OT Straight Dope: Names of God

David J from Faith-Promoting Rumor has provided this Mormon Dummies’ Guide to the names of God in the Old Testament. Every Kool Kat has to know his El Shaddai’s from his El Elyon’s.

In the cultural milieu in which the OT was written, knowing the name of a person or thing opened up channels of communication between the two. The one who knows the name of a person or deity can appeal to that person or god.

Yahweh (Jehovah)

Since the Achaemenid (Persian) period, the personal name of the God of Israel, Yahweh, has not been pronounced out loud both in liturgy and in every day life. Conservative Jews still respect the divine name (or tetragrammaton) and defer, instead, to the Hebrew word Adonai (Eng. “Lord”), or by spelling the tetragram (“yod-heh-waw-heh”) when reading the Hebrew Bible. This avoiding of speaking God’s name carried over into the LDS KJV (and many other modern English translations), wherein the word “LORD” in small caps is used where Yahweh is present in the underlying Hebrew text. The first occurrence of “Yahweh” in the OT is Genesis 2:4b, and was a major criterion in the Graf-Wellhausen documentary hypothesis. The English pronunciation “Jehovah” is a verbal aberration caused by the conglomeration of the vowel pointing from the Hebrew word “Adonai” and the (Latin) consonants for the tetragram: J-H-V-H. (The initial “a” vowel of “adonai” is reduced to a short “e” vowel due to the presence of the letter yod). Various manuscripts from these periods attest the authors’ respect for the tetragram through the use of hypocoristic forms of the name (Yahu, Yah, Yh).

The meaning of the name is unclear, but scholars have indicated that the meaning is not as pertinent as the characteristics attributed to the deity by worshipers. Despite the lack of clarity, the name probably derives from an imperfect finite verbal form from the Hebrew verb hyh (Eng., “to exist”) as evidenced from Ex. 3:14.


This is one of the oldest forms for the Semitic word for “God.” It is not a name per se, as it is generally accompanied with some form of additional identification, such as “El-Elohe-Israel” (Gen. 33:20), “El-Bethel” (Gen. 35:7), etc.


In Gen. 14:22, this name is identified with Yahweh, although this identification is probably after a long process of reform and literary activity. Deut. 32:8-9 has been problematic for many, and could indicate that El-Elyon was once the highest deity in the pantheon, and Yahweh was the chief deity assigned to the Israelites (Smith, 32-33). The two were later amalgamated into one, probably during times of reform under various Judean kings.


In short, the name means “God Almighty,” and shows up in Gen. 49:25 and other places. The problem of this divine name stems from Ex. 6:3, which again individuals like Graf and Wellhausen used as evidence for later editorial activity or differing sources in the text of the Hebrew Bible. They supposed that the name Yahweh, which is used in the Abraham narrative, would be anachronistic based on the Ex. 6:3, and so a later scribe must have added the name Yahweh to the earlier narratives, or added and then later weaved the sources together (much like the teeth on a zipper–the teeth are the documents, the zipping mechanism is the redactor). Conservatives generally explain the issue by stating that a later biographer might use the title “The President” when writing about Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, even though he was not the president yet. At times the name appears in conjunction with other divine names, as if to suggest the two are different (cf. Num. 24:16), however it may just be the use of two different names to discuss the same individual (polynomy).


In the Bible, it is generally not used as a name, but rather the Semitic word for “God” (with few exceptions). Indeed, Joseph Smith noted the curious form of the word–a masculine plural noun. It is important to note, however, that when this term is employed as the subject in the text of the Bible in reference to the God of the Hebrews, it always occurs with a singular verb. The noun sometimes refers to the “gods” (miniscule “g”) of other nations or people groups (Ex. 12:12), and is sometimes preceded by a definite article (Ex. 18:11), which one would not expect on a personal name. Various attempts have been made to explain why Israel would employ a plural noun to identify its singular God. That the term represents a plurality of majesty or power is probably a good speculation, but it is most likely used as an abbreviated form of a superlative: “the God of gods,” which fits very nicely into the way Israel viewed its God in comparison to the deities of the surrounding cultures (ie, theirs was the highest/best). The blending of Yahweh and Elohim in the material is ascribed (Gen. 2:4b-3:24), once again, to later editorial activity.

