The Names of God

The following essay is from Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volume Set) by Herman Bavinck, Volume 2. God and Creaton, Chapter 3


by Herman Bavinck

In Scripture God’s name is his self-revelation. Only God can name himself; his name is identical with the perfections he exhibits in and to the world. He makes himself known to his people by his proper names; to Israel as yhwh, to the Christian church as Father. God’s revealed names do not reveal his being as such but his accommodation to human language. Scripture is accommodated language; it is anthropomorphic through and through. God himself is described in human terms via human faculties, body parts, emotions, sensations, and actions. In Scripture all creation, the theater of God’s glory, is mined for the description of the knowledge of God. God is immanent in all creation. Therefore, Christian theology opposes all dualisms, including those of modernity, that empty created reality of God, for then theology could not speak of God at all.*

We rightly use anthropomorphic language because God accommodated himself to creatures by revealing his name in and through creatures. We cannot see God himself; we can only see him in his works and name him in accordance with his self-revelation in his works. To deny this is to deny the possibility of knowing God at all. Some philosophers (Plato, Hegel) have tried to get around this by rejecting concrete representations of God in favor of abstractions such as the Absolute, the One, Life, or Reason. But, since these too are anthropomorphisms, they fail to solve the problem.

Of course, all our knowledge of God is ectypal or derived from Scripture. Only God’s self-knowledge is adequate, underived, or archetypal. Yet our finite, inadequate knowledge is still true, pure, and sufficient. Ectypal knowledge must not be seen as merely symbolic, a product of poetic imagination. God then becomes mere projection and religion mere subjective art. Christian theology teaches the opposite. We are God’s creation; he is not ours. While our knowledge of him is accommodated and limited, it is no less real, true, and trustworthy. As God reveals himself, so he truly is. His revealed attributes truly reveal his nature.

Scripture provides us with a variety of divine names, and theologians have suggested distinctions among them. The name yhwh, for example, points to the very being of God, the “One who is.” Philosophers came to speak of the Supreme Being or Nature and of the divine essence as Infinite Being or even Intelligent Being. Spinoza, for example, viewed God “as the unique, infinite, necessarily existing substance.… The absolute and immanent first cause.” This sort of theistic speculation easily deteriorated into pantheism.

In reaction to this rather cold, impersonal, rationalistic view of God, much nineteenth-century theology turned away from metaphysics and reduced religion to morality (e.g., Ritschl). God was the Father, the fountain of goodness and love; he is not Absolute Being but Love. There is much of value in this response, but it too is one-sided. The challenge of theology is to do justice to all the attributes of God revealed in Scripture.

It is this conviction that lies behind the teaching of Christian theology that God is “simple,” that is, free from composition. God is identical with each of his attributes; he is what he possesses. In God “to be” is the same as to be wise, to be good, or to be powerful. All God’s attributes are identical with his essence. In all his attributes he is pure being, absolute reality. We cannot refrain from speaking of God’s being, and in the description of God’s essence Christian theology places his aseity in the foreground as the primary attribute traditionally associated with the name yhwh. God is the One who exists of and through himself, the perfect being who is absolute in wisdom and goodness, righteousness and holiness, power and blessedness.

Though we cannot make distinctions between God’s essence and his attributes, it is permissible to make distinctions among the attributes. Each attribute expresses something special about God. God himself reveals his many perfections to us; we name him with the names Scripture itself provides. No one perfection fully expresses God’s being. In the past, theologians have distinguished three ways of obtaining the names of God, in the way of negation, or of eminence, or of causality, in relation to creatures.

Among Reformed theologians the distinction between incommunicable and communicable properties became the favored distinction. In the former were included oneness, simplicity, immutability, eternity; the second group was usually divided further into attributes of intellect (knowledge, wisdom, veracity), will (goodness, righteousness, holiness), and power. Nonetheless, the negations (“God is not …”) must not be seen as wholly incommunicable, because then they would be unknowable and unnameable. All that we can say about God must be based on his self-revelation. Our knowledge of God is not, in fact cannot be, exhaustive; it is analogical and ectypal. But it is true knowledge, and because God’s attributes are identical with his being, we can speak truly about God as he really is. Since in his perfections God is both absolutely superior to us and in fellowship with his creatures, each of his attributes can be said, in different senses, to be both incommunicable and communicable. Thus we distinguish attributes that accent transcendence from those that accent immanence. Reformed theology uses the terms “incommunicable” and “communicable” here to underscore the strong opposition of Christian theism to the error both of pantheism and of deism.

Holy Scripture not only describes God’s perfections but also reveals to us God’s personal names. The simplest name for God in the Old Testament is El (Elohim, El Shaddai). This name emphasizes God’s power and might; he is high and strong. As the God of grace, Scripture reveals God to us as yhwh (the Lord). yhwh is the covenant God of promise, the faithful one who saves his people. yhwh is the highest revelation of God in the Old Testament; yhwh is God’s real name. The New Testament retains these names, notably following the LXX in translating yhwh as Kurios (Lord). The one new name, added by our Lord Jesus Christ, is the personal name “Father,” indicating God’s special familial relationship with his people. “Father” is thus the supreme revelation of God, and since the Father is made known to us by Jesus through the Spirit, the full, abundant revelation of God’s name is trinitarian: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Biblical Names for God

[178] All we can learn about God from his revelation is designated his Name in Scripture. The original meaning of the Hebrew word שֵׁם (name) is probably “sign,” “distinguishing mark,” just as the Greek ὀνομα and the Latin nomen are derived from the stem gno and hence indicate the characteristic feature by which a thing is known, a distinguishing mark. A name is a sign of the person bearing it, a designation referring to some characteristic in which a person reveals himself or herself and becomes knowable. There is a connection between a name and its bearer, and that connection, so far from being arbitrary, is rooted in that bearer. Even among us [moderns], now that names have for the most part become mere sounds without meaning, that connection is still felt. A name is something personal and very different from a number or a member of a species. It always feels more or less unpleasant when others misspell or garble our name: it stands for our honor, our worth, our person and individuality. But that linkage was much more vital in earlier times when names still had a transparent meaning and actually revealed the identity of a person or thing.

This is also how it is in Scripture. Adam had to name the animals in accordance with their nature (Gen. 2:19–20). Scripture spells out the meaning of many names as well as the reason for them. Examples: Eve (Gen. 3:20), Cain (4:1), Seth (4:25), Noah (5:29), Babel (11:9), Ishmael (16:11), Esau and Jacob (25:25–26), Moses (Exod. 2:10), Jesus (Matt. 1:21), and so on. Repeatedly a name is changed or a surname is added when a person acts in another capacity: Abraham (Gen. 17:5), Sarah (17:15), Israel (32:28), Joshua (Num. 13:16), Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25), Mara (Ruth 1:20), Peter (Mark 3:16), and so on. Following his ascension Christ received a name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:4), and in the new Jerusalem a new name is given to believers (Rev. 2:17; 3:12; 22:4).

The same is true of God’s name. There is an intimate link between God and his name. According to Scripture, this link too is not accidental or arbitrary but forged by God himself. We do not name God; he names himself. In the foreground here is the name as a revelation on the part of God, in an active and objective sense, as revealed name. In this case God’s name is identical with the attributes or perfections that he exhibits in and to the world: his glory (Ps. 8:1; 72:19), honor (Lev. 18:21; Ps. 86:10–11; 102:16), his redeeming power (Exod. 15:3; Isa. 47:4); his service (Isa. 56:6; Jer. 23:27); his holiness (1 Chron. 16:10; Ps. 105:3). The name is God himself as he reveals himself in one relationship or another (Lev. 24:11, 16; Deut. 28:58). That name, being a revelation of God, is great (Ezek. 36:23), holy (Ezek. 36:20), awesome (Ps. 111:9), a high refuge (Ps. 20:1),1 a strong tower (Prov. 18:10). By proper names, particularly by the name yhwh, God made himself known to Israel. He revealed himself to Israel by the angel in whom the Lord’s name was present (Exod. 23:20). And by him he put his name on the children of Israel (Num. 6:27), caused his name to be remembered (Exod. 20:24), put his name among them and made it to dwell there (Deut. 12:5; 14:23), especially in the temple that was built for his name (2 Sam. 7:13). Now his name lives in that temple (2 Chron. 20:9; 33:4). By that name he saves (Ps. 54:1), and on account of that name he cannot abandon Israel (1 Sam. 12:22; Isa. 48:9, 11; Ps. 23:3; 31:3; 143:11–12). Israel, accordingly, may not blaspheme and desecrate that name, or use it in vain (Exod. 20:7; Lev. 18:21; 19:12; 24:11). On the contrary: that name must be invoked, passed on in story, magnified, known, feared, exalted, expected, sought out, sanctified (Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Exod. 9:16; Deut. 28:58; 1 Kings 8:33; Ps. 5:12; 34:3; 52:9; 83:17; 122:4; Isa. 26:8; Matt. 6:9; John 12:28; etc.).

In the New Testament God’s name acquires an even richer and deeper meaning. For the Logos, who was in the beginning with God and is in the bosom of the Father, has made him known (John 1:18) and revealed his name (John 17:6, 26). Since no one knows the Father except the Son, only those to whom the Son reveals the Father gain knowledge of God (Matt. 11:27). Those who confess the Son have the Father also (1 John 2:23). Those who have seen him have seen the Father (John 14:9). The name of Jesus Christ, accordingly, guarantees the truth of our knowledge of God and all the associated benefits. He is called Jesus because he saves his people (Matt. 1:21) and is the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). By his name miracles are performed (Acts 4:7); by it we receive forgiveness (Acts 2:38), the right to become God’s children (John 1:12), and eternal life (1 John 5:13). Where two or three people are gathered in his name, he is in their midst (Matt. 18:20). Those who pray in his name are heard (John 14:13), and those who call on the name of the Lord are saved (Acts 2:21). All salvation for humanity is comprehended within the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Being baptized in that name is a sign and seal of fellowship with God. And an even richer revelation awaits believers in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), when his name will be inscribed upon everyone’s forehead (Rev. 22:4).

The name of God in Scripture does not describe God as he exists within himself but God in his revelation and multiple relations to his creatures. This name, however, is not arbitrary: God reveals himself in the way he does because he is who he is. Summed up in his name, therefore, is his honor, his fame, his excellencies, his entire revelation, his very being. Upon those to whom it is revealed, therefore, the name confers special privileges and imposes unique obligations. The name of God implies that, having revealed himself in it, God expects to be called by it. The “divulged” name becomes the name “called upon.” In Scripture, “to be” and “to be called” are two sides of the same thing. God is what he calls himself and calls himself what he is. What God reveals of himself is expressed and conveyed in specific names. To his creatures he grants the privilege of naming and addressing him on the basis of, and in keeping with, his revelation. The one name of God, which is inclusive of his entire revelation both in nature and in grace, is divisible for us in a great many names. Only in that way do we obtain a full view of the riches of his revelation and the profound meaning of his name. We call him and indeed may call him by all that has become known of his being in creation and re-creation. But all those names, as designations of God, impose on us the obligation to consecrate and glorify them. It is the one name, the full revelation and to that extent the very being of God himself, with which we are dealing in all those names. By his name God puts himself in a certain relation to us, and the relation we assume to him must be congruent with it.

Accommodation and Anthropomorphism

Accordingly, [as stated above] the names by which we call and address God are not arbitrary: they were not conceived by us at our own pleasure. It is God himself who deliberately and freely, both in nature and in grace, reveals himself, who gives us the right to name him on the basis of his self-revelation, and who in his Word has made his own names known to us on that same basis. Now all these names without distinction are characterized by the fact that they have been derived from revelation. Not a single one of them describes God’s being as such. The revealed name is the foundation of all the names by which we address him. And inasmuch as the revelation of God in nature and in Scripture is specifically addressed to humanity, it is a human language in which God speaks to us of himself. For that reason the words he employs are human words; for the same reason he manifests himself in human forms. From this it follows that Scripture does not just contain a few scattered anthropomorphisms but is anthropomorphic through and through. From the first page to the last it witnesses to God’s coming to, and searching for, humanity. The whole revelation of God is concentrated in the Logos, who became “flesh” and is, as it were, one single act of self-humanization, the incarnation of God. If God were to speak to us in a divine language, not a creature would understand him. But what spells out his grace is the fact that from the moment of creation God stoops down to his creatures, speaking and appearing to them in human fashion. This is why all the names by which God calls himself and allows us to call him are derived from earthly and human relations. In Scripture, accordingly, he is called El, the strong One; El Shaddai, the mighty One; yhwh, the One who is there; he is called Father, Son, Spirit, good, merciful, gracious, just, holy (etc.); all of them are expressions that first of all apply to creatures and are then transferred to God by way of eminence. Even the so-called incommunicable attributes of God, such as immutability, independence, simplicity, eternity, and omnipresence, are presented in Scripture in forms and expressions derived from the finite world and are therefore stated negatively. Eternity cannot be defined except as a negation of time. Scripture never even attempts to describe these perfections of God positively in terms of their own essence and apart from any relation to the finite.

But anthropomorphism in Scripture is even much more extensive. All that pertains to humans and even to creatures in general is also attributed to God, especially “human faculties, body parts, sensations, affections, actions, things pertaining to and connected with humanity.” God is said to have a soul (Lev. 26:11) and a Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Matt. 12:28; etc.). Though there is never any reference to God’s body, in Christ God also assumed a real body (John 1:14; Col. 1:18), and the church is called the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22). Yet all the physical organs are attributed to God. There is mention of his face (Exod. 33:20, 23; Isa. 63:9; Ps. 16:11; Matt. 18:10; Rev. 22:4), his eyes (Ps. 11:4; Heb. 4:13), his eyelids (Ps. 11:4), the apple of his eye (Deut. 32:10; Ps. 17:8; Zech. 2:8), his ears (Ps. 55:3), his nose (Deut. 33:10), his mouth (Deut. 8:3); his lips (Job 11:5), his tongue (Isa. 30:27), his neck (Jer. 18:17), his arm (Exod. 15:16), his hand (Num. 11:23), his right hand (Exod. 15:12); his finger (Exod. 8:19), his heart (Gen. 6:6), his intestines (Isa. 63:15; Jer. 31:20; Luke 1:78); his bosom (Ps. 74:11; John 1:18), his feet (Isa. 66:1).

Every human emotion, furthermore, is also present in God: rejoicing (Isa. 62:5; 65:19); sorrow (Ps. 78:40; Isa. 63:10); grief (Ps. 95:10); provocation (Jer. 7:18–19); fear (Deut. 32:27); love in all its variations such as mercy, compassion, grace, long-suffering, and so on; also zeal and jealousy (Deut. 32:21); repentance (Gen. 6:6); hatred (Deut. 16:22); wrath (Ps. 2:5); and vengeance (Deut. 32:35).

All human actions, moreover, are attributed to God: investigating (Gen. 18:21), searching minds (Ps. 7:9), knowing (Gen. 3:5), intending (Gen. 50:20), forgetting (1 Sam. 1:11), remembering (Gen. 8:1; Exod. 2:24), speaking (Gen. 2:16), calling (Rom. 4:17), commanding (Isa. 5:6), rebuking (Ps. 18:15; 104:7), answering (Ps. 3:4), witnessing (Mal. 2:14), resting (Gen. 2:2), working (John 5:17), seeing (Gen. 1:10), hearing (Exod. 2:24), smelling (Gen. 8:21), testing (Ps. 11:4–5), sitting (Ps. 9:7), arising (Ps. 68:1), going (Exod. 34:9), coming (Exod. 25:22), walking (Lev. 26:12), going down (Gen. 11:5), meeting (Exod. 3:18), visiting (Gen. 21:1), passing (Exod. 12:13), abandoning (Judg. 6:13), writing (Exod. 34:1), sealing (John 6:27), engraving (Isa. 49:16), striking (Isa. 11:4), chastising (Deut. 8:5), working (John 5:17), binding up (Ps. 147:3), healing (Ps. 103:3; Deut. 32:39), killing and making alive (Deut. 32:39), wiping away (Isa. 25:8), wiping out (2 Kings 21:13), washing (Ps. 51:2), cleansing (Ps. 51:2), anointing (Ps. 2:2), adorning (Ezek. 16:11), clothing (Ps. 132:16), crowning (Ps. 8:5), girding (Ps. 18:32), destroying (Gen. 6:7; Lev. 26:31), killing (Gen. 38:7), inflicting (Gen. 12:17), judging (Ps. 58:11), condemning (Job 10:2), and so forth.

In addition, God is also very frequently described with names that denote a certain occupation, office, position, or relationship among people. He is a bridegroom (Isa. 61:10), a man (Isa. 54:5–6), a father (Deut. 32:6), a judge, king, a lawgiver (Isa. 33:22), a warrior (Exod. 15:3), a mighty hero (Ps. 78:65–66; Zeph. 3:17), an architect and builder (Heb. 11:10), a gardener (John 15:1), a shepherd (Ps. 23:1), a physician (Exod. 15:26), and so on. In connection with these occupational descriptions there is mention of his seat, throne, footstool, rod, scepter, weapons, bow, arrow, shield, chariot, banner, book, seal, treasure, inheritance, and so on. Then, to express what God means to his own, all sorts of expressions are even derived from the organic and inorganic creation. He is compared to a lion (Isa. 31:4), an eagle (Deut. 32:11), a lamb (Isa. 53:7), a hen (Matt. 23:37), the sun (Ps. 84:11), the morning star (Rev. 22:16), a light (Ps. 27:1), a lamp (Rev. 21:23), a fire (Heb. 12:29), a spring or fountain (Ps. 36:9; Jer. 2:13), food, bread, drink, water, ointment (Isa. 55:1; John 4:10: 6:35, 55), a rock (Deut. 32:4), a refuge (Ps. 119:114), a tower (Prov. 18:10), a stronghold (Ps. 9:9), a shadow (Ps. 91:1; 121:5), a shield (Ps. 84:11), a road (John 14:6), a temple (Rev. 21:22), and so on.2

[179] The entire creation, all of nature with all its [diverse] kingdoms, but especially the human world, is mined in Scripture for the description of the knowledge of God. Almost no limit is set to the use of anthropomorphic language. All creatures, animate and inanimate, organic and inorganic, furnish names with which to somewhat bring home to us the greatness of God. Although nameless within himself, in his revelation God possesses many names. “All things can be said of God,” writes Augustine, “but nothing can be said worthily of him. Nothing is more widespread than this poverty [of expression]. You are looking for a fitting name for him? You will not find it. You try to speak of him in some way? You find that he is everything.” And to clarify why so many names can be applied to God, Augustine uses a striking illustration. Our body, he says, has many needs: light and air, food and drink, shelter and clothing, and so on. Now all these things are very different and exist side by side in the various parts of creation. Now also our spirit has many and various needs, but what provides for these needs is not multiform but always the one selfsame divine being.

