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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
from the same Saxon root as good, thus beautifully expressing the divine benignity as the leading attribute of the most general term for the Deity, and corresponding almost invariably to two Hebrew words, both from a common root (אוּל, au, to be strong). Hengstenberg, however, regards the simpler of these words (אֵל, El) as a primitive (Auth. of Pent. 1:251), while some consider the extended form (אֵֵלוֹהּ, Elo'dh) as derived from a different root (the obsolete אָלָהּ, found in Arabic = to worship). The corresponding Shemitic terms are: Arabic, Al or Allah (q.v.); Syriac, Ilo or Eloho; Samar. El or Chilah (= powerful; Castell, in Walton's Polyglot Bible, 6, s.v.); Phoenician El (ἠλ or ἰλ ), as in En-el (῎Ενυλος, עינאל ), Gag-el (Gagilus, גגאל ), Ε᾿λοείμ (Sanchon.). (See ALMIGHTY).
The only other Hebrew word generally employed in naming the Supreme Being is Jehovah, יְהוָֹה , which some (so Havernick, Historische-critsche Einleitung ins alte Testament, Berlin, 1839) propose to point יִהְוֶה, Jahveh, meaning "the Existing One," holding that Elohim is used merely to indicate the abundance and super-richness contained in the Divine Being. With such, therefore, Jehovah is not of the same origin as the heathen Jove, but of a strictly peculiar and Hebrew origin. Both names are used by Moses discriminately, in strict conformity with the theological idea he wished to express in the immediate context; and, pursuing the Pentateuch nearly line by line, it is astonisling to see that Moses never uses any of the names at mere random or arbitrarily, but is throughout consistent in the application of the respective terms. Elohim is the abstract expression for absolute Deity apart from the special notions of unity, holiness, substance, etc. It is more a philosophical than devotional term, and corresponds with our term Deity, in the same way as state or government is abstractly expressive of a king or monarch. Jehovah, however, seems to be the revealed Elohim, the Manifest, Only, Personal, and Holy Elohim: Elohim is the Creator, Jehovah the Redeemer, etc. (See JEHOVAH).
The translators of the Eng. A.V. have invariably translated this last Hebrew word by " Lord," which is printed in those passages in small capitals in our common Bibles, but whenever the two words which they thus render occur together, Adonai-Jehovah, the latter is rendered "God," in order to prevent the repetition of " Lord." The Greek has θεός (either with or without the art.). Jerome and the Rabbins enumerate ten Heb. words as meaning God; but they relate rather to his attributes. (See LORD).
I. Usage of the Hebrew terms properly rendered "God."
1. אֵל, El. This term is used in the most general way as a designation of Deity, whether of the true God or of the false gods, even the idols, of the heathen. In the latter reference it occurs Isaiah 44:10; Isaiah 44:15; Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 46:6; and in the plur. אֵלַים, Elim', Exodus 15:11; Daniel 11:36; though in both these last instances it may be questioned whether the word is not used in the sense of mighty ones. To render the application of the term in this reference more specific, such epithets as אִחֵר, other, foreign (Exodus 34:14), זָר, strange, hostile (Psalms 81:10), נֵכָר, strange (Deuteronomy 32:12), are used. When used of the true God, אֵל is usually preceded by the article (הָאִל, Genesis 31:13; Deuteronomy 7:9), or followed by such distinctive epithets as שִׁדִּי, Almighty (Exodus 6:3); עוֹלָם, eternal (Genesis 21:33; Isaiah 40:28); עִלְיוֹן, Supreme (Genesis 14:18); חִי, living (Joshua 3:10); גַּבּרֹ, mighty (Isaiah 9:5); or such qualifying adjuncts as כָּבוֹד, of glory (Psalms 29:3); אֵֶמת, of truth (Psalms 31:6); גְּמֻלוֹת , of retributions (Jeremiah 51:56); בֵּיתאּאֵל, of Bethel (Genesis 31:13). יַשְׂרָאֵל, of Israel (Genesis 33:20); יְשֻׁרוּן (Deuteronomy 33:26). In poetry אֵל sometimes occurs as a sign of the superlative; as הִרִרֵיאּאֵל, hills of God very high hills (Psalms 36:7); אִרְזֵיאּאֵל, cedars of God (Psalms 80:11). The phrase בְּנֵיאּאֵלַים . occurs Psalms 29:1; Psalms 89:7; and is supposed by some to refer to angels; but others take אלים here for אילים, and translate Sons of the mighty (see Rosenmuller, ad loc.). There is no instance of אֵל in the singular being used in the sense of mighty one or hero; for even if we retain that reading in Ezekiel 31:11 (though thirty of Kennicott's codices have the reading איל, and the probability is that in those which present אל the י is implied), the rendering "God of the nations" may be accepted as conveying a strong but just description of the power of Nebuchadnezzar, and the submission rendered to him; compare 2 Corinthians 4:4. In proper names אל is often found sometimes in the first member of the compound word, e.g. אליה, Elijah; אלדד, Eldad, etc., and sometimes as the last member, e.g. שׁמואל Samuel; למואל, Lemuel; טבאל, Tabeel, etc. (See EL).
