The Many Names of God –

Names of Jesus – Part 3


John 18:3-8a; Matthew 2:22-23, Jesus of Nazareth/Nazarene
Isaiah 9:6; Wonderful, Counselor
John 1:1-3; Revelations 19:13b-14, Word

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John 18:3-8a; Matthew 2:22-23, Jesus of Nazareth/Nazarene (2/13/2009)

Nazirites were people who made – or had made on their behalf – special vows (Numbers 6). These vows were usually for a specified time, e.g., 3 months, but they could be life-long. The primary vows were (1) to refrain from wine, liquor, and all other grape products, (2) not to cut the hair, and (3) not to touch anything to do with dead bodies. The purpose of the Nazirite vows appears to have been that the Nazirite (Hebrew nazir) was holy to God and separate from the rest of the Israelites for the period of the vow, serving as a model of how the people of Israel should be holy to God and separate from the nations surrounding them. At the end of the vow, the Nazirite shaved his or her head and made an offering for sin. Although there is some debate about this detail, many rabbis believe that the sin offering is for not drinking wine during the period of the vow. Not only are there festivals and sacrifices that require wine, but also wine is one of God's gifts, and refusal to enjoy God's gift is a sin. The main Nazirite you have heard of is Samson of the long hair (Judges 13-16). He wasn't a very good one, because he broke the Nazirite vows about grapes and dead bodies on a regular basis, and in fact, many rabbis subscribe to the idea of a "Samsonite" Nazirite for this reason.

The second Nazirite you have heard of was John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). Before Christmas I allowed as how John never drank wine and was a Nazirite. Your fellow reader Daryl L. wrote and said my logic was faulty: If I had said that, it indeed would have been faulty. I just said was he was a Nazirite and quoted some scripture; however, Daryl has caught me in errors before, so I couldn't very well ignore him. After quite a bit of research, I concluded that the correct logic is as follows: Matthew says is that Jesus fulfilled a prophecy that the Messiah would "be called" a Nazirite. Some people believe that Jesus was a Nazirite, although I don't exactly see why. We have no scripture indicating that Jesus didn't cut his hair. We do have scripture saying that he drank wine (e.g., at the Last Supper) and that he touched dead bodies and burial items (Mark 5:41; Luke 7:14). (The bodies didn't stay dead, but they were dead when he touched them!) And we have scripture saying that he was without sin. Nevertheless, as we see today, Jesus was indeed "called" a Nazirite.

Isaiah 9:6; Wonderful, Counselor (2/2/2009)

Our scripture for today has long been considered as a messianic scripture by both Jewish and Christian scholars. (Not unanimously, of course, but apparently by most.) Have I mentioned lately that Hebrew only has two tenses? The first one is "perfect," or "all wrapped up." This is typically used for action that is complete, but it is legitimately and frequently used for action that is "as good as done." Even in English we say, "It's a done deal" to indicate that something that has not happened yet is nevertheless c ertain to happen. "A child is born" and "a son is given" are both in the perfect tense, but in Hebrew that doesn't necessarily mean that the baby is already lying in the manger – only that the prophet considers the birth a done deal.

The second tense is "imperfect," or "not all wrapped up." It can be used for action that is going on right now or hasn't happened yet, and it can also be used to indicate that an action is, was, or will be ongoing. In colloquial English, we return from a shopping expedition to say, "So I'm down there at the corner, and this guy just sails through the red light right in front of me." Our emphasis is on the on-going nature of the action, not on the fact that it was an hour ago. "Shall be" and "shall be called" are in the imperfect.

How does this affect our understanding of the verse? First, God promised us the Messiah long before the birth of Jesus, but when God makes a promise, it's a done deal. Second, these are not obsolete names for the Messiah, rather, Wonderful and Counselor are on-going names of the Messiah. "Wonderful" could easily be translated as "Wonder" or "Miracle" – it's a noun, not an adjective. The Messiah is an on-going wonder and our constant counselor.

John 1:1-3; Revelations 19:13b-14, Word (2/16/2009)

Both Jews and Greeks knew the importance of words. The Jews held that the scriptures were the word of God, and it wasn't up to human beings to change even the slightest portion of it. About 700 BC, the Masoretes, which may mean "Counters," began ensuring the correctness and consistency of the scriptures by counting the words and letters in each book. If a copy of the scriptures didn't have exactly the correct letter exactly in the middle – by count! – then that copy was not suitable for use in the synagogue or Temple. Jesus said that not even a jot or tittle of the Law would be changed until it was fulfilled – these are tiny marks about the size of a period and an accent mark. The Greeks, on the other hand, had the concept of Logos, or "Word," which was kind of the ideal concept of any particular worldly thought or item. John's Gospel thus speaks to both Jewish and Gentile Christians.

There is a kind of speech in which the speech act itself brings about the condition being spoken of, for example, "I now pronounce you man and wife." This type of speech act has an ancient history, because the first recorded act of God was to speak the universe into existence. John says that Jesus is the very Word of God through whom all things were spoken into existence.



More Names of God
Names of God - Introduction
Sacred Names - Part 1
Sacred Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 1
Other Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 1
Names of Jesus - Part 2
Names of Jesus - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 4
Names of Jesus - Part 5
Names of Jesus - Part 6
Names of Jesus - Part 7
Names of Jesus - Part 8
Names of Jesus - Part 9
Names of the Spirit

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