On earth, a fountain is one thing, light another. When you are thirsty, you look for a fountain, and to get to the fountain you look for light; and if there is no daylight, you light a lamp to get to the fountain. But he is both a fountain and a light: to the thirsty he is a fountain, to the blind a light. Let [your] eyes be opened to see the light; let the lips of [your] heart be opened to drink of the fountain. That which you drink, you see and hear. God becomes everything to you, for he is the whole of the things you love. If you attend to visible things, well, God is neither bread nor is he water, nor light, nor a garment, nor a house. For all these things are visible, individual, and separate. What bread is, water is not; what a garment is, a house is not; and what these things are, God is not, for they are visible things. God is all of these things to you: if you are hungry, he is bread to you; if you are thirsty, he is water to you; if you live in darkness, he is light to you, for he remains incorruptible. If you are naked, he is a garment of immortality to you when this corruptible shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality.3

Pseudo-Dionysius, thinking along the same lines, states that God is both “nameless and yet has the names of everything that is.” He is both “all that exists” and “nothing of all that exists.”4 In Thomas we read: “God, being himself simply and universally perfect, has preexisting in himself the perfections of all his creatures.”5 Bonaventure says it even better:

In order that we may be able to extol and glorify God, and in order that we may advance to the knowledge of God, we must transfer to the divine that which pertains to the creature. Now the ground or purpose of this transference is twofold. In the first place, it is necessary with a view to the glory of God; in the second place, with a view to the guidance of our intellect. God’s glory requires this transference. For, since God is greatly to be praised, lest he should ever lack praise because of the scarcity of words, Holy Scripture has taught us that the names of creatures—indefinite in number—should be transferred to God, in order that just as every creature glorifies God, so also every name that is ascribed to creatures might glorify him, and in order that he who is so glorious that not one single name can do justice to him—for he surpasses, as it were, every name—might be glorified by all the names. This transference is also necessary with a view to the guidance of our intellect. For, since we arrive at knowledge of the Creator through the creature, and especially in view of the fact that nearly all creatures possess certain noble characteristics that furnish a source for our understanding of God—for example, the lion possesses fortitude; the lamb, meekness; the rock, solidity; the serpent, prudence, and so on—hence it is fitting that many names be transferred to God.6

Calvin concurs with this when he writes: “There is not an atom of the world in which one cannot discern at least some bright sparks of his glory.” God is immanent in the whole of creation. The pure of heart see God everywhere. Everything is brimful of God. “I confess, of course, that it can be said reverently—provided it proceeds from a reverent mind—that nature is God.”7

But not all creatures are of equal rank: there is a hierarchy in the realm of creatures. The position and rank that creatures occupy is determined by their kinship with God. All creatures express some aspect of God’s being, but of all of them human beings are at the top. They alone have the honor of being called “image, son, child of God.” They alone are called God’s offspring. Most of the names of God, particularly the most sublime ones, derive from the existence of humans. However, humans should never be detached from the realm of nature; neither may any creature or any part of the universe ever be put on a par with, or in opposition to, God. Nothing exists outside of or apart from God. This truth, it must be said, has over and over been violated: Plato’s dualism, Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism—they all put a limit to God’s revelation and posited a material substance hostile to God over against him. And in all sorts of ways these dualisms have for centuries impacted theology. The same dualistic principle is at work when in modern times, under the influence of Kant and Jacobi, the revelation of God is restricted to the sphere of religion and ethics, when only the religious and ethical content of Scripture is recognized, when the seat of religion is found only in the heart or the conscience, in the emotions or the will. In this way nature with its elements and forces, human life in society and politics, the arts and sciences, are assigned a place outside the sphere of God’s revelation. They are considered neutral areas existing apart from God. Then, of course, a proper appreciation of the Old Testament and a very large part of the New Testament is no longer possible. Nature and the world no longer have anything to say to believers. Revelation, which comes to us in the Word of God, loses all influence in public life. Religion, now confined to the inner recesses of the heart and the privacy of one’s home, forfeits all claim to respect. Dogmatics, specifically the doctrine of God, shrinks by the day, and theology is no longer able to maintain its place. Theology is no longer able to speak of God because it no longer speaks from him and through him. It no longer has any names with which to name God. God becomes the great Unknown; the world first becomes a domain without God (ἀθεος), then a domain that is anti-God (ἀντιθεος).

Naming the Nameless

Now the names by which God calls himself in his revelation present a peculiar intellectual difficulty. In an earlier chapter we learned that God is incomprehensible and far superior to all finite creatures. In his names, however, he descends to the level of the finite and becomes like his creatures. What we encounter here is an antinomy that seems insoluble. On the one hand, God is without a name; on the other, he possesses many names. After first banishing all anthropomorphism, we are now reintroducing it. What right have we to apply these names to God? On what grounds do we ascribe them to God, who is infinitely superior to all his creatures and cannot be contained by the finite?

The reason can only be this: the whole creation, though as creature it is infinitely far removed from God, is still God’s handiwork and related to him. The world is not an independent entity on a par with, and antithetically related to, God. It is not a second God, but totally God’s work, both in its “isness” and its “whatness.” From the very beginning it was designed to reveal God. The entire people of Israel were designed to make known God’s excellencies in its laws and institutions, its offices and ministries, its character and mores. And Christ’s humanity was equipped by the Holy Spirit to make known to people the Father and his name. The circle of the apostles, with its diversity of education, preparation, gifts, and calling, was designated to tell the world the “mighty acts of God.” Here lies the reason why we can and may speak of God in creaturely language. We have the right to use anthropomorphic language because God himself came down to the level of his creatures and revealed his name in and through his creatures. Accordingly, as we saw above, the use of anthropomorphism is absolutely not confined to an occasioned expression like personality. In fact, we cannot speak of God in any other way. For we do not see God himself; we can see him only in his works and name him in accordance with his self-revelation in his works. But that is not all. On earth at least we cannot see God face to face. If God nevertheless wants us to know him, he has to come down to our level and accommodate himself to our limited, finite, human consciousness and speak to us in human language. Those, therefore, who contest our right to use anthropomorphisms, thereby in principle deny the possibility that God in fact reveals himself in his creatures, are logically bound to proceed to the denial of the creation, and are finally left with nothing more than an eternal dualism between God and the world, the infinite and the finite. For if our calling God by anthropomorphic names implies a finitization of God, this applies to a much greater extent to God’s self-revelation in creation. As the infinite One, God is then powerless to produce another form of being outside of his own being. The world is in no way a revelation of God but solely an act of divine self-concealment. Humanity, then, is God’s polar opposite and not related to him in the way of kinship. And God is an eternal abyss (βυθος), a nameless silence (σιγη), to himself as well as to us humans. Naturally, no knowledge of God is any longer possible either. If anthropomorphic, creaturely names violate God’s being, we cannot and may not call him by any name and have to be totally silent. For then any name by which we might wish to refer to him is an act of defamation, an assault on God’s majesty, blasphemy.8

Some philosophers have attempted to escape this obvious consequence by distinguishing between a concrete representation and an abstract concept. Plato already started it, Neoplatonism and Gnosticism continued the process, and Hegel reintroduced the distinction. But it makes no difference. Even the most advanced speculation and the most searching philosophy still has to think and speak about God. Though they throw out all concrete representations and only retain pure and abstract concepts, they will never transcend the necessity of thinking and speaking in human, creaturely terms or come closer to the infinite One himself. Even the most abstract names—such as existence, substance, the Absolute, the One, the Spirit, Reason—are and remain anthropomorphisms. As humans we have only two alternatives: either absolute silence or human thought and speech about God; either agnosticism (i.e., theoretical atheism) or anthropomorphism. Philosophy, accordingly, has always again returned to anthropomorphism; if it had not, it would of course also have ended up with a negative criticism. Plato, Philo, Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysius, John of Damascus, and Erigena all again in the end assigned an array of names to God. Positive (kataphatic) theology built up what negative (apophatic) theology had broken down. Spinoza’s “substance” was adorned with countless attributes and modes. In Hegel’s philosophy God nevertheless again became “life,” “mind,” “thought,” “reason,” “subject.” Rauwenhoff trots out the imagination where the intellect had to quit.9 Numerous philosophers, therefore, defend the good right of anthropomorphism.10 And, of course, also Christian theology has always made this judgment. In it God “treads the path of his human children (דֶרֶךְ בְנֵי אָדָם),” as the Jews express it. “God’s words and actions are incomprehensible. We could in no way understand them had not Holy Scripture, in speaking of God, used such expressions as arise from human affairs. Hence, with a view to our feeble minds, it pleased the Holy Spirit, the author of Scripture, to stammer in our fashion and to deal with us—in a way more persuasive and lowly than is fitting for so great a Majesty—by images and words.”11

[180] So the propriety of these names may be considered well established, but what is their value? What, and what kind of, knowledge do they furnish us concerning God? The idea that this knowledge is fully adequate for the subject is, of course, absurd. It is in every respect finite and limited, but not for that reason impure or untrue. Fully adequate [exhaustive] knowledge is something of which we possess very little. Everywhere and in every area of life we finally run into mystery. The inner being of things, the thing as such, escapes our perception. We observe phenomena and from them infer the essence of things; we learn to know stable properties and from them we deduce the substance, but this substance itself lies behind the phenomenon and as such is unknown to us. Physics assumes the existence of atoms or electrons or energies as the final components of the material world, but does not have even a smidgen of empirical knowledge of them. Only the most simple things can be defined. As soon as things are of a somewhat higher order, they can no longer be completely captured in a concept. This is already true of the visible world, but it is even more applicable in the world of invisible things. Human beings are corporeal, sense-oriented beings. All their knowledge originates in, and arises from, sense perception. Our thinking is bound up with our senses, just as our soul is with our body. We never perceive spiritual realities directly but only by the medium of material things. We see all things “dimly.” Not only God but also the soul and the entire spiritual world only become known to us through the medium of the world of the senses. This is why we refer to all spiritual matters with names that have their primary reference in the visible world. We denominate the human soul in terms of physical phenomena. To bring home to ourselves and to others the activities of the soul—such as knowing, thinking, understanding, judging, deciding, feeling, and so on—we resort to words that originally referred to a physical act. Hence, all our talk of invisible things is metaphorical, figurative, poetic. “For the things that are known are beyond all naming, for the principal name of things known and immaterial is ‘nothing.’ ”12 But this does not mean that what we say is untrue and incorrect. On the contrary, real poetry is truth, for it is based on the resemblance, similarity, and kinship that exist between different groups of phenomena. All language, all metaphors and similes, all symbolism 13 are based on and presuppose this penetration of the visible by the invisible world. If speaking figuratively were untrue, all our thought and knowledge would be an illusion and speech itself impossible.

The same is true in religion and theology. There is no fully adequate knowledge of God. We cannot name him as he is within himself. All his names are derived from the world of creatures. But this does not make them untrue, a product of human imagination. Just as there is resemblance between various parts of the world, making comparison between them a possibility, so also there is kinship between God and his creatures, a kinship that warrants the use of creaturely language in speaking of him. Furthermore, though temporally the natural is prior to the spiritual, logically and ideally the spiritual precedes the natural. The natural could never guide us to the spiritual if it had not itself proceeded from the spiritual. Plato viewed the world as the realization of ideas. And Scripture teaches that all things have been made by the Logos and not from the things that do appear (John 1:3; Heb. 11:3). It is God himself who made all things, including the material world, subservient to the manifestation of his perfections. He could do this, since he is the omnipotent Creator and has total control also over matter. Hence, while it is true that we call God by names derived from the world of creatures, these names were first increated in those creatures by God himself. It is true: we first apply to creatures the names by which we speak of God because we know them before we know God. But materially they first apply to God and then to creatures. All perfections are first in God, then in creatures. He possesses them because they belong to his essence; we possess them only by participation. Just as the temple was built according to the pattern (τυπος) shown to Moses on the mountain (Heb. 8:5), so every creature is first conceived in eternity and then created in time. All fatherhood (πατρια) in heaven and on earth is named after the Father (πατηρ), who created all things (Eph. 3:15; cf. Matt. 23:9).14

Archetypal and Ectypal Knowledge of God

In Scripture all heavenly things are portrayed to us in earthly shades and colors. God himself comes to us through his whole creation and, in Christ’s human nature, pitched his tent among us. This human nature, certainly, was not a fully adequate organ for his deity; in fact, his glory was even concealed by it. Still the fullness of the deity dwelt in Christ bodily: those who saw him saw the Father. It is not contradictory, therefore, to say that a knowledge that is inadequate, finite, and limited is at the same time true, pure, and sufficient. God reveals himself in his works, and according to that revelation we name him. He permits us to speak of him in language that is weak and human because he himself displayed his perfections to us in his creatures. Hence, in actual fact, it is not we who name God. Where would we get the ability and the right to do that? It is God himself who, through nature and Scripture, has put his splendid names in our mouth. According to an old distinction, the names of God are not the product of “reasoning reason” (ratio ratiocinans), subjective human rationality, but of “reasoned reason” (ratio ratiocinata), objective reason in revelation. God’s self-consciousness is archetypal; our knowledge of God, drawn from his Word, is ectypal.

Now this describes the nature of the knowledge of God that is consistently characteristic for creatures. By it we avoid two extremes. On the one hand, there are those who consider an essential, quidditative, adequate knowledge of God a possibility, either by mystical contemplation (Plotinus, Malebranche, the ontologists, and Catholic theologians who teach a vision of God in terms of his essence in the state of glory), or by logical thought (Eunomius, Scotus, Spinoza, Hegel). Against all such the saying remains true that “no one has ever seen God, except the Son, who, being in the bosom of the Father, made him known” [John 1:18]. Moses did not see God’s glory until after it had passed by him. The prophets only saw God in visions. Both in creation outside of us and in the life of our own soul, that which is created ever stands between God and our consciousness: innate ideas do not exist. We see in a mirror dimly and walk by faith. Absolute, fully adequate knowledge of God is therefore impossible. Converting the representation into the concept, the language of the imagination into that of cerebration, positive into negative theology, Semitic-concrete language into Japhetic-abstract language, always results in the total loss of the knowledge of God.

On the other hand, the name “ectypal theology” also implies the rejection of the view of those who, though regarding the use of creaturely names unavoidable in referring to God’s being, see in them nothing more than symbols, products of the poetic imagination. In a sense even John of Damascus and Pseudo-Dionysius belong to this category.15 For they claim that all those names merely make God known as the cause of all things; for example, the name “wisdom” ascribed to God means no more than that he is the cause of all wisdom. But Thomas, rejecting this view, already correctly countered that in that case God could equally well be called “gold,” “silver,” “sun,” “moon,” “body,” and so on, since he is certainly the cause of these creations; furthermore, [he argued] that all of us mean something different and more when we say “God is good” than when we say “God is the cause of goodness.” Not all of God’s perfections are revealed in all of his creatures, nor can they be seen alike in all.16 Later, however, this opinion was again revived, especially by Schleiermacher. God, it was said, is absolute causality and nothing more. His so-called attributes are subjective designations on our part. Theology can be called neither ectypal nor analogical but should be considered symbolic.17 In this view religious representations are the products of the poetic imagination, ideals to be assessed aesthetically (Rauwenhoff, Pierson, F. A. Lange, et al.). Of late one can observe in certain modernist circles a tendency to persist in using biblical and ecclesiastical terms [merely] as symbols of higher spiritual truths.

This view of the character of theology, however, is not tenable. The term “symbolic” can indeed be applied to the theology whose object is to explain the sacred symbols that occur in Scripture and in the church. Vitringa, to cite one example, calls this branch of theology “theologia symbolica” (1726).18 But a symbol is always a sensible object or action to denote a spiritual truth, while theology as such has to do not with such symbols but with spiritual realities. When consciousness, will, holiness, and so forth are ascribed to God, no one takes this in a “symbolic” sense. Not a single religious person views such representations as products of his or her own imagination, while everyone readily acknowledges this in the case of works of art. On the contrary: religious persons view such religious representations as being objectively true, and their religion languishes and dies the moment they begin to doubt this fact. If, accordingly, they were products of the imagination, their objective truth could not be maintained. In that case they may still have some aesthetic value, but religiously and ethically they have lost their value. Religion can no more be converted into art than into philosophy. Attempts to still maintain these representations as symbols always end in disappointment. Those who, like Hegel, make a sharp distinction between representations and concepts are no longer satisfied with these representations. They always attempt to arrive at pure concepts and, as a result, later want to return to religious representations understood as symbols. This “symbolic” character of theology turns the names of God into a reflex of one’s own inner life, deprives them of all objective reality, and looks for their ground in ever-changing subjective reason. Humanity then becomes the standard of religion: as humans are, so is their God.

Scripture takes a different position. It teaches, first of all, that God is the Creator of heaven and earth. The things we perceive “were not made out of what is visible” (Heb. 11:3) but existed and exist eternally as ideas in the mind of God. They, therefore, derive their origin from God, are to a greater or lesser extent related to him, and so also have the capacity to display his perfections before the eyes of his creatures. Because the universe is God’s creation, it is also his revelation and self-manifestation. There is not an atom of the world that does not reflect his deity.

Second, Scripture teaches us that among all those creatures human beings occupy a unique position. Whereas creatures in general display only vestiges of God’s perfections, humans are his image and likeness. From this fact flows our right to call God by names that are derived from the realm of creatures, particularly that of humanity. We know God because we are known by him: “I understand because I am understood” (von Baader). We have the right to anthropomorphize God because he himself theomorphized when he created humans (Jacobi).

Third, despite all the foregoing, Scripture continually confronts us with God’s absolute transcendence over all creatures. Implied in creation is both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence, the essential difference as well as the close kinship between God and his creatures. He lives in a high and holy place, yes, but also with those who are contrite and lowly in spirit—that is the theme which comes to our ears from every page of Scripture [Isa. 57:15].19

For these reasons theology must be called ectypal or analogical, not symbolic. Implied in this is the following:

1.     All our knowledge of God is from and through God, grounded in his revelation, that is, in objective reason.

2.     In order to convey the knowledge of him to his creatures, God has to come down to the level of his creatures and accommodate himself to their powers of comprehension.

