Saturday, June 18, 2005

June 18, 2005

Here's a comment I wrote on my friend Jim's blog yesterday, along with an added comment at the end.

Jim - Not to be too contrary, but I think you spelled 'contrarian' wrong.
Here's a little background on your biblical obversations (er, I mean observations...).
The word translated as 'God' in Genesis 1 is 'Elohim,' which literally means something like 'gods.' For some reason, God is often referred to in the Older Testament by the plural form of 'god.' Makes me think of the Trinity, but it may be something like a royal plural.

But God is also referred to by a name in the Old Testament, 'Yahweh.' The original authors no doubt meant the proper name to be pronounced, but as time went on, the religious consciousness of Israel decided that wherever 'Yhwh' was printed in the text, they would substitute 'Lord,' adonai, when read aloud. That is how the mispronunciation 'Jehovah' came about - they inserted the vowels of adonai into Yhwh, and when German scholars transliterated it, they got Jehovah.

Anyway, whenever you read 'the LORD' in all capitals in the NRSV translation, what is actually in the original is YHWH, and in Genesis 2 it is Yhwh Elohim.

In the Newer Testament, the Greek word for 'Lord' is used for God, for Jesus, or (without a capital 'L' in English) for any human lord. What is really amazing is that early followers of Jesus called him 'Lord' in as strong a sense as God (remember Thomas: "My Lord and my God!"). For me, it is not a question of Elohim being the Father (only) and YHWH being the Son (only) - for the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are One God, one Elohim, one Yhwh, in three persons... but that is a discussion for another day.

Thanks for writing regularly and thoughtfully.


Here's an added thought or two:
Check out Exodus 3, God meeting Moses in the burning bush. There, you'll find God referred to as both Elohim and Yhwh. You'll also find an explanation for God's name, Yhwh.

In verse 12, God promises Moses that "I will be ['ehyeh'] with you."

In verse 14, God says to Moses, 'ehyeh asher ehyeh,' usually translated, "I AM WHO I AM," but (as an imperfect) is perhaps better translated, "I will be who I will be." God is "I will be with you." It brings to mind Immanuel, God with us, a God who promises and acts, a God who chooses a people as God's own, a God who becomes flesh and dwells among us, a God of Resurrection, a God who is coming rather than statically being.