Allah — The Unique Name of God
Research into the Names of God in over 150 Languages and their Meanings
by Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi
Chapter 3: A Review of Divine Names
From a study of the concept of God prevalent in different nations of the world it can be realised that, since the dawn of creation, man has ever dedicated his sublime aspiration to the ideal of a Supreme Being. Every religion, as borne out by its teachings, points to this natural truth in coherence. It is, therefore, evident that the conception of a Supreme Being lies deep in the core of the human heart. Every nation on this earth has its own name of God, even if it is deemed the lowest of the low in the scale of civilization. It is strange to see:
Ethiop gods have Ethiop lips
Bronze cheeks and woolly hair;
The Grecian gods are like the Greeks
As keen-eyed, old and fair.
But along with this they have a noble and sublime conception of the true deity. For example, the Quran speaks of an Ethiopian Prophet, Luqman, whose teachings are quoted as specially laying stress that there were:
Ethiop lips with such sweetness in their honeyed deeps
As fills the rose in which a fairy sleeps.
With the exception of one or two, almost all the 155 names of the chief deity are the best names or aspects of the Divine Being. Every nation, in its own language, has an exalted name for its chief God, but it has its number and gender, and is derived from some root.
It is true that most of the nations believe in many gods or sons of gods, but it is also true that these gods are under the supremacy of one Supreme Being.
An analysis of the 155 names of God will show that:
- In more than forty languages, the name given to the Supreme Being is Heaven or equivalent to it.
- Almost 26 languages have ‘God’.
- Eighteen nations call Him Master.
- In fifteen languages He is called The Light, Empyreal, Celestial Being or, analogous to it, the Sun.
- Fourteen nations invoke Him as their Creator.
- Six of the nations consider Him Benign or Compassionate.
- He is called Glorious in five languages.
- Almost five tribes say He is Omniscient.
- Four declare Him Father of all.
- He is Spirit or High Spirit or, analogous to it, Soul or Mind, for seven tribes.
- Three assert He is Almighty, All-Powerful.
- For some He is Omnipresent, Eternal, Sustainer, and others adore a nameless God — Ka Deva among Hindus, Khem-ren-f of the people of the Pharaoh and Ko of the Koils of Bundelkhand. All these words mean ‘Who?’ Strangely enough, Yehowah (of the Jews and Christians) is also a Ka Deva for it means, ‘I am that I am’.
Our Heavenly Father:
At a religious meeting held in Boston a Christian minister quoted some passages from the Gospels and laid the claim that these could not be matched in the sacred Books of any other religion. At this, Ralph Waldo Emerson rose and said:
“The gentleman’s remark only proves how narrowly he has read.”1
There is not a single aspect of God believed in by the so-called highly civilized nations that is not believed in and adored by the savages and negro tribes. Forty nations believe that God is in heaven and call Him ‘Our Heavenly Father’.
The word heaven is heuen (i.e., heven) in Mediaeval English; heofon in Anglo-Saxon; heban in Old Saxon; Low German heben (i.e., heven); and is of uncertain origin. It means the expanse of space surrounding the earth, especially that which seems to be over the earth like a great arched dome; the firmament empyrian, the place where the sun, moon and stars appear; the reign of the clouds and winds and flying birds; now chiefly in the plural.2
In early cosmography the space around the earth was divided into a series of heavens (varying in number from seven to eleven). The belief in the plurality of heavens, usually regarded as the abode of deities or spirits, prevailed among many ancient peoples, and is widespread in apocalyptic and rabbinic literature: the dwelling-place of the Deity; the celestial abode of bliss; the place of the blessed dead. That it is the dwelling-place of God is substantiated by the Old and New Testaments:3
- “Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain …” (Exodus, 19:20)
- “… the Lord is God in heaven above…” (Deuteronomy, 4:39)
- God’s dwelling-place is in heaven (1 Kings, 8:30, 32, 34, 36, 39).