3.     The possibility of this condescension cannot be denied since it is given with creation, that is, with the existence of finite being.

4.     Our knowledge of God is always only analogical in character, that is, shaped by analogy to what can be discerned of God in his creatures, having as its object not God himself in his knowable essence, but God in his revelation, his relation to us, in the things that pertain to his nature,20 in his habitual disposition to his creatures.21 Accordingly, this knowledge is only a finite image, a faint likeness and creaturely impression of the perfect knowledge that God has of himself.

5.     Finally, our knowledge of God is nevertheless true, pure, and trustworthy because it has for its foundation God’s self-consciousness, its archetype, and his self-revelation in the cosmos.

Classifying God’s Names

[181] While Scripture calls God by many names, it never proceeds from an abstract concept of God, nor does it ever highlight one attribute of God at the expense of others. Granted, sometimes one and then another attribute comes to the fore, but perfect harmony exists among them all. It is the intent of Scripture to let all of God’s perfections come equally into their own. Just as the person of Christ does not represent a one-sided character or temperament, yet is fully alive and real as a person, so also God in his revelation always unfolds all his perfections as a harmonious whole. Nowhere do we encounter God’s being in the abstract. The Hebrew word תּוּשִׁיָּה, from the root יָשָׁה (to exist, to be; Arabic III: to help, to raise up), denotes that which lasts, gives advantage, concretely especially true wisdom and happiness (Job 5:12; 6:13; 12:16; 26:3 [30:22]; Prov. 2:7; 3:21; 8:14; and further only Isa. 28:29; Mic. 6:9), but in none of these places does it stand for God’s being.22 Neither do the New Testament words “deity” (θεοτης, Col. 2:9; θεοτης, Rom. 1:20), “form of God” (μορφη θεου, Phil. 2:6), “the divine nature” (θεια φυσις, 2 Pet. 1:4; cf. Gal. 4:8) prove that the reference there is to the being or nature of God in distinction from his attributes, as Polanus insists.23 God’s being is revealed to us in his revelation, that is, in his names. The names of God are designations of his excellences, mighty deeds, praises (ἀρεται, 1 Pet. 2:9), a word usage that ties in with Isaiah 42:8, 12; 43:21; and 63:7, where the Hebrew תְּהִלָּה (praise, honor) is rendered in the LXX as ἀρετη (cf. Hab. 3:3; Zech. 6:13). The church’s calling is to proclaim God’s “virtues,” that is, to honor him for the glory (δοξα) manifested in all his works. Scripture knows nothing of God’s being aside from his attributes.

Not implied in Scripture’s teaching concerning God’s being, of course, is the idea that with reference to God it would not be permissible to speak of his nature. On the contrary, Scripture itself leads the way in using this language. Moreover, with a view to pantheism, which equates the being of God with that of the universe, it is even supremely important to stress the fact that God has a nature of his own, that he is an independent being, whose essence is distinct from that of the universe. One must, however, keep in mind that Scripture knows nothing of a divine essence that can be discovered and known by the powers of the human intellect apart from revelation. It posits no split, much less a contrast, between God’s ontological existence and his “economic” self-revelation. As God reveals himself, so is he; in his names he himself becomes knowable to us. Though he is indeed infinitely superior to all his creatures—so that we can possess only an analogical knowledge of him not an exhaustive (adequated) knowledge—yet his several attributes, attributes that come through in his revelation, bring to our mind, each time from a special perspective, the fullness of his being.

In the early centuries Christian theologians were well aware of this fact. The “names of God” included everything they had to say about God. Not only the proper names but also—to use a later terminology—the “attributes,” and even the persons in the divine being fell under that heading, while the attributes were immediately incorporated in the idea of God.24 Though Augustine does speak of God’s “essence,” he means by it the fullness of God’s being and immediately includes in it all God’s attributes (simplicity, eternity, goodness, wisdom, etc.). Also his Confessions often speak of God in this way without any attempt to distinguish between God’s being and attributes or to classify the attributes.25 Also in later years several theologians still refrained from discussing these distinctions and treated the attributes without first speaking about God’s nature.26

Names of Being

Soon, however, certain distinctions were introduced. These distinctions arose from consideration of the following questions: Which attribute of God at once differentiates him from all creatures? What in fact is the predominant idea in thinking of his essence? And, therefore, from which base should one proceed in the doctrine of God? In this connection theologians recognized, to be sure, that each distinct attribute constituted God’s being itself. Still, they wondered whether among all these attributes there was not one that most fundamentally described God’s very being and hence from which the other attributes could, so to speak, be derived. Now Platonic philosophy had already identified that predominant idea as “being,” and Philo had connected it with the name yhwh, the only name that denoted, not an effect or a power, but God’s being itself, and therefore often called God “he who is” or “that which is” (ὁ ὠν or το ὀν).27 This description of God’s being was then taken over by Christian theology. Irenaeus repeatedly describes God as “absolutely simple” and even calls him “incomprehensible” and “not reducible to matter,” yet against Gnosticism he stresses especially that God is the Creator of all things and revealed himself in his works.28 In Origen, Athanasius, John of Damascus, and others, on the other hand, God is the One, he who is, even the One who transcends all being, who is being itself and the source of his own being.29 And, following Philo, they inferred all this from, or connected it with, the name yhwh in the Old Testament.

In the West these definitions were taken over. Augustine variously describes God as “supreme being,” “the supreme good, truth, beauty,” and so forth. God is a substance, for that which has no substance does not exist. But since the word “substance” is often used in contrast with the term “accidents” (which inhere in the substance and of which the substance is the bearer), Augustine, when speaking of God, prefers to use the word “essence,” which the Greeks call οὐσια and for which also the term natura is used.30 For in the case of God, says Augustine, there is no distinction between substance and accidents; his being is not the bearer of attributes, but his attributes are identical with his being. God is the highest, best, most beautiful, and most perfect being, “than which nothing better can be or be thought.” He is “God, above whom there is nothing, outside of whom there is nothing, apart from whom there is nothing: supreme life, supreme truth, supreme blessedness, supreme wisdom, supreme being.”31 And Augustine, too, appeals to the name yhwh to justify this description of God.32 We find the same description again later in Hilary, Pseudo-Dionysius (who, however, elsewhere proceeds from the idea of the good, which according to him is even broader in scope than that of essence), Anselm, Lombard, Thomas, Bonaventure, and many others.33 Roman Catholic theologians, in their treatment of the doctrine of God, usually proceed from the same description of God’s being.

Yet there were, and still are today, those who give first place to another attribute of God. Some regard “infinity” rather than “absolute being” or “aseity” central in the idea of God and therefore prefer to describe God as an “infinite being.” One of these theologians is Duns Scotus, who asserted that “essence” can be equally and univocally attributed to God and to creatures but that the mark of distinction between God and creatures is that the former is an infinite being and the latter are finite.34 Thus, whereas all of these theologians proceed from the idea of absolute being and regard as the predominant concept some incommunicable attribute (aseity, infinity, or eternity),35 others prefer to put more emphasis on the intellectual nature of God and hence proceed rather from the idea of personality than from that of absoluteness. Accordingly, they describe God’s essence as that of an “intelligent being” and differ among themselves in that some view radical knowing (in other words, spirituality), and others view actual knowledge, as the constitutive principle of the divine essence.36

[182] The Reformation did little to change these views. People simply aligned themselves with one or the other. Reformed theologians, at least initially, mostly adopted the definitions of Augustine and Thomas. They proceeded from the idea of “aseity” or that of “independence” and hence described God as an “independent being.”37 In addition, we encounter descriptions of God as “the uncreated Spirit,” “the most simple Spirit,” “the self-existent Spirit,” to which at times was added the trinitarian formula: “one in essence, threefold in persons.”38 Lutherans followed the definitions “infinite spiritual essence,” “spiritual self-subsistent being,” “the independent Spirit.”39

Socinianism, on the other hand, took another position. Disregarding all metaphysical questions, it put all emphasis on the will of God. The knowledge of God is tantamount to the knowledge of his will. Religion loses all its mysticism and exhausts itself in worship. God is increasingly distant from the world and humankind. This trend is continued in Remonstrantism, rationalism, and British Deism.

From the ranks of philosophy a reaction again set in against this cold, moralistic concept of God. Spinoza was one who returned to the idea of essence, viewed God “as the unique, infinite, necessarily existing substance,” “the absolute and infinite being,” “the absolute and immanent first cause,” and spoke again of a love of God, “the intellectual love of God,” which is the source of supreme bliss.40 Rationalism and Deism indeed continued to be dominant even after Spinoza, but around the middle of the eighteenth century people grew increasingly weary of this. The great minds, Goethe, Lessing, and Herder, felt attracted to Spinoza, and soon pantheism made its triumphal entry in philosophy. Kant had already undermined the foundations of rationalism, although he continued to call himself a Deist.41 Fichte undertook the battle against the concepts of “God and immortality,” viewing them as products of eudaemonism. In his extreme moralism he equated God with the pure Ego, the moral world order. God, he contended, was neither essence nor substance but absolute action or activity.42 Later he retreated somewhat from this position and aligned himself more closely with Spinoza.43 Schleiermacher displayed even greater resemblance to Spinoza. God and the universe are correlates: God is “the whence of our receptive and self-active existence.”44 Schelling distinguished himself from these two by the fact that he not only took account of spiritual reality, that is, of religion and morality, but also of objective nature. It was his aim to lift natural science from the deplorable condition into which it had fallen. He therefore combined the two, nature and spirit: nature is visible spirit, spirit invisible nature. In both he saw an ongoing organic revelation of the Absolute, which transcends all opposites and is one, simple, and eternal, without predicates, a union of the infinite and the finite, of God and the universe, the One and All.45 Hegel finally converted this system into a form of logical idealism. Nature and history are a logically necessary self-unfolding of the Idea. Everything is rational; everything is embodied thought. Reason, therefore, is absolute substance, God himself. For God is nothing other than the one, living World-idea in process of becoming self-conscious. Hence, in Hegel God is indeed Reason, Thought, Mind, Subject, but not in the sense that he had a life of his own prior to and apart from the world. “Without the world God is not God”; the world, therefore, is an essential component in the life of God.46

But this form of pantheism also did not remain unchallenged. An entire series of theistic philosophers rose up to demonstrate the untenability of pantheism and to defend the rights of theism. They majored in the idea of absolute personality, connected it with the idea of becoming, and thus introduced in God a theogonic process, either in a unitarian (Jacobi, Herbart, Drobish, Rothe, Lotze, Ulrici, Carrière, et al.) or a trinitarian sense (Baader, Schelling, I. H. Fichte, Weisse, Dorner, et al.).

Personal, Moral Names

But this theistic speculation too passed from the scene. The separation of theology and philosophy, religion and metaphysics, became the new watchword. Science (Wissenschaft), for one, increasingly withdrew from the domain of religion and theology, and became exact and positive. Religion, on the other hand, increasingly sought to free itself from science and to banish all metaphysics and philosophy. For the doctrine of God this meant that the essence of God was exclusively identified with ethical goodness. The Groninger theology, in speaking of God, highlighted his fatherhood and love.47 Whereas Scholten proceeded from God’s absolute sovereignty,48 the so-called ethical modernists resisted his speculative intellectualism and monistic determinism and viewed God as Father, as the moral ideal, the power of the good and of holiness.49 Similarly, in Germany the neo-Kantianism of Ritschl arose to challenge the speculative theology of the mediating schools (Vermittelungstheologie).50 Ritschl denied that religion is a legal relationship. He pointed out that according to Duns Scotus, Socinianism, and Arminianism, God is the unrestricted Potentate who, though humans have no rights before him, nevertheless treats them with fairness. In their theory “arbitrariness,” “absolute dominion,” is God’s essence and the law of the universe. God can do one thing as well as another. The relationship between God and humans is a private-law arrangement illustrated by the slaveholder who treats his slaves fairly.51

As Ritschl sees it, according to orthodox Protestants God’s relation to the world is governed by justice. If humans observe God’s law, they are entitled to eternal life; otherwise they deserve punishment. This theory is based on public law. It is derived from the Old Testament, particularly from Pharisaism, was taken over by Paul, and thus entered the Christian church.52 Both conceptions, however, are mistaken [says Ritschl]. Law and religion are treated as opposites. Theologians must not introduce a dualism between God’s justice and his grace. We must abandon the entire abstract, Areopagite concept of God, the idea that envisions God in negative transcendence above the world and does not accept the existence of fellowship between God and humanity.53 Religion consists in a moral relation, and Christianity is “the completely spiritual and absolutely moral religion.”54 God’s relation to us is neither that of master to his servant nor that of a government to its subjects, but that of a father to his child. Its model is the family.55 Accordingly, God must be conceived as Love; no other concept compares with it.56 A Christian dogmatician, therefore, should not—following a synthetic method—begin with an array of metaphysical abstractions about God as the Absolute,57 nor with a so-called natural theology, which does not exist,58 nor even with the concept of personality or the attribute of holiness.59 No: the theologian’s task is to proceed from the concept of love and to try to infer everything (creation, providence, reconciliation, justification) from that concept.60

Many theologians heartily endorsed this criticism of the earlier treatment of the doctrine of God and in their description of God’s essence proceeded, with Ritschl, from the concept of love. Reischle, applying Ritschl’s method consistently, even believed he should proceed, not from love, but from the kingdom of God, in order to infer from it the idea that God is love and that he is personal.61 Furthermore, even outside the circle of his own immediate friends and followers, Ritschl found acceptance in that some, such as Cremer and von Oettingen, rejected the concept of the Absolute as irreligious.62 By contrast, other members of the school of Ritschl regarded this concept indispensable in the doctrine of God. Kaftan, for example, is of the opinion that Ritschl’s problem with the word “absolute,” namely, that it originally means “detached from,” is unfounded, because the meaning of words is determined by usage. He therefore retains the concept as the form that must later be filled with the content of the Christian view of God, which gives prominence to the concept of God as “supramundane, personal Spirit.”63 Although Kaftan began with sharp criticism of the traditional dogmatic treatment of the doctrine of God and considered the two elements—the absoluteness of being and the personality of God—incompatible,64 in the end he faces the same difficulty and fails to offer an alternative solution. The same is true of Wobbermin, who also retains the concept of absoluteness and believes he has found a synthesis in the definition that God is “the archetype and unitary totality of spiritual-personal life.”65

Thus theology, today as much as in the past, continues to struggle with the difficulty of offering a somewhat satisfactory description of God’s essence. God is alternately described as “that which has being,” “absolute being,” “absolute substance”; or as “Sovereign,” “the Lord,” “the Supreme Being”; or as “infinite Spirit,” “absolute causality,” “absolute personality”; or as the “Father,” “love,” “the personal almighty will of love,” “goodness,” and so forth. To proceed from the unity and harmony of all God’s attributes and to persist in this to the end is difficult. We always especially face the problem of doing equal justice to the absoluteness and the personality of God, the incommunicable and the communicable attributes, God’s absolute superiority over, and his communion with, the world. Added to this is the complication that every human being is limited and readily stresses one attribute of God at the expense of another. Jansen saw especially God’s veracity, Francis de Sales his love, Vincent his goodness, St. Cyran his omnipotence.66 Still, it remains the calling of theology, following the example of Scripture, to honor equally all the attributes of God.

Divine Simplicity; Essence and Attributes

[183] Now Christian theology has always been more or less conscious of this calling. On the whole, its teaching has been that God is “simple,” that is, sublimely free from all composition, and that therefore one cannot make any real [i.e., ontological] distinction between his being and his attributes. Each attribute is identical with God’s being: he is what he possesses. In speaking of creatures we make all sorts of distinctions between what they are and what they have. A person, for example, is still human even though he or she has lost the image of God and has become a sinner. But in God all his attributes are identical with his being. God is light through and through; he is all mind, all wisdom, all logos, all spirit, and so forth.67 In God “to be is the same as to be wise, which is the same as to be good, which is the same as to be powerful. One and the same thing is stated whether it be said that God is eternal or immortal or good or just.” Whatever God is, he is that completely and simultaneously. “God has no properties but is pure essence. God’s properties are really the same as his essence: they neither differ from his essence nor do they differ materially from each other.”68

This doctrine of God’s simplicity was the means by which Christian theology was kept from the danger of splitting God’s attributes from his essence and of making them more or less independent from, and opposed to, his essence. In a sense polytheism represents this error insofar as it personifies and deifies the various forces operative in creation. But in philosophy and theology this error occurs as well. Plato, positing the ideas as archetypes of existing things, ascribed to them an independent existence alongside God. While Gnosticism described God as the Unknowable and Inexpressible, it made the Platonic ideas into aeons that emanated from God and distanced themselves from him in a descending series. Called “idea,” “mind,” “reason” (logos), “life,” “wisdom,” they were nothing but the personified attributes of God, which emanated from him and were represented as divine beings.69 Also Philo, reflecting Plato’s influence, often represented the divine energies—especially his goodness, power, and rationality (logos)—as hypostases (substances).70 Jewish theology assumed the existence of various hypostases (e.g., metatron, memra, shekinah, ruach, bath-kal)71 and in the Kabbalah the ten sefiroth (attributes) of God are described as emanations from the divine being.72 Even in later periods this gnostic and kabbalistic philosophy still exerted great influence. Arianism was still tinctured by Gnosticism insofar as it assumed a kind of gradation among the divine persons. The moment monotheism is no longer supported by belief in the Trinity, it risks losing its purity, being threatened by pantheism or monism, on the one hand, and by polytheism or pluralism, on the other. In modern times not only do many people practically put the state, science, art, industry, fortune, and fate as so many independent powers on a level with God and venerate them in the place of God, but also even polytheistic sympathies are sometimes voiced with great candor as well.73

Even Christian theologians sometimes fail to observe the necessary caution in determining the relation between God’s essence and his attributes. In the Middle Ages, for example, Gilbert Porretan made a distinction between God’s essence or nature (divinity) and God himself. Divinity, he claimed, is the form by virtue of which God is God, but not itself God. “God exists by virtue of divinity, but divinity as such is not God.”74 Duns Scotus indeed denied that there is a real [ontological] difference (distinctio realis) between [God’s] being and his attributes, but nevertheless maintained—with an appeal to Augustine and John of Damascus—that the attributes of God can be formally distinguished from God’s being and each other.75 Socinianism spoke of “accidents” [incidental properties] in God and held that a different view and description of the attributes were necessary.76 In recent times many have even gone further, assuming an objective difference in God at the expense of his simplicity and immutability.77 Doedes, continuing along this line, first treated those characteristics that are given with the idea of deity, such as oneness, incommunicability, incomparability, incomprehensibility, independence (etc.), and subsequently those characteristics that additionally apply to the divine being and are only five in number: omnipotence, wisdom, goodness, love, and holiness.78 Under the rubric of God’s essence F. A. B. Nitzsch similarly first discusses certain “fundamental qualifications of the divine nature,” which subsequently form the substratum for the attributes treated after the doctrine of creation.79 C. Pesch also calls the attributes “qualities superadded to the divine substance.”80

Personal Absolute Being

Given such a view, one cannot do justice to the Christian idea that all God’s attributes are identical with his essence. One cannot make a distinction between determinations that are given with the idea of God, and others that have been added. For one thing, the above theologians to such an extent disagree among themselves that the one attributes to the essence what the other discusses among the [secondary] attributes and vice versa. But there is still another reason for taking exception to this distinction: it results in an impoverished, not an enriched, understanding of God, inasmuch as it gives the impression that the attributes, such as the love of God, are not in the same absolute sense present in God as, for example, his infinity, or had accrued to God from without as a result of creation. However, this view impairs the absoluteness of God in all his attributes and has, accordingly, been prudently avoided by Christian theology specifically in its doctrine of the simplicity of God. Frequently, it is true, the impression has been given 81 that theology, proceeding from the description of God as the Supreme Being, has gone down the same path as philosophy, which views God as the Absolute and confines itself to this abstraction. But between these two terms there is a large distinction that must not be overlooked.

