Question: Was YHWH just a pagan solar deity IAO?

[Draft: Aug 27/2009]

I got this question on the name of God…

Dear Glenn

My name is X123 and I was wondering if you can help me. I'm a Christian and some time ago I was looking on a website about God's name YHWH in Hebrew and it said that in Greek it was written as Iao which means Iota alpha omega. So I looked it up on Wikipedia and the person who wrote the article said that Iao was called 'the god of the seven rays' and it was a sun god. So I had another look around and I found out that Iao was also used in Gnosticism and it was associated with the chnoubis which is an Egyptian Gnostic solar icon and that has seven rays coming out of the head. If you can would you look into it for me… I'm a bit confused with it.


Oddly enough, the use of IAO by the post-NT Gnostics was specifically DONE to confuse its audience—so their practice of borrowing names from antecedent religious systems is still working! (smile).

[and, btw, the Wikipedia resources on this topic point out that they are based on a 19th century scholarly work, which has long been superseded by more current research.]

Here’s the basic facts on this:

One. Yahweh is the ‘unofficial’ pronunciation of the four consonants of the Tanach/OT name of God: YHWH (yod, he, wav, he). Since the biblical Hebrew text has no vowel markings in it (more or less—some exceptions occur, since some consonants were USED as vowels sometimes—like the English letter ‘y’), it is conjecture as to whether the ‘a’ and ‘e’ of Yahweh are original.

“Yahweh is the name of the official god of Israel, both in the northern kingdom and in Judah. Since the Achaemenid period, religious scruples led to the custom of not pronoucing the name of Yahweh; in the liturgy as well as in everyday life, such expressions as ‘the Lord’ (ʾădōnāy, lit. ‘my Lord’, LXX κύριος) or ‘the Name’ were substituted for it. As a matter of consequence, the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton was gradually lost: the Masoretic form ‘Jehovah’ is in reality a combination of the consonants of the tetragrammaton with the vocals of ʾădōnāy, the ḥaṭēf pataḥ of ʾădōnāy becoming a mere shewa because of the yodh of yhwh (Alfrink 1948). The transcription ‘Yahweh’ is a scholarly convention, based on such Greek transcriptions as Ιαουε/ Ιαουαι (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5, 6, 34, 5), Ιαβε/ Ιαβαι (Epiphanius of Salamis, Adv. Haer. 1, 3, 40, 5 and Theodoretus of Cyrrhus, Quaest. in Ex. XV; Haer. fab. comp. 5, 3). [Toorn, K. v. d., Becking, B., & Horst, P. W. v. d. (1999). Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible DDD (2nd extensively rev. ed.) (910). Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans.]

Two. However, the consonants have a long history in the historical texts, so there are literary remains that use the ancient Hebrew consonantal letters as far back as the 11th century BC . This Hebrew name of God pre-dates Gnosticism by at least a millennium.

“Its (the name YHWH) earliest appearances are in the Song of Deborah (Judges 5; which has been dated to the 11th century b.c.), on the Mesha Stele (9th century; ANET, 320), in an ostracon from Kuntillet ˓Ajrud (8th century; Freedman 1987: 246), and in the Arad and Lachish Letters (6th century; ANET, 569, 322). … To move outside of the Levant, we find Egyptian name lists which include a Syrian site, Ya-h-wa (No. 97), which is identical to Yahweh. A Rameses II (1304–1237 b.c.) list is found in a Nubian temple in ˓Amarah West with six names (Nos. 93–98) following the designation “Bedouin area.” Nos. 96–98 have been found at Soleb in Nubia on an Amon temple of Amenhotep III (1417–1379). No. 93, Sa-˓ra-r, has been identified with Seir (Edom) and related to the biblical references (Deut 33:2) which associate Yahweh with Seir and Paran. This could be taken as evidence the name was known in Edom or Midianite territory ca. 1400 b.c. (EncRel 7: 483–84). … However, Astour (IDBSup, 971) notes that the writing “S-r-r” is incorrect as opposed to the spelling in other Egyptian inscriptions. Furthermore, three of the sites, including Yi-ha, on Rameses III’s temple in Medinet Habu, are in a Syrian context suggesting that Ya-h-wa/Yi-ha was also in Syria. Thus the name is not associated with Edom or Midianites but does seem to appear as early as 1400 b.c. in Syria. … From a later time, the 8th century b.c., two Aramean princes have names with the element “Yau.” This has been taken to mean that some Arameans may have worshipped Yahweh (Rankin 1950: 95). This could relate to the earlier connection of the Patriarchs with the Arameans, e.g., Jacob’s sojourn with Laban, the eponymous ancestor of the Arameans (Genesis 29–31). The divine name is not found in any cuneiform texts. … The formative -yw in some personal names from Ugarit (ca. 14th century b.c.) is not a divine element and has no connection with the name Yahweh. [Freedman, D. N. (1996, c1992). The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6:1012). New York: Doubleday, s.v. “Yahweh”]

Three. When the Hebrew bible begins to be translated into Greek, most indications are that the Hebrew letters YHWH were NOT actually transliterated into IAO (iota, alpha, omega)—they were written in Hebrew letters inside the Greek text, so the fact that the deity under discussion was the Hebrew god and not some other deity (named 'IAO') was fairly clear.

“At the end of the last century, Giovanni Cardinal Mercati discovered a palimpsest in the Ambrosian Library of Milan containing parts of the Psalter to Origen’s Hexapla (lacking the Hebrew column). All the columns show the Tetragrammaton written in square Aramaic script, although the texts are otherwise written in Greek. …Fragments of Psalm 22 from Origen’s Hexapla, found in the Cairo geniza, were published in 1900 by C. Taylor. These fragments show the Tetragrammaton written into the Greek columns of Aquila, Symmachus, and the Septuagint in the strange form of PIPI. This is a clumsy attempt to represent with Greek letters what the Tetragrammaton looked like in Hebrew. The Greek letter pi somewhat resembles the Hebrew letter he. … The Fuad papyrus scroll is the earliest example we have examined, dating to the first or second century B.C. Here for the first time we have clear evidence that in pre-Christian times the Septuagint, at least sometimes, did not translate the divine name with the Greek word kyrios as had been thought; rather it preserved the Hebrew word YHWH itself. Could it be that Jews had always written the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew into the text of their Greek Bibles and that this practice represented a continuous tradition from the earliest Septuagint through the second century translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion? Or is the Fuad manuscript a maverick, the only one in its day to do such a thing? … In 1952, fragments of a scroll of the Twelve Prophets in Greek were found in a cave at Nahal Hever in the Judean Desert. Père D. Barthelemy announced the discovery of the scroll in 1953 and ten years later published a transcription of it. In all probability the document dates to the beginning of the first Christian century. Like the Fuad papyrus it too writes the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew—in old style script—in an otherwise Greek text. … At Qumran cave 4, a fragment of the Greek translation of Leviticus confirms that the divine name was preserved in the pre-Christian Septuagint. In this scroll, dated by P. W. Skehan to the first century B.C., the Tetragrammaton is transliterated with the Greek letters IAO.” [Editor, H. S. (2004; 2004). BAR 04:01 (March 1978). Biblical Archaeology Society.; note that even when the biblical text was in Greek, when written by a Jew or Christian, the name was generally given as YHWH in Hebrew—and NOT as “Iao”.

