The Many Names of God

Sacred Names Part 1

Exodus 3:1-14, Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh "I AM"
Genesis 2:5-9, 15-22, YHWH, "LORD, GOD"
Lamentations 2:1-7, Adonai/Kurios "Lord"
Exodus 6:3, A note on "Jehovah"

More Names of God

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Most Sacred Names

"According to Jewish tradition, the number of divine names that require the scribe's special care is seven: El, Elohim, Adonai, YHWH, Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, Shaddai, and Tzevaot." (, "Names of God in Judaism")

Exodus 3:1-14, Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh "I AM" (1/6/2009)

Tonight I'm babysitting, and my two-year-old grandson called me "Uncle Madison" several times. He was having a premature senior moment. About the fourth time I corrected him, I said, "Hadwyn, what is my name?" He pointed at me and said, "You Gramma." Children learning English come fairly late to the verb "to be." In Hebrew, "to be" is rarely used. Perfectly grammatical sentences are like "I baby. You Gramma." It's my understanding that when the verb "to be" is used, it is always emphatic. For example,
Genesis 1 doesn't say, "And there was light, ho hum." It has the verb, so it says, "And there WAS light! Wow!"

Two of the oldest and most emphatic names of God are "I AM" and "I AM WHO I AM" (or equally "I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.") Some of your translations will have "I am," but that's not nearly forceful enough as a translation of "Ehyeh asher ehyeh." Each of these names appears to occur only once, when God is talking to Moses at the burning bush.

Did you ever wonder why the Jews want to stone Jesus in
John 8? Jesus and the Jews are debating about Abraham. Eventually Jesus says bluntly, "Before Abraham was, I AM." Now you know that Jesus is making an explicit claim to divinity. No wonder they tried to stone him!

The first and most important thing to know about God is that GOD IS. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.

Genesis 2:5-9, 15-22, YHWH, "LORD, GOD" (1/7/2009)

When you see "LORD" or "GOD" in caps, the vast majority of the time, in almost all translations, the original Hebrew has YHWH. This is another one of the very old, very emphatic names of God. There seems to be nearly complete agreement among scholars that this is a form of the first person singular of the verb "to be" (that is, "I am") that was ancient even when the Old Testament was written. There appears to be considerable agreement in the Judeo-Christian community that this is the "true name" of God; consequently it is even more holy than the rest of the Bible, so holy that Jews will not say it out loud and have not said it out loud for a few thousand years, for fear of accidental blasphemy. For this reason, we aren't sure how it was pronounced. Some of your translations will have "Yahweh," but this is a guess an informed guess, but a guess nevertheless. Some of your translations will have "Jehovah," which I'm going to talk about on Friday.

YHWH occurs about 6000 times, but only in the Old Testament. By the time the New Testament was written, the Judeo-Christian community was averse not only to saying but also to writing the sacred name. It was okay to refer to God as theos "God," probably because that is not God's name, and that designation is used about 1200 times in the NT.

Strangely enough, every website I looked at, plus my own count, had a different number for how many times YHWH occurs in the OT. I'm sure that the number does not vary in the Hebrew text, but rather that we are all counting occurrences in different translations, and sometimes the translations use more than one English word for YHWH, as we learned before.

Lamentations 2:1-7, Adonai/Kurios "Lord" (1/8/2009)

We're going to read a little bit of Lamentations, which I normally avoid like the plague because it is so gloomy. It's about the only passage I could find that uses the Hebrew "Adonai" by itself. Most of the time "Adonai" is attached to another name for God. "Adonai" means "Lord" almost exactly, because in English, "Lord" can mean a person who is a member of the nobility, a person who is someone else's boss, or God. I think that for Americans, "Adonai" probably would be better translated as "Lord" for God, "master" or "sir" for someone's boss, "sir" or "m'lord" for a member of the nobility, and "sir" for someone you want to be polite to; unfortunately, the reader would then have no way of knowing that it's all the same word. Much of the time when you see "Lord" with just the initial capital, the Hebrew has "Adonai." Note that the capitalization convention is shown clearly in verses 6 and 7. "Adonai" occurs about 430 times in the OT.

The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament made by and for Jews around 300 BC, nearly always translates the Hebrew "Adonai" into the Greek "Kurios." Again, "Kurios" means Lord, master, sir or m'lord, or sir in American, depending on the context. Hang onto the idea that "Adonai" is used as a name for God, and "Kurios" is the Greek word that the Rabbis used to translate it. We will come back to this equivalency later in our study.

Exodus 6:3, A note on "Jehovah" (1/9/2009)

Two days ago we learned that the "true" and most sacred name of God is YHWH, which nobody knows how to pronounce because nobody has said it out loud for a few thousand years. We also learned that this name occurs some 6000 times in the Old Testament. So what do you do when you are reading along and come to a word that you are forbidden to say?

One of the very first things you learn in Hebrew class is that when you come to YHWH, you say "Adonai" (Lord). As a reminder, the vowels for Adonai are written in in place of the vowels for YHWH (whatever they might be nobody knows for sure). Saying "Adonai" becomes your automatic response in Hebrew class to seeing YHWH even when the vowels are not there.

We learned yesterday that "Adonai" means "Lord" and occurs about 430 times on its own. This means that if you were to read the entire OT out loud in Hebrew, you would end up saying "Adonai" about 6430 times, way more times than all the other names combined, let me assure you.

However, note that you now have a "word" that kinda sorta looks like YaHoWaH. Sounds like? Jehovah! "Jehovah" is a totally made-up word in English. It is not Hebrew. It has no basis in Hebrew. I was really surprised to find it once in the English "Jewish Publication Society Bible." I checked my Hebrew Bible, and I can't see any difference between this occurrence of YHWH and any other. Some translations even some modern translations use Jehovah consistently in place of YHWH.

Remember also that the Greek translation of "Adonai" is "Kurios." So if you were a Jew reading the Greek Old Testament, which most first-century Jews did, you would know that God was called "Kurios" more than 6000 times. The New Testament uses "Kurios" about 720 times. Sometimes it means sir, m'lord, or boss. Usually it mean "Lord" and is referring to Jesus. That's not a coincidence.

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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