Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thoughts on the Tetragrammaton

Taken from the book edited by Alvin F. Kimel, Jr. (editor) This Is My Name Forever: The Trinity & Gender Language for God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). See page 26:

"The notion that God has a proper name and can be differentiated from other deities with proper names is absolutely clear in the Old Testament. Other gods (ELOHIM) lay claims on humanity, but Israel is to have no god (ELOHIM) before or beside YHWH (Ex 20:3). Moreover, the character of the name is itself a matter of reverence, since the name really coheres with the God it names (20:7). One cannot therefore malign the name or substitute for the name another name, and somehow leave untouched the deity with whom the name is attached . . . Not taking the name of YHWH in vain implies, at a minimum, understanding that YHWH is not an 'accident' [non-essential property] detachable from a deeper 'substance,' that is, 'God himself.'"

Contrast the early church fathers, who believed God did not have a proper name or did not need to be distinguished from other entities since he is SUI GENERIS.

Here is another quote taken from a work titled Guide for the Perplexed which is written by the medieval thinker Maimonides. In 1.61 of that work, he writes:

"It is well known that all the names of God occurring in Scripture are derived from His actions, except one, namely, the Tetragrammaton, which consists of the letters yod, hé, vau [or vav, waw] and hé. This name is applied exclusively to God, and is on that account called Shem ha-meforash, 'The nomen proprium.' It is the distinct and exclusive designation of the Divine Being; whilst His other names are common nouns, and are derived from actions, to which some of our own are similar, as we have already explained."

Best regards,

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