Is the Word Allah Similar to Elohim?

by Penny Warren B.A., M.A., D.D

(C) 1998 PLIM REPORT Vol. 7 No. 3

Feel free to copy and circulate this article for non-commercial purposes provided the Web site and author are mentioned.

See Related Articles: True Names of the Creator and His Son

Introduction

The Middle Eastern culture has given birth to the three major religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Although these religions are dogmatically at odds with each other, they have more in common than they realize.

Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, the languages of these religions, are closely related although debates still rage over which language was first. Researchers have found that people from the same region will usually have similar root words referring to the same thing.

The Hebrew title of God is "Elohim;" in Arabic it's "Allah." These two words for God have a common bond that most people don't understand. Both of these words have their origin in pagan deities of the ancient past.

The intent of this article is to examine the etymology of the word Elohim and Allah. Although some of the definitions may be repetitive, our aim is to document the meanings from various sources.

Is there commonality between Elohim and Allah?

Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition and etymology of Allah as follows. Allah is the Muslim name for "the God." Allah is derived from two words "al," which means "the" and "ilah," which is related to the feminine Hebrew word for God, "eloah."

Now the Hebrew title or name for God is 'Elohim' and it is the plural form of eloah. It is made plural by adding "im," which is masculine. This corresponds to adding "s" to make a word plural in English. So the commonality between Allah and Elohim is "eloah" and "ilah."

According the Huston Smith’s book The World’s Religions (p. 222), it states: "Allah is formed by joining the definite article al meaning ‘the’ with Ilah (God). Literally, Allah means ‘The God.’ … When the masculine plural ending im is dropped from the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, the two words sound much alike." Eloah (Hebrew feminine) is similar to Ilah (God). Both Elohim and Allah are titles and not names.

Do scholars agree on the derivation of Elohim?

The scholars do not agree on the origin of the word Elohim. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the languages of the regions do not support whether the word Elohim applies to the God of Israel or an earlier polytheistic culture's diety. "The ancient Jewish and the early ecclesiastical writers agree with many modern scholars in deriving Elohim from El, but there is a great difference of opinion as to the method of derivation. Nestle (Theol. Stud. aus Würt., 1882, pp. 243 sqq.) supposes that the plural has arisen by the insertion of an artificial h, like the Hebrew amahoth (maidens) from amah. Buhl (Gesenius Hebraisches Handworterbuch, 12th ed., 1895, pp. 41 sq.) considers Elohim as a sort of augmentative form of El; but in spite of their disagreement as to the method of derivation, these writers are one in supposing that in early Hebrew the singular of the word signifying God was El, and its plural form Elohim; and that only more recent times coined the singular form Eloah, thus giving Elohim a grammatically correct correspondent. Lagrange, however, maintains that Elohim and Eloah are derived collaterally and independently from El." (See Catholic Encyclopedia: Elohim http://www.knight.org/advent/cathen/05393a.htm

 

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Did the Hebrews borrow the word Elohim from the Canaanites?

"Elohim, the plural of the Hebrew word eloha, "god," a lengthened form of the Canaanite word el (Aramaic alaha; Arabic ilah), is most frequently used for the God of Israel in the Old Testament. … The Israelites probably borrowed the Canaanite plural noun elohim and made it singular in meaning in their cultic practices and theological reflections (The New Encyclopaiedia Britannica, Micropaedia, Vol. III, 15th Edition, p. 863)."

Has much been written about Elohim?

Godfrey Higgins in his classical book Anacalypsis (V. 1; p. 64-65, 67) gives the etymology of Elohim, originally spelled Aleim. He states the following: "Perhaps there is no word in any language about which more has been written than the word Aleim; or, as modern Jews corruptly call it, Elohim. The root … al, the root of the word Aleim, as a verb or it its verbal form, means to mediate, to interpose for protection, to perserve; and a noun, a mediator, an interposer. In its feminine its has two forms …ale, and … alue. In its plural masculine it makes … alim, in is plural feminine … aleim.

