noun (plural gods)
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God created everything (Genesis 1:1)
God is a warrior (Exodus 15:3)
God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4)
God is trustworthy (Deuteronomy 7:9)
God is too great to be described (1 Kings 8:27)
God is gracious and merciful (Nehemiah 9:31)
God is good (Psalm 34:8)
God helps his people when they are in trouble (Psalm 46:1)
God is mighty (Psalm 50:1)
God is our rock (Psalm 62:6)
God is our hope (Psalm 71:5)
God is near everyone (Psalm 75:1)
God is our salvation (Isaiah 12:2)
God is sovereign (Isaiah 25:8)
God is holy (Isaiah 29:23)
Only God is worthy of glory (Isaiah 42:8)
God is our father (Matthew 6:9)
God is all-powerful (Luke 1:37)
God is spirit (John 4:24)
God is all-knowing (Romans 11:33)
God is knowable (Ephesians 1:17)
God is living (1 Timothy 4:10)
God is King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15)
God is approachable (James 4:8)
God is judge (James 4:12)
God is love (1 John 4:16)
God is almighty (Revelation 1:8)
God There are two main names for the Creator of the Universe: 1. Elohim, translated God, appears over 2,500 times in the OT. 2. YHWH/Adonai, variously translated Jehovah, Yahweh and Lord, appears over 6,000 times in the OT. 884-885, 1867, 1868, 1869, 1870, 1871, 1872
The Thompson Chain Reference Bible Companion.
Names of God. The two essential and personal names of God in the Heb. Scriptures are Elohim and Jehovah (more correctly Yahweh); the former calling attention to the fullness of divine power, the latter meaning “He who is” and thus declaring the divine self-existence. These terms are varied or combined with others to bring out or emphasize certain attributes of the Godhead, such variations or combinations being rendered in our English version “God Almighty,” “the Living God,” “the Most High,” “the Lord,” or “the God of Hosts.” The English word God is identical with the Anglo-Saxon word for “good,” and therefore it is believed that the name God refers to the divine goodness. (See Oehler’s Theol. of Old Test.; Strong’s and Young’s concordances.)
Doctrine Defined. The scriptural or Christian doctrine of God must be distinguished not only from antitheistic theories but also from other theories more or less approximating that doctrine. God as revealed through the Scriptures is the one infinite and eternal Being. He is purely spiritual, the supreme personal Intelligence, the Creator and Preserver of all things, the perfect Moral Ruler of the universe; He is the only proper object of worship; He is tri-personal—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constituting one Godhead (Genesis 1:1; Exodus 34:14; Psalm 90:1-2; Psalm 139:7-12; Job 26; Jeremiah 23:2-4; Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 28:19; John 4:24; 1 John 4:16; etc.). The above does not present fully, as we shall see later, the contents of revelation concerning God. But it is sufficient for the purpose of making the distinctions named.
Theism. Theism, as the term is most commonly used, is equivalent to monotheism, particularly in the sense of recognizing the one God as distinct from the world, the personal Creator and Governor of all things. Accordingly, the following are specified as: (a) atheism, avowed opposition to a belief in one supreme God; (b) polytheism, holding a multiplicity of gods; (c) pantheism, identifying God with the universe; (d) materialism, recognizing no existence save that of matter; (e) agnosticism, denying all knowledge of God and all possibility of knowing Him, thus being in practical effect equivalent to atheism.
Deism. Deism and theism are etymologically equivalent terms, yet a distinction is found in their application. Deism has appeared in various forms, but in general it has been distinct from theism in that, though holding to the existence of a personal God who has created the world, it has regarded God as holding Himself aloof from the world and leaving it to the government of natural laws.
Theism and Christian doctrine. Theism lies at the basis of all Christian doctrine, and yet is not to be regarded as comprehending that doctrine in all its fullness. This must appear most plainly in the consideration of the attributes of God and the mode of the divine Existence.
(A.S. and Dutch God; Dan. Gud; Ger. Gott), the name of the Divine Being. It is the rendering (1) of the Hebrew ʾEl, from a word meaning to be strong; (2) of ʾEloah, plural ʾElohim. The singular form, Eloah, is used only in poetry. The plural form is more commonly used in all parts of the Bible, The Hebrew word Jehovah (q.v.), the only other word generally employed to denote the Supreme Being, is uniformly rendered in the Authorized Version by "Lord," printed in small capitals. The existence of God is taken for granted in the Bible. There is nowhere any argument to prove it. He who disbelieves this truth is spoken of as one devoid of understanding (Ps 14:1).
The arguments generally adduced by theologians in proof of the being of God are:
(1.) The a priori argument, which is the testimony afforded by reason.
(2.) The a posteriori argument, by which we proceed logically from the facts of experience to causes. These arguments are,
(a) The cosmological, by which it is proved that there must be a First Cause of all things, for every effect must have a cause.