Mormon theology, on the other hand, is quite different from biblical theology in its uses of divine names. With respect to what occurs in sacred places, I will only mention that the divorce between Jehovah and Elohim is quite unique in Christianity, and therefore could be studied as something wholly apart from the Biblical model of divine nomenclature. For additional issues within Mormonism, Dave over at DMI has done the grunt work, and I recommend viewing the links he posted (cf. last paragraph).


  • Hermann, W. “El.” Pages 274-280 in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2nd Ed. Edited by Karel Van der Toorn & W. Van der Horst. Grand Rapids: Brill, 1999.
  • Rose, Martin. “Names of God in the OT.” Pages 1001-1011 in vol. 4 of The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 vols. Edited by David N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
  • Smith, Mark S. The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities in Ancient Israel. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1990, 2002.
  • Van der Toorn, Karel. “Yahweh.” Pages 910-919 in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. 2nd Ed. Edited by Karel Van der Toorn & W. Van der Horst. Grand Rapids: Brill, 1999.
  • Wurthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament. 2nd Ed. Trans. By Erroll F. Rhodes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988, 1995.


  1. Kevin Christensen says:

    With respect to: “I will only mention that the divorce between Jehovah and Elohim is quite unique in Christianity.”

    Not quite unique. See Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God.


    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  2. OK, if the Elohim/Jehovah split does not exist in the OT (where Elohim=Jehovah), on what basis does Mormonism make this doctrinal assertion?

  3. It is not a name per se

    Depends who you read. It most certainly is a proper name at Ugarit, and it’s hard for me not to see overtones of that in the OT.

    El-Elyon-In Gen. 14:22, this name is identified with Yahweh

    True, but this identification is not in the LXX (certain) or DSS (if I remember correctly), leading to the idea that it’s a late insertion to make sure no one could possibly interpret Elyon otherwise. There’s the famous similar theologically motivated change in Deu 32:8-9, which strongly implies in its dearlier form (in the LXX and confirmed by the DSS) that Yahweh is among the sons of Elyon.

  4. Kevin Christensen says:

    The Thinly Veiled website has recently added a link to a pdf of Barker’s essay, “The Second Person” from The Way. It contains a succinct introduction to the arguments contained in The Great Angel. Barker explains in “The Second Person” and in the “Text and Context” essay also linked at the site, that the MT version of the OT comes after the rise of the Christianity and in comparison to the DSS and LXX versions, the MT shows evidence of being edited in reaction Christianity.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  5. Ronan, I believe the asserted division between Elohim and Jehovah is based not on ancient texts at all but rather on modern scripture and revelation. Most especially, this seems to draw on a few statements in the Doctrine and Covenants and in the temple ceremony.

    Harmonizing this with the Old Testament text as we have it certainly presents difficulties. But, as you know, harmonization is unnecessary; we are free to accept each text as a witness of a different person’s (or group of people’s) understanding of God’s self-revelation. (Or also free to become Barkerites.)

  6. As for modern mormonisms view of the Godhead, it seems to me that we want concrete definitions even if the are steeped in anachronism and are strained beyond reason. I prefer the flexibility of our 19th century counterparts.

    And a question, if I may ask: Where does Lord of Hosts come from? Is it a name or simply a noun (like Lord of the Dance)?

  7. The Lord of Hosts = armies, I think.

    JNS, I agree that we seem to have come up with the Elohim – Yahweh theology all by ourselves. That’s fine. But it simply doesn’t fit neatly with the OT, and we shouldn’t make it.

    One thing that’s always puzzled me:

    If Brighamite theology held that Adam was God, who were Elohim, Jehovah and Michael meant to be in the Temple Creation drama? Michael = Adam? Jehovah = Adam?

  8. Is God’s referring to himself in with plural pronoun in Genesis simply consistent with the plural noun?

  9. Ronan, your question highlights the character of my previous comment. The bottom line is that the words and names were symbollic and dynamic. They meant diffeent thing in different narratives.

  10. My cursory study of El-Shaddai (which can be translated “Breasted One”) has led me to believe that this term is used to signify the Feminine aspect of God. It is interesting to note how often “Almighty” (KJV translation of El-Shaddai) is used in conjunction with the Abrahamic covenant (ie eternal posterity), the “blessings of the breast, and of the womb”…

    Starfoxy–that has been my belief about Elohim. How else could God say let “us” go down and create humans in our image male and female?

