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What is the real name of God in the Hebrew Bible?

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April 08, 2018 6:25PM

In Hebrew Scripture:

  • יהוה - the Eternal (see below)
  • Adonai - the Lord
  • Elohim - God
  • Shaddai - the Almighty
  • El - a name indicating the power of God
  • Tzevaot - Lord of hosts
  • Yah (or Jah) - this is a lesser form of God's name יהוה
Note: God's name in the Torah is יהוה (in Hebrew, not in English). Other names which refer to God (such as Elohim) are more generic (referring to God's power) and can in certain contexts refer to such authorities as judges (Exodus ch.21-22).
Over the course of the exile, the exact pronunciation of יהוה has been lost. (The usual transliterations, Jehovah or Yahweh, are inaccurate renditions based on a misunderstanding of the the way it is printed in such vocalized texts as Hebrew prayerbooks and printed Tanakhs.)
The name יהוה is not pronounceable for us, due to to a religious prohibition for Jews (Mishna, Sanhedrin ch.11), and also to the fact that the way in which it would be pronounced is today not known. While the Temple in Jerusalem still stood, only the Kohen Gadol would pronounce this name of God and only one day a year. The remainder of the time, less explicit names of God, including Adonai or Elohim, were used; and that is what we do today also, in prayers, blessings and Torah-reading. In daily conversation in English, we use English words (God, or the idiomatic "Hashem," which refers to God but is not an actual name).

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October 09, 2017 4:46PM

In Hebrew Scripture:

  • יהוה - the Eternal. This (in Hebrew) is God's name; other names are just titles or descriptions.
  • Adonai - the Lord
  • Elohim - God
  • Shaddai - the Almighty
  • El - a name indicating the power of God
  • Tzevaot - Lord of hosts
  • Yah (or Jah) - this is a lesser form of God's name יהוה
See also the Related Link.

What do Jews believe God is like?

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October 08, 2017 3:26AM

God's true Hebrew name is יהוה. It can be written with the letters YHVH. The pronunciation of the vowels has been lost, so Jews have a long-standing custom to insert the vowels from another word for God (Adonai) onto this name, in order to remind themselves to pronounce it as "Adonai".

The first Christians to study Hebrew in the middle ages didn't understand this custom, and they just pronounced the consonants of the name YHVH along with the vowels for Adonai.

Any insertion of vowels is purely a guess. Jews today still replace this word with the Hebrew word for "Lord".

Furthermore, spelling out the name with vowels, or saying the name out loud is prohibited in Judaism and is quite offensive to traditional (and some non-traditional) Jews.

In Christian translations of the Hebrew Bible, the reader can tell when the word Lord refers to the true name of God, because "LORD" is written in small capital letters.

El Shaddai is usually translated as God Almighty, but there are many theories as to the exact meaning of this phrase.