Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Allah, Elohim or Yahweh?

I do not intend to discuss the legal, etymological or historical use of the ‘Allah’ word in the Catholic news letter, the Herald, which has led to the current ‘fiery’ brouhaha.

High Court Judge Lau Bee Lan has already ruled on the unconstitutional banning by the Malaysian government on the Herald’s use of the god-name. There is now an appeal to be heard. Let us wait for it.

On the etymological aspect, a number of academicians including Muslims have traced its usage to pre Islamic era, and explained that both Arab Muslims and Christians refer to their respective gods as ‘Allah’. Who are we to challenge their erudite clarifications?

Historically, it has been agreed that Dutch Christian missionaries sometime in the 16th Century translated the bible into the Malay-Indonesian language by using the word 'Allah' for God. Why those Dutch missionaries did so has not been questioned but that they had used ‘Allah’ has been deemed by the Catholic Herald as a precedent which must continue to be accepted even today.

Not unexpectedly, the High Court’s decision has brought about lamentable outcomes, from protests against the judicial judgement to reckless accusations that Judge Lau was biased because she is a Christian, to criminal arson attacks against churches, and to the inevitable political conspiracies. I do not also propose to discuss the behaviour or utterances on both sides of the political fence on this issue.

Given the experts’ etymological and historical clarifications on the ‘Allah’ word, I am in no doubt the editor of the Catholic Herald, Father Lawrence Andrew, is on strong legal grounds to use it ...

... but I have always believed that religion is about faith and morality and not legality or for that matter, political approval. Thus I find it unfortunate that the Catholic Herald had taken the issue to the courts. Surely on a matter of religious faith and knowledge, there are numerous other names of God it could have use beside ‘Allah’.

So why has Father Lawrence Andrew insisted on doing so?

Let me start off by quoting what he told AFP in April 2009 about the release of a new Malay language bible that does not use the word ‘Allah’. The news item was picked up by the
Free Republic, a conservative American online news portal.

The new Malay-language Bible had referred to God as ‘Elohim’ rather than ‘Allah’. This displeased Father Lawrence Andrew who stated:

"The Catholic bible that the church uses has the word 'Allah' for God whereas in comparison, this one does not."

"The new Malay bible weakens the argument for using the word Allah because some groups are trying to substitute God with a foreign name, whereas Allah is the Malay word for God and has been the accepted translation for centuries."

I find it rather incomprehensible that Father Andrew would assert ‘Elohim’ to be a foreign name for God while in the same breath dare to claim ‘Allah’ is not. I wonder whether he would consider 'Yeshua', 'Isa' or even 'Jesus' as ‘foreign’ names? And as he is from the Catholic Church, may I ask him what he considers 'Mary' or 'Mariam', the name of the Holy Virgin Mother, to be?

Then one just has to ask: (a) why consider the new Malay-language bible as ‘weakening’ the use of ‘Allah’ when it has actually reinforced the original reference to God’s name as ‘Elohim’, and (b) who does the ‘accepting’ of the translation and what are the criteria for that process?

Now consider, hasn’t the Catholic Mass which was originally conducted only in Latin, since been changed to the language of the locals? So why can’t the use of ‘Allah’ in the Bible, as translated by Dutch missionaries hundreds of years ago, be changed to ‘Elohim’?

It seems that Father Andrew is dead set on using ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God, regardless of the superior pedigree (in the Christian context) of God’s other names as revealed in the Bible.

And on the pedigree of God’s names, the first revelation of God’s personal identity is in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) Book of Genesis 1:1 which says: "In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth."

So, why did Father Andrew consider it a ‘foreign’ name? Aren’t we talking about the God of the Christian faith?

The second name of the Divine One as revealed to Moses was 'YHWH' or 'Yahweh' (later modified to 'Jehovah') which means ‘I AM WHO I AM’ or 'I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE'.

'Yahweh' is mentioned 6823 times in the Old Testament, while 'Elohim' scores 2570 times. How many times is ‘Allah’?

In fact 'Elohim' is used 66 times in a row at the beginning of the Bible before any other Hebrew word for the English word 'God'.

There are various other names besides ‘Elohim’ and ‘Yahweh’ to describe God and Jesus, with the latter being found in the New Testament.

Really, what is the morality or motivation behind Father Andrew’s rejection of ‘Elohim’, the original name of the Judaist-Christian God, and his insistence on the use of ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God when locally it has always been recognized that ‘Allah’ refers to the God of the Islamic faith.