  11. One thing that’s always puzzled me:

    If Brighamite theology held that Adam was God, who were Elohim, Jehovah and Michael meant to be in the Temple Creation drama? Michael = Adam? Jehovah = Adam?

    That has puzzled me as well. I read a paper that Brigham did beleive that, but Brigham also taught that Adam was Michael. The Temple drama is also contradictory.

  12. One interpretive approach understanding Brighamite theology revolves around the fact that Brigham Young positively believed in the infinite regress of gods. Hence, Michael can be God the Father and Jehovah can be God the Father’s Father.

  13. (Note that the identification of Old Testament Jehovah with Jesus Christ was not a done deal until after the turn of the 20th century, and was really cemented by Talmage.)

  14. JNS:
    So — Michael = God the Father; Jehovah = God the Father’s Father; Elohim = ?

    Isn’t it fascinating to see how something that seems so natural to us could be construed so differently. In that scenario, Jesus does not figure at all (unless you see Jesus as part of God the Father in a more Trinitarian sense). Good stuff.

  15. LisaB,

    No-one knows for sure what “Shaddai” means. The LXX gives us “Almighty” but it was probably unclear by then. Some scholars believe that it relates to shadu in Akkadian, meaning “mountain.” Thus, “high God” or some such. I don’t think El was ever construed as having female attributes, even by the Canaanites. El is male.

  16. Andermom/Starfoxy says:

    Joseph Smith noted the curious form of the word–a masculine plural noun.

    As a masculine *plural* noun, could it possibly be interpreted to mean both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother at the same time? Similar to how after Adam and Eve were created Heavenly Father named *them* Adam.
    (I’m really asking and not trying to steer the discussion, does anyone know? you can email me (imnanderson at gmail dot com) if you think an answer would cause a threadjack)

  17. Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God.

    Kevin, be careful with her work. She’s viewed as a total wack-job by biblical scholars. I have read her work, and I must say her views of the composition of the Deuteronomistic History are unique, strange, and fantastic. Lots of Mormons love her work, which most folks in the field say fits the glove perfectly (because we’re weird).

    Ben, what’s a Hebrew discussion without you? Indeed, DDD did mention the use of ‘El as a proper name at Ugarit, but I felt that was a bit much for BCC. It definitely would have had mention over at FPR. ;) The ABD article also notes this, but probably due to its wide audience, the author doesn’t press it as hard as you do. The point is that ‘El has widespread usage as a noun that means “god” in Semitic languages, and in certain geographical dialects it takes on the status of a personal name.

    As a masculine *plural* noun, could it possibly be interpreted to mean both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother at the same time? Similar to how after Adam and Eve were created Heavenly Father named *them* Adam

    Andermom, the ancient Israelite would never go there. The word ‘adam in that instance could mean “humanity,” and may not be a personal name (just yet). Or is it? There’s a lot of debate regarding the word ‘adam and its usage. Ben wrote a sweet article at FPR on this too. Anyway, the surrounding ANE cultures of the Israelites prided themselves extensively on their dieties and respective consorts, who were often times worshiped through orgiastic fertility rites, something forbidden in Israel (cf. book of Judges). The use of Genesis 1-2 and the creation of male/female as a plug for viewing Elohim as male and female doesn’t hold much water, and fizzles out after those chapters.

    LisaB, where are you getting the breast stuff? Sounds fringey, yet I am drawn to it like moth to flame. ;)

    I also forgot to add:

    Albright, William F. Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1978, 1990, 1994.

  18. mountain/ breast both are possible translations

    Just read the passages that include Almighty in the KJV. Look at the Bible dictionary entry for El Shaddai and follow the links from there. Blessings of the breast, and blessings of the womb. Can God the Father really bestow those? Maybe Heavenly Mother is not only real, but essential after all! :-)

  19. Tea & Biscuits says:

    Maybe Heavenly Mother is not only real, but essential after all!

    Or maybe it’s just a Mormon concept?

  20. Ronan (#15): So — Michael = God the Father; Jehovah = God the Father’s Father; Elohim = ?

    Giliam posted on this.

