Posted by: Ed | September 18, 2009

‘THE NAME’ or Should we say the ‘Y’ word?

I remember in somewhere around day 2 of our Hebrew class our instructor had us take out our main text book & we all read this statement together:
“Another type of deliberate change in the reading due in this case to reverence, is the Divine name (Yahweh). The Divine name was considered too sacred to be pronounced; so the consonants of this word were written in the text (Kethibh), but the word read (Qere) was adonai.

He had us all get out our pens & cross out the word “reverence” and replace it with the word “superstition”. He went on a passionate rant / digression saying (weird that I can still recall this), “God has a NAME & He wants us to know it & call Him by name.” He would usually begin our classes with prayer. One day for example praying Psalm 8:1 prayed, O Yahweh our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth (Yahweh adonainu ma ‘adir shemka vacla ha-aretz).

Back to the present. We at Journey are in a series on the life of Elijah (1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2). One of the main themes of the life of Elijah is that Yahweh, not Ba’al is the true god of Israel & really of the whole earth.

For those of you that are totally lost let me give you a little background. When you read your Bible and are in the Old Testament, you frequently see the word “LORD”. It seems so normal to us that you are probably saying, “Duh! It’s the Bible, of course it talks about the LORD! This is all fine & makes sense until you get to passages like Genesis 4:26… “then men began to call on the name of the LORD.” What kind of name is “LORD”. So here’s the deal. When you read in most English Bibles the all-capital word “LORD” it is translating the Hebrew word “YaHWeH. Hebrew has no vowels, so pronunciation indicators, called “vowel points” are put in many Bibles to help us know how to say it (they are not in most texts read in synagogues). Somewhere along the line it was decided that the name of God was too Holy to pronounce. So in Hebrew you SAY adonai (Lord, master, think of English royalty, yes, my Lord) even through anyone can read Yahweh. Pretty much every English translation that any of you own follows this notion. Some of my Jewish friends not only won’t say the Y word, but even when they type they will refer to God as G_d or Ha Shem (the NAME).

But when you come to a section of Scripture like we are in now, in which the whole thing is a battle of the two very specific deities.,both of which have names. What do you do? In most of our minds the word “LORD” and the word “GOD” is interchangeable. But here one God is getting in the face of the other & at every turn essentially calling him a punk. In fact the main character, Elijah (Eliyyahu) means Yahweh is my / our God. So, I find myself referring to Yahweh in these messages. The question is this: is that o.k.? Further, are our English translations right in not translating what is plainly & repeatedly right in front of them?

It is nice to fall in line with a long tradition if possible. In matters of faith & theology, innovation is not exactly a cardinal virtue. The practice of not translating the name is ancient. For us protestants of course we have a long history of saying “who cares”. We point to places like Mark 7 in which Jesus blew off tradition warning about it getting in the way of real faith. Allow me to throw a speed-bump in our road through the neighborhood of faith we’ve recently (in historical terms) been invited to move into. This particular tradition pre-dates Jesus. The Septuagint (shorthand LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures c.200 b.c.e. ) did not translate “the name.” They used “KURIOS” the Greek word for Lord. All of the New Testament writers followed the LXX in this practice. Often when you see OT quotes in the NT they are quoting the LXX. (I know this is lot of letters to keep track of… pretend we’re texting LOL, OMG, OT, NT, LXX)

To me this is the strongest argument for adhering to our practice of LORD for YHWH.

But the name is used over 6800 times by itself not counting where it occurs in names (like Elijah) and places. There is THAT! In the Bible that is next to my laptop, the Old Testament is 816 pages. Do the math. That’s a lot of occurrences of a word that we aren’t supposed to say. Then there are the places where it just doesn’t make sense if you don’t use a proper name.

The KaBoom for me is that essentially the name of Jesus is this name. Yashuah (the non-greekized / gringo-ized name of Jesus, what his mom called him) means YHWH is Salvation!

So here’s what my practice looks like. I sometimes pray to Yahweh. I often read it YHWH when I’m reading the text in my own Bible reading or when I’m memorizing verses. When I teach, I use it when the text calls for it, especially when it won’t make sense without it. I try to pray the Shema of Jesus (Deut 6:4-5 with Lev 19:18) in the morning & at night every day. I have memorized them in Hebrew. When I say v.4 I say Yahweh. When I say v5 I say adonai. Don’t know why, I just do.

