The Name of the Creator
By Dick B.
The subject of the name of the Creator of the heavens and the earth is one of the most important and exciting topics in the Bible. Your investment of time in studying this section carefully will be well worth every moment.
“God,” with a capital “G,” is specifically called “God” 277 times in the Third Edition of A.A.’s Big Book. That Big Book also contains 107 specific pronouns—he, him, his, and himself—which are similarly capitalized and hence unquestionably refer to “God.” Counting the additional places where A.A.’s Big Book contains references to our Creator—calling Him “Creator,” “Maker,” “Father,” “Father of Light,” and “Spirit”—the Creator is thus specifically mentioned in the Big Book more than 400 times. (See Dick B., The Good Book and The Big Book, pp. 49-50.) Not surprisingly, but certainly unfortunately, the Big Book nowhere calls the Creator by His proper name. Nonetheless, the Big Book distinguishes the Creator from any other “god” or kind of “god.”
Bill Wilson, author of almost every word in the Big Book’s basic text, can quickly be seen as articulate and careful in his grammatical usages. Especially when dealing with, and capitalizing, certain words! In the “Handbook of Style” section of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, the following is stated about capitalized words:
Capitals are used with almost all proper nouns–that is, nouns that name particular persons, places, or things (including abstract entities), distinguishing them from others of the same class. . . . The essential distinction in the use of capitals and lowercase letters at the beginnings of words lies in this individualizing significance of capitals as against the generalizing significance of lowercase. . . . (pp. 1541-42)
In the sub-subsection titled “Religious Terms,” the following is also stated in the “Handbook of Style” section of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition:
- Words designating the Deity are capitalized.
- Personal pronouns referring to the Deity are usually capitalized, even when they closely follow their antecedent (p. 1544).
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Cor. 14:33)
As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor. 8:4-6)
There is therefore no doubt, considering the many references by Bill and Bob to the Bible, that Bill was, in the Big Book and his other early writings, specifically talking about the “Deity” of the Bible. His capitalized references to God, the Creator, Maker, and Father, were not referring and did not refer to a “group,” a “doorknob,” a “lightbulb,” “the Big Dipper,” or some other vague “higher power” of Bill’s own making. Bill’s intent to designate our Creator is further evident from the frequent mention by Bill (and Bob) of his “Heavenly Father,” just as Jesus did in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew chapters 5 to 7). In other specific, biblical references to the Creator, Bill spoke of Him as the “living God,” as “God Almighty,” and as “God our Father”– all terms in and from the Bible. A Bible which refers to false gods, but never to the Creator as one of these false gods, or as a group, as a lightbulb, or as a “higher power.”
Again, not surprisingly, but certainly regrettably, the Big Book did not refer to the Creator by his personal name. We will see in a moment that the Creator Himself made it possible to identify Him with exactness and clarity. That identification comes with the use of His proper, personal name.
There are many reasons for getting Bill’s biblical references to “God” and our “Creator” straight. They start with the need for identifying our Creator’s actual name. First, as will be discussed below, in the Bible, God specifically declares what His name is—many times. He indicates the importance of that very name to Himself. He states clearly that His name is “my holy name.” Second, there is endless confusion today in A.A. talk about strange new gods, higher powers, and inanimate objects such as chairs and bulldozers.
Our Creator long ago explicitly distinguished the difference between Himself and the kind of phoney idols that are proliferating today. Psalm 115 says:
Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.
Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
But our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them.
O Israel, trust thou in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. (Ps. 115:1-9)
Psalm 115 makes obvious the absurdity of trusting in a lightbulb, as some AAs declare today that you can do. And a word to the wise is sufficient.
Reverend Sam Shoemaker spoke to AAs at their international convention and decried the use of “absurd names for God.” Such absurdities, of course, can be eliminated in a moment by referring to the Creator of the heavens and the earth by His proper name which He Himself sets forth in the Bible. And He makes clear in the Ten Commandments that there are to be no other “gods” before Him–no gods, graven images, or substitutes.
