"…HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME…"
by Wayne S. Walker
We are trying to know a little bit more about the God whom we are discussing in this series. There is much that we can learn from the names and terms by which He has chosen to identify Himself. In our previous article, we looked at some of the Hebrew names for God: El, referring simply to deity; Jehovah, indicating self-sustained and eternal existence; and Adonai, meaning Lord or Master. In this article, we want to study the Greek terms for God as found in the New Testament.
The most common word for God in the Greek New Testament is theos. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines it as, "a general appellation of deities or divinities…spoken of the only and true GOD." It is sometimes used accomodatively of pagan idols (Acts 14:11; 19:26; 28:6; 1 Corinthians 8:5; Galatians 4:8). But the overwhelming usage of it is regarding the one true God (1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6). W.E. Vine wrote,
"Hence the word was appropriated by the Jews and retained by Christians to denote the one true God. In the Septuagint theos translates (with few exceptions) the Hebrew words Elohim and Jehovah, the former indicating His power and preeminence, the latter His unoriginated, immutable, eternal and self-sustained existence."
There are three other words derived from theos which deserve further examination. The first is theios as used in Acts 17:29, where Paul said, "Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising." Instead of "Divine Nature" (theios), the King James Version has "godhead." This is an adjective form that when found as a noun was "used by the Greeks to denote the divine nature, power, providence, in the general, without reference to any individual deity" (Thayer’s). It is believed that the word was used on purpose by Paul in speaking to the Greeks on Mars Hill out of regard for Gentile usage.
The word theiotes is found in Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead." This term is derived from theios and according to Thayer also carries the general concept of "divinity, divine nature." R.C. Trench wrote that in Romans 1:20, Paul
"is declaring how much of God may be known from the revelation of Himself which He has made in nature, from those vestiges of Himself which men may everywhere trace in the world around them. Yet it is not the personal God whom any man may learn to know by these aids; He can be known only be the revelation of Himself in His Son."
The last word, theotes, is similar yet different. It is used in Colossians 2:9, where Paul says of Christ, "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Thayer’s Lexicon defines the term simply as "Diety i.e. the state of being God" and goes on to say, "theot. deity differs from theiot. divinity, as essence differs from quality or attribute." Again, R.C. Trench said,
"In the second passage (Col.2:9), Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fulness of absolute Godhead; they are no mere rays of Divine glory which gilded Him, lighting up His Person for a season and with a splendour not His own; but He was, and is, absolute and perfect God; and the apostle uses theotes to express this essential and personal Godhead in the Son."
W.E. Vine concludes, "Theotes indicates the Divine essence of Godhood, the Personality of God; theoites, the attributes of God, His Divine nature and properties." There is much about the nature of God that finite beings cannot completely fathom. But from these terms we do know that He is a divine being of both power and personality. And they move us to sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!" (—taken from With All Boldness; June, 1992; Vol. 2, No. 6; p. 8)