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Author Topic: Reverence for the Tetragrammaton  (Read 4128 times) Average Rating: 0
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Alveus Lacuna
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« on: September 14, 2009, 09:21:30 PM »

I will start off by saying that I was not sure where to put this, as I want any and all perspectives, be they Orthodox Catholic, Roman Catholic or Protestant.

I have noticed a lot of people around here using the Tetragrammaton pretty fast and loose.  I was just curious why this is.  Has not the sacred name of God always been protected by the faithful?  Did not this custom carry over into Christianity for the vast majority of its history?

Jews usually refer to the Lord in several reverent ways to my recollection: Hashem, Adoni, et cetera.  They also often write the word God as this: G-d, which is something I've never really understood but I still appreciate the effort.

I am especially thinking of out Protestant Messianic Jewish poster whose name escapes me, but she seems to use the Tetragrammaton endlessly.  I understand with some posts it might be necessary as a way to differentiate between usages in the Hebrew script, but overall it strikes me as disrespectful.

So what do Orthodox Catholics, Roman Catholics and Protestants usually think about this?
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« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2009, 10:08:43 PM »

What word did the Jewish translators of the LXX use?

What word do you see used in the New Testament?


This should answer your question.











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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2009, 10:25:10 PM »

What word did the Jewish translators of the LXX use?

What word do you see used in the New Testament?

Since I cannot read Greek in any form, this doesn't help me.
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« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2009, 10:29:05 PM »

It is important to Jews, so we should be respectful about not using "Yahweh" when talking to them.  But we can't take this too far.  It should not be important to Orthodox Christians, because we are now living in  the New Age of the Kingdom that has been ushered in by the Resurrection of Christ.  Often people don't seem to get that.  The non-use of the "Holy name" was one way of  showing that humans could not approach the holiness of God.  Another example of this is exhibited in the passage from Exodus, 33:18-23, where Moses is told that he cannot look God in the face and see his glory, but only His back, because no one can look on God and live.  Well now we can, only because God has reached out to us in Christ and broken down the barriers between us.  Wonder of wonders, we look at Christ and see God in the flesh!  (This is not to say that the Holiness of God is still not a terrible and awesome thing; rest assured that it is!)  Before Christ took on all of humanity to himself in Christ, divinization (theosis) was not possible.  Now, we can "become" God, something that was inconceivable in Old Covenant times, and still is a scandalous idea to Jews today.  This underlines, really, the fundamental incompatibility of Judaism (in its unfulfilled form) and Christianity.  If we took the prohibition on utterance of the "sacred name" seriously, then the priest would not be able to say at the end of Vespers or Matins:  "Christ our God the Existing One (or "He who is" or some variant, depending on the translation used) is blessed always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages" because it would cause terminal offence among the faithful!  This is because "He who is" is the usage of the Tetragramatton (or I should say a variant of it) in whatever vernacular language the liturgical service happens to be in.

I sometimes have a tendency to beat an anti-judaizing drum on this board.  This is because I believe that Orthodox Christians sometimes take parallels with Judaism too far, and this might be dangerous, obscuring important truths about the Faith.  Christ is Risen! We are strangers to God no more.  The Lord has made it possible for his children to come home once  again.   "Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave.  Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free...(Hades) was embittered, for it was abolished.  It was embittered, for it was mocked.  It was embittered, for it was slain.  It was embittered, for it was overthrown....It took a body, and met God face to face.  It took earth, and encountered Heaven...Christ is risen, and life reigns.  Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave..."  (from the Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom.)
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« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2009, 10:39:10 PM »

What word did the Jewish translators of the LXX use?

What word do you see used in the New Testament?

Since I cannot read Greek in any form, this doesn't help me.

