The Sacred Name

 

From time to time I hear people talk about the sacred name of God. Usually they insist that it must be used and sometimes they denounce terms such as God and Lord as being inferior to actually using the name of God. Sometimes they even think that using words that refer to God is simply wrong when the name itself could be used. I suppose it would be like calling me, “That man” rather than “Ralph.” Actually, their argument sounds pretty good --at first. But wait! There’s more! There are times in everyday life when a title might be preferred to a name. Perhaps your doctor’s name is Joe. Would you refer to him as Joe or as Doctor? Perhaps the judge’s name is Bob. Would you refer to him as Bob or as Judge or perhaps Your Honor? The policeman that pulled you over has a nametag that says Kathy. Do you refer to her as Kathy or as officer?

 

But what if you don’t actually know the name of the person you’re talking to? You remember it was something like Bob, or Bobby, or Robert, or perhaps Rob. Anyway this Senator is important to you and your future so you want to get it right in the letter you are about to write. What are you going to do? Will you write dear what’s your name or dear Senator? The point here is that we don’t know the name of God. Yes people claim they do. Yet different people make different claims. Even the best Bible scholars will admit we cannot be certain what the name should sound like. Typically the name of God is referred to as the Tetragrammaton. Here is what the dictionary has to say about that term.

*   The four Hebrew letters usually transliterated as YHWH or JHVH, used as a biblical proper name for God.

*   By the way, Tetragrammaton simply means “A four letter word.”

But in actuality there are several other transliterations of those four Hebrew letters. Another common one is YHVH. Perhaps you noticed there are no vowels to give us a clue as to how the letters should be pronounced. This is not uncommon for the Hebrew language. In many cases we could drop the vowels from English and still have understandable sentences, but not always. This is especially true if some of the words are words we have never heard before.

 

So what about those descriptive terms, are they really so bad? Take a look at today’s bulletin and you will see many descriptive terms the Bible itself uses to refer to God. Is the Bible wrong?

 

Another interesting fact is this; although the King James Old Testament Hebrew contains over 6500 uses of the Tetragrammaton the King James New Testament never uses the Tetragrammaton! As far as I know no common translation does. If it was so important to use the ”Sacred Name shouldn’t it appear in the New Testament? Let’s get real. The Sacred Name is not a magic word. With a magic word you must get it right or it doesn’t work. You must say abracadabra not obreecadobree. I’m not sure if Governor Arnold could get in!

 

The Bible tells us that even the great Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never new God by the Tetragrammaton. Check it out. What King James translated as Jehovah was actually the Tetragrammaton.

*   (Exo 6:2-3 KJV)  And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: {3} And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

Let me share a few excerpts from an article on the Tetragrammaton I found on the web at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

*   Tetragrammaton (from the Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning '[word of] four letters' (tetra "four" + gramma (gen. grammatos) "letter"), [1] refers to יהוה, a name used by the Hebrew Masoretic Text to refer to the deity of the Israelites. The Jewish conception of God holds that this is one of several names for the deity.

*   These four letters are usually transliterated from Hebrew as IHVH in Latin, JHWH in German, French and Dutch, and YHWH in English. This was variously rendered as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah", since in Latin there was no distinct lettering to distinguish 'Y' from 'J', or 'W' from 'V', and the Hebrew does not clearly indicate the omitted vowels. In English translations, it is often rendered in small capital letters as "the LORD", following Jewish tradition which reads the word as "Adonai" ("Lord") out of respect for the name of God and the commandment not to take the name of God in vain.

*   Observant Jews write down but do not pronounce the Tetragrammaton, because it is considered too sacred to be used for common activities. Even ordinary prayer is considered too common for this use. The Tetragrammaton was pronounced by the High Priest on Yom Kippur when the Temple was standing in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Tetragrammaton is no longer pronounced, and while Jewish tradition holds that the correct pronunciation is known to a select few people in each generation, it is not generally known what this pronunciation is.

*   In ancient Hebrew, the letter ו, known to modern Hebrew speakers as vav, was a semivowel /w/ (as in English, not as in German) rather than a /v/.[7] The letter is referred to as waw in the academic world. Because the ancient pronunciation differs from the modern pronunciation, it is common today to represent יהוה as YHWH rather than YHVH.

*   In Biblical Hebrew, most vowels are not written and the rest are written only ambiguously, as the vowel letters double as consonants (similar to the Latin use of V to indicate both U and V). See Matres lectionis for details. For similar reasons, an appearance of the Tetragrammaton in ancient Egyptian records of the 13th century BC sheds no light on the original pronunciation.[8] Therefore it is, in general, difficult to deduce how a word is pronounced from its spelling only, and the Tetragrammaton is a particular example: two of its letters can serve as vowels, and two are vocalic place-holders, which are not pronounced.

 

OK, you can decide for yourself whether we should use the “Sacred Name” in spite of the fact that we don’t even know how it should be pronounced. In spite of the fact that religious Jews don’t use it: In spite of the fact that neither Jesus nor the writers of the New Testament used it: In spite of the fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never used it.

 

In Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, Juliet says:
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

 

I submit that as long as we are not demeaning God then whichever term we use to refer to Him will be OK with Him. Remember, God is not trying to send us to hell. He desires that none should perish. Think about it.