Mr. Higgins points out in his book that many learned men believe that "Al" is derived from Arabic but some disagree with the derivation of Allah. "I beg the reader to observe, that Arabians, from whose language the word al properly comes, have the word for Sun, in feminine, and that for the moon, in the masculine gender; … The word Aleim … has been derived the Arabic word Allah, by many learned men; but Mr. Bellamy says this cannot be admitted; for Hebrew is not the derived, but the primitive language. … The Alah, articulo emphatico alalah (calassio) of Arabians, is evidently the … Al of the Chaldees or Jews…"

Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia (Vol. 1; p. 250) states the following about Allah. "Etymologically, Allah is probably a contraction of the Arabic al-ilahh, "the God," although the Aramaic Alaha has also been proposed. The origin of the name can be traced to the earliest Semitic writings in which the word for god was Il or El, the latter bring in the Old Testament synonym for Yahweh. Know to Arabs even in pre-Islamic times, Allah is standard Arabic for God And is used by Arab Christians as well as Muslims."

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WHO IS ALLAAH?

"Allaah is the Arabic word for 'one God,' the same as Eloh in Armaic. Allaah is not God of Muslims only. He is God of all creations, because He is their Creator and Sustainer." (From the Daar-ul-Ehsaan USA site, "The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Islaam," http://www.daar-ul-ehsaan.org/faq.HTM#Allaah)

Allah is the name of the Supreme Being in the Arabic Language. The word Allah is never used for any other being or thing. The names for God found in other languages are all attributive or descriptive and are often used in the plural, but the word "Allah" is never used in the plural. In the absence of a parallel word in the English language, the original name "Allah" has been retained throughout the translation. http://www.alislam.org/ram/articles/00000025.htm Selected Verses of the Holy Quran, Copyright © 1996 Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam

"Allah is an unique Arabic proper name for the One God. It is unique as it does not permit of gender or plurality. Allah describes himself in The Quran in Chapter 59, Verses 22-24. One possible meaning of the verses is provided below:"

"22. Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god;- Who knows (all things) both secret and open; He is The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. 23. Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god;-The Sovereign, The Holy One, The Source of Peace (and Perfection), The Guardian of Faith, The Preserver of Safety, The Exalted in Might, The Irresistible, The Supreme: Glory to Allah. (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. 24. He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colors). To Him belongs the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on the earth, do declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise." http://hubcap.clemson.edu/MSA/Allah.html, From the Muslim Student Association of Clemson University

Were there many gods before Islam?

According to Marcus Bach’s book Major Religions of the World, religion was a big, commercial business in Mecca at the time of Mohammed (p. 99-100). Temples and shrines abounded to many nature gods and men also worshipped the Black Stone said to work miracles. Located in the middle of Mecca was a building called the Kaaba that housed images of 360 gods and the stone. Priests charged a fee to worshippers and those who offered prayers.

Mohammed belonged to a sect called Hunafa who hated the money-making priests and worshipped Allah exclusively. When Mohammed had his vision, the angel Gabriel told him to teach the people, Allah, the God, "One and only, One without rival (p. 225)."

For Mohammed to teach monotheism in a polytheistic society was as revolutionary as the Messiah preaching faith in Yahweh to the Jew who had worshipped the Law of Moses for 1500 years (Eph. 2:8-9). They both faced ridicule, persecution, and death threats from the reigning powers. Unlike the Messiah, Mohammed was not killed, but prevailed and ruled his nation for years.

Conclusion

Although the etymology of Allah and Aleim (Elohim) is inconclusive, it is clear that the Jews, Christians, and Arabs are worshipping the same God or "All in All." None of these religions would deny that there is ONE source of life, regardless of what names or title The Creator is called. Innumerable names can be attributed to the Most High.

The problem is that each religion has their own interpretations, customs, and traditions on how to serve and worship the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who is Spirit. Man-made dogma, customs, traditions must be put away and the fundamental principles of Spirit must be understood, whereby the worship of Elohim or Allah is done in Spirit and Truth. The followers of the true and only Creator must exercise and exemplify the principles of love, peace, faith, and patience. This will be an example and invitation to all men to come to the light. If this is not done, confusion will continue in the world, which the Apostle John called Mystery Babylon in Revelation (Rev. 17:1-5).

The Apostle Paul encountered a similar situation with the Greeks, who believed in many gods, when he visited Athens. They wanted to know about the resurrection of the Messiah. He said to them: "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN Elohim (GOD). Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. Elohim (God) that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring (Acts 17:23-28)."

 

Sources:

Bach, Marcus, Major Religions of the World

Hastings, James, Dictionary of the Bible

Higgins, Godfrey, Anacalypsis

Smith, Huston, The World’s Religions

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia

Webster’s Dictionary

 

Internet sites:

The Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.knight.org/advent/cathen/05393a.htm

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/MSA/Allah.html, Muslim Student Association of Clemson University

http://www.daar-ul-ehsaan.org/faq.HTM#Allaah

 

 

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