God (inherited from the Latin deus, itself from an Indo-European root * deiwos, “a divinity”, from the base *dei-, “glow, shine”) designates a supreme being or force structuring the universe; it is according to the beliefs either of a person, or of a philosophical or religious concept. Founding principle in monotheistic religions, God is the supreme, unique, transcendent, universal being, creator of all things, endowed with absolute perfection, constituting the principle of salvation for humanity and who is revealed in the course of ‘history. As a philosophical entity, God is the principle of explanation and unity of the universe.
The actual existence of a supreme being and the political, philosophical, scientific, social and psychological implications that flow from it are the subject of much debate throughout history, with monotheistic believers calling for faith, while it is contested on philosophical and religious grounds by free-thinkers, agnostics, atheists or believers without God.
The notion of God has a considerable cultural impact, particularly in music, literature, cinema, painting, and more generally in the arts. The representation of God and the way to name God vary according to the times and belief systems.
The word “god” comes from the Latin deus, itself derived from the Indo-European root dei– “shining” which, broadened into deiwo– and dyew-, is used to designate the luminous sky as a divinity as well as human beings. celestial as opposed to earthly beings, men. Closely linked to this notion of light, it is the oldest Indo-European name of the divinity which is found in the name of the Greek god Zeus whose genitive is Dios. From the same root comes the designation of daylight (diurnal) and day itself (dies in Latin).
In the French language, the word is attested from the very first French text, the Serments of Strasbourg, in 842 under the forms Deo in the case of the regime and Deus in the case of the subject. In this text, the term designates with a capital letter the divinity of Christian monotheism. We then find Deu and Dieu in the 11th and 12th centuries4. It also indicates a deity of polytheism from the 12th century. Considered as a proper name, the name “Dieu ” then takes on a capital letter as well as the metonymies or pronouns which are substituted for it.
The terms which designate God in the Germanic languages (𐌲𐌿𐌸 Guþ in Gothic, Gott in German, God in English and Dutch, Gud in the Scandinavian languages, Guð in Icelandic) have another origin, also Indo-European, linked to the notion of “call” or “invocation”. Its earliest written mention is in the Codex Argenteus, in the 6th century. This Codex is a copy of the translation of the Bible made according to the alphabet invented by Bishop Wulfila two centuries earlier.
The terms that designate God in the Slavic languages (Бог in Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian; Bog in Croatian; Bóg in Polish; Bůh in Czech) come from Proto-Slavic bogъ itself from the Indo-European bhag-.
In the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), the sacred Name par excellence is written YHWH and is not pronounced.
The name of “God” in Arabic is “Allah” (الله) from the pre-Islamic Arabic ʾilāh-.
In the calendar, the name Sunday comes from the title “Lord” given in most Christian religions to both God and Jesus. It is also given indirectly, in several Romance languages, on Thursday, formerly dedicated to Jupiter.
Difficulty of definition
The concept of God has very diverse religious and metaphysical aspects, which makes its definition particularly difficult. Some authors even believe that God is so great that he escapes any attempt to define it in human words. This is particularly the case for those who take an apophatic approach. Thus, for example, Jean Scot Erigène could write:
“We don’t know what God is. God himself does not know what he is because he is not something. Literally God is not, because he transcends being.”
And Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite:
“There, in affirmative theology, our discourse descended from the superior to the inferior and then widened as it descended; but now that we ascend from the lower to the Transcendent, our discourse is reduced in proportion to our ascent. When we reach the end we will be totally silent and fully united with the Unspeakable.”
– Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, From mystical theology.