As for me, I pray the prayer of Solomon when he dedicated he temple
1Kings 8:43 hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that 2this house which I have built is called by Your name.

And that name would be…



  1. I suppose the best option would be to write “YHWH” and say “Adonai”, retaining the Hebrew in both cases. :)

    This would achieve the best of both worlds. (1) We would be using a proper name by recognizing “YHWH” in our minds whether we were reading YHWH or hearing another person say Adonai. (2) And we would adhere to the Hebrew virtue of revering YHWH’s name, so much so that we would never say it.

  2. Good comment. I hear you, but I think this option begs the question, was that a “virtue”? Did they make the right call when they decided that “the Name” should not be pronounced? I understand the reasons, I sympathize with the underlying value, I just think the overwhelming number of times God has his name in his story is pretty decisive.
    I certainly wouldn’t try to talk someone off this for them.

  3. I so don’t mean to be flippant because this is very profound and I really appreciate what both you and TC say. It teaches me and makes me think and quite frankly, I’m too ignorant here to even have a thought.

    Bizarrely, (and perhaps sacrilegiously) all that keeps coming to mind is Shakespeare (my other bible). “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet; so Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection to which he owes without that title: – (here it deviates because Romeo was a Montague) – Romeo, doff thy name; and for that name, which is no part of thee, take all myself.”

  4. Quite the contrast from when _____ said from the stage that “God doesn’t want our ‘sloppy seconds.'” Very irreverant, IMHO.

  5. Christ died to take on our sins and to remove the seperation between man and God…I would think that part of that seperation had included the restrictions about uttering the name of the LORD; but now with the cross before us we should embrace the name of God. In the New Testiment God Himself, refers to himself as becoming the Husband of the Church, and while there is a strong headship within that, there is also strong relationship in the position. With that level of relationship, there comes an increased level of intimacy…which not only allows for, but possibly demands we call out to Him by name.

  6. The thing is, God has many names. And there are three persons in the Godhead. And none of them are your spouse.

    Names are words that describe various aspects of personality. This is very common and telling within languages. And in the Bible different names point to different aspects of God’s person. And it can be dangerous to confuse the names or pick one and apply it to the other persons.

    In the New Testament, Paul refers to the church is the bride of Christ. God in the YHWH sense is far from depicted as husband of anyone. Really, Christ is no one’s husband – it is the Church as whole that is pictured as the bride.

    The prevailing word picture in the Old Testament is God as Father. I would never date nor marry my father, and it would be creepy and disprectful if I was singing him love songs as if he were my boyfriend. YHWH/God as Father begs a certain reverence and respect that is in some contrast with other names and images; i.e. Jesus’ calling the disciples his “friends” illuminates the totality of our relationship with God without eliminating other aspects of the relationship. We respect our friends in a different way than we respect the Creator YHWH; and so yes you are correct in saying that Jesus Christ as a person of the Trinity brings a certain level of intimacy, but that does not change the person of YHWH as one commanding respect/reverence. Even in the New Testament God the Father remains someone to revere. Jesus is a prime modeler in this case (as in “Our Father in heaven, hallowed …”).

    Hence, practicing a certain level of discipline regarding one of the names of God might not be a bad idea. By practicing honor of His name, we are experiencing all the personhood of God and practicing what we might then be more inclined to live out – humility, worship, respect for Creator.

  7. I guess for me the sublety of the diffence lies in the intent. I think it irreverant to utter expressions like the “The Big Guy” or the “Man Upstairs”, but don’t feel the same way about claiming and communication with God through the use of His name. So we would be in agreement about disciplining ourselves to the extent and the nature of the use of God’s name..but for me it seems rather pharsitical (sp) to deny oneself the use of one name for God based on a man based belief of that name’s significance without scripture to support the need to do so. I can remain in a hallowed state (I think) in whatever title is used to worship Him.

  8. I’ll jump in real quick & then let y’all go at it. As a point of fact, YHWH is not just one of God’s names. It is “THE NAME”. Whenever, they pray that the Name of God be known, when ever the OT says stuff like, “Your name” they are referring to YHWH.
    O.k. back at it.

  9. So final thought from me…there is so much to a life lived in Christ, and one that brings glory to God through that life, that I have a personal challenge in looking at this issue with the spiritual consideration as I would actual commands from God. I keep hearing the words of Paul on my ears…

    Romans 14
    As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and o let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since s he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

    And no I am not calling anyones faith weak by this contraint…just that we are all responsible for the dicipline of our convictions, and in the absence of direct instruction from the Word, we are to lean on the discerment of the Holy Spirit about those things to which we dedicate our efforts.