Ultimately let us also not forget that both Islam and Christianity are evangelistic missionary religions with an obligation on the faithful to convert the so-called ’pagans’, for altruistic reasons of course. But the late A Powell Davies, a minister of the All Souls Church in Washington, advised us that “True religion, like our founding principles, requires that the rights of the disbeliever be equally acknowledged with those of the believer.”

Has Father Lawrence acknowledged the rights and sensitivities of the Malaysian Muslims?

Friedrich Nietzsche reminded us: “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

But I ask of Father Lawrence Andrew: “What is really your goal in obdurately pursuing the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to the Christian God in a Malay-language newsletter and Bible when so many other names of your Christian God, with even better biblical pedigree, remain available?”


  1. that's not the point.

    Under the Federal Constitution, rights to practice religion are guaranteed.

    Under the Federal Constitution, East Malaysian non-Muslim natives are considered Bumiputra.

    The name of "Allah" has been used by EM Bumi Christians for centuries.

    Why suddenly someone from Peninsular Malaysia force them to change? Especially when EM Muslims & Christians have absolutely no problem re this issue?

    The ban and subsequent inflammatory politicking is basically the powerful telling the EM Bumi Christians and all others - "you have no rights unless what we, the powerful, say you have - screw the law and the Constitution".

    This is not about religious beliefs, it's about whether we as Malaysians want to capitulate to that attitude.

    That's why even non-Christians are getting involved in this issue. The sincere and learned Malaysian Muslims have seen through the religious facade and realised the true issue too. I'm surprised you haven't!

    Wait till it happens to the rights you hold dear...

  2. gee ktemoc, long time no see you posting, now suddenly you come in... have you convert to become a muslim?

    "Has Father Lawrence acknowledged the rights and sensitivities of the Malaysian Muslims?"

    what about has the muslim acknowledged the rights and sensitivities of the catholics/christians?

    why is it always the muslim's sensitivities that matter? you are sugaring up to the muslim... er... umnoputera?

    as to your last question, are you implying that fr lawrence has a hidden agenda to want to proselytize to the muslim? i'm sure yes since you care so much for their sensitivities.

    why don't you ask the christians sabahans and sarawakians the last Q you posed to fr lawrence?

    yes there are so many names of our chritian god... and ALLAH is one of them, so why can't we use it?? and have you forgotten herald (which btw is a weekly paper, not newsletter) want to use allah in bahasa print, so in bahasa print, why use the other christian god names, which are more apt for use in english print. yes, yahweh, elohim... they are and will be used... in english. now we are talking about in use in bahasa, for the bahasa speaking catholics in sabah and sarawak (though yes i know the argument that allah is not a bahasa word).

    of course yahweh and elohim are mentioned in the bible... in the english bible BUT in the bahasa bible (eg from indonesia) allah is mentioned.

    it is not only fr andrew's insistence on using allah but almost all the catholic community insistence. when you mentioned why he insists on using it when all along allah locally refer to the god of islamic faith, shows how ignorant you are. allah also refers to god for the sabahans and sarawakians christians, who had all along (even before you or malaysia were born) been using it.

    why are you talking about religion aspect only? this is not about religion but about our rights to worship in our own way (yes christians have rights too, not only muslim).

    and all this is also political - it is all about ketuanan islam/melayu!!

    i'm dissapointed in you, ktemoc. not only you sound like an extremist muslim but worst... you sound like a umnoputera! but well, it's your personal opinion, so be it.

    p/s - in all our english publication and english worship, we never ever use allah. allah is use only in bahasa publication and worship. allah is an ARABIC word that belongs to EVERYONE. if the malays can borrow from the arabs to use allah, why can't the christians do that?

  3. Father Lawrence Andrew did not start it!

    UMNO/BN Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar poked his fcuking nose in EM where it's not been an issue for over 400 years. It has not been an issue in Mecca, the Middle East and Egypt for 2,00 years and has not been one in Indonesia, India and elsewhere since the advent of Islam in 632 AD!!

    Not even Dr.M wanted to open the Pandora's Box and he let "sleeping dogs lie".

    Albar, instead of discussig it behind closed doors to find an equitable solution, issued a dictatorial fiat, a ban on the Herald. Now, the chickens have come home to roost!

    And Kerismudin and PM Najib exacerbated the situation by publicly saying they could do nothing about protest within the compound of mosques. Double standards and nuanced signals to UMNO ultras to defy the law? You betcha!

    Should East M'sians just roll over and die if their Constitutional rights are dismissed with utter contempt by Stalinistsic Home Ministers and PM's?

    Perhaps the PM should explain to all the busybodies in W 'sia that Justice Lau's ruling was very specific and does not affect the status quo here! Why have they been silent on it and instead reacted as though Islam is under seige?