- “O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven?” (2 Chronicles, 20:6)
- “… the Lord’s throne is in heaven …” (Psalms, 11:4)
- “… but there is a God in heaven …” (Daniel, 2:28)
- “… that they may … glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew, 5:16)
- “… that you may be sons of your Father in heaven …” (Matthew, 5:45)
- “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew, 5:48)
- “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew, 6:9)
- “Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see, and He walks above the circle of heaven.” (Job, 22:14)
- “For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes, 5:2)
- “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” (Matthew, 23:9)
- “No one has ascended to heaven but he who came down from heaven, the Son of man.” (John, 3:13)
According to the Old and the New Testaments, God is in heaven. Compare this with the Chinese sacred books of old. The Chinese sacred books are characteristically ideographic, where God is depicted as the great one who is above or in heaven. In these books, no distinction is made between God and heaven4 (Shu Ching, 2.1.3, 4.2.2, 4.3.2, 3, 4.4.2, 4.4.4, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 5.1.1–3, 5.7.3, 5.8.5, 5.9.1; Hsiao Ching, 9)5:
- The seat of Ti6 (God) is in heaven (I Ching, Appendix 1, 10:3).7
- The kings appointed by Ti (God) are correlates of God (Shu Ching, 5.27.6; Shih Ching, Sacrificial Odes of Chou, 1.7, Major Odes, 1.1; Hsiao Ching, 9).8
- Heaven employs Tang to punish the wicked Chieh, a terrible king9 (Shu Ching, 4.1, 4.2.2, 4.3.2, 5.1.2, 5.14.2).10
- A virtuous king is the fellow of God (heaven) (Shu Ching, 22.214.171.124).11
- Heaven curses the wicked king (Shu Ching, 5. 1.3).12
- The king is the great son and vicegerent of heaven (Shu Ching, 5.12.2).13
- King Wên (the righteous king) ascends into heaven on the left and right of God (Shih Ching, Major Odes, 1.1).14
- Heaven speaks to king Wên (the righteous king) (Shih Ching, Major Odes, 1.7).15
- Sacrifices are offered by kings to heaven (Shu Ching, 2.1.3, 5.1.1).16
- The spiritual sovereign is in the high heavens (Shu Ching, 4.3.2).17
- A commandment is given to worship God who dwells in the great Heaven (Li Chi, 126.96.36.199).18
- Summer sacrifices for rain are made to heaven (Li Chi, 188.8.131.52).19
The Chinese say that it is not lawful to use the name Shang-ti lightly; therefore, they name Him by His residence, i.e., heaven. In brief, the heaven, the heaven of heavens, or the highest heaven is the abode of God and the most exalted spirits; it is a place of supreme bliss. More than two score nations of the world, including Jews, Christians, Chinese, Abyssinians (Ethiopians), negroes of Africa, barbarians of Siberia, the Buryat of Mongolia, peoples of Greece, France, Spain, Old Germany, Ireland and the Aryans, all believe that God is heaven or that He dwells in heaven.
In the Old and even in the New Testaments, heaven is also stated to be the abode of the redeemed after death and the second resurrection. It is sometimes used for air, as ‘birds and fowls of heaven’, and for the sky, wherein the sun, moon and stars are placed. In Hebrew it is shamayim (Arabic samā’). In the Greek Bible it is ouranos.
The Hindus speak of God as Dyaus pitar, ‘our Father Heaven’, and of their revealed books as Akash Bani.
It is now clear that ‘heaven’ is not a personal or proper name of the Divine Being; it only designates One who is above. But the Muslim is told in the Quran:
وَ اِذَا سَاَلَکَ عِبَادِیۡ عَنِّیۡ فَاِنِّیۡ قَرِیۡبٌ ؕ اُجِیۡبُ دَعۡوَۃَ الدَّاعِ اِذَا دَعَانِ ۙ فَلۡیَسۡتَجِیۡبُوۡا لِیۡ وَ لۡیُؤۡمِنُوۡا بِیۡ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَرۡشُدُوۡنَ
“And when My servants ask thee concerning Me, surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should hear My call and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way.” (The Holy Quran, 2:186)
اِنَّ رَبِّیۡ قَرِیۡبٌ مُّجِیۡبٌ
“Surely my Lord is Nigh, Answering.” (The Holy Quran, 11:61)
وَ نَحۡنُ اَقۡرَبُ اِلَیۡہِ مِنۡ حَبۡلِ الۡوَرِیۡدِ
“And We are nearer to him than his life-vein.” (The Holy Quran, 50:16)
The Name ‘God’:
After ‘heaven’, another important name of the Divine Being is ‘God.’ The word god is common in Old English, Old Frisian, Old Saxon, and Dutch. In Old High German and Middle High German it is Got, in modern German Gott, in Gothic Guth, in Old Norse Godh and Guth. The Teutonic term god, used to denote anthropomorphic20 beings of a higher order, is found in all the Teutonic languages but in no other branch of the Indo-Germanic family of languages. After the conversion of the Teutons to Christianity, the word came to imply also the Christian deity. During the heathen period, it was neuter in gender; in Christian times it took the masculine form. Its etymology and original meaning are obscure and have been much debated; but as Norse Godh signified ‘image of a deity’ and as the word is philologically connected with German Götze (idol), its original meaning was perhaps ‘image’ (figure). The higher being was believed to be present in the image, and so the term was transferred from the latter to the former. In all the European languages the word god is used for false gods and demigods: Zeus (Jupiter), the Father of the Gods; Ares21, the god of war; Apollo, the god of prophecy; Aphrodite the goddess of love; Dionysus, the god of wine; Tyche, the god of chance or luck; Pan, the shepherds’ god; Nike, goddess of victory (Victoria); the Moirai, goddesses of destiny.
