Some Christians bowdlerise words like "God", writing it as "G-d" or even "G d". This practice is likely inspired by the Jewish practice to do similar. But while some Jews explain their practice as a means to ensure that the names of God including the word "God" are never thrown out, I have never heard any Christians give such an explanation, which seems to me to be both more legalistic and more mystical than is found in most branches of Christianity. And it doesn't seem to square with how God inspired the authors of the Bible: considering that the New Testament's use of κύριος (lord) for the Tetragrammaton could be considered a bowdlerisation, if this practice was God's intention, it seems to me that he could easily have inspired the New Testmanent's authors to do likewise for θεός (god).

What reasons do these Christians give for this practice? Why is it sufficient to obscure one letter but still write the two consonants, shouldn't the whole word be avoided? (Do they also avoid writing words like "godly"?) And do they explain why, if it's either wrong or imprudent to write "God" in English, God did not inspire the Biblical authors to avoid the Hebrew and Greek words for "god"?

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    But Christians did bowdlerize. The real example is the spelling θς.
    – b a
    Jan 3, 2019 at 13:55
  • @ba True, I'd forgotten about nomina sacra. I'm not sure I'd call them bowdlerisations though. Are there really manuscripts that never have the unabbreviated θεός? I've never heard of that, but if there are then I'll have to heavily edit my question.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 3, 2019 at 14:44
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    I've asked a question at BHSE about whether it is thought that the NT autographs used nomina sacra. If textual criticism deems that unlikely, then my point that this practice seems out of step with what God inspired stands.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 3, 2019 at 14:58
  • Related christianity.stackexchange.com/q/67403/23657
    – User 14
    Jan 3, 2019 at 15:37
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    Can you provide an example from the Internet / book / journal of this usage? Investigating the authors can then provide a research starting point. Dec 4, 2019 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


In Christianity there are hundreds of denominations and subgroups of Baptist, Pentacostal, Methodist, Lutheran, Church of Christ, Church of God- Cleveland, vs Church of God Holiness, and countless splits over the centuries, so it's impossible to know all the subtle teachings.

I have been in ministry in 3 countries - USA and 2 in Europe and and lived in 11 states, and while I'm familiar with this practice, it's not the official teaching or practice of any Christian denomination that I know of.

I'm not disputing that some Christians do this, but the point is that it is usually some variation of Hebrew Roots movement, or Messianic Jewish groups, and like the practice of snake handling, it is a fringe practice and would be a fraction of 1%, and is not representative of mainstream Protestant Christianity.

To answer your question - let's assume there is a branch of Hebrew Roots Movement that uses this, or some other offshoot fundamentalist sect that teaches this. The origin of this practice comes from the Jewish concept that the name of God is so holy that you can't utter it - This was specifically for the special name of God YHWH, which is transliterated as Yahweh.

This was extended from not pronouncing this sacred name of God, to not writing it out fully.

This was not a strict command in the Torah that you can't write or say God's name, even for Jews, [5 books of the Law] nor is it in the Old Testament. It came about by Jewish tradition.

As you indicate, there are many other names for God in both the Old and New Testament, and these names indicate his special attributes and character- Elohim, Adonai, Lord, Christ, Alpha and Omega, the Great I AM, Kinsman Redeemer, Everlasting Father, Jesus, Emmanuel, El Shaddai, Yeshua Ha mashiach and many others.

If God didn't want us to say or write God's name, then Jesus would not have used God's name in the Model Prayer, when he taught the disciples how to pray, "Our Father, who art in Heavean, hallowed/holy is your name."

Also, the fact that we have dozens of names all through the Bible, it's very inconsistent and legalistic to arbitrarily choose one to write with only consonants like G-d.

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    What reasons do these Christians give for this practice? Your post does not give a sourced or linked answer to this question.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 28, 2020 at 0:44
  • As I mentioned, it's a subset of a subset - small fraction of a percent, and is not practiced by any Denomination to my knowledge, but I'm familiar with the practice, because I've studied Jewish culture. And as I also mentioned, the source comes from Jewish tradition - which is why I said that this practice is most likely connected with protestants connected with or fascinated with the Hebrew roots movement, or some Messianic Jewish congregations. It's more obscure than snake handling in Protestant churches .
    – Tennman7
    Dec 28, 2020 at 1:54
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    Thus this is more or less your opinion on the matter in lack of documentation.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 28, 2020 at 1:57
  • My understanding is it is basically a sign of respect to those who do not pronounce (voice) the word G-d.
    – SLM
    Jan 27, 2021 at 5:13
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    @KenGraham Given that the question talks about what "some Christians" do, the answer seems to be sourced as well as the question. Rather than criticizing the answer, it would make more sense to close the question until it can provide some concrete examples of the phenomenon it asserts.
    – Kyralessa
    Mar 22, 2021 at 15:51

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