2. אלֵוֹהִּ, Elo'ah, plur. אלֵהַים, Elohim'. The singular form occurs only in poetry, especially in Job, and in the later books, such as Daniel, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. It is used as well of idol deities as of the true God (Daniel 11:37-38; Habakkuk 1:11; Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalms 1:22; Habakkuk 3:3, etc.); once in the former case with the addition of נֵכָר (Daniel 11:39), and in the latter with that of יִעֲקֹב (Psalms 114:7). The more common usage is that of the plural. This pervades all the books of the Old Test., from the earliest to the latest. Thus it is used principally of the true God, and in this case frequently with the article prefixed (Genesis 5:22; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 6:11; Genesis 17:18), as well as with such adjuncts as הִשָּׁמִיַם (Nehemiah 1:4), or with the addition of וְהָאָרֶו ֹ (Genesis 24:3); אָמֵן (Isaiah 65:16); צִדַּק (Psalms 4:2); הִצִּבָּאוֹת (Amos 3:13), etc. When the relation of Israel to God is to be indicated, the phrases God of Israel, Jacob, Abraham are used (Ezekiel 5:1; Psalm 20:2; 47:10, etc.); and in this case, as the term Elohim is equivalent in effect to Jehovah, it is often used interchangeably with that term; thus Moses, who is designated עֵבֶד יְהֹוָה, Ebed-Jehovah (Deuteronomy 34:5), is called in the same sense ע אלֵהַים, Ebed-Elohim (Daniel 9:11); and the same object is designated indifferently רוּחִ יְהֹוָה, Ruach-Jehovah, and ר אלֵהַים, Ruach-Elohim (comp. Judges 3:10, and Exodus 31:3, etc.). Not unfrequently the two terms are combined (Leviticus 18:2; Leviticus 18:4, etc.; Leviticus 19:2, etc.; 2 Samuel 5:10; 1 Kings 1:36; 1 Kings 14:13; Psalms 18:29, etc.). Most commonly, however, they are used distinctively, with respect, probably, to the difference between their primary meanings (see Hengstenberg, Auth. d. Pent. 1:181 sq.). In the Pentateuch this discriminative usage has given ground for certain hypotheses as to the composition of that work. (See PENTATEUCH).