The term god is defined in the following different forms.
- A being possessing more attributes and powers than human beings, especially a superhuman person conceived as dominating Nature or some province of Nature, and to whom worship is due and acceptable; a deity, especially a male deity (or goddess). Not all gods, even of the higher orders, are thought of by their believers as objects of worship, but among the beings worshipped by pagans and savages, ordinarily only those of the higher order are called gods, those of the lower order being termed demigods, demons, godlings, heroes, etc.
- Any object (whether artificial, as a carved idol or image, or natural, as a meteor, an animal, or a tree) which is thought to be the seat of divine powers, the expression of a divine personality, or itself of supernatural or divine agency: “… he makes a god and worships it …” (Isaiah, 44:15)
- The Supreme Being; the eternal and infinite; spirit; creator and sovereign of the universe; Jehovah: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John, 4:24)
- The ruler and sovereign embodiment of some aspect, attribute, or department of reality — as the god of love, of Nature. Also a supreme being conceived as the dominant or ultimate principle of the universe or as a world soul — as the pantheistic god.
- A person or a thing deified and honoured as a god: “… whose god is their belly …” (Philippians, 3:19)
- One who wields great or despotic power.
- One of the occupants of the gallery of a theatre: “One young god between the acts favoured the public with a song.”22
God according to the Usage of the Bible:
- ‘God’ referring to man: “…and you [Moses] shall be to him [Aaron] as God …” (Hebrew we-attah tihyeh-llo lelohim). (Exodus, 4:16)
- “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh …’” (wayyomer y(e)h(o)w(a)h el-mosheh re’eh nethattikha elohim le-phar‛oh). (Exodus, 7:1)
- ‘God’ for an idol: “… and [Israel] made Baal-Berith their god.” (Judges, 8:33)
- ‘God’ referring to Satan: “whose minds the god of this age [Satan] has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians, 4:4)
- Gods of other nations declared ‘foreign’ gods (King James Version uses ‘strange’ gods): “there was no foreign god with him” (Deuteronomy, 32:12); “There shall be no foreign god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god” (Psalms, 81:9); “with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge” (Daniel, 11:39).
- “Truly your God is God of gods …” (Daniel, 2:47).
- “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.” (Daniel, 5:11; King James Version)
- “… light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him …” (Daniel, 5:11).
- “… but why did you [Jacob] steal my gods?” (Genesis, 31:30)
In brief, ‘God’ is not a personal name of the Divine Being. Originally, it is neuter in gender, it signifies idol, image, figure, Satan (god of this world), honoured person, bestial gods and false objects of worship. The Jews argued with Jesus that
“‘… you, being a man, make yourself God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and Scripture cannot be broken) …’” (John, 10:33–35).
God’s Name, ‘Light’:
To the ancient mind, light was a holy thing and the scriptures associated it with God. In the Vedas, Dyaus-pitar (‘Celestial Father’), Suryah (sun), Agni (fire) are considered gods and worshipped as gods. Agni was the god of the earth and Suryah the god of heaven; again, Agni was the god of Brahmans, Indra the god of Kshatriyas and Vishve Deva the god of Vaishyas. It says in the Bible:
“… who cover Yourself with light as with a garment” (Psalms, 104:2);
“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John, 1:5);
“Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us” (Psalms 4:6);
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John, 1:4–5)
‘Light’ in the Hebrew is esh and or. Originally it meant ‘fire’. No material phenomenon seemed to primitive man to be so plainly divine as fire. Hence in the Zoroastrian Scriptures it is stated as an object of worship. In the Bible it says:
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night …”23
There was a flaming sword at the gate of Paradise.24 Fire is often used as a symbol of god:
“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”25
“The fire of God fell from heaven …”28
These two aspects of God’s nature are combined in Isaiah, 10:17:
“So the Light of Israel will be for a fire, and his Holy One a flame”.
