A wise man, Alexander Pope, wrote in 1711 that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” So here I go into the topic of ... religion.

A wise man, Alexander Pope, wrote in 1711 that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” So here I go into the topic of ... religion.

The word “God,” the fourth word to appear in the King James Bible I use, is an Old English term that Webster’s says is akin to the German “gott” and the Gothic “guth.” Those probably came from an Indo-European base that meant “to call out, invoke.”

Old English was the dominant language spoken in England from around A.D. 450 to 1100. So “God” is a relatively new word for an old concept.

The Latin word for “god” — “deus” — is linked to a different Indo-European base, one that meant “to gleam, shine.” This also is the base for the Latin “dies” (“day”), the Sanskrit “deva” (“god”) and the Greek “Zeus,” the chief deity in that mythology.

The God of the Bible is also sometimes referred to as “the Deity.”

The oldest texts of the Bible, however, are in Hebrew. The ancient Hebrew name for God was represented as four consonants — YHWH or some variant — later called the Tetragrammaton, from the Greek for “four” and “letters.”

It was a name considered too sacred to be said aloud, so substitutes were created by inserting vowels or vowel sounds. For speaking, the name was “Adonai”; for texts, it was “Adonai” or “Elohim.”

Interestingly, both words also appear to have Arabic connections. “Adonai,” “my Lord” in Hebrew, is from the northwestern Semitic term for “lord,” “Adon” or “Adun,” which may be akin to the Arabic “idhn,” for “command.”

The Hebrew “elohim” is the plural of “eloah,” meaning “God.” The name given the God of Islam, “Allah,” is derived from the Arabic “al,” meaning “the,” and “ilah,” “god.” The latter, says Webster’s, is akin to “eloah.”

Later reconstructions of “YHWH” yielded “Yahweh” (and several variations) and “Jehovah.”

The phrase “the Lord God” first appears in the second chapter of Genesis in the King James Bible. The word “Lord” has a more earthly origin.

It has been traced to the Old English “hlafweard,” a combination of words meaning “loaf” (the portion of bread) and “ward” (to protect or keep). So the original sense of “hlafweard” was “loaf keeper” — in other words, “one who feeds dependents.” (This brings to mind the story of the Lord Jesus and the loaves and fishes.)

Associated Press style is to capitalize all noun references to the deity of all monotheistic religions, including “God,” “Allah,” “Holy Spirit,” “the Creator” and so on. But personal pronouns (“he,” “his,” “thy” and so forth) referring to the deity, as well as to Jesus, are lowercase.

It’s easy to find people who believe this is a recent innovation, perhaps influenced by godless intellectuals. But such pronouns are lowercase in the King James, too. It’s a matter of style choice, not right or wrong.

Similarly, “Bible” and other nouns referring to it or parts of it, such as “the Word,” “the Good Book,” “the Scriptures” and “the Gospels,” are capitalized. But the adjective “biblical” is not — an AP style choice — nor are nonreligious uses of “bible” — “her cookbook is my kitchen bible.”

Other AP rulings: “heaven” and “hell” are lowercase, but Hades is capped; “angel” and “devil” are lowercase, “Satan” is capped.

Before I close the book on this subject, another word about the Word. “Bible” was a Middle English and Old French word that came from the Medieval Latin and Greek “biblia” for “collection of writings.” In Ecclesiastical Late Greek, “biblia,” the plural of “biblion” (“book”), referred to the Scriptures.

The ultimate origin of the word is “biblos,” from the Phoenician city of “Byblos,” from which papyrus was imported.

The texts of the Bible have had a long journey through several translations, and so has the word.

Contact Barry Wood at bwood@rrstar.com or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.