Where does 'God' come from?

Have you ever wondered why Christians call their god ‚god‘? The greeks had their gods, same as the egyptians and so many other cultures that excisted before the christain god entered the game. So the christians – or the jews, to be exact- they called their god ‚god‘ inspired by the others? But before whatever we call ‚god‘ today was named ‚god‘, there was a different name. And actually, it was a different thing before they named it ‚god‘. Yeah, it seem quite complex but believe me, this is sooo interesting. The history of the christain, jewish and muslim god made me believe in that what we call ‚god‘ so much more than any service at church could have ever done. 

short summery

If you don’t want to read everything or just want to know what this article is about, here it is in a nutshell:

  • Humans (including followers of the abrahamic cultures on which this article is focused) always projected their own being onto ‚god‘
  • the origin of the god of the most widespread monotheistic cultures (christianity, islam, judaism = abrahamic religions) lies in the hebrew bible, where it actually didn’t even have a proper name, it was described by verbs („to exist“, „to be“, …): Yahweh/JHWH. 
  • Speaking this word out loud is not allowed for jewish people, so instead the say ‚Adonai‘, which means „My lord“

–> originally, god wasn’t ‚god‘, it was something like the personification of existence, not even the personifikation actually, just the existence itself 

What's a god?

A god is a supernatural spirit being which has a great transcendent power that cannot be described scientifically. There has been a looot of gods in human history, but I want to focus on the god of the monotheistic cultures christianity, islam and judaism, since all three of them basically have the same god (yes that’s put in very simple words, I know this can be discussed on a theological basis, but there’s no personal offence in this  :)). So that’s the god I’m talking about here. 

There was a german philosopher called Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-74) who developed the Projection Theory, a sort of critisicm of religion. The projection theory basically says that humans created god in their own image. They projected their own nature on god. They gave him human traits. This theory can be seen as critisicm or just as an intersting thought, since it doesn’t imply that something like a god doesn’t exist. But there’s definetly some truth about this. Of course it is. We just cannot imagine what a supernatural god-like being is like. That’s beyond our imagination. Therefore it’s no surprise that we give it human attitudes and traits. But what god or whatever its name is actually is, that we will never know. 

The Mesha Stele bears the earliest known reference (840 BCE) to the Israelite god Yahweh. (Source: Wikipedia;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:YHWH_on_Mesha_Stele.jpg )


Also known as the Tetragrammaton („consisting out of four words“), JHWH is the original name of god in the hebrew bible (don’t forget: after about 180 AD the christian theology called it the ‚Old testament‘). It’s pronounced Yahweh, and it’s most likely derived from a verb. A Verb? So Yahweh doesn’t mean ‚god‘? No, it doesn’t. And that’s the interesting part. The verb from which JHWH is derived means something like „to be“, „to exist“, „to be for someone“, „to become“. So the original meaning behind ‚god‘ was a verb. A verb that basically means something like „existing“. Originally, ‚god‘ wasn’t a god. ‚God‘ was the existence itself.
But jews aren’t allowed to say it. The word JHWH is too holy. Also, the hebrew noun Elohim (the hebrew word for ‚god‘ – remember, ‚gods‘ already existed in other cultures) came to replace JHWH more an more to demonstrate the power of Israels god towards the others. Anyway, when jews are reading from the tora out loud, they say Adonai. And Adonai means something like „the lord“. But originally it was not an expression for something like a person. But that actually makes a lot of sense, since all the other cultures had gods too, and it’s easier to read and talk about something that’s personified. And so JHWH, „to exist“, became a god. 

Soo, that’s the story. Correct me if I was wrong with something, but since I was using solely Wikipedia articles on these topics, I guess I am as correct as someone who isn’t a theologian can be. I hope you ejoyed this article, I will post my own thoughts about this some time too 🙂