Isaiah 33:14 states:
“Who among us can dwell with the devouring fire”,
the ‘devouring fire’ being ‘the avenging god’. Compare it with Exodus, 3:2: God was in a bush which burned “but the bush was not consumed”, divine fire being necessarily eternal.
According to the Old Testament, fire, however, was not merely a destroying agent. In the hand of a refiner it separated the pure metal from the dross — a type of God’s purifying judgement; but the effect was not produced:
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah, 48:10).
And what is Light?
Those things which now seem frivolous and slight will be of serious consequence to you when they will have once made you ridiculous. Almost all the religious Scriptures say: “God is light”, but what is light? It is the essential condition of vision; the opposite of darkness. It is written in the Bible:
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis, 1:3).
In Hebrew this passage runs thus: wa-yomer elohim yehi or wa-yehi-or.
The word equivalent to ‘light’ is or, which originally means ‘fire’. We know fire as an object of perception: flames give light, we see the sun’s light. It is that form of energy which by its action upon the organs of vision enables them to perform their function of sight. According to the undulatory or wave theory of light accepted today, light is transmitted from luminous bodies to the eye. The velocity of its transmission is about 186,300 miles a second. Before creating this light,
“darkness was on the face of the deep” (Genesis, 1:2).
“called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night” (Genesis, 1:5).
It is not stated here that prior to the light darkness was created.
At first glance it appears that light is all colour and there are scores of light colours, a large number of light characters, and numerous movements and effects. In the Quran, Allah has been stated to be the Creator of darkness and light, while some religions suggest there are two gods, one the creator of light and the other the creator of darkness.
Darkness is the absence of natural light, as black is the absence of colour, but it is visible by the light; so we make darkness visible by any small light, as, when we light a match in a cellar, it merely makes darkness visible. On the one hand, it is said that God is light; on the other, God is stated to live in thick darkness.31
Christopher Morley writes:
“Of all the gifts to earth, the first and greatest was darkness. Darkness preceded light, you will remember in Genesis. Perhaps that is why darkness seems to man natural and universal. It requires no explanation and no cause. We postulate. Whereas light, being to our minds merely the cleansing vibration that dispels the black, requires some origin, some lamp whence to shine. From the appalling torch of the sun down to the pale belly of the glow-worm we deem light a derivative miracle, proceeding from some conceivable source. We conceive darkness without thought of light; but we cannot conceive light without darkness. City streets at night are the most fascinating work of man. Like all handouts of Nature, man has taken darkness and made it agreeable, trimmed and refined and made it acceptable for the very nicest people, poring over the glowing shelves of shop windows and rejoicing in the rich patterns of light wherewith man has made night lovely.”32
So they are bereft of reason who think that darkness is created by evil. They hold a candle to the devil, like the old woman who lit one candle to St. Michael and another to the devil, so that whether she went to Heaven or Hell she would have a friend. Light that makes some things visible makes some other things invisible; we never see by day the worlds of light shown by darkness. It is more productive of sublime ideas than light. Someone has said:
“Come, blessed darkness, come and bring thy balm, for eyes grown weary of garish day. Come with thy soft, slow, steps, thy garments gray. The veiling shadows, bring in thy palm. The poppy seeds of slumber deep and calm.”33
Light, according to the Quran, is of two kinds, physical and spiritual. The first creation of God, in the works of the days, was the light of the senses; the last was the light of reason, which is the most noble part of His work. Hence His word is a light to the path of the faithful. The following verses of the Quran are notable. Light manifests hidden things; therefore it has been said in 24:35:
اَللّٰہُ نُوۡرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ
“Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth”
because He has manifested them and brought them into existence. Islam is repeatedly spoken of as Divine Light:
