Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The "Name" of God, January 3, 2006


The import of naming had a far deeper meaning epistemologically and metaphysically for the ancients than for us. The Jerome Biblical Commentary says: “Israelite thought in the biblical era lacked the discursive reasoning developed by Greek philosophy … and was incapable of general and abstract speculation. In Hebrew `to know God’ is to encounter a personal reality; and a person is not known unless his name is known.

“In Hebrew speech there is a peculiar association of the person and the name that is foreign to our idiom. `Name’ is used in contexts where modern language uses `person’ or `self.’ To have no name is to have no existence in reality; when one’s name is blotted out, one ceases to exist. To give a name is to confer identity and not merely to distinguish from other individuals or species; when God creates (Genesis 1), he gives a name to each object of his creation. The conferring of a name is an act of power and an assertion of ownership or some other form of control. A change of name indicates a change of state or condition, the beginning of a new existence.
“To know the name is to know the reality named. For this reason the Old Testament reflects the love of etymologies which, if analyzed linguistically, are fanciful. The name is pregnant with meaning; a connection by paronomasia with a characteristic of a person or an event in his life reveals the person more fully. Hence the knowledge of God is disclosed in his name.

The Contradiction to the Name:

“What then does the name of God mean? Perhaps if we begin with its opposite we shall be better able to understand what it is all about. The Book of the Apocalypse speaks of the enemy of God, the beast. The beast – the counterpower – does not bear a name but a number – 666 – the seer tells us. The beast is a number and translates into numbers. What that means is known to us who have experienced the word of the concentration camps: Its horror was due to the fact that the camps obliterated faces, annihilated history, and turned human beings into interchangeable parts of a huge machine. Human beings were identified by their functions, nothing more. Today we must fear that the concentration camps were only a prelude, and that the world, in accord with the universal law of the machine, may adapt itself completely to the organization of the concentration camps. For in a place where only functions exist, human beings can only be a kind of a function. The machines that human beings have constructed will stamp on people the sign of the machines. It is necessary to render human beings legible to the computer, and this is only possible if human beings are translated into figures. Everything else remaining in human beings becomes unimportant. Whatever is not a function is nothing. The beast is a number that transforms people into numbers.”[2]

1) “The Name of God”

From apostolic times, the Church has professed 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, 10-11).

Old Testament: God declared to Moses, “I am the Lord. As God the Almighty I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but my name, Lord, I did not make known to them. I also established my covenant with them,… And now that I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are treating as slaves, I am mindful of my covenant. Therefore, say to the Israelites: I am the Lord… You will know that I, the Lord, am your God… I, the Lord!” (Exodus, 6, 2-8).

Previously, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had revealed His Name to Moses:

“But” said Moses to God, “when I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, `What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.”

Fr. John Courtney Murray comments on relationality: “Moses and his people heard not the affirmation that God is or that he is Creator but the promise that he would be present with his people. God’s utterance of his Name is to be understood in the light of the promise to Moses that precedes it (`I will be with you’) and which in another form follows it: `I will help you to speak and I will tell you what you have to say’ (Ex. 4, 12). The sense of the verb `to be’ is relational, or intersubjective. For the ancient Israelites, as for all primitive peoples, existence was an affair of community; to be was to be-in-action. Finally, existence was of the phenomenal, not the essential, order; to be was to be-there, concretely and in evidence. This primitive sense… has come to the fore again in current existential philosophies – for instance, in the technical German word Dasein as contrasted with Sein (underline mine).

“In uttering his Name, God says, `I shall be there, with you, in power (‘ehyeh)… `Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who says: `Here I am’ (Isaiah 52, 6). …

“Understood as affirming the faithful presence of God among his people, the Name Yahweh is the `banner’ of Israel (Exodus 17, 5), the rallying standard about which the tribes realize their religious and national unity as a people. In this sense the divine Name is at the root of the whole theology of the people of Yahweh that develops throughout the Old Testament. In particular, it inspires the concept of the people of God as a qualitative concept, religious, not ethnic.”