  10. Amen brother, on many levels.

    Thanks for the conversation everyone. I enjoy working toward an understanding with you and appreciate you allowing me to think out loud, for “now I know in part” (1 Cor 13:12). Or: Forgive me if I come off like a know-it-all.

    Bottom line, Ed, is I like the idea of reading “Yahweh” wherever the English translations render it “LORD”, or at least thinking of God in a more personal way than a simple adjective (i.e. Lord). I suspect this will be illuminated in the Elijah story over the weekend.

    I am still wondering what our Jewish friends might say as to the rationale behind saying “Adonia” (i.e. not saying “Y-W-“?

    • typo – Adonai, not Adonia.

  11. The more I find that I know about God…the more I am forced to admit that I know about Him not!

    Blessing T.C.

  12. Ed, I have never studied like you, I am pretty simple, I just call him dad or my daddy. He and I have that clear of understanding. The one word that I do now know he doesn’t like being called is PROUD. I was watching TBN one day when they were commenting on the movie they just finished and they said that they were sure the Lord was very proud of the movie they just made. I heard a very loud audible voice say ” I AM NOT PROUD, THAT IS NOT MY CHARACTER “. As far as what name you call him, pray on it and what ever you do, don’t call him PROUD.

  13. Sherry,
    Right on the money:
    Psa. 138:6 For athough the LORD is exalted,
    Yet He bregards the lowly,
    But the chaughty He knows from afar.

    I know we have at least on of my jewish friends out there. Thoughts Jon???

  14. I wanted to respond to Sherry’s comment too. I loved it. This was what I was trying to say with the “What’s in a name?” quote but came up empty.

    I love semantics and learning and think it is really important – so Ed, keep the Greek and the Hebrew words flowing. But there is the other part of me that at the end of the day knows intellectualism can be like legalism – it can take me out of a heart felt experience with God – that authenticity which is so VITAL. I had an art teacher once say, “If you analyze a painting too much, you kill it – strip it of its essence and beauty.”

    Sherry – you aren’t simple. You’re profound.
    I also really like the scriptures Greg pointed out and what he communicated through them.

    Ed – I’m so excited to learn Greek! I suck at languages but didn’t you once say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly?” Thank you for sharing your passion for words and the Word. It’s infectious.

  15. PS – Speaking of language and its sensitivity, your comment “ran like a girl” was funny. I confess, I laughed… but…. I know lots of girls that can way outrun boys on the playground – and/or have the courage not to run when a situation warrants.

  16. Ed, all:

    We’ve been talking about ‘Yahweh.’ Question: Is ‘Yah’ a sort of personal nickname? Did the Hebrews actually use ‘Yah’ as an abreviation and allow themselves to say it, instead of ‘Adonai’, as a substitute for the forbidden utterence ‘Yahweh’. If so, was it like an intimate nickname, similar to the way we say ‘Daddy’ rather than ‘Father’?

    A famous example of the usage of ‘Yah’ is actually already known to us. We get our word Hallelujah from passages such as Psalm 104:35, which ends with the compound word “Praise God (technically, it’s praise the LORD)” (Hallelu-jah).

    All of this might answer Ed’s original question, and lead us to add the name “Yah” to our prayer and worship vocabulary. It’s been there the whole time!


  17. Ed-

    Great thoughts. I loved this post. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    You and Dodge must’ve had the same Hebrew prof…I think this is Jeff’s perspective- say His name.

    The “Elijah” and “Jesus” (yeshua) were great insights. Thanks,

    – Mark

  18. Were any of you at the Married Couples Retreat this year? The speaker touched on a similar idea. He said he believes we have allowed ourselves to become so casual in our relationship with God that we can forget the power and majesty. Although he can be “daddy” to us, he is also a God of fire (as I think we’ll get to with the Elijah story). A God whose face we cannot look upon, and the train of his robe alone filled the temple.

    I love, Ed, that you constantly remind us of the inherent mystery involved in trying to know God. I think there are times I am compelled to call out to God and utter HIS NAME, saying it or reading it aloud. Other times I am so overwhelmed with reverence that I cannot speak at all, much less utter that precious name.

