Saint Ved Vyas relating the Bhagwatam to Shukdeo (3100 B.C.)

The Encyclopedia of Authentic Hinduism by H.D. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati (the most important site on Hinduism, the Upanishads, modern Physics, Bhartiya, Sanatan Dharm and more)

(16) The history of the origination of the concepts
of the words ‘god/God’ in the west.


There are varying and unsure theories how the word for ‘god’ was primarily coined in various languages and cultures. But all of them come to one general assumption that they all indicated towards the presence of some kind of nature-spirit or some superior being which was assumed to have superhuman powers.

In Greek language the word for god was presumably created from some adjective that was implicated to mean ‘sacred, separate from daily routine,’ and in Latin, a noun referring to the idea of a ‘luminous sky’ was used to form the word for god. In Germanic, the word for god was constructed from a root-verb meaning ‘to invoke’ or ‘to call.’

The Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language, but the New Testament (including the gospels) was written in Greek. In the early 400’s, it was translated into Latin, and in the middle ages it was again translated into English (a Germanic language), and also into other languages.

In Hebrew language, el, elohim and eloah, all the three words mean god (or God) according to the person’s own concept. Originally elohim meant gods as a collective noun, but from the time of Biblical Hebrew it began to be used for one single God. There was no system of using capital letters in the early days, and even today the Hebrew Bible uses small ‘e’ for el or elohim or eloah. There is no word with female gender for god in Hebrew.

In Greek language there is a word ‘theos’ that is used for god or gods, and also for God. It literally means ‘the sacred’ or ‘the object of prayer.’ Primarily it was meant for Zeus or any other Greek god. In Classical Greek it was used for god/gods. In Classical Greek there is no capitalization of words. In Modern Greek only in the beginning of a paragraph or in the names of certain important personalities or in the headline of a chapter, the first letter is capitalized. The word theos is not capitalized even in the latest Bible. It just means god or gods or God, and it is masculine gender; thea means goddess and theai means goddesses.

In Latin language the word ‘deus’ is meant for god or deity which is derived from the word ‘deiuos’ which refers to the idea of a luminous sky (a shiny thing or some kind of heaven). The Latin language took its literary shape between 200-100 BC.

In common Germanic, also called Teutonic language, (before 800 AD) there was a word ‘gutha’ that was used for ‘god.’ It meant the invoked being, guth (single) and gutha (plural). Pagans also used the word guth/gutha for god/gods. It was formed from the root verb ghu (to invoke), and ghu was a variation of its ancestor hu (to call, to invoke). Gutha word was later called gud in Swedish, Danish and old Norse; and in Old High German and Middle High German it was written as gut. In the modern High German it was written as Gott. The same is in modern German; and in English it is ‘God’ which is singular masculine. In the beginning ‘Gott’ was neutral gender (it), then it began to be used as a singular masculine noun. Plural for Gott is Götter, and its feminine word is Göttin/Göttinen for goddess/goddesses. The word Gott means: (1) The Greek or Roman god. (2) The highest being with superhuman and supernatural powers and the object of religious faith and worship. (3) The creator and maintainer of the world (in Christian faith).

According to the above descriptions it is evident that the general concept of the word God originated from the idea of propitiating an unknown ‘spirit’ of nature by prayingly calling it and invoking it in order to gain its favor for the fulfillment of some of one’s own personal desires. Those nature spirits or nature energies were referred to with different words in different languages. The concept of the individualized nature spirits was the creation of the imaginations of Homer who gave them proper names (like Zeus etc.) and imagined them in human forms with supernatural powers and with humanlike emotions of love, hate and anger. They were called god and goddess whose wrath was supposed to be disastrous for mankind.

This ideology gave rise to many kinds and classes of mythological gods and goddesses which were being worshipped and invoked with elaborate animal sacrifices in various countries in those days. Although Moses gave a new concept of only one God instead of many gods to his people, but the basic form of elaborate animal sacrifices at the altar remained the same. Jesus gave his preachings against the animal sacrifices at the altar. Still, the wrathful nature of the kind God of the New Testament (as described in the Revelation, Matthew and John etc.) remained almost the same as it was in the Old Testament. Thus, from Homer to the writers of the New Testament the metaphysical nature of god/God as being the ‘spirit’ (of either an individual aspect of nature like ‘god of rain,’ or god of the whole world) remained the same. Only certain attributes and the style of writing the word ‘god/God’ changed.

Homeric gods and the God of both Old and New Testaments in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek wrote the term god with small ‘g.’ Latin and English translations of the Bible started to write it with capital ‘G.’ The Old Testament in English wrote only ‘God,’ and the New Testament in English began to write Father God. Homer mentioned gods as individual ‘spirits’ of the nature, but the ‘spirit God’ of the whole world (in Old and New Testament) was attributed with the creatorship of this world. That was all that differed. Still, the word God remained as an undefined ‘spirit.’

Thus, up to the period of the New Testament the concept and the definition of God remained only on the metaphysical level with the ambiguity of imagination that ‘it’ may be ‘he’ of some unknown form, yet ‘its’ definition remained only as a ‘spirit,’ which also has a wrathful and vengeful nature with the power of judgement where the true laws of the wrongs and the rights are not systematically defined.

That spirit-like metaphysical cosmic power (the ‘spirit’ God of the New Testament) was supposed to be the creator of the world and its dwelling place was called the ‘heaven,’ just like Homer imagined his imaginative gods to be living in the space of an assumed dimension called the Olympus mountain. The terms ‘Father’ and ‘the kingdom of God’ of the New Testament were not well defined in the NT so they had no definite tangible meaning. They may have been paraphrased only to attract the attention of the people.

Theologians of the world introduced their speculated theories from time to time, and, in the middle ages, the definition of God broadened a little, but still it remained in the realm of the universal metaphysical (cosmic) energy. Even today the modern English dictionary defines God as the supreme being and the ultimate reality, creator and ruler of the universe, eternal, omnipotent and infinite.


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