In the earlier historical books, Jehovah is more frequently used than Elohim; in Job, Jehovah is more frequently used in the poetical, Eloah or Elohim in the prosaic portions; in the Psalms, sometimes the one, sometimes the other predominates, and this has been thought to afford some criterion by which to judge of the age of the psalm, the older psalms being those in which Elohim is used; in Proverbs we have chiefly Jehovah; in Ecclesiastes, Daniel, and Jonah almost exclusively Elohim, and in the other prophets chiefly Jehovah. Elohim is also used of idol deities or false gods, because these are worshipped as if they were God (Exodus 19:20; Exodus 32:31; Joshua 24:20; Jeremiah 2:11; Jonah 1:5, etc.); and, like El, it is used as a superlative (Psalms 68:16; Psalms 65:10, etc.). Kings and judges, as the vicegerents of Deity, or as possessing a sort of repreasentative majesty, are sometimes called Elohim (Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:6; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8). Whether the term is used of angels may be made matter of question. This is the rendering given to אֵֹלהַים by the Sept.,Vulg., Targ., Syr., etc., in Genesis 3:5; Psalms 8:6; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:6; Psalms 97:7; Psalms 138:1; but in the majority of these instances there can be little doubt that the translators were swayed by were dogmatical considerations in adopting. that rendering; they preferred it because they avoided thus the strongly by anthropomorphic representation which a literal rendering would have preserved. In all these passages the proper signification of אלֹהַים may be retained, and in some of them, such as Genesis 3:5; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:6, this seems imperatively required. In Psalms 8:6 also the rendering "angels" seems excluded by the consideration that the subject of the writer is the grace of God to man in giving him dominion over the works of his hands, in which respect there can be no comparison between man and the angels, of whom nothng of this sort is affirmed. In Psalms 97:7, the connection of the last clause with what precedes affords sufficient reason for our giving Elohim its proper rendering, as in the A.V. That the author of the epistle to the Hebrews should have adopted the Sept. rendering in citing these two passages (Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 1:6), cannot be held as establishing that rendering, for, as his argument is not affected by it, he was under no call to depart from the rendering given in the version from which he quotes. But, though there be no clear evidence that Elohim is ever used in the sense of angels, it is sometimes used vaguely to describe unseen powers or superhemman beings that are not properly thought of as divine. Thus the witch of Endor saw "Elohim ascending out of the earth" (1 Samuel 28:13), meaning thereby some beings of. an unearthly, superhuman character. So also in Zechariah 12:8 it is said, "The house of David shall be as Elohim, as the angel of the Lord," where, as the transition from Elohim to the angel of the Lord is a minori ad majus, we must regard the former as a vague designation of supernatural powers. Hengstenberg would explain Psalms 8:6 in accordance with this; but the legitimmicy of this may be doubted. SEE ELOHIM.
On the use or absence of the article with אֵֹלהַים see Quarry (Genesis, page 270 sq.), who, after an elaborate examination of the subject, sums up the results as the following: "The dispelling of the supposition that any essential difference existed, at least in the earlier books, between Elohim with and without the article — any difference at all, but such as the exigencies of each occasion with respect to sense or grammar would have made in the case of any common appellative; the illustration of the use of the article with particles and prepositions, elucidating many passages of Scripture, and explaining many seeming causes of perplexity; and the establishment of an important characteristic difference as regards the usage in the case of Elohim with or without the article, between the earlier and later books of the sacred canon." (See ARTICLE (IN GRAMMAR).)
II. The attributes ascribed to God by Moses are systematically enumerated in Exodus 34:6-7, though we find is isolated passages in the Pentateuch and elsewhere additional properties specified, which bear more directly upon the dogmas and principles of religion, such as, e.g. that he is not the author of sin (Genesis 1:31), although since the fall man is prone to sin (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21, etc.). But, as it was the avowed design of Moses to teach the Jews the unity of God in opposition to the polytheism of the other nations with whom they were to come in contact, he dwelt particularly and most prominently on that point, which he hardly ever omitted when he had an opportunity of bringing forward the attributes of God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 10:17; Deuteronomy 4:39; Deuteronomy 9:16, etc.; Numbers 16:22; Numbers 33:19, etc.; Exodus 15:11; Exodus 34:6-7, etc.).
In the prophets and other sacred writers of the Old Testament these attributes are still more fully developed and explained by the declarations that God is the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6); that he changes not (Habakkuk 3:6); that the earth and heaven shall perish, but he shall endure (Psalms 102:26) — a distinct allusion to the last doomsday — and that he is omnipresent (Proverbs 15:3; Job 34:22, etc.).
In the New Testament also we find the attributes of God systematically classified (Revelation 5:12; Revelation 7:12), while the peculiar tenets of Christianity embrace, if not a further, still a more developed idea, as presented by the apostles and the primitive teachers of the Church (compare Semisch's Justin Martyr, 2:151 sq., translated by J.E. Ryland, 1843).
The expression "to see God" (Job 19:26; Job 13:5; Isaiah 38:11) sometimes signifies merely to experience his help; but in the Old Testament Scriptures it more usually denotes the approach of death (Genesis 32:30; Judges 6:23; Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:5). (See DEATH).