[In the existing 'mainstream' LXX, YHWH is rendered as kyrios/LORD most of the time, and the divine name is not preserved in post-NT LXX versions. The one semi-exception is in the LXX for 1 Chron 8.10 in which the name Jeuz is rendered Iaos. ]

Four. But as early as the 2nd century BC—still 300 years before Gnosticism and magical praxis begins to use the name—we have the rendering of YHWH into IAO (but I have no idea how they came up with iota, alpha, omega from yod, he, vav/waw, he—or even for the shortened term yahu). But it is not uniformly rendered as “IAO”—it takes on different forms. IAO is not a ‘fixed’ term here—as would be the case if it were referring to some predecessor deity. The ‘Greek version’ of YHWH shows up in at least 5 different forms—indicating both that the pronunciation/vocalization had been lost and that some ‘fixed name deity IAO’ was not being referred to.

“The generally acknowledged vocalization “Yahweh” is a reconstruction that draws on several lines of evidence. The longer of the two reduced suffixing forms of the divine name, yāh and yāhû, indicates that the name probably had the phonetic shape /yahw-/ with a final vowel. The vowel is supplied on the basis of the observation that the name derives from a verbal root hwy, which would require the final vowel /ē/; this inference is confirmed by the element yahwı̄ occurring in names in the Amorite language (see TDOT 5: 512; the relevance of the Amorite names is challenged by Knauf 1984: 467). In the Aramaic letters from Elephantine in Egypt (ca. 400 b.c.; ANET, 491–92), the divine name occurs in the spelling yhw, probably with the vocalization /yahû/ (TDOT 5: 505). Instances of the divine name written in Greek letters, such as Iao (equivalent to “Yaho”), Iabe (known to the Samaritans, Theodoret [4th century a.d.], and Epiphanius), Iaoue, Iaouai (Clement of Alexandria [3d century]), and Iae also favor the form “Yahweh” (NWDB, 453). [Freedman, D. N. (1996, c1992). The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6:1012). New York: Doubleday.]

The transcription ‘Yahweh’ is a scholarly convention, based on such Greek transcriptions as Ιαουε/ Ιαουαι (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5, 6, 34, 5), Ιαβε/ Ιαβαι (Epiphanius of Salamis, Adv. Haer. 1, 3, 40, 5 and Theodoretus of Cyrrhus, Quaest. in Ex. XV; Haer. fab. comp. 5, 3). [Toorn, K. v. d., Becking, B., & Horst, P. W. v. d. (1999). Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible DDD (2nd extensively rev. ed.) (910). Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans.; Notice that ‘IAO’ is not a standard form per se—the IAOUE/IAOUAI/IABE/IABAI variants should show that.]

Five. But this IAO was not understood as anything other than the name of the Jewish god, and it an original Jewish term—and not a ‘pagan’ one—showing up in Jewish Aramaic documents in the 5th century BC. So even in the earliest passages in which it is rendered as IAO, it is either explicitly or implicitly referring to the biblical God of the Jews .

“Iao as the name of the Jewish God is first mentioned by Diodorus Siculus (Bibliotheca Historica, 1, 94:2) and by Varro (cited in Lydus, De Mensibus, IV, 53). It is an original Jewish term which is well attested by the Aramaic papyri from Elephantine from the Persian period (A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Cen­tury, Oxford 1923, pp. 16, 66, 70, 85, 99, mf., H9f., 125,135,149,162; E. G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri, New Haven 1953, pp. 84f., 132,142,154,168, 192, 236, 238, 248, 250, 270, 272). It does not occur in the textus receptus of the Septuagint, "having become a vocabulum ineffabile for the Jews" (Stern, GLAJJ, vol. i, p. 172), but it does appear on a fragment of the Septuagint version of Leviticus, probably from the first century B.C.E., thus exactly from the same time as Diodorus (O. Eissfeldt, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, Tubingen 3i964, p. 960).” [Phobix, p. 232, note 128]

Six. Beginning fairly early, Greek historians and writers who discussed Judaism used IAO as a reference to the Jewish god, and did not identify YHWH with some ‘solar deity IAO’. [There were solar deities, of course, but when the Jewish God is mentioned in connection with them, it is as a superior and all-encompassing God—not as an explicitly ‘solar deity’—see discussion below.]

This extended quote from Van Kooten’s article (“Moses and His God Yahwh, Iao, and Sabaoth”) in his work The Revelation of the Name YHWH to Moses: Perspectives from Judaism, the Pagan Graeco-Roman World, and Early Christianity (Van Kooten ed.; Brill:2006, pp126-128) shows that IAO was always a derivative name, based on the Jewish deity, and not some non-biblical deity:

“Having analysed the varied reception which Moses received from pagan Greek authors, I shall now focus on the question of whether these sources show any awareness of the name of Moses' God. We have already come across three relevant instances. (1) First, in first-century bc Rome Alexander Polyhistor included information from Artapanus in his encyclopaedic ethnography, regarded Moses as iden­tical with Musaeus, and narrated at some length the story of God's revelation to Moses. The account describes the powerful impact of the name of the Lord of the universe on the Egyptian king and his entourage as soon as this name was uttered or read from a tablet. (2) Secondly, Diodorus Siculus, a near-contemporary of Alexander Polyhistor, designates the name of Moses' God as Iao, and consid­ers Moses to have ascribed his self-made laws to his God, in accor­dance with the general custom among ancient peoples. (3) Thirdly, Strabo interprets the Jewish God as 'the nature of all that exists', thereby probably alluding to the ontological meaning of his name. (4) Fourthly, like Diodorus Siculus, Philo of Byblos also mentions the name 'lao', this time in the form of Ieuo, whose priest Hierombolus is named as the source of Sanchuniathon's history of the Jews, allegedly written before the Trojan War. (5) And fifthly, Numenius shows himself aware of the ontological meaning of Yahweh's name.

