Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Elohim

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Elohim

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Elohim.

“In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth… This is the story of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Yahweh-Elohim made the earth and the heavens.” (Genesis 1:1 and 2:4).

In the creation story of Genesis 1-2, the Creator was referred to as Elohim in Genesis 1, and as Yahweh-Elohim in chapter 2. When the word LORD is in all caps, it is the Great I AM, the personal name of Yahweh. Elohim was the generic Hebrew word for God or gods or great persons. It is used for the God of Israel throughout Scripture, but is also used for the gods of the secular culture surrounding the Hebrews. So when we read Yahweh-Elohim, it is read as LORD God. Yahweh is God’s personal name, His redemptive name, His name that implies relationship and covenant. Elohim is God’s transcendent name, God as universal God. So the two names together pack the powerful meaning of God as personal and relational, as well as universal and transcendent.

Elohim is often shortened to “El,’ which implies a singular God of mighty power and tremendous strength. When referring to the God of Israel, it is pointing to a universal ruler with unsurpassed majesty. Elohim is used extensively in the Hebrew Bible, over 2,500 times. It is first used in the story of creation in Genesis, and is used 32 times in Genesis alone. A shortened form of Elohim was even groaned by Jesus on the Cross, “Eloi, Eloi, My God, my God…” (Matthew 27:46).

Elohim was often used in the context of God’s creative power in nature. Only Elohim was mighty enough to create something out of nothing. Only Elohim contains the super-abundant strength to become the Creator of the world, the majestic sovereign of the universe. Only the one and only Elohim has the raw, unlimited energy to be the Original Initiator, the First Mover.

As Rabbi Green says, “The point is that Elohim is used as a collective. All the powers that once belonged to all the deities of the pantheon – such as love, power, wisdom, fruitfulness – now are concentrated in this single Supreme Being who contains them all.” (These are the Words: A Vocabulary of Jewish Spiritual Life). In Elohim, all the attributes of set-apart holiness are wrapped up in the single Source of Life… Elohim. Elohim is a collective word referring to all these divine characteristics of spiritual and material reality. In our current vocabulary, the plural nature of singular name of Elohim is a way to emphasize superior greatness and unsurpassed fullness. It would be like saying “SuperGod.” He is the Elohim above all other elohim. The God of gods. The more than super-powerful God of Israel. The Super-existent One. The One whose fullness overflows eternally. God in the singular would not do. As readers can see, all grammar goes out the window with this name Elohim. Every time Elohim is used, the rules of grammar are broken. When used with many references, it is a plural word “gods.” But when that same plural word is used with the singular reference to the God of Israel, it is treated as if it is a singular word.

Christians believe the Trinity could be implied in the collective nature of Elohim, in the plurality of the word. But Jewish thinking believes that the divine Oneness cannot be divided, or it would alter the very nature of God. “The Lord God, the Lord is One.” (Deut. 6:4). But in the mystery of the Trinity, it seems that God can be both. There is a singularity in the plurality, a Unity in the Trinity… 1 Essence, 3 Persons. In fact, in Jesus’ parting word to His disciples before the Ascension, He told them to baptize “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). Isn’t it interesting that when He said this, Jesus used a singular word for “Name.” Three-in-One, and One-in-Three. The plurality of Elohim.

Gospel Fulfillment. Jesus is the incarnation of both Yahweh and Elohim. He is Yahweh with flesh on, the living incarnation of Elohim. Let’s discuss these two names in the context of Jesus Christ, one name at a time.

Regarding Yahweh, Jesus considered Himself to be on equal footing with the Hebrew Yahweh in the gospels. He claimed to be of one essence with Yahweh God. He declared that He shared the divine identity with the Great I AM. In Acts 2:21, Peter quoted Joel 2:28 about “the LORD,” and then referred immediately to Jesus. Jesus Himself left little doubt that He was of the same essence as the Father God. In John 14:9, for example, He said that anyone who has seen the Son has in fact seen the Father. And in John 10:30, Jesus flatly declares, “I and the Father are one.” The most compelling gospel proof assuming an equality with Yahweh is His frequent use of the “I AM” formula in His teaching ministry. Jesus clearly referred to Himself with an abbreviated form of Yahweh, YHWH, I AM WHAT I AM. With His many I AM’s, in the Gospel of John alone there are 23 I AM statements by Jesus, He staked His claim to divinity, to equality to Yahweh. Jesus indeed claimed the name of Yahweh as His own. That was outlandish of Him, but it was true. And it got Jesus into a lot of trouble. Somehow, in the impenetrable mystery of the Trinity, the divine Godhead, the Three-in-One, Jesus maintained His distinctive role as the Son, as did the Father. Yet still Jesus was one with Yahweh. Jesus was and is Yahweh.  Referring to one means you are referring to the other. God is spirit, Jesus is flesh, and yet they are so close to each other that somehow they are inside each other as One God, while keeping their unique identities.

Elohim was believed to be the transcendent God of creation, the universal God. Christians have believed since Day One that Jesus is the one universal God, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt 28:18). And there is unquestioned belief in Jesus as the Co-creator:

(1.) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3).

(2.) “There is one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (1 Cor. 8:6).

(3.) “…the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 3:9).

(4.) “For by Him things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Col 1:16)

(5.) “God… has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” (Heb. 1:1-2).

Jesus is the one eternal embodiment of Yahweh-Elohim, who is both personal and transcendent, who is both relational and universal. Jesus is the one and only incarnation of Yahweh-Elohim.

A Prayer to Yahweh-Elohim (yah’-way el-lo-heem’), honoring Jesus as His incarnation:

We are in awe of you, Yahweh-Elohim, the Great I AM and the God of gods. We adore you, your royal majesty, for you are the only one great enough to be our personal Redeemer as well as our Creator and Sustainer and King. For, in the beginning, the vast universe was established by your wisdom, and the foundation of the earth was laid at your powerful command. Your understanding stretched out the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is in it, the seas and all that is in them. You alone made everything out of nothing. Only you give breath to the people of the earth, and life to everything you have made. In your vast power, LORD God, you have promised a faithful love beyond measure. And so we join the multitudes of heaven above and the creatures of earth below to worship you and your perfect image on earth, Jesus Christ. We bow before you now, Yahweh-Elohim, and honor your holy Name. Amen.