The term בֶּןאּאֵֹלהַים "son of God," applies to kings (Psalm 2:7; 82:6, 27). The usual notion of the ancients that the royal dignity was derived from God may here be traced to its source: hence the Homeric διογένης βασιλεύς . This notion, entertained by the Oriental nations with regard to kings, made the latter style themselves gods (Psalms 82:6). Add. בְּנֵי אֵֹלהַים "sons of God," in the plural, implies inferior gods, angels (Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6);also faithful adherents, worshippers of God (Deuteronomy 14:1; Psalms 73:15; Proverbs 14:26). אַישׁ אֵֹלהַים "man of God," is sometimes applied to an angel (Judges 13:6; Judges 13:8), as also to a prophet (1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Samuel 9:6; 1 Kings 13:1).
When, in the Middle Ages, scholastic theology began to speculate on the divines attributes as the basis of systematic and dogmatic Christianity, the Jews, it appears, did not wish to remain behind on that head, and, collecting a few passages from the Old Testament, and more especially from Isaiah 11:2, and 1 Chronicles 29:11, where the divine attributes are more amply developed and enumerated, they strung them together in a sort of cabbalistic tree, but in reality representing a human figure. (See CABBALA).
III. The Scriptures contain frequent notices of false gods as objects of idolatrous worship:
1. By the Hebrews. These were of two kinds:
a. Adoration of other beings than Jehovah, held as divine (Ehrlen, De diis et deab. Gentil. in S.S. memoratis, Argent. 1750; Leusden, De idolis V.T. in his Philolog. Hebr. mixt. page 291 sq.; Kalkar, Udsigt over den idolatr. Cultus som omtales i bibeln, Odense, 1838 sq.). Such false deities (which are generally identified with their images, Deuteronomy 4:28 sq.; Psalms 115:4 sq.; Psalms 135:15 sq.; 2 Maccabees 2:2; comp. also עֲצָבַים, idols, in passages like 1 Samuel 31:9; Hosea 4:17) are called אֵַלילַים nothings (perhaps a play upon אֵֹלהַים ), in the Jewish Church phraseology (Leviticus 19:4; Leviticus 26:1; comp. Habakkuk 2:18), or חֲבָלַים, breaths, i.e., vanities (Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 14:22), הִבְלֵי שׁ וְא utter vanities (Jonah 2:9; comp. τὰ μάταια, Acts 14:15), שַׁקּוּצַים, abominations (1 Kings 11:5; Kings 23:13); derisively גַּלּוּלַים, logs (Ezekiel 6:4; Ezekiel 14:3); their sacred rites אָיֶן, frivolity (1 Samuel 15:23; Isaiah 66:3), and their whole worship harlotry (Ezekiel 23; compare זָנָה, and derivatives, in Winer, Simonis Lex. p. 286 sq.), in contrast with which Jehovah is called the true God (אֵֹלהַים חִיַּים, Jeremiah 10:10 sq.; Daniel 6:20; Daniel 6:26 [compare מֵתַים, Psalm 116:28]; Acts 14:15; 2 Corinthians 6:16), the God of Heaven (Judith 5:7; compare Jeremiah 10:11, etc.). Indeed idolatry was reprobated as a capital offense in the Mosaic law, under penalty of extirpation and destruction in the case of the whole people (Leviticus 19:4; Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 11:16 sq.; Deuteronomy 28:15 sq.; Deuteronomy 30:17 sq.; Deuteronomy 31:16 sq.; comp. Joshua 23:16; 1 Kings 9:6 sq.), and stoning for individuals (Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 17:2 sq.; comp. Deuteronomy 6:14 sq.; Deuteronomy 7:16; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 13:2 sq.; Exodus 20:3; Exodus 20:23); and the Israelites were admonished in their campaigns utterly to demolish idolatrous images (Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 12:2 sq.; comp. 1 Chronicles 14:12; 1 Maccabees 10:84), and not to tolerate any heathen whatever in their land (Exodus 23:33; Deuteronomy 20:17), and, furthermore, to shun all connection (even civil and political) with idolatrous nations (Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:15 sq.; Deuteronomy 7:1 sq.). Even instigation to idolatry was liable to punishment by death (Deuteronomy 13:6 sq.). In spite, however, of these severe statutes, we find the Israelites, not only during the passage through the wilderness and the unsettled period of their polity (Numbers 25:2; Deuteronomy 13:13; Joshua 24:23; comp. Amos 5:25 sq.), but also under the monarchy, sadly departing from the worship of Jehovah, and addicting themselves to the adoration of Phoenico-Philistine-Syrian and Arabico-Saboean (in the time of the Maccabees also to Graeco-Syrian) deities (see Gramberg, Religionsideen, 1:436), such as Baal, Ashtaroth, Moloch, Chemosh, Thammuz, etc., and connecting therewith soothsaying and sorcery (Deuteronomy 18:10 sq.; comp. Dale, De divinationib. idolol. V.T. in his work De origine et progr. idolol. page 363 sq.). See each of these names in its place.
