The Name Jehovah

I am sorry that this is the first essay that I’ve placed as a “new post”.  I am new to blogging and did not understand how to post my essays.  So, you can find my other essays as comments in other sections.  Sorry for the confusion.  Anyway, here’s my post on the name “Jehovah”:

In the Judaism 101 article, “The Name of G-d,” the author wrote: “Some people render the four-letter Name YHVH as ‘Jehovah, but this pronunciation is particularly unlikely. The word ‘Jehovah’ comes from the fact that ancient Jewish texts used to put the vowels of the Name ‘Adonai’ (the usual substitute for YHVH) under the consonants of YHVH to remind people not to pronounce YHVH as written .”  The name, Jehovah, was created around the sixteenth century A.D. when Christian theologians were unsure with what to do with the Tetragrammaton, i.e. YHVH. Certain scholars, either through ignorance or by deliberate design, combined the consonants JHVH (or YHVH) with the vowels of the substitute word Adonay. This resulted in the creation of the name Jehovah.  According to my research, this  is the true origin of the name Jehovah.

                Many people in the modern church and world, however, use the name Jehovah on a regular basis.  But is anything wrong with using the name Jehovah for God. According to James E. Smith at Florida Chastain College, the word Jehovah is a nonsense name that has no biblical support.  In writing about the creation of the word “Jehovah,” Dr. Smith writes: “It is the result of an unholy wedding between the consonants of one word and the vowels of a totally different word.” Obviously he believes that using the word “Jehovah” is ignorant and wrong.  He goes on to say: “It is unnatural and unscholarly to combine the vowels of the substitute word and the consonants of the written word. . . . It is misleading to imply by usage that Jehovah is the name of God when in fact Jehovah is a nonsense name.”  Dr. Smith argues that God was very concerned about the proper use of His name in the Old Testament, and that calling Him by the man-created name of Jehovah is disrespectful. 

                In reading this article and the writings of Dr. Smith, I was wondering what the members of our class thought.  Does anyone else feel it is wrong to use the name Jehovah?  I understand that it was not the original name for God, but I really have not taken a side on the issue.   Just in case you were wondering, the NIV never uses the word , but other well-known English translations do.  The American Standard Version of 1901 and the King James version of 1611 both use the name Jehovah occasionally.   I have even had people argue that using the name Jehovah is proper because it is found in Scripture ( the King James Translation).  This just showed me how translations do not always capture the complete meaning of a foreign text.

Inspired Authorship.

The discussion of authorship has been one question that has not gone away over the centuries, no matter what the literary context. What impresses me so much about the Scriptures is that even without clarity or confirmation, the canon has come together and apparently handled both textual and historical criticism.

Even though the question of authorship is one for discussion, there seems to be a clear consensus on the concept of authorship. F. F. Bruce in , “What Do We Mean By Biblical Inspiration?” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 78 (1946): 125. states “The Biblical writers were not secretaries or penmen; they were authors in the full sense of the word, yet authors under the overruling guidance of God the Holy Spirit, the auctor primarius. No adequate parallel can be found to the phenomenon of Biblical inspiration, unless those theologians are right who find an analogy to it in the hypostatic union of the divine and human in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

My thought is that the first readers / hearers of the OT canon recognized it as the inspired Word of God and that in some cases the identify of authorship slipped behind the curtain. Their recognition of this was probably keen, but it the context of the moment it may have not been that big of a deal since it was so recognizable as the inspired Word of God. I believe that at the end of the day, we will be OK even if we do not know who the “auctor primarius” is or if it even turns out to be someone other than who we thought that it should be.

Hebrew Language: A pair of glasses to understand how people view the world.

I have read many posts and comments where students tell the others that they struggle learning the languages, not only English, but Spanish, German or French. But at the same time everybody agrees that learning Hebrew is very helpful to understand the Bible. I agree 100 percent with it and want to add that language reflects the way people think.  I remember I had a class “Cultural Communications for Translators” and we had an assignment where we were given Japanese hieroglyphs (nobody knew Japanese, of course) and their meanings and then combinations of these hieroglyphs, the meanings of which we knew, and tried to guess the words – some of them we guessed but most of them we didn’t. But in the end the instructor explained why this particular combination of hieroglyphs meant that word and how, knew we the culture, we might have guessed the meaning. Language very much reflects the culture. Another example is German. From my experience learning German, it is like Mathematics. All sentences are formulas (strict order of words in a sentence). Put the right words in the formula and you get the sentence. Now what can we say about the people who speak this Mathematical language? That they are very much logical, disciplined, organized, direct, probably the best workers.   Well, these are the stereotypes we have about them, and from what I heard from people who had a chance observing them, they are what we think they are. My expectations from learning Hebrew (I am going to study it for two semesters) is not only to be able to understand and read the Scriptures in the original, but maybe to have a better understanding of their worldview, the way they saw things. Language is the lenses through which people express what they see (analogy with worldview being a lens through which we see the world around us).