Use this for the LXX (greek and english):
http://septuagint-interlinear-greek-bible.com/OldTestament.pdf (Lucian's Rescension)










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« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2009, 11:16:41 PM »

Alveus,
The Tetragrammation is not actually God's "Name" the way that "George" is my name. The four letters of the Tetragrammation are "YOD, HEH, VAV, HEH" which mean "I am WHO AM" or "I am THE BEING. If you ask me my name, I would reply to you "I am GEORGE", so my name is "GEORGE", not "I AM GEORGE".  So when Moses asks God what His Name in Exodus 3:13-14, God replies "I am THE BEING", so His Name is "THE BEING" not "I AM THE BEING".  This is why, to the Jews, the Name of God is unpronounceable, because to them, the Name of God is "I AM THE BEING". This would be like someone asking you what my name is and you reply to them "I am George" which is incorrect. My name is "George", not "I am George" and for you to say "I am George" in response to someone asking you what my name is would be incorrect.
In Icons of Christ you will often see the three Greek "OMICRON, OMEGA, NI"  (Ο, Ω, Ν) around His Halo. These three letters form two words in Greek: "O ΩΝ" pronounced "o oon". The word "o" is a participle similar to the english word "the" and "oon" is the third person singular verb to be, so "o oon" can be translated as "The One Who Is" or "THE BEING". Ontologically, God alone is the only Being who can truly say "I AM" since God alone has independent Existence. So God's Name is "THE BEING", not "I am the Being". From our perspective, God is "THE BEING", and from God's perspective God is "I AM".
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« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2009, 11:54:58 PM »

Alveus,
The Tetragrammation is not actually God's "Name" the way that "George" is my name. The four letters of the Tetragrammation are "YOD, HEH, VAV, HEH" which mean "I am WHO AM" or "I am THE BEING. If you ask me my name, I would reply to you "I am GEORGE", so my name is "GEORGE", not "I AM GEORGE".  So when Moses asks God what His Name in Exodus 3:13-14, God replies "I am THE BEING", so His Name is "THE BEING" not "I AM THE BEING".  This is why, to the Jews, the Name of God is unpronounceable, because to them, the Name of God is "I AM THE BEING". This would be like someone asking you what my name is and you reply to them "I am George" which is incorrect. My name is "George", not "I am George" and for you to say "I am George" in response to someone asking you what my name is would be incorrect.
In Icons of Christ you will often see the three Greek "OMICRON, OMEGA, NI"  (Ο, Ω, Ν) around His Halo. These three letters form two words in Greek: "O ΩΝ" pronounced "o oon". The word "o" is a participle similar to the english word "the" and "oon" is the third person singular verb to be, so "o oon" can be translated as "The One Who Is" or "THE BEING". Ontologically, God alone is the only Being who can truly say "I AM" since God alone has independent Existence. So God's Name is "THE BEING", not "I am the Being". From our perspective, God is "THE BEING", and from God's perspective God is "I AM".

I noticed on our icon where the "I AM" is written
I
AM

But if you look at His face, His halo says "AIM"
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« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2009, 12:29:35 AM »

Alveus,
The Tetragrammation is not actually God's "Name" the way that "George" is my name. The four letters of the Tetragrammation are "YOD, HEH, VAV, HEH" which mean "I am WHO AM" or "I am THE BEING. If you ask me my name, I would reply to you "I am GEORGE", so my name is "GEORGE", not "I AM GEORGE".  So when Moses asks God what His Name in Exodus 3:13-14, God replies "I am THE BEING", so His Name is "THE BEING" not "I AM THE BEING".  This is why, to the Jews, the Name of God is unpronounceable, because to them, the Name of God is "I AM THE BEING". This would be like someone asking you what my name is and you reply to them "I am George" which is incorrect. My name is "George", not "I am George" and for you to say "I am George" in response to someone asking you what my name is would be incorrect.
In Icons of Christ you will often see the three Greek "OMICRON, OMEGA, NI"  (Ο, Ω, Ν) around His Halo. These three letters form two words in Greek: "O ΩΝ" pronounced "o oon". The word "o" is a participle similar to the english word "the" and "oon" is the third person singular verb to be, so "o oon" can be translated as "The One Who Is" or "THE BEING". Ontologically, God alone is the only Being who can truly say "I AM" since God alone has independent Existence. So God's Name is "THE BEING", not "I am the Being". From our perspective, God is "THE BEING", and from God's perspective God is "I AM".