(b) The teleological, or the argument from design. We see everywhere the operations of an intelligent Cause in nature.
(c) The moral argument, called also the anthropological argument, based on the moral consciousness and the history of mankind, which exhibits a moral order and purpose which can only be explained on the supposition of the existence of God. Conscience and human history testify that "verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."
The attributes of God are set forth in order by Moses in Ex 34:6, 7. (see also (Deut 6:4; Deut 10:17; Num 16:22; Ex 15:11; Ex 33:19; Isa 44:6; Hab 3:6; Ps 102:26; Job 34:12)) They are also systematically classified in Rev 5:12 and Rev 7:12.
God's attributes are spoken of by some as absolute, i.e., such as belong to his essence as Jehovah, Jah, etc.; and relative, i.e., such as are ascribed to him with relation to his creatures. Others distinguish them into communicable, i.e., those which can be imparted in degree to his creatures: goodness, holiness, wisdom, etc.; and incommunicable, which cannot be so imparted: independence, immutability, immensity, and eternity. They are by some also divided into natural attributes, eternity, immensity, etc.; and moral, holiness, goodness, etc.Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature.
Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: <H410>
Original Word: אֵל, ʾēl
Usage Notes: "god." This term was the most common general designation of deity in the ancient Near East. While it frequently occurred alone, ʾēl was also combined with other words to constitute a compound term for deity, or to identify the nature and functions of the "god" in some manner. Thus the expression "God, the God of Israel" (Gen. 33:20) identified the specific activities of Israel's God.
In the ancient world, knowledge of a person's name was believed to give one power over that person. A knowledge of the character and attributes of pagan "gods" was thought to enable the worshipers to manipulate or influence the deities in a more effective way than they could have if the deity's name remained unknown. To that extent, the vagueness of the term ʾēl frustrated persons who hoped to obtain some sort of power over the deity, since the name gave little or no indication of the god's character. This was particularly true for El, the chief Canaanite god. The ancient Semites stood in mortal dread of the superior powers exercised by the gods and attempted to propitiate them accordingly. They commonly associated deity with the manifestation and use of enormous power. Perhaps this is reflected in the curious Hebrew phrase, "the power [ʾēl] of my hand" (Gen. 31:29, kjv; rsv, "It is in my power"; cf. Deut. 28:32). Some Hebrew phrases in the Psalms associated ʾēl with impressive natural features, such as the cedar trees of Lebanon (Psa. 80:10) or mountains (Psa. 36:6). In these instances, ʾēl conveys a clear impression of grandeur or majesty.
Names with ʾēl as one of their components were common in the Near East in the second millennium b.c. The names Methusael (Gen. 4:18) and Ishmael (Gen. 16:11) come from a very early period. In the Mosaic period, ʾēl was synonymous with the Lord who delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and made them victorious in battle (Num. 24:8). This tradition of the Hebrew ʾēl as a "God" who revealed Himself in power and entered into a covenant relationship with His people was prominent in both poetry (Psa. 7:11; Psa. 85:8) and prophecy (Isa. 43:12; Isa. 46:9). The name of ʾēl was commonly used by the Israelites to denote supernatural provision or power. This was both normal and legitimate, since the covenant between "God" and Israel assured an obedient and holy people that the creative forces of the universe would sustain and protect at all times. Equally, if they became disobedient and apostate, these same forces would punish them severely.
Usage Number: 2
Strong's Number: <H426>
Original Word: אֱלָהּ, ʾelāh
Usage Notes: "god." This Aramaic word is the equivalent of the Hebrew ʾelōah. It is a general term for "God" in the Aramaic passages of the Old Testament, and it is a cognate form of the word 'allah, the designation of deity used by the Arabs. The word was used widely in the Book of Ezra, occurring no fewer than 43 times between Ezra 4:24 and Ezra 7:26. On each occasion, the reference is to the "God" of the Jewish people, whether the speaker or writer was himself Jewish or not. Thus the governor of the province "Beyond the River" (i.e., west of the river Euphrates) spoke to king Darius of the "house of the great God" (Ezra 5:8). So also Cyrus instructed Sheshbazzar, the governor, that the "house of God be builded" in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:15).
