Etymologically, the name Allah is probably a contraction of the Arabic al-Ilāh, “the God.” The name’s origin can be traced to the earliest Semitic writings in which the word for god was il or el, the latter being used in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Allah is the standard Arabic word for God and is used by Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews as well as by Muslims regardless of their native tongue. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica Online: Allah)
A quick study of the Hebrew “El” (Hebrew Word: אֵל) shows that it is the shortened form of “Ayil” (Hebrew Word: אַיִל), which means strength or chief. Ayil even has a hint of similarity to the Arabic al-Ilāh, so the use of Allah by Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians is understandable as a general reference to god, but it is not a traditional reference for Jews or Christians elsewhere and it’s not Jehovah God’s proper name.
The use of “El” in the Hebrew scriptures is typically accompanied by a modifier like almighty rather than a stand-alone reference. For instance, God Almighty is translated from the Hebrew El-Shaddai. Nonetheless, Daniel does use the stand-alone “El” (Daniel 11:36) as a reference to God, so even though it’s rare, it is still a legitimate general reference to God.
Daniel 11:36 (ESV) “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God [El] of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. (bracketed textual insertion mine)
The more common stand-alone term used 2,346 times as a general reference to God in the Hebrew scriptures is Elohim (Hebrew Word: אֱלֹהִים), which already sets the God of the Hebrew scriptures apart from the god of the Qur’an, because Elohim is a plural form of Eloah (Hebrew Word: אֱלוֹהַּ – Transliteration: ʾelōah), which is thought to be a “prolonged emphatic” of El. As a comparison, El is only used 213 times as a reference to God in the Hebrew scriptures in all forms, stand-alone or with a modifier.
Why is the use of Elohim an important distinction compared to Allah?
The Qur’an is clear that Allah has no partners (4:116) or children (4:171), despite the frequent use of “We,” “Us,” and “Our” (2:23; 2:57; 6:94; 7:72, et al) while quoting Allah. And, despite some Islamic schools of thought, the use of We, Us, and Our cannot simply be Allah’s inclusion of Muhammad, as evidenced by sura 2:23.
Al-Baqarah 2:23 (Qur’an – Sahih International) And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful. (emphasis mine)
Since it is evident Allah is referring to Muhammad as “Our Servant,” who else is the Qur’an referring to when it uses the pronouns We, Us, or Our while quoting Allah if Allah has no partners?
Elohim, being plural, immediately suggests the Godhead embodies more than one singular personality, which is evident from the first, second, and twenty-sixth verses of the first chapter of Genesis, the first book of Moses’ Torah.
Genesis 1:1-2, 26 (ESV) 1 In the beginning, God [the plural Elohim] created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. … 26 Then God [the plural Elohim] said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (emphasis and bracketed textual insertions mine)
Jesus reinforces the plural embodiment of the Godhead repeatedly throughout the Christian scriptures, referring to Himself as the Son of God the Father, but He clarifies three distinct personalities in Matthew 28.
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (emphasis mine)
That is only the first part of the gulf separating the god of the Qur’an from the God of the Bible.
When Moses was in self-imposed exile, secluded in the Midian desert after killing an Egyptian, he had a very unusual encounter where the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob revealed His proper name.
Exodus 3:13-15 (ESV) 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, 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 forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (emphasis mine)
I know some people may argue God used two names to identify Himself, “I AM” and “The Lord,” but He didn’t. The proper name God used, “The LORD,” is the Hebrew word Jehovah (Hebrew Word: יהוה), meaning self-existent or eternal. It is derived from the root word Haya (Hebrew Word: הָיָה), meaning to exist or be. That is the word translated earlier in the passage as I AM. Jehovah was simply reinforcing His nature, essentially saying, “Call Me Jehovah, the self-existent eternal God because I AM…I exist…I am the very essence of being.” Jehovah. That is the name by which He is supposed to be remembered forever, not Allah!
