Is the Hebrew word “Lord” really a pagan title? I have come across teachings in books that claim to reveal the truth about Christianity’s pagan roots. Of course most of these sources claim to be Christian but they call themselves Messianic. I really think some of the things they teach are true but they go really far with some of their assertions saying words like “Heaven”, “Holy”, “Amen”, “Temple”, etc… are all pagan rooted.


The answer is that these people are both right and wrong.  They are more wrong than they are right, but there is a significant grain of truth in what they say.  Here is what I mean.  One of the words which is translated as “Lord” in the Old Testament is the word Baal.  Baal is both the name of one of the pagan, Canaanite gods of the second and first millennium BC and it is a kind of generic word used by ancient peoples for “lord” or “god.”   In other words, when coming up with a word for the actual true God of Israel, whose personal name was YHWH, one of the names used for God was, essentially “God.”   The word for “God” or “Lord” at that time was the word Baal.  The Hebrews simply used a word common in their language as an appellation for YHWH.  Bottom line, when people use words for God they generally use the generic word for God in their particular language.  You might be shocked to learn that in many Muslim countries the word used for God in churches is Allah.  I have been in churches in Malaysia and Indonesia and, in the personal prayers, the believers called God Allah!  In Arabic, the generic word for God is Allah.  In fact, there has been great controversy in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia because Muslims have tried to force Christians to NOT call the God of the Bible Allah, as they find this offensive.  Perhaps some Christians might be offended to learn that their fellow Christians call God/YHWH by the name Allah, but this is the word for “God” in their language.

As another analogy, even the English word God has two meanings.  God is the word for THE God, but it is also the word for any god.  Fortunately, in English we have the choice to capitalize the word God or to use the uncapitalized god, so there is less potential confusion.

So, these critics are slightly correct.  But they are more wrong than they are right.  The Jews never used the word Baal for a pagan god—one of many deities.  Abraham and Moses and Isaac and Noah believed in one single God of the universe.  They called this God at times El, Elohim, Adonai, Baal and YHWH.  All of these names were used of God and more than one of them came from pagan usage, but none of them were ever used by the patriarchs as if the God of Israel was part of some sort of polytheistic/pagan worship. This is a completely false charge.  Abraham came from a pagan/polytheistic background, but the God he worshipped is the same God that we worship.  Judaism did NOT evolve from paganism, and the use of the word Baal in the Bible is certainly not evidence to support this false claim.

I have not done the research, but I would imagine that one could prove that the Jewish words for temple, holy, and even amen come from “pagan” roots.  In other words, the vocabulary has its roots in a pagan world.  Of course it does.  The whole world was pagan and polytheistic in ancient times.  The fact that the early Jews used these words no more proves that they believed in them than the fact that you talk about the “sunset” means that you believe that the sun revolves around the earth.  It is simply a matter of the use of common vocabulary.

By the way, it may be that you have seen Messianic Christians make this point, but you should not use it as a point against them.  It may be that they do so simply because they are, on the whole, more aware of the Hebrew and Jewish background of Christianity.  This is a helpful perspective and perhaps you can learn a thing or two from Messianic Jewish Christians.

John Oakes

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