    We are all of 1 race, the Human Race

  4. @#$%^&*, where his dat fcuking botak ex-minister, hiding in his grave ah ? @#$%^&* !!

  5. Good to have you back!

  6. Welcome back from your holidays.

    " Islam can be considered as Version 3 of Judaism and Christianity, which were Versions 1 and 2 respectively of the teachings of Abraham " - Petra ( Raja Petra )

    They are all referring to the same entity.
    Less no more be arguments and get back to life.

  7. KT, you're neither a Christian nor a scholar, so you're not qualified to make pronouncements here. Of course, you're more than welcome to give your subjective opinion on the matter. Bottom line is the implication of your opinion is that an infringement of the right of Malay-speaking Christians to worship God as they are accustomed to.

    For your kind information, Elohim is the equivalent to TUHAN, not ALLAH.

  8. quote "For your kind information, Elohim is the equivalent to TUHAN, not ALLAH." unquote

    Even Father Lawrence Andrew didn't claim that; all he did was to allege that 'Elohim' was a foreign word whilst 'Allah' was local.

    quote "... so you're not qualified to make pronouncements here." unquote

    I am a blogger and this is my blog, so I blog my views which may or may not dovetail with your personal views or beliefs. You shouldn't tell me or any other blogger whether I am qualified to express a view on an issue, but rather, counter my views with intelligent debate ... or you're no different from those ketuanan types.

  9. I'm not sure if I am comparing an orange with an apple but as most of us know, that Chinese Schools have always been accused as a stumbling block for Malaysian unity and most Malays would want them to disappear tomorrow if it could be done.

    But they never think for one short moment that these schools were built over a centuries...yes.... no, I am sure Chinese would not mind if it is true that Chinese schools are really the reason for disunity, if the Government can guarantee, guarantee for life, not just, today signed tomorrow want amendment...that all Malaysians are treated as equals, no more bumi this bumi that, in all level of education, in business, in public sectors, ecetera,ecetera...Mr. KT, Sir, you think you can trust the Governmet, I mean it has not shown it is worthy of trust...
    coming back to Allah, if dropping the word, would mean forever peace....no more question re-non bumi's believes? But if it's another case of sweeping problems under carpet and at this point in time, it looks like you are one of the advocators...to me, you are out of your mind but I would like to believe you had just woke up and hasn't pick up your brain which is still lying in the bed.

    hihi, no offense.

  10. Ah, but using the word 'Elohim' may affect Jewish sensitivities. The reasons they can give would be similar to those given by muslims (e.g. God is not trinitarian) Heck, using other terms such as 'Adonai' may affect sensitivities too since it is used extensively in the Jewish liturgy.

    Now, we can consider using Aramaic, where God can be pronounced as 'Elaha', 'Eloha', 'Alaha' and a few other possibilities, where each is dependent on the dialect. But that would put us back to square-one, wouldn't it, since the possibilities sound too close as well?

    To illustrate how silly this game is, consider how this would be if religious nationalism ever picks up in China or Taiwan, and issue similar decrees citing similar concerns. This would mean that the words like 'ShangDi', 'Shen', and 'Dao' would be disallowed, even though 'ShangDi' 'and 'Dao' have been in use ever since Matteo Ricci, and 'Shen' was favored by American missionaries.

    ('Dao' is used for 'Logos' in chinese translations.)

    Anyone can play the game of slippery slope of hurt sensitivities, combining both fallacies of 1. Appeal to Emotion and 2. a slippery slope argument.

  11. tinkkkkk!!!!!!

    i got an idea, why not use the chinese version of god, sure no problem one...which ever sound better in your ears, SHEN OR ZHU.

    hope it helps...shen, please help us malaysians

    thanks you Zhu, my lord Zhu.

  12. well done but what is a GAOL?? U ni x reti spelling iye???

    Hot Can.

  13. thanks anon of 1:54, typo, will change tonight

  14. anon of 12:54, we are dealing with Malaysian issues. There is genuine fear among Muslim Malays (and not all Muslims are hardcore UMNO types) that the Christian church is out to convert Muslims. Whether this fear has been indoctrinated or independently arrived at doesn't matter as it's an existing perception.

    Fr Lawrence Andrew can't even convinced me so how can he convinced the Muslims? His statements to AFP showed his adamance in using the 'Allah' word. My post was not about legality, history or the etymology of this word, where I have already stated "Given the experts’ etymological and historical clarifications on the ‘Allah’ word, I am in no doubt the editor of the Catholic Herald, Father Lawrence Andrew, is on strong legal grounds to use it ..."

