Names Mean Things
In keeping with the opening remarks concerning this subject, I do want to remain balanced in my approach on any issue. Is there a just weight to be found between the abracadabra view of our Creator and the 'what difference does it make' attitude? I believe there is. Let us focus for now on how we should articulate the Creator's name once we have been informed that He indeed does have a name. I hope we can all agree that our all knowing Father is not only capable of responding to someone who calls upon Him that has never been told His name, but is anxiously awaiting for all whosoevers to call upon Him.
The major question of how we should pronounce His name once we know of this name has been addressed in qazillions of articles and books for literally hundreds and hundreds of years. My treatise of the subject is certainly not going to solve the debate and clear up the issue. Quite frankly, this is simply my opinion based upon my understanding of the history of Hebrew word structure. So, let's start with the basics. The tetragrammaton is made up of the four Hebrew consonants of Yud - hey - vav - hey. Before addressing the dual use as vowels, let's face the fact that our understanding of how to pronounce the letters as consonants is based upon our Hebrew ancestors faithfulness to pass proper articulations down from one generation to the next. How my Hebrew teacher pronounced the letters is based upon how my teacher heard the vocalizations of his Hebrew teacher, which was based upon the pronunciation of his Hebrew teacher and so on and so on. When your Hebrew teacher tells you that the 'mem' is pronounced as the 'm' in mother, that is accurate only in so far as we can historically and vocally verify how to pronounce mother. A resh is pronounced at least three different ways in modern Hebrew. We can, with some reasonable assurance, rely on current pronunciations of Hebrew consonants. However, we cannot look upon a written letter or pictograph of any language from hundreds of years ago, and say with full assurance that it was pronounced this way or that way. How much more the vowels! A yod is currently pronounced as the 'y' in yard, but not the 'y' in agony. However, when transliterated into other languages using their symbols, it is pronounced like the 'y' in agony. A classic example would be 'Iesous. How was the yod pronounced by Hosea or Job? We do not know. In linguistics, the study of language, there are only three ways in which we can know how ancient words or letters are pronounced. The first and most obvious way is to hear a native speaker articulate the words. The second way is to listen to a recording of a native speaker. The third way is to know the position of the mouth and tongue of the native speaker used to make the sounds. As of this writing, we still do not possess any of these three.
Most of the time we are comparing the sounds of ancient Hebrew to the sounds of modern Hebrew. Even a novice in modern Hebrew knows that this is not accurate. Another method is to compare ancient Hebrew with Masoretic Hebrew (circa 600-900 A.D.). Here again we have a problem because we do not know for certain what a yod sounded like in Masoretic Hebrew. Another way is to compare the sounds of Hebrew letters and words to the sounds of other languages. Let's take Greek, for example. The Y-H-V-H appears in some 1st century Greek texts as the Greek letters IAOUE, pronounced something like ee-ah-oo-eh. But these Greek letters are pronounced the way we pronounce modern Greek. We are not sure what the ancient Greek letters sounded like, either. There is even a Greek expression of IABE from a hardening of the waw into the beta of Greek. To add further confusion, there is a notable appearance in Origin's Hexapla of the Greek majuscules (capitals) that spell out PIPI, something akin to pee-pee. We could also compare these four letters to mem-resh-yod-aleph (MarYah) of Aramaic. But we are not certain of those sounds, either. Are you confused yet? How it should be written is not all that difficult. How it should be articulated is when the hairs start splitting.
I could spend a considerable amount of time here dissecting this word to pieces. But the bottom line is always going to be the same. How do we correctly pronounce His name? WE DO NOT KNOW!!! Let's stop trying to snow job everybody into thinking that we do. But someone will ask, are not the scriptures replete with statements such as:
"And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am YHVH."
"I am YHVH: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images."
"And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth."
"That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:"
The scriptures are very clear. We are not to profane the name of YHVH and we are not to mention the names of other gods. It appears to be a very blunt, in your face commandment. But these words were not written in English. It appears from a western perspective to be telling me that I am not to form the sounds of the names of other gods with my mouth. I am not to say or articulate the words. The image I immediately think of is an old Three Stooges routine in which the words 'Niagara Falls' turned Moe into a zombie like state. This, my friends, is Greek, form thought and not biblical, functional thought. There are many differences between the thinking patterns of our culture and the thinking patterns embedded in the Hebrew language. We have been trained in our western world to think in terms of form rather than function. In western thinking, we process words and phrases based upon what something looks like rather than how it functions. This rather subtle reality is not something that most of us are aware of on a day to day basis. I catch myself looking at life that way all the time. It is our glittery, buzzers, bells and whistles culture that molds us into a visual society. In our architecture, bigger is better and a sign of great wealth. Advertisers know that we are more apt to buy a product if the presenters of the product are attractive and thin. Our fast food industry understands that bigger is better. When I am out of town, which is a lot of the time (ask my wife), and I ask a local where the best place to eat in town is at, he/she will usually respond with the place that serves the largest steak or the biggest buffet in town. Political candidates are carefully chosen based upon their presidential or gubernatorial presence. I could go on and on. If I asked a western thinking person to tell me about a watch, he would tell me that it is gold or silver, it has a round band with a face that has twelve numbers lined up in a clock-wise direction, with at least two moving hands traveling ever so slowly. The Greek minded person would tell me what the watch looked like. A Hebrew thinking person, when asked the same question, would tell me that it keeps time. In other words, he would tell me what it does or what it's function is rather than what it looks like.