When the church fathers, in their attempt to determine the nature of God’s being, started with the name yhwh and described him as “Being,” they had in mind not God’s being apart from his attributes, but the total fullness of God’s being as it exists and is revealed in his attributes. Hence, the being ascribed to God was not an abstraction but a living, infinitely rich, and concrete Being, a Supreme Being at once identical with supreme life, supreme truth, supreme wisdom, supreme love (etc.), as Augustine repeatedly said, and hence “an ocean of boundless being.”82 The description of God as “being” was used to indicate that he is the sum total of all reality. It certainly did not mean that he is abstract “being,” being without content, “the Absolute” in the philosophical sense of the word. Although that term perhaps arose under the influence of philosophy, it still has a very different meaning than when philosophy speaks of God as Absolute Being. Philosophy, after all, obtains this concept by abstraction. When philosophy strips from existing things all that is unique in each existing thing, what is left in the end is nothing but “being,” “isness,” the bare existence that they all have in common. Furthermore, that bare existence must even in each case be understood in a different sense. Bodies exist in a different way than spirits; substances have existence in another way than accidents; thoughts exist differently than objects; and that which is possible differs in its mode of existing from that which is real. Still, they all have in common the most general concept of being or existence. It is immediately clear, however, that this concept, obtained as it is in the way of progressive abstraction, is nothing other and nothing more than a concept. It is absolutely devoid of content and vacuous, and has no objective and independent reality whatever. On the other hand, when theology speaks of God as “essence,” it did not obtain this concept by abstraction but by the opposite process of addition, that is, by attributing to God in an absolute sense all the perfections that occur in creatures and therefore by thinking of him as absolute reality, the sum total of all being, the “purest and simplest actuality.” Accordingly, the being that is ascribed to God in theology is at the same time the richest, most perfect, most intensive, most determinate and concrete, absolute and simple Being.83

[184] Hence, when Christian theology threw out the distinction between God’s essence and attributes, this was not done to deny that God has “being,” nor to forbid the use of the word “being” in the doctrine of God. On the contrary, it did this to hold at bay from God all that is nonreal and to express as strongly as possible that in all his attributes he is pure being, absolute reality. And there is still another reason why the word “being” cannot be dispensed with in the doctrine of God. In the doctrine of the Trinity we need it to get somewhat of a handle on the distinction between God’s nature and the modes of its subsistence. But even aside from that matter, in the doctrine of God’s attributes we cannot refrain from speaking of his “being.” For precisely because God is pure being—the absolute, perfect, unique, and simple being—we cannot give a definition of him. There is no genus to which he belongs as a member, and there are no specific marks of distinction whereby we can distinguish him from other beings in this genus. Even the being he has, so to speak, in common with all creatures does not pertain to him in the same sense as it does to them (univocally), but only analogically and proportionally. Yet name him we must; in religion as well as in theology we need a description to refer to him and to distinguish him from all that is not God. But here we face the problem that God, on the one hand, has no name (is anonymous) and, on the other hand, has many names (is polyonymous). We need not bother ourselves about the question whether God has still more attributes than those that he has revealed in creation and re-creation. Spinoza wrote that the greater the reality present in a given substance, the more attributes it possesses, and that as infinite substance God also possesses an infinite number of attributes,84 though we know only two: extension and thought. And, according to Reinhard, it is highly probable that God “might possess a multitude of attributes of which we have no conception, seeing that it is altogether impossible for infinite perfection to unite with himself all resemblances into such limited creatures as we are.”85 However this may be, the number of attributes he has revealed of himself is so great that one cannot possibly sum them up completely. So we must either totally refrain from any description whatever or else make a selection from among them.

The outcome of this selection differs greatly in various schools of theology.86 We need not discuss all the descriptions given of God, but a couple of them do merit our attention because in recent times they have found so much acceptance. Theistic philosophers preferred to proceed from the “personality” of God, which they regarded as the correct designation of God’s being. With a view to warding off the pantheistic concept of God, they were indeed right; but in every other setting it is nevertheless inadvisable to take this line in describing the divine being. For in the first place, the word “person” is already being used in a specific and unique sense in the doctrine of the Trinity. Second, using the word “personality” in reference to God’s being can easily lead to our viewing God as “unipersonal” and to our failing to do justice to his “tripersonality,” as the doctrine of the Trinity makes it known. Third, in the modern, abstract, and formal concept of personality, there is as yet nothing that distinguishes God as such from us humans.87 Questionable, too, is the practice proceeding from the idea of love in describing God’s being. For love as such already presupposes personality, consciousness, and will; it most certainly constitutes God’s essence, but not in a different sense than that in which all God’s attributes constitute God’s essence; and it exposes us to the danger of regarding other attributes of God, such as righteousness and holiness, as less real.88

Christian theology has sought to avoid this one-sidedness in its description of God’s essence by placing his aseity in the foreground. And, indeed, absoluteness cannot be dispensed within that description since in this connection everything depends on describing God as God and on distinguishing him from all that is not God.89 But that absoluteness, as stated above, must be understood correctly. It is not correct to say that absoluteness is a philosophical and not a religious concept and therefore does not belong in theology. There is just as much to be said for the thesis that the word “absolute,” when also used by philosophers, actually has a religious character.90 For although there is disagreement over the validity of the arguments for the existence of God, that is, over the logical propriety of inferring the absolute from the relative, no human being allows himself or herself to be kept by this scientific uncertainty from accepting the existence of the absolute as the ground and cause of the existence of all things. The metaphysical or religious need of humans always asserts itself to some extent in this connection. For that reason religion and theology cannot dispense with the concept of the absolute either. What matters here, of course, is not primarily the word but the matter itself. For religion and theology God must always be God, distinct from and above all things, the Creator and Ruler of all that exists, on whom believers can rely in times of distress and death, or else God can no longer be God to them. As such God is the strictly independent and only absolute being. This is what the concept of absoluteness meant in the past. “Absoluteness” was not obtained by abstraction, deprived of all content, and the most general kind of being, but true, unique, infinitely full being, precisely because it was absolute, that is, independent being, belonging only to itself and self-existence. “Absolute is that which is not dependent on anything else.”91

From ancient times Christian theology connected this view and description of God with the meaning of the name yhwh as that is given in Exodus 3:14. Now people can disagree on the question whether the concept of “absolute being” is implied in the name yhwh, and we will expressly revisit it in the following section. In any case it is certain that the unicity, his distinctness from, and his absolute superiority over, all creatures is highlighted throughout Scripture. However much he is able to descend to the level of creatures, specifically humans—represented as he is as walking in the garden, coming down to earth to see the city and tower of Babel (etc.)—nevertheless he is the Creator of heaven and earth. He speaks and things come to be; he commands and they stand forth. From everlasting to everlasting he is God, the First and the Last, from whom, through whom, and to whom are all things (Gen. 1:1ff.; Ps. 33:6, 9; 90:2; Isa. 41:4; 43:10–13; 44:6; 48:12; John 5:26; Acts 17:24ff.; Rom. 11:36; Eph. 4:6; Heb. 2:10; Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11; 10:6; 11:17; etc.).

Stated or implied in this biblical teaching is all that Christian theology intended to say with its description of God’s essence as absolute being. God is the real, the true being, the fullness of being, the sum total of all reality and perfection, the totality of being, from which all other being owes its existence. He is an immeasurable and unbounded ocean of being; the absolute being who alone has being in himself. Now, this description of God’s being deserves preference over that of personality, love, fatherhood, and so forth, because it encompasses all God’s attributes in an absolute sense. In other words, by this description God is recognized and confirmed as God in all his perfections. These attributes cannot, of course, be logically developed from the concept of absolute being, for what God is and what his attributes are can only be known by us from his revelation in nature and Scripture. Yet all these attributes are only divine characteristics because they pertain to God in a unique and absolute sense. Hence, in that respect aseity may be called the primary attribute of God’s being. We can even say—on the basis of God’s revelation, not by means of a priori reasoning—that along with his aseity all those attributes have to be present in God that nature and Scripture make known to us. If God is God, the only, eternal, and absolute Being, this implies that he possesses all the perfections, a faint analogy of which can be discerned in his creatures. If God is the absolutely existing being, he is also absolute in wisdom and goodness, in righteousness and holiness, in power and blessedness. As One who exists of and through and unto himself, he is the fullness of being, the independent and supremely perfect Being.

Distinction of Attributes

[185] Although we cannot really make a distinction between God’s essence and his attributes (seeing that each attribute constitutes that essence), it does not follow that distinctions among the attributes themselves are merely nominal and subjective without any basis in reality. This has to be stressed because many have drawn this false conclusion. Eunomius, following the example of Aetius before him, reasoned as follows: God is “simple,” totally noncomposite; hence, the attributes we ascribe to him are identical with his being and can only differ among themselves in our minds, that is, subjectively. Furthermore, our knowledge of God has to be fully adequate or else it would be false. Now in the concept of agennesia (lit., “nonbegottenness”) we have a fully adequate knowledge of the divine being. Consequently, all the other attributes—for example, goodness, wisdom, power—must in reality coincide with it, for all God’s attributes are synonymous. And since agennesia constitutes God’s essence, the Son, who was begotten by the Father, cannot be truly divine.92

In the Middle Ages Gilbert Porretan, bishop of Poitiers (d. 1159), in his teaching insisted on an ontological distinction between God’s essence and persons, between deity and God, and perhaps also (though this is uncertain) between God’s essence and his attributes and between the various attributes among themselves.93 According to the nominalists, especially Occam, the attributes differed only in “subjective reason, connoting as they did different effects,” that is, with a view to the relation between them and the several works of God. The idea of any one attribute, therefore, was implied in that of every other. In calling God “good” we at the same time thereby call him “just,” “powerful,” and so on.94 Scotists thought it better to say that the attributes differed “not in objective or in subjective reason but formally.”95

The Palamites of the fourteenth century were named after Gregory Palamas, archbishop of Thessalonica, who taught a kind of emanation theory and who represented the acts of God in creation, providence, and so on, as well as the attributes of omnipotence, goodness, wisdom, and so forth, as eternal emissions of light from the unknowable divine essence, emissions that were essentially distinct from the divine essence and had to be viewed as a kind of inferior deities. Also, in Arabic and Jewish philosophy one repeatedly encounters a purely subjective view of God’s attributes.96 Spinoza understood “by attribute what the intellect perceives of a substance as constituting its essence.”97 Depending on whether one focuses on the first or on the second part of this definition, one may either say that Spinoza viewed attributes as subjective construals of the intellect or as objective, existing properties of a substance.98 Pantheism, which as a result of Spinoza’s work found acceptance in philosophy, no longer has any room for the attributes of God. In pantheism God has no distinct being, no life of his own apart from the world. His attributes are identical with the laws of the universe.99 Schleiermacher, accordingly, describes them in purely subjective terms as “something special in the way we relate the feeling of absolute dependence to God.” Their origin lies in religious-poetic invention and are devoid of speculative content. They express neither God’s essence (which is unknowable) nor his relations to the world, since this would imply that God sustained many different relations to the world. They are simply subjective ideas without any objective basis. Schleiermacher, therefore, did not deal with the doctrine of the attributes of God separately but interspersed it throughout his dogmatics.100

On the basis of God’s revelation it is our obligation—against this view of the names of God—to hold onto the belief that, though every attribute is identical with the divine being, the attributes are nevertheless distinct. So Basil and Gregory of Nyssa taught in their writings against Eunomius. On the one hand, they maintained that the attributes did not differ in substance, since God is “simple” and transcends all composition, yet, on the other, they do not differ only in name. Avoiding both extremes, they judged that the names of God differ in thought, that in our mind we have different “ideas, thoughts, and considerations” of the same divine being. Therefore, with reference to the different attributes (such as goodness, wisdom, etc.), we do not just use different names but in that connection really entertain different ideas. No single name expresses God’s being with full adequacy, but there are nevertheless many “names, properties, ideas, and fitting honors” by which “some characteristic of God becomes known to us.” Gregory of Nyssa even spoke of the essence (οὐσια) of God as the “subject” and of “different qualities or properties” pertaining to that essence.101 Accordingly, the ideas that we associate with the names of God are distinct from each other. It was therefore considered an error to use the names of God interchangeably or to confuse them. They could be considered by themselves. So, whereas God is certainly identical with the attributes of “divinity, goodness, wisdom, paternity, sonship,” and so on, these attributes themselves are not interchangeable with each other. Hence, the one property is not so involved in another that we cannot conceive the one without the other. Each attribute expresses something special.102

Augustine even more vigorously asserts that every attribute is identical with God’s essence and to that extent with every other attribute as well. “For whatever seems to be predicated with respect to qualities is to be understood with respect to substance or essence.” Furthermore, “for God to be is the same as to be strong or to be just or to be wise (etc.).” Neither do the attributes differ among themselves. “That which is justice is also itself goodness, and that which is goodness is also itself blessedness. His greatness is the same as his wisdom, for he is not greater in size but in virtue, and his goodness is the same as his wisdom and his greatness, and his truth is the same as all of these; and with respect to him it is not one thing to be blessed and another to be great or wise, or true or to be good, or in general to be himself.”103 Indeed, he expressly states that these “predicates or qualities,” when attributed to God, are really the passions (affectiones) of our own spirit.

Whichever of these you affirm concerning God, not only is it wrong to suppose that one ascription refers to one thing and another to a very different thing, but also that anything is affirmed worthily, that is, adequately, because these ascriptions pertain to souls, which in a measure are filled with that Light and affected by it in accordance with their own qualities, just as when this visible light begins to shine upon physical objects. If it is withdrawn, all these objects have the same color; or rather, they have no color. But once it has been brought out and illumined these objects, then although this light is of one kind, nevertheless it suffuses the objects with a luster that varies in accordance with their different qualities. Consequently, these passions pertain to our own souls which are wondrously affected by that Light, which is not affected, and are formed by that which is not formed.104

Yet, however strong Augustine’s assertions are here, he nevertheless fully maintains that all these predicates are rightly and truthfully used of God. God is all that he has and what is attributed to him in the names. In speaking of the “simplicity of God” it is not Augustine’s intent to take anything away from God but, on the contrary, to conceive of God in the fullness of his being. With this in view he speaks of the “simple multiplicity” or the “manifold simplicity” present in God, and calls God’s wisdom “simply manifold and uniformly multiform.”105

In later times the distinction between reason reasoning (ratio ratiocinans) and the rational analysis of a thing (ratio ratiocinata) was employed in the search for a solution to the difficulty that presents itself in this connection. On the one hand, the diversity of the attributes could not in any way be allowed to impair the unity, simplicity, and immutability of God’s being. Nor, on the other hand, could this be viewed as a subjective, arbitrary, and untrue human invention. It was therefore correctly said that this diversity is rooted in God’s revelation itself. For it is not we who call God by these names. We do not invent them. On the contrary, if it depended on us, we would be silent about him, try to forget him, and disown all his names. We take no delight in the knowledge of his ways. We tend continually to oppose his names: his independence, sovereignty, righteousness, and love, and resist him in all his perfections. But it is God himself who reveals all his perfections and puts his names on our lips. It is he who gives himself these names and who, despite our opposition, maintains them. It is of little use to us to deny his righteousness: every day he demonstrates this quality in history. And so it is with all his attributes. He brings them out despite us. The final goal of all his ways is that his name will shine out in all his works and be written on everyone’s forehead (Rev. 22:4). For that reason we have no choice but to name him with the many names his revelation furnishes us.

This diversity of attributes, moreover, does not clash with God’s simplicity. For that simplicity does not describe God as an abstract and general kind of being; on the contrary, it speaks of him as the absolute fullness of life. It is for this very reason that God reveals himself to finite creatures by many names. The divine essence is so infinitely and profusely rich that no creature can grasp it all at once. Just as a child cannot picture the worth of a coin of great value but only gains some sense of it when it is counted out in a number of smaller coins, so we too cannot possibly form a picture of the infinite fullness of God’s essence unless it is displayed to us now in one relationship, then in another, and now from one angle, then from another.106 God remains eternally and immutably the same, but the relation in which he stands to his creatures and they to him varies. The light remains the same even though it breaks up into different colors (Augustine). Fire does not change whether it warms us, illumines us, or consumes us (Moses Maimonides). And grain remains grain even though, depending on the stage in which it comes to us, we call it seed, or food, or fruit (Basil). God is called by different names on account of the varying effects he produces in his creatures by his ever-constant being.