  21. re: comment 18

    As LisaB points out, a fun and uplifting exercise is to go through the scriptures and replace the word “mountains” with “breasts”. With faith like a mustard seed, you can say unto those breasts, be thou moved, and they shall jiggle.  The OT is WAY more fun now.

  22. Turning to the best available source on Brigham Young’s understanding of divinity [Buerger, David John. 1982. “The Adam-God Doctrine.” Dialogue 15 (Spring): 14-58], we find the following quote from BY to the School of the Prophets: “Elohim, Yahova & Michael, were
    father, son and grandson. They made this Earth & Michael became Adam.” BY elsewhere explained that Jesus was Michael’s son, not the Holy Ghost’s (as perhaps implied by the New Testament). In combination with the repeated statements that Adam/Michael is God the Father, we now have the clear sense that Jehovah is God the Grandfather and Elohim is God the Great-Grandfather.

  23. Kevin Christensen says:

    David J. says:
    “Kevin, be careful with her work. She’s viewed as a total wack-job by biblical scholars. I have read her work, and I must say her views of the composition of the Deuteronomistic History are unique, strange, and fantastic.”

    Which Biblical scholars? Specificity in terms of authorities and arguments would be useful if one intends to persuade by argument, rather than by informal poll and convenient epithet. I don’t think the scholars who elected her President of the Society of Old Testiment Study in 1999, or the group at Cambridge (the Centre of Advanced Religious and Theological Studies) who asked to head up a study of the Temple and Christian Liturgy considered her a total whack job. Nor did the editors of the Eerdman’s Bible Commentary seem to hold that view when they asked her to write a commentary on Isaiah. I doubt those who introduced her talks at the Cardinal Hume lectures at Heythrop College at the University of London in 2003 used those terms in inviting her to speak, and then publishing the talks as Temple Theology. And clearly, those non-LDS scholars who post her essays on their websites, and publish her work in various journals, seem quite as enamored as I am, despite the varied religious backgrounds. And I am aware of many very bright LDS scholars who are very impressed with her work. I have no doubt that there are those who disagree with her conclusions. She does, after all, challenge the conventional views, many of which are tied to vested interests, on many topics. Disagreement goes with participation in the endeavor. But if I was at at all concerned with being seen as agreeing with someone who challenged conventional views, I wouldn’t be practicing LDS.

    Thanks for the caution, but I am already full to overflowing with my care for Margaret’s work. That should be obvious from my own ongoing work on the topic.


    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

  24. The NET Bible has a massive note on the question of El Shadai/mountain/breast, shortened below.

    The name “El Shaddai” has often been translated “God Almighty,” primarily because Jerome translated it omnipotens (“all powerful”) in the Latin Vulgate. There has been much debate over the meaning of the name…Shaddai/El Shaddai is the sovereign king of the world who grants, blesses, and judges. In the Book of Genesis he blesses the patriarchs with fertility and promises numerous descendants. Outside Genesis he both blesses/protects and takes away life/happiness. The patriarchs knew God primarily as El Shaddai (Exod 6:3). While the origin and meaning of this name are uncertain (see discussion below) its significance is clear. The name is used in contexts where God appears as the source of fertility and life. ….The most likely proposal is that the name means “God, the one of the mountain” (an Akkadian cognate means “mountain,” to which the Hebrew שַׁד, shad, “breast”] is probably related). For a discussion of proposed derivations see T. N. D. Mettinger, In Search of God, 70-71. The name may originally have depicted God as the sovereign judge who, in Canaanite style, ruled from a sacred mountain. Isa 14:13 and Ezek 28:14, 16 associate such a mountain with God, while Ps 48:2 refers to Zion as “Zaphon,” the Canaanite Olympus from which the high god El ruled. (In Isa 14 the Canaanite god El may be in view. Note that Isaiah pictures pagan kings as taunting the king of Babylon, suggesting that pagan mythology may provide the background for the language and imagery.)

    David J. said, “the surrounding ANE cultures of the Israelites prided themselves extensively on their dieties and respective consorts, who were often times worshiped through orgiastic fertility rites, something forbidden in Israel”

    Outside the Hebrew bible, there’s very little evidence for orgiastic fertility rites among the Canaanites, to the extent that most scholars have come to view this as an exaggerated Israelite polemic.

