Identifying the Only True God
ALMOST as long as humans have existed, they have had many gods. There have been so many that it is difficult to put an accurate figure on the number of gods and goddesses worshiped throughout the earth—but it runs into the millions.
Having established that there is a God, we now ask, Which of all the gods worshiped throughout the earth, now and in the past, is the true God? That there is only one true God who can be identified as such is clearly stated in the Bible at John 17:3: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
An Identifying Name
It would be reasonable that any god who has personality would need a personal name to distinguish him from other gods with names of their own. It would preferably be a name designated by the god himself, rather than a name coined by his worshipers.
In this regard, however, a very puzzling fact emerges. While most well-established religions ascribe personal names to their gods, Jews and mainstream churches of Christendom have failed to identify by a distinctive personal name the god that they worship. Instead, they resort to such titles as Lord, God, Almighty, and Father.
Writing in the publication Theology, author David Clines stated the following: “Somewhere between the fifth and the second centuries B.C. 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.” However, no one can say for sure exactly when orthodox Jews ceased to pronounce God’s name out loud and instead substituted the Hebrew words for God and Sovereign Lord.
It seems, then, that the very first essential in any quest to identify “the only true God” would be to get to know him by name. Such a search is not at all difficult, for the name of Almighty God, the Creator, is clearly and simply stated at Psalm 83:18: “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.”—King James Version.
Jehovah or Yahweh?
Whereas the name Jehovah appears in the King James Version and other Bible translations, some prefer to use the name Yahweh instead of Jehovah. Which name is correct?
The most ancient Bible manuscripts were written in the Hebrew language. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the divine name occurs almost 7,000 times and is spelled with four consonants—YHWH or JHVH. These four-consonant words are commonly called the Tetragrammaton, or Tetragram, derived from two Greek words meaning “four letters.” Now the question of accurate pronunciation arises because early Hebrew writing consisted of consonants with no vowels to guide the reader. So whether the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton becomes Yahweh or Jehovah depends on which vowels the reader supplies to the four consonants. Today many Hebrew scholars prefer Yahweh as the true pronunciation.
However, consistency favors Jehovah. In what way? The pronunciation Jehovah has been accepted in English for centuries. Those who object to using this pronunciation should also object to the use of the accepted pronunciation Jeremiah and even Jesus. Jeremiah would need to be changed to Yir·meyahʹ or Yir·meyaʹhu, the original Hebrew pronunciations, and Jesus would become Ye·shuʹaʽ (Hebrew) or I·e·sousʹ (Greek). Hence, many Bible students, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, feel that consistency favors the use of the already well-known English-language “Jehovah” and its equivalent in other languages.
Does It Really Matter?
Some may argue that it does not really matter whether you address Almighty God by a personal name or not, and they are content to speak of and address God as Father or simply as God. Both these terms, however, are titles rather than names and are neither personal nor distinctive. In Bible times the word for God (ʼElo·himʹ, Hebrew) was used to describe any god—even the pagan Philistine god named Dagon. (Judges 16:23, 24) So for a Hebrew to tell a Philistine that he, the Hebrew, worshiped “God” would not have identified the true God whom he worshiped.
Of interest is a comment in The Imperial Bible-Dictionary of 1874: “[Jehovah] is everywhere a proper name, denoting the personal God and him only; whereas Elohim partakes more of the character of a common noun, denoting usually, indeed, but not necessarily nor uniformly, the Supreme. . . . The Hebrew may say the Elohim, the true God, in opposition to all false gods; but he never says the Jehovah, for Jehovah is the name of the true God only. He says again and again my God . . . ; but never my Jehovah, for when he says my God, he means Jehovah. He speaks of the God of Israel, but never of the Jehovah of Israel, for there is no other Jehovah. He speaks of the living God, but never of the living Jehovah, for he cannot conceive of Jehovah as other than living.”
The True God’s Qualities
Just knowing someone’s name, of course, does not mean that we know him or her in any depth. The majority of us know the names of leading politicians. Even prominent men and women in other countries may have names that are well-known to us. But simply knowing their names—even how to pronounce them correctly—does not in itself mean that we know these people personally or know what kind of people they are. Similarly, to know the only true God, we need to get to know and admire his qualities.
Though it is true that humans will never be able to see the true God, he has kindly had recorded for us in the Bible many details about his personality. (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18) Certain Hebrew prophets were given inspired visions of Almighty God’s heavenly courts. What they describe portrays not only great dignity and awesome majesty and power but also serenity, order, beauty, and pleasantness.—Exodus 24:9-11; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 1:26-28; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 4:1-3.
Jehovah God outlined some of his attractive and appealing qualities to Moses, as recorded at Exodus 34:6, 7: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin.” Don’t you agree that getting to know about these qualities of God draws us to him and makes us want to know more about him as a person?
While no human will ever be able to see Jehovah God in his resplendent glory, it is recorded that when Jesus Christ was a man on earth, he actually reflected the type of person that Jehovah God, his heavenly Father, is. On one occasion Jesus said: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”—John 5:19.
So we can deduce from this that Jesus’ kindness, compassion, mildness, and warmth as well as his strong love for righteousness and hatred of wickedness are all qualities that Jesus observed in his Father, Jehovah God, while Jesus was with him in the heavenly courts before becoming a man on earth. Thus, when we truly come to know with understanding the full meaning of the name Jehovah, we surely have every reason to love and bless that sacred name, to praise and exalt it, and to trust in it.
Getting to know the only true God in this way is really a never-ending process, as is brought out clearly in the rendering of John 17:3 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Here the correct tense of the verb “to know” helps greatly, for the present continuous tense is used rather than the simple present tense. Hence, we read: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Yes, continuing to take in knowledge of the only true God, Jehovah, and of his Son, Jesus Christ, is a process that should never end.
The True God Revealed
Thus, the true God is readily distinguishable from the many false gods. He is the almighty Creator of the universe, including planet Earth and mankind upon it. He has a unique personal name—Jehovah, or Yahweh. He is no part of a mysterious triune god, or Trinity. He is a God of love, and he wishes only the best for his human creation. But he is also a God of justice, and he will not forever tolerate those who insist on ruining the earth and fomenting wars and violence.
Jehovah has revealed his determination not only to rid the earth of wickedness and suffering but also to make it a paradise where honesthearted people can live forever in happiness. (Psalm 37:10, 11, 29, 34) Almighty God has now installed his Son, Jesus, as the heavenly King of God’s Kingdom, and soon Jesus will usher in that new world of righteousness and restore Paradise conditions to our earth.—Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9, 10.
We hope that you are now more easily able to answer the question, Does God really exist? and to identify the true God.
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Jesus Christ identified Jehovah as the only true God