Why is it G-d but not L-rd?

I mean it’s usually pretty clear from the context that we’re not talking about some old english social title.


My guess is it’s because we’re using “God” as a proper name, same as we would “Frank” or “Joe.” Usually, “Lord” is preceded by * the * which would make it a title, not a proper noun. We say “Queen Elizabeth” but don’t capitalize generally when we’re saying “the queen.”

Actually, Lissa, I think it is acceptable to capitalize The Queen, but only when referring to Harvey Fierstein.

I’ll second that. God is his name, Lord is his title.


Actually, it is accepted practice in the UK to capitalise “The Queen,” whether it’s referring to Queen Elizabeth, Queen Beatrix or any other queen you could name.

So then why does God say in Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD thy God…”? It sounds suspiciously like “Hi! I’m Judy, thy Time-Life operator…” That verse makes it seem like “God” is His title and “the Lord” is His name.

And The Big Guy doesn’t say “Thou shalt have no other lords before me.”

And don’t tell me that one can’t have a definite article in one’s name. One need only turn to mythological figures like “The Rock” or “The Beaver”.

[Edited by Alphagene on 09-16-2000 at 09:12 PM]

Am I the only one who does not know, then? Who is “The Rock” and who is “The Beaver”?

::desperately fighting back urge to post something absolutely ridiculous::

“The Rock” is a professional wrestler.
“The Beaver” was a character on a television show in the 1950’s

Neither God nor Lord is his name.

Judging from Exodus 3:13-14:

it seems that God’s proper name is “I AM”, which is usually rendered into English as “Yahweh” or “Jehova”. “God”, of course (as well as Allah, Deo, Manito, and other languages’ translations of the same word), is a title, but it’s used as a proper name, because there is only one Person to whom that title applies, so it is a unique identifier. Of course, the same can be said of “Lord”.

Why do people write “G-d”, in the first place?

As cmkeller explained in this thread,

As pretty much everyone has said: I see G-d as something of a translation of the diety’s name, whereas “Lord” is more of a title. While it’s true that in some translations such as the one quoted above, the exact correlation can be a bit mixed up, this seems to be the general usage of the terms in modern english…G-d used as a proper noun, but not “Lord.”

“I am the LORD thy God” may originally have been “I am YHWH thy God”. Adonai (meaning Lord) was substituted by copyists following the prohibition against writing the name of the deity.

Searching on Britannica, I found an interesting discussion of the names of God in Genesis. It forms part of a wider discussion of the contrasts between the pre-Mosaic and Mosaic conceptions of the deity.

Britannica article

Scroll down to “The pre-Mosaic period: the religion of the patriarchs”.

And just to derail this some more, in Dutch one would capitalise “Queen”, “Koningin”, but not “The”, “de”. Same with “The Lord” (“de Heer”, “de Here”) and “God” (“God”).

Actually, many (perhaps even most) people who are careful to hyphenate “G-d”, do also hyphenate “L-rd”.

As I understand it, there are seven specific “names” listed by Maimonides which fit this category (of being so holy that Jews are not allowed to erase them once they are written down). All seven are Hebrew versions of those names, and as CMKeller pointed out, it is questionable whether or not this applies to other languages (such as English), or other forms of writing (such as computer screens).

And even Maimonides, who included titles such as the Hebrew of “L-rd” in that list of seven, specifically excluded descriptions such as “Creator”.

The English is problematic, as cmkeller says. The Hebrew is not. And I have to be somewhat circumvent here; I am not as cautious as cmkeller in English, but I am when it comes to transliterated Hebrew. So please bear with me if I have to be a bit round-about in explanation.

In Hebrew, the four-lettered name of God (YHV and then another H) is God’s personal, private, holy Name. It is a mark of intimacy in the Hebrew Bible to know someone by name; when God calls, “Moses, Moses!” or when God permits Moses to address Him by Name, that is indicative of an intimacy or familiarity. Not just anyone can call upon God by Name.

Thus traditional Jews (Orthodox and Conservative) are careful NOT to use the four-lettered Name. In many Hebrew prayerbooks, for example, the four-lettered Name is not used, but instead appears as YY or H’. In prayer, it is not pronounced, we substitute a name that is a combination of Adon (Master or Lord) with ai (“my”).
(This is NOT, as Tansu suggests, an error in copying; this is deliberate avoidance of speaking the four-lettered Name.)

In conversation and discussion, Orthodox Jews will tend even to use a circumvention of the circumvention, using the term Ado[n]-shem (Master-Name) to avoid the word used in prayer, and often use Ha-shem (The Name) to refer to God.

[aside] According to tradition, the four-lettered Name was only spoken in ancient times by the High Priest, when he entered the holiest room of the Temple, on Yom Kippur. [/aside]

In contrast, the Hebrew word el and variants (elohanu, your god, etc) is used to mean God.