    My post has been about the morality of his intransigent insistence to use 'Allah' and to hell with the other appellations of the Christian God), and questions about real faith and his motivation, where I wrote: "... but I have always believed that religion is about faith and morality and not legality or for that matter, political approval. Thus I find it unfortunate that the Catholic Herald had taken the issue to the courts. Surely on a matter of religious faith and knowledge, there are numerous other names of God it could have use beside ‘Allah’."

    The issue of Judaists not being happy with 'Elohim' being used in the Bible doesn't exist as those names of God (Elohim, Yahweh, Adonai, etc) already exist in Bibles of many languages.

    My dearest friend Lucia Lai, a devout Catholic, is pissed off with me, accusing me of perhaps having converted to Islam and stating "... not only you sound like an extremist muslim but worst... you sound like a umnoputera ..."

    Well, my dear, being friends doesn't mean I automatically agree with your views. I have my own as you have always known. But as friends though we may disagree with or not like a different view, we should respect it, especially one from a friend, and not resort to labelling him/her as an enemy.

  15. "being friends doesn't mean I automatically agree with your views."
    of course i know that. no doubt about it. but it doesn't mean we can't debate or rebut, right?

    my view is that with your kind of view you SOUND like an umnoputera (and i added 'it's your personal opinion'). i never said you ARE an umnoputera (that is label you as one). that is a fact. what you had said were what mostly the umnoputera said (esp. about the sensitivity part and implying a hidden agenda from fr. lawrence).

    btw, you shouldn't question fr. lawrence's morality since it was not what HE wanted (to use allah). the herald are distributed to sabah and sarawak too and the use of allah is for the catholics sabahans and sarawakians. the use of allah in the herald doesn't involve fr. lawrence alone, so questioning his insistence to use it, is not fair. he alone cannot made a decision. it was not him alone who want to use allah. what he alone do or not do will affect many people.

  16. Hello KT

    Can you elaborate as to where to obtain a copy of the new tranlation of the Malay bible that you highlighted in your post.

    Thank you.

  17. anon of 4:49 pm, I can't. My awareness of its existence comes from what Fr Lawrence Andrew told AFP and his dissatisfaction with the 'Elohim' word in place of 'Allah' in that new Malay-language Bible.

  18. Matthew 23:9. Jesus said, And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven."

    The Christian has been confusing mankind since the time of Paul.

    Jesus don't even recognized his followers as Christian.

    They follow the teaching of Paul instead of Jesus. They pray to Jesus instead of Almighty God the Creator.

    Christian can't even agree which bible versions to be used and which Church to go every Sunday.

    The Christian missionaries have hijack the word Allah which mean the One and Only Almighty and confused the Sabahah and Sarawakian.

    The Christian missionaries have killed millions of Muslim in Philippine and just imagine all the filipino were Muslim those days but now they are coming back to Islam " balik Islam".


    Christianity are so confusing especially to believe in Trinity which is never the teaching of Jesus. Can we accept Jesus as Allah or son of Allah?

    The American and European are leaving Christianity and in Malaysia they fighting for the word " Allah" which mean Tuhan yang Esa not Jesus, god the son or god the father.


    We should welcome everyone to used the word Allah but the password is so easy.

    " We believe that is no other God but Allah and we believe that Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Isa are the messengers of Allah"

    Welcome my friends

    Oh Allah, the Almighty God the Creator show us the truth and save us from the hell fire.


  19. Well, let a former EM pastor now a PHD and lecturing in Singapore answer some of your questions:

    (I don't want to be cheong hei lah)


  20. Oh, btw, do read the comments as well

  21. Missed you much.
    A sane post.
    To me it's simple.
    If Muslims don't like you to call Allah, then dont.
    Why want to play, play with religion.
    If I am a Christian, I am not interested in calling god Allah.
    Do you hear Muslims calling Jesus as Christ.
    They call him Nabi Isa.
    I am speaking as a normal, regular Muslim.

  22. aiyah....you can never win talking to people who think malaysia belong only to their grandfathers...

    SO, the best solution is... from now on, Malays will call their Allah as "Allah Melayu" exclusively, Advantage is we can differentiate Allah Melayu from Allah Arab, Allah India, Allah Cina so on and so forth.

    East Malaysian Christians irrespective of race who wish to call their God as Allah can use the term "Allah Christian"

    Hope this help to solve the impasse.

    Allah Christian wakbar!!!

