Skip to comments.Why Don't We Use "Yahweh" In Mass Any More?
Posted on 09/27/2013 7:11:44 AM PDT by NYer
Q - A few years ago, it was announced that the term "Yahweh" is no longer to be used (removed from all songs). It seemed like an odd decision and with all that is going on in the world, a huge waste of time to make a big deal about. Why did we do this?
A - Thanks for the question! I know this is a point of confusion for many. I hope I can adequately explain the reasoning behind the decision, but let me first point out something else. Don't think the Church isn't doing those other more important things, just because it issues decisions such as these.
The Church hierarchy has a huge responsibility to lead God's people and part of that is to help direct us in the worship of God. Some parts of our liturgy are changeable and some are not. In those parts that are changeable, we might think that it is un-important in the grand scheme of things to address such small issues.
But, if we have the eyes to see it, the liturgy is one of the most important things we will ever do and doing it well is extremely important to everything else we do, because that is where our power comes from (God's grace). So, while in this particular instance we might think that we should be focusing on feeding the poor or helping victims of AIDS, let us not think it is an either/or decision - the Church can and should take care of both big and little issues.
Now, why did the Church makee this change? For a couple of reasons.
1 - The way we spell and pronounce "Yahweh" is a guess for the name of God based on the Hebrew "YHWH". Hebrew is a language without vowels and the vowels must be inferred from the context. In other words, we don't know for certain how to say or write the name correctly - even in Hebrew. In fact, orthodox Jews and ancient Jews would never say the name of God, for fear of doing so incorrectly, because they do not want to accidentally blaspheme God's name. This is why you will find the name "God" spelled "G-d" by some Jews today. Rather they call God by some other name, such as Adonai - which means lord or master.
This ancient practice of avoiding the attempt to pronounce God's name also has Christian roots. In the past few decades, we got away from these roots. Look in most Bibles and you will find the word "LORD" with all caps. This is where the name of God is found. Where you find the name as a proper name "Lord" - is where Adonai is found in the Hebrew text.
So, there has been a wider use of the name of God (YHWH) which started to be used in the songs we sing in Mass. The Vatican asked us return to the roots of language and recapture the awe we should have for God's name. It is a way to reverence the name of God.
2 - This will be seen as a step of reconciliation toward our Jewish friends. We are showing a sign of respect to both our own tradition and their tradition as well. Though the Vatican did not mention this motive, we can guess it played a part in the decision.
3 - The name of God is not just an identifier for the spirit in the sky. A name means much more, esp. in the Biblical times. Think of John 8:58 - Jesus appropriates the divine name "I AM" to Himself, and the Jews knew that He was proclaiming His divinity and therefore they tried to kill him. This is what the Catechism says about the name of Jesus:
2666 "But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: "Jesus," "YHWH saves." The name "Jesus" contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him."In the bible, to name a thing, or especially a person, is only done by someone who know what that thing/person is, where its destiny lies, and why it is. Therefore, God names man. Man names creatures (in Genesis). God gives a new name to Abram, Isaac, Peter, etc. Parents share this responsibility by naming their children.
"at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth" - Phil 2:10
My understanding was that certain groups of conservative Jews objected as they found it offensive.
That’s a shame, because, far from being forbidden to Christians to use the name, it is very much encouraged:
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13
I’m a pre-Vatican 2 Catholic and never used the Hebrew word for God. It was not said in the Mass, either. Must have come into fashion later...
I suggest — just a suggestion — that since the Annunciation the, so to speak, “operative” Name of the Lord is Jesus, and I would appeal to Philippians 2:5-11 as a guide to pious practice if not to theology.
The wide use of the name of God, rather than “God” or “Lord,” stems from the Jerusalem Bible, especially in the Psalms.
It deeply offended many Jews.
Sure, I agree that Jesus is Lord. However, if you start substituting the name “Jesus” for “Yahweh”, you are, in a way, eroding the whole idea of a trinitarian God. If the names are interchangeable, then it implies the persons are interchangeable, which implies that a trinity is a bit superlative.
“It deeply offended many Jews.”
I don’t see why, since they don’t consider gentiles to be bound by their laws.
God has a lot of official names (HaShem, Adonai, El, etc), the Tetragrammton is a very specific one and a very formal one, only spoken by the High Priest at certain times in front of the Ark of the Covenent, and forbidden to be said at other times.