The service rendered to foreign deities was very multiform (Mishna, Sanhedrinm, 7:6), but consisted principally of vows (Hosea 9:10), incense (1 Kings 11:8; 2 Kings 22:17; 2 Kings 23:5; Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 7:9; Jeremiah 11:12; Jeremiah 13:15; Jeremiah 32:29), bloodless (Jeremiah 7:18) and bloody offerings (2 Kings 5:17), including even human beings. (See MOLOCH). The incense and offerings were presented on high places and hills (Isaiah 57:7; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 13:27; Hosea 4:13; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:5; comp. Philostr. Apoll. 2:4; Spanheim, ad Callim. Del. 70; (See HIGH PLACE) ), on roofs. (Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Isaiah 65:3), under shady trees (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:10; Hosea 4:13; Isaiah 1:29; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 17:2; 2 Chronicles 28:4; Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 20:28; see Movers, Phö nic. page 577 sq.), also in valleys (Jeremiah 2:23; 2 Chronicles 28:3) and gardens (Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 65:3). (See GROVE). The votaries of many of these deities made an offering of their own chastity to them, and illicit commingling of the sexes was a chief element of such cultus. (See BAAL); (See ASTARTE). Sitting upon graves formed also a part of idolatry, either as a propitiation to the manes or in necromancy (Isaiah 65:4). Lustration even was not wanting (Isaiah 66:17). The priestly castes of these idolatrous systems were numerous (1 Kings 18:22; 2 Kings 10:21) and in good station (Hosea 10:5). One kind of them was called Kemarim (כַּמָרַים, Zephaniah 1:4; 2 Kings 23:5; a Syriac word, Gesen. Thes. page 693; Mishna, Megil. 4:9). (See IDOLATRY).
b. The worship of Jehovah, under the form of any image whatever, was strictly forbidden (Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 4:16; Deuteronomy 5:8; Deuteronomy 27:15; comp. Tacit. Hist. 5:5). Such symbols as the Golden Calf (q.v.) were borrowed from Egypt (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7 sq.). See Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 2:109 sq.; Gerritsen, Cur Hebraei ante exil. Babyl. se ad idolorum et plurium deor. cultum valde promos ostenderint, in the Annal. Acad. Rheno-Traject. 1822-3, page 120 sq.; Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 5:98 sq.; Otho, Lex. Rabb. page 286 sq. (See IMAGE).