Also, this is not magic. The invocation of the Name does not bring God down as a genie to respond to our religious needs and satisfy our spiritual aspirations; in a word, to be “used” by us. It is a love relationship where He is freely “constrained” by the Love that He-Is-For-Us. As the four million who came to Rome for the death of John Paul II responded, “We had to.” Murray insists, “He comes down with all the mystery that attaches to the concept of freedom when freedom is stretched to infinity – to the point where it breaks through the limits of the conceptual, goes beyond the manner of understanding that conception may bring, and passes into the far regions of utter ineffability. Precisely in the mysterious freedom of his presence Yahweh is manifested as Lord, the one Lord of his own action, who does not abide man’s questions because he stands beyond all questioning. In giving himself the Name Yahweh, God forestalls the question that is somehow native to the heart of man, `Why are you here?’ or, in its more usual form, `Why are you not here?’ The answer, which refuses the question in both its forms, is: `I shall be there as who I am.’”[3]

2) Jesus Christ, as the Name of God:

New Testament: Jesus Christ calls Himself Yahweh: “If you do not believe that I am (ego eimi= Yahweh [I AM Who Am]), you will die in your sin” (Jn. 8, 24); “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am (ego eimi)” (Jn. 8, 28); "Before Abraham came to be, I am (ego eimi)” (Jn. 8, 59); “I tell it to you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am (ego eimi)” (Jn. 13, 20). To see Christ, is to see the Father (Yahweh): “Philip, he who sees me sees also the Father” (Jn. 14, 9). Hence, Jesus Christ reveals Himself to be Name and the Face of the Father. Jesus Himself is the Name of God.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

“Christ is the true Moses, the fulfillment of the revelation of the name. He did not come to bring a new word as a name, but much more; he was himself the face of God, he was the name of God; he was the possibility even for God to be called `you,’ to be called as a Person and as a heart. His own name Jesus brought to its conclusion the mysterious name of the burning bush. Now it appeared clearly that God had not left off speaking, that he had only temporarily broken off speech. For the name Jesus in its Hebrew form contains the word Yahweh and adds to it `God saves.’ `I am who am’ has meant since the time of Jesus: `I am the one who saves you.’ His being is Salvation.”

To be more exact, the name, Jesus, is derived from the Latin Iesus, which is derived from the Hebrew Yahshua: “God saves.” The prefix Yah is the short or poetic form of YAH-weh the Heavenly Father’s Name as found in HalleluYAH and in names of many Biblical personalities, as we will see. Thus, the Savior’s Name begins with the prefix “Yah” that begins Yahweh’s Name, as revealed in Psalm 68:4: “Sing unto Elohim, sing praises to his name: extol him that rides upon the heavens by his name JAH [YAH], and rejoice before him.” “Shua,” the last part of the Savior’s Name, carries the primary meaning of “salvation.” Thus, Yahshua (Jesus) means “the salvation of Yah” or God-Savior.

When Israel crossed over the Red Sea, Moses sang a song of thanks to Yahweh in Exodus 15. The saving name appears in verse 2, “Yah is become my salvation,” which was to be Yahshua! – which became Iesus, and which in turn became our “Jesus.”

Example: “Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer. And a certain man, who had been lame from his mother’s womb, was being carried by, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful, that he might ask alms of those going into the temple. And he, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for an alms. But Peter, gazing upon him with John, said, `Look at us.’ And he looked at them earnestly, hoping to receive something from them. But Peter said, `Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, that I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk.’

“And taking him by the right hand, he raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles became strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk and went with them into the temple, waling and leaping and praising God….and they [the people] were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
“And they set hands upon them [Peter and John] and placed them in custody till the next day… But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be five thousand.
They are then brought to the Sanhedrin who inquire: “`By what authority or in what name have you done this?’

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, `Rulers of the people and elders… be it known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,… even in this name does he stand here before you, sound. This is `The stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the corner stone.’ Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”
(Acts 3, 5 – 4, 12) (emphasis mine).

