Names for God in English Bibles


Michael Asser, a recent English translator of the Septuagint, notes how that that Jewish Greek version of the Old Testament (shared by Judaism and the early Christian Church for a time) approached the name of God in a way that proved influential with English translations, including the King James Version. Asser wrote: “The Septuagint displays several very significant characteristics. Kyrios – Lord, is consistently used throughout the Septuagint without the definite article for the Divine Name Yahweh. Following its use in the Septuagint proper [the Pentateuch or Books of Moses], it was used thus throughout the other books of the Greek Old Testament. There is still some debate about whether Kyrios was the original Septuagint rendering of the Divine Name. Origen and Blessed Jerome are insistent that it was not and that the Tetragrammaton (i.e. the four consonants YHWH of the Divine Name) was used in some form or other. (As a matter of interest, there are on Internet photographs of fragmentary papyri of the Septuagint which have the Tetragrammaton.) But other Jewish writings of the time provide evidence that Kyrios was used by Greek-speaking Jews for Yahweh, and it may have been so with the Septuagint.”

YHWH was called the Tetragrammaton, transliterating four Hebrew consonants in a written term with no vowels. YHWH was rendered Jehovah in four places in the King James Bible, Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, and Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4. Some early Christian and Eastern writers identified the Tetragrammaton with the I AM THAT I AM name that God gave to Moses in Exodus, which also became translated as “I Am He Who Is,” or “He Who Is” in Greek and Eastern Christian iconographic writing. The Tetragrammaton has also been rendered Yahweh in English. The convention in the Septuagint of using Kyrios for Lord may have followed the Jewish strictures on taking the name of God in vain and avoiding use of the sacred name.

In the King James Bible, seemingly following the lead of the Septuagint for the most part, translators who followed mainly the Hebrew Masoretic text rendered YHWH with LORD (all capitals) in contrast to Lord. In Asser’s own English translation of the Septuagint, he renders the personal name for God (the Tetragrammaton) as LORD, and other names for God with similar meaning in Hebrew and the Greek texts as THE LORD.

More recent English translations often followed the lead of the King James Bible but some have become more varied in their use of transliterated Hebrew names. There is also discussion of this in our edition of the King James Bible, in the back notes on the Old Testament, p. 323.


Lord was used as a translation of the Hebrew Adonai, another title for God, which seem to have also been used to avoid saying the more personal and holy name YHWH (while Adonai was also like “Lord” applicable to a human master).


The Hebrew name Elohim, a plural form, is also used in parts of the Creation account, as noted in Pomazansky’s discussion, and is translated God in the King James Version, following the Septuagint, which renders the name ὁ θεός (Theos). The singular-yet-plural form of this name in the Creation account, reflecting a sense of authority and power like the “royal we,” also is taken by Christians as indicating the Holy Trinity, as is the expression “let Us create” in Genesis 1.

El Shaddai and Shaddai

This name for God in Hebrew scriptures is rendered God Almighty or my God or Lord in the Septuagint, and “the God of heaven” in Psalm 90/91, Almighty being the standard English translation. The King James Bible renders El Shaddai as the Almighty God and Shaddai as the Almighty. Scholars relate its root meaning to mountains, and sometimes breasts, and connotating power and destruction as well as sufficiency.