Other passages in pagan Greek writers which refer to the name of Moses' God can be added to the list. (6) The first-century medical author Dioscorides mentions lao's name in a prayer in a work by the name of On the Peony (Tlepl naicoviag). Dioscorides, who studied under Areius of Tarsus, was known mainly for his extensive De materia medica, in which he lists the effects of drugs employed in medicine and alludes to products of Judaea (Stern, Nos. 179—184). In this con­text, he gives the characteristics of herbs, minerals, and animal prod­ucts. Although De materia medica is characterized as 'relatively free of supernatural elements, reflecting keen, critical observation of how drugs react,’ it is clear that Dioscorides did not entirely reject the supernatural; in the passage in question in On the Peony (not men­tioned in Stern), Dioscorides implores God as follows: 'Wherever I am in the cosmos, which is subject to me, be thou with me, lord God Iao, Iao' (edn. Zuretti 1934, 166). This pas­sage shows the degree to which lao's name was known among the Greeks, and was also invoked by them. This also happens frequently in (7) the Greek magical papyri in late antiquity.

Another occurrence of Iao's name is found in (8) the remaining fragments of Varro, the great Roman scholar from the first-century bc. In a fragment which probably formed part of his On Human and Divine Matters of Antiquities, in which he studies the human construc­tion of the divine, Varro says 'that among the Chaldaeans, in their mysteries, he (i.e. the God of the Jews) is called "Iao"' (Varro, edn. B. Cardauns, frg. 17; Stern, No. 75). This passage from Varro, pre­served in the sixth-century Lydus from Constantinople, is directly followed in Lydus by a reference to (9) Philo of Byblos, according to whom—Lydus says—'Iao, in the Phoenician tongue, refers to the noetic light' (Lydus, De mensibus 4.53 = FGrH 790, frg. 7; Stern, No. 324). This addition shows that Philo of Byblos indeed appears to have known the Jewish God not only as 'Ieuo' (as we have seen above; Stern, No. 323), but also as 'lao'. The actual fragment from Varro serves to underscore the fact that in the first century bc the information about the name of the Jewish God found its way into various encyclopaedic works: not only those by Alexander Polyhistor and Diodorus Siculus as discussed above, but also Varro himself. …

From all these instances it becomes clear that the name Iao was fairly well-known in the Graeco-Roman world. Sometimes Iao was also explicitly coupled with the figure of Moses, as we can see from Alexander Polyhistor and Diodorus Siculus. For this reason Celsus even regards Moses as the actual name-giver of the Jewish God.

Seven. After the Greek rendering of IAO becomes widespread among pagan writers, it is borrowed by the Gnostics and magical practitioners of the 2nd century (like they borrowed every other deity’s name in the world!—to try to accomplish their magical and/or expansionist goals). It was an explicitly syncretistic system, and one that often used words that were not understood or even made no sense.

“Judaism and the Greek Magical Papyri The importance and popularity of Jewish magic in the Greco-Roman world can be partially gauged by the influence that it apparently exerted on pagan magical practices. One of the more striking examples of this influence is seen in the popularity of the Jewish names for God used in pagan magical procedures. Such names as Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, and Eloe occur frequently (Preisendanz [hereafter PGM], IV, 1577; V, 481; VII, 400; XXXVI, 42; XLIII, 13), often in combination (Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloai, and Abrasax are found together in PGM, XXXVI, 42; Adonai, Eloai, Abraam in V, 481; Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloai, in XLIII, 13). Furthermore, biblical names appear, e.g., Adam (PGM, III, 146), Abraham (VII, 315, 481), and Moses (XIII, 970; VII, 619); so also do the names of angels from Jewish tradition (Michael in PGM, I, 301; III, 148; VII, 609; Gabriel in XLIII, 23; VII, 1018; Raphael in XXXV, 3; III, 212; and others). Moreover, a number of magical names and words end in -oth, a typical Semitic ending. … Several magical papyri exhibit a particularly striking Jewish influence. PGM, XIII, e.g., is a complex composition entitled “Eighth Book of Moses,” embodying several earlier documents and traditions. It includes the “Key of Moses” (XIII, 21) and another section that begins with the description, “The sacred secret book of Moses called the eighth or holy” (XIII, 343f). The subscriptio of the composition appears in line 730 as “The Eighth Hidden Book of Moses,” but the author has supplied an alternate title as well: “In another copy it was written, ‘The Hidden Book of Moses on the Great Name, that for Everything, in which is the Name of the One Who Rules All.” At the conclusion of the papyrus (lines 1077f) is another subscriptio, “The Tenth Hidden Book of Moses.” These varied titles indicate that the document has had a very long and complex literary history. The content is predominantly pagan, despite a veneer of Jewish magical and religious traditions. Another, much shorter, document is called “From the Diadem of Moses” (PGM, VII, 619–627). It is apparently an excerpt from a much larger collection and contains formulas for invisibility and for attracting the love of women. The divine names Iao, Sabaoth, and Adonai are part of the incantation (lines 626f). … Thus the Greek magical papyri provide evidence both that Jewish magic was influential upon its pagan counterpart, and that (as in the OT), pagan magic had a profound impact upon Jewish magical practices as well.” [Bromiley, G. W. (1988; 2002). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (3:217). Wm. B. Eerdmans.]

Nowhere is syncretism illustrated more clearly than in the magical and astrological beliefs of the era. In this realm power takes precedence over personality. Commitment to one deity or fidelity to one cult gives way to rituals of power that work. Thus many gods and goddesses could be invoked at the same time by one person. Yahweh (or Iao) could be invoked in the same breath as Artemis and Hekate. Palestinian and diaspora Jews participated in this form of syncretism. Numerous Jewish magical amulets, spells and astrological documents attest to the prevalence of syncretistic Jewish magic” [Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (2000, c1997). Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]

“As the bilingual boundary stone of Augustus shows, the Romans also referred to Artemis Ephesia as ‘Diana’.. It is also true that the name of Artemis, or characteristic epithets of hers like Ἰοχέαιρα or Λυκώ are found in the magical papyri, in the hymns and prayers that form part of them, but here again, nearly always together with the name of Hecate or epithets of hers like Τρικάρανος, Τριοδῖτις, Κυνώ, etc. Only once does she occur here with her epithet Λύκαινα, and without Hecate, in a spell for procuring knowledge of future events in which now also Isis, Osiris, Amun, Moses, Iaō, and Helios Mithras play a part (PGM III 434). Finally, the collection of magical papyri contains a love charm which does not mention Artemis, but only her or Selene’s epithet Phōsphoros. The verso of this papyrus makes it clear, however, who this particular Phōsphoros is, as it carries a drawing which unmistakably depicts the ‘many-breasted’ Artemis Ephesia. Moreover, it makes mention of Phnun, here rather “the Abyss” than the Egyptian god Nun, and ends with a triple invocation of Iaō (PGM LXXVIII). The latter two instances may show how syncretistic magic could be: a situation in which the distinctive character of each individual deity is hardly highlighted.” [Toorn, K. v. d., Becking, B., & Horst, P. W. v. d. (1999). Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible DDD (2nd extensively rev. ed.) (95). Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans.]