    As to the Godhead and grandparents, I think the agnostic view is best, ie. “I have no idea.” I like Wilford Woodruff’s counsel. “Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven’s sake, let these things alone. Why trouble yourselves about these things? God has revealed Himself, and when the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants is fulfilled, whether there be one God or many gods they will be revealed to the children of men, as well as all thrones and dominions, principalities, and powers. Then why trouble yourselves about these things? God is God. Christ is Christ. The Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost. That should be enough for you and me to know. If we want to know any more, wait till we get where God is in person.”

    There’s a BYU MA focused on Brigham’s Adam statements that’s available electronically through the BYU library, “The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology.” The author was a BYU Rel. professor, went on to write for the Ensign, and his MA advisors were Sidney Sperry and Hugh Nibley. This may account for NIbley’s statement, “one of our biggest stumbling blocks is not knowing how Adam relates to other beings, earthly and heavenly. That is the root of the Adam-God misunderstanding. (Until we care to look into the matter seriously, I will keep my opinions in a low profile.)” in Before Adam.

    I’ve noted elsewhere (post and comment #3) that Joseph rarely if ever used Elohim as a singular.

    These are deep and muddy waters.

  25. Julie M. Smith says:

    Ben, I adore that WW quote. Can you get me a citation on it?

  26. General Conference April 7th, 1895. Collected Discourses vol. 4, p.292

  27. A quick note on my comment #22: I’m not implying that I believe this or that anyone else should believe this. Just that the historical record strongly suggests that Brigham Young believed this. In fact, if you look closely at his more orthodox-seeming statements about deity, they are very often carefully worded so as to be compatible with the belief outlined above.

  28. Ronan #15 – “Turtles all the way down…”

  29. Ronan 16,
    Do we really only know what Shaddai means from the LXX translation as pantokrator?

    LisaB, seriously, where are you getting the “breast” etymology?

  30. Tea & Biscuits says:


    I realize the marginal recognition she’s had, which is initially why I read Great Angel and Great High Priest. All I’m saying is that her views are terribly unconventional, and the professional reviews of her work tend to trash it. bookreviews.org might help with some of that.

    Again, her views work fine for closet readership — I myself found Great Angel captivating, but it doesn’t fly with professionals. Fun reading? Yes. Serious scholarship? I guess that’s up to the individual.

    fertility rites… most scholars have come to view this as an exaggerated Israelite polemic

    I would agree — the book of Judges seems like a tired polemic, or a hasty attempt to bring the people back to some form of unified confederate orthopraxy. How much truth is there in a polemic? I mean, don’t all polemics have some shadow of truth in them?

  31. I just noticed that the Rabbis and three LXX mss. understand Shaddai to mean “sufficient”. This has quite a different theological implication than does “almighty”. I like that for LDS theology too.

  32. The problem with Barker’s model is that it is essentially unprovable (I am borrowing this analysis, but I can’t remember who from). If there is positive evidence for her theory, that shows she is right. If there is a lack of evidence, that shows that she is right about Deuteronomistic suppression of former beliefs. There isn’t a way to prove it wrong that isn’t accounted for with her model (barring the discovery of new relevant evidence). This is, generally speaking, why scholars have frowned upon her work.

    Elohim, although the form is plural in appearance, is always treated as a singular noun grammatically. It is possible that the ending may not then really indicate a plural (although Joseph Smith differs). The meaning of the “we-passages” in Genesis is hotly debated; contextually speaking, the best bet is a kind of divine retinue (the lower case, plural “elohim”) similar to, but not analogous to the divine counsel found in Mesopotamian and Egyptian literature. Further support for this comes from Psalms 8 and Job (admittedly, very late and very influenced by other cultures).

    I was unaware of the breast interpretation of Shaddai. Mark S. Smith, in his book The Early History of God, theorizes that Jahweh was initially a local deity in a henotheistic or monolatrous (is that a word?) approach (perhaps explaining the Deut information). In the beginning, he was associated with other deities, like Baal, El, and Asherah as another member of a pantheon, in the sense that most local pantheons appeared to take the form of a genealogy or a royal bureaucracy. Over time, as Yahweh took on more importance locally and, more importantly, as he acquired exclusive importance, Israelites seemed to transfer attributes typically associated with other gods to Yahweh. It is by this process that he aquires breasts and a womb, in conventional thought.