  23. Cherasusie is a fine example of why things are happening now.
    She is saying Allah's name in vain.
    If you don't know much, just SHUT UP.
    If you wanna fight, fight with humans, stupid.

  24. Ding a Ling,
    Since when we never say God's name in vain. If you go by religion term, discussing God's name is already saying God in vain.

    "The new Malay bible weakens the argument for using the word Allah because some groups are trying to substitute God with a foreign name, whereas Allah is the Malay word for God and has been the accepted translation for centuries."

    Frankly, I don't have issues with that statement. In fact, Father Lawrence is right. By doing so, not only some groups is trying to substitute God name with another name, these group would dictate this name should be used. In fact, it's written all over. Ya for the sake of harmony
    When this is allowed, it leads down to cultural nazism.

    May I ask what are the Sabahans, Sarawakians, orang aslis' stand & rights on this? With such suggestion, at one swop, their basic right has been violated.
    With such turn of events including the High Court case, I think it would be wise to maintain status quo. That's before the Allah ban

    Remember! It's not Christian is affected. Your beloved Karpal Singh too affected. If your susgestion allowed & ultimatedly would be imposed. Then, Sikh holy book would be changed.
    Then what! Have a punjabi name for God.

    What next! Tangled web. Aiyaa....Stick to status quo. Stick to Lau Bee Lan's judgement. Stick to original constitituition. Don't suggest anything stupid!

    Why not we discuss some state anthems with Allah in it? What then? Where are these gonna settled?
    And the international community. The Indonesians? There are malays there too. They use Allah too. Ah so how????
    I can give you thousand & 1 scenarios that would leave people having split hairs till they die standing

    Lets waste time in doing something more productive

  25. Sikh's prayer should not be affected as it's not conducted in Malay. I believe the language used is Punjabi hehehe!

    It seems nowadays in Malaysia on both sides of the political fence, that unless one agrees with their respective views, one would be considered stupid wakakaka.

  26. Tuhan will do.
    Everbody knows its Malay for God.
    Your God, my God and our God.

  27. 60's - bolih makan babi everywhere - malays suffered?

    70 - gomen ofis no babi - non malays ok

    80 - big hotels no babi - non malays ok

    - market - babi one corner - non malays no problem

    - no babi in tv - non malays also ok

    90 - malays no babi in kg - non malays ok

    20 - propose babi no in some states - riot police tried to demolish pig sties

    21 - chinese cannot makan babi - kt, also ok? bolih makan lain bah....

    can't gomen do useful things than to make own people fights.

    bumi will not stop asking more if gomen keep spoiling them while no new oil well found....go look for more investments so enough to give your spoilt sons.

  28. Cherasusie is a confirmed racist.
    At furst it was just a hunch and now i know for sure.
    See the world Chinkie.
    Do you see babi hanging and sold everyhere in Beijing.
    Do you see Chinese spitting in Singapore?

  29. good that youre back.
    janganlah takut bilik gelap kerana takut hantu. kalau takut gelap, pasang lampu saja, kalau kena potong kerana tak bayar, pergin bayar. kalau metol terbakar, pergin beli yang baru. jangan binasakan bilik pulak. if there are confused minorites, educate them now if already missed the many oppurtunities so far, there is enough resource to do so. please dont let it be. it is every muslims godly duty to do so.
    there is no hidden agenda brother.
    the fact is the gobenmen did not allow the bible to be translated to bahasa knowing very well the majority of chatolics are bahasa speaking from east malaysia. so sabahans and sarawakian got the bahasa version of bible from indonesia, their neighbour.
    the weekly catolic paper that is also distributed in east malaysia, penisular and singapore goes in 4 languages, engligh, mandarin, bahasa and tamil.
    this botak fella brought up this issue only in 2007! is the gobenmen claiming ignorance all that while? is it that on that black day in 2007 (which coincidentally was nearing election) happen to read the weekly newpaper (which ironically should not be in his hands to begin with unless he got a copy from the church!!) and came across the word for the first time?
    i still believe there should have been consultation between the different faiths, but again this was not allowed. instead the gobenmen decided to let it go to the courts. now saying church has hidden agenda. this is not fair la brother.

    btw, it is blashemous in both religions to claim there is more than one god. there is only one god regardless of what we refer as. this is a personal preference and depends on the language one is comfortable with. i will not use the word, i am confortable with english.

  30. satan : " ....hehehe...hahahaha....!"

    it's fun watching stupid humans killing one another ...NO need for the earth-quake destroying us ALL,
    soon shall come the 21-12-2012 !!

  31. ...then the issue on Allah , kowtim !

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  34. Bible led me to the truth