God in the Chinese Language

There are a few different words used in the Chinese language to speak about God and heaven. Each one, by it's etymology tells us something about the spiritual Sovereign that is common to the ancient Chinese and the Hebrew Scriptures.

God - El Shaddai
Emperor Shun worshiped ShangTi, literally, the heavenly emperor. It is interesting to note the phonetic similarity between this Chinese identification of God and the Hebrew, Shaddai (Almighty).

God - Creator
God is also represented in the Chinese language by the word Shén. This word may be written in two different forms (see to the right and below). The etymology of this image reveals details about God's work in creation. On the left side of the character, we see an image meaning to REVEAL or DECLARE. Over and over in the Biblical creation account, we are told that "...God said..." (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, NKJV). The Psalmist declared of God's work of creation:

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the hosts of them by the breath of His mouth ... For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. (Psalm 33:6, 9, NKJV)

On the right side of the character, two images are intertwined. There, we find a MAN and a GARDEN. Man, the crowning jewel of God's creation (Genesis 1:26), was placed in the garden of Eden. Moses recorded,

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (Genesis 2:8, NKJV)

God - Spirit
Ling is another word that can be used to refer to God. In a Chinese Bible, this word is used to refer to the Holy Spirit. The etymology of Ling reveals that the ancient Chinese had knowledge of the three persons of the Godhead! In the upper half of this character, there is pictured ONE who COVERS the WATERS. The creation account in the Hebrew Scriptures reveals that

...the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2, NKJV)

In the lower portion of Ling, there seems to be a reference to the three persons of the Godhead. It pictures three PERSONS together. Below these, we see the character for a WORKER OF MAGIC, bringing to mind the miraculous power of God at work in creation. In this latter image, the three persons of God are pictured yet again. At first glance, it breaks down to two PERSONS and the image for WORK. However, the vertical line (see highlighted) in WORK may also represent a PERSON. A horizontal line may mean ONE as in the upper portion of Ling, but it can also represent ENTIRE, WHOLE or ALL. The two horizontal lines in this image may be a reference to the heavens and earth which resulted from the work of God's miraculous power.

God - Heaven
Tian can refer to the sky or heavens, but when we look at the etymology of the image, we see something even greater. It speaks of the One who is beyond the sky! The two characters used to create Tian are GREAT and ONE. Indeed, ShàngTi is the GREAT ONE!

These four characters, ShàngTi, Shén, Ling, and Tian, all refer to God Almighty, and agree with the testimony of the Hebrew Scriptures. In them, we see the authority of God, His work as the Creator of all things, the three persons of the Godhead, and the greatness of God extolled. Some might consider the agreement between the Chinese characters and the Hebrew Scriptures to be coincidental. If it is, then it is quite a coincidence! But, there is much more evidence yet to come.

by William J. Stewart

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