Eight. But even when used by the Gnostics, ‘their’ IAO was still not always equated with YHWH, since IAO was only considered one of the deities (and not even the main one at that). Early accounts of the Gnostic variants include IAO ‘in a list’ as a peer (or even as an inferior) to others, but these are post-NT and are mostly a hodge-podge ‘cocktail mix’ of well-known (and therefore ‘impressive’) names for their ‘cause’. Consider a couple of the ancient accounts of this:

From Ireneus, Against Heresies Book I:

Chapter IV.—Account Given by the Heretics of the Formation of Achamoth; Origin of the Visible World from Her Disturbances.

1. The following are the transactions which they narrate as having occurred outside of the Pleroma: The enthymesis of that Sophia who dwells above, which they also term Achamoth, being removed from the Pleroma, together with her passion, they relate to have, as a matter of course, become violently excited in those places of darkness and vacuity [to which she had been banished]. For she was excluded from light and the Pleroma, and was without form or figure, like an untimely birth, because she had received nothing [from a male parent]. But the Christ dwelling on high took pity upon her; and having extended himself through and beyond Stauros, he imparted a figure to her, but merely as respected substance, and not so as to convey intelligence. Having effected this, he withdrew his influence, and returned, leaving Achamoth to herself, in order that she, becoming sensible of her suffering as being severed from the Pleroma, might be influenced by the desire of better things, while she possessed in the meantime a kind of odour of immortality left in her by Christ and the Holy Spirit. Wherefore also she is called by two names—Sophia after her father (for Sophia is spoken of as being her father), and Holy Spirit from that Spirit who is along with Christ. Having then obtained a form, along with intelligence, and being immediately deserted by that Logos who had been invisibly present with her—that is, by Christ—she strained herself to discover that light which had forsaken her, but could not effect her purpose, inasmuch as she was prevented by Horos. And as Horos thus obstructed her further progress, he exclaimed, ‘Iao’, whence, they say, this name Iao derived its origin. And when she could not pass by Horos on account of that passion in which she had been involved, and because she alone had been left without, she then resigned herself to every sort of that manifold and varied state of passion to which she was subject; and thus she suffered grief on the one hand because she had not obtained the object of her desire, and fear on the other hand, lest life itself should fail her, as light had already done, while, in addition, she was in the greatest perplexity. All these feelings were associated with ignorance. And this ignorance of hers was not like that of her mother, the first Sophia, an Aeon, due to degeneracy by means of passion, but to an [innate] opposition [of nature to knowledge]. Moreover, another kind of passion fell upon her her (Achamoth), namely, that of desiring to return to him who gave her life.

. …

3. For some of them prepare a nuptial couch, and perform a sort of mystic rite (pronouncing certain expressions) with those who are being initiated, and affirm that it is a spiritual marriage which is celebrated by them, after the likeness of the conjunctions above. Others, again, lead them to a place where water is, and baptize them, with the utterance of these words, “Into the name of the unknown Father of the universe—into truth, the mother of all things—into Him who descended on Jesus—into union, and redemption, and communion with the powers.” Others still repeat certain Hebrew words, in order the more thoroughly to bewilder those who are being initiated, as follows: “Basema, Chamosse, Baoenaora, Mistadia, Ruada, Kousta, Babaphor, Kalachthei. The interpretation of these terms runs thus: “I invoke that which is above every power of the Father, which is called light, and good Spirit, and life, because Thou hast reigned in the body.” Others, again, set forth the redemption thus: The name which is hidden from every deity, and dominion, and truth which Jesus of Nazareth was clothed with in the lives of the light of Christ—of Christ, who lives by the Holy Ghost, for the angelic redemption. The name of restitution stands thus: Messia, Uphareg, Namempsoeman, Chaldoeaur, Mosomedoea, Acphranoe, Psaua, Jesus Nazaria. The interpretation of these words is as follows: “I do not divide the Spirit of Christ, neither the heart nor the supercelestial power which is merciful; may I enjoy Thy name, O Saviour of truth!” Such are words of the initiators; but he who is initiated, replies, “I am established, and I am redeemed; I redeem my soul from this age (world), and from all things connected with it in the name of Iao, who redeemed his own soul into redemption in Christ who liveth.” Then the bystanders add these words, “Peace be to all on whom this name rests.” After this they anoint the initiated person with balsam; for they assert that this unguent is a type of that sweet odour which is above all things….

5. They have also given names to [the several persons] in their system of falsehood, such as the following: he who was the first descendant of the mother is called Ialdabaoth; he, again, descended from him, is named Iao; he, from this one, is called Sabaoth; the fourth is named Adoneus; the fifth, Eloeus; the sixth, Oreus; and the seventh and last of all, Astanphaeus. Moreover, they represent these heavens, potentates, powers, angels, and creators, as sitting in their proper order in heaven, according to their generation, and as invisibly ruling over things celestial and terrestrial. The first of them, namely Ialdabaoth, holds his mother in contempt, inasmuch as he produced sons and grandsons without the permission of any one, yea, even angels, archangels, powers, potentates, and dominions. After these things had been done, his sons turned to strive and quarrel with him about the supreme power,—conduct which deeply grieved Ialdabaoth, and drove him to despair. In these circumstances, he cast his eyes upon the subjacent dregs of matter, and fixed his desire upon it, to which they declare his son owes his origin. This son is Nous himself, twisted into the form of a serpent; and hence were derived the spirit, the soul, and all mundane things: from this too were generated all oblivion, wickedness, emulation, envy, and death. They declare that the father imparted still greater crookedness to this serpent-like and contorted Nous of theirs, when he was with their father in heaven and Paradise.”

Then Tertullian:

Chapter XIV.—The Adventures of Achamoth Outside the Pleroma. The Mission of Christ in Pursuit of Her. Her Longing for Christ. Horos’ Hostility to Her. Her Continued Suffering.