There follow therefore specific references in the Bible to the Creator’s holy name and explanations of what the Creator has said about His name in the Good Book.
When you want to get to know someone, one of the first things you usually want to know is his or her name. And peoples’ names tend to be very important to them. The Bible indicates in many ways that the name of the Creator of the heavens and the earth is very important to Him also.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Exod. 20:7, emphasis added)
And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD (Lev. 19:12, emphasis added)
Because he hath set his love upon me [i.e., the LORD], therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. (Ps. 91:14, emphasis added)
Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD (Ps. 105:3, emphasis added).
He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name (Ps. 111:9, emphasis added).
And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes (Ezek. 36:23, emphasis added)
So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One of Israel (Ezek. 39:7, emphasis).
Somewhere between the fifth and the second centuries bce a tragic accident befell God: he lost his name. More exactly, Jews gave up using God’s personal name Yahweh, and began to refer to Yahweh by various periphrases: God, the Lord, the Name, the Holy One, the Presence, even the Place. Even where Yahweh was written in the biblical text, readers pronounced the name as Adonai. With the final fall of the temple, even the rare liturgical occasions when the name was used ceased, and even the knowledge of the pronunciation of the name was forgotten [David J. A. Clines, “Yahweh and the God of Christian Theology,” Theology 83 (1980), pp. 323_30].
In the Bible, the Creator of the heavens and the earth specifically tells us His name many times. That name in the Hebrew Old Testament is represented by four Hebrew letters—Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (or YHWH)—and these four letters are sometimes called the tetragrammaton (“four-letter writing”). YHWH, Strong’s number 3068, occurs 6,519 times in the Hebrew Old Testament underlying the KJV [according to the Blue Letter Bible (BLB) on the Internet (www.blueletterbible.org/)], and 6,828 times in the Hebrew Old Testament from which the NIV was translated [The Hebrew-English Concordance to the Old Testament (HECOT, p. 630)]. In fact, YHWH is one of the 35 most frequently occurring terms in the Hebrew Old Testament!
As to the pronunciation of the four Hebrew letters YHWH, Kenneth L. Barker states:
There is almost universal consensus among scholars today that the sacred Tetragrammaton (YHWH) is to be vocalized and pronounced Yahweh. [Barker, “YHWH Sabaoth: ‘The Lord Almighty,’” The NIV: The Making of a Contemporary Translation http://www.gospelcom.net/ibs/niv/mct/9.php, emphasis added]
And the Encyclopaedia Britannica adds:
Although Christian scholars after the Renaissance and Reformation periods used the term Jehovah for YHWH, in the 19th and 20th centuries biblical scholars again began to use the form Yahweh. Early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century, had used a form like Yahweh, and this pronunciation of the tetragrammaton was never really lost. Other Greek transcriptions also indicated that YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh [Encyclopædia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=79806&tocid=0), “Yahweh,” emphasis added]
As to the meaning of the Creator’s name YHWH, “Yahweh,” Exodus chapter three provides important information:
 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
 And he said, Certainly I will be [ehyeh] with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.
 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM [ehyeh asher ehyeh]: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM [ehyeh] hath sent me unto you.
 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD [YHWH, Yahweh] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD [YHWH, Yahweh] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt (Exod. 3:11-16, KJV, emphasis added).
The best known modern Bibles [such as the NIV, NASV, and the Revised Standard Version
(RSV)] all differ from the KJV and agree with each other in their translation of the Hebrew words underlying “I AM THAT I AM” in Exodus 3:14:
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.f This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (NIV)
God said to Moses, “cI AM WHO cI AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “cI AM has sent me to you.” (NASV)
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”e And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (RSV)
The NIV and RSV also offer alternative translations in their footnotes relating to verse 14:
Or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE (NIV, footnote “f”)
Or I AM WHAT I AM or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE (RSV, footnote “e”)
And the NIV and NASV provide information concerning the relationship between the term “I AM” which occurs three times in verse 14 and the term “the LORD” [YHWH] in verse 15:
The Hebrew for LORD [in verse 15] sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for I AM in verse 14 (NIV, footnote “g”)
[“I AM” in verse 14 is] Related to the name of God, YHWH, rendered LORD, which is derived from the verb HAYAH, to be (NASV, footnote “c”).
