Thursday, October 23, 2008

Showing respect for Yahweh by... not saying His name?

There are so many things wrong with this article from Christianity Astray that it's difficult to know where to start. So let's do one of my favorite things - a list!

First, the Vatican instructs underlings to remove "Yahweh" from songs and prayers. This is funny all in itself. The Vatican can't do anything about Roman Catholic senators and congressmen who are pro-aborts; but it can tell people to stop saying or singing "Yahweh."

As usual for the Vatican, the rationale is impenetrable. The Vatican intones that it "was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means 'Lord.'" Uh, yeah.

"Was held to be"? By whom? Certainly not by the actual writers of God-breathed Scripture, who employed the name well over 6800 times. No, the prophets and Moses give no sign that believers should do anything other than revere, respect, trust, flee to, and take sacred oaths by that name.

By whom, then? Well, like everything else for Rome - by tradition. So there.

But wait. It gets worse.

Because second, we're then told that
Protestants should be following their lead, said Carol Bechtel, professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. "It's always left me baffled and perplexed and embarrassed that we sprinkle our hymns with that name," she said. "Whether or not there are Jewish brothers and sisters in earshot, the most obvious reason to avoid using the proper and more personal name of God in the Old Testament is simply respect for God."
Okay, so this lady is "professor" of a book that boldly uses the Name over 6800 times - but she has "always" been "baffled and perplexed and embarrassed that we sprinkle our hymns with that name"? Really? Baffled?

Well, I don't know. I'll just take a stab at it here, a shot in the dark, but - is it maybe because it's all over the Bible? Is that perhaps the explanation?

But she's concerned about "Jewish brothers and sisters"? What does she mean - Jewish Christians? Then they should be well-liberated from the traditions of the elders now, set free with the liberty of the sons of God, their consciences captive to the Word alone. Right?

But if she's concerned about offending unbelieving Jews? How far is she going to go with that concern of hers? God says His name 6800+ times, and she says "Shush!" So... what about this whole "Jesus is Lord" thing, then? That really offends unbelievers. What about "Messiah atoned for sin on the Cross"? Really, really offensive. Shall we drop that, too?

And Bible-believers should follow Rome's lead? I'll retire to Bedlam.

There are more bobbles and semi-bobbles of less significance, but the end-note is: John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, says, "Some people said using Yahweh emphasized for them the transcendence of God, which you might say is precisely the goal of not saying the term."

Can anyone make any sense of that? And that, from the Calvin institute?

Against it, this:
To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of [Yahweh] (Genesis 4:26)

It is [Yahweh] your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear (Deuteronomy 6:13)

You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear (Deuteronomy 10:20)

Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you, and on the kingdoms that do not call upon your name! (Psalm 79:6)

Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name (Psalm 80:18)

Oh give thanks to [Yahweh]; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! (Psalm 105:1)

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of [Yahweh] (Psalm 116:13)

I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of [Yahweh] (Psalm 116:17)

And you will say in that day: "Give thanks to [Yahweh], call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted (Isaiah 12:4)
But none of that has any place in this. It's all "I feel/don't feel," "they will feel," "it has been done"....

I don't know, call me a contrarian. But I think the actual text of the Bible should have some bearing on how we worship of the God who wrote it.


coldwell said...


I know little or nothing about Hebrew. But I was always taught (not by the Vatican) that the name was considered not to be pronounced because vowel markings were omitted from the Hebrew texts where it appears by the Hebrew copyists. Is that incorrect?

DJP said...

Thanks for asking, and (in response) - no.

First, originally none of the words had vowel-points. So, too-strictly-speaking, the pointing is all equally speculative.

Second, most hold (as I do) that the pointing in the modern manuscripts under YHWH is impossible, and that it reflects the traditionalistic practice of reading the word for "Lord" instead of "Yahweh" when it is in the text. It was the same sort of reasoning that made a law that women should not look in mirrors on Sabbath, because that might tempt them to pull out a gray hair, and that would be work. So, it was apparently reasoned, if you never say "Yahweh," you will never take His name in vain. Though of course this ends up as disobedience as well - as I argued.

Rileysowner said...

That would be incorrect as there are vowel markings, but they are the vowel markings for Adoni. Having said that vowel markings were added to the Hebrew text quite late, and were definitely not part of the original inspired text. Thus, the non pronouncing of the name of God is purely tradition, and a tradition that I think wrongly understand the commandment to not take the name of God in vain. Many people who would never pronounce the name Yahweh take the name of God in vain all the time in other ways when they treat God frivolously in how they refer to him even without pronouncing his actual name.

Reading those quotes from "Reformed" theologians (and I use both terms loosely) makes me almost ashamed to be associated with them. Thankfully there are some who have their heads screwed on right, but they don't get the press time.