For Enthymesis, or rather Achamoth—because by this inexplicable name alone must she be henceforth designated—when in company with the vicious Passion, her inseparable companion, she was expelled to places devoid of that light which is the substance of the Pleroma, even to the void and empty region of Epicurus, she becomes wretched also because of the place of her banishment. She is indeed without either form or feature, even an untimely and abortive production. Whilst she is in this plight, Christ descends from the heights, conducted by Horos, in order to impart form to the abortion, out of his own energies, the form of substance only, but not of knowledge also. Still she is left with some property. She has restored to her the odour of immortality, in order that she might, under its influence, be overcome with the desire of better things than belonged to her present plight. Having accomplished His merciful mission, not without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Christ returns to the Pleroma. It is usual out of an abundance of things for names to be also forthcoming. Enthymesis came from action; whence Achamoth came is still a question; Sophia emanates from the Father, the Holy Spirit from an angel. She entertains a regret lot Christ immediately after she had discovered her desertion by him. Therefore she hurried forth herself, in quest of the light of Him Whom she did not at all discover, as He operated in an invisible manner; for how else would she make search for His light, which was as unknown to her as He was Himself? Try, however, she did, and perhaps would have found Him, had not the self-same Horos, who had met her mother so opportunely, fallen in with the daughter quite as unseasonably, so as to exclaim at her Iao! just as we hear the cry “Porro Quirites” (“Out of the way, Romans!”), or else Fidem Cµsaris!” (“By the faith of Cµsar!”), whence (as they will have it) the name Iao comes to be found is the Scriptures. Being thus hindered from proceeding further, and being unable to surmount the Cross, that is to say, Horos, because she had not yet practised herself in the part of Catullus’ Laureolus, and given over, as it were, to that passion of hers in a manifold and complicated mesh, she began to be afflicted with every impulse thereof, with sorrow,—because she had not accomplished her enterprise, with fear,—lest she should lose her life, even as she had lost the light, with consternation, and then with ignorance” [Against the Valentinians]

Chapter IV.—Valentinus, Ptolemy and Secundus, Heracleon.

Valentinus the heretic, moreover, introduced many fables. These I will retrench and briefly summarize. For he introduces the Pleroma and the thirty aeons. These aeons, moreover, he explains in the way of syzygies, that is, conjugal unions of some kind. For among the first, he says, were Depth and Silence; of these proceeded Mind and Truth; out of whom burst the Word and Life; from whom, again, were created Man and the Church. But (these are not all); for of these last also proceeded twelve eaons; from Speech, moreover, and Life proceeded other ten aeons: such is the Triacontad of aeons, which is made up in the Pleroma of an ogdoad, a decad, and a duodecad. The thirtieth aeon, moreover, willed to see the great Bythus; and, to see him, had the hardihood to ascend into the upper regions; and not being capable of seeing his magnitude, desponded, and almost suffered dissolution, had not some one,—he whom he calls Horos, to wit,—sent to invigorate him, strengthened him by pronouncing the wordIao.” This aeon, moreover, which was thus reduced to despondency, he calls Achamoth, (and says) that he was seized with certain regretful passions, and out of his passions gave birth to material essences. … A Gospel of his own he likewise has, beside these of ours. … After him arose the heretics Ptolemy and Secundus, who agree throughout with Valentinus, differing only in the following point: viz., whereas Valentinus had reigned but thirty aeons, they have added several more; for they first added four, and subsequently four more. And Valentine’s assertion, that it was the thirtieth aeon which strayed out from the Pleroma, (as falling into despondency,) they deny; for the one which desponded on account of disappointed yearning to see the First-Father was not of the original triacontad, they say. . [Against All Heresies]

From Origen [Against Celsus]:

Chapter XXXII.

The supposed great learning of Celsus, which is composed, however, rather of curious trifles and silly talk than anything else, has made us touch upon these topics, from a wish to show to every one who peruses his treatise and our reply, that we have no lack of information on those subjects, from which he takes occasion to calumniate the Christians, who neither are acquainted with, nor concern themselves about, such matters. For we, too, desired both to learn and set forth these things, in order that sorcerers might not, under pretext of knowing more than we, delude those who are easily carried away by the glitter of names. And I could have given many more illustrations to show that we are acquainted with the opinions of these deluders, and that we disown them, as being alien to ours, and impious, and not in harmony with the doctrines of true Christians, of which we are ready to make confession even to the death. It must be noticed, too, that those who have drawn up this array of fictions, have, from neither understanding magic, nor discriminating the meaning of holy Scripture, thrown everything into confusion; seeing that they have borrowed from magic the names of Ialdabaoth, and Astaphaeus, and Horaeus, and from the Hebrew Scriptures him who is termed in Hebrew Iao or Jah, and Sabaoth, and Adonaeus, and Eloaeus. Now the names taken from the Scriptures are names of one and the same God; which, not being understood by the enemies of God, as even themselves acknowledge, led to their imagining that Iao was a different God, and Sabaoth another, and Adonaeus, whom the Scriptures term Adonai, a third besides, and that Eloaeus, whom the prophets name in Hebrew Eloi, was also different. [Against Celsus]

Nine. Secondary accounts point this out too—that IAO in this literature is NOT the ‘big God’, but an intermediate-class diety, except when referring to the OT deity YHWH:

[On the 7-headed beasts in Revelation 13 and 17] “Another Ugaritic text in the Baal epic indicates that Leviathan had seven heads (Driver, Canaanite Myths, 87; 3.IIID.39). The Lernaean Hydra of Greek myth was thought of as having nine heads (Apollodorus 2.5.2), or even as many as one hundred (Diodorus Siculus 4.11.5; Ovid Metamorphoses 9.69ff.), though Pausanias doubted that the monster had more than a single head (2.37.4). Yet other versions of the myth mention three, fifteen, or “many” heads (see RAC 16:905). Though nine snake heads were the norm in traditional mythical conceptions of Medusa, the number was apparently not very important since it varied even in the works of the same authors and artists (Brommer, Herakles, 13). Evidence for a seven-headed hydra is also discussed in Burkert, Mythology and Ritual, 80–83. Mesopotamian seal cylinders depict gods in combat with a seven-headed serpent; see Pritchard, ANEP, 221, no. 691; cf. no. 671. In the Coptic-Gnostic Ap. John II.11.29–31, one of the seven archons is of some relevance for the present discussion, for “the fourth is Iaô with the face of a dragon [drakôn] who has seven heads” (M. Krause and Labib, Apokryphon des Johannes, 141). .” [Aune, D. E. (2002). Vol. 52B: Word Biblical Commentary : Revelation 6-16. Word Biblical Commentary (685). Dallas: Word, Incorporated. (at 12.3)]

