Friday, October 9, 2009

Yahweh


     The picture to the left is God's personal name.  Scholars mostly likely believe that it is pronounced Yah-weh.  What you see on the left is it's spelling in Hebrew.  It is read from right to left, not left to right like we English speakers do.  Something else about Hebrew, at least ancient Hebrew, there are no vowels.  In modern Hebrew they have tacked on little dots & lines beneath the letters that act as vowels.
     Ths mght nt b s cnfssng s ppl mght thnk.  Mst ppl rd qckly ngh tht thy dnt thnk bt th ndvdl lttrs nywy.

     (I used to be able to read ancient Hebrew.  I thought it was much easier to learn than Greek.  There are only three letters to the root of any Hebrew word, so once you have that figured out it's all just the other stuff that's tacked on to make it past, present or future tense, and such.  I really can't read it anymore.  There isn't much call for ancient Hebrew in Minnesota.)

     Anyway, Yahweh is God's personal name.  God is not God's name.  God is what God is.  It would be like you calling me Man.  It's what I am.  It's not my name.  I don't think that God minds being called God though.  He's probably used to it.
     Most of the time in the Old Testament when you see the word Lord, it is actually supposed be translated as Yahweh.  Down through the centuries, the Jewish scholars who would make new copies of the O.T. changed over to the use of the word "Adonai," which means Lord, instead of Yahweh.  They did it out of respect for the name.  To this day, most orthodox Jews will not even write the word God.  Instead, they will spell G-d.  Again, this is done out of respect.

     Oddly enough, God has numerous names for himself.  Often, the names that he picks for himself are descriptors of his attributes.  That makes sense, and we often do that too.  Anyone in America with a name from the Bible has a meaning to it that comes from ancient time.  For example, my name, Joseph, is actually a Hebrew participle, "Yasaf."  It means "He will add," (Specifically, "He will add Joy.") Either way it is ironic, because I am terrible at math.
     In the very first verse of the Bible, it says that "Elohim created the heavens and the earth."  Elohim is translated as God...singular, right?  However, Elohim is actually a plural word.  When ever the Bible refers to the pagan deities, it uses Elohim to describe them.  In other words, it calls them gods, as in the plural form.  So why doesn't it translate God's name into  a plural form?  Well, think about this, when it comes to the creation of humans, God says "Let US make man in OUR image."  There is only one God, but he refers to himself as plural.  Hhmm.  Perhaps the first hint of a three in oneness to the Godhead?
     Another name for God that is only used a handful of times is the one that God gives to Moses when he tells him to return to Egypt.  "God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me."  Jesus claimed that name for himself.  Once, while he was at the temple, he told a group of people questioning him, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!"  He had to move quickly after that because some were going to throw rocks at him for calling himself God.
     I AM is an interesting choice for a name.  Down through the centuries, Christian & Jewish scholars have debated exactly what it means.  Some say that it is a demonstration of God's infinity.  He always was and always will be.  Other say that the name connotes pure, raw existence.  Either way, it certainly demonstrates that God is very different from us.  We are stuck inside of time.  God obviously is not.  We are linear.  God is infinite. 

     Did you know that many rabbis believe that the very name of God is breathing?  The four letters that make up the name Yahweh are Yod, Hey, Va, Hey.  Ancient rabbis say that these are the sounds that people make when they are breathing.  I would like to think that this is true.  
     Richard Dawkins was being interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio many, many months ago.  He is a brilliant evolutionary biologist.  He also wrote the book, "The God Delusion."  He is a militant atheist who thinks that that parents who bring their kids to Sunday School should be imprisoned for child abuse.  As I listened to him, I thought about him speaking God's name while he inhaled and exhaled about how God did not exist.  You have to admit.  That was funny.

     The guy that can explain all of this a whole lot better than I can is Rob Bell.  Take a look at this video.  It is only a little over 10 minutes.  It's worth every minute.



     Think about how close God is to you the next time yo notice yourself taking a breath.

     Peace (Shalom)
     Joe

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