Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I am the LORD: that is my name

"I am Jehovah; that is My name; and I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to engraved images."
Isaiah  42:8 LITV

Why the difference between the King James Version and the Literal Version by James Green, who, by the way, is a staunch Trinitarian who used the Received Text, the same one behind the Jing James for the New Testament, for his translation?  The reason is simple.  In this verse, we find a proper name there unique to God himself, which he declared to be his name to time indefinite (Ex. 15).  Do Mr. Green chose to translate that name as we have it in English and put it there instead of the substitute we mostly see used by most other translators based on a Jewish myth that God's name is too holy for use and the pronunciation has been lost to mankind because of that.

Before we go on we might as well remind out traders of a few things.  We think by now our readers have caught on that we are not Trinitarians because we do not believe the Bible supports or teaches that doctrine.  Instead, we believe that the doctrine misleadingly labeled Arianism after one of its most able defenders who became the center of a controversy in the early 4th century A.D. is what the Bible teaches.  We also believe that our God can do pretty much whatever he wants within his self-imposed limits.  So that means that he can take a created being and place him on a level just below him and authorize him to:

Php 2:9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 
Php 2:10  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 
Php 2:11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

This still stays within what God says about there being no other God equal to him (Is 49:9*).  Yes, I do believe that declaration by Paul and recognize that God has placed his son, Jesus, as the agent of everyone's salvation.  So that name is important to me.

So why should we concern ourselves with God's name if that of Jesus is the one given to us to bow to and acknowledge?  Well, Jesus taught us to pray "Hallowed be thy name." (Matt. 6:9).  So, while God gave him such an exalted position and name it was not to the point of totally displacing his own which is in conformity with both Is. 49:9 but 1 Cor. 15:24-27 where it is made clear that Jesus is not on God's level, but subjected to him for all he has so high a level of being and honor himself.  To do that as good children in God's household and coheirs with Jesus we have to know the name of our father and God.  So where do we get God's name from?

From the Hebrew text, the Bible was written in.  So let's start with the above verse in Isaiah from the Hebrew 42:8:

Isa 42:8  אני יהוה הוא שמי וכבודי לאחר לא אתן ותהלתי לפסילים

This is how it appears in any modern Hebrew text written without the vowel points.  The word in red is God's name and is spelled yod he vav he, or YHVH when transliterated.  Something important to know id that although Spoken Hebrew had vowels, in ancient times written Hebrew did not.  As time went by certain consonants were used to indicate certain vowels as in the case of the highlighted vav in the word following God's name.  Okay, so how do we know how to pronounce God's name?

Well, the only reason we are going down a little longer road for this is because of a Hebrew myth that the pronunciation of God's name is lost.  That has resulted in a lot of confusion, especially since some efforts were made by Rabbinically dominated Jews to hide the pronunciation and keep it hidden from all but the privileged few students of imminent Jewish sages. To give the Jews their due this was not as selfish as it sounds on the surface.  There was a good reason.

For what follows I need to credit a Jewish scholar named Nehemiah Gordon, though I have verified it through my own sources, such as Chabad.org.  Nehemiah tells the story of what happened in his Open House video series on youtube and it's both simple and understandable.  Emperor Hadrian had the Jews revolt on him, the famous Bar Kochba revolt and put it down.  In the aftermath, he decided to destroy the Jewish faith altogether and forbade both the teaching of the Torah but the public use of God's name as well.  At the time it was still the custom of Jews to greet each other as Boaz greeted his workers in the book of Ruth (2:4) and that verse was the reason they did.  So Hadrian banned the use of the name.  Several Rabbis would be executed cruelly for their defiance by teaching the Law, but Akiva Ben Yoseph, simply called Rabbi Akiva and highly revered by the Jews today because he died for using God's name in public, or " Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of G‑d’s name)." *

The way Nehemiah explains it, the surviving rabbis made it a rule to not use God's name "until the Messiah comes."  Of course, they were expecting the Messiah anytime and had no idea he'd already come in his priestly role and it would be a long time before his return.  They teach that the pronunciation was lost, but that isn't true.  The Rabbis had some competition in the form of the scribes, or copyists of the Tanak.  They were responsible for inventing the ingenious system of vowel points which allowed them to preserve the correct articulation of the Hebrew Old Testament without altering the text they had by inventing and adding new letters as vowels.  They came to be called the Masoretes and were likely part of the group today called Karaite Jews who reject Rabbinical laws in favor of the text of the Bible they recognize as sacred.

