The ancient Israelites used surnames
The name of God
The God of Israel is referred to in the Old Testament writings both by his proper name and by various surnames and appellants. As in all cultures, it is important that the name serves to differentiate and organize. On the other hand, there is also a special relationship between the bearer of the name and the person who knows the name (Ex 3.13f. + 6.2f.) Or is allowed to give it (Gen 2.19; 32.28f.).
The fact that the God of Israel has a proper name can only be understood from the early phase of religion, which took place in a polytheistic environment: the deities could be distinguished by their names and assigned to the individual peoples. Just as Kemosh was the chief god of the Moabites (Num 21:29) and Milkom was the Ammonite (1 Kings 11: 5), so YHWH was the national god of Judah and Israel (Judge 5: 5).
With increasing awareness that there is only one God, God's personal name becomes less important. So it is logical that the first Greek translation of the Bible used the YHWH name with the appellative "Lord" (κύριος, kyrios) reproduces. A comparable phenomenon can be found in the writings from Qumran, where especially אֵל, 'el, "God" was used; also in the New Testament the Greek word for "God" (θεός, theos).
Judaism has not spoken the name of God at least since then. According to rabbinical reports, he was only allowed to be proclaimed by the incumbent high priest on the Day of Atonement. On all other occasions, the long-established address "(my) Lord" (אֲדֹנָי, ’Adonaj) used as a replacement name. The Masoretes then combined the vowels of this substitute reading with the consonants of the YHWH name in the Bible manuscripts. This should indicate that not the name but the substitute reading is to be spoken. This amalgamation of the consonants of the name and the vowels of the substitute reading Adonaj (superscript) led to the made-up word jªhºwªh> Jehovah, which has been misunderstood as the actual name of God since the Middle Ages.
In internal and external biblical evidence, the YHWH name is primarily used in the well-known four-consonant spelling hwhy. Hence the name "Tetragram" for YHWH, the four-letter name. Later Greek renditions of the name suggest that it was pronounced as yahweh. There are also short and subsidiary forms such as jhw (probably spoken jaho / jahu) and jh, cf. personal names such as Isaiah ("YHWH helped") or Jonatan ("YHWH gave").
The origin and interpretation of the YHWH name have not been finally clarified. A single biblical text, Ex 3:14, attempts to interpret the name as "I will be who I will be". This will create a linguistic reference to the Semitic verb hjh / hwh "to be, are seen", which most researchers still follow today. However, a derivation from the Arabic verb hwj, which can mean "to blow" and thus alludes to YHWH as the weather god, was also considered. However, there is broad agreement that the Israelites took over the worship of YHWH and thus also the knowledge of his name from Midian. This is particularly pointed out in the reports in Ex 2 + 3 + 18, according to which Moses father-in-law Jitro (or Reguël) was the priest of the Midianites, but cf. also Hab 3,3: "God comes from Teman and the saint comes from Mount Paran" ( both are regions in the south).
The OT also emphasizes the fact that the name of God was first communicated to Moses in connection with the revelation on Sinai. Evidence for this is Ex 3.13ff. and Ex 6,2ff .. Ex 6,3 expressly states that God did not appear to the fathers as YHWH, but as El Schaddaj (this is usually translated as "the Almighty"). Since the text Ex 6 belongs to the priestly layer (P), this source is expected to have its own theological intention to express itself through the periodization of the use of God's name: In prehistory, P used the general God's designation Elohim, which fits well with the universal dimension of the event. In the (few) P-texts on the patriarchs of Israel (cf. Gen 17: 1) there is El Schaddaj; Since the revelation to Moses, YHWH could then be used.
Older research saw such a schematization in another Pentateuch source as well. According to this Ex 3.14 belongs to the so-called Elohist. Its special characteristic would be the use of the designation Elohim for God in the area of the fathers' stories. Only after the communication in Ex 3 did this source use the actual name of God. The last adopted Pentateuch layer, the so-called Yahwist, got its name from the observation that the texts assigned to it used the YHWH name without hesitation from the beginning. In the area of creation history, however, there is the unusual compilation YHWH Elohim, which is possibly again motivated by the universal theme. When the Pentateuch sources became questionable, however, these considerations on the use of the name of God also became problematic.
More names of God
In addition to his actual name, God was referred to by a variety of other names in the Old Testament scriptures. So there are especially the common appellatives אֱלֹהִים, Elohim and אֵל, 'el, both of which simply mean "God". These could be put together with further elements to own God's names, cf. the already mentioned אֵל שַׁדַּי, ’El šaddaj (Gen 17,1; 28,3), highest God (אֵל עֶלְיוֹן ,, ’El’ âljôn, Gen 14,22) God of the world / universal time (אֵל עוֹלָם, ’El’ olam, Gen 21:33), God of Bethel (אֵל בֵּית־אֵל, ’El bêtelGen 35,7) or God of the Father X.Y. (אֵל אָב, ’El’ fromGen 49.25). Since there are other ancient names for God such as "Terror of Isaac" (Gen. 31.53) or "Strong Jacob" (Gen. 49.24) in Genesis, remnants of a pre-Yahwist worship of God have been discovered, but this is very controversial. In any case, it is clear that here the God of Israel was designated in the same way as the other Canaanite gods of the neighboring peoples.
God's surnames such as "King" (Ps 97: 1), "Kerubenthroner" (2 Kings 19:15, cf. Isa 6: 1) and "Zebaoth" (Isa 6: 5) come from the Jerusalem temple cult. The latter title, which is translated as "Lord of Hosts", probably comes from the cult tradition of the place Silo (1.Sam 4,4). It is unclear whether he describes YHWH as Lord of the heavenly armies (angelic powers or stars) or the armies of Israel. The abstract meaning "mightiness" is also found in later texts.
The title "(my) Lord" (אֲרֹנָי, ’Adonaj), which later served to replace the name of God, is also anchored in rituals, cf. Ex 23:17. It served to address God in prayers (cf. Ps 8; Dan 9). In prophetic literature it appears above all when the special relationship between God and his servant, the prophet, is to be emphasized, cf. Isa 6,1; 50.4ff. Therefore, in the oldest cult of the early church, Jesus Christ could probably also be called "Lord" of the community, cf. the Aramaic maranatha "come, our Lord" in 1 Cor. 16:22 or the confession "Lord is Jesus Christ" in Phil 2 , 11 and 1 Cor 8: 6.
All articles on "Yahweh", "God", "Name of God" etc. in the relevant encyclopedias, especially www.wibilex.de.
H. von Stietencron (ed.), Der Name Gottes, 1975
M. Rösel, Adonaj - Why God is Called Lord, FAT 29, 2000.
B. Lang, JAHWE the biblical God, 2002.
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Electronic Bible Studies
The texts on this page are taken from:
Rösel, Martin: Biblical studies of the Old Testament. The canonical and apocryphal scriptures. With learning overviews by Dirk Schwiderski, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 10., veränd. Edition 2018.
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