How Does One Come To Know the Name?

The scene is Caesarea Philippi as in Luke 9, 18: The apostles return from preaching and find Jesus praying to the Father. They join Him. In that context, He asks them: "Who do the crowds say that I am? And they answered and said, `John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and otheres, that one of the ancient prophets has risen again.' And he said to them, `But who do you say that I am?'" (Lk. 9, 19). In a word, how do the crowds (who are not praying with me) name me?, and how do you name me? Simon answers, "The Christ of God." Note that the conversion to empathy brings about an ontological change in Simon as person (to relationality) such that Christ changes his name from Simon, son of John to "Peter," the Rock (since Christ is "Cornerstone" [Acts 4, 12]).

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger explains the "epistemology of naming/knowing" persons. He writes: "By nature, knowledge depends on a certain similarity betwen the knower and the known. The old axiom is that like is known by like. In matters of the mind and where persons are concerned, this means that knowledge calls for a certrain degree of empathy, by which we enter, so to speak, into the person or intellectual reality concerned, become one with him or it, and thus become able to understand (intellegere = ab intus legere)" (underline mine).

This "empathy" is basically the to-be knower performing the same kind of action as the person to-be-known, such that the same interior experience (and therefore the same interior consciousness) takes place in the to-be-knower as in the to-be-known. Ratzinger had previously establish from the Gospel of Luke that this "empathy" is basically the to-be knower performing the same kind of action as the person to be known, such that the same interior experience (and therefore the same interior consciousness) takes place in the to-be-knower as in the to-be-known. Ratzinger had previously established from the Gospel of Luke that “prayer was the central act of the person of Jesus and, indeed, that this person is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with the one he calls `Father.’ If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus’ saying that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6, 44).” ("Behold the Pierced One," Ignatius (1986) 25-26). Therefore, no one can name Jesus Christ as “Son of the living God” without "empathizing" with His very “I” by praying to the Father with Him. Hence, “Our Father….”[emphasis mine] ("Behold the Pierced One," Ignatius (1986) 25-26).

Source of the Name “Jesus:”

The genealogies of Jesus derives from the genealogies of Joseph. “Why,” St. Augustine asks, “should they not be according to Joseph? Was he not Mary’s husband? [and this because the faith of Joseph was in the same line as the faith of Mary in total submission when hearing the word of God and doing it? “He is the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary‘s `pilgrimage of faith” - the very source of engendering the "Life" of the Child in the flesh - {Redemptor Custos #5}]… Scripture states, through the authority of an angel, that he was her husband. Do not fear, says the Angel, to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was told to name the child, although not born from his seed… (H)e is not deprived of his fatherly authority from the moment that he is told to name the child” (John Paul II, “Redemptoris Custos,” # 7) [underline mine].

Conclusion: We must praying invoking the Name of Jesus Christ, because it has been promised:

“Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (Jn. 14, 13-14).

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name: you are mine” (Isaiah 43, 1)

[1] John L. McKenzie, S.J., “Aspects of Old Testament Thought,” Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall (1968) #77, 737.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “The God of Jesus Christ,” Franciscan Herald Press (1979) 15-16.
[3] John Courtney Murray, S.J. “The Problem of God,” Yale University Press, (1964) 8-13.ll” (Mk, 16, 17-18).

[1] John L. McKenzie, S.J., “Aspects of Old Testament Thought,” Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall (1968) #77, 737.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “The God of Jesus Christ,” Franciscan Herald Press (1979) 15-16.
[3] John Courtney Murray, S.J. “The Problem of God,” Yale University Press, (1964) 8-13.


D Day said...

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and you might want to check it out when you have time.

With Many Blessings,

Bible Genealogies

Dennis Day said...

Hello and Greetings - As I was surfing the Net today, I came across your Bible Blog. You have a very well put together Blog here. I have a website that also contains information about Bible Genealogies...
any you might want to check it out as well.

With Many Blessings,

Bible Genealogies