Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Old Testament

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.

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Wicked women of the Bible

One was a Canaanite woman who disguised herself as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law. Another Canaanite woman was a prostitute. A Moabite woman crawled under the covers with a man while he was sleeping to hint that she wanted to marry him. The fourth was an Israelite woman who bathed on the roof of her house in full view of her neighbour.

What do these four women have in common? They are all named in the genealogy of Jesus. In fact, they are the only women mentioned in His genealogy.

Tamar, the first, was the widow of both of Judah’s two oldest sons. Judah promised her that she would marry his youngest son when he came of age, but did not keep his promise. Tamar then took matters into her own hands, playing the prostitute to Judah himself. When Judah was informed that his daughter-in-law was pregnant, he decreed that such a sin must be punished by death. However, when she informed him who was the father of the expected child, Judah was humbled and responded “She hath been more righteous than I.”

Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute who hid the Israelite spies who had come to search out the defences of Jericho. Because of this, she and her household were the only survivors of the destruction of Jericho. She married an Israelite – possibly one of the spies?

Ruth the Moabitess may have taken unusual measures to make her wishes known to Boaz, but he appeared to take her intentions kindly. He told her: “Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich.”

The Bible tells us nothing of Bathsheba’s thoughts when she bathed on the roof. Some commentators think that she was actually performing the ritual cleansing after the end of her menstrual period. If that be so, it could have appeared as an invitation to King David. He certainly seems to have taken it that way.

None of these women had the Bible we have today. The law had not been given at the time of Tamar, even later no one had access to a personal copy of the Scriptures. There was no weekly worship and instructional service during Old Testament times. None of this excuses their conduct. Yet God had mercy on them and they became known as godly women. When the elders blessed the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, they said “Let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah.”

Three of these women appear in the genealogy of David and the fourth, Bathsheba, was his wife and the mother of Solomon, the son whom God loved best of all the sons of David. Proverbs 31 begins: “The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.” No king by this name appears in any ancient record. The name signifies “for God” and the rabbinical commentators considered it another name for Solomon. We cannot be positive, but the only alternative is that Lemuel is a complete mystery. If Lemuel was indeed Solomon, then Proverbs 31 was written by Bathsheba.

Jesus, during His ministry, had a compassion for scorned and mistreated women that was unheard of in that day. The Pharisees were the true believers of Jesus’ day, in that they believed all the Scriptures taught and scrupulously observed all the commandments of the law. They often scorned Jesus for His friendship with sinners. His response? He told the Pharisees “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

Do we have the same compassion toward the fallen and downtrodden that Jesus and the early church had? One of the primary reasons for the rapid growth of the early church was that the gospel offered hope and dignity to the outcasts of society. Have we forgotten this in our day?

It has been a great temptation for us as North American Christians to sit in our comfortable, middle-class pews and rejoice in God’s goodness, all the while averting our eyes from the misery around us. If we do see it, we console ourselves that all these people are going against better knowledge. Really? I am convinced that most people in North America today have no more understanding of God’s mercy and righteousness than Tamar and Rahab had at the beginning.

What does the Bible say about — the Bible?

Before going too far, we should understand the Bible used in Jesus’ time. The Old Testament was not a book like we use today, but consisted of a number of scrolls, grouped as the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The Law consisted of the first five books of the Bible, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, the books written by Moses. The Prophets were the scrolls containing Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the scroll containing the minor prophets, from Hosea to Malachi. The Writings consisted of the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles. This group was sometimes called the Psalms as that was the first and the largest scroll in this group.

Thus when New Testament writers refer to the Law, they are referring to that whole group of scrolls, not only to the part of it which contained laws. Likewise, when referring to the Prophets, they meant all the scrolls in that group, including those which we consider historical writings. Since all the writers of Scripture were considered prophets, The Law and the Prophets included the whole Old Testament. Jesus once said: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me,” meaning the whole Old Testament. The quotation is found in Luke 24:44.

One more historical fact needs to be mentioned: these scrolls had all been translated into Greek about 200 years before Jesus’ day. All the quotations from the Old Testament that are found in the New Testament come from this Greek translation. This explains some differences in names: Eli for Elijah and Elias for Elisha. In addition, Jesus is the same name as Joshua, Mary the same as Miriam and James the same as Jacob.

The apostles clearly understood the whole of the Old Testament writings to be divinely inspired. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Word of God is eternal and unchangeable. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). “ For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Parts of the Bible can be understood by non Christians, but to truly understand it, one must have the Holy Spirit. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:13-14). “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” (2 Corinthians 4:3).

One verse written by the Apostle Paul has given rise to the idea that the Bible is all a jumble and it is up to us to put things together in the proper order: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Apostle Paul was not telling us that the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle and we need to puzzle out what piece goes where. What he is actually saying is that we should handle the truth honestly and correctly. The Apostle Peter gives a corrective for the modern misinterpretation of Paul: “As also in all his [Paul’s] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). Peter uses the word wrest, which means to twist, or tear apart. Also note that Peter is already considering the epistles of Paul to be part of the Scriptures.

Peter also writes: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). Differences in interpretation of the Scriptures are not the fault of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writers and who will also inspire our understanding of what was written.

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