In this connection we must remember that God can act in so many different qualities and be called by so many different names, because there is kinship between him and his creatures. If this kinship did not exist, all the names would be untrue. But now there is in his creatures an analogy to what is present in God himself. The names do not merely denote God as the cause of things, but furnish, however feebly and inadequately, some inkling of the divine essence. So, referring to God by all these names, we indeed speak imperfectly, in finite terms, in limited human ways, yet not falsely. For though in God knowing and willing, righteousness and grace always constitute the one full being, yet in these many perfections God displays before our eyes that one rich being, as it were, consecutively and in juxtaposition. Although it is always the same being that confronts us in these names, each name by itself gives us a succinct statement of what that being truly is in its infinite fullness. In God holiness and mercy may be the same in essence, yet our understanding of these two attributes, formed from God’s self-revelation, differs. There is no name capable of expressing God’s being with full adequacy. Given that reality, many names serve to give us an impression of his all-transcending grandeur.107

Two or Three Ways

[186] As already stated above, in early times of the church all that could be thought and said of God was subsumed under his names. But the vast amount of material made it necessary to organize it. Some limitation occurred very soon because the term (“the names of God”) came to be restricted to terms of address: God, Lord, and so on. Subsequently, the doctrine of the Trinity was soon treated separately, either before or after the attributes, and in a terminology all its own. Also, the attempt to give a description of God brought with it the necessity of putting one or another attribute (say, aseity or personality) in the foreground, and even of treating this attribute in a separate chapter under the heading of “The Divine Essence” before dealing with the remaining attributes. The division of this latter category, which then most readily suggested itself and is also the most ancient, was that of negative and positive attributes. For as soon as theologians began to reflect on the origin of the terms used, they noted that they had been obtained from the domain of creatures, either in the way of negation or of eminence and causality. We already encounter this classification or at least this two- or threefold method of learning to know God in the works of Philo and Plotinus.108 In the thinking of the church fathers God was both unknowable and knowable: unknowable in essence, yet knowable from revelation. On the one hand, they wrote, one can only say of God what he is not; on the other, in some defective and inadequate fashion, one can nevertheless predicate something positive about him. Pseudo-Dionysius, John of Damascus, and Erigena, proceeding from this idea, worked it into a formal division, a twofold theology, namely, “apophatic” and “kataphatic.”109 Pseudo-Dionysius describes the three ways explicitly when he says that we arrive at the knowledge of God “by way of the denial and the transcendence of all things and by way of the cause of all things.”110 And scholasticism, especially since Durandus de S. Porciano, began to speak of the three ways by which one attains to the knowledge of God: the way of negation, eminence, and causality. These three ways have been recognized in dogmatics right into modern times. Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed theologians have all adopted them and sometimes treated them at great length. But they have also repeatedly been sharply criticized. Spinoza rejected the “way of eminence” by commenting that if a triangle could speak, it would say that “God is eminently triangular.”111 Kant held that the usefulness of the way of causality was confined to the sphere of the phenomena. Schleiermacher, disapproving of the way of negation and eminence, retained only the way of causality.112 Still others have cast aside the entire method of attaining to God by one of these three ways and, by contrast, posited that we should not try to reach God from a position in the world but, conversely, descend to the world from a position in God.113

In response to all this, it should be recognized that the knowledge of God’s attributes existed long before these three ways had been conceived, and hence that they were born much later from reflection on attributes already well known and described. Nor can it be denied that the way of eminence and the way of causality are actually one and may together be posited as the way of affirmation over against the way of negation. And finally, there is no doubt that the mode of knowing should not be confused with the mode of being. In reality God, not the creature, is primary. He is the archetype [the original]; the creature is the ectype [the likeness]. In him everything is original, absolute, and perfect; in creatures everything is derived, relative, and limited. God, therefore, is not really named after things present in creatures, but creatures are named after that which exists in an absolute sense in God.

On the other hand, it must not be overlooked that we have no knowledge of God other than from his revelation in the creaturely world. Since on earth we walk by faith and not by sight, we have only an analogous and proportional knowledge of God. Of God we have no direct but only an indirect kind of knowledge, a concept derived from the creaturely world. Though not exhaustive, it is not untrue, since all creatures are God’s creatures and therefore display something of his perfections. Bearing this in mind, we can say that both of these ways can be taken with safety. Scripture, which is theological through and through and derives all things from God, over and over in its method of knowing nevertheless—or rather because of this—ascends to God from a position in the world (Isa. 40:26; Rom. 1:20). Precisely because everything comes from God, everything points back to God. All who think about him or want to speak about him derive—whether by way of affirmation or negation—the forms and images needed for that purpose from the world around them.

On the one hand, in speaking of God, we deny that the imperfections and limitations we find in creatures also exist in him; on the other, we ascribe to God in an absolute sense all the perfections we observe in creatures. But these two paths are not separated by a wide chasm. They do not even run parallel; neither can we take the one without taking the other. To reach our goal we consistently and simultaneously need both methods. At all times they are the two complementary components that go into the formation of the one pure knowledge of God. When, in the way of negation, we deny to God all creaturely imperfections, this assumes that we have a positive appreciation of God as the Absolute Being, even if we cannot put this awareness in so many words. The confession of his incomprehensibility is a proof of his knowability. And conversely, when in the way of affirmation we ascribe to God all the perfections found in created things, we always do this also by using the way of eminence. We only ascribe these perfections to him in a supereminent sense; that is, proceeding affirmatively, we simultaneously deny that those perfections are present in God in the same manner in which we find them present in his creatures. That is the reason we can say that all attributes are simultaneously ascribed and denied to him. Indeed, he is wise and good and holy and glorious—but not in the way his creatures are. Mysticism, which loved to speak of God in this way, said that God was above all wisdom, goodness, holiness, life, being, even above all divinity, not to deny that God was all these things, but to inculcate that he was all these things in a way that infinitely surpassed our comprehension. God is simultaneously panonymous (the possessor of all names) and anonymous (the possessor of no name). Those know him best who do not know him—who think he transcends the conceivable. The most brilliant light dwells in deepest darkness (Exod. 20:21). Pseudo-Dionysius, accordingly, calls God “the affirmation of all things and the negation of all things: the Cause beyond all affirmation and denial.”114

Classifying God’s Attributes

The division of the divine perfections into negative and positive attributes is closely connected with these two ways. It is of ancient origin, soon met with general acceptance, and actually underlies all other and later divisions. It can already be found in the works of Philo, Plotinus, and the church fathers, and was subsequently followed by John of Damascus, Anselm, Thomas, Petavius, and numerous others.115 Among Roman Catholic theologians this division is the most common, while a number of Reformed and Lutheran theologians have adopted it as well. Occasionally other distinctions are also introduced. Augustine already commented that some names of God are used “properly,” others “metaphorically,” and still others “relatively.”116 The “negative names,” accordingly, were again subdivided into those that are “purely negative” and those “relatively negative,” while the “positive names” were subdivided into the “proper” and the “metaphorical.”117

Along with this division into negative and positive attributes, still another one arose. Plato already taught that God is inherently good, whereas creatures are good by participation (μετοχη). This idea has borne abundant fruit in Christian theology, especially in the case of Augustine. Over against pantheism it was maintained that God’s essence is incommunicable and that the soul was “no part” of God.118 At the same time it was held that all God’s creatures are related to God, and especially that human beings are his image and likeness. Between the Creator and the creature, it was said, there is analogy. This then led to the division between communicable and incommunicable attributes. Earlier these expressions were already employed in the doctrine of the Trinity. For, as it was put, God’s essence or deity is communicable (communicated by the Father to the Son in the generation of the Son), but the persons and the personal properties (say, fatherhood) are incommunicable.119 From there the two terms were also adopted in the doctrine of the divine attributes with a view to maintaining both God’s transcendence and his immanence.120 This division was especially welcome among Reformed theologians, no doubt in part because it gave them a ready means with which to combat the Lutheran doctrine of ubiquity.121 Yet everyone admits that the communicable attributes in an absolute sense—as they exist in God—are just as incommunicable as the others.122 The Lutherans mostly favored another division, namely, that into “quiescent” and “operative,” also called “indwelling” and “outgoing” attributes, employed in part in defense of the doctrine of the “communication of proper qualities” (communication idiomatum).123 Usually treated in the first group (the negative, incommunicable, metaphysical, quiescent) were the attributes of oneness, simplicity, independence, immutability, eternity, and omnipresence. The second group (positive, communicable, operative, personal) was usually again subdivided into attributes of intellect, will, and power.

In modern times many other divisions have been added to these old and common ones. Schleiermacher viewed the attributes merely as subjective ideas grounded only in reasoning and therefore divided them in terms of the relation in which, to our mind, God stands to the world, sin, and redemption. Thus, first there are the attributes that are integral to the human feeling of dependence, apart from any sense of the antithetical nature of sin: eternity, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience. Next come those that presuppose the consciousness of the antithetical nature of sin: holiness, righteousness. And finally there are attributes that are experienced when that antithesis has been overcome: love and wisdom. Related to this is the division of the attributes in terms of the relation in which God stands to the universe, specifically to the universe in general: infinity, eternity, omnipresence; to the ethical world: holiness, righteousness, grace, mercy; and to the ethical-physical world: wisdom, blessedness.124

Among those who derive the attributes of God totally from his relation to the universe is Dorner, who does this by relating the attributes of God to the arguments for God’s existence, inferring a class of attributes from each of the arguments. The ontological argument, for example, makes us think of God as “the One who is” and suggests to us the idea of the absolute as possessing the attributes of unity, simplicity, and infinity. The cosmological argument, to give a second example, leads to God as the cause of all things, hence as the One who is himself absolute Life, and so forth.125

Others think that we should preface the attributes we derive from God’s relation to the world with others that describe God as he is within himself (an sich), and treat them under the heading of “metaphysical” attributes, or as attributes of being, of the absolute, of absolute personality, of “the all-glorious Spirit who conditions all of life,” and so on. The attributes that follow and describe God’s relation to the world are again arranged in different ways: attributes of intellect and will (to which Hase adds that of feeling); or intellectual, ethical, and dynamic attributes; or physical and moral attributes, also known as psychological attributes or as the attributes of holy love. Some theologians add a third group that describe, as it were, the result of the divine being and life, and make God known in his blessedness and glory.126 Still others refrain from actually classifying the attributes and only try to follow some kind of order in the treatment of these attributes.127

[187] All the above divisions seem to be very different and called by very different names. But materially they are not that far apart. Whether people speak of negative and positive, incommunicable and communicable, quiescent and operative, absolute and relative, metaphysical and psychological attributes, of attributes of the substance and subject apart from or in relation to the universe and humankind, actually they consistently refer to the same order in which the attributes are treated. Against all the above arrangements one can lodge virtually the same objections. They all appear to divide God’s being into two halves. They all seem to treat first God’s absoluteness, then his personality; first God’s being as such, then God in relation to his creatures. They all seem to imply that the first group of terms is obtained apart from the creation, and the second from God’s creatures, and that, consequently, there is no unity or concord among God’s perfections.128

It is the incontrovertible teaching of Scripture, however, that in God’s secret being he is unknowable and unnamable, and that all God’s names presuppose his self-revelation, that is, his creation. Of God’s being and life apart from creation we know nothing for the simple reason that we ourselves are creatures and therefore always bound to creation. In the past this was clearly understood and articulated with respect to the relative, metaphorical, and positive names of God. Relative terms, such as “Lord,” “Creator,” “Sustainer,” “Savior,” and so on, belong to God only on account of, and upon the coming into being of, the creation. No one can be called “master” unless he has servants. Human beings, the servants of God, were created in time, so in time God became our Lord.129 With respect to metaphorical names, to which also the anthropomorphisms belong, it is clear that they presuppose the creation. In the same way the positive names—such as “good,” “holy,” “wise”—have some meaning to our mind, because we observe examples (ectypes) of them in creatures.130 But all these names, though relative, metaphorical, and positive, nevertheless definitely denote something in God that exists in him absolutely, “properly,” and hence also “negatively,” that is, in another sense than it exists in creatures. Augustine sought to demonstrate that, though God became Lord in time, his essence is nonetheless unchanging and all the change occurs in creatures alone. “Accordingly, that which is first said of God in time, and was not said of him before, is manifestly said of him relatively, yet not because of some accident in God, as though something happened to him, but plainly on account of some accident of that with reference to which God begins to be called something relative.”131

The reverse is true of the second group of attributes, whether these are called negative, incommunicable, quiescent, absolute, or something else. For although they deny to God some quality that pertains to creatures, they are all in a sense also positive, communicable, transferable, and relative. If that were not the case, if they were totally incommunicable, they would also be totally unknowable and unnamable. The fact that we can think and name them is proof that in some way or other they have been revealed by God in his works. The negative terms, therefore, also have a positive content. Although we can learn to know God’s eternity only by and in time, his omnipresence by and in space, his infinity and immutability by and in the midst of finite and changeable creatures, yet these attributes do furnish us some—and even important—knowledge of God. Even though we cannot understand eternity in a positive sense, it means a lot to know that God is exalted above all the conditions of time. By means of that knowledge we, as it were, continually correct our notions concerning God. We speak of him in human terms and attribute to him a range of human qualities, but as we are doing this we are ever acutely conscious of the fact that all these properties pertain to God in a sense quite different from that in which we find them in creatures.

The knowledge we have of God is correct because we know that it is not exhaustive—not false and untrue, but analogical and ectypal. But for that very reason it remains objectionable to so classify the attributes of God that, on the one hand, we end up with a group of perfections that are called negative, incommunicable, quiescent, absolute, and metaphysical and view God “as such” apart from his relation to the universe and, on the other hand, with a group of perfections that are called positive, communicable, operative, relative, and psychological, and are derived from his relation to the universe. For all God’s attributes are both absolute and relative. They are all absolute, yet only known first from his relation to his creatures. Conversely, we can only name God in terms of what is revealed of him in his creatures, but in so doing we are still naming him who is infinitely exalted above all his creatures. One can even say on good grounds that because the attributes are in reality identical with God’s being and, in God, identical with each other as well, no classification will be found that is objectively based on the attributes themselves.

But since God can be called by many names, we still need to treat them in a certain order. Now when we summarize all that God has revealed of himself in his names, we find there are two groups that can be readily separated from the rest. On the one hand, there are those among them that were later singled out as the names of God and can be characterized as proper names of address. On the other, there are the unique attributes that pertain not to the divine being but to the three persons in that being. They come up in the doctrine of the Trinity and were referred to as properties (ἰδιωματα), notions, notional or personal properties, and relative attributes. Left between these two groups is a large space for the attributes that describe God’s being and have received very different names in theology, such as characteristics (ἀξιωματα), values (ἀξιαι), thoughts, concepts, principles (ἐπιλογισμοι), qualities, virtues, properties, perfections, and so on.

Now, it is extremely difficult to introduce order into the treatment of the numerous attributes belonging to this last group. But in this connection we do receive guidance from the relation in which God stands to his creatures. For the entire universe is a revelation of God. There is no part of the universe in which something of his perfections does not shine forth. Yet among his creatures there are distinctions: not all of them proclaim all God’s perfections, and not all these creatures proclaim them with the same clarity. There is order and gradation: all creatures display vestiges of God, but only human beings are God’s image and likeness. Not only do humans have existence in common with the lower creation, and life and spirit with the higher creation, but in this community of the material and the spiritual world they are also uniquely related to God himself, created in true knowledge, holiness, and righteousness as prophets, priests, and kings. Thus God, the source of all being and archetypically related to humans, is himself all that which belongs to his creatures in the way of being, life, and spirit, in knowledge, holiness, and righteousness. In all creatures but especially in humanity there is something analogous to the divine being. But all the perfections found in creatures exist in God in a wholly unique and original way. Discernible in every one of God’s perfections is both his absolute superiority over, and his kinship with, his creatures. Hence, in one sense each of his attributes is incommunicable and in another communicable.

Scripture, in this regard, leads the way and simultaneously maintains both God’s transcendence over, and his orientation to, the world. And Christian theology follows this pattern when it successively treats God’s negative and positive (incommunicable and communicable) attributes. Actually, with every positive attribute (which, as it were, makes known the content of God’s being) we should have to show that it is at the same time negative, inasmuch as the categories of being, life, spirit, knowledge, righteousness, holiness (etc.) pertain to God in a different way than they do to created beings. That is, in God these perfections are independent, immutable, eternal, omnipresent, and simple. But this would result in continual repetition and render impossible a separate and urgently necessary treatment of these perfections. We must, therefore, treat the attributes consecutively, and an orderly discussion of all of them finally again ends up—be it under different names—with the old division. The difficulty inherent in this division is natural and therefore insurmountable. In the doctrine of God we have no choice but to hold onto both his transcendence over, and his kinship with, the world. If this is true, it matters less what words we use to describe the two groups of attributes, whether negative and positive, quiescent and operative, incommunicable and communicable, or some other combination.

The last combination (incommunicable and communicable), in use among the Reformed, has the advantage in that it safeguards Christian theism against both the error of pantheism and that of Deism. There is no objection, therefore, to speaking of incommunicable attributes, provided one consistently bears in mind that these perfections are in fact descriptions of the wholly unique, absolute, divine manner in which the other attributes—those of being, life, and spirit, of intellect and will, of love and righteousness, and so forth—exist in God. In the usual order, there are four such attributes: aseity, immutability, infinity (eternity and immensity), and oneness (numerical oneness, unity, and qualitative oneness, simplicity). To be distinguished from these incommunicable attributes are all those perfections that affirm something positively (though always analogically and proportionately) concerning the content of the divine being. A suitable and almost universally adopted division, derived from the image and likeness according to which humans have been created, is as follows. First, there are the attributes that reveal to us God as the Living One, as Spirit: his spirituality and invisibility. Second, there are the attributes that describe God as perfectly self-conscious: knowledge, wisdom, and veracity. Third, there are the attributes that refer to God’s ethical nature: goodness, righteousness, and holiness. Fourth, there are the attributes in which God appears before us as Lord, king, and sovereign: his will, freedom, and omnipotence. Finally, there are the attributes that sum up and complete all the preceding ones and reveal God in his absolute blessedness: perfection, beatitude, and glory. This classification is related, on the one hand, to the knowledge of God that can be derived from the vestiges of God in all his creatures and summed up in the so-called proofs for his existence; and, on the other hand, it points forward to the image of God, which was imprinted on humans and in its full splendor again confronts us in the person of Christ. So there is no knowledge of God apart from his revelation in his creatures, hence always analogical and ectypical, but by that revelation we do have true and authentic knowledge of God’s incomprehensible and adorable being!

