Some of His names describe His attributes and characteristics. Others are His titles of position, power and authority. The Bible calls Him “the Ancient of Days” and “the Most High.” He is revealed as our Creator, our Father, our Provider, our Lord, our King, our Healer, our Redeemer and our Savior.
To understand the importance of the meaning of a divine name, let’s examine the most significant name for God in the Old Testament. In Hebrew it is something close to Yahweh (the exact pronunciation being now unknown), often translated LORD (in capital letters). This name distinguished Him from the false gods of other nations. It set Him apart as the living, true God to the people of Israel.
Yahweh is derived from a Hebrew root word meaning “to be.” God used this word in Exodus 3:14 when Moses asked God His name. God responded that His name is “I AM WHO I AM” or, perhaps even more accurately, “I BE THAT I BE”—denoting self-inherent or eternal existence.
The Bible tells us that the Lord is “the Everlasting God” (Genesis 21:33). In meaning, the name Yahweh appears to be similar to, as phrased in the Greek language, “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Revelation 22:13).
These descriptions of God clearly express that our Creator has always existed and will always exist. He not only has everlasting life in Himself, He also has the power to grant immortality as a gift to those who please Him.
In translating God’s names from one language to another, preserving the meaning of the name—not its phonetic sound—is important. The Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek. Some names of God are freely translated from the Hebrew into the Greek, setting us a clear example that translating God’s names from one language to another is perfectly acceptable.
Just remember, God wants us to recognize and acknowledge Him for who and what He is. Therefore, it is the meaning, not the sound or spelling, of His names that is of greater importance as the Bible is translated from one language into another.