While the Persians were certainly not worshipers of the "God" of Israel, they accorded Him the dignity that befitted a "God of heaven" (Ezra 6:10). This was done partly through superstition; but the pluralistic nature of the newly-won Persian empire also required them to honor the gods of conquered peoples, in the interests of peace an social harmony. When Ezra himself used the word ʾelāh, he frequently specified the God of the Jews. Thus he spoke of the "God of Israel" (Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14), the "God of heaven" (Ezra 5:12; Ezra 6:9) and "God of Jerusalem" (Ezra 7:19); he also associated "God" with His house in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:17; Ezra 6:3). In the decree of Artaxerxes, Ezra was described as "the priest, the scribe of the God of heaven" (Ezra 7:12, 21). This designation would have sounded strange coming from a pagan Persian ruler, had it not been for the policy of religious toleration exercised by the Achaemenid regime. Elsewhere in Ezra, ʾelāh is associated with the temple, both when it was about to be rebuilt (Ezra 5:2, 13) and as a finished edifice, consecrated for divine worship (Ezra 6:16). In the only verse in the Book of Jeremiah that was written in Aramaic (Jer. 10:11), the word ʾelāh appears in plural form to describe "gods" that had not participated in the creation of the universe. Although such false "gods" were being worshiped by pagan nations (and perhaps worshiped by some of the Hebrews who were in exile in Babylonia), these deities would ultimately perish because they were not eternal in nature. In the Book of Daniel, ʾelāh was used both of heathen "gods" and the one true "God" of heaven. The Chaldean priests told Nebuchadnezzar: "And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh" (Dan. 2:11). The Chaldeans referred to such "gods" when reporting that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to participate in idol worship on the plain of Dura (Dan. 3:12). The "gods" were enumerated by Daniel when he condemned Nebuchadnezzar's neglect to the worship of Israel's one true "God" (Dan. 5:23). In Dan. 3:25, the word refers to a divine being or messenger sent to protect the three Hebrews (Dan. 3:28). In Dan. 4:8-9, 18; and Dan. 5:11, the phrase "the spirit of the holy gods" appears (kjv, rsv, neb, niv). Elsewhere the references to ʾelāh are to the living "God" whom Daniel worshiped.
Usage Number: 3
Strong's Number: <H433>
Original Word: אֱלוֹהַּ, ʾelōah
Usage Notes: "god." This Hebrew name for "God" corresponds to the Aramaic ʾelāh and the Ugaritic il (or, if denoting a goddess, ilt). The origin of the term is unknown, and it is used rarely in Scripture as a designation of deity. Indeed, its distribution throughout the various books of the Bible is curiously uneven. ʾelōah occurs 40 times in the Book of Job between Job 3:4 and Job 40:2, while in the remainder of the Old Testament it is used no more than 15 times.
Certain scholars regard the word as being a singular version of the common plural form ʾelōhîm, a plural of majesty. ʾelōah is commonly thought to be vocative in nature, meaning "O God." But it is not clear why a special form for the vocative in an address to God should be needed, since the plural ʾelōhîm is frequently translated as a vocative when the worshiper is speaking directly to God, as in Psa. 79:1. There is an obvious general linguistic relationship between ʾelōah and ʾelōhîm, but determining its precise nature is difficult.
The word ʾelōah is predominant in poetry rather than prose literature, and this is especially true of the Book of Job. Some scholars have suggested that the author of Job deliberately chose a description for godhead that avoided the historical associations found in a phrase such as "the God of Bethel" (Gen. 31:13) or "God of Israel" (Exod. 24:10). But even the Book of Job is by no means historically neutral, since places and peoples are mentioned in introducing the narrative (cf. Job 1:1, 15, 17). Perhaps the author considered ʾelōah a suitable term for poetry and used it accordingly with consistency. This is also apparently the case in Psa. 18:31, where ʾelōah is found instead of ʾēl, as in the parallel passage of 2 Sam. 22:32. ʾelōah also appears as a term for God in Psa. 50:22; Psa. 139:19; and Prov. 30:5. Although ʾelōah as a divine name is rarely used outside Job, its literary history extends from at least the second millennium b.c. (as in Deut. 32:15) to the fifth century b.c. (as in Neh. 9:17).
Usage Number: 4
Strong's Number: <H410>
Original Word: אֵל, ʾēl shadday
Usage Notes: "God Almighty." This combination of ʾēl with a qualifying term represents a religious tradition among the Israelites that was probably in existence by the third millennium b.c. A few centuries later, shadday appeared in Hebrew personal names such as Zurishaddai (Num. 1:6) and Ammishaddai (Num. 1:12). The earliest Old Testament appearance of the appellation as a title of deity ("God Almighty") is in Gen. 17:1, where "God" identifies Himself in this way to Abraham.
Unfortunately, the name is not explained in any manner; and even the directions "walk before me, and be thou perfect" throw no light on the meaning of shadday. Scholars have attempted to understand the word relating it to the Akkadian sadu ("mountain"), as though "God" had either revealed His mighty power in association with mountain phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, or that He was regarded strong and immutable, like the "everlasting hills" of the blessing of Jacob (Gen. 49:26). Certainly the associating of deity with mountains was an important part of Mesopotamian religion. The "gods" were believed to favor mountaintop dwellings, and the Sumerians constructed their staged temple-towers or ziggurats as artificial mountains for worship. It was customary to erect a small shrine on the uppermost stage of the ziggurat so that the patron deity could descend from heaven and inhabit the temple. The Hebrews began their own tradition of mountain revelation just after the Exodus, but by this time the name ʾēl shadday had been replaced by the tetragrammaton of Yahweh (Exod. 3:15; Exod. 6:3).