“In the OT and early Judaism, there was the anthropomorphic notion that Yahweh, like all kings, had a seal (Job 9:7; Sir 17:22; T. Mos. 12:9; Apoc. Moses 42:1; see Ysebaert, Greek Baptismal Terminology, 246). The signet ring (חותם ḥôtām) of God (conceived of either as a cylinder seal worn on a cord around the neck or a seal mounted on a ring) can be a metaphor for the king of Israel (Jer 22:24; Hag 2:23). …The language of sealing and signet rings frequently occurs in ancient magic, where it is often difficult to distinguish between Jewish magic and Greco-Roman magic because of the enormous influence that the former had on the latter. PGM VII.583 speaks of an amulet that “is the powerful name and seal of the great god [ὄνομα τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σφραγίς].” Here καί is probably epexegetical so that the phrase could be translated “the powerful name or seal of the great god.” Similarly, in PGM I.306 and III.226 the phrase ὁρκίζω [σε] σφραγῖδα θεοῦ, “I adjure [you] by the seal of God,” very likely refers to the name of the god (perhaps as inscribed or otherwise depicted on materia magica, e.g., amulets, papyri, etc.). This is suggested by the hexameter lines parallel to I.306 and III.226 in I.309, “I adjure you by Aion the eternal god of all,” and III.229, “I adjure you by the great god Apollo.” Thus σφραγίς = ὄνομα = θεός. T. Kraabel published the Wilshere jasper ringstone (ca. third century a.d.), with the divine names ΙΑΩ ΣΑΩ ΑΔΩΝΙ (i.e., Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai) written in reverse in three lines ΩΑΙ ΩΑΣ ΙΝΩΔΑ (“Jews in Imperial Rome: More Archaeological Evidence from an Oxford Collection,” JJS 30 [1979] 50–55). Though magical formulas are frequently written backwards for magical effect (see J. Naveh, “Lamp Inscriptions and Inverted Writing,” IEJ 38 [1988] 36–43), this particular ringstone is probably incised backwards so that it will imprint the divine names correctly when used as a stamp. Though these three divine names occur together frequently in the magical papyri (PGM III.266–67; IV.1485–86, 1534–35, 1561, 1621, 2315, 2326, 3053; VII.220, 311, 595–96), they are ultimately derived from three Hebrew names for God, which magical practitioners regarded as three separate deities. The name “Iao” is particularly important, for it represents a Greek transliteration of a shortened form of the covenant name for God, יהוה YHWH, usually vocalized as “Yahweh” (see Aune, “Iao,” RAC 17:1–12). [Aune, D. E. (2002). Vol. 52B: Word Biblical Commentary : Revelation 6-16. Word Biblical Commentary (453). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.; on the Seal at 7.2]

“from the One who is and who was and who is coming.” (Rev 1.4) ὁ ὤν, “the one who is” (a substantival participle from the verb εἰμί, “to be”), was, among Greek-speaking Jews, a popular name for God ultimately derived from the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν, “I am the one who is,” in the LXX translation of the Hebrew phrase אהיה אשׁר אהיה, ˒hyeh ˒ăšer ˒ehyeh, “I am who I am,” in Exod 3:14. Josephus places the phrase ὁ ὤν on the lips of Elijah in 1 Kgs 19:10 (Ant. 8.350) but omits it from his version of Exod 3:14 (Ant. 2.276). Philo often uses the phrase ὁ ὤν of God, sometimes in combination with θεός, “God” (e.g., ὁ ὤν θεός, “the God who is”; ὁ ὄντως ὤν θεός, “the God who truly is”). The phrase ὁ ὤν is used at least eight times as a divine name, with the asterisks marking passages that allude to Exod 3:14 (*Mos. 1.75; *Som. 1.231; *Mut. 11; *Det. 160; Quod Deus 110; Opif. 172; Leg. 3.181; *Abr. 121); see J. Krämer, Der Ursprung der Geistmetaphysic [Amsterdam, 1964] 83 n. 213). Presumably the popularity of ὁ ὤν as the name for God among Greek-speaking Jews influenced the later insertion of the phrase in the LXX text of Jeremiah, where the phrase ὁ ὤν occurs four times, always in the context of prayer (1:6; 4:10; 14:13; 39:17). The title was familiar to Jews in Asia Minor as attested by an inscription on an altar from Pergamon that reads θεὸς κύριος ὁ ὤν εἰς ἀεί, “God, the Lord who exists forever.” Despite the objection of Delling (Worship, 78–79), this is very probably an allusion to the LXX version of Exod 3:14 (Nilsson, Eranos 54 [1956] 169–70; Bickerman, “Altars of Gentiles,” 341–42), for even though the expression εἰς ἀεί, “forever,” is not found in direct connection with ὁ ὤν, Exod 3:15 does describe the name of God as a ὄνομα αἰώνιον, “an eternal name,” a feature emphasized by Philo (Mut. 12; cf. Mos. 1.74f–75). Numenius, a second-century a.d. Middle Platonic philosopher, refers to the supreme being as ὁ ὤν (frag. 12, in É. des Places, Numenius:Fragments [Paris: Société d’ Édition “Les Belles Lettres,” 1973] 55–56; see brief commentary on p. 108). Normally, Numenius uses the term τὸ ὄν, “Being, Existence” (frags. 2.23; 3.1, 8, 9; 4a.7, 9, 12; 5.5, 6, 14, 18 [bis]; 6.7, 8, 15; 7.2, 13, 14; 8.2). The Greek magical papyri, many of which exhibit clear Jewish influence (…), reflect the popularity of divine names borrowed from Judaism and also use ὁ ὤν as a divine name, often in connection with Ἰάω, “Iao,” a divine name with close associations with the Hebrew divine name YHWH (often vocalized as Yahweh and shortened in ancient texts as Yahu). PGM LXXI.3–4, for example, has several points of contact with Rev 1:8 (the divine names ὁ ὤν, κύριος and παντοκράτωρ): and “The God who is, Iao, Lord Almighty [ὁ θεὸς ὤν ὁ Ἰάω, κύριος παντοκράτωρ].” “ [Aune, D. E. (2002). Vol. 52A: Word Biblical Commentary : Revelation 1-5:14. Word Biblical Commentary (30). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]