یُرِیۡدُوۡنَ اَنۡ یُّطۡفِـُٔوۡا نُوۡرَ اللّٰہِ بِاَفۡوَاہِہِمۡ وَ یَاۡبَی اللّٰہُ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یُّتِمَّ نُوۡرَہٗ
یُرِیۡدُوۡنَ لِیُطۡفِـُٔوۡا نُوۡرَ اللّٰہِ بِاَفۡوَاہِہِمۡ وَ اللّٰہُ مُتِمُّ نُوۡرِہٖ
“They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will allow nothing but the perfection of His light.” (The Holy Quran, 9:32, 61:8)
یٰۤاَہۡلَ الۡکِتٰبِ قَدۡ جَآءَکُمۡ رَسُوۡلُنَا یُبَیِّنُ لَکُمۡ کَثِیۡرًا مِّمَّا کُنۡتُمۡ تُخۡفُوۡنَ مِنَ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ یَعۡفُوۡا عَنۡ کَثِیۡرٍ ۬ؕ قَدۡ جَآءَکُمۡ مِّنَ اللّٰہِ نُوۡرٌ وَّ کِتٰبٌ مُّبِیۡنٌ
“O people of the Book, indeed Our Messenger has come to you, making clear to you much of what you concealed of the Book and passing over much. Indeed there has come to you, from Allah, a light and a clear Book.” (The Holy Quran, 5:15)
Two things are here spoken of as having come from Allah: a Light and a Clear Book. The light is the Prophet, and the Book, the Quran. The Prophet is the greatest spiritual light that ever dawned upon the earth; hence he is called a light-giving sun:
یٰۤاَیُّہَا النَّبِیُّ اِنَّاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنٰکَ شَاہِدًا وَّ مُبَشِّرًا وَّ نَذِیۡرًا ﴿ۙ۴۵﴾
وَّ دَاعِیًا اِلَی اللّٰہِ بِاِذۡنِہٖ وَ سِرَاجًا مُّنِیۡرًا ﴿۴۶﴾
“O Prophet, surely We have sent you as a witness, and a bearer of good news and a warner, and as one inviting to Allah by His permission and as a light-giving sun.” (The Holy Quran, 33:45–46)
Unity of the Divine Being:
The unity of the Divine Being is the point on which Islam has laid the greatest emphasis. Unification is the true basis of human civilisation, the civilisation not of one nation of the world or of one country, but of humanity as a whole. There is only one God. The world shows endless diversity, variety and multiplicity; creation is manifold but the Creator is one. It is an accepted assumption of the scientists that we live in a universe and not in a multiverse. The cooperation of the entire universe is involved in the growth of a single blade of grass. This concept of the unity of existence of the Divine Being, according to the Quran, is corroborated by every prophet of the world. And this doctrine was the original basis of all religions. In the Old Testament a special name and scores of attributive names of the Supreme Being have been given. But the Jewish conception of God is called henotheism, which means “Our God is One”:
“You shall have no other gods before Me”;34
“do not go after other gods to serve and worship them”.35
Pondering over all such verses of the Old Testament, scholars have come to the conclusion that these verses do not negate the existence of another god; rather, they contain an admission of the fact that there are other gods for other nations. They looked upon and held the Most High God to be their Father, and themselves they considered His sons. This conception gave rise to another perverted principle that the son is the image of the father, hence the Israelites asserted that they were God’s firstborn, and that their image is on the palms of His hand (Isaiah, 49:16). The Hindus believe themselves to be Ishvar-putraha:36 Aryasya aptam iti arya, “Aryans are the sons of God”. Islam has done a great good to the world by eradicating the faulty and wrong conception of henotheism and giving, instead, the most perfect monotheistic conception of Divine unity: there is no other God save the One True God, the Creator of the universe, the Sustainer and Lord of all the nations of the world.
The Term ‘Trinity’:
The unity of God is the common basis of all revealed religions. This has been rejected by the later builders of Christianity, but this belief shall, in the long last, prove to be the edifice of religion. Having proved the unity of Godhead, it is useless and futile to enter upon a discussion on the doctrine of Trinity. Trinity, or rather the Holy Trinity of the Christians, is only an intellectual deception and fraud. It is contended that the triad of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost can be deduced, though not severally, from the collective evidence of Matthew (3:11, 16–17, 11:27, 16:16), John (20:28), the Acts (5:3–4) and the Epistles of the Apostles. There is, however, no saying of Jesus which can be adduced in proof of the Trinity of God.
It is in Hastings’ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:
‘The term ‘Trinity’ (from Lat. trinitas) appears to have been first used by Tertullian, while the corresponding Greek term ‘Triad’ (τριάς) appears to have been first used by Theophilus the Christian apologist, an older contemporary of Tertullian. In Tertullian, as in the subsequent usage, the term designates the Christian doctrine of God as Father, Son, and Spirit.