When they invented the vowel pointing system and began using it in their manuscripts the Rabbis forbade the full vowel pointing of God's name to hide it pronunciation.  So throughout most of the manuscripts a "clipped" version of the name:

Isa 48:2  אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה ה֣וּא שְׁמִ֑י וּכְבֹודִי֙ לְאַחֵ֣ר לֹֽא־אֶתֵּ֔ן וּתְהִלָּתִ֖י לַפְּסִילִֽים׃ 

As we see here the name now has three characters added.  Those are the vowel points for "e" and "a" plus a cantellation point.  So now it looks like the name is Yehvah.  To add further to the confusion the Rabbis added a tradition that the vowel points for Lord, or Adonai, were added to signal the reader to say Adonai its stead when reading the scroll in public.  The funny thing is that those aren't the vowel points for Adonai.

Although we personally figured out for ourself the correct pronunciation of God's name for myself using another pathway, that of seeing how it was used in compound names such as Joshua, Johnathan, Jehonadab and the like, Nehemiah stumbled onto it by another path because it seems the scribes messed up when they copied the text and considering the quality of the Aleppo Text supervised by Ben Asher we have a little trouble buying into them messing up.  So they hid the correct articulation of God's name in plain sight by writing it out in some fifty or do places in the Tanak and Nehemiah stumbled onto several of those places on 9/11/2001 while the Towers were falling in New York as he was comparing some texts.  Isaiah 42:9 isn't one of those verses so we are going to move on to another verse from our Leningrad Codex text:

Gen 3:14  וַיֹּאמֶר֩ יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֥ים׀ אֶֽל־הַנָּחָשׁ֮ כִּ֣י עָשִׂ֣יתָ זֹּאת֒ אָר֤וּר אַתָּה֙ מִכָּל־הַבְּהֵמָ֔ה וּמִכֹּ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה עַל־גְּחֹנְךָ֣ תֵלֵ֔ךְ וְעָפָ֥ר תֹּאכַ֖ל כָּל־יְמֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ׃

Now we have it!  יְהֹוָ֨ה  Look at the dot above the ה, that is the vowel "holem" and the sound is "o" as in the word note.  So now we have the name of God written out as YeHoVaH, or Yehovah! You can see it in another ancient manuscript below in the Shema, or "Listen Israel" where it appears three times in the text.

It is from Deut. 6:4 and look how God's name is spelled there, and on down as well.  It is completely written out as Yehovah.  The translation of the verse is "Hear o Israel, Yehovah your God is one Yehovah!"  The next two lines also spell it out, "And you must love Yehovah, your God, with all of your heart."

So there we have it.  From the Bible itself from the two most ancient Masoretic Texts available since we also quoted from the Leningrad Text, which is also a Rabbinic product instead of Karaite and still kept the complete name of God preserved in a few places as well.  We won't get into where the alternative scholars promote of "Yaweh" or "Yaveh" comes from as it is beyond the intended scope of this post.

In English, the name has been Anglicised as Jehovah with one letter pronounced differently than the Hebrew by an accident of history.  In the older English, the letter "J" entered the English language with the consonantal value of the modern "Y," thus replacing the "I" in the older Iehovah.  However, over time the pronunciation of the letter "shifted," or changed, to what we now have.  We will not presume to instruct others as to whether to use the Hebraic as some insist or the Anglicised version of the name.

A final word.  We did state earlier that God has given his son the name "that is above every other name" so that "all knees will bend and confess" his name, Jesus, to their salvation.  I once walked with people who'd forgotten that in their obsession to give honor and glory to God's name and use it perhaps a tad too much to the detriment of our savior.  We are commanded to ask for his name to be holy, and that involves using it aright as well as we call on our Father, Jehovah, as well as our savior, Jesus, as God has commanded us to do.

*1 Lit. "there is no God beside me" or "equal to me" thus admitting that there are other Gods, false ones, but there is none equal to or above him.  Interestingly, we find only one translation in our e-sword which renders the thought accurately and that is Wycliffe's which ironically was translated from Latin:

(Wycliffe)  Bithenke ye on the formere world, for Y am God, and no God is ouer me, nether is lijk me.
(Latin)  recordamini prioris saeculi quoniam ego sum Deus et non est ultra Deus nec est similis mei

*2 See Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Chabad.org