“The archontes play an important mythological role in some Gnostic cosmologies. The seven spheres (the sun, moon, and the five planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, bounded by the region of the fixed stars) are controlled by supernatural beings designated by various terms including archontes. Seven archontes are usually presided over by a chief archōn, who is also the demiurge who created the world, and resides in the Ogdoad, the eighth region above the seven planetary spheres. Since the attainment of salvation is linked with attaining to the sphere of the Unknown God, passage through the concentric ranks of hostile archons is necessary. One specific form of this myth is presented in the Coptic Gnostic treatise The Hypostasis of the Archons, where the archontes are said to guard the gates of the seven planetary spheres, impeding the upward movement of souls. Irenaeus is the earliest author to mention the names of the seven archons, which are so strikingly Hebraic that their Jewish origin appears highly likely (Adv. haer. 1.30): Ialdabaoth (the chief archōn), Iao, Sabaoth, Adoneus, Eloeus, Oreus and Astanphaeus. Origen later provided a list of the seven archons in Ophite mythology (Contra Celsum 6.31): Ialdabaoth, Iao, Sabaoth, Adonaios, Astaphaios, Eloaios and Horaios, together with the specific formulas which must be used in order to get past each archon.” [Toorn, K. v. d., Becking, B., & Horst, P. W. v. d. (1999). Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible DDD (2nd rev. ed.) (84). Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans.]

Ten. When YHWH is related to the various pantheons (outside of the magical papyri), He is normally equated with the heads of the pantheon (Zeus, Jupiter), and not with the solar deities per se (Helios, Sol).

“3.2. Threefold Division: Tertullian (ca. 160–ca. 225), Arnobius (d. ca. 327), Lactantius (d. ca. 325), and Augustine (354–430, De civ. Dei 4.27; 6.5; 6.12) passed on the traditional threefold division of theology into mythical, natural, and civil. In so doing, they influenced the systematic theology of Western Christendom. Hellenistic philosophy had developed the concept, and the erudite pontifex maximus (high priest) Quintus Mucius Scaevola (d. 82 b.c.) had introduced it into Roman theology. It owed its systematic development there to the most important Roman theologian, Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 b.c.), in the first book of his Antiquitates rerum divinarum (Antiquities of divine things). The 16 books of this work were written 50–45 b.c. and were dedicated to Julius Caesar (100–44) as the then pontifex maximus. This fact made the reforming purpose of the book plain to contemporaries. …In bk. 1, frgs. 6–10 of the Cardauns edition, Varro describes the three types of theology: the mythicon of poets (dealing with the mythic and fabulous), the physicon (naturale) of philosophers, and the politicon (civile) of politicians. The first type contains many things that run contrary to the dignity and nature of the immortals. The second teaches what the gods are, where, of what sort, of what nature, whether they had an origin or always existed, whether they consist of fire, numbers, or atoms. The third teaches what citizens, especially priests, must know and do in a city. Part of this information is knowing which state gods to venerate and how. … On this basis Varro then treats Roman religion in five parts, with three books to each part. In bks. 2–4 he deals with priests (de pontificibus, auguribus, quindecimviris sacrorum; or high priests, diviners, and the 15-member priestly colleges responsible for sacred rites), in 5–7 with sacred places (de sacellis, aedibus, locis religiosis; or shrines, temples, and sacred sites), in 8–10 with times (de feriis, ludis circensibus, ludis scaenicis; or holidays, circus games, and theatrical games or plays), in 11–13 with events (de consecrationibus, sacris privatis, sacris publicis; or dedications, private observances, and public observances), and finally in 14–16 with the gods (de dis certis, dis incertis, dis praecipuis atque selectis; or gods who are trustworthy, untrustworthy, and special and select). This summary of Roman theology, which rests on a broad philosophical, priestly, and legal tradition, influenced all the writings that followed.

In his speculations regarding the pure and imageless origins of Roman religion, Varro refers to the pure religion of Israel and its God (Yahweh), whom he equates with Iovis Pater (Father Jove, i.e., Jupiter). The God of the Jews, he said, is Iovis, for it does not matter by what name he is called so long as what is meant is the same (frg. 16).” [Fahlbusch, E., & Bromiley, G. W. (2005). The encyclopedia of Christianity (4:733). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill]

“2 Macc 6 relates how, in 168 bce, Antiochos IV Epiphanes sent an envoy to Jerusalem in order to press the Hellenization of Israel; foremost on his agenda was to re-dedicate the temple of Jerusalem to Zeus Olympios and the one on Mt. Garizim to Zeus Xenios. 2 Macc 6:4–5 describes the ensuing profanation of Temple and Altar, while 1 Macc 1:54 dates the building of bdelygma erēmōseōs, the altar (presumably) of Zeus, on the main Altar of the Temple; Judas Maccabee removed it in 165. From a political point of view, the identification of Yahweh and Zeus, the main god of the Greek pantheon, imposes itself; when Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem, he dedicated its main temple to Iupiter Capitolinus, the main god of the Roman pantheon. Besides, hellenized diaspora Jews identified their God with Zeus: they used Hypsistos (Most High) as Greek name of their God, while it had been a poetic epithet of Zeus from the 5th cent. bce onward and his cultic epiclesis first in Macedonia, then in the hellenized East (Colpe 1975); the syncretist magical papyri associate Iao (i.e. Yahweh) with Zeus, PGM I 300. V 471 (Zeus Adōnai Iao, cf. IV 2771). “ [Toorn, K. v. d., Becking, B., & Horst, P. W. v. d. (1999). Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible DDD (2nd extensively rev. ed.) (938). Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans.]

“The Jewish author of the Letter of Aristeas had already identified Zeus with the God of the Jews (Ep. Arist. 16)” [Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World, Peter Schafer, HarvardUP:1997, page 231, n106]

Eleven. But IAO could also be identified with other gods too, such as Dionysius.

The "theoretician" of the identification of the Jewish God with Dionysus is, as in the case of the Jewish abhorrence of eating pork, Plutarch (ca. 46-120 C.E.). One section of his Quaestiones Convivales is devoted to the question "Who the God of the Jews is." After Plutarch's brother Lamprias has hinted at the possible identity of Dionysus with Adonis and connected the Jews' dislike of the pig with the fact that "Adonis is said to have been slain by the boar,” the Athenian Moeragenes embarks upon a long digression in which he identifies the Jewish worship with the cult of Dionysus.” [Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World, Peter Schafer, HarvardUP:1997, p.53]

Twelve. And even in the two mentions that I can find when IAO is connected with the solar deity Helios, the passages actually do not make the connection one of identity. IAO in those passages seem to incorporate Helios—along with other gods at the same time. This shows that IAO was not a solar deity in even these post-NT pagan writings.