ʾĒl shadday served as the patriarchs' covenant name for "God," and continued as such until the time of Moses, when a further revelation took place (Exod. 6:3). The Abrahamic covenant was marked by a degree of closeness between "God" and the human participants that was distinctive in Hebrew history. "God Almighty" revealed Himself as a powerful deity who was able to perform whatever He asserted. But the degree of intimacy between ʾēl shadday and the patriarchs at various stages shows that the covenant involved God's care and love for this growing family that He had chosen, protected, and prospered. He led the covenant family from place to place, being obviously present with them at all times. His covenant formulations show that He was not preoccupied with cultic rites or orgiastic celebrations. Instead, He demanded a degree of obedience that would enable Abraham and his descendants to walk in His presence, and live blameless moral and spiritual lives (Gen. 17:1). The true covenantal service of ʾēl shadday, therefore, was not cultic or ritualistic, but moral and ethical in character.
In the early Mosaic era, the new redemptive name of "God" and the formulation of the Sinai covenant made ʾēl shadday largely obsolete as a designation of deity. Subsequently, the name occurs about 35 times in the Old Testament, most of which are in the Book of Job. Occasionally, the name is used synonymously with the tetragrammaton of Yahweh (Ruth 1:21; Psa. 91:1-2), to emphasize the power and might of "God" in characteristic fashion.
Usage Number: 5
Strong's Number: <H410>
Original Word: אֵל, ʾēl ʿôlām
Usage Notes: "God of eternity; God the everlasting; God for ever." The word ʿôlām has related forms in various ancient Near Eastern languages, all of which describe lengthy duration or distant time. The idea seems to be quantitative rather than metaphysical. Thus in Ugaritic literature, a person described as 'bd 'lm was a "permanent slave," the term 'lm (the same as the Hebrew ʿôlām) expressing a period of time that could not be measured other than as lengthy duration.
Only in rare poetic passages such as Psa. 90:2 are temporal categories regarded inadequate to describe the nature of God's existence as ʾēl ʿôlām. In such an instance, the Creator is deemed to have been "from everlasting to everlasting"; but even this use of ʿôlām expresses the idea of continued, measurable existence rather than a state of being independent of temporal considerations.
The name ʾēl ʿôlām was associated predominantly with Beer-sheba (Gen. 21:25-34). The settlement of Beer-sheba was probably founded during the Early Bronze Age, and the Genesis narrative explains that the name means "well of the oath" (Gen. 21:31). But it could also mean "well of the seven", i.e., the seven lambs that were set apart as witnesses of the oath.
Abraham planted a commemorative tree in Beer-sheba and invoked the name of the Lord as ʾēl ʿôlām. The fact that Abraham subsequently stayed many days in the land of the Philistines seems to imply that he associated continuity and stability with ʾēl ʿôlām, who was not touched by the vicissitudes of time. Although Beer-sheba may have been a place where the Canaanites worshiped originally, the area later became associated with the veneration of the God of Abraham. At a subsequent period, Jacob journeyed to Beer-sheba and offered sacrifices to the God of Isaac his father. He did not offer sacrifices to ʾēl ʿôlām by name, however; and although he saw a visionary manifestation of God, he received no revelation that this was the God Abraham had venerated at Beer-sheba. Indeed, God omitted any mention of Abraham, stating that He was the God of Jacob's father. Gen. 21:33 is the only place in the Old Testament where the title ʾēl ʿôlām occurs. Isa. 40:28 is the only other instance where ʿôlām is used in conjunction with a noun meaning "God." See also LORD.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words.
According Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia;
God, the center and focus of religious faith, a holy being or ultimate reality to whom worship and prayer are addressed. Especially in monotheistic religions (see Monotheism), God is considered the creator or source of everything that exists and is spoken of in terms of perfect attributes—for instance, infinitude, immutability, eternity, goodness, knowledge (omniscience), and power (omnipotence). Most religions traditionally ascribe to God certain human characteristics that can be understood either literally or metaphorically, such as will, love, anger, and forgiveness.
Many religious thinkers have held that God is so different from finite beings that he must be considered essentially a mystery beyond the powers of human conception. Nevertheless, most philosophers and theologians have assumed that a limited knowledge of God is possible (see Theology) and have formulated different conceptions of him in terms of divine attributes and paths of knowledge. A range of types, each shading into the other, can be abstracted from this survey. In the monotheism of Judaism and Islam, Holy Being is conceived at its most transcendent and personal level. In the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (see Christianity), an attempt is made to synthesize transcendence and immanence. In the Asian religions considered, the immanence and impersonal nature of Holy Being are stressed (although some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism do not exclude personal aspects of the divine).