God’s Proper Names

[188] If we speak of God’s names in distinction from his attributes and hence in a restricted sense, we understand by them the names by which we refer to or address God as an independent personal being. Such names for the divine being exist in every language. Although in himself God has no name, we have a need to refer to him, and for this we have no other means than a name. “For unless you know the name, your knowledge of things vanishes.”132

Formerly, the Greek word for God (θεος) was believed to derive from τιθεναι, θεειν, θεασθαι,133 but nowadays some philologists relate it to Zeus, Dios, Jupiter, Deus, Diana, Juno, Dio, Dieu. In that case it is identical with the Sanskrit deva (clear sky), derived from the stem div, to shine, glitter. Others again strongly oppose all etymological connection between the Greek and the Latin word and link the word θεος with the stem θες in θεσσασθαι, to desire, to call upon.134 In many languages the words “heaven” and “God” are used interchangeably. The oldest Greek deity, Uranus, was almost certainly identical with the Sanskrit Varuna. The Tartar and Turkish word Taengri and the Chinese word Thian mean both heaven and God; and also in Scripture the words “heaven” and “God” are used interchangeably, for instance, in the expression “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God.” Another Greek name, δαιμων (derived from the verb δαιω), means God as the determiner of our lot. The word κυριος (derived from κυρος), on the other hand, is the mighty One, Lord, Owner, Ruler. Our word “God” is of uncertain origin. It has been linked to the word good, to the Avestan khoda (self-existent), to the Sanskrit gudha, or gutha, which is said to refer to God as “the hidden One.” Other possibilities are the Indo-Germanic root ghu (Sanskrit hû), which means “to call upon” and is therefore said to refer to God as “the One called upon,” or to a stem κοδω (κοσμος), which is said to mean “to order, to arrange,” or to the Aryan cuddhas (pure, good). All these derivations, however, are uncertain. The name Asura, used among the East Indians, and Ahura, a Persian name, refer to God as the Living One.135

Scripture often uses the expression “God’s name” in a very inclusive sense. The Jews, consequently, listed no fewer than seventy names;136 and Christian theology initially included God’s attributes in the category of his names as well. But gradually a distinction was made. Jerome already limited the divine names to the following ten: El, Elohim, Elohe, Sabaoth, Elyon, Asher Ehyeh, Adonai, Yah, yhwh, Shaddai, and many scholars followed his example.137

El, Elohim, El Shaddai

The simplest name used for God in Scripture and by the Semites generally is El (אֵל). There is disagreement about its derivation. Lagarde relates the word to the root, ʾly (אלי) and the preposition, ʾel (אל, to) and thinks the word describes God as the One who is the ultimate object of human desire. Though some scholars have taken over this derivation,138 according to others it is just as improbable as the notion that, ʾel is connected with, ʾēlâ (אֵלָה), the sacred tree. According to most philologists the word derives from the stem, ʾûl (אוּל), and means either the most prominent or primary Lord (Nöldeke) or the One who is strong and mighty (Gesenius).139 The name, ʾElōah (אֱלֹהַּ; pl. ʾElōhîm, אֱלֹהִים) is from the same root, ʾûl (אוּל), or from, ʾlh (אלה, to dread) and hence points to God as the Strong One or as the object of dread. The singular, rarely used, is poetic (e.g., Ps. 18:31 [32 MT]; Job 3:4); the plural is the usual name for God. The plural, however, must not be interpreted as a plural of majesty, which is never used in Scripture of God, nor viewed as a reference to the Trinity, as was done by Lombard and many after him,140 since it nearly always occurs with an adjective and verb in the singular.141 Modern critics mostly regard it as a remnant of an earlier polytheism, but this explanation fails for the same reason as the earlier trinitarian one. Also, as has been shown by investigations outside of Israel, the word occurs there as the name of one single God.142 It is therefore better to view it as a plural of abstraction (Ewald), or as a plural of quantity, which, as in the case of מים and שׁמים, is used to refer to an unbounded entity (Oehler), or as an intensive plural that serves to express fullness of power (Delitzsch). A few times, ʾElōhîm is constructed with an adjective and/or a verb in the plural (Gen. 20:13; 28:13f.; 35:7; Exod. 32:4, 8; Josh. 24:19; 1 Sam. 4:8; 17:26; 2 Sam. 7:23; 1 Kings 12:28; Ps. 58:11 [12 MT]; 121:5; Job 35:10; Jer. 10:10). A similar plural occurs in the personal pronoun (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8; 41:22), in qĕdôšîm (קְדוֹשִׁים, Prov. 9:10; Hos. 11:12 [12:1 MT]), in ʿōśîm (עֹשִׂים, Job 35:10; Ps. 149:2; Isa. 54:5), in bôrʾîm (בוֹרְאִים, Eccles. 12:1), and in, ʾĂdōnāy (אֲדֹנָי). All of these plural constructions denote God as the fullness of life and power. “The name Elohim describes the divine being in his original relation and constant causal relation to the universe. It is a designation of relationship, not of immediate inner being. In fact, it expresses the idea of absolute transcendence with respect to the entire universe.”143

The name ʿElyôn (עֶלְיוֹן; LXX: ὑψιστος) refers to God as the One who is exalted high above everything. The name is used by Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18), Balaam (Num. 24:16), and the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:14; cf. Mark 5:7; Luke 1:32, 35; Acts 16:17) and further occurs especially in poetry., ʾĒdōnāy (אֵדֹנָי), used alternately with hā-ʾādôn (האדון), which is further intensified in “Lord of lords” (אָדוֹן אֲדֹנִים) or “Lord of all the earth” (אָדוֹן כָּל-הָאָרֶץ), refers to God as the Ruler to whom all things are subject and to whom humans are related as servants (Gen. 18:27). In an earlier period the name Baʿal (בַעַל) was used of God with the same meaning (Hos. 2:16 [18MT]), but later this use was discontinued because of its idolatrous connotations.144 Now these names are not proper names in the restricted sense. They are used as well of idols, people (Gen. 33:10; Exod. 7:1; 4:16), and authorities (Exod. 12:12; 21:5–6; 22:7; Lev. 19:32; Num. 33:4; Judg. 5:8; 1 Sam. 2:25; Ps. 58:1 [2 MT]; 82:1) but are nevertheless the usual names by which God is called and addressed. They are, moreover, common Semitic names referring to God in his transcendence over all creatures. The Semites loved to call God “Lord” or “king.” They felt deeply dependent on him, and as his servants they humbly bowed before him. They did not use these names to give expression to philosophical theories about God’s essence but to give prominence to his relation to his creatures, especially to human beings.145

[189] Though high and exalted, this God also comes down from his transcendence to the level of his creatures. Not only does he reveal himself in general, through creation, to all peoples, but has made himself known in a special sense also to Israel. Now the first name by which God appears in his special revelation is Šadday (שַׁדַּי) or, ʾEl Šadday (אֵל שַׁדַּי). As such, God reveals himself to Abraham when he makes him a father of many peoples and seals his covenant with him by the rite of circumcision (Gen. 17:1). Accordingly, in the period of the patriarchs this name occurs repeatedly (Gen. 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25; Exod. 6:3; Num. 24:4). It is further found in Job, in a number of psalms, and a few times in the prophets. The New Testament equivalent is the Lord Almighty (παντοκρατωρ, 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 4:8; etc.). The origin of this name has not yet been established with certainty. Nöldeke derived it from Šad (שַׁד), “Lord,” and punctuated it as שֵׁדַי, but according to Genesis 43:14; 49:25; and Ezekiel 10:5, the name is undoubtedly an adjective. Formerly it was derived from שׁ (from אשׁר) and דַי (sufficient) and translated as “the All-Sufficient One,” or from שׁדד, meaning “to be strong, to destroy”; or also from שׁדה or אשׁד, “to pour out,” so designating God as “he who bountifully supplies all things.”

Wherever the name appears, it highlights the idea of power and invincible strength; and Isaiah 13:6 connects it, be it only in a wordplay, with שׁדד, to destroy (cf. Joel 1:15). This name, accordingly, makes God known to us as the One who possesses all power, and can therefore overcome all resistance and make all things subservient to his will. Whereas “Elohim” is the God of creation and nature, “El Shaddai” is the God who makes all the powers of nature subject and subservient to the work of grace.146 In this name God’s deity (θειοτης) and eternal power (ἀϊδιος δυναμις) is no longer an object of dread but a source of well-being and comfort. God gives himself to his people, and his invincible power is for them the guarantee of the fulfillment of his covenant promises. From this point on, therefore, he is over and over called the God of Abraham (Gen. 24:12), of Isaac (Gen. 28:13), of Jacob (Exod. 3:6), the God of the Fathers (Exod. 3:13, 15), the God of the Hebrews (Exod. 3:18), the God of Israel (Gen. 33:20), and in Isaiah the Holy One of Israel [Isa. 1:4; 5:19, 24; et al.]. God is the Exalted One, Creator of heaven and earth, the Almighty, but at the same time he stands in a special and most beneficent relation to his people.


As the God of grace, however, he manifests himself especially in the name יהוה (yhwh). The Jews called it the preeminent name, the name that describes God’s essence, God’s proper name, the glorious, the four-letter name (the tetragrammaton), and concluded from Leviticus 24:16 and Exodus 3:15 (where they read the word for “forever” as the word for “to conceal it” [לְעַלֵּם]) that they were forbidden to pronounce it. Just when this idea arose among the Jews we do not know. But it is certain that the LXX already read Adonai here and therefore translated it by κυριος. Subsequent translations followed this example and reproduced it by Dominus (Latin), the Lord (English), der Herr (German), heere (Dutch),147 l’Eternal (French). Because of the Jewish dread of pronouncing this name, the original and correct pronunciation has been lost. The church fathers called it the forbidden (ἀπορρητον), the indescribable (ἀλεχτον), the unutterable (ἀφραστον) name, probably not because they themselves held it to be impermissible to say the name, but because the Jews were of that opinion and because the proper pronunciation of it had in fact been lost.148

In the Greek, the four letters were written ΙΙΙΙΙΙ or transliterated as Ἰαω or Ἰαη, as we learn from Diodorus Siculus and Origen. According to Jerome, the name was translated by Jaho, according to Philo Byblius by Ἰευω, and according to Clement of Alexandria, by Ἰαου. Theodoret relates that the Jewish pronunciation was Ἀϊα and the Samaritan, Ἰαβε. All this information probably refers back to an ancient pronunciation of Yahweh.149 Appealing to Jewish tradition some scholars, Joachim of Floris in his Evangelium Aeternum, for example, pronounced the name Yewe, and indeed this vocalization can be found in Samuel B. Meir and was later still defended by Hottinger, Reland, and others.150 The pronunciation of “Jehovah” is of recent origin. It found wide acceptance through the advocacy of the Franciscan Peter Galatinus, who, however, was opposed in this by many scholars, Genebrardus among them.151 Later on, Drusius, Amama, Scaliger, Vriemoet, and others, maintained that the pronunciation “Jehovah” could not be correct, asserting that the vocalization had been derived from the word Adonai.152 And in fact this vocalization is highly questionable. In the first place, the word yhwh is a Qere perpetuum in the Hebrew Bible, having at times the vowels of Adonai and at other times those of Elohim. Furthermore, the form Yehōwāh is un-Hebrew and inexplicable. Finally, this vocalization dates from a time when the notion that the name should never be pronounced had already been long entrenched in Jewish tradition.

If this vocalization is incorrect, the question arises how then we must explain the name. The assertion that it is of Egyptian origin (Voltaire, Schiller, Wegscheider, Heeren, Brugsch) is contradicted by Exodus 5:2 and is hardly ever still defended. Also, the opinion of Hartmann, Bohlen, Colenso, Dozy, and Land that it is of Canaanite or Phoenician origin and was adopted by the Israelites after their entry into Canaan has proved to be untenable and has been properly refuted.153 Still, though on different grounds, the same claim has been repeated by Friedrich Delitzsch in his first lecture on Babel und Bibel. According to his reading of it, the name yhwh already occurs in two [compound] proper names found on clay tablets from the time of Hammurabi, Ya-aʾ-ve-elu and Ya-u-um-ilu. From this discovery he concludes that the name yhwh was originally of Canaanite origin, and that the tribe of Hammurabi brought it from Canaan to Babylonia.

There is great disagreement, however, over the correctness of this reading. Many scholars consider it definitely wrong or highly improbable. They interpret the first part of these “proper nouns” not as a noun but as a verb, so that it would mean “El protects me” or be the name of a Babylonian Yahu or Yau. Second, even if Delitzsch’s reading were correct, it is an error to think that the name yhwh is originally of Canaanite origin, for the Semitic origin of the Canaanites and the emigration of the tribe of Hammurabi from Canaan to Babylon are unproved hypotheses, and we have found no trace in that ancient period of a Canaanite deity named yhwh. Third, though it is definitely not impossible that the name yhwh existed well before the time of Moses and was even known to Semites and Babylonians, it is nevertheless remarkable that, aside from the above two names of doubtful interpretation, all evidence for this is lacking. yhwh was definitely the God of Israel, not only according to Scripture (Judg. 5:3–4) but also according to the [Moabite] Mesha stone, which dates from the ninth century b.c. And finally, even if the name yhwh were the name of some Babylonian deity, the meaning of that name and the deity denoted by it would be totally different to Israel, for here yhwh is the God of Israel and at the same time the only God, the Creator of heaven and earth.154

Now, as to the etymology of the name, it is rather generally assumed that it refers back to the stem hwh (הוה) or hyh (היה), and there is disagreement only over the question whether it is the third person imperfect tense of Qal or of Hiphil (the pronunciation Yaho advocated by von Hartmann 155 merits no consideration).156 The latter choice (Hiphil) is defended by Gesenius, Schrader, Lagarde, Schultz, Land, Kuenen,157 actually only on the ground that in their view such a sublime concept of God as comes through in the Qal form is not yet conceivable in the time of Moses. According to them, the name yhwh does not mean “he who is,” but “he who causes to be, who bestows life,” the Creator. But Smend observes (correctly, in light of his position) that even this name is still much too sublime for that time, and also calls this explanation highly improbable because the Hiphil form of the verb הוה occurs nowhere.158 Hence, the only remaining derivation is that given in Exodus 3.

Yet even then there is still disagreement over the meaning of the name. The church fathers thought it referred to God’s aseity. God is the One who is, an eternal immutable being, over against the factual nonbeing (οὐκ ὀν) of idols and the nonabsolute being (μη ὀν) of creatures. Other scholars, such as W. R. Smith and Smend, appealing to Exodus 3:12, take the name to be “he who will be with you.” Both of these interpretations are unacceptable, the latter because if it were correct the addition “with you” (עִמָּךְ) could not be absent, and the former because it has too philosophical a ring to it and lacks support in Exodus 3. In verses 13–15, after all, the meaning of the name is clearly indicated. In full it reads: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה; by it the Lord says that he who now calls Moses and wants to save his people is the same [God] as he who appeared to their fathers. He is who he is, the same yesterday, today, and forever. This meaning is further explained in verse 15: yhwh—the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—sends Moses, and that is his name forever. God does not simply call himself “the One who is” and offer no explanation of his aseity, but states expressly what and how he is. Then how and what will he be? That is not something one can say in a word or describe in an additional phrase, but “he will be what he will be.” That sums up everything. This addition is still general and indefinite, but for that reason also rich and full of deep meaning. He will be what he was for the patriarchs, what he is now and will remain: he will be everything to and for his people. It is not a new and strange God who comes to them by Moses, but the God of the fathers, the Unchangeable One, the Faithful One, the eternally Self-consistent One, who never leaves or forsakes his people but always again seeks out and saves his own. He is unchangeable in his grace, in his love, in his assistance, who will be what he is because he is always himself. So in Isaiah he calls himself: “I am he, the first and the last” (אֲנִי הוּא, 41:4; 43:10, 13, 25; 44:6; 48:12). And indeed, his aseity underlies this view of God, but it is not in the foreground nor directly expressed in the name.

From this explanation it is also clear whether and how far the name yhwh was already known before the time of Moses. Exodus 6:3 does not say that the name as such was communicated to Moses, but that the Lord had not been known to the fathers by that name. Accordingly, the name is found repeatedly before Exodus 6, occurs in numerous proper names (Jochebed, Ahijah, Abijah, 1 Chron. 2:24–25). It could not be a totally new and unfamiliar name since Moses, in order to get a hearing among his people, obviously could not come to them with a new name but had to act in the name of the God of the fathers (Exod. 3:12, 15). The intent of Exodus 6:3, therefore, has to be that now for the first time the Lord himself made known to Moses the meaning of this name. And the facts support this explanation. Not until Exodus 3 did the Lord himself give an explanation of this name; here he tells Moses how he wants people to understand it. Certainly it existed before this time, had already been used repeatedly by the Lord himself (Gen. 15:7; 28:13), and was current as a name of address (Gen. 14:22; 15:2, 8; 24:3; 28:16; 32:9). But nowhere do we find an explanation of it.

In the abstract it is very well possible that originally, in its derivation, the name yhwh meant something very different from what is stated in Exodus 3. Exodus 3 gives not the etymology of a word but the explanation of a name. Just as in his special revelation to Israel God had taken over an assortment of religious practices (circumcision, Sabbath, sacrifice, priesthood, etc.) and given them a special meaning, so he does here with this name. Aside from its provenance and original meaning the Lord states in Exodus 6 how and in what sense he is yhwh, the “I will be who I will be.” From this point on the name yhwh is the description and guarantee of the fact that God is and remains the God of his people, unchanging in his grace and faithfulness. And that is something that could not have been disclosed before the time of Moses. A long time had to pass to prove that God is faithful and unchanging. A person’s faithfulness can only be tested in the long run and especially in times of distress. So it was also in the case of Israel. Centuries had elapsed following the period of the patriarchs. Israel had been oppressed and had experienced great distress. Now God says: “I am who I am, yhwh, the unchangingly faithful One, the God of the fathers, your God even now and forever.” At this point God injects a totally fresh meaning into an old name, one that could only now be understood by the people. And for that reason yhwh is Israel’s God “from the land of Egypt” (Hos. 12:9; 13:4).

yhwh Sabaoth

[190] In the Old Testament the name yhwh is the highest revelation of God. No new names are added. yhwh is God’s real name (Exod. 15:3; Ps. 83:18; Hos. 12:5; Isa. 42:8). This name is therefore never used for any god other than the God of Israel and never occurs in the construct state, in the plural, or with suffixes. Admittedly, the form of the name is repeatedly modified or heightened in meaning by some kind of addition. Abbreviation produced the forms יַהֲוְ, יָהוּ, יָה, used especially in combinations, and from this process arose the substantive יָהּ. This abbreviated form of the name occurs regularly in the exclamation “Hallelu-yah” (הַלְּלוּ־יָהּ), and also independently (Exod. 15:2; Ps. 68:4 [5 MT]; 89:8 [9 MT]; 94:7, 12; 118:14; Isa. 12:2; 38:11), sometimes in connection with yhwh (Isa. 26:4). Also very common is the combination Adonai yhwh (e.g., Ezek. 22:12). The name yhwh receives added force when combined with Sabaoth יהוה צבאות (Ps. 69:6 [7 MT]; 84:1; Hag. 2:7–9); once as יהוה הצבאות (Amos 9:5), really an abbreviation of יהוה אלהי צבאות (1 Sam. 1:3; 4:4; Isa. 1:24) or יהוה אלהים צבאות (Ps. 80:4 [5 MT]; 84:8 [9 MT]). Because Sabaoth is linked with yhwh, which does not permit the construct state, and sometimes with Elohim in the absolute state, Origen, Jerome, and others concluded that Sabaoth was appositive. They were confirmed in this opinion by the fact that in the LXX, especially in 1 Samuel and Isaiah (cf. Rom. 9:29; James 5:4), the word was left untranslated.159 But this opinion is not well founded. In other places Sabaoth is rendered by “the Almighty” or by “Lord of powers,” and the name of yhwh who is Sabaoth (armies, hosts) does not yield any sense.