The major passage is the Oracle of Clarus, and the analysis of the passage shows that IAO subsumed Helios:

‘The most far-reaching and prominent evidence for the concept of theocrasy in pagan antiquity is the famous saying of the Oracle of Clarus, preserved in a quotation by Macrobius from Cornelius Labeo (third cen­tury C.E.); the date of the Oracle itself, of course, is uncertain, although the oracular cult of Clarus is well known from, for example, Tacitus and Iamblichus and seems to have been very popular in the second and third century C.E. After quoting the famous Orphic verse "One is Zeus, one Hades, one Sun, one Dionysus" (heis Zeus, heis Aides, heis Helios, heis Dionysos), Macrobius goes on to bolster this equation by means of the Ora­cle of Clarus:

The authority of this last line is supported by an oracle of Apollo of Clarus, in which yet another name is attached to the sun, which is called in the same sacred verses, among other names, by the name of Iao (lao). For when Apollo of Clarus was asked who among the gods should be identified with him that is called lao he declared as follows:

"But if the understanding is little and the mind feeble, Then ponder that Iao is the supreme god among all (ton panton hypaton theon emmen lad), In winter he is Hades, at the beginning of the spring he is Zeus, In summer he is Helios, while in autumn he is the graceful Diony­sus.”

The meaning of this oracle, and the explanation of the deity and the name by which Iao is denoted Liber pater and the sun, are ex­pounded by Cornelius Labeo in a book entitled "On The Oracle of Apollo of Clarus.”

According to Macrobius and Cornelius Labeo respectively, the Orphic equation of Zeus, Hades, Sun, and Dionysus is confirmed by the Oracle of Clarus, which moreover identifies these four gods, who represent the four seasons, with Iao. This Iao is "the supreme god" in the sense that he in­corporates the four mentioned gods = seasons, the emphasis being put, however (at least according to Macrobius/Cornelius Labeo), on the equa­tion of Iao with Helios ("yet another name is attached to the sun, which is called . . . Iao") and Pater Liber = Dionysus. Both equations are well at­tested, and whereas there is no further evidence for the equation Iao = Hades, the identification of lao with Zeus obviously depends on the idea of the "supreme God." (p52)

Neither the Oracle nor Macrobius/Cornelius Labeo says explicitly that Iao, the embodiment of Hades, Zeus, Helios, and Dionysus, is the Jewish God. There can be little doubt, however, that the Oracle and Macrobius/Cornelius Labeo knew very well that Iao is the name of the God of the Jews. This is evident from the pagan authors who mention the name Iao as well as from the use of Iao in the magical papyri, and from the identification of lao with Helios and with Dionysus; …” [Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World, Peter Schafer, HarvardUP:1997, p.53]

Later in pagan sources, the name Iao is also attested in (10) the fifth-century ad author Macrobius (1.18.19), who claims to have derived this name from the third-century ad history of Romano-Etruscan religion by Cornelius Labeo (Stern, No. 445). In his work On the Oracle of Apollo of Clans, Cornelius Labeo discusses a remark­able oracle that called Iao the highest God and characterized him, in winter, as Hades, in spring as Zeus, in summer as Helios, and in autumn as the graceful Iao (sic, probably meant ‘Dionysius’). This is another instance of the gen­eral development in which the name lao, while barely featuring in Jewish texts, becomes more and more widespread in non-Jewish texts, whether it be pagan accounts of Judaism, pagan theological texts based on theocrasy (such as the Clarian oracle in Cornelius Labeo), Gnostic Christian texts, Orthodox Christian writings, or magical papyri. [The Revelation of the Name YHWH to Moses: Perspectives from Judaism, the Pagan Graeco-Roman World, and Early Christianity (Van Kooten ed.; Brill:2006), p 128]

The only other quasi-early connection I can find between IAO and Helios also connects ‘wider than just Helios’, and also broadens the range of names beyond IAO (not much can be shown from this amulet, therefore):

“For other magical texts containing the divine predicate ὁ ὤν, see PGM XII.111; XIII.1020, 1048. The title ὁ ὤν also occurs on several amulets. A bloodstone amulet in the British Museum depicts Helios and Selene, with the inscription “Iaô, Sabaôth, Abrasax, the Existent One [ὁ ὦν]” on the reverse (Goodenough, Jewish Symbols 2:259; vol. 3 fig. 1116).. [Aune, D. E. (2002). Vol. 52A: Word Biblical Commentary : Revelation 1-5:14. Word Biblical Commentary (30). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]

As we get further into quasi-magical, ‘name citing’ texts, we find more use of IAO as a magical term and as a non-Jewish ‘specialist sub-deity’ (e.g. there is supposedly a Gnostic amulet that portrays IAO as a man with snake legs--?). And the Prayer of Jacob (2-4th AD) might indicate that IAO was connected with the sun—but, if so, it says that the Jewish God ‘sits on top of him’! (at 8ff):

You who sit upon the mountain of holy Sinaios;

You who sit upon the sea,

You who sit upon the serpent gods,

The God who sits upon the sun[,?] Iao…

God Abaoth, Abrathiaoth, Sabaoth, Adonia, asta…

The Lord of all things

Charlesworth [OTP] points out that the critical line is very corrupt and we cannot tell if (1) God is called IAO and he sits upon the sun—like upon Sinai, sea, and the serpent gods; or if (2) God sits upon the sun which is named IAO. But in either case we do not have the Jewish God identified with a solar deity IAO!



The name YHWH was in use over a thousand years before the name IAO begins to show up.

  1. In the ancient Greek (pre-Christian) translations of the Hebrew Bible, the name of God was NOT rendered as IAO.

  1. Late in biblical history, IAO begins to surface as a rendering of the name YHWH, but it is always known to be ‘only about YHWH’—there is not other IAO which is connected to the Jewish god.

  1. Pagan historical and literary writers use IAO as the name for the Jewish god, and sometimes connect Him with the highest deity in their respective pantheons (Jupiter and Zeus).

  1. YHWH is never equated with or identified as being the respective solar deities (i.e. Helios, Sol).

  1. After the NT, we begin to see ‘odd’ uses of the word IAO, sometimes as a magical name derived from the Jewish god, or as an inferior Gnostic deity. This was not unique to YHWH, since ALL deities in currency were also used in this way in such magical spells and documents.

  1. There is no antecedent solar deity that is the origination of the word/content of YHWH.

I hope this helps!

Warmly, glenn

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