  33. I should also point out that the solid difference between Jehovah and Elohim does not appear to have been initially important to Mormon theology. As late as the Kirtland Temple dedication, Joseph is refering to the being that he is praying by both titles. Admittedly, this was before the revelation of the endowment, but I know of no evidence to suggest that this situation was cleared up in Joseph’s lifetime (admittedly, I haven’t done much research in the area). I think that our current division is more the work of later (possibly inspired) systematizers (not that that necessarily matters).

  34. LisaB, nevermind, I got it from BDB and from Ben S 24! doh!

  35. John, I haven’t done the cross-checking, but is there any coincidence between Joseph’s use of the word elohim and his instruction from Joshua Seixas?

  36. a random John says:

    Also of note is the concept of Divine Investiture of Authority which suddenly became needed once Jesus was defined and Jehovah of the OT. Moses 1, for instance, makes sense if you have a pre 1916 LDS view of the Godhead, but needs DIA after 1916, because “rules” have been created about who is speaking when and where.

  37. I believe that Joseph’s discourse and retranslation of Genesis 1:1 in the KFD was written as a result of of Seixas’s influence (although Seixas taught his course roughly ten years earlier). The Kirtland Temple dedication was also written after Seixas’s course. I should clarify that Joseph doesn’t ever say Elohim in D&C 109, but he does pray to both the Father and Jehovah (and the Lord) in that prayer, indicating, I think, the fluidity of the title Jehovah and the danger in drawing strict rules regarding its usage in the early church.

  38. In light of the evident interest in the development of the Mormon concept of deity, can I recommend a book with the best collection of essays on the subject of which I’m aware? The book is Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine, edited by Gary Bergera. The book brings together a large number of scholarly essays, primarily on the evolution over time of various aspects of the Mormon doctrine of God. A major historical essay on the identity of Jehovah in Mormon doctrine, also included in the book, can be found here (it’s a text file, so you have to find the name “Boyd Kirkland” on the page.)

    Mixing and matching of Elohim and Jehovah was a standard feature of LDS discourse at the highest levels well past the Kirtland period. For instance, John Taylor called God the Father “Jehovah” throughout his life. Here’s a hymn he wrote: “As in the heavens they all agree/The record’s given there by three,/Jehovah, God the Father’s one,/Another His Eternal Son,/The Spirit does with them agree,/The witnesses in heaven are three.” And Brigham Young sometimes paired Elohim and Jehovah as titles for the same being: “We Obey the Lord, Him who is called Jehovah, the Great I Am, I am a man of war, Elohim, etc.” Even Joseph Smith mixed and matched well into his late ministry: consider this prayer that he wrote in 1842: “O Thou, who seest and knowest the hearts of all men-Thou eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Jehovah – God – Thou Elohim, that sittest, as saith the Psalmist, ‘enthroned in heaven,’look down upon Thy servant Joseph at this time; and let faith on the name of hy Son Jesus Christ, to a greater degree than Thy servant ever yet has enjoyed, be conferred upon him.”

    George Q. Cannon in 1871 may have been the first to identify Jesus as having been Jehovah in his premortal life. This was more emphatically spelled out by Franklin D. Richards in 1885: “We learn that our Savior was born of a woman, and He was named Jesus the Christ. His name when He was a spiritual being, during the first half of the existence of the earth, before He was made flesh and blood, was Jehovah.” But this wasn’t a unanimous or instant change in theology; as late as 1893, Wilford Woodruff still used the name “Jehovah” to refer to God the Father. The Jehovah-Jesus doctrine doesn’t really get locked down until the publication of Jesus the Christ in 1915.

  39. JNS,

    You rock, man. That book — I think I’ll pick it up.

    I love this stuff. Keep it coming.

  40. My problem with Kirkland is that he reads in modalism and strict monotheism all too easily, and I just don’t think it’s there in the texts (as David Paulson argues here.

    Second, assertions of God’s oneness, or the unity of the Godhead, do not necessarily indicate strict monotheism/modalism, whether in Isaiah, Deuteronomy, the BoM or elsewhere. Outside of the Bible, there are monotheistic statements in clearly non-monotheistic societies, such as “All the gods of Egypt are three, and there is no second god to him”

    In other words, I don’t read “they are one God” as necessitating either a modalist or classical trinitarian understanding.