The philosophical and religious conceptions of God have at times been sharply distinguished. In the 17th century, for instance, French mathematician and religious thinker Blaise Pascal unfavorably contrasted the “God of the philosophers,” an abstract idea, with the “God of faith,” an experienced, living reality. In general, mystics, who claim direct experience of the divine being, have asserted the superiority of their knowledge of God to the rational demonstrations of God's existence and attributes propounded by philosophers and theologians (see Mysticism). Some theologians have tried to combine philosophical and experiential approaches to God, as in 20th-century German theologian Paul Tillich's twofold way of speaking of God as the “ground of being” and “ultimate concern.” A certain tension is probably inevitable, however, between the way that theologians speak of God and the way most believers think of and experience him.
God may be conceived as transcendent (beyond the world), emphasizing his otherness, his independence from and power over the world order; or as immanent (present within the world), emphasizing his presence and participation within the world process. He has been thought of as personal, by analogy with human individuals; some theologians, on the other hand, have maintained that the concept of personality is inadequate to God and that he must be conceived as impersonal or suprapersonal. In the great monotheistic religions, God is worshiped as the One, the supreme unity that embraces or has created all things; but polytheism, the belief in many gods, has also flourished throughout history.
These contrasts are sometimes united in a single theological scheme. Thus, while theism (belief in a supreme being) emphasizes divine transcendence and pantheism (belief that God is the sum of all things) identifies God with the world order, in panentheism God is understood as both transcendent and immanent. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity and similar doctrines in other religions acknowledge both the unity and the inner diversity of God. Christianity is a form of monotheism in which the absolute unity of God has been modified. It has also been argued that God has both personal and impersonal aspects, or even that he alone is truly personal and that at the finite level there is only an imperfect approximation of personal being. These attempts to unite seemingly opposite characteristics are common in religious and mystical writers and are intended to do justice to the variety and complexity of religious experience. Fifteenth-century German philosopher Nicholas of Cusa, for instance, believed that God can be apprehended only through mystical intuition. Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard insisted on the parodoxical nature of religious faith. These formulations suggest that the logic of discourse about God is necessarily different from the logic that applies to finite entities.
In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the three religions rooted in the biblical tradition, God is conceived primarily in terms of his transcendence, personality, and unity.
The idea of transcendence is introduced in the opening verses of the Hebrew Scriptures, in which God is presented as creator, and this conception impresses itself on all Jewish discourse about God. To say the world is created means that it is not independent of God or an emanation of God, but external to him, a product of his will, so that he is Lord of all the earth. This explains the Jewish concern over idolatry—no creature can represent the Creator, so it is forbidden to make any material image of him. Nonetheless, it is also part of the creation teaching that the human being is made in the image of God. Thus, the Hebrew understanding of God was frankly anthropomorphic (humanoid). He promised and threatened, he could be angry and even jealous; but his primary attributes were righteousness, justice, mercy, truth, and faithfulness. He is represented as king, judge, and shepherd. He binds himself by covenants to his people and thus limits himself. Such a God, even if anthropomorphic, is a living God. It is true that the name of God, Yahweh (see Jehovah), was understood as “I am who I am,” but this was not taken by the Hebrews of biblical times in the abstract, metaphysical sense in which it was interpreted later. The Hebrew God was unique, and his command was, “You shall have no other gods beside me!” (although in some biblical passages the Spirit of the Lord and the angel of the Lord and, in later Jewish speculation, the divine wisdom appear to be almost secondary divine beings).
Christianity began as a Jewish sect and thus took over the Hebrew God, the Jewish Scriptures eventually becoming, for Christians, the Old Testament. During his ministry, Jesus Christ was probably understood as a prophet of God, but by the end of the 1st century Christians had come to view him as a divine being in his own right (see Christology), and this created tension with the monotheistic tradition of Judaism. The solution of the problem was the development of the doctrine of the triune God, or Trinity, which, although it is suggested in the New Testament, was not fully formulated until the 4th century. The God of the Old Testament became, for Christians, the Father, a title that Jesus himself has applied to him and that was meant to stress his love and care rather than his power. Jesus himself, acknowledged as the Christ, was understood as the incarnate Son, or Word (Logos), the concrete manifestation of God within the finite order. Both expressions, Son and Word, imply a being who is both distinct from the Father and yet so closely akin to him as to be “of the same substance” (Greek homoousios) with him. The Holy Spirit—said in the West to proceed from the Father and the Son, in the East to proceed from the Father alone (see Filioque)—is the immanent presence and activity of God in the creation, which he strives to bring to perfection. Although Christian theology speaks of the three “persons” of the Trinity, these are not persons in the modern sense, but three ways of being of the one God.
Islam arose as a powerful reaction against the ancient pagan cults of Arabia, and as a consequence it is the most starkly monotheistic of the three biblically rooted religions. The name Allah means simply “the God.” He is personal, transcendent, and unique, and Muslims are forbidden to depict him in any creaturely form. The primary creed is that “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah.” Allah has seven basic attributes: life, knowledge, power, will, hearing, seeing, and speech. The last three are not to be understood in an anthropomorphic sense. His will is absolute, and everything that happens depends on it, even to the extent that believers and unbelievers are predestined to faith or unbelief.