I might be at an advantage over other students in the class because a have experience of learning languages, both “alive” and dead. Plus some of the letters in Russian alphabet are borrowed from Hebrew, so I can make analogies. Nevertheless, it is always a challenge to master a language. All languages I learned are from one group of languages – Germanic, and one family of languages Indo-European (Russian also belongs to this family). But Hebrew is from another family of languages – Afro-Asiatic and Semitic group. The far away your own language, mother tongue, the more difficult is to learn the language. So here I am in the same position as everybody else.

I am looking forward to meeting everybody tomorrow.

Covenants

Going through the Old Testament, something that has always stood out has been the covenants God made with his people. God made several covenants with his people starting in the Garden of Eden saying that he would bless them and that he wanted them to multiply and be fruitful, and then with Noah that he would never destroy the Earth again by flood, to Abraham and blessing him and making a great nation come from him, to Moses and the Laws. Each covenant is unique and definitely interesting in its own right.

Starting in the beginning, the very first covenant made was in the Garden of Eden. He told man that he was to “multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Gen. 1: 28-30). “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die’” (Gen 2: 16-17). The covenant in the Garden of Eden was the first of its kind and unique in that God stepped down and walked and talked and communed with his people, and all he asked was that they allow God to stay in control, i.e. not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The next covenant God made was with Adam. After the fall things were just a little bit different. Many things changed and had to change when the fall happened, including: 1) a curse on the serpent, 2) the first promise of a redeemer coming through the line of Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David, 3) a change in the women’s role and relationship to man including their bondage and subservience to his headship, and pain in childbirth 4) the loss of the Garden of Eden as a dwelling place and light work becoming a heavy and toilsome burden because of a cursed earth, 5) inevitable sorrow and pain in life, and finally 6) a shortened life span and eventual death. This covenant is one built on sadness at the loss of what could have been a loss of a personal relationship with God in which you truly walked with him and did life with him. However, it showed God’s ultimate plan; the plan of redemption was always there from the very beginning. The Messiah was not an afterthought or even plan B, it was plan A, and how God saw his people being able to come into his presence again.

The next covenant God made was with Noah. God could not find anyone besides Noah and his family that were righteous and living for him in the entire earth. God was disappointed in his creation and wanted to wipe them out completely and start over with a remnant. This covenant established the sanctity of human life and that man was responsible to protect this life even to the point of death, because man was made in the image of God. The covenant also established that the earth would never be destroyed by flood again and that even the earth would not be cursed beyond what it already was. Also, man’s relationship and dominion over the animals of the earth was confirmed again, though it was not to be a harmonious relationship as in the Garden of Eden by any means. Finally, the rainbow is placed in the sky as a reminder to God of this covenant that he made “with all the flesh of the earth” (Gen 9:17).

Then God made a covenant with Abraham, that was then restated and confirmed both to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. This covenant included a great nation coming from Abraham that would outnumber the stars in the heavens, that his name would be great and the he would be a blessing, that God would bless those who bless him and curse those who cursed him, and that all the people on earth will be blessed through him. God also said that he was the one that brought Abraham out of the land of Ur of the Chaldeans to give him this land to take possession of it. Interestingly enough this same covenant, with no real change whatsoever is again stated to both Isaac in Genesis 26: 1-5, and again to Jacob in Genesis 28:10-15. God had not forgotten this covenant and was seeing to it that the descendents of Abraham continued in bringing the promises of the covenant to fruition.

The next defining covenant given in the Old Testament is with Moses, and unlike the other covenants this one is clearly conditional. This covenant is connected with the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, and the Levitical priesthood. “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19: 5-6a). If the nation of Israel obeyed God’s commands and kept his covenant with them then they would be a treasured possession to him. However, if they did not keep his covenant then God would curse them and remove his blessing from them, in an attempt to bring them back to him—hence the deliverance into the hands of the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

The final covenant in the Old Testament was with David, a man after God’s own heart. This covenant establishes that a temple will be built in Israel, that the kingdom would be perpetual, a throne—i.e. royal authority in the line of David, chastisement on sons for their disobedience, and finally the promise of the Messiah coming from the line of David is confirmed. Interestingly enough though, even though David did not always follow God perfectly this covenant remained intact, for example David had too much blood on his hands to build the temple, but God promised that David’s son Solomon would build it.

These covenants are interesting, not only in who God made them with but also that God kept making covenants with his people. Personally, after so many times of the nation and the people messing up and breaking the covenant, I would have given up on them. However, thankfully I am not God and he has a lot more patience with us when it comes to bringing his plans to fruition.

A Testament of Mercy and Hope

Sometimes I can be a little odd. One thing that I have always felt different about is that I LOVE the Old Testament. So many people ignore it or think it is harsh, difficult or boring. But I think it has some of the best stories in the whole Bible, and so much insight. I love the stories of Moses, David, and Job. The prophets are great; Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel are among my favorites. There is nothing like the Psalms anywhere else! Pretty much the only book i don’t really enjoy is Leviticus.

