Pronouncing the Divine Name: An Explanation

Monsignor Pedro Lopez-Gallo, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, explains why the Catholic Church is not allowing the divine name YHWH to be pronounced in the liturgy. He wrote:

The translation of the Septuagint was inherited by the early Christians, and the Fathers of the Church frequently used this version. As mentioned by the document, they concluded that during this pre-Christian era, the four Hebrew letters YHWH were translated as the Greek word Kyrios, which means Lord.

The Vatican, therefore, in editing the document, uses the argument of tradition and the theological meaning of God as revealed by Christ, as the One and Triune God.

Today, only octogenarian priests remember that in the former breviary, the prayer book of priests, was the proclamation of faith called Quicumque, meaning Whoever, which said:

“Whoever wishes to be saved must believe that this is the Catholic faith: We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity; neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. The three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are distinct, but they possess one Godhead, equal glory, and co-eternal majesty….”

The Apostles’ Creed which we recite on Sundays is the same: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord,” and later, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

So continues this most beautiful and fervent proclamation on the Holy Trinity, that is not included in the four Hebrew letters YHWH.

To me, to ban the pronunciation of the divine name because it does not proclaim the Holy Trinity, is not good theology. If the God of the New Testament is the same God of the Old Testament, then the concept of the Trinity, although not explicit in the divine name, is implicit in the nature of the God of the Bible The same “I AM” (ἐγὠ εἰμι) of Exodus 3:14 is the same “I AM” (ἐγὠ εἰμι) of John 8:24.

Studies on the Divine Name:

Pronouncing the Divine Name – Part 1

Pronouncing the Divine Name – Part 2

Pronouncing the Divine Name – Part 3

Pronouncing the Divine Name: An Explanation

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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This entry was posted in Divine Name, Hebrew God, Names of God, Tetragrammaton, Yahweh, YHWH and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Pronouncing the Divine Name: An Explanation

  1. nick says:

    Hello Mr. Claude Mariottini,

    There is no relation between what Jesus said in John 8:58 and what God said in Exodus 3:14 as you suggest in the article above.Many, like yourself, believe that Jesus was quoting the Greek Septuagint Version (LXX) of Exodus 3:14 when he says EGO EIMI in John 8:58? Hardly, since in the Greek Septuagint Version, the short name of EHYEH is rendered as HO OHN, not EGO EIMI. The full form is rendered as a sentence: EGO EIMI HO OHN, which means “I Am the being.” The Septuagint gives EGO EIMI a predicate, but the short form is simply HO OHN, “The Being.” So if Jesus quoted the LXX, he would have used HO OHN, not EGO EIMI, which, of course, in context would have made no sense at all. Still further, if he were quoting the LXX from the long form EGO EIMI HO OHN, then he left the subject and verb “I am” without a predicate, which indicates that he was not quoting the LXX.The words Jesus said in John 8:58 are not even included in the name God wanted Moses to tell the Israelites. It is to similar me saying, “I am the engineer.” Who do I want the person to whom I speaking with to think I am? Do I want people to think I am an “I am” or “the engineer?” The problems is Jesus did not finish his identification if he was trying to relate back to Exodus 3:14.Besides, the actual meaning of the Hebrew text means “I will prove to be what I will prove to be.” Jesus would have said “ESOMAI HOS ESOMAI” (I will be what I will be) in the Greek language if you wanted to connect it to Exodus 3:14. It is not what Jesus said in John 8:58.John would have written EGO EIMI HO ON if he were trying to connect Jesus’ words to the Septuagint.F.F. Bruce observed, "If a direct reference had been intended to Ex. 3:14 in the present passage, one might have expected ho on rather than ego eimi." (The Gospel of John, p. 193)

    Sincerely,

    Nick Batchelor
    nickhawaii@gmail.com

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  2. Dear Nick,

    Let me clarify one thing as I begin to answer your comment: if you read my post again, you will discover that I never said that Jesus quoted from the Greek Septuagint. Jesus spoke Aramaic. He also knew Biblical Hebrew.The problem with the Septuagint is that it is not a faithful translation of the Hebrew in Exodus 3:14. The Septuagint translates correctly the first ’ehyeh as ego eimi but it fails to translate the second ’ehyeh as ego eimi. In Hebrew the two words are the same, but they are not the same when translated by the Septuagint. Jesus’ words reflect the original Hebrew, not the translation of the Septuagint.Thank you for your comment.

