Sunday, 22 May 2016

A case for development of my position on earlier-is-better: the Divine Name

Some may have noticed that I have been interested in what is sometimes referred to as "the Divine Name". According to the Bible, God revealed himself to Moses that he could say that I AM sent him (Exodus 3:14). Somehow (certainly similar Hebrew letters) this became something like "Yahweh".

Psalm 83:16 and 18 confirm something quite special and, well, you might say basic, but the Divine name really is confirmed as Yahweh... **IN HEBREW**. So why on Earth do most Bibles not stick with that, a name's a name, right? Well, there is some real textual and Jewish history to get into. One key element is that not all the displaced Jewish communities would later speak Hebrew. Before Christ, several (at least six) Greek translations were undertaken. We have but shreds of textual evidence about these early translations, but one thing is very clear: translation of the Divine name was a most delicate task. Not only that, but the Pentateuch passages pertaining to the non-profaning of God's name (e.g. see Exodus 20:17) were corrupted somehow into Greek - probably out of reverence for the Holy God - so as to no longer read don't profane (or misuse) God's name (otherwise you'll die), but don't even mention it (or you'll die). Various textual solutions were offered (although for oral practice scholars are still left mainly guessing), although none of the scant shreds I mentioned include Kyrios ("LORD", even though one of them has a space that some scholars think could have been exactly filled with the Greek letters).

So how is my viewpoint widening? Well, with regard to New Testament exegesis, I have always felt a strong allegiance to the earliest textual form found. A new earlier manuscript may shed light on an earlier form of the text, and maybe even alter the text. With respect to authorial intention, I have also been consistently against any form of eisegesis whatsoever. Earlier is better.

But the Divine Name case represents an interesting problem for the Protestant biblical student. Is it possible that the earliest form of the text is NOT always the most biblical and preferred rendering?
Compare LXX Psalm 83:16 and 18 to Hebrews 1:4. It is the same word used for "name" in both cases. We should remember that the Hebrews author is consistently quoting and particularly faithful to the LXX text (see my evidence to that effect in examining the ARCHE evidence here). I don't think we have any reason to believe that he even knew Hebrew or Aramaic. So, when he talks about "the name that he inherited", I now believe he might well be referring to Kyrios (anarthrously), because that IS the Divine Name he seems to know. (No-one I know of is arguing that Yahweh got translated to Kyrios because of Jesus!!). Jesus is the Son of God (Hebrews 1:5). Being begotten of your father gives you his name, be that naturally or otherwise, and with the name comes special inheritance of the first born.

If Kyrios has a special role to play in connecting the Old and New Testaments, and exegeting the Old with (and without) the New Testament layering, then it seems more than legitimate to consider the preservation of the later tradition of Kyrios, albeit only anarthrously (I.e. ditching the "the" in "the LORD" in the Old Testament and "the Lord" in the New when demonstrably linked to Yahweh). The fact I still don't budge on the issue of articles does mean that I have a serious translation problem. The article is undeniably helpful to flow in some sentences, like calling on the name of the LORD. But I insist we can no longer do away with Biblical tradition when it purposefully maintains the linguistic properies of a name, even when guised in a title. After some practice in the Psalms, I am already getting used to the anarthrous LORD.

So I prefer calling on LORD's name. See, for example, what Luke does with this translation when he writes Acts 2:21. There is no "the", and there is not even a "[the]".

Of course, and I hope I have fully died to any sense of Greek slobbery, this could just be an untranslatable problem. My preference for awkward English is that it highlights the intended preservation of the name, and who knows, potentially awkward Greek too. It also will help distinguish intended Yahweh references from more day-to-day usages of Lord.

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