The thing that has always confounded me is that people seem to think that the OT is all about wrath and judgement. They ask questions like, “how can we reconcile the wrathful God of the OT with the merciful God of the NT?” But He is not 2 different God’s! The OT is just as full of mercy and love as the New. From the very beginning when man falls, God already has a plan laid for our salvation (Gen. 3:15). God calls Abraham and honors his faith. God turns the horrible situation of Joseph into salvation for an entire region. He delivers His people from captivity and they complain. He gives them peace and prosperity, and they beg for a king. He gives them what they want and they follow their kings away from Him. So He brings them back.

Ezekiel 16 is a great summary of the entire Old Testament, I think. It is very vivid. God finds his people discarded and alone, and he saves them, gives them the very best–all they could ask for. Then they turn from him, chasing ‘other men’ and destroying themselves. God is angry; what lover would not be? But his conclusion is that he will still honor his covenant, still love them, still save them. This is the God of the OT. He is the lover of the unloveable, the same God who sits with tax collectors and lepers in the NT.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite things is hope. I consider it to be one of the great things about our God that He gives us hope. (And it makes me giddy.) Christ gives us the hope of heaven, and it is easy to see hope after the sacrifice of the cross. But what people often miss is the hope that fills the Old Testament as well. At the very worst of times He always offers hope that he will deliver. Even in the flood, he saves 8 people to begin again. In captivity they had a little baby in a basket. When they fall away and are destroyed because of their actions, He is quick to offer hope that they will return to Israel, the temple will be rebuilt. The day of the Lord is a day of hope and many prophets look forward to it. The promise of the Messiah to save all nations springs up all over the place. Even in the OT God is not limited to saving only Israel. His plan is love, hope and salvation for all nations. It was His plan all along.

I guess what I am saying is that the OT is a Testament of love and hope, rather than wrath and judgement. We have been mislead by fire and brimstone preachers and a public that does not understand His word. Our God has always been a God of love and deliverance, and He will always be.

The Hebrew Cannon

I will have to admit that I have been a little intimidated by the Old Testament over the years. With the exception of a few years of bus ministry as a child, I was raised in a secular household where my parents did not attend Church. I missed out on most of the “felt board” Bible stories of the Old Testament in Sunday school and found myself back in “big Church” as a young adult where the OT was seldom taught. In all fairness there have been a few good sermons and adult Sunday school series or two, but for the most part, it has not been very strategic.

Most of my study of the OT has been driven by a desire to seek God’s will. I have marked up the majority of two Bibles over the last twenty years and I have been affirmed of a calling that God had placed on our family through the text of one of my favorite OT leaders Nehemiah. Even with this desire, my approach has not been very strategic.

I appreciate the authors of our text and their approach. I am not only looking forward to the class and the projects, but I am now as a result of their strategic approach looking forward taking another tour through the OT with a different set of glasses on. I don’t want to sound over dramatic, but the discussion on the Hebrew Cannon in our text (p. 28-44) revolutionized my perception of the OT. The discussion on a threefold division of the OT: Law, Prophets, and Writings has made it a little less intimidating. The other key point is the emphasis of the “recognized role played by the Holy Spirit as a the authenticating sign of scripture”.(p.44) E.J Young sums this up on page 40 “Apparently, no religious council in ancient Israel ever drew up list of divine books,. Rather, in the singular providence of God, His people recognized His Word and hounoured it from the time of its first appearance.”

Three Prophets

For my fourth and final “wild card” post, I have to stay on the topic of the authors of the Bible.  This time it’s not a defense to the claim of authorship, but a contrast and comparison of how God called three men to be his prophets- to speak on His behalf.  Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos were all very different men who were called in very different ways by God.

 Isaiah responded humbly.  Jeremiah responded much like Moses.  And, when Amos answered the call it took him away from his duties of sheepherding and tending to sycamore groves.

Our commentary tells us that tradition holds that Isaiah had royal blood and was able to hang out with the kings, Jeremiah’s father was a priest, and Amos on the other hand, clearly said he was “Neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son” when the Lord called him (Amos 7:14).

The name Isaiah translates to mean “Yahweh is salvation.”  The name Jeremiah possibly comes from the root meaning to “lift up” or “loosen the womb”—Jeremiah said when the Lord came to him he was only a child, but if we look at Jeremiah 1:5 we read that  God told him he was set apart in the womb, therefore he was called as a prophet in the womb! On the other hand the name Amos, “to carry” or “to load”, according to our commentary does not make any connection to any ideas in the book.

The point is, all three men were different, but they were all called by God and they all served the word of the Lord.

One thing I appreciate as I get older is how God calls people with differing gifts, from all walks of life, spread across a wide range of age groups, and from and all levels of spiritual maturity.  Part of the call into the ministry means He will work us through things, but He expects us to work on them also.  However, the promise is- if He calls us He will be with us.