2. Idolatry of non-Israelitish Nations. — See each in its place. This was frequently portrayed by the prophets in all its grossness (1 Kings 18:27; comp. Deyling's Observ. 1:136 sq.), especially by exhibitions of the (mechanical) construction of these gods (images, Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 44:10 sq.; Jeremiah 10:3 sq.; Hosea 13:2; Psalms 115:4; Baruch 6:3 sq.; Wisdom of Solomon 13:11 sq.; Wisdom of Solomon 15:7 sq.; compare Philo, 2:472; Horace, Sat. 1:81 sq. Arnob. 3:12; 6:13 sq.; Augustine, Civ. Dei. 6:10), and their powerlessness (Isaiah 41:29; Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 46:1-2; Jeremiah 2:28; compare Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36 Psalms 115:5 sq.; Habakkuk 2:18). The images of the gods (מִצֵּבוֹת ) were sometimes cast (metallic, Judges 17:4; Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 40:19; Hosea 13:2), נֶסֶךְ, מִסֵּכָה; sometimes carved (of wood, Isaiah 44:13; Jeremiah 10:3; comp. Pliny, 12:2; 13:17; Pausan. 2:19, 3), פֶּסֶל, פְּסַיל (See DIANA), or even moulded of clay (Wisdom of Solomon 15:8; Pliny distinguishes "lignea et fictilia simulacra," 34:16). They were fastened with chains, so as not to fall down or be carried away (Isaiah 41:7; Jeremiah 10:4; comp. Pausan. 3:15, 5; 8:41, 4; Arnob. 6:13), and were usually overlaid with gold or silver, and were, besides, richly decked with apparel (Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 30:22; Isaiah 31:7; Isaiah 40:19; Jeremiah 10:4; Hosea 8:4; Baruch 12:16; compare Dougtaei Analect. 2:179 sq.; Bahr, Symbol. 1:277 sq.). They were also painted with red (vermilion) color (Wisdom of Solomon 13:14; compare Pliny, 33:7, 36; 35:12, 45; Virgil, Eclog. 6:22; 10:26 sq.; Plutarch, Quaest. Romans 98; Arnob. 6:10; Bahr, Symbol. 1:334). They were taken by armies with them into battle (2 Samuel 5:21; comp. Curtius, 8:14, 11; Polyamn. 7:4). Victors were accustomed to carry them about in triumph, in order to despoil the subject nations of their divinities (Isaiah 10:10; Isaiah 36:19; Isaiah 37:12), or to bind them to greater fidelity (Isaiah 46:1 sq.; Jeremiah 48:7; Jeremiah 49:3; Hosea 10:5; Daniel 11:8; compare Pausan. 8:46, 1; see Bochart, Hieroz. 1:372; Withof, Opusc. page 143 sq.). The weapons of slain enemies were hung as trophies in the temples of the gods (1 Samuel 31:10; Pausan. 1:13, 3; Xenoph. Anab. 5:3, 4; Euseb. Chron. Arm. 1:67). Soothsaying and sorcery ever stand in, connection with this cultus (Isaiah 19:3). (See MARK IN THE FLESH).
IV. The Christian Doctrine of God. —
1. Source. — The Christian idea of God is derived from the Scriptures. The statement GOD IS GOD suffices for the wants of theology in itself, and is given as a complete proposition in the Scriptures (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:12). But the Scriptures afford many indications, not merely as to the character of God, but also as to his nature. The substance of these teachings may be summed up in the statements. God is a Spirit, God is Love, God is Lord. These statements include the idea of an immaterial, intelligent, and free personal Being, of perfect goodness, wisdom, and power, who made the universe and continues to support it, as well as to govern and direct it, by his providence. Dr. Adam Clarke gives the following general statement of the doctrine of the Great First Cause: "The eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely benevolent, beneficent, true, and holy; the cause of all being, the upholder of all things; infinitely happy, because infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only to himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, can not err or be deceived, and, from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind." The Christian doctrine of God, in its development, involves the idea of the Trinity: God the Fathar, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. (See TRINITY).
