Speaking the name of God

Judaism and Christianity have a unique relationship in that Christianity accepts the Jewish sacred texts as part of their own scriptures. There are, of course, differences of translation and interpretation.

One difference has been in the name of God. The Hebrew Bible uses the name YHWH (there are no vowels in the earliest texts), but wherever that name (known as the Tetragrammaton or “four letters”) appears, observant Jews always substitute the word “Adonai” or “Lord.” This is done in respect for the name of God, which is not to be spoken lightly. (Some observant Jews will also write the word “God” as “G*d” for the same reason.)

Sometimes in Christian reading or worship, the name “Yahweh” is used, but earlier this month, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church has instructed that it should be dropped from hymns and prayers.

“As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, (the name) was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: ‘Adonai,’ which means ‘Lord,'” the Congregation said, adding the “church’s tradition, from the beginning, that the sacred Tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated.”

The Roman Catholic Church is to be commended for this genuine step in demonstrating respect for Jewish tradition.

This entry was posted in Christianity, International, Judaism, Roman Catholicism. Bookmark the permalink.

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