    I can also see an easy slip into legalism over this, and yes, superstition replacing reverence. I keep thinking of the Harry Potter books and “He Who Must Not Be Named”.

    I think we need to allow the mystery to remain, and know that God sees what is in our hearts by saying or not saying the name. As always, asking God to search our hearts and reveal any unclean motives, and purify us.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  19. (forgive any typos, it’s late and I did not have time to edit after writing)

    Thank you Ed for being a model learner and teacher for me for 17 years now and walking this journey with me. I am honored to have my opinion represented and even requested. :D

    I have always been a Jew but have only recently began to live within the Covenant of Moses so I do not speak for all Jews. What I have learned is that the Jewish and Christian world view God from a very different vantage point, each possessing great insight and error on their journeys. My prayer is that we first find clarity, then respect, and then our opinions.

    I have a few specific comments on your post and will give my opinion with support afterwards.

    ““Another type of deliberate change in the reading due in this case to reverence, is the Divine name (YHVH). The Divine name was considered too sacred to be pronounced;

    “He had us all get out our pens & cross out the word “reverence” and replace it with the word “superstition”. He went on a passionate rant / digression saying (weird that I can still recall this), “God has a NAME & He wants us to know it & call Him by name.”

    This superstition does exist in some circles but not in all. Just search google for “tetragrammaton”, another way of describing the most revered name of Hashem captured in YHVH, and you will see some strange symbols, etc. that many have conjured up – most of them not Jewish.

    The reverence described is both a reverence to Hashem as well as to the tradition that was well established by the biblical period. Tradition has taken on a negative connotation in the mind of many believers, but it is Hashem’s intentional method of drawing his people near. Many of these traditions were explicitly given through Moses and the prophets (i.e. Passover, Sabbath, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Circumcision, etc.) including the second commandment not to take Hashem’s name in vain.

    It is the tradition Hashem has given and helped the Jewish people work out that forms the framework of how to obey this commandment. Therefore, abandoning the tradition altogether is a very bold move as it asserts that one knows more than the community and that one is willing to either disregard the command or stand alone in their attempt to discover how to obey.


    In fact the main character, Elijah (Eliyahu) means YHVH is my / our God. So, I find myself referring to Yahweh in these messages. The question is this: is that o.k.? Further, are our English translations right in not translating what is plainly & repeatedly right in front of them?

    It is nice to fall in line with a long tradition if possible. In matters of faith & theology, innovation is not exactly a cardinal virtue.

    To me this is the strongest argument for adhering to our practice of LORD for YHVH.

    Elijah’s name (אליהו) does not contain the entire Tetragrammaton (יהוה) so when one says el-i-yahoo, one is alluding to but not pronouncing the Tetragrammaton.

    I believe the English translations were right in respecting the tradition of the Jewish sources well established in the Second Temple Period ending in 70 CE. In my understanding, Philo, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, and the on the ground Judaism of this period all sought to honor Hashem by avoiding the use of this name. This is confirmed in the Mishna, a compendium of Jewish writings created around 250 CE which states that the Tetragrammaton was uttered only once per year by the high priest in the Most Holy Place in the Second Temple on Yom Kippur.

    Innovation in this regard would have meant clear separation from the community through which Hashem has chosen to reveal himself and link his name. He is the God of Israel, and He has worked by his Spirit within the community and tradition of Israel to bring glory and honor to His Name.

    I believe a reference to the Tetragrammaton using a partial phrase such as “yah” is different than using the complete name. So Yeshua (ישוע) alludes to this name but is very specific towards the saving/delivering aspect of God, much like Joshua/Yehoshua (יהושע) was earlier.

    But the name is used over 6800 times by itself not counting where it occurs in names (like Elijah) and places. There is THAT! In the Bible that is next to my laptop, the Old Testament is 816 pages. Do the math. That’s a lot of occurrences of a word that we aren’t supposed to say. Then there are the places where it just doesn’t make sense if you don’t use a proper name.

    I see a small but important assumption here. If a word is written does that given liberty to pronounce it? This may sound trite and pedantic but Hashem is a God of details, not generalities. He gave Israel and holy land yet said that they could worship in certain ways ONLY in the place which Hashem would choose.

    If all the land is holy, why isn’t any location appropriate? If our hearts are in the right place and we are worshiping the right God, why does it matter?

    Because Hashem said so. Period.

    In this example, Hashem is very explicit in stating in the text what He desires as he eventually selects a Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) in the wilderness and then a Mikdash (Temple) on Mount Moriah as this location.