… In Indian religion, e.g., we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahmā, Śiva, and Viṣṇu, and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, constituting a divine family, like the Father, Mother, and Son in mediaeval Christian pictures …
… As Augustine said, if in the books of the Platonists it was to be found that ‘in the beginning was the Word,’ it was not found there that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ …
… The Old Testament could hardly be expected to furnish the doctrine of the Trinity, if belief in the Trinity is grounded … upon belief in the incarnation of God in Christ and upon the experience of spiritual redemption and renewal through Christ …
… In the New Testament, we do not find the doctrine of the Trinity in anything like its developed form, not even in the Pauline and Johannine theology … If the passage [2 Corinthians, 13:14 — Editor] contains no formulated expression of the Trinity, it is yet of great significance as showing that, less than thirty years after the death of Christ, His name and the name of the Holy Spirit could be employed in conjunction with the name of God Himself.’37
And it is written in the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
‘The Christian doctrine of the Trinity can be best expressed in the words
“The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet they are not three Gods but one God … for like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself (singillatim) to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there be three Gods or three Lords” (Quicunque vult).
… “The Creed”— it has been suggested (see Hibbert Journal, xxiv. No. I)—
“means that there is only one being that can, with strict theological correctness, be called ‘God’, viz., the Trinity as a whole; but each of the three persons can be called ‘God’ in a looser sense.”
This suggestion is offered as a short method of “rendering consistent” the statements of the Creed. But the paradox is not thus lightly to be got rid of. Plainly the Church did not regard itself as lowering the conception of the Father, so that He should become merely one Component of a Divine Whole. “The Father,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “is as great as the whole Trinity,” and explains that in such matters “greatness signifies perfection of nature and pertains to essence” (Summa Theol. i., xxx. I, xlii. 4).
… This conception of the Trinity is systematically developed by theologians, Greek, Latin and Protestant.
“The whole perfection of the Divine nature is in each of the persons. The essence and dignity of the Father and the Son is the same, but is in the Father according to the relation of Giver, in the Son according to the relation of Receiver” (Summa Theol i., xlii. 4).
Writers in the 4th and 5th centuries had compared the relation of the Father to the Son with the relation of the “flame to its light,” of the “spring to the stream,” of the “seal to its impress.” “Think,” says St. Augustine (Sermo ad Catechumenos, sec. 8) “of fire as a father, light as a son. See: we have found coevals: and it is easy to see which begets which.” The meaning of these comparisons is plain. They teach that the whole Divine nature or essence is in each of the Three Persons …
Thus, side by side with language declaring that the Father and Son are each in the full sense God, there is other language—not intended to be inconsistent with the former—which implies that the Son is “necessary to the completeness of the Godhead.” The Son, we are told, is not “external” to the Father (Athan., Discourse I., ch. v.) does not “accrue” to the Father from without, but is “of the Substance of the Father.” If the Son, it is argued, were not eternal, the Father would not always be Father, and this absence of fatherhood, it is implied, would be a defect …’38
The Christians, however, believe all the three persons of the Trinity to be everlasting and eternal, holy and true God, omnipresent and omnipotent, having knowledge of the unseen, purifying and possessing power to forgive sins.
It is unfortunate that the unity of Godhead is examined and discussed with reference to arithmetical numbers. Divine unity, from the viewpoint of Islam and philosophers, does not mean one unit of God, but Trinity surely denotes three units of God (just parallel to the United Kingdom or the United States of America). It is true the oneness of the Divine Being has nothing to do with arithmetical numbers. The Quran has defined the unity of Godhead as huwa Allāhu aḥad, i.e., in all His attributes and actions, the Most High God is without a partner or associate. There is no other being to share His attributes, and to perform deeds like unto Him.
In mathematics, which is an exact and precise science, one is used neither for more nor for less than one. In mathematics, 1 can never be equal to 1+1+1 nor equal to ⅓ and three or more can never be equal to one. Excepting one, all numbers are different names for the additions of one. The number three is in reality one added to itself three times and nothing else. It is the lowest of the cardinal numbers, the number of a single thing without any more, and to which the addition of another makes two.