Now, as Christians, I know that sort of thing doesn’t apply, but it sure seems a bit rude to use the name in any other manner than directed by God Himself, so I always thought this was a wise decision.
Regarding Jews who right “God” as “G-d”, the article is incorrect. Jews are not permitted to let the name of God (however written) get defaced, so, in causual writings (like the internet), the word is avoided or written like “G-d.”*
* Learned this on FR from some of our more helpful Jewish Freepers.
The prohibition against pronouncing The Name isn’t just any law.
The decision by the editors of the Jerusalem Bible was needless.
“The prohibition against pronouncing The Name isnt just any law.”
Was it given to anyone but the Jews?
That’s all that really should matter to them, the way they view God’s laws. They have one set given to them, and another for the rest of us. So, if God gave it only to them, their own interpretation says that gentiles don’t have to obey it. Otherwise, they are being hypocritical.
Got to remember that except in the USA, in other countries, the readings came from the Jerusalem Bible. I have a hard cover copy of that Bible.
See my tag line
This is my understanding of the sacred names of the father and of his son
There is no such demand or direction from YHWH. In fact, if you would read the law, you will see that "YHWH" is to be His name of remembrance among men - It is supposed to be on our lips. It is the name that we are to swear by.
But instead we cover it up and make it secret.
We’re not talking about the professional “I’m-offended” crowd. The taboo against pronouncing the Name is not trivial.
We’re not talking about the professional “I’m-offended” crowd. The taboo against pronouncing the Name is not trivial.
Sadly, too many folks “assume” everyone is in that particular group, the “I’m offended because of _____ (fill in the blank for favorite offended group). I kid you not.
Fairly mediocre answer. The best reason is far simpler: Because it’s wrong.
YHWH isn’t “Yahweh” any more than Kent Hrbek’s name is Homerbek. The fact that it’s impossible to pronounce is precisely the point: The letters were chosen because there is no possible combination of implied phonemes in the Hebrew language; the best you can get is “Yahuwehee,” in which case the speaker sounds like the blooming idiot he is for trying to pronounce a name given precisely because it cannot be pronounced.
“Jesus” is the name of the Incarnate Son of God, but not of God the Father, or of the Son considered apart from the Incarnation (as when speaking of the Persons of the eternal Trinity), or of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that we don’t say “In the name of the Father, and of Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit.”
I have a Lectionary that used the JB. It’s no longer “allowed” in the U.S. since the USCCB mandated the use of the new, worse-than-ever version of the New American Bible.
One does not live by bread alone, you know.
I have different versions of Bibles myself. Got the new NAB also. Good to do some scripture comparison.
“Jesus is the name of the Incarnate Son of God”
Not to be picky, but since this is a technical article the name of the Son of God is really “Yeshua.”
That’s what mom and step-dad called Him, anyway.
Somewhere along the lines a Greek editor decided we were too stupid to handle his given name, not sure.
Joshua loves me this I know doesn’t sell cds....funny how english bibles have no trouble with the english translation of Joshua in the OT...
His jewish mother knows His name. somebody should ask her...
I LOVE this! The working of the Trinity debated on FR! Is this a great country and a great website or what!
I wont bother defending my position because, um, wait, it’s coming to me, ..., yeah, because I’m right.
I’ve been mulling over Colossians 1:12-20 and what it means that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
And of course, we can’t say that one person is PART of God, because God is simple.
I guess in keeping with that line of thought, I have considered the Tetragrammaton to be a name for God THROUGH being a Name for the 2nd Person.
And, as long as I’mbeing vgue and impressionistic, we have the archaic credal formulation Kyrios Iesous — which would seem to make an ID between the two names, to judge by the use of Kyrios in the LXX.
Just a thought. The whole thing needs more thought.
Well, we can apply a similar argument to say that “Jesus” is unacceptable, since that wasn’t his Hebrew/Aramaic name. I prefer to believe that our merciful God knows what we are trying to say and doesn’t hold something as silly as a mispronunciation against us.
YHWH, by the meaning of the letters individually, according to the ancient form of Hebrew, literally means: 'Behold the Hand, Behold the Nail'.
Is there any reason why that Name should not be shouted from the rooftops? The very first testimony of Yeshua is in the very first utterance of the NAME, in the very beginning.
