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Friday, August 31, 2007

Psalm 68 Part l

I have put off for over a year a series which has been requested more than once. It is only with the utmost hesitation and reluctance that I embark on this series. It is about the names of God. Because I really am an old fashioned person, and reared in a very strict way, I feel a certain taboo in talking directly about God. It is like looking directly into the sun.

So, I have named this series Psalm 68 and I will blog through this peculiarly interesting psalm. It does contain five of the most important names of God. This is an exercise in approaching something from an angle, obliquely. It will be an exploration for me, and is far outside of any small expertise I might have in languages.

A few weeks ago, Bryan L., a BBB lurker and email friend, asked,
    I was doing a search on the word sovereign and all it's inflections (I think that is the word I'm looking for) because I wanted to study how it's used in the Bible. So using Bibleworks I did a search in the NIV and noticed almost 300 verses came up (an interesting side note only 5 were in the NT). So I decided to copy all those verse as well as the same verses from the NRSV and NASB to compare with how the NIV translates certain passages. I then noticed something. Those NRSV and NASB verses were not saying sovereign where the NIV did. So I decided to search for all the occurrences of sovereign and it's different (inflections) in the NRSV and the NASB. Here's what I found:

    The NASB only shows 8 occurrences (only 1 for the actual word sovereign) and the NRSV only has 22 verses. The ESV actually does the same to from a quick search in it using E-Sword. Why the big difference between translations? I mean that is huge and obviously shows a translation philosophy difference or a difference in how a word or phrase should be translated. Hopefully you can help me out or guide me to where to look.

    Thanks and keep up the great topics on BBB.
Yes, it is a huge difference, and, of course, there is a short answer, but this topic deserves proper treatment. It is better to build up our awareness of the different names of God and how they have been translated, or not, over the millenia.

On his own blog, Bryan has recently written,
    Sometimes I attempt to read complicated theological books and I think to myself, wow, this person has really thought long and hard about this and has taken the best of philosophy and theology and melded them together to form these extremely detailed and complicated beliefs about God and his attributes and actions, and I'm really impressed. And then I think, it's probably no closer to the truth than a simple statement like God is good, or God is love, or God is our father or God is sovereign, or whatever. In fact, again, I wonder if the more we try to focus in on God the more wrong we get. Like taking a microscope to a picture and seeing a few of the cyan, magenta, yellow and black dots that help make the picture, and then confusing those dots for the picture.
So I think Bryan is interested in the attributes of God, revealed in his name.

Here are the first four verse of Ps; 68, in the KJV.
    1Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.

    2As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

    3But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.

    4Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.

The word for God in verse 1, 2, 3, and 4a is אֱלֹהִים - ’ĕlōhîm. Of course, there is no such thing as upper case, and so one would not see the name of God with a capital in Hebrew, or Greek either. However, the name of God was held in reverence.

In verse 4b, God is mentioned by his name יְהוָה but in the abbreviated form יָהּ. What is particularly interesting is that
יְהוָה, is not to be pronounced but יָהּ may be. So, if I put יְהוָה into the Hebrew transliteration tool, it comes out as hashem - "the name", but if I put יָהּ into the transliteration tool then the result is yah. This reflects the practise of the Jews in reading the name of God.

Verse 4 then in Hebrew reads,

שִׁירוּ, לֵאלֹהִים-- זַמְּרוּ שְׁמוֹ:

סֹלּוּ, לָרֹכֵב בָּעֲרָבוֹת--בְּיָהּ שְׁמוֹ; וְעִלְזוּ לְפָנָיו.

This is the only time that Jah occurs in the King James Bible. Elsewhere the name yah is translated as LORD. יָהּ occurs 49 times in the scriptures but only once has it been translated as Jah in the KJV - in Ps. 68:4. Most modern translations use LORD,

Jah - Pagnini
, KJV, Darby, Eberfelder,
Yah - Emph. Bible
Iah - Geneva Bible
Yahweh - HCSB
HERR - Luther
Dominus - Vulgate

I will not discuss the translation of
יְהוָה in this post. However, my understanding is that a variation of Jah is acceptable and Yahweh is not. Jah occurs in many Hebrew words and names, most commonly, Allelujah. But as you can see most translations have opted for LORD.

Pagnini's version is the first that I know of that does not translate
יָהּ as Dominus - LORD, but uses Jah instead.

It is worth noting this point from Judaism 101,
    Although the prohibition on pronunciation applies only to the four-letter Name, Jews customarily do not pronounce any of God's many Names except in prayer or study. The usual practice is to substitute letters or syllables, so that Adonai becomes Adoshem or Ha-Shem, Elohaynu and Elohim become Elokaynu and Elokim, etc.

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At Sat Sep 01, 09:50:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...

I am really, really looking forward to this series! Thanks for taking the plunge and exploring the names of God. I'm going to get out Psalm 68 and start reading.

At Sat Sep 01, 11:33:00 AM, Blogger Bryan L said...

Thanks Suzanne! Can't wait to see how this unfolds.

Bryan L

At Tue Sep 18, 07:57:00 PM, Blogger Josh said...

WOW! I always thought Elokim was just a mistake made by people who misread he for chet. You learn something everyday!


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