Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Englsih

The name of God

LORD, in upper case letters, appears 6,510 times in the English Old Testament. This is not a translation of some Hebrew word meaning Lord, but of YHWH, the name of God.

This name was first revealed to Moses in the account of the burning bush Exodus chapter 3. God tells Moses that His name is I AM. When this was written out in the Scripture it was written YHWH in Hebrew letters.

The Hebrew alphabet is only 22 letters, all consonants. Apparently this is not as much of a problem in Hebrew as it would be in English or French, due to a lesser number of vowel sounds.

Hundreds of years later vowel points were added to Hebrew, but in the meantime the pronunciation of YHWH was lost as it was thought to be a sin to pronounce the name of God. This came from the desire to avoid violating the commandment which says “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.”

Rather than pronounce YHWH the Hebrew people would substitue another word, most often Adonai, which means Lord. Whe vowel points were added to the Hebrew alphabet the voels of Adonai were inserted in YHWH, which gave Yahovah. This is undoubtedly the wrong pronunciation. To be true to the origin of YHWH in the Hebrew word for I AM, the name needs to be pronounced Yahweh (or Yahveh).

I think many readers of the Bible misunderstand the meaning of LORD in the Old Testament. It does not mean that the name of God means Lord, but simpply follows the Jewish practice of substituting Lord for the name of God. Many Jews today will not pronounce God in English and write it as G-D, omitting the vowel.

In French Bibles YHWH is translated as l’Éternel (the Eternal) which nicely captures the meaning of I AM as the name of God. But then in the New Testament French Bibles use Seigneur (Lord) just like English Bibles use Lord. The substitution of Lord for YHWH was so thoroughly entrenched by that time that New Testament writers used kurios, the Greek word for Lord to refer to God.

Memories of a Bridge Builder

My mother was born to a family that spoke Plautdietsch at home and German in church. Those languages, sometimes called Low German and High German, were meant to be a protective wall, preventing folks of that heritage from feeling at home with the people around them. They also served to exclude the people around them from their churches and hopefully from their families.

Mom spoke only Plautdietsch until she started school; there she learned German and English. As she neared adulthood, she memorized the German catechism and was baptized, becoming a member of the Sommerfelder Mennonite Church.

Schools stopped teaching German; the church held German classes for the children one winter and stopped. Mom’s eight younger siblings never learned German, thus understood nothing of the Bible reading, preaching or hymns in church. Many of them didn’t bother to attend. Mom began to ponder how the language in which the Christian message was preached could be more important than the Christian message itself.

She listened to Christian messages in English on the radio and learned many English hymns. In 1935 her sister Katherine married Art Goodnough and Mom began to get acquainted with the Goodnough family. In 1940 she married Walter, Art’s older brother. I was born in 1942, the only child of Walter and Agnes.

When I was a very small child Mom would occasionally use a Plautdietsch word or two. But she had cast her lot with the mainstream English-speaking Canadian society and she was a determined woman. She studied her dictionary and built an English vocabulary that was more extensive than most people around her. She completely lost her Low German accent.

When we moved to Craik she joined the Anglican Church Women’s group and the Hospital Auxiliary and built relationships with the other ladies of the community. Despite having had only six years of schooling, she was my first and best teacher. She was interested in my school work and always wanted to get to know my teachers.

She had no prejudices that I ever discerned. Colour of skin and ethnic background were not barriers to her. She occasionally expressed a wish that she could have learned French when she was younger. She never forgot Plautdietsch and German, but they were of no value to her any more, except in visiting with some of her family.

Since I was her only child, Mom determined that she would accept and love whoever I would decide to marry. She carried through on that and she and Chris became very close. She loved her only granddaughter and that love was returned. Mom was already past 90 when Michelle was expecting her first child; Michelle told her Grandma before she told her parents.

Mom was a bridge builder, not a builder of walls. That is the legacy that she has left for us to cherish and continue.

Things they didn’t teach us in school: W is a vowel

Most of the time w is used as a vowel.  They didn’t teach me this in school; I’m not sure it’s being taught in school even now.  Consider the following:

Fawn / faun:  aw has exactly the same sound as au.  Can you think of any words in which aw is not a vowel sound?

Blew / blueew has exactly the same sound as ue.  I can’t think of many words in which ew does not have this sound.  Ewe (pronounced you) would be one exception.

Flow / floe: same thing, ow in this and many other words has the same sound as oe, or oa.

Town / mound: in another group of  words ow has the same sound as ou.

In all of these instances, w functions as a vowel.  But what about when w is used at the beginning of a word?

In French, the w sound at the beginning of a word is represented by ou, as in ouest, the French form of west, pronounced the same way.  W is not found in any native French words, but is used in words imported from other languages.  This w or ou sound at the beginning of a word is called a semi-consonant in French.  In English it is called a semi-vowel.

In some cases the w at the beginning of words imported into French  is sounded like a w in English, in other words it is given a v sound.  Wagon is the word used in French for a rail car and is pronounced vagon.

You see, in English we call W a double-u and use it as a vowel or semi-vowel.  In French it is called a double-v and is considered to be a consonant or a semi-consonant.

One of the first things I was taught in school was that the vowels are a e i o u and sometimes y.  This is correct, as far as it goes.  Why didn’t they tell me that w is used as a vowel as least as often as y?

Why didn’t I figure it out for myself before I got into my sixties?

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