Keep that in mind as you review the passage from the Gospel of John below. Also, keep in mind that the Hebrew word Jehovah is translated “the Lord” 6,510 times in the Hebrew scriptures.
John 8:51-59 (ESV) 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (emphasis mine)
The Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus to death because they knew Jesus was claiming to be Jehovah, the self-existent eternal God who introduced Himself to Moses saying, “I AM WHO I AM.”
Notice the beginning of the passage from John 8. Jesus says, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” In John 14 and 15, Jesus takes His admonishment a step farther.
John 14:15-17 (ESV) 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 15:10-11 (ESV) 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Sure, Jesus continues to explain His commandment to love one another in John 15:12, but He also expanded the scope of the law given to Moses, according to Matthew.
Matthew 5:17-18, 21-22, 27-28, 31-32 (ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. … 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. … 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. … 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Thankfully, the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah (below) and fulfilled by Jesus offers us a path of forgiveness and reconciliation, so those who follow Jesus are not bound by the penalties of the law.
Now, we need to put Jesus’ words in their complete context by looking at one more passage from John, along with the greater context of John’s claims.
John 12:37-41 (ESV) 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. (emphasis mine)
In this passage, John is referring to two prophecies from Isaiah. The first is Isaiah 53:1, which is a continuation of a prophecy regarding the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. The second is from Isaiah 6.
Isaiah 6:1-10 (ESV) 1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD [Jehovah] of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (emphasis and bracketed textual inserts mine)
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah saw a vision of Jehovah God sitting on His throne in all His glory. John simply confirmed Isaiah saw Jesus as Jehovah God: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.”
Now that we clearly understand from Jesus’ own claim of “I AM” to John’s verification that Isaiah saw Jesus as Jehovah God, let’s revisit Jesus’ admonition to obey His commandments in light of Exodus 20.
Exodus 20:1-3 (ESV) 1 And God (Elohim) spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD [Jehovah] your God [Elohim], who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” (emphasis and bracketed textual insertions mine)
Who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt? Jehovah God. We studied that last week in relation to the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD [Jehovah], when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (emphasis and bracketed textual insertions mine)
That New Covenant was fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection from the dead. He then fulfilled His promise in Jeremiah 31:33 with the Holy Spirit promised in John 14:15-17 after His resurrection.
John 20:19-22 (ESV) 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (emphasis mine)
That indwelling of the Holy Spirit is promised to everyone who becomes a follower of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
All these things taken together is why Jude wrote the following:
Jude 1:4-5 (ESV) 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. 5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (emphasis mine)
It is also why we find Jesus speaking as Jehovah in the book of Zechariah.
Zechariah 12:1, 10 (ESV) 1 The oracle of the word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus declares the LORD [Jehovah], who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: … 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” (emphasis mine)
That is precisely why John provided a subtle hint to Jesus being Jehovah while declaring Jesus (the Word) is the God of creation.
John 1:1-3, 10-17 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. … 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John [the Baptist] bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (emphasis and bracketed textual insertion mine)
Notice the subtlety? “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” What does Jehovah call the children of Israel?
Jeremiah 11:1-5 (ESV) 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD [Jehovah]: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God [Elohim], 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, LORD.” (emphasis and bracketed textual insertion mine)
Just like Paul wrote to Timothy, and is also recorded in Hebrews, Jesus has always been the mediator between God the Father and mankind.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV) 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Hebrews 9:11-15 (ESV) 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Jesus was a mediator through the law before He came in the flesh, but now He is the mediator through the New Covenant offering everyone the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God.
Galatians 3:16-29 (ESV) 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
That is why there is no contradiction between these declarations of salvation through Jehovah and Jesus.
Jonah 2:9 (ESV) “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD [Jehovah]!”
Zechariah 12:7 (ESV) “And the LORD [Jehovah] will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah.”
Acts 4:11-12 (ESV)11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”