Category: Uncategorized

The Name Yahweh

Published / by kathleen

By John Goldingay

A couple of people have asked me about a theory concerning the name of Yahweh that has been circulating on social media. The theory is that the real name of Yahweh is simply Yhwh without any vowels, and that this is important because pronouncing the name is then like breathing. I have no problem with a devotional use of the name of God along these lines, but the theory presents itself as a historical understanding of the name. In this sense it can hardly be right. It seems to be based on a misunderstanding about Hebrew.
The theory says that the name God gave Moses was Yhwh without any vowels.But all written Hebrew lacked vowels, like other Semitic languages (and many modern text messages!). When someone spoke the Hebrew words as opposed to writing them, however, the words would have vowels (like text messages if one read them out). That would apply to the name Yahweh as it applied to every other word.
In other words, Israelites could manage fine with a system whereby written words
comprised only consonants, but when they said the words out loud, they could work out how to say them with vowels. The system worked fine for people who spoke Hebrew as their everyday language. It works for Israelis today. But when Hebrew was no longer the everyday language for many Jews in late Second Temple times, it was harder for people to know how to pronounce the words, and systems of dots and dashes were devised so that they could see how to pronounce the words.
But an odd thing then happened with the name Yahweh. By the time of the development of the systems of dots and dashes, people had stopped actually saying out loud the name of Yahweh (for instance, when reading from the Scriptures). Instead they replaced it by the Hebrew word for Lord (which is why you get LORD instead of Yahweh in translations of the Bible). One reason they stopped pronouncing the name may have been a concern not to take Yahweh’s name in vain. Another may have been that the name makes Yahweh sound like a strange Israelite tribal god rather than the one real God.
As a consequence, it was somewhat later that the vowels got added to the written form of the name Yhwh. That didn’t mean people were thinking up vowels where there had been none before. It meant they were putting on record the pronunciation of the name Yahweh that people had always used and that they assumed Moses would have used. The vowels in the name Yahweh were not added arbitrarily by someone at this point, then. They were designed to indicate the way the name had always been pronounced.
(Another question I am sometimes asked is whether it is disrespectful to Jews to use the name Yahweh as they do not use it. One or two Jews have reassured me that they do not think this. Not pronouncing the name is part of the spiritual discipline to which they believe God has called them, like keeping kosher, but they do not assume that God has called everyone to it.)

LLM Preaching the Old Testament

Published / by kathleen

John led a conference for Licensed Lay Ministers on Preaching the OT
in June 2022. The transcripts of talks from that conference are posted on the
Biblical Interpretation page of this website with the preface LLM. (The versions are
mostly longer than the versions I gave at the conferences, and most of
them are also posted on this website under other guises.)

MP3 recordings of the talks 1-4 can be found via these links

Recording Session #1 Why Preach the Old Testament?

Recording Session #2 Preaching the Stories

Recording Session #3 Preaching the Prophets

Recording Session #4 Preaching the Psalms

Kathleen’s Story Theory LLM Workshop talking points are posted on her Story Theory Page.

Hosea 12-13

Published / by kathleen

From John:

There’s a paper under Prophets on these chapters that studies them as
a curated compilation of short prophetic messages, assembled as a
series of units that critique Israel for its treachery and
waywardness, warn Israel of trouble that Yahweh will bring to it as a
consequence, and recollect events from Israel’s story that push it
towards reflection and change. In pressing it in this direction, Hosea
makes systematic use of ambiguity, allusiveness, and paronomasia as he
seeks to drive Israel to work out what his messages mean and what they
imply for it. His recollections of events related in the Torah and
Former Prophets also contribute to that agenda; in this respect his
recollection of Jacob’s story in 12:4–5 [3–4] is especially
significant. It is not clear whether he would have known the Genesis
story in the form we have it, but this uncertainty does not inhibit
comparison of his version of Jacob’s story and the Genesis version.
Both are sparing in their judgments on a person such as Jacob, which
contributes to the way Hosea makes the story a repository of ambiguity
and allusiveness that in this respect matches the rest of the two
chapters in contributing to an encouragement of reflection and change
on Israel’s part.


Published / by kathleen

Joy: A paper by John posted under Other Papers

‘Rejoice in the Lord’, Paul says (Philippians 4:4). How does that work?
In the Scriptures there is:
Joy when God has done great things
Joy and celebration over everyday things
Joy in serving the Lord
Joy when things have been grim
Joy when you know you went wrong

Israel in Biblical Theology

Published / by kathleen

Israel is a prominent topic in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures,
though it was not prominent in Christian theological reflection until
the aftermath of the Holocaust. Actually, over the centuries and in
the contemporary world there have been many Israels, and similar
theological issues repeatedly arise through the Scriptures and outside
them in connection with Israel. This article deals with these issues
as a set of recurrent questions in connection with the broad question:
What is the theological significance of Israel? See paper under Theology.

Joshua Goes to Kathmandu

Published / by kathleen

Notes from John: As I have taught online at the Asia Graduate School of Theology in
Kathmandu and have simultaneously been writing a commentary on Joshua,
I have wondered what happens when we put Joshua and Nepal together.
What would happen if Joshua went to Kathmandu? How might he reflect?

See the paper on “Joshua Goes to Kathmandu” posted under the “Prophets” tab.