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Tuesday
Feb102015

Theological Term of the Week

tetragrammaton
“[T]he four Hebrew letters that make up the name of God. In English the letters are basically equivalent to YHWH. It is from these four letters that the name of God is derived and has been rendered as Yahweh and Jehovah.”1

  • In scripture: 

    Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD [see note below], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:13-15 ESV)

    [In the ESV and many other translations, the word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH.]

  • From Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof:
  • It is especially in the name Yahweh, which gradually supplanted earlier names, that God reveals Himself as the God of grace. It has always been regarded as the most sacred and the most distinctive name of God, the incommunicable name. The Jews had a superstitious dread of using it, since they read Lev. 24:16 as follows: “He that nameth the name of Yahweh shall surely be put to death.” And therefore in reading the Scriptures they substituted for it either ’Adonai or ’Elohim; and the Massoretes, while leaving the consonants intact, attached to them the vowels of one of these names, usually those of ’Adonai. The real derivation of the name and its original pronunciation and meaning are more or less lost in obscurity. The Pentateuch connects the name with the Hebrew verb hayah, to be, Ex. 3:13,14. On the strength of that passage we may assume that the name is in all probability derived from an archaic form of that verb, namely, hawah. As far as the form is concerned, it may be regarded as a third person imperfect qal or hiphil. Most likely, however, it is the former. The meaning is explained in Ex. 3:14, which is rendered “I am that I am,” or “I shall be what I shall be.” Thus interpreted, the name points to the unchangeableness of God. Yet it is not so much the unchangeableness of His essential Being that is in view, as the unchangeableness of His relation to His people. The name contains the assurance that God will be for the people of Moses’ day what He was for their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It stresses the covenant faithfulness of God, is His proper name par excellence, Ex. 15:3; Ps. 83:19; Hos. 12:6; Isa. 42:8, and is therefore used of no one but Israel’s God

Learn more:

  1. Compelling Truth: What is the tetragrammaton? What does YHWH mean?
  2. Blue Letter Bible: Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
  3. Theopedia: Yahweh
  4. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministries: Tetragrammaton
  5. Andrew Jukes: Lord or Jehovah
  6. John Piper: “I Am Who I Am”
  7. Michael Marlowe: The Translation of the Tetragrammaton

Related terms:

Filed under God’s Nature and His Work

1] From here.

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

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