The relation between one and three is that of addition and subtraction, but the Divine Being is above and beyond addition and subtraction. The trinitarians, therefore, notwithstanding their reposing faith in the three personalities, believe them to be equal and alike in their attributes. Just as three and one are not alike mathematically, in the same way the three personalities cannot be equal and without difference in respect of attributes and actions. If the Father is equal and alike to the Son in all respects, it will be wrong and incorrect to call one Father, and the other Son. The Father creates and the Son is created, and the Holy Ghost is the product of both.
The First Person, i.e., the Father, is the Creator and the Destroyer; the Second Person, i.e., the Son, is the Deliverer and the Liberator, and the Third Person, the Holy Ghost, is the Restorer of life. Every Person, it is thus evidently clear, has special attributes of his own which are not to be found in the others. And it is on account of these particular attributes that there is an order of priority among the three persons; first comes God the Father, then God the Son, and last of all God the Holy Ghost. Their rank is also determined in the same order; and to utter their names in a different order is considered to be a great heresy. Nobody can say that the Holy Ghost is the First Person, the Father the Second, the Son the Third, or “in the name of the Holy Ghost, the Son and the Father”. If the three Persons composing the Divine Being are equal and alike in all respects, why should there be a particular order of superiority in uttering their names?
The Second Person is the Word of the First Person. He incarnates and dies upon the cursed cross in order to fulfil the justice of the Father; and the resurrection is finally perfected by the Third Person. It is an admitted truth that God is present everywhere. Is it, then, possible that all the three Persons are present in all places at the same time? Where one will be, the others will not be.
Again, are all the three united and combined in the execution of every deed that is done on this earth? Or, is the creation of each separate and distinct? Both these conditions are logically wrong and absurd. If all the three perform it unitedly, then imperfect is their power which is made perfect and faultless with mutual help and cooperation. And if their creation is separate and distinct, then equality and alikeness is impossible among them; and all the three cannot, therefore, be compounded into one.
God, according to the doctrine of the Trinity, is an amalgam of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. What was He (God) before these three united to form this amalgam?
The meaning of the statement “I and the Father are one” will be that the Son is similar to and like his Father in all respects, as like as two peas; but Father is the cause and Son the effect, and the cause and the effect, according to the statement, are one. This is an absurdity; cause and effect cannot be one.
If Father and Son are one and the same, can we say that the Father was born of the Son?
The Holy Ghost came into being with the union of the Father and the Son. If they had not united, the Holy Ghost would not have come into existence, and if the emergence of the Holy Ghost was possible without their union, then the union which is said to have caused the existence of the Holy Ghost becomes useless and futile.
It is evident that the Father had not depended for His existence on the Son, but the Son did rely in His manifestation on the Father. The needy and the dependent cannot be self-existent; therefore, the Son was not God.
The Son is an amalgamation of humanity and godhead, but God the Father never was and never would be an amalgamation of such anti-beings; hence Father and Son are not alike and species of one godhead.
The only reference in support of the Trinity is the First Epistle of John. It runs thus:
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (1 John, 5:7–8; King James Version)
In these two verses the text
“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth”
is an addition made after the fifteenth century. In the Greek version there is a footnote on it, which Luther omitted from his German edition.39
Now, to revert to our main theme: with the exception of the Arabic name Allah, the names Maker, Creator, Without Flaw, Highest, Gracious, the Old One, Sovereign, Object of Worship, Great Spirit, Leader, Self-Existing, the Light, Who Looks on Every Side, Benign, Sacred Staff, are the adjectives or attributes of some person. This significantly suggests that God was first called by adjectival words describing Him or His functions before He was assigned a personal name. These epithets frequently become the personal names of God, if philologically studied. A personal name is a word of which the meanings are forgotten in course of time. The Jews say that it is probably innate among the folk to describe a man by his peculiarity rather than by his personal name. If this is the case even where personal names exist, much more would be true of a time when the personal names of God had not been evolved. He is often called by other names, while the personal name tends to become sacred. It is used only on particular occasions. We thus find that in the sense of a proper or personal name, there is no proper name of God in all the scriptures and languages, except Allah, the Arabic name.
