Curious abut "G-d"

Wesselius jwwesselius at
Sat Jan 19 16:35:34 EST 2002

There are at least six different matters involved in Ken 
Smith's question:
1. The substitution of Adonay, "my lord", or equivalents in 
other languages for God's own name YHWH;
An interesting problem, the most recent study is by Martin 
Roesel, Adonaj: Warum Gott "Herr" genannt wird (Tübingen 
2. The interchange of YHWH with the designation 
Elohim, "god", in the text of the Hebrew Bible;
The rabbis already noted that in many cases there is a 
functional distinction between the two, Elohim being used 
for the function of God as judge (middat ha-ddin) as 
opposed to YHWH for his merciful aspect. Traditionally the 
interchange in those cases where there is no functional 
difference (i.e. long stretches of text with only one of 
these indications) has been taken as proof of the 
Documentary Hypothesis and related theories. Elsewhere I 
have argued that a literary explanation is more likely in 
the latter cases. Anyway, heaps of literature and everybody 
disagrees with everybody.
3. The substitution of sounds in pronouncing other biblical 
designations of God by orthodox Jews; 
Outside of prayer and synagogue worship the biblical divine 
names (including Adonay) are not to be pronounced and are 
usually transformed by exchanging one of their letters for 
another one: kel, elokim etc. Maybe another lister knows a 
good reference for this?
4. The relation between ephemeral media such as computer 
screens with the prohibition in Judaism to efface divine 
names (which underlies habits such as writing the two yod's 
(or three, or the single he of hashem, "the name") instead 
of YHWH);
This is a recent halakhic discussion, I do not know where 
it has ended or where it is now. The practical problem used 
to be that if one has such a name on the screen one may do 
nothing to remove it, such as pressing SEND or QUIT or 
pulling the plug, basically leaving no other option (apart 
from sinning) but to wait for a power outage.
5. The use of G-d to indicate YHWH, the God of Israel, 
whether or not his own name is meant.
I know of no study devoted to this phenomenon, which 
apparently started as a kind of code writing for YHWH (just 
as in that name the vowels are not written...), but soon 
spread to other cases of the word "god" and even to 
compounds where the connection is remote. 
6. The use of an Indo-Germanic word of uncertain etymology 
(Gothic guth, I think) for designating the Jewish and 
Christian God and for translating words such as elohim in 
Hebrew, theos in Greek and deus in Latin.
I hope this clarifies things a little bit...
Jan-Wim Wesselius
Hoekenes 26A, 1068 MT Amsterdam
tel 0(031)20 619 1535; fax 619 1636
e-mail wesselius at

office: Theological University Kampen
POB 5021, 8260 GA Kampen
tel 0(031)38 3371 662; fax 3371 613
e-mail jwwesselius at

-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Smith [mailto:kens at]
Sent: zaterdag 19 januari 2002 2:51
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: RE: Curious abut "G-d"

Thanks for the response.  I hadn't been aware of the 
distinction between writings that were intended to last, 
and writings that weren't.
But I guess I'm still curious.  The "name" of God 
isn't "God", nor is it "Elohim".  According to various 
passages in Exodus, it's the Tetragrammaton, right, i.e., 
YHWH?  I'm familiar with, and at one level or another can 
understand, the care about YHWH, but I wasn't aware that 
the same care was taken with )LHYM.  (Or is it?) If not, 
why is it taken with the English "God"?
Sorry, hope I'm not being excessively dense here.
Ken Smith
-----Original Message-----
From: MGSKamerun at [mailto:MGSKamerun at] 
Sent: Friday, January 18, 2002 1:10 PM
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: Curious abut "G-d"

I think they don't want to write the name of God on a paper 
(or in a mail) because they know that the concerned script 
is not meant to last forever. In other terms: If you know 
that you will delete your E-Mail or throw away your paper 
you come in conflict with the one of the ten commandments 
not to use the name of God in vain. There is a tradition 
not to throw away or burn used Tora scrolls but to bury 
them like a mortal remain because the name of God is 
written on it. 
There is also the tradition to write elokim instead of the 
name of God, or two jod for the Tetragrammaton. 
Yours sincerely 
Martin Schroeder 

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