eternal State, with the exception of the Church, who will always know God as Father.

[1] J. N. Darby : Letters : Volume 3, number 295.

[2] J. N. Darby : Letters : Volume 3, number 303.