Bible Basics: Naming God and the Man from Galilee

“Wisdom is a tree of life for those who hold fast to her, and all who hold fast to her are happy.” Proverbs 3:18

October 20, 2010:  Our session had two parts–we looked at the various names for God in scripture and then read a passage in Mark. 

We have to be reminded that God is not “God” throughout all of scripture.  God is also LORD,  God Almighty, Lord of Hosts, God Most High, and others.    We see that in the first chapter of Genesis God is just God…in Hebrew it would be Elohim.  This account of creation was written by the “Priestly” editors and this is more or less their preferred address for God.  In Genesis 2:4 the second account of creation, thought to have been written by the “Yahwist” editors, the name changes to LORD God, or Yahweh. Yahweh occurs over 6800 times in scripture and in most translations appears as LORD in small capital letters.   Of course in Hebrew YHWH did not have vowels and was considered too sacred to be read out loud.  It roughly translates as “I am who I am”, or “I will be what I will be.”

Wikipedia says that Jews ceased to use the name Yahweh in the intertestamental period, replacing it with the common noun, “god.” The divine name was too sacred to be uttered, and was replaced in common speech or liturgy with Adonai (Lord).  Jehovah was popularized in the King James version of the Bible, and is an artificial term derived by combining YHWH with the vowels from Adonai.  It is not part of the original texts.  Yahweh is the personal name for God, the one given to Moses when he asked God “Who shall I say sent me?”  Generally speaking the other names for God are titles.  We will examine this more thoroughly when we later begin talking about the various sources of the Old Testament texts, and the editors for those sources.

We finished reading the first chapter of Mark.  We noted the vibrant images of Jesus that appear in the economy of words employed by Mark.  We identified the following aspects of the man Jesus:  he was a spirit person, he was a teacher, he was a man who was tempted, he was a healer, he was a charismatic leader, he was a person of prayer, he was a son, he was a cousin.  These quick snapshots of Jesus help to lay a template for understanding his life and ministry. We talked about how in a very short time he made a huge disruption on the local scene.    Some would have loved him, some would have resented him, some would have been afraid of him, some would have been angered by him, and nearly all would have been mystified by the source of his authority.  We look forward to learning more about this man from Galilee.