    In other examples, he leaves it to the community to work it out by being intentionally vague.

    Take the 4th Commandment to observe the Sabbath, the Shabbat.

    Throughout the Scriptures, it says:

    – to “remember” or “guard” (זָכוֹר) it
    – to “keep it holy”
    – it is a “sign between Israel & Hashem forever”
    – no “kindling a fire”
    – no “buying or selling”
    – no “creative work” (מְלַאכְתֶּךָ) for you or your family, servants, or animals
    – violation punishable by death

    And thats about it. Since the punishment is death, some obvious questions emerge.

    – what EXACTLY it mean to “remember” or “guard” the sabbath?
    – what EXACTLY is “creative work” so we can avoid it?
    – how EXACTLY do I keep it holy?

    Hashem is not afraid of detailed requirements, often giving a specific phrase to be spoken such as when your child asks why we celebrate Passover or the specific dimensions and fruits for the building of the Mishkan and Mikdash.

    When Hashem leaves out the details, he does it on purpose. I agree with the Jewish community that the purpose is for the community to wrestle with God and eachother in working out how together, not just as individuals, they will seek to honor what Hashem has asked of them.

    It is a “get to,” not a “have to.”

    So, in the case of 6800 instances of a written Tetragrammaton, I believe the assumption that what is written was, should be, or grants liberty to be pronounced requires a second look. Hashem has asked the Jewish community to work out with Him how to obey and this should be honored as its goal is kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of God’s name.

    More from

    As for me, I pray the prayer of Solomon when he dedicated he temple
    1Kings 8:43 hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that 2this house which I have built is called by Your name.

    And that name would be…

    I believe this position needs to be reconsidered as what is written is not always pronounced. Hashem “spoke” the world into being and therefore the spoken word is thought to be very different from the written word. This dichotomy is somewhat alive in our society in the reverse. People can say many things with great liberty, but what is written takes on a much more serious tone. When it comes to the Tetragrammaton, it may be written but only spoken in a proper context.

    From ‘The “NAME” part 2 (sorry, just want to keep it all together.)

    In conclusion, in a very real sense the New Testament writers did pronounce the Name. Every time they utter Yashuah or if they were more comfortable in Greek, Iesou, or if you are a gringo, Jesus.

    So when you read the Bible, feel free to read His Name when He seems to want you to. Next time you pray Psalm 8, don’t say the nonsensical, O Lord our Lord how majestic is Your name in all the earth. Say O Yahweh, Our Master / Lord, how majestic is that Name of yours in all the earth. Remember, “knowing God personally” or “in a personal way” or “not religion, but relationship” is not a cool Christian innovation that Jesus invented. It was in the Hebrew Scriptures from day 1. It was what the prophets called His people back to. It is the blessing that God has that changes the way we do life.

    I believe my earlier discussion about parts of the name constitute an allusion or reference without using the actual name is true here as well.
    On the aspect of “knowing God personally” is by abandoning “religion”, I believe there is an enthymeme, or unspoken assumption that must be true, in order for me to agree with this. (Certainly these words have a variety of meanings so I will do my best to clarify them as necessary.)

    1. Religion, as a specific way of life with boundaries, consequences, and deep tradition – some of which was developed by humans interacting with God – is antithetical to a personal and intimate relationship with God, as defined by connection, relateability, understanding, social liberties, and a deep experience.

    I believe this is a false premise, first for the Jew, then for those following among the nations for the following reasons:


    The Scriptures show that Adam walked and talked with God. They had a relationship that was very intimate and personal. Yet, it was based on an agreement, a covenant between the two of them related to what Adam was prohibited from eating. Eve eats of the tree but it is not until Adam eats that Hashem exiles them from the garden and gives humanity its historical burden.

    The covenant is the basis of intimate relationship.

    It is said that “Noah walked with God” and what follows God’s detailed commands to him is that he “did everything Hashem asked of him.”

    His obedience was the basis of his intimate relationship.

    Moses is said to have “seen the Lord and lived” and “spoken to Hashem face to face”. He dwelled with God alone on Mt. Sinai for 40 days without food and water receiving the Torah. He argues, pleads with Hashem for Israel. Besides Adam, I cannot think of a more intimate and personal relationship and it was based on his obedience to Hashem’s direct commands regarding Pharaoh, the plagues, etc. and then the revealed Torah after Mt. Sinai.