It is hard to say, however, what precisely is meant by the word “Sabaoth.” Some, associating it with the armies of Israel, think that the name “Lord of hosts” refers to God as the God of war. But most of the verses cited in support (such as 1 Sam. 1:3, 11; 4:4; 15:2; 17:45; 2 Sam. 5:10; 6:2, 18; 7:8, 26–27; 1 Kings 17:1; 18:15 LXX; 19:10, 14; 2 Kings 19:31; Ps. 24:10) prove nothing. Only three verses (1 Sam. 4:4; 17:45; 2 Sam. 6:2) offer some semblance of proof, and 2 Kings 19:31 rather conflicts with this notion. Furthermore, while the plural Sabaoth is indeed used with reference to the hosts of the people of Israel (Exod. 6:26; 7:4; 12:17, 41, 51; Num. 1:3; 2:3; 10:14; 33:1; Deut. 20:9), the army of Israel is always referred to with the singular (Judg. 8:6; 9:29; 2 Sam. 3:23; 8:16; 10:7; 17:25; 20:23; 1 Kings 1:25). Finally, all agree that in the prophets the name “Lord of hosts” no longer has the meaning of God of war, but they leave unanswered the question how and by what circumstances the meaning of the term was so profoundly changed. Others, appealing to such references as Deuteronomy 4:19; Psalm 33:6; Jeremiah 19:13; 33:22; Isaiah 34:4; 40:26; and Nehemiah 9:6, think the word “hosts” refers to the stars of heaven. Smend, expanding this view, thinks the reference includes the powers and elements of the entire cosmos (with an appeal to Gen. 2:1; Ps. 103:21; Isa. 34:1–2). Admittedly, Scripture repeatedly speaks of the stars as the hosts of heaven (Deut. 4:19) and of all creatures collectively as the host of heaven and earth (Gen. 2:1). But (1) in that case only the singular is used and never the plural; (2) the stars are indeed called “the host of heaven” but never “the army of God”; and (3) the term “host” is indeed used to refer to all creatures, but never to such an abstract notion as “the powers and elements of the cosmos.”

The implausibility of these new explanations enhances the value of the old interpretation which, in reading “hosts,” thought of angels. And this interpretation finds abundant support in Scripture. The name “Lord of hosts” is repeatedly used with reference to angels (1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; Isa. 37:16; Hos. 12:5–6; Ps. 80:1 [2 MT], 4f.; 89:5–8 [6–9 MT]) and the angels are frequently pictured as a “host” surrounding the throne of God (Gen. 28:12–13; 32:1–2; Josh. 5:14; 1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6; Ps. 68:17 [18 MT]; 89:8 [9 MT]; 103:21; 148:2; Isa. 6:2). Although Scripture usually speaks of a host (sing.) of angels, this is not a problem because Scripture also repeatedly mentions many hosts of angels (Gen. 32:2; Deut. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; 148:2). This fits the meaning of the name, which has absolutely no warlike or martial character (this cannot even be inferred from 1 Sam. 4:4; 17:45; 2 Sam. 6:2), but everywhere expresses the glory of God as king (Deut. 33:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Ps. 24:10; Isa. 6:2; 24:23; Zech. 1:14; 14:16). The angels belong to the glory (δοξα) of God or of Christ: they heighten and expand it (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; 2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 7:11). Throughout the Scriptures “yhwh Sabaoth” is the solemn royal name of God, full of majesty and glory. The name Elohim denotes God as Creator and Sustainer of all things; El Shaddai represents him as the mighty One who makes nature subservient to grace; yhwh describes him as the One who in his grace remains forever faithful; yhwh Sabaoth characterizes him as king in the fullness of his glory who, surrounded by regimented hosts of angels, governs throughout the world as the Almighty, and in his temple receives the honor and acclamation of all his creatures.160

[191] In the New Testament all these names have been retained. El and Elohim are rendered by God (θεος), Elyon is translated by “the Most High” (ὑψιστος θεος, Mark 5:7; Luke 1:32, 35, 76; 8:28; Acts 7:48; 16:17; Heb. 7:1; cf. Luke 2:14, “God in the highest,” ἐν ὑψιστοις θεῳ). Also, the appellation of God as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” or as “the God of Israel” passes into the New Testament (Matt. 15:31; 22:32; Mark 12:26; Luke 1:68; 20:37; Acts 3:13; 7:32, 46; 22:14; 24:14; Heb. 11:16). As a rule, however, these appositions are replaced by the genitives “my,” “your,” “our,” “your” (pl.), for in Christ God has become the God and Father of his people and of each of his children (Heb. 8:10; Rev. 7:12; 19:5; 21:3). The name yhwh is explicated a few times as “the Alpha and the Omega,” “him who is and who was and who is to come,” “the beginning and the end,” “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:4, 8, 11 [kjv], 17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13). For the rest, following the example of the LXX, which already read Adonai, the name yhwh is translated by Lord (Κυριος, derived from κυρος, strength). Lord, or κυρος, makes God known as the Mighty One, the Lord, Owner, and Ruler who legally exercises power and authority (in distinction from the δεσποτης who actually exercises power), and in the NT Lord is variably used both of God and of Christ.161 Also the combinations “yhwh Elohim” and “yhwh Elohim Sabaoth” are found again in the New Testament, as “Lord God” (Luke 1:16; Acts 7:37; 1 Pet. 3:15; Rev. 1:8; 22:5) and “Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 21:22), while in Romans 9:29 and James 5:4 “Sabaoth (hosts)” remains untranslated.


One new name seems to have been added in the New Testament, the name Father (Πατηρ). Yet this name for the Deity also occurs in pagan religions 162 and is already used several times of God in the Old Testament (Deut. 32:6; Ps. 103:13; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10), just as Israel is also repeatedly called his Son (Exod. 4:22; Deut. 14:1; 32:19; Isa. 1:2; Jer. 31:20; Hos. 1:10; 11:1). The name “Father” expresses the special theocratic relation that God sustains to his people Israel. He has marvelously formed that people out of Abraham. In the more general sense of Origin and Creator the name “Father” is used in 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:14–15; Hebrews 12:9; and James 1:17 (cf. Luke 3:38; Acts 17:28). But above all the name expresses the ethical relation in which God, through Christ, now stands to all his children. The relation that existed in the Old Testament between God and Israel is the type and model of this. But now that relation has been deepened and expanded, made personal, ethical, individual.

The name “Father” is now the common name of God in the New Testament. The name yhwh is inadequately conveyed by Lord (κυριος) and is, as it were, supplemented by the name “Father.” This name is the supreme revelation of God. God is not only the Creator, the Almighty, the Faithful One, the King and Lord; he is also the Father of his people. The theocratic kingdom known in Israel passes into a kingdom of the Father who is in heaven. Its subjects are at the same time children; its citizens are members of the family. Both law and love, the state and the family, are completely realized in the New Testament relation of God to his people. Here we find perfect kingship, for here is a king who is simultaneously a Father who does not subdue his subjects by force but who himself creates and preserves his subjects. As children, they are born of him; they bear his image; they are his family. According to the New Testament, this relation has been made possible by Christ, who is the true, only-begotten, and beloved Son of the Father. And believers obtain adoption as children and also become conscious of it by the agency of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 8; Rom. 8:15f.). God has most abundantly revealed himself in the name “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The fullness that from the beginning inhered in the name Elohim has gradually unfolded and become most fully and splendidly manifest in the trinitarian name of God.

From Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volume Set) by Herman Bavinck




* Ed. note: This chapter was originally three major sections (§§26–28) in the Gereformeerde Dogmatick. They have been combined here because of their shared subject matter, the names of God. The three divisions are now marked by the subheadings “Biblical Names for God,” “Classifying God’s Names,” and “God’s Proper Names.”

1 Ed. note: For Ps. 20:2 (MT), Bavinck uses the Dutch Statenvertaling, “een hoog Vertrek,” which we have translated as “a high refuge.” The Hebrew verb root used is שָׂגַב = to “set (securely) on high” (F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament [Oxford: Clarendon, n.d.], 960). Most contemporary translations provide the dynamic equivalent: “protect you,” “defend you,” etc.

2 Cf., also S. Glassius, Philologiae sacrae, 6th ed. (Francofurti & Lipsiae: Fleischer, 1691), 1116–81.

3 Augustine, Lectures on the Gospel of John, tract. 13.5 (on John 3:22–29).

4 Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names, I, §§6–7.

5 T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 13, art. 2.

6 Bonaventure, Sent., I, dist. 34, art. 1, qu. 4.

7 J. Calvin, Institutes, I.v.1, 5.

8 See above, pp. 47–52 (#166).

9 L. W. E. Rauwenhoff, Wijsbegeerte von den Godsdienst (Leiden: Brill & van Doeburgh, 1887), 611ff.

10 I. Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. J. H. Bernard (New York and London: Hafner Publishing, 1968 [1951]), 336–38 (§91); F. Jacobi, Gesammelte Werke, 8 vols. (Leipzig: Gerhard Fleischer, 1812–25), III; F. Paulsen, Einleitung in die Philosophie (Berlin: Hertz, 1892), 262ff.; E. von Hartmann, Philosophie des Unbewussten, 9th ed., 2 vols. (Berlin: C. Duncker, 1882).

11 Flacius in S. Glassius, Philologiae sacrae (Jena: Steinmann, 1668), 116; Luther in G. F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, trans. Ellen D. Smith and Sophia Taylor (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1892–93), 162.

12 Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45.

13 W. Menzel, Christliche Symbolik, 2 vols. (Regensburg: Manz, 1855); O. Zöckler, Theologia naturalis (Frankfurt a.M.: Heyder & Zimmer, 1860); F. Bettex, Das Lied der Schöpfung, 5th ed. (Stuttgart: J. F. Steinkopf, 1906).

14 John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 9; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 3, art. 2; I, qu. 13, arts. 3 and 6; Bonaventure, Sent., I, dist. 22, art. 1, qu. 3; J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol., II, col. 11–14.

15 John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 12; Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names, ch. 1; cf. Moses Maimonides, Moreh nebukhim (Warsaw: Goldman, 1872), I, 58; Cusanus (Nicholas of Cusa), Of Learned Ignorance, trans. Fr. German Heron (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954), I, 53ff.

16 T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 13, art. 2; J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol., II, col. 11–13.

17 F. Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); K. G. Bretschneider, Handbuch der Dogmatik (Leipzig: Barth, 1838), I4, 477; F. Paulsen, Einleitung in die Philosophie, 263; R. Eisler, Kritische Einführung in die Philosophie (Berlin: E. S. Mittler, 1905), 437; Wundt, in Edmund König, W. Wundt: Seine Philosophie und Psychologie (Stuttgart: F. Frommann, 1901), 188; A. Sabatier, as discussed in H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I, 551 (#144), 558–59 (#146); Friedrich Niebergall, “Die religiöse Phantasie und die Verkündigung an unsere Zeit,” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 16 (1906) 251–85.

18 Cf. also J. d’Outrein, Proef-stukken van heilige Sinne-beelden (Amsterdam: G. Borstius, 1700); V. Schultze, “Sinnebilder,” PRE3, XVIII, 388–95.

19 See above, pp. 33–34 (#161).

20 John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 4.

21 T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 12, art. 12.

22 C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. (reprinted, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 4:100 (on Job 5:12).

23 A. Polanus, Syn. theol., 135.

24 E.g., in Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I, 14; II, 13, 35.

25 Lateran Council in H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolarum, #355; First Vatican Council, De fide, ch. 1; Augsburg Confession, art. 1; Gallican Confession, art. 1; Scots Confession, art. 1; Westminster Confession, ch. 2.

26 T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 3ff.; Z. Ursinus, Tract. theol., 46–70.

27 Eduard Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen, 3d ed., 5 vols. (Leipzig: O. R. Reisland [L. W. Reisland, 1895]), V, 356.

28 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, II, 1, 13, 28; IV, 11; cf. A. von Harnack, History of Dogma, trans. N. Buchanan, J. Miller, E. B. Speirs, and W. McGilchrist, and ed. A. B. Bruce, 7 vols. (London: Williams & Norgate, 1896–99), II, 204ff.

29 Origen, On First Principles, I, 1, v; Against Celsus, VI, 64; Athanasius, Council of Nicaea, 11, 76; John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 2, 4, 9; cf. A. von Harnack, History of Dogma, III, 244; J. Schwane, Dogmengeschichte, 4 vols. (Freiburg i.B.: Herder, 1882–95), I2, 32; II2, 35; F. Kattenbusch, Lehrbuch der vergleichenden Confessionskunde (Freiburg i.B.: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1892), I, 310ff.

30 Augustine, The Trinity, V, 2; VII, 5ff.; idem, City of God, XII, 2; idem, On Christian Doctrine, I, 6.

31 Augustine, On Free Will, II, 6; idem, On Christian Doctrine, I, 7; idem, City of God, XII, 8; idem, Soliloquies, I, 1.

32 Augustine, The Trinity, V, 2; VII, 5; idem, On Christian Doctrine, I, 32.

33 Hilary, The Trinity, I, 1ff.; Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names, 1, §6; cf. 4, §1 and 5, §1; Anselm, Monologion, ch. 28; idem, Proslogion, ch. 17ff.; P. Lombard, Sent., I, dist. 8; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 2, art. 3; I, qu. 3; idem, Summa contra Gentiles, I, 16ff.; Bonaventure, Breviloquium, I, 2; idem, Sent. I, dist. 8; D. Petavius, “De Deo,” in Theol. dogm., I, ch. 6; G. Perrone, Prael. theol., II, 81–90; C. Pesch, Prael. dogm., II, 46–70; G. Jansen, Prael. theol., II, 26–46.

34 Duns Scotus, Sent., I, dist. 3, qu. 1; I, dist. 8, qu. 3.

35 According to C. M. Schneider, in J. Heinrich and C. Gutberlet, Dogmatische Theologie, 2d ed., 10 vols. (Mainz: Kirchheim, 1881–1900), III, 325.

36 Cf. J. Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, III, 325; G. Perrone, Prael. theol., II, 82; J. Kleutgen, Die Theologie der Vorzeit, 2d ed., 5 vols. (Münster: Theissing, 1867–74), 229.

37 U. Zwingli, Opera, III, 155ff.; IV, 81ff.; A. Hyperius, Meth. theol., 87; P. M. Vermigli, Loci communes, 39; A. Polanus, Syn. theol., II, c. 5; J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol., II, 49ff.; Z. Ursinus, Tract. theol. (1584), 46ff.

38 H. Heppe, Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche (Elberseld: R. L. Friedrich, 1861), 35ff.; A. Schweizer, Die Glaubenslehre der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche, 2 vols. (Zürich: Orell, Füssli, 1844–47), I, 244.

39 H. Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. Charles A. Hay and Henry Jacobs, 5th ed. (Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication, 1899), 111–17; K. Hase, Hutterus redivivus (Helsingfors: A. W. Gröndahl, 1846), §54.

40 B. Spinoza, Ethics, I, prop. 7ff.; V, prop. 15ff.

41 A. Drews, Die deutsche Spekulation seit Kant, 2 vols. (Berlin: P. Maeter, 1893), I, 104.

42 According to J. G. Fichte’s Science of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); idem, “Über den Grund unseres Glaubens an eine göttliche Weltregierung,” in Philosophisches Journal einer Gesellschaft Teutscher Gelehrten, Erstes Heft (Jena and Leipzig: Gabler 1798); idem, Appellation an das Publikum (Leipzig: Reclam, 1799).

43 J. G. Fichte, Anweisung zum seiligen Leben oder Religionslehre (1806); ET: “The Doctrine of Religion,” in Popular Works, trans. William Smith (London: Trübner & Co., 1873).

44 F. Schleiermacher, Dialektik (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1839), 162; idem, The Christian Faith, 16ff.

45 A. Drews, Die deutsche Spekulation, I, 201ff.

46 A. Drews, Die deutsche Spekulation, I, 229ff.

47 Hofstede de Groot, De Groninger Godgeleerden (Groningen: A. L. Scholtens, 1855), 155ff.

48 J. H. Scholten, De Leer der Hervormde Kerk, 2 vols. (Leiden: P. Engels, 1850–51), II.

49 S. Hoekstra, Des Christens Godsvrucht (Amsterdam: Gebroders Kraay, 1866), 103ff.; idem, Bronnen en Grondslagen van het Godsdienstig Geloof (Amsterdam: P. N. van Kampen, 1864), 265ff.; I. Hooykaas, God in de Geschiedenis (Schiedam: Van Dijk, 1870); I. Hooykaas, J. H. Herderscheê, H. Oort, A. G. van Hamel, Godsdienst volgens der ethische Richting onder de Modernen (’s Hertogenbosch: G. H. van der Schuyt, 1876). Ed. note: See further on ethical modernism, H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I, 540 (#142), 555 (#146).

50 Ed. note: For further discussion of the “mediating theology” (Vermittelungstheologie), see H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I, 127 (#39), 171 (#53), 290–92 (#83), 372 (#102), 436 (#115), 471–72 (#123), 519–20 (#135).

51 A. Ritschl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, 2d ed., 3 vols. (Bonn: A. Marcus, 1882–83), III, 223–29.

52 Ibid., III2, 229–45. Also see the literature on the doctrine of God that A. Ritschl provides in “Geschichtliche Studien zur Lehre von Gott,” Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie 10 (1865) and 13 (1868), literature that is also provided in his Gesammelte Aufsätze, Neue Folge (Freiburg, i.B.: J. C. B. Mohr, 1896).

