The Unutterable Name of God: YHWH
implications for New Testament Christology itself."
It benefits us to show some examples of this.
An interesting example of where the word "Lord" clearly was used to refer to the Tetragrammaton is the curious occasional duplication of the title "Lord" in the Gospels:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven . . . ." (Matt. 7:21 see also Luke 6:46; see also Matt. 25:11)
This curious duplicative type of address is found in the Septuagint where it translates the Hebrew Adonai YHWH, or YHWH Adonai, as Kyrie, Kyrie (Lord, Lord). For example:
"O Lord GOD [Adonai YHWH], you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and might. For what god in heaven or on earth can perform deeds as mighty as yours?" (Deut. 3:24)
In the Septuagint translation of this verse, the Hebrew Adonai YHWH is translated as Kyrie, Kyrie--Lord, Lord.
This practice of duplication is found in multiple other instances (e.g., Deut. 9:26; 1 Kings 8:53; Ps. 69:6; Ezek. 20:49; Amos 7:2, 5; Ps. 109:21; Ps. 140:7; Ps. 141:8). In each instance, the referent is God himself. In the entirety of the corpus of the Old Testament Septuagint, no one is ever referred to as Kyrie, Kyrie--Lord, Lord--except the God of Israel.
So when Jesus suggests that he will be called "Lord, Lord," the necessary implication is that he considers himself the God of Israel.
As another example, we might turn to St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, where St. Paul speaks about Jesus, who though in the form of God, emptied himself, and took the form of a servant being made in the likeness of men, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6-9) "Because of this," St. Paul continues:
"God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11)
When St. Paul uses the term "Lord" here, he is, in fact, invoking the Tetragrammaton by periphrasis. How do we know? First, it seems obvious that the only possible reference of the words "the name that is above every other name" must be the Tetragrammaton (YHWH). In the Hebrew tradition, what other name could there be?
More than that, the statement that at the name of Jesus "every knee should bend," and "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord," is a clear reference to Isaiah 45:23-24a: "To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear [confess], saying, 'Only in the LORD (YHWH, יהוה) are just deeds and power.'"
As the letter of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments summarizes this: In St. Paul's preaching, the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) "in fact becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith . . . ." The Messiah (Jesus) and the God of Israel (whose name is unutterable) are one and the same.
As another example, we might turn to St. Peter's sermon following the descent of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. St. Peter says, "Then everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord (Kyrios) shall be saved. . . . Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:21, 36).
This is a direct reference to Joel 3:5, as St. Peter himself says (Acts 2:16): "Then everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the LORD (YHWH, יהוה). In no uncertain terms, St. Peter was using the term "Lord" to refer to the unutterable name, YHWH, and equating it with Jesus, the Christ or Messiah.
All this subtle--but significant--meaning in the word "Lord," and the link between the Old Testament Septuagint and the New Testament would be lost if YHWH were to be translated as something other than "Lord," such as Yahweh or the like. There are therefore huge theological, philological, catechetical, liturgical, and pastoral reasons for insisting on the traditional practice.
For this reason, the letter gives the following directives:
First: "In liturgical celebrations, in songs and prayers the name of God in the form of the Tetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used or pronounced."
Second: "For the translation of the biblical text in modern languages, intended for the liturgical usage of the Church . . . the divine Tetragrammaton is to be rendered by the equivalent of Adonai/Kyrios; 'Lord,' Signore, Seigneur, Herr, Seņor, etc."
Third: "In translating, in the liturgical context, texts in which are present, one after the other, either the Hebrew term Adonai or the Tetragrammaton YHWH, Adonai is to be translated 'Lord' and the [word] 'God' is to be used for the Tetragrammaton YHWH, similar to what happens in the Greek translation of the Septuagint and in the Latin translation of the Vulgate."
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: YHWH, Tetragrammaton, Lord, liturgy, Arinze, Ratzinger, Adonai, Andrew M. Greenwell
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