2. Connotation of the term God. — The word Θεός, God, taken to signify "an object of religious venersation," was formerly applied to the pretended deities of the heathen, and accordingly Δευς and Deus were employed by the promulgators of the Gospel when calling on the heathen to transfer their worship from their idols to Jehovah. But the word "God" has come to signify in Christian sense the Maker and Ruler of the world, and is absolutely and exclusively applied to him. There is "one God" in the Christian sense, and there can be but one. "It is not meant merely that we believe this as a fact, but that it is moreover implied in the very meaning we attach to the word. And this is a distinction which should always be carefully attended to. The word 'Mohamedan' means nothing more or less than a believer in Mohammed, though the Christian regards Mohammed as having been in fact an impostor, and the Mohammedans regard him as a true prophet; but neither of these is implied (or connoted) by the word 'Mohammedan' when used by a Christian. On the contrary, thee word 'God' does imply what has been above stated, as is evident from this: that any one who should deny that there exists any such being as a Maker and Governor of the world, would be considered by Christians not only as in error, but as an Atheist — as holding that there is no God (while whoever should affirm the existence of more than one God would be held to be an idolater); and this not the less though he should admit the existence of some being superior to man, such as the fairies, demons, nixes, etc., which are still feared lay the vulgar in almost all parts of Christendom; the genii of the Eastern nations, and the gods and goddesses of the ancient heathens, which were all of this description. None of them was accounted the 'Creator,' and the births of most of them are recorded in their mythology; and altogether the notions entertained of time seem to have been very nears the same as the vulgar superstitions still prevailing in most parts of Europe relative to the fairies, etc., these being doubtless no other than the ancient heathen deities of those parts, the belief in their existence and dread of their power having survived the introduction of Christianity, though the title of 'gods' has been dropped, as well as the words 'sacrifice' and 'worship' in reference to the offerings, invocations, and other tokens of reverence with which they are still in several places honored. It appears, therefore, that as the ancient heathens denounced the early Christians as Atheists for contemning the heathen deities, so they may be considered as being, in the Christian sense of the word, themselves Atheists (as indeed they are called in Ephesians 2:12), and that consequently the word 'God,' in the Christian sense sand in the heathen must be regarded as having two meanings. Wide, therefore, of the truth is the notion conveyed in Pope's 'Universal Prayer,' the Pantheism, as it is called, of the ancient heathen philosophers and the Brahmins of the present day, who applied the word God to a supposed soul of the universe:
"'Mens agitat molem, et toto se coampore miscet,'
a spirit pervading all things (but not an agent or a person), and of which the souls of man and brutes are portions. In the Book of Revelation, 'Jehovah, the self-existent and all-perfect Being, with the world which he created and which he is ever ruling, alone meets our view. Though intimately present with all his works, he is yet entirely distinct from them. In him we live, and move, and have our being. He is infinitely nigh to us and he is intimately present with us, while we remain infinitely distant from his all-perfect and incommunicable essence'" (Eden).
3. Can God be known? — The Scriptures declare that God is invisible (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 1 John 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:16, etc.) and unsearchable (Job 11:7; Job 37:23). But the very existence of the idea of God, and even the use of the name God, with its connotation as given above, imply, not indeed that it is possible for man to comprehend God, but that it is not impossible to know God. And so the Scriptures make it man's duty to become "acquainted with God" (1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 9:24; 2 Peter 1:2; John 17:3, etc.). Even Atheists are bound to explain the res in intellectu manifested in the thought and language of men. To deny absolutely that God can be known is to deny that he exists; and, on the other hand, the proof, or even the admission that God exists, implies that it can not be absolutely unknown what or how he is: the knowledge of his existence implies as a necessary condition some knowledge of the mode of his existence, i.e. his power, wisdom, justice, etc. The passages cited above, declaring that God is invisible, etc., are not to be tortured to favor the idea that the human mind is absolutely incapable of knowing God. On the contrary, their purpose is to vindicate the claims of revelation as the source of knowledge of God. The Scriptures teach that God is made known him Christ (1) by his works (Romans 1:20; Psalms 19:1-2); (2) through his Son, which is, in part, his essence. True, God revealed his "glory" to Moses (Exodus 33:18-23), but the manifestation was given through a medium, or, rather, reflection, making "the goodness" of God to "pasbefore" Moses. Not sight, but faith, is the condition and means of our knowledge of God in this life (2 Corinthians 5:7). God, then, can be known, but only so far as he gives the knowledge of himself, and so far as the capacity of man can reach. Johannes Damascenus said truly, "It is not possible to know God altogether; neither is it altogether impossible to know God." To see him with the bodily eyes would be fatal to a sinful creature (see citations above). But there is a dead "knowledge of God" (Romans 1:21; James 2:19); and, in contrast with it, there is a living knowledge of God, which includes a spiritual seeing of the invisible, the privilege of all who are in vital union with God through faith is his Son (Hebrews 11:27).