    I’m not opposed to Joseph having a changing understanding of God’s nature. In fact, I think it would be much more surprising if he had never learned anything further on the topic then what he knew in 1820. I just think Kirkland (and others) have been over-reaching in their desire to pigeon-hole (modalistic, arian, etc.) the BoM and Joseph.

  41. BTW, the book is on the New Mormon Studies cd-rom.

  42. The connection b/t Elohim and Sexias is best seen in Abraham 4-5. Here, the plural use of Elohim and it theological implications are explored. Joseph started translating the Egyptian papyri around the same time as he is known to have studied Hebrew with Seixas (the exact chronology I forget).

  43. Ben (meister uber-software guy),

    Where can I get a copy of that?

  44. Ben, I agree that the evidence on modalism is ambiguous. On the other hand, the label has helped crystallize our awareness that the early Mormon understanding of God was both different from our current understanding and more ambiguous. So in reading Kirkland, in particular, and the Bergera book more generally, one does need to keep a healthy dose of skepticism at hand — but that’s true whenever we read anything intellectual. However, the Kirkland essay has a wonderful collection of primary sources arranged helpfully to show the evolution of how people talked about the various theological issues over time. Whether one accepts his theoretical apparatus or not, that collection is incredibly valuable in getting a handle on how our current ideas developed.

    The NMS CD is quite expensive ($300 or so). But a good resource.

  45. FAIR has it for $170. (ooh, those sneaky dishonest apologists :)

    At SBL in 2004, Tom Kimball told us that it wouldn’t be re-issued (I think they lost money on it), so get’em while you can.

  46. I bought mine from FAIR a couple of years ago, and had to pay more than that… Now I’m sad!

    If you think about it, $170 = 10 used books. The New Mormon Studies CD certainly has at least 10 books that anyone reading this discussion would be interested in. The only downsides are that the NMS CD has a terribly ugly text interface and you have to read at your computer. If you can overcome those two obstacles, there’s really no excuse for not buying the CD. Just remember that Deseret Book, the BYU Press, and some other university presses didn’t contribute to the CD. While some commentators interpret this as ideological bias, in practice it just means that a search in NMS isn’t a replacement for research.

  47. Amazon has it for $125. It is run with the old Follio Views engine, which sucketh, but it is a great value. Heber C. Kimball’s diary alone cost $800 in print.

  48. There are tricks for evading Folio Views, as well. So go buy NMS today! (This endorsement not sponsored by Tom Kimball in any way.)

  49. I use a full version of Folio 4.20 (build 201), but it has some resolvable conflicts with Windows XP. I’d be interested in whatever tips and tricks you have, J. Nelson. Shoot me an email- spackman at uchicago dot edu

  50. Space Chick says:

    As a semi-threadjack, if El means “God”, then what do Uri-el, Rapha-el, Micha-el and Gabri-el mean? Can someone who knows about languages instead of orbits help me out here?

  51. Michael = Who (mi) is like (cha) God (El)?

  52. Gabriel- “man of God”
    Raphael doesn’t appear in the Bible, but means “God has healed”

    Michael may also mean “(one) who is like God.”

    There’s an Ensign article that lists many biblical names and their meaning, by BYU Hebrew Prof. Don Parry. Here

    Guest post at FPR on names in the first few chapters of Genesis, here.

  53. so get’em while you can

    Anybody willing to hack me one? I’ll pay the shipping and media charges. tee-hee…

    the old Follio Views engine, which sucketh,

    LOL! I hated that thing too. I’ve got the works of Cleon Skousen in that format (no, I don’t read it anymore), and I hated it.

    Heber C. Kimball’s diary alone cost $800 in print.

    J, email me. I’m a Kimball (on my mom’s side). We have security clearance for this sort of thing.

  54. John Mansfield says:

    This deals with the names of God in a different sense than the above, but can any of the Old Testament scholars explain how Matthew saw Jesus’ naming as fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that someone would be named Emmanuel?


  1. […] The Old Testament has really been getting some attention the last couple of weeks. In Box 1, I posted The Documentary Hypothesis, talking about the two creation stories in the early chapters of Genesis. In Box 2, David J. from FPR guest-posted Names of God over at BCC, reviewing the various names and titles applied to God in the Old Testament. There were some nice points added in the comments, too. […]