Fine; the article was correct in asserting that the suppression of the use of “Yahweh” was never supposed to be a big deal. No-one is calling anyone a heretic for having used it; simply, the church declines to continue using something which is in error. But it’s not like “Jesus.” Changing Jewish phonemes to Greek ones doesn’t create any incorrect implications (although, it would seem advisable to change Joshua the judge to Jesus, also, so readers would be aware of where Joshua came from.) Changing YHWH to Yahweh, on the other hand, defeats the entire purpose of “YHWH.”
“Changing YHWH to Yahweh, on the other hand, defeats the entire purpose of YHWH.”
Respectfully, that is just your opinion. I don’t believe that God ever made his name “unpronounceable”, since the OT is full of people “calling on the name of the Lord”.
As a lector, I find the NAB very heard to use. One would have to be an actor of the caliber of Jason Robards Jr. to read many of its texts in a way that would be meaningful to the congregation.
It’s not my mere opinion that there is no valid phoneme combination in Hebrew with which to pronounce, “YHWH.” A fact is either true or false.
“Its not my mere opinion that there is no valid phoneme combination in Hebrew with which to pronounce, YHWH. A fact is either true or false.”
No, a “fact” (really an assertion) can be true, false, or we could lack the necessary information to make a determination. In this case, from a purely scholarly viewpoint, the third option is the most sensible conclusion.
You see, there are no ancient Hebrew speakers who we can ask this question to and get a definitive answer. We have modern Hebrew speakers, and ancient Hebrew linguists, but neither of them are in a position to make such a definitive statement. The best they can say is that they don’t think there was any such combination. They really can’t know.
Now, we may not be able to say definitively if there was such a combination, but the best evidence we have of ancient Hebrew usage is undoubtedly the Bible, which, in the text, demonstrates that the name was in fact spoken, inferring strongly that it was pronounceable.
If you are a Christian, then the textual evidence is more than an inference, it is inspired Scripture. So, in that case, the option that our current understanding of ancient Hebrew is correct, and the text is wrong, is out the window. The logical conclusion is that our current understanding of ancient Hebrew is incomplete. Of course, we already know that from many other evidences besides this one.
Are you suggesting that there is textual evidence for a pronunciation of “YHWH”? That the Jews and ancients somehow missed? That when the texts were copied over by ancient Christians for public reading, the needlessly substituted “Kyrie” (”LORD”) for “YHWH” because the simply didn’t pick up on something which told them how to pronounce it?
Oh, and your point about assertions being true, false, or unknownable is well-taken; but then use the word, “assertion” instead of “opinion.” An opinion, by nature, is unable to be proven.
“Are you suggesting that there is textual evidence for a pronunciation of YHWH?”
I am stating that the text states clearly, and multiple times, that the name of the Lord was a spoken word, at that time. Just search for “call on the name of the Lord” and see how many times that phrase is used. Here, I’ll do the heavy lifting for you:
Obviously, if they were calling on the name that much, they must have known how to pronounce it. Somewhere along the line, the exact pronunciation may have been lost, but the textual evidence contradicts the idea that God never wanted anyone to attempt to pronounce it. Quite the opposite, in fact, because it is always encouraged and portrayed as a good thing in the Bible. Those who called on the name of the Lord were blessed for doing so.
I’m not sure what you mean by this. I meant that what you were calling a fact, was really merely an assertion. An assertion can be a fact, if it is established, but the assertion you made is not established, as I think I demonstrated.
“That when the texts were copied over by ancient Christians for public reading, the needlessly substituted Kyrie (LORD) for YHWH because the simply didnt pick up on something which told them how to pronounce it?”
It could be the case, not that they missed something in the text, but that the general knowledge of the pronunciation, which hadn’t been recorded in the text, was lost. Scripture itself suggests this, and it suggests that God may have been the agent who caused the knowledge to be lost:
Zeph 3:9 -
“Then I will purify the lips of the peoples,
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord
and serve him shoulder to shoulder.”
If, in the future restoration of Israel that this prophecy is talking about, their lips need to be purified so that they may call on the name, it means that the lips of Israel must have become “impure”. This must have occurred sometime between when such calling was portrayed as common in the OT and the future restoration. I dare say we are in the interim period right now, and the uncertainty as to the pronunciation is evidence of that.
I once listened to an Old Testament course given by Amy-Jill Levine in which she speculated that “Yahweh!” may have been yelled in battle by Hebrews carrying the Ark.
I thought it interesting.
That is an interesting thought to ponder. Thanks for the post and ping.