    Claude Mariottini

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  3. nick says:

    Hi Mr. Claude Mariottini,

    I apologize for making the assumption that you also felt there was a connection between John 8:58 and the "I am" in Exodus 3:14 in the LXX. However, it is no different in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus words do not reflect the original Hebrew expression.First the Hebrew expression "eh-YEH" is not properly rendered "I AM" Are there places in the Hebrew Bible where Jehovah says "I AM…? Yes, if we turn to Deuteronomy 32:39 we find God saying "Ani Ani hu" meaning "I, I am he." "Ani" means "I" or "I am" That is not the expression we find at Exodus 3:14 which is "eh-YEH" which means "I will be" or "I will prove to be." And, yes ,both "ani" and "ehyeh" are related to the same verb . But Exodus 3 connects "eh-YEH" and the Divine Name not…"ani" and the Divine Name. In any case, this text does not relate to John 8:58 and thus is not an issue. Note the quotes below:"Such a translation [in English] as 'I am what I am' appears to be ruled out completely by the fact that the verbs [in Hebrew] here are imperfects. 'I am' is the normal translation of the Hebrew perfect, not an imperfect…" —J.Wash Watt, Professor of Old Testament, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1930-1968, A Distinctive Translation of Exodus With An Interpretive Outline, 1977, pp 140-141."The translation 'I am' [in English] is doubly false: the tense is wrong, being present; and the idea is wrong, because am [in such an incorrect translation] is used in the sense of essential existence. .." A. B. Davidson, "The Theology of the Old Testament" in The International Theological Library, 1920, page 55It also makes much more sense to translate John 8:58 as "I have been" or "I have existed." EGO EIMI; (I am) can also be translated, of course, as simply"I am he." One thing for sure, Jesus was not telling these Jewish men that he was YHWH, Jehovah. He simply was telling them he was before Abraham existed. Thus,having seniority over "their father" Abraham. Jesus was alongside his Father before that man existed. (John 17:5).

    Sincerely,

    Nick Batchelor

    Like

  4. nick says:

    Hello Mr. Claude Mariottini,

    I posted earlier this week but for some reason my comments didn't show up. I should not have made the assumption you felt that was regarding the LXX. Nonetheless, the Hebrew expression "eh-YEH" is not properly rendered "I AM" Are there places in the Hebrew Bible where Jehovah says "I AM…? Yes, if we turn to Deuteronomy 32:39 we find God saying "Ani Ani hu" meaning "I, I am he." "Ani" means "I" or "I am" That is not the expression we find at Exodus 3:14 which is "eh-YEH" which means "I will be" or "I will prove to be." And, yes ,both "ani" and "ehyeh" are related to the same verb . But Exodus 3 connects "eh-YEH" and the Divine Name not…"ani" and the Divine Name. In any case, this text does not relate to John 8:58 and thus is not an issue. Note the quotes below:"Such a translation [in English] as 'I am what I am' appears to be ruled out completely by the fact that the verbs [in Hebrew] here are imperfects. 'I am' is the normal translation of the Hebrew perfect, not an imperfect…" —J.Wash Watt, Professor of Old Testament, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1930-1968, A Distinctive Translation of Exodus With An Interpretive Outline, 1977, pp 140-141."The translation 'I am' [in English] is doubly false: the tense is wrong, being present; and the idea is wrong, because am [in such an incorrect translation] is used in the sense of essential existence. .." A. B. Davidson, "The Theology of the Old Testament" in The International Theological Library, 1920, page 55.We both know that "I am" in John 8:58 can be legitimately translated "I have been" or "I have existed." It makes the most sense it be understood this way in view of the context that Jesus had seniority to Abraham "their father" because he was before or existed long before Abraham did.

    Sincerely,

    Nick Batchelor

    Like

  5. nick says:

    Mr. Claude Mariottini,

    For some reason my comments have not been posted. Have you even received them?

    Nick

    Like

  6. Nick,

    Your comments went directly to my spam folder. Since I do not check the spam folder often, the comments were not published.

    Claude Mariottini

    Like

  7. nick says:

    Wow! That is strange? You received all my other comments. Basically, I said I should not have made the assumption you felt the same way regarding the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14.It doesn't matter really because the Hebrew expression "eh-YEH" is not properly rendered "I AM" Are there places in the Hebrew Bible where Jehovah says "I AM…? Yes, if we turn to Deuteronomy 32:39 we find God saying "Ani Ani hu" meaning "I, I am he." "Ani" means "I" or "I am" That is not the expression we find at Exodus 3:14 which is "eh-YEH" which means "I will be" or "I will prove to be." And, yes ,both "ani" and "ehyeh" are related to the same verb . But Exodus 3 connects "eh-YEH" and the Divine Name not…"ani" and the Divine Name. In any case, this text does not relate to John 8:58 and thus is not an issue. Note the quotes below:"Such a translation [in English] as 'I am what I am' appears to be ruled out completely by the fact that the verbs [in Hebrew] here are imperfects. 'I am' is the normal translation of the Hebrew perfect, not an imperfect…" —J.Wash Watt, Professor of Old Testament, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1930-1968, A Distinctive Translation of Exodus With An Interpretive Outline, 1977, pp 140-141."The translation 'I am' [in English] is doubly false: the tense is wrong, being present; and the idea is wrong, because am [in such an incorrect translation] is used in the sense of essential existence. .." A. B. Davidson, "The Theology of the Old Testament" in The International Theological Library, 1920, page 55Are you aware the expression "ego eimi" can simply mean "I am he" or "I have been?"

    Nick Batchelor

    Like

  8. Pingback: Studies on the Name of God | A disciple's study

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