Science trusts to the functions and laws of the human mind as its instruments for the discovery of truth. But to know the truth, and to recognize the ground and object of phenomena in their connection and unity, is a process which leads invariably to the knowledge of the original and perfect Being; for every science which recognizes truth and goodness in the world, in nature and in reason, recognises therewith a power of wisdom and goodness. But as we cannot recognize such a power abstractly, in recognizing it at all we recognize the eternal God (Suabedissen, Metaphysik, 1836, page 143). Yet as man, by science, can know the works of God only very imperfectly and incompletely, criticism and skepticism are alwvays the companions of science, and she can be, at best, only the pioneer of true religious knowledge, or its servant. For the true religious knowledge of God is not founded upon science, but upon life — the life of communion with God. In the religious life the consciousness of God is before and apart from all reflection, all speculation; the souls, in its rapid dialectics, under the pressure of religious needs, has no need of syllogism to prove the existence of God. So Tertullian declares (in his Testimonium Animae) that even the common heathen mind, a part from philosophy, reached a truer knowledge of God and of divine things than the heathen mythology and philosophy could teach. Even the Platonic philosophy taught that the longing of the soul for the truth and beauty of goodness leads to a renunciation of the outward and visible in behalf of an apprehension of the spiritual and real. Spiritual Christianity transforms this teaching into a higher one, viz. that the longing of the soul for God, the search for God in Christ, is always rewarded, and that the "pure in heart" see God with the spiritual eyes of faith. Luther's doctrine that God may be taught, named, and apprehended in Christ, and in Christ alone, is quite in harmony with the early theology of the Church (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 2).
Not that a mere intellectual faith in Christ brings this knowledge of God. With the conversion of the soul begins its new, spiritual capacity to receive and apprehend God; and as the soul is emptied of self and purged from sin by the Holy Spirit, it grows in knowledge of God, in light and love, until the "life of God" becomes the "life of the soul." Dr. Nevin (Reply to Dorner, 1869) has the following striking passage as to the specifically Christian conception of God: "There is a sense in which the absolute being of God, as related immediately and directly to our created being, must be considered the necessary ground of our knowing him and coming into union with him in the way of religion. The whole possibility of religion for us starts in the God-consciousness, or direct sense of Deity, which is as much a part of our original nature as the sense we have of the world around us or of our own existence. It is not put into us by any outward evidence or argument. It authenticates and necessitates itself as a fundamental fact in our life; and in doing this it certifies, to the same extent, the truth of the object on which it is exercised. Or, rather, we must say, the truth of the object on which it is exercised, which is the Divine Being, or the existence of the Absolute, certifies itself, makes itself sure in and through the consciousness into which it enters. In this sense, the idea of God comes before Christianity, as it comes before religion in every other form. But who will say that this general idea of God can be for us, therefore, the actual root of Christianity, so that any among us, starting with that alone, could ever by means of it come to a full construction of what God is for true Christian faith? It lies at the ground of pantheism, dualism, polytheism, deism, and all false religions, no less than at the ground of Christianity. For the distinctive knowledge of Christianity, then, we need some other specific principle or root. which, however it may be comprehended in the general principle of all religion, must be regarded at the same time nevertheless as the ground and beginning, exclusively and entirely, of religion under this its highest and only absolutely complete form. Where, now, is that principle to be found? Where does the whole world of Christianity, the new creation of the Gospel (life, power, doctrine, and all), take its rise and start? Where do we come to the source of its perennial revelation, the ground of its indestructible life? Where, save in the presence of the Word Incarnate, the glorious Person of him who is the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright and morning Star — the faithful and true Witness, the BEGINNING of the creation of God!"
But Religion has had her errors and excesses as well as Science. As the latter seeks in its pride, by purely intellectual effort, to apprehend the absolute, so the former has at certain periods allowed mysticism to take the place of the simple revealed truth as to the life of God in the soul, and, in the spirit of the Oriental theosophy, has called the "redeemed soul but a drop in the ocean of God", (See MYSTICISM). The orthodox Christian doctrine keeps the golden mean between these extremes. It asserts, and has asserted from the beginning, that a real and objective knowledge of God comes only from God's revelation, and that only κατὰ τὸἐφικτόν , pro virili (Arist. De Mund.), according to the best capacity of man. It teaches not only that God is "incomprehensible," but also that every step taken in the true knowledge of God by the soul makes his "incomprehe
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'God'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/g/god.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26