53 Ibid., 253.

54 Ibid., 8.

55 Ibid., 90.

56 Ibid., 255.

57 A. Ritschl, Theologie und Metaphysik (Bonn: A. Marcus, 1881), 12ff.; idem, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, III2, 2–8, 32.

58 Idem, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, III2, 200ff.; Theologie und Metaphysik, 8ff.

59 Idem, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, III2, 255.

60 Ibid.; cf. J. Kaftan, Das Wesen der christlichen Religion (Basel: C. Detloff, 1888), 383; W. Herrmann, Die Religion im Verhältnis zum Welterkennen und zur Sittlichkeit (Halle: M. Niemeyer, 1879), 121ff.; J. Gottschick, Die Kirchlichkeit der sogenannte kirchliche Theologie (Freiburg i.B: J. C. B. Mohr, 1890), 152ff.

61 J. Kaftan, Zur Dogmatik (Tübingen: Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1904), 44.

62 H. Cremer, Die christlichen Lehre von den Eigenschaften Gottes (Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1897), 7; A. von Oettingen, Lutherische Dogmatik, 2 vols. (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1897–1902), II, 83.

63 J. Kaftan, Dogmatik, 2d ed. (Tübingen: Mohr, 1897), §§16–17.

64 J. Kaftan, Dogmatik2, 136, 150.

65 G. Wobbermin, Der christlichen Gottesglaube (Berlin: Alexander Duncker, 1902), 92.

66 H. P. G. Quack, “Port Royal par Sainte-Beuve,” De Gids 36 (December 1872).

67 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, II, 28; IV, 11.

68 Augustine, The Trinity, VI, 7; John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 9; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 2, art. 3; H. Heppe, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche, 42, 51–53; H. F. F. Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 122.

69 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I, 11, 24.

70 Eduard Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen, 3d ed., 5 vols. (Leipzig: Fues’s Verlag [L. W. Reisland], 1895), V, 358ff.

71 F. W. Weber, System der altsynagogalen palästinischen Theologie (Leipzig: Dörffling & Franke, 1880), 172.

72 F. Ueberweg, Geschichte der Philosophie, ed. Max Heinze, 9th ed., 4 vols. (Berlin: E. S. Mittler & Sohn, 1901–5), II, 261; Wunsche, “Kabbala,” PRE3, IX, 670–89.

73 Cf. above, pp. 84–87 (#175).

74 Cf. D. Petavius, “De Deo,” in Theol. dogm., I, ch. 8.

75 Duns Scotus, Sent., I, dist. 8, qu. 4, nn. 17ff.

76 O. Fock, Der Socianismus (Kiel: C. Schröder, 1847), 427.

77 R. Rothe, Theologische Ethik, 2d rev. ed., 5 vols. (Wittenberg: Zimmerman, 1867–71), §38; H. Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, trans. William Urwick (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871), §85; A. F. C. Vilmar, Dogmatik, 2 vols. (Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1874), I, 190ff.; I. Dorner, A System of Christian Doctrine, trans. A. Cave and J. Banks, rev. ed., 3 vols. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1888–91), I, 194ff.; G. Thomasius, Christi Person und Werk, 3d ed., 2 vols. (A. Deichert, 1886–88), I, 34ff.; W. Schmidt, Christliche Dogmatik, II, 102ff.; C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888), I, 371ff.; J. J. van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, trans. J. Watson and M. Evans, 2 vols. (New York: Scribner, Armstrong, 1874), §47.

78 J. I. Doedes, Inleiding tot de Leer van God (Utrecht: Kemink, 1870), 200ff.

79 F. Nitzsch, Lehrbuch der evangelischen Dogmatik, 3d ed. (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1902), 351ff., 396ff.

80 C. Pesch, Prael. dogm., II, 72. Most extreme is William James, who distinguishes between metaphysical and ethical attributes and considers the former as worthless; W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Modern Library (1902; reprinted, New York: Random House, n.d.), 435–37.

81 F. C. Baur, Die christliche Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit, 3 vols. (Tübingen: C. F. Oslander, 1841–43), II, 644; A. Ritschl, in his studies on the doctrine of God, Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie 10 (1865) and 13 (1868); ed. note: see above, p. 116 n. 52; J. Kaftan, Dogmatik, §14.

82 Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 38; John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 9.

83 Cf. J. Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, III3, 339ff.

84 B. Spinoza, Ethics, I, prop. 9, 11.

85 F. V. Reinhard, Grundriss der Dogmatik (Munich: Seidel, 1802), 100; cf. L. Meijer, Verhandelingen over de Goddelijke Eigenschappen, 4 vols. (Groningen: Jacob Bolt, 1783), I, 186ff.

86 See H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I, 287–95 (#83).

87 F. A. B. Nitzsch, Evangelische Dogmatik, 354; A. von Oettingen, Lutherische Dogmatik, II, 100.

88 F. Nitzsch, Evangelische Dogmatik, 352ff.

89 F. H. R. Frank, System der christlichen Wahrheit, 2 vols. (Erlangen: A. Deichert, 1878–80), §10; J. Kaftan, Dogmatik, §16; F. Nitzch, Evangelische Dogmatik, 354; A. von Oettingen, Lutherische Dogmatik, II, 106.

90 F. Nitzch, Evangelische Dogmatik, 356.

91 J. Alsted, Encyclopaedia (Herbornae Nassovorium, 1630), 596. Cf. Eisler, Wörterbuch, s.v. “absolutum.”

92 Eunomius, The Apology, in Eunomius: The Extant Works, trans. Richard Paul Vaggione (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 34–75.

93 A. Stöckl, Philosophie des Mittelalters, I, 272–88.

94 Ibid., II, 968.

95 D. Petavius, “De Deo,” in Theol. dogm., I, chs. 12–13; Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, III, 402.

96 A. Stöckl, Philosophie des Mittelalters, II, 18, 27, 60, 88, 268ff.; cf. D. Kaufmann, Geschichte der Attributenlehre in der judischen Religionsphilosophie des Mittelalters von Saadja bis Maimuni (Gotha: F. A. Perthes, 1877).

97 B. Spinoza, Ethics, I, def. 4.

98 R. Falckenberg, Geschichte der neueren Philosophie, 5th ed. (Leipzig: Veit, 1908), 90.

99 D. Strauss, Glaubenslehre, I, 613.

100 F. Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, §50.

101 The Apology, II, 42. Cf. F. Diekamp, Die Gotteslehre des heiligen Gregor von Nyssa (Münster: Aschendorff, 1896), I, 190.

102 D. Petavius, “De Deo,” in Theol. dogm., I, chs. 7–10; J. Schwane, Dogmengeschichte, II2, 19–31; J. Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, III, 408.

103 Augustine, The Trinity, VI, 4, 6; XV, 5, 8.

104 Augustine, Homily 341, n. 8.

105 Augustine, The Trinity, VI, 4; idem, City of God, XII, 18.

106 Augustine, Lectures on the Gospel of John, tract. 13; P. Vermigli, Loci comm., 39; B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 582.

107 In addition to the authors mentioned above, see John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 10; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 3, art. 3; I, qu. 13, art. 4; idem, Summa contra gentiles, I, 5; D. Petavius, “De Deo,” in Theol. dogm., I, chs. 7–13; C. Pesch, Praelect dogm., II, 71–76; J. Zanchi(us), Op. Theol., II, 49; A. Polanus, Syn. theol., lib. 2, c. 7; G. Voetius, Select. disp., I, 233; H. Heppe, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche, 51–53; H. Schmid, Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 9th ed. (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaas Mohn, 1979), §18.

108 Cf. E. Zeller, Philosophie der Griechen, V3, 355, 483; M. Heinze, “Neoplatonismus,” PRE3, XIII, 772ff.

109 Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names and Mystical Theology, I, 2, 4; John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, I, 2, 4; Erigena, On the Divine Nature, I, 78.

110 Pseudo-Dionysius, On the Divine Names, 7, §3.

111 B. Spinoza, Epist. 60, in The Letters, trans. Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 1995), 290–91; cf. already in Xenophanes, according to E. Zeller, Philosophie der Griechen, I3, 490.

112 F. Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, §§50–51.

113 On the three ways, see further A. Twesten, Vorlesungen über die Dogmatik, 2d ed., 2 vols. (Hamburg: F. Perthes, 1829–37), II, 30ff.; D. F. Strauss, Glaubenslehre, I, 536ff.; J. Bruch, Lehre von den göttlichen Eigenschaften (Hamburg: Friedrich Perthes, 1842), 83ff.; I. Dorner, A System of Christian Doctrine, I, 201ff.; J. Doedes, Leer van God, 208; F. Frank, System der christlichen Wahrheit, I2, 228; A. Vilmar, Dogmatik, I, 190; J. Lange, Christliche Dogmatik, 3 vols. (Heidelberg: K. Winter, 1852), II, 42ff.; C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, I, 339; J. Wichelhaus, Die Lehre der heiligen Schrift vom Worte Gottes (Stuttgart: J. F. Steinkopf, 1892), 332ff.

114 Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names and Mystical Theology, ch. 2; cf. M. J. Scheeben, Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik, 4 vols. (1873–1903; reprinted, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1933), I, 483; J. Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, III, 309.

115 John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, I, 4, 9, 12; Anselm, Monologion, 15; idem, Proslogion, 5–6; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 13, art. 2; D. Petavius, “De Deo,” in Theol. dogm., I, ch. 5; G. Perrone, Prael. theol., II, 91; J. Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, III, 375.

116 Augustine, Sermon 38, “On Time.”

117 T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 13, arts. 2–3.

118 Ibid., I, qu. 90, art. 1; J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol., II, 53ff.

119 Pseudo-Dionysius, On the Divine Names, 2 §5; Bonaventure, Breviloquium, I, 4; idem, Sent., I, dist. 27, p. 1, art. 1, qu. 3.

120 Anselm, Monologion, 15; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 13, arts. 9–10.

121 G. Sohn(ius), Opera, I, 97; J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol., II, 50; A. Polanus, Syn. theol., II, 7, 14; P. van Mastricht, Theologia, II, 5, 12.

122 Cf. H. Heppe, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche, 52ff.

123 H. Schmid, Dogmatik der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 78.

124 J. Wegschneider, Instit. theol., §60; J. Bruch, Lehre von den göttlichen Eigenschaften, 110ff.; J. Lange, Dogmatik, II, 61ff.; H. Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, §47; C. Luthardt, Compendium der Dogmatik (Leipzig: Dörffling & Franke, 1865), §29; R. Lipsius, Dogmatik, §298; A. Gretillat, Exposé de théologie systématique, 4 vols. (Paris: Fischbacher, 1885–92), III, 220; S. Hoekstra, Wijsgerige Godsdienstwetenschap, II, 92–99.

125 I. Dorner, A System of Christian Doctrine, I, 177ff.

126 Cf. K. Bretschneider, Handbuch der Dogmatik der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 4th ed., 2 vols. (Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1814–18), I, 480; K. Hase, Lehrbuch der evangelischen Dogmatik (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1838), 271; A. Biedermann, Christliche Dogmatik, II2, 261; G. Thomasius, Christi Person und Werk, I, 14ff.; A. Vilmar, Dogmatik, I, 195; F. Philippi, Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, II, 23; F. Frank, System der christlichen Wahrheit, §§10ff., §§17ff.; F. A. B. Nitzsch, Evangelische Dogmatik, 351ff., 396ff.; W. Schmidt, Christliche Dogmatik, II, 121ff.; A. von Oettingen, Lutherische Dogmatik, II, 84ff.; T. Haering, The Christian Faith, trans. John Dickie and George Ferries, 2 vols. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1913), I, 405ff.; J. van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, §47.

127 J. Schwetz, Theologia dogmatica catholica, 3 vols. (Vienna: Congregationis Mechitharisticae, 1869), I, 111; J. I. Doedes, Leer van God, 217.

128 F. Frank, System der christlichen Wahrheit, I, 228ff.

129 Augustine, The Trinity, V, 16; cf. De ordine (Divine Providence), II, 7; T. Aquinas, Summa theol., 1, qu. 13, art. 7; Anselm, Monologion, 15; P. Lombard, Sent., I, dist. 30; Bonaventure, Sent., I, dist. 30, art. 1; J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol., II, 24–26; A. Polanus, Syn. theol., 192.

130 T. Aquinas, Summa theol., I, qu. 12, art. 12.

131 Augustine, The Trinity, V, 16.

132 Isidore, in B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 504.

133 J. C. Suicerus, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus, s.v. “θεος”; C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., I, 134.

134 H. Cremer, Biblisch-theologisches Wörterbuch der neutestamentlichen Gräcität (Gotha: F. A. Perthes, 1880), s.v. “θεος”; J. Köstlin, “Gott,” PRE3, VI, 779ff.

135 Cf. F. Kluge, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (Strassburg: K. J. Trübner, 1883), s.v. “Gott”; Woordenboek der Nederlanse Taal, V, 180; S. Hoekstra, Wijsgerige Godsdienstwetenschap, I, 309.

136 J. Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, 2 vols. (Königsberg in Preussen, 1711), I, 455.

137 J. Alsted, Theol. schol., 71; B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 511.

138 E.g., F. Delitzsch, Babel and Bible, trans. T. J. McCormack and W. H. Carruth (Chicago: Open Court, 1903), 60ff.; Marie-Joseph Lagrange, Études sur les religions sémitiques (Paris: V. Lecoffre, 1903), 79.

139 Cf. C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., I, 32; B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 515; H. Schultz, Altestamentliche Theologie, 2d ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1889), 508; R. Smend, Lehrbuch der alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte (Freiburg: J. C. B. Mohr, 1893), 26; K. Marti, Geschichte der israelitischen Religion, 3d ed., 25; M.-J. Lagrange, Études, 81.

140 P. Lombard, Sent., I, dist. 2; J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol. I, 25; G. Voetius, Select. disp., V, 27; C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., I, 209.

141 Cf. already in Augustine, The Trinity, II, 11; R. Bellarmine, “De Christo,” Controversiis, 6; J. Calvin, Institutes, I.xiii.9; F. Gomarus, Theses theol. disp., V; B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 796.

142 M. Noordtzij, Oostersche Lichtstralen over Westersche Schriftbeschouwing (Kampen: J. H. Bos, 1897), 41ff.

143 J. T. Beck, Vorlesungen über christliche Glaubenslehre, 2 vols. (Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1886–87), II, 22; cf. further C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., I, 133; B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 518; G. F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, trans. Ellen D. Smith and Sophia Taylor (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1892–93), §36; H. Schultz, Alttestamentliche Theologie, 516; A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament, ed. S. P. F. Salmond (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1904), 41, 99; R. Kittel, “Elohim,” PRE3, V, 316–19; H. Zimmermann, Elohim: Eine Studie zur israelitischen Religions und Litteraturgeschichte (Berlin: Mayer & Müller, 1900).

144 J. Robertson, Israel’s oude godsdienst (Culemborg: Blom en Olivierse, 1896), 200ff.; ed. note: Eng. edition: The Early Religion of Israel, 2d ed. (New York: Westminster Press [Thomas Wittaker], 1903).

145 W. Robertson Smith, Die Religion der Semiten (Freiburg: Mohr, 1899), 48.

146 Commentary of the Statenvertaling on Gen 17:1. Ed. note: The Statenvertaling is the annotated Dutch Scripture translation officially sanctioned by the Synod of Dordrecht, 1618–19. J. Zanchi(us), Op. theol., II, 43; C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., I, 132; B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 522ff.; G. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, §37; F. Delitzsch, Commentary, on Gen. 17:1.

147 Acts of Synod of Dort, session 12.

148 B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 534; J. Buddeus, Inst. theol. dogm., I, 188.

149 H. Schultz, Alttestamentliche Theologie, 4th ed., 523.

150 F. Delitzsch, Neuer Comentar über die Genesis (Leipzig: Dörffling & Franke, 1887), 546ff.

151 D. Petavius, “De Deo,” in Theol. dogm., VIII, ch. 9.

152 G. Voetius, Select. disp., V, 55; C. Vitringa, Doctr. christ., I, 130.

153 A. Kuenen, De Godsdienst van Israël tot den Ondergang van den Joodschen Staat, 2 vols., De Voornaamste Godsdiensten (Haarlem: Kruseman, 1869–70), I, 397–401; J. J. P. Valeton Jr., “De Israëlitische Godsnaam,” Theologische Studiën 7 (1889): 173–221.

154 H. H. Kuyper, Evolutie of Revelatie (Amsterdam: Höveker & Wormser, 1903), 95; Robertson, Theology of the Old Testament, 52; J. Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament, 221ff.

155 E. von Hartmann, Religionsphilosophie, 2 vols. (Bad Sachsa im Harz: Hermann Haacke, 1907), I, 370ff.

156 A. Kuenen, Volksgodsdienst en Wereldgodsdienst (Leiden: S. C. Van Doesburgh, 1882), 261ff.

157 A. Kuenen, Godsdienst van Israel, I, 275.

158 R. Smend, Lehrbuch der alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte, 21.

159 B. de Moor, Comm. in Marckii Comp., I, 512.

160 Cf. further concerning “jhwh Sabaoth,” F. Delitzsch, “Die neue Mode der Herleitung des Gottesnamens,” Lutherische Zeitschrift (1877). On Psalm 24:10, see E. Schrader, “Semitismus und Babylonismus,” Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie 1 (1875): 316–20; G. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, §195ff.; R. Smend, Lehrbuch der alttestamentlichen Religionsgeschichte, 185ff.; Eduard König, Das Hauptproblem der altisraëlitischen Religionsgeschichte (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1884), 49ff.; A. Kuenen, Godsdienst van Israël, II, 46; B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 2 vols. (Berlin: Baumgärtel, 1887), I, 437; J. J. P. Valeton Jr., “De Israëlitische Godsnaam,” 208ff.; E. Raubsch, “Zebaoth,” PRE2, XVIII, 720; E. Riehm, Handwörterbuch des biblischen Altertums für gebildete Bibelleser, 2 vols. (Bielefield and Leipzig: Velhagen & Klasing, 1884), s.v. “Zebaoth”; Borchert, “Der Gottes Name Jahre Zebaoth,” Theoloische Studien und Kritiken 68 (1896): 619–42.

161 S. Herner, Die Anwendung des Wortes κυριος im Neuestestament (Lund: E. Malström, 1903).

162 W. Robertson Smith, Die Religion der Semiten, 27ff.


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1 John

2 John

3 John



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