    However, he and his brother Aaron desecrate Hashem’s name by striking the rock in anger and received their consequence by both dying just outside the land that Hashem had promised to give them.

    The covenant was the framework for the intimate relationship.

    Yeshua had union with the father “before the foundation of the world” yet continued this intimacy through his obedience as a man – including to the Torah of Moses, the revealed marriage contract or covenant between the God of Israel and the Israel of God.

    The covenantal way of life that each of these examples and myriads more followed is what many call “religion” today. It is not opposed to intimacy but is actually the means to achieve it. Judaism is this way of life for the Jew.

    Just like playing a sport you no longer like, the life can be drained from our actions. However, the sport is not to be blamed, the player is.

    As Jews, we must seek to embody our responsibilities with great joy so we can achieve what Hashem said the neighboring countries would declare when observing us, “what a great God these people must have to be given such a great Law of freedom and life.”


    I believe the same paradigm is true but to a different degree. All those who call themselves a follower of Yeshua or Hashem have specific covenant responsibilities as servants of God. However, they differ for Jews and Gentiles. This is called “bilateral ecclesiology” by a fellow Jew named Mark Kinzer.

    Some examples:

    Paul the apostle, commenting on Yeshua’s final Passover Seder, often called “The Last Supper,” gave specific directions that when eating of the bread and wine, one should “remember the Lord’s death until he returns.”

    In the Apostolic Decree given by the Council at Jerusalem through James, Gentiles are given specific instructions to:

    a. avoid idolatry
    b. abstain from fornication
    c. abstain from eating things strangled
    d. abstain from eathing blood

    Both of these commands are directed to non-Jewish communities but are related to Torah. They require specific actions from the community in order to maintain intimacy and a personal connection with God. Any other conclusion is a facade in my opinion and substitutes an experience or state for “true religion” such as “caring for orphans and widows” and “taking up your cross daily” and “following Yeshua.”

    Sidebar: I find it very interesting that the “traditions” of the Jewish community are often stigmatized and disparaged as being “dead works” or “man made law” when the Church – the believers among the nations – must also work together to interpret how exactly to apply even these 2 sets of directives. For example, Gentiles are not commanded to observe Passover yet need to do what Paul asked them to related to “remembering the Lord’s death.”

    Therefore, they worked to find a way to achieve this by introducing communion. This is a tradition that has become a required part of a believers life. This forms a way of life for Gentiles the same as Judaism does for Jews and I would even call it religion, the covenant framework of intimacy with God.

    CONCLUSION (if you’ve read this far, I am grateful)

    I believe the tradition of Israel should be respected in NOT uttering the Tetragrammaton.

    All of the early authorities respected this tradition.
    The modern Jewish community, the bearers of the language and Scriptures in question respect this tradition.
    The Messianic Jewish community, seeking to live out the Scriptures as a whole, respect this tradition.

    Finally, there is a hermeneutic used in the Jewish understanding of scripture. Notwithstanding certain exceptions when a life, relationship, or humiliation is at stake, if there are two interpretations of how to obey a commandment or directive of Hashem and one is lenient while the other strict, the strict is obeyed as it will satisfy the lenient as well.

    I have looked forward to responding to this for some time and hope this was helpful, be it verbose.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Jon Cline

    I think this is a great discussion and I know my friend David Rudolph, a Messianic Jew, Pauline scholar, and Ph.D in New Testament from Cambridge would love to reply as well.

  20. Dear Ed,

    Great discussion! You point out that the New Testament writers consistently use kyrios instead of transliterating the Tetragrammaton (YHWH). However, you do not draw out the ecclesial implications of this. Because the Messiah’s example and the apostolic witness confirm Jewish practice on this issue (consistently!), we need an overriding reason to depart from this witness in the ecclesial context. The apostles were familiar with the arguments you raise (e.g. YHWH being used thousands of times in the Hebrew Bible) but did not arrive at your conclusion. Even in Philippians 2 when Paul refers to Yeshua (Jesus) receiving “the name above all names” – which Markus Bockmuehl, Richard Bauckham and others understand to be a reference to the Tetragrammaton – the apostle to the Gentiles does not spell out the Tetragrammaton. Honoring the name of God by not pronouncing the Tetragrammaton is a good example of how ecclesial theology should drive ethics and worship in the body of Messiah.