In the chapter titled “YHWH Sabaoth” quoted earlier, Barker points out the importance of Exodus chapter 3 relative to the meaning of “Yahweh”:
[T]his verse [i.e., Exod. 3:14] is a divine commentary on—or exposition of—the meaning of the name Yahweh (v.15).
Scott Grant, in his article “Being Involved” which is posted on the Internet [http://www.pbc.org/dp/grant/exodus/exo003.html], states:
God seems to indicate that his name is “I AM” (or “I WILL BE”), for he tells Moses to tell the people that “I AM” has sent him [verse 14]. This is the first_person singular form of the verb “to be.” God has used it elsewhere already in this passage in conveying his nature. In Exodus 3:12, he says, “I will be with you.” Although in the New American Standard translation, the name “I AM” and the verb “I will be” appear to be different tenses, they appear in the same Hebrew tense, and they are one and the same word. . . .
. . . God twice identifies his name with a word translated “the Lord” (3:15, 16) [i.e., YHWH, Yahweh]. This word is likely the third_person singular form of the verb “to be” and means . . . “HE IS” or “HE WILL BE.” The transliteration from Hebrew into English, near as we can tell, is “Yahweh” (emphasis added).
And the New English Translation’s discussion of Exod. 3:14 in note 47 states:
The verb form used here [for “I am” in verse 14] is . . . (‘ehyeh), the Qal imperfect, 1csg, of the verb “to be,” hyh (haya). It forms an excellent paronomasia with the name [Yahweh]. So when God used the verb to express his name, he used this form saying, “I AM.” When his people refer to him as Yahweh, which is the 3msg form of the same verb, it actually means “he is.” Some commentators argue for a future tense translation, “I will be who I will be,” because the verb has an active quality about it, and the Israelites lived in the light of the promises for the future. The Greek translation [of the Hebrew Old Testament known as the Septuagint or “LXX” (for the supposed 70 translators)] used a participle to capture the idea [i.e., ego eimi ho on, “I am he who is”]; . . . The simplest meaning is the English present tense, which embraces the future promises. The point is that Yahweh is sovereignly independent of all creation and that his presence guarantees the fulfillment of the covenant. Others argue for a causative Hiphil translation of “I will cause to be,” but nowhere in the Bible does this verb appear in Hiphil or Piel (http://www.bible.org/).
The meaning of God’s holy name Yahweh has been frequently discussed in scholarly literature through the years. If the reader would like to pursue this matter further, here are several additional sources for consideration: (1) “Yahweh,” Encyclopædia Britannica Article (http://www.britannica.com); (2) “Jehovah (Yahweh),” Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/); and (3) our Appendix 1, The Creator’s Name is Yahweh!
Here are some key verses in which the Creator’s name Yahweh occurs:
Abraham planted a tamarisk at Beersheba and there he invoked Yahweh, the everlasting God. [Gen. 21:33 Jerusalem Bible (JB)]
The KJV translates “there he invoked” as “called there on the name of” in verse 33 because the Hebrew Old Testament contains the word shem, “name.”
And God also said to Moses, “You are to say to the sons of Israel: ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’. This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come (Exod. 3:15 JB)
(Note Bill Wilson’s usage of the phrase “God of our fathers” in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, AAWS, 1987, p. 29.)
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh. To Abraham and Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai; I did not make myself known to them by my name Yahweh.” (Exod. 6:2, 3 JB)
And let them know this: you alone bear the name Yahweh, Most High over the whole world (Ps. 83:18 JB).
My name is Yahweh, I will not yield my glory to another, nor my honour to idols. (Isa. 42:8 JB)
Now listen, I am going to make them acknowledge, this time I am going to make them acknowledge my hand and my might; and then they will know that Yahweh is my name.
(Jer. 16:21 JB)