Despite the differences, the conceptions of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have an obvious kinship. The great religions of Asia, however, belong to a quite different realm of theological ideas. Even to use the word God in an Asian religious context may be misleading, because it generally carries the connotation of personality. A broader expression that would include both the idea of a personal God and the idea of an impersonal or suprapersonal absolute is Holy Being.
In Hinduism, Holy Being can be understood in several ways. Philosophically, it is understood as Brahma, the one eternal, absolute reality embracing all that is, so that the world of change is but the surface appearance (maya). In popular religion, many gods are recognized, but, properly understood, these are manifestations of Brahma. Each god has his or her own function. The three principal gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva—charged respectively with creating, preserving, and destroying—are joined as the Trimurti, or three powers, reminiscent of the Christian Trinity. Strictly speaking, the creator god does not create in the Judeo-Christian sense, for the world is eternal and he is simply the god who has been from the beginning. In bhakti Hinduism, the way of personal devotion, the god Ishvara is conceived as personal and is not unlike the Judeo-Christian God.
It is sometimes said that Theravada Buddhism, is atheistic, but this is not so. The gods are real, but they are not ultimate. The ultimate reality, or Holy Being, is the impersonal cosmic order. A similar concept is found in ancient Greek religion, in which cosmic destiny (see Fates) seems to have been superior to even the high gods. In the Mahayana Buddhism of China and Japan, the Buddha himself was transformed into a divine being, although the connection with the historical Buddha became very tenuous. The many Buddha figures of Asia are cosmic beings.
In the indigenous Chinese religions, the ultimate Holy Being also seems to have been conceived as an impersonal order. In Daoism (Taoism), it is the rhythm of the universe; in Confucianism, it is the moral law of heaven.
In polytheism, there are many holy beings, each manifesting some particular divine attribute or caring for some particular aspect of nature or of human affairs. Polytheism was the most common form of religion in the ancient world and was well developed in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and elsewhere. It tends, however, to develop into a form of religion that has a unitary conception of the divine, either through philosophical criticism or through one of the deities in the polytheistic pantheon (assemblage of gods) acquiring an overwhelming superiority over the others (see Mythology). The gods of a pantheon were usually conceived in some family relationship, which ensured from the beginning a sense of their unity. Polytheism probably developed out of a more primitive form of religion (still practiced in many parts of the world) called animism, the belief in a multitude of spiritual forces, localized and limited in their powers, some friendly and some hostile. In animism the sense of Holy Being is diffused throughout the environment.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
God is most often conceived of as the supernatural creator and overseer of the universe. Theologians have ascribed a variety of attributes to the many different conceptions of God. The most common among these include omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, omnibenevolence (perfect goodness), divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. God has also been conceived as being incorporeal, a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the "greatest conceivable existent". These attributes were all supported to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologian philosophers, including Maimonides, Augustine of Hippo, and Al-Ghazali, respectively. Many notable medieval philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God.
Etymology and usage
The earliest written form of the Germanic word god comes from the 6th century Christian Codex Argenteus. The English word itself is derived from the Proto-Germanic * ǥuđan. Most linguists agree that the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European form * ǵhu-tó-m was based on the root * ǵhau(ə)-, which meant either "to call" or "to invoke".
The capitalized form God was first used in Wulfila's Gothic translation of the New Testament, to represent the Greek Theos. In the English language, the capitalization continues to represent a distinction between monotheistic "God" and "gods" in polytheism. In spite of significant differences between religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, the Bahá'í Faith, and Judaism, the term "God" remains an English translation common to all. The name may signify any related or similar monotheistic deities, such as the early monotheism of Akhenaten and Zoroastrianism.
Names of God
Conceptions of God can vary widely, but the word God in English—and its counterparts in other languages, such as Latinate Deus, Greek Θεός, Slavic Bog, Sanskrit Ishvara, or Arabic Allah—are normally used for any and all conceptions. The same holds for Hebrew El, but in Judaism, God is also given a proper name, the tetragrammaton (usually reconstructed as Yahweh or YHWH), believed to hark back to the religion's henotheistic origins. In the Bible, when the word "LORD" is in all capitals, it signifies that the word represents the tetragrammaton. God may also be given a proper name in monotheistic currents of Hinduism which emphasize the personal nature of God, with early references to his name as Krishna-Vasudeva in Bhagavata or later Vishnu and Hari, or recently Shakti.
It is difficult to draw a line between proper names and epitheta of God, such as the names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament, the names of God in the Qur'an, and the various lists of the thousand names of Hindu gods and List of titles and names of Krishna in Vaishnavism.
Throughout the Bible there are many names for God that portray his nature and character. Elohim means “strong one.” It is especially used of God’s sovereignty, creative work, mighty work for Israel and in relation to his sovereignty; El Shaddai means “God Almighty”; El Elyon means “The Most High God” and stresses God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy.