    Warm regards,
    David Rudolph

  21. As I said in an email, I’m honored that Dr Rudolph would weigh in.

    In brief I would say that the “overriding reason” is the specific statements of scripture.
    We are commanded to call on the name of the Lord
    One of many: Psa. 105:1 ¶ Oh agive thanks to the LORD, call (qal imperative) upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.

    Surely, this was the practice of those actually in the narratives. Elijah’s proposal on Carmel – lets each call on the NAMES of our God’s & we’ll see what happens. The people response: YHWH He is God. It’s unimaginable that anyone involved was saying “adonai”.

    The fact that the NT writers followed the LXX (from which they quoted presumably, most of the time) seems to be an argument from silence. We actually don’t know why they didn’t use it. But I think the most likely reason is found in the kenosis passage that you referred to. To the ekkesia, the gathered followers of Jesus, they prayed in THE NAME, God, manifest personally to us (Heb 1:1-2). I think He embodies the NAME, is in fact the Name.

    Shalom to all and especially to Dr. Rudolph. I would love to connect when I’m in Israel next fall.

    Thanks again.


  22. What a great way to spend my Saturday, reading all the great historical and relevant thoughts on THE NAME (The tetragrammaton)

    I personally don’t say it aloud, out of reverence, but by no means judge those who do say it in teaching or worship… I think condemning someone who says it aloud, and judging them to their face, is like not healing the lame on the Sabbath. Sure it follows the letter of the law and tradition, but not the spirit of the Law, especially as expressed by Jesus in his teachings (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself”)

    But, educating ourself with respect to the traditions of the Torah, the traditions of the early apostles and weaving that in with the understanding of how Christ had broken down that barrier or curtain to the Holy of Holies for us is something I’m still processing…and obviously, so is the modern church, even after all these years.

    Reading in Hebrews, gives us some insight into how Jesus’ work has changed much in our relationship to God the Father (Heb 12:18+ You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

    But now, Jesus has opened up a new covenent of approachability, and replaced the fearful and terrifying Mt. Sinai (old covenant of the Law) with Mt. Zion (the new covenant of grace in Christ):
    Heb 12: 22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

    God himself has not changed at all, but the way we approach him has changed. Changed at the moment of the death of Christ, to the new ways of approaching God the Father based on faith and freedom to do right, not forced to do right under the mandates of the Law. (of course, this is a much deeper topic that could take up weeks in a theology course, so pardon my brief overview).
    Bottom line, things have changed, and this has poignancy to the topic of saying THE NAME, I believe. Speaking a name is how we approach people, approach God. We approach God differently under the new covenant of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

    For me, I do agree that we need to remember that God is a consuming fire (just one of his many dozens of attributes), to be awed and held in deep reverence in our worship (Heb 12: 28-29: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”)

    But, his Holy Spirit is full of grace and mercy, and sees the hearts of his faithful, and if they utter THE NAME aloud in worship and in childlike-love and delight… I don’t think God is pained. Au contraire, I think he tells us he is overjoyed in that act of worship, too, and revels in the realationship of that believer. (verses upon request)

    So, did that clearly muddy the waters?

    It’s always a balance, to daily worship in awe and reverence of the Father’s greatness, and perhaps not to say THE NAME aloud, and yet, at the same time be child-like in our faith and joy, with freedom from the law and the legalism… free to shout, to dance, to revel in the Holy Spirit in true worship, in deep congruity of being wed to Christ as His church, where He our true love, where speaking THE NAME aloud conveys the passion and being one in Christ and the Triune God.

    Hebrews 13:15: Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of LIPS that confess HIS NAME. (emphasis mine).

    His Peace on your Journey,


  23. Matt,

    Great thoughts & great heart!


  24. I realize I’m jumping in late, but I have another word for you all. I’m sure all of you would agree that it’s more important for us to call on the Name (pray) than what we call or don’t call the Name. Yeshua told us that when we call on the Name, we should say, “Avinu.” (Our Father) It’s simple, pronounceable, non-controversial (maybe not with this bunch :D) and biblical.

    My favorite part of all this was learning that Rabbi Ed (I’ve called him that for years because of his high get-it factor about the Jewish roots of Christianity) prays the Shema twice a day. I pray it twice a week as it’s part of the liturgy where I worship. Twice a day is better. Here is a transliteration of the Hebrew in case anyone is interested.

    Sh’ma Yisrael adonai elohaynoo, adonai ekhod. (Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.) Deut 6:4, Mk 12:29


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