I noticed on our icon where the "I AM" is written
I
AM

But if you look at His face, His halo says "AIM"

Interestingly, the use of the first person English words "I AM" instead of the third person "THE BEING" ("Ο ΩΝ") as in Greek lettering on Icons of Christ creates the same problem of the first person name of God in Tetragrammation and makes it unutterable for us. It is also incorrect. God's  Name from our perpsective is "The Being", or "The One Who Is" whereas "I AM" is only the Name of God from the perspective of the Persons of God. Thus, Christ should be saying "I AM" on His Icon, we should not be calling Him "I AM" (the same problem with Tetragrammation.)
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« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2009, 06:48:10 AM »

Just another interesting aside, the Tetragrammaton YHVH or YHWH ( YOD HEH VAV HEH or "I am the Being") which was unpronounceable because it was first person was substituted with when read aloud "LORD". In Hebrew, "Lord" is "ADONAI". In order to remind readers not to say YHWH, the scribes would put the vowels of ADONAI ("Lord") above the Tetragrammaton so that the reader would say "Lord" rather than pronounce the Tetragrammaton, so it looked like this when it was written in the scrolls:

                     a     o     a
                       Y   H     V     H


This was misread when the Masoretic text was being translated into Latin by Peter Galatin, confessor to Pope Leo X in 1060AD who read it as though it was one word and was translated as "IAHOVAH" or "Jehovah". So sadly, the Jehovah's Witnesses couldn't have got it more wrong. They are not witnessing God's Name, but rather a misreading of the Masoretic.
The Tetragrammaton is, as I said, not the Name of God, but a sentence spoken in the first person ("I am THE BEING"), so the Name of God is "THE BEING", not "I Am The Being".
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« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2009, 09:50:14 AM »

Just a tittle. Like god is a different one. The same stands for words like Almighty, Creator, Lord and all. But what matters is the "name" that Jesus Christ revealed to us: Father.
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« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2009, 10:13:43 AM »

Just a tittle. Like god is a different one. The same stands for words like Almighty, Creator, Lord and all. But what matters is the "name" that Jesus Christ revealed to us: Father.
The One who Spoke to Moses in the Unburning Bush was not the Father, it was the pre-incarnate Christ, Who said "I Am The One Who Is". And He said it again after the Incarnation in the Gospel: "Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”( John 8:58)
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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2009, 12:21:55 PM »

 This is why, to the Jews, the Name of God is unpronounceable, because to them, the Name of God is "I AM THE BEING". This would be like someone asking you what my name is and you reply to them "I am George" which is incorrect.

You make some very good points, but this is not the only reason why the "Name of God" is unpronouncable for Jews.  It is also such because of the holiness and complete radical "otherness" of God, which I have already delved into in my earlier post.  IIRC, (and I may not remember it well so bear with me) scribes who just wrote the word "G-d" had to use one new quill for this one writing of the word, and they were not allowed to use the quill again for anything.  This was not even the holiest "name" of God, so I cannot imagine how they must have felt about the Tetragrammaton.

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« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2009, 12:37:25 PM »

There's also the ancient idea that knowing the name of something gives one power over it because the name of something is the essence of that something.  In such a paradigm, by speaking the name of God, one is logically asserting some sort of power over Him.  To do such a thing would be almost paradoxical to the ancient Hebrew mind and, as a result, the fence around the fence around the fence which is the hallmark of kosher laws and the like came into affect.  If one simply does not say or write the Name of God, the idea of God as All-Powerful is maintained.
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« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2009, 12:41:19 PM »


The Tetragrammaton is, as I said, not the Name of God, but a sentence spoken in the first person ("I am THE BEING"), so the Name of God is "THE BEING", not "I Am The Being".

Fr. Thomas Hopko made a point in one of his recent podcasts on the Names of Jesus.  He related an interpretation of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush whereby we see God replying to Moses' question of the Name of God by practically saying, "You know what, you don't worry about it.  It's enough for you to know that I AM WHO IS (or however you want to translate it).  We'll all know who you're talking about when you say that simple sentence."
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« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2009, 12:44:46 PM »

There's also the ancient idea that knowing the name of something gives one power over it because the name of something is the essence of that something.  In such a paradigm, by speaking the name of God, one is logically asserting some sort of power over Him.  To do such a thing would be almost paradoxical to the ancient Hebrew mind and, as a result, the fence around the fence around the fence which is the hallmark of kosher laws and the like came into affect. 

Yes indeed, I think you make a good point.
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« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2009, 12:53:25 PM »

Just a tittle. Like god is a different one. The same stands for words like Almighty, Creator, Lord and all. But what matters is the "name" that Jesus Christ revealed to us: Father.