Anyway, when it gets to English, there’s sloppy and there’s careful. Modern translations tend to be careful to stick to one pattern; for example, the JPS translates the four-lettered name as LORD and the others as God. Thus, oversimplifying: “I am the LORD your God” is better translated “I am YHV-and-H your God[el-word]”

I belive that the KJV and earlier translations were not quite so consistent as most modern translations.

[personal] As you can see from my circumventions above, I will not use the four-lettered Name, not even in English. However, I have no objection to the English word “God” and certainly not the title “Lord”.

Would you rather have you S/O yell out “Oh GOD!” or “Oh LORD!” in the middle of the big O? I dunno, Oh Lord sounds so…formal

Well in answering my question some of you would settle fore something other than “Move your butt, I can’t see the TV”

Not bragging, but I can make it sound like the Philharmonic Orchestra in my abode! Lots of Hallelugah’s in the high octive ranges!

I ought to charge tickets!

I ought to shut up!


Very intersting, CK, but aren’t there a couple of passages in Scripture where the four-letter Name is used? I’m thinking of the Burning Bush passage I quoted above, for starters. What circumlocutions, if any, are employed when reading those passages aloud?

It’s interesting to hear about the matter of not wanting to disrespect Him by throwing His name away. I had assumed that it was a matter of not taking His name in vain, which didn’t seem to make much sense.

CKDextHavn: Thank you for providing a clear explanation. I’d noticed that there were differences in the various translations of the Bible, and as I don’t know Hebrew, I’m very grateful for a more informed perspective.

By the way, I didn’t mean to suggest that the substitution of Adonai for the four letter name was an error in copying - I meant to suggest that it was a deliberate avoidance of using the name. Looking back at my OP, I probably could have made myself clearer. Sorry about that.

I had originally thought that the prohibition against the use of the name had not originally existed, and that this had caused a deliberate alteration in copying the Scriptures. However, the more I think about it, the more my original view seems to be rubbish. Before Moses, God was not known by his own name, so the name taboo would not have been relevant. The name would never have been written down or pronounced (except by the High Priest), so the substiturion of ‘My Lord’ was original.

More wild supposition, I know. Tell me if I’m barking up another wrong tree.

Chronos: << Very intersting, CK, but aren’t there a couple of passages in Scripture where the four-letter Name is used? I’m thinking of the Burning Bush passage I quoted above, for starters. What circumlocutions, if any, are employed when reading those passages aloud? >>

Yes, of course, the Hebrew Bible commonly uses God’s 4-letter Name (technical term: Tetragrammaton). When it is read aloud in the synagogue, the circumvention term Adon (Lord) ai is used… the same word that is used in prayer. That word has taken on it’s own aura of holiness, as I mentioned above, so traditional (Orthodox and Conservative) Jews don’t use the Tetragrammaton at all, and use the Adon-substitute in prayer; and don’t even use the Adon-substitute in conversation or discussion or classes, but use a further circumvention of Adon[n]-shem (Lord-name).

Tansu: << Before Moses, God was not known by his own name, so the name taboo would not have been relevant. >>

This starts to get very murkey. The 4-lettered Name certainly is used in the Pentateuch before God “reveals” it to Moses, and it is used by Abraham (for example) in prayer.
So we get into lots of different perspectives from rabbis in midrashim (commentary or explanation), since God clearly says to Moses that He was not known to the people “by His Name” before.

The explanation I like best is that the unveiling of the Name to Moses implies a new, deeper level of intimacy between God and Moses (and hence Israel). The Hebrew title of the Book of Exodus is Shemot (literally: Names). The book begins with the list of names of Jacob’s family who came to Egypt, but the theme of names is recurring in the text, where names and intimacy (knowledge of a person) are interconnected. That’s a whole evening’s discussion in itself.

The use of the Tetragrammaton is clearly prohibited by Second Temple times, and used only by the High Priest as noted in my earlier post. However, my guess is that prohibition didn’t arise until late, since the prophets certainly seem to have no trouble speaking God’s Name in their prophesies. Perhaps they are special cases, with special permission, but it seems odd (to me) that they would so freely flaunt a prohibition without any comment about it. But I confess, I haven’t studied this, and I don’t know when/how the prohibition arose.

ASIDE/HIJACK - The whole question of the Name of God is fascinating, on many levels. The 4-lettered Y-name (Tetragrammaton) (“J” in German) really has no translation; Fox’s recent translation of the Torah simply leaves it as the four letters, all caps. There is also the E-name that translates God. It was the use of these two different names in parallel stories that lead German commentators to come up with the multiple-authors theory, with a “J” author who uses the J-name, and an “E”-author who uses the E-name.
(Best non-technical read on this is WHO WROTE THE BIBLE by Richard Friedman, I highly recomment it if you’re interested.)

Traditionalists, of course, who ascribe the authorship to one Author, note that the J-name tends to be used when God’s mercy is prominent in the story, and the E-name when God’s justice is prominent. Under this interpretation, the use of different names for God is indicative of which facet of God is most meaningful to the context. [/ASIDE]