Conceptions of God
Conceptions of God vary widely. Theologians and philosophers have studied countless conceptions of God since the dawn of civilization. The Abrahamic conceptions of God include the trinitarian view of Christians, the Kabbalistic definition of Jewish mysticism, and the Islamic concept of God. The dharmic religions differ in their view of the divine: views of God in Hinduism vary by region, sect, and caste, ranging from monotheistic to polytheistic to atheistic; the view of God in Buddhism is almost non-theist. In modern times, some more abstract concepts have been developed, such as process theology and open theism. Conceptions of God held by individual believers vary so widely that there is no clear consensus on the nature of God. The contemporaneous French philosopher Michel Henry has however proposed a phenomenological approach and definition of God as phenomenological essence of Life.
Existence of God
Many arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed and rejected by philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers. In philosophical terminology, such arguments concern schools of thought on the epistemology of the ontology of God.
There are many philosophical issues concerning the existence of God. Some definitions of God are sometimes nonspecific, while other definitions can be self-contradictory. Arguments for the existence of God typically include metaphysical, empirical, inductive, and subjective types, while others revolve around holes in evolutionary theory and order and complexity in the world. Arguments against the existence of God typically include empirical, deductive, and inductive types. Conclusions reached include: "God does not exist" (strong atheism); "God almost certainly does not exist" (de facto atheism); "no one knows whether God exists" (agnosticism); "God exists, but this cannot be proven or disproven" (theism); and "God exists and this can be proven" (theism). There are numerous variations on these positions.
A recent argument for the existence of God is intelligent design, which asserts that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a modern form of the traditional argument from design, modified to avoid specifying the nature or identity of the designer. Its primary proponents, all of whom are associated with the Discovery Institute, believe the designer to be the Abrahamic God.
Theologians and philosophers have ascribed a number of attributes to God, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, perfect goodness, divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. God has been described as incorporeal, a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the greatest conceivable being existent. These attributes were all claimed to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars, including St Augustine, Al-Ghazali, and Maimonides.
Many medieval philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God, while attempting to comprehend the precise implications of God's attributes. Reconciling some of those attributes generated important philosophical problems and debates. For example, God's omniscience implies that God knows how free agents will choose to act. If God does know this, their apparent free will might be illusory, or foreknowledge does not imply predestination; and if God does not know it, God is not omniscient.
The last centuries of philosophy have seen vigorous questions regarding the arguments for God's existence raised by such philosophers as Immanuel Kant, David Hume and Antony Flew, although Kant held that the argument from morality was valid. The theist response has been either to contend, like Alvin Plantinga, that faith is "properly basic"; or to take, like Richard Swinburne, the evidentialist position. Some theists agree that none of the arguments for God's existence are compelling, but argue that faith is not a product of reason, but requires risk. There would be no risk, they say, if the arguments for God's existence were as solid as the laws of logic, a position summed up by Pascal as: "The heart has reasons which reason knows not of."
Most major religions hold God not as a metaphor, but a being that influences our day-to-day existences. Many believers allow for the existence of other, less powerful spiritual beings, and give them names such as angels, saints, djinni, demons, and devas.
Theism and Deism
Theism generally holds that God exists realistically, objectively, and independently of human thought; that God created and sustains everything; that God is omnipotent and eternal; personal and interacting with the universe through for example religious experience and the prayers of humans. It holds that God is both transcendent and immanent; thus, God is simultaneously infinite and in some way present in the affairs of the world. Not all theists subscribe to all the above propositions, but usually a fair number of them, c.f., family resemblance. Catholic theology holds that God is infinitely simple and is not involuntarily subject to time. Most theists hold that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, although this belief raises questions about God's responsibility for evil and suffering in the world. Some theists ascribe to God a self-conscious or purposeful limiting of omnipotence, omniscience, or benevolence. Open Theism, by contrast, asserts that, due to the nature of time, God's omniscience does not mean the deity can predict the future. "Theism" is sometimes used to refer in general to any belief in a god or gods, i.e., monotheism or polytheism.
Deism holds that God is wholly transcendent: God exists, but does not intervene in the world beyond what was necessary to create it. In this view, God is not anthropomorphic, and does not literally answer prayers or cause miracles to occur. Common in Deism is a belief that God has no interest in humanity and may not even be aware of humanity. Pandeism and Panendeism, respectively, combine Deism with the Pantheistic or Panentheistic beliefs discussed below.
History of monotheism
Some writers such as Karen Armstrong believe that the concept of monotheism sees a gradual development out of notions of henotheism and monolatrism. In the Ancient Near East, each city had a local patron deity, such as Shamash at Larsa or Sin at Ur. The first claims of global supremacy of a specific god date to the Late Bronze Age, with Akhenaten's Great Hymn to the Aten, and, depending on dating issues, Zoroaster's Gathas to Ahura Mazda. Currents of monism or monotheism emerge in Vedic India in the same period, with e.g. the Nasadiya Sukta. Philosophical monotheism and the associated concept of absolute good and evil emerges in Classical Antiquity, notably with Plato (c.f. Euthyphro dilemma), elaborated into the idea of The One in Neoplatonism.