Of all the answers I found to this thread, this is the one I prefer... I was advancing the same conclusion. Jesus taught us to pray God thus: "Our Father, who art in heaven...". Also, the Church coined the word "Trinity" to express the unity of Father, Son and Spirit, and the Bible offers many other words such as God and Lord. The Jewish use to avoid the reading of YHWH comes directly from a rigid application of the prohibition not to say God's name. In truth, the same usage of using words such as G-d have the same origin: writing one of God's name entirely on a physical support (paper, a web page etc) risks the possibility that the Name of God might be profaned (for example, deleting God from a web page or burning the paper where it's written). The same apostle Matthew shows a reverence towards God preferring in his Gospel the expression "Kingdom of heaven" over its parallel "Kingdom of God", as a sort of euphemism to avoid God's name. The Jews even couldn't associate God's name with the word "to curse" in the Book of Job, and used an euphemistic expression "not to bless God" where the Septuagint reads "to curse God" as it should from its logical meaning in the sentence.
I know that many Church Fathers transliterated the Name from early sources in forms such as Iabe (pronounced "Iah-veh") our Jah, Jahu, Jaho etc. so the exact pronounciation is still unknowned, as it was known only to the High Priest in the times of the Temple. Even in our Bibles and Liturgies, we involuntarily pronounce God's Name in a brief form when we say Allelujah ("praise YHWH") or name many Biblical characters (Jesus, Joshua, Joseph, James, John, etc...), yet we follow the only attested practice of the early Church: replacing the Name with the words "the Lord" when it appears alone or in combination with "God" (YHWH Elohim) and "of the hosts" (YHWH Shebaoth), or with "God" when it appears in combination with "the Lord" ("Adonai YHWH"). As it's already been stated we also have at least two other Hebrew words, "the Omnipotent" and "the Most High" often used in the Bible to name our God and they can also be freely used.
A restoration of the Name in modern times is a true lack of respect for God. Just this Sunday I was psychologically destroyed when a RC priest at a Mass on TV pronounced the Name in his homily in the well-known expression "Servant of YHWH" referring to the prophecies of Isaiah on Jesus. I found this was even worse then the attitude of Jehovah's Witnesses. These sects who restored the Name of God in their "Bibles" are moved by these factors:
1. The misinterpretation of the expression "the name of YHWH", where "name" in Hebrew also indicates the essence, and not just a sequence of sounds.
2. The idea that since the Tetragrammaton is written in the Jewish Massoretic Text, then it must be inspired and it's an heresy to modify the Word of God.
3. The concept that the historical Trinitarian churches altered the Bible voluntarily.

What many innocent JWs don't know is that in introducing the Tetragrammaton even in the New Testament quotations from the Old Testament, the Watchtower had to substitute "YHWH" with "the Lord" sometimes to defend Christ's non-divinity, which is clear in the text!

In Christ,   Alex
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« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2009, 01:00:53 PM »

You make some very good points, but this is not the only reason why the "Name of God" is unpronouncable for Jews.  It is also such because of the holiness and complete radical "otherness" of God, which I have already delved into in my earlier post.  IIRC, (and I may not remember it well so bear with me) scribes who just wrote the word "G-d" had to use one new quill for this one writing of the word, and they were not allowed to use the quill again for anything.  This was not even the holiest "name" of God, so I cannot imagine how they must have felt about the Tetragrammaton.
This is a modern Jewish practice to not correctly write the word "God" ("Elohim"), and it is certainly not the practice of even modern Sofers (scribes) to do this, but only when a non-scribe writes it. Sofers are responsible for writing Torah Scrolls, Mezuzah Scrolls, Teffilim Scrolls etc, and they don't hesitate to use the Tetragramaton, but the Tetragramaton is not pronounced when read aloud.
Here is a photo of modern Mezuzah Scroll:
Hebrew reads right to left. In the top line, the fourth and sixth words from the right are the Tetragramaton. This first line is the "Shema"  and is read aloud as:"Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad" ("Hear o Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One"); but the written text actually reads: "Shema Yisrael, YHVH Elohenu YHVH Echad" ("Hear o Israel, YHVH your God, YHVH is One").
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