- Robert O. Ballou, (ed.), The Bible of the World, in collaboration with Friedrich Spiegelberg and with the assistance and advice of Horace L. Friess, New York, The Viking Press, 1939, p. xvi. ↩
- Noah Webster, Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed., Springfield, Mass., G. & C. Merriam Co. / London, G. Bell, 1934. ↩
- Alexander Cruden, Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments, article ‘Heaven’. ↩
- James Legge (translator), The Sacred Books of China: the texts of Confucianism, Part 1, The Shû King, the religious portions of the Shih King, the Hsiâo King (F. Max Müller (editor), The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3), Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1879, pp. xxii–xxv, 476. (Wade-Giles transliterations have been adopted in the text above in preference to the Chinese transliteration system used in The Sacred Books of the East — Editor.) ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, pp. 39, 86–87, 89–91, 93, 95, 98–99, 125–130, 159–161, 166, 476–477. ↩
- ‘Tî’ in the Chinese transliteration system of The Sacred Books of the East — Editor. ↩
- James Legge (translator), The Sacred Books of China: the texts of Confucianism, Part 2, The Yi King (F. Max Müller (editor), The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 16), Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1882, pp. 222–223. (‘I Ching’ is ‘Yi King’ in the Chinese transliteration system of The Sacred Books of the East — Editor.) ↩
- James Legge (translator), The Sacred Books of China: the texts of Confucianism, Part 1, The Shû King, the religious portions of the Shih King, the Hsiâo King (F. Max Müller (editor), The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3), Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1879, pp. 264, 317, 379, 476–478. ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, p. 84. ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, pp. 85–87, 89–90, 127–128, 197. (‘Tang’ and ‘Chieh’ are ‘Thang’ and ‘Kieh’ in the Chinese transliteration system of The Sacred Books of the East; Chieh was king of Hsia — Editor.) ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, p. 99. ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, p. 130. ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, p. 184. ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, pp. 377–378. (‘Wên’ is ‘Wăn’ in the Chinese transliteration system of The Sacred Books of the East — Editor.) ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, p. 391–392. ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, p. 39. ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3, p. 90. ↩
- James Legge (translator), The Sacred Books of China: the texts of Confucianism, Part 3, The Lî Kî, 1–10 (F. Max Müller (editor), The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 27), Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1879, pp. 277–278. (‘Li Chi’ is ‘Lî Kî’ in the Chinese transliteration system of The Sacred Books of the East — Editor.) ↩
- The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 27, pp. 273–274. ↩
- Referring to the representation of the Deity or of a polytheistic deity under a human form or with human attributes and affections. ↩
- Not to be confused with the Zodiac sign Aries (the Ram); Ares was identified with the planet Mars — Editor. ↩
- W. M. Thackeray, Satan, God of this World. ↩
- Exodus, 13:21. Cf. also Exodus, 40:38; Numbers, 9:15, 10:34, 14:14; Deuteronomy, 1:33; Nehemiah, 9:12, 19; Psalms, 78:14, 99:7, 105:39; Isaiah, 4:5; 1 Corinthians, 10:1. ↩
- Genesis, 3:24. ↩
- Deuteronomy, 4:24. ↩
- 2 Thessalonians, 1:7–8. Cf. also Malachi, 3:2, 4:1; Matthew, 3:10–12; Hebrews, 10:27; 2 Peter, 3:7; Revelation, 21:8. ↩
- Jeremiah, 23:29. ↩
- Job, 1:16. ↩
- Deuteronomy, 4:24. Cf. also 2 Kings, 1:9–12; Isaiah, 30:27; Hebrews, 12:29, “for our God is a consuming fire.” ↩
- Psalms, 4:6, 27:1; Isaiah, 2:5. ↩
- Exodus, 20:21. Cf. Deuteronomy, 5:22; Psalms, 18:11, 97:2; 1 Kings, 8:12; 2 Chronicles, 6:1. ↩
- Christopher Morley, Travels in Philadelphia, David McKay Company, 1920, pp. 108–109. ↩
- Julia C.R. Dorr, Poems, complete edition, New York, 1892, p. 260. ↩
- Exodus, 20:3. Cf. Deuteronomy, 5:7. ↩
- Jeremiah, 25:6. Cf. Jeremiah, 35:15; Deuteronomy, 6:14. ↩
- i.e., ‘sons of the Lord’. ↩
- Hastings, vol. 12, p. 458. ↩
- The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Fourteenth Edition, 1932, vol. 22, pp. 479–480, article ‘Trinity’. ↩
- In the New King James Version there is a footnote on these verses saying that the Alexandrian type of texts (NU-text) and the Majority text (M-text) “omit the words from in heaven (verse 7) through on earth (verse 8). Only four or five very late manuscripts contain these words in Greek.” — Editor. ↩