According to The Oxford Companion To World Mythology, "The lack of cohesion among early Hebrews made monotheism – even monolatry, the exclusive worship of one god among many – an impossibility...And even then it can be argued that the firm establishment of monotheism in Judaism required the rabbinical or Talmudic process of the first century B.C.E. to the sixth century C.E.". In Islamic theology, a person who spontaneously "discovers" monotheism is called a ḥanīf, the original ḥanīf being Abraham.
Austrian anthropologist Wilhelm Schmidt in the 1910s postulated an Urmonotheismus, "original" or "primitive monotheism", a thesis now widely rejected in comparative religion but still occasionally defended in creationist circles.
Monotheism and pantheism
Monotheists hold that there is only one god, and may claim that the one true god is worshiped in different religions under different names. The view that all theists actually worship the same god, whether they know it or not, is especially emphasized in Hinduism and Sikhism. Adherents of different religions, however, generally disagree as to how to best worship God and what is God's plan for mankind, if there is one. There are different approaches to reconciling the contradictory claims of monotheistic religions. One view is taken by exclusivists, who believe they are the chosen people or have exclusive access to absolute truth, generally through revelation or encounter with the Divine, which adherents of other religions do not. Another view is religious pluralism. A pluralist typically believes that his religion is the right one, but does not deny the partial truth of other religions. An example of a pluralist view in Christianity is supersessionism, i.e., the belief that one's religion is the fulfillment of previous religions. A third approach is relativistic inclusivism, where everybody is seen as equally right; an example in Christianity is universalism: the doctrine that salvation is eventually available for everyone. A fourth approach is syncretism, mixing different elements from different religions. An example of syncretism is the New Age movement.
Pantheism holds that God is the universe and the universe is God, whereas Panentheism holds that God contains, but is not identical to, the Universe; the distinctions between the two are subtle. It is also the view of the Liberal Catholic Church, Theosophy, some views of Hinduism except Vaishnavism which believes in panentheism, Sikhism, some divisions of Buddhism, some divisions of Neopaganism and Taoism, along with many varying denominations and individuals within denominations. Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, paints a pantheistic/panentheistic view of God — which has wide acceptance in Hasidic Judaism, particularly from their founder The Baal Shem Tov — but only as an addition to the Jewish view of a personal god, not in the original pantheistic sense that denies or limits persona to God.
Dystheism and nontheism
Dystheism, related to theodicy is a form of theism which holds that God is either not wholly good or is fully malevolent as a consequence of the problem of evil. One such example would be Satanism or the Devil.
Nontheism holds that the universe can be explained without any reference to the supernatural, or to a supernatural being. Some non-theists avoid the concept of God, whilst accepting that it is significant to many; other non-theists understand God as a symbol of human values and aspirations. Many schools of Buddhism may be considered non-theistic.
Scientific positions regarding God
Stephen Jay Gould proposed an approach dividing the world of philosophy into what he called "non-overlapping magisteria" (NOMA). In this view, questions of the supernatural, such as those relating to the existence and nature of God, are non-empirical and are the proper domain of theology. The methods of science should then be used to answer any empirical question about the natural world, and theology should be used to answer questions about ultimate meaning and moral value. In this view, the perceived lack of any empirical footprint from the magisterium of the supernatural onto natural events makes science the sole player in the natural world. Another view, advanced by Richard Dawkins, is that the existence of God is an empirical question, on the grounds that "a universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference."
Pascal Boyer argues that while there is a wide array of supernatural concepts found around the world, in general, supernatural beings tend to behave much like people. The construction of gods and spirits like persons is one of the best known traits of religion. He cites examples from Greek Mythology, which is, in his opinion, more like a modern soap opera than other religious systems. Bertrand du Castel and Timothy Jurgensen demonstrate through formalization that Boyer's explanatory model matches physics' epistemology in positing not directly observable entities as intermediaries. Anthropologist Stewart Guthrie contends that people project human features onto non-human aspects of the world because it makes those aspects more familiar. Sigmund Freud also suggested that god concepts are projections of one's father.
Likewise, Émile Durkheim was one of the earliest to suggest that gods represent an extension of human social life to include supernatural beings. In line with this reasoning, psychologist Matt Rossano contends that when humans began living in larger groups, they may have created gods as a means of enforcing morality. In small groups, morality can be enforced by social forces such as gossip or reputation. However it is much harder to enforce morality using social forces in much larger groups. He indicates that by including ever watchful gods and spirits, humans discovered an effective strategy for restraining selfishness and building more cooperative groups.
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