One might notice when reading the scriptures that there are very few physical descriptions of any of the biblical characters, including Yeshua. This is in spite of the fact that we as visually oriented westerners insist on having some kind of pasty-faced white European surfer looking Jesus hanging on our wall. This is because the revelations of YHVH to those willing to hear are not presented in form thought. However, we do know what Yeshua did and said. The details of Noach's ark, the tabernacle and the temples are for the express purpose of accurately revealing their functional intention and not so we can sit down and draw nifty pictures of them. I believe our western thinking process dominates our major western religions. For centuries we have all been 'looking' for the antichrist. He is here, he is there, he will be a Gentile, a Jew, he comes from this line, he comes from that line. It's Nero, or it's Vespasian, it's the pope or it's Hitler. No! Wait a minute, it's R-o-n-a-l-d W-i-l-s-o-n R-e-a-g-a-n. I do believe that this seed of the serpent will, like the seed of the woman, manifest himself as a person. However, I believe that while we have been looking for the form of this person, he has been functioning around us virtually un-noticed.
It is this writer's opinion that we are still unconsciously using Greek thought patterns in our quest to understand words and thoughts expressed from a Hebrew mind. While in the process of conducting detailed surgery on the tetragrammaton, we take for granted the words 'profane', 'name' and 'mention' in the verses mentioned (pun intended) above. The word profane in Vayikra 18:21 and many other places is primarily chalal. This word is translated dominantly as profane and pollute, but those are English words. It is not that they are wrong or mistranslated, it is the cultural meaning that we attach to those words. The western word 'profane' creates an image of cussing, swearing or using His name in satanic chanting, and God forbid that any of US would do such a thing. This is interesting because the Hebrew word for 'God forbid' is challilah. The pictographic meaning of this word is to lead outside the walls (of the house). The combination of the chet and two lameds paints this picture. In God's eyes, to profane His name or word is to walk away from His authority and Fatherhood. Within the confines of His house is His ways, His peace, His desires and His will. To profane His name is to follow and serve other gods and walk in their ways.
The English word 'name' must also be examined in the language of scripture. A name in our culture is a written or articulated expression of identity. While this is also true in Hebrew thought, it goes much further. The Hebrew word for name is shem. This word first shows up in B'reshiyt (Genesis) 2:8.
"And YHVH ’Elohiym planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom he had formed."
The phrase 'there He put' is vayyasem sham in Hebrew. The first appearance takes a word that is commonly used as a noun and puts it into it's verbal form. This helps us to understand it's use as a noun. Shem refers to the source of authority. It is an identity of power, character and ability. The function of this word is to identify the source of ability. YHVH is our Creator. He is our Father and our beginning and end. It is the rules and discipline of His house that we are to follow and not the dictates of other gods. I am your God, I am your Father, Creator, authority and source of your life. This is the function behind the 'name'. However, in my quest to teach a just weight, I have found it to be generally true that the behavior and obedience of the followers of 'the Lord' seem to be somewhat different than the followers of YHVH. In other words, even though the power and authority is behind a name and not just in 'using' a name, the trend is that most followers of 'the Lord' hold an antinomian view of scripture, and most followers of YHVH seem to be inwardly driven to obey the Torah.
The meaning of the word 'mention' is also in keeping with the functional thought of Hebrew. In our culture, to mention something is to make a vocal reference, whether directly or indirectly, to someone or some thing. It means to speak of or about someone or some thing. However, in Hebrew this word is from the word zakar. This is the Hebrew word for remember, memorial or mention. Etymologically, this word means to speak or act in behalf of someone or some thing. This is why the verbal root is also used for the male gender. The male speaks and acts in behalf of the female or helpmate. When we are told not to mention the names of other gods, we are being commanded not to act or speak in behalf of those gods. We are not to follow their ways or teach others to do so (Mattityahu 5:19). This, I believe, is the functional meaning behind these commandments.
Next time we will talk about the words LORD, Lord, lord, and God. Are they pagan words?