Friday, September 12, 2008

The name of the Lord

For many years - before the advent of the NIV, and then the ESV - my favorite modern translation of the scriptures was The Jerusalem Bible, at least partly because J.R.R. Tolkien was involved in its English version, but also because it reads so well. One of its characteristics is the use of "Yahweh" for the name of God, for example, here:
Happy the man
who never follows the advice of the wicked,
or loiters in the way that sinners take,
or sits about with scoffers,
but finds his pleasure in the Law of Yahweh,
and murmurs his law day and night.

(Psalm 1:1-2)

The Jerusalem Bible is a Catholic version - but, according to Christianity Today, neither it nor the New Jerusalem Bible can be used without modification in Catholic worship any longer:
Observant Jews have traditionally not used the name Yahweh, refusing to pronounce the so-called proper name of God out of respect, or to be sure they do not misuse it. Now neither will Roman Catholics, at least in their worship services.

"In recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel's proper name," said a June letter from the Vatican. "As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means 'Lord.'" In August, U.S. bishops were directed to remove Yahweh from songs and prayers.

Protestants should be following their lead, said Carol Bechtel, professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. "It's always left me baffled and perplexed and embarrassed that we sprinkle our hymns with that name," she said. "Whether or not there are Jewish brothers and sisters in earshot, the most obvious reason to avoid using the proper and more personal name of God in the Old Testament is simply respect for God." ....

Other evangelicals have been debating not only the word Yahweh but also Jehovah, said John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. ....

Both Yahweh and Jehovah have been removed from the Christian Reformed Church's Psalter Hymnal, turning "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" into "Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer." ....

Protestantism has long traditions of both using and avoiding the name Yahweh, according to Witvliet. "Some people said using Yahweh emphasized for them the transcendence of God, which you might say is precisely the goal of not saying the term."
Primarily because of friends who feel strongly about the question, I have become uncomfortable about using "Yahweh" in conversation and in worship, but until reading this, had never considered "Jehovah" the least bit controversial.

Barring Yahweh | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. More reverence should be given to His name (I'm guilty of common usage myself) out of respect.

    Thanks for the info. I want to study this more.


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