I have been wondering whether it is appropriate for Christians to use the name YHWH instead of God. I am not suggesting we all start using YHWH in church instead of God, rather, in my own devotional time I find using YHWH more personal. I posted this question on Facebook and was interested in two responses.
The first response was very persecptive and I had not considered the implications of using YHWH in a community setting; especially a community that did not use the term reguarly. The person explained, “In my setting, people who use the word “YHWH” usually draw the attention away from YHWH/God and onto themselves in the conversation, often needing to interrupt the flow of conversation to explain the reason they’re using such a strange, unique word, etc”
The second response which aught my attention came from Scott Bailey who quoted Goldingay, “If Yhwh wants to be known by name and we decline and insist on referring to Yhwh by role, we refuse the personal revelation . . . God asked to be known not as ‘Lord’ but by a personal name. We relate to a person, not a mere authority figure.” (OT Theology Vol 1 p.339)
I like Goldingay’s point however, hasn’t God/YHWH given us a personal name by which to call him, Jesus? Although I beleive this to be true I still like the argument Goldingay is making . Why don’t we use YHWH and when did it cease being used as a name for God in the New Testament era? Are we missing something by using the generic God in our largely pluralistic society? Would we do better to name God among the gods?
The more I study Romans and after preaching the first three chapters, I am beginning to wonder if Christianity should in fact look more Jewish than Western. I wonder if we might better live faithfully as the people of God in light of Jewish tradition and practice (as portrayed in the OT) interpreted around Jesus as Messiah than the largely Gentile and Western traditions we follow now.
These are not fully formed opinions or thoughts on the matter and I am sure there are holes all over the arguments I have made. nevertheless, I cannot help but feel we are missing something in regards to tradition.
I love JI Packer’s comment in Knowing God, a comment I have returned to over and over again since reading it 30 years ago: “Father is the Christian name for God.”
That is a very good point and another that had not crossed my mind. i still wonder why the church repalced YHWH with father though…
I actually think that not using the divine name looks quite Jewish. This is a tradition taken up from the Jews who have customarily used circumlocutions for referring to God in everyday speech, prayers, writing (this is evident in the LXX, Targums, and even the NT), etc. As to the church replacing YHWH with Father I think the answer probably lies in Jesus’ speech about God. He constantly referred to God as Father so it seems that we’re following his lead. And if I could draw an analogy, I don’t call my biological father by his name, I call him dad. As God’s children by adoption we’ve entered into an intensely personal relationship whereby we can now call him abba (Rom. 8:14-17 cf. Gal. 4:5-6).
And why do we use the name “Jesus” – Ἰησοῦς is the Greek word for “Joshua” plane and simple…
Hi Mark, it does bear some weight (to me, anyway), that when Jesus taught His disciples about prayer, He instructed them to address God/YHWH as “Our Father…” This suggests to me that (at least in corporate prayer settings) our primary appeal to God should be as He has instructed, as our Abba…Father, etc. I wonder if the reason for His instruction to call on God as “Father” was to provide His followers with a means of identifying themselves as a new people of God, as opposed to the (old) “YHWH” people of God–many of whom rejected God Incarnate. Do you know of any/many OT references where a person or group calls God “Father”?
Goldingay is actually what prompted this blog post:
it similar to the premise of this blog.
Actually I felt the opposite when I did a study/class on Romans. I felt like Paul was stating more of a case against this. Romans 7:4-6, 12:1-2,ff. Paul first builds his case that he knows the law, the traditions of the Jewish believers, then he makes a case that living for the law never saved anyone. The church neither needs to be more Jewish nor more Western, but more Christlike.
My friend who is Jewish by heritage and got saved has a different approach. He and his wife are planting a church in a Jewish area, but it is not Messianic. They say that predominantly the Jewish people in their area are inter-racial, and want nothing to do with their Jewish traditions. So they just share the gospel with them. They are still very much in the beginning stages of church planting, so I haven’t witnessed personally what it looks like. But I have a feeling it will be a congregation where various ethnicities are represented and worship in their own tongue. Just some food for thought.
I would go for theme to be living faithfully as the people of God despire one’s Jewishness or Gentileness. To, me it seems the interpretive key for understanding romans lies in the last chapters 12-15 where we see all the heavy theology (1-8) applied to mean that we are to live in unity despite our diversites and to not just one another because of our differences – either ethnic or socio-cultural. I wonder if in Rom 15 where it says “Accept one another, then, just as Christ Jesus has accepted you” should be *the* key verse of the whole letter….
I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way!
I’ve been feeling like Christianity missed something for a while, now.
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