DJP said...

I think it important to say that Rileysowner is not my sock-puppet.


Rileysowner said...

LOL. Nope, not a sock puppet. Just a slower typist. Well, to be more accurate, a typist slowed by the constant attention of a 3 year old.

Mike Westfall said...

I've noticed that among some Christians, LORD and God are themselves now bowdlerized, at least in writing.

I mean, after all the third commandment says, You shall not take the name of the L-RD your G-d in vain.

Tom Chantry said...

Oh, for just one faithful translation of the Bible which, while sound in all other tranlational categories, included the name of our God! I would jettison the ESV in a heartbeat, even though I've spent the last three years explaining to my people that I preach from it because it's "the best we have."

Stefan Ewing said...

Dan wrote:

So... what about this whole "Jesus is Lord" thing, then? That really offends unbelievers. What about "Messiah atoned for sin on the Cross"? Really, really offensive. Shall we drop that, too?


And, um, it's been done. The whole dropping thing.

You handled Professor Bechtel's remarks quite well.

I just wish we knew definitively exactly how we should pronounce the Name of the Lord. Certainly, I understand that "Jehovah" is a mispronunciation, based on a misunderstanding of the vowel points.

Since the Masoretes did not preserve the original pronunciation for us, however, is "Yahweh" the best reconstruction based on the name's etymology, etc.? And should it be pronounced "Ya-hweh," "Yah-weh," or "Yah-veh"?

Your graphic of YHVH would have looked more impressive if it were surrounded by flames, or some such thing.

Stefan Ewing said...

Oh! Oh! Don't forget Joel 2:32!

"And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of [YHWH] shall be saved."

(By the way, the Blogger word verification is "creatu.")

JackW said...

Hallelujah ... way.

Ron said...

DJP says.. "I think the actual text of the Bible should have some bearing on how we worship of the God who wrote it".

nuff said!

Stephen Cathers said...

Hi Dan,

I've appreciated your writings on this issue, and now I even reverse-translate LORD to Yahweh when I read the Bible, but I have one question that's always bothered me a bit. Taking just the New Testament record, it would seem that we have no evidence that any Christians were using YHWH rather than Lord. The New Testament writers consistently use Lord and never use YHWH. So if we condemn (I know it's not a major difference, just a pet peeve, but still...) the substitution of Lord for YHWH, are we condemning the practice of the apostles themselves? Just wondering what your take on that is.

DJP said...

Stephen, that's a great question. The short answer (which isn't much shorter than the long answer) is that (A) they don't explain it, and (B) they don't command us to do likewise. So we don't know why, and we aren't compelled to do the same - any more than we're compelled to use the Septuagint as our main translation.

My speculation would be that it they were mostly using a translation that had "Lord" instead of Yahweh; and it wasn't at the top of the list of traditions they chose to collide with head-on. We know they did not systematically go through every single tradition that didn't fit the Gospel and talk about it; instead, they broke the back of traditionalism, and left subsequent generations to work out the details as they'd started to do.

That they didn't mention nor openly challenge any given specific tradition does not mean they endorsed it, if it doesn't pass Canonical muster. IMHO, this doesn't.

Kay said...

hmmm... next step, I suppose we'll have to say 'peace be upon him' every time we say Jesus. You know, because we wouldn't want to offend another group of people who don't even accept Christ, and hey, they do it because they 'respect' Him.

Unknown said...

It's great that you are "sprinkling" your article with His Great and Holy Name and surrounding it with sarcasm! That is exactly why THE JEWS set up that idea of keeping His name Holy. What is Holy? Separation from secularism. So they set it aside and don't say it as often (Ashkenaz Jews dont EVER say it) so as not to set it up for desacration. As you have done. You say His Name, use sarcasm and anger, then say His Name. It's setting it up so that people who read this will think that since you are "so close to Him" that you can say His Name WHENEVER YOU WANT and that He also condones your anger and sarcasm. YOU and many others are the VERY REASON this tradition was started (not from Roman Catholics, but from JEWS who knew HaShem before Catholicism was even a dream)

Take it easy on the unnecessity of verbally vomiting a SEPARATE AND HOLY Name. Thanks.

Shalom. Love. joshuabreed

DJP said...

Goodness. Are we reading the same Bible? The most scathing and volcanic criticism in its pages are for hyper-pious hypocrites who find fine-sounding ways to disobey God (cf. Mark 7:1-13; Matthew 23).

Like people who are so super-pious that they refuse to use His name, as He commands.

It is nothing more than a silly excuse to seem holier than God. And you're right, I'm glad that came across: I do not respect it.

Anonymous said...

More evidence that Evangelicalism doesn't have a corner on the crackpot market.