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It always amazes me how many Christians I meet who don’t know what the Bible teaches. The Bible is the manual for the Christian life and is the revelation of God Himself, who we must love more than anything in order to be saved in the end. Matthew 10:37 Do we read the instructions for a new electronic device, which will wear out in three years or less and need replaced? How much more crucial it is to read and understand the information that will determine our eternal salvation or damnation and that of those we love.

It is dangerous to simply believe everything you hear from another person, even a preacher. We are all imperfect humans and make mistakes. God tells us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Philippians 2:12 We alone are accountable to God for what we believe and how we live. We need to know what He has told us, so we can obey Him and will know when we are hearing lies.

Many people think the Bible is difficult to understand, so they don't try. Actually, it was written on a 6th grade level. Sure there are topics that are open to differing opinions, but the majority is easily understood, especially when you ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you as you study. The Rabbis of old said that scripture has 70 layers of meanings, so after we learn the obvious meaning of a passage, there is still a wealth of knowledge to be gained from further study, with His help.

I am going to "demystify" how to study the Bible in a few short, easy lessons in the hopes of encouraging you to explore the riches it holds for you. Look in the label cloud under "Christianity 101" for lessons you have missed and God bless your efforts! I'm always available to you in e-mail and I pray for everyone who visits here.

CHRISTIANITY 101 - 11

Names Of God…Yahweh & Jehovah

Jewish scribes had the weighty responsibility of making copies of the Old Testament books down through history. Absolute accuracy was taken very seriously. According to Jewish tradition, the sacredness of the divine names must be recognized by the professional scribe who writes the Scriptures. Before transcribing any of the divine names he prepared mentally to sanctify them. Once he began a name he did not stop until it was finished, and he must not be interrupted while writing it, even to greet a king. If an error is made in writing it, it may not be erased, but a line must be drawn round it to show that it is canceled, and the whole page must be put in a genizah (burial place for scripture) and a new page begun. Very serious business.

The words "God" and "Lord" (used for the Hebrew Adonai) are often written by many Jews as "G-d" and "L-rd" as a way of avoiding writing a name of God, so as to avoid the risk of sinning by erasing or defacing His name. In Deuteronomy 12:3-4, the Torah exhorts one to destroy idolatry, adding, "you shall not do such to the LORD your God." From this verse it is understood that one should not erase the name of God. The general rabbinic opinion is that this only applies to the sacred Hebrew names of God — but not to the word "God" in English or any other language. Even among Jews who consider it unnecessary, many nonetheless write the name "God" in this way out of respect, and to avoid erasing God's name even in a non-forbidden way.

The Old Testament made it clear that misuse of God’s name was such an immensely serious issue that when the scribes copied the scriptures, they left out the vowels in the name of God so that no one could accidentally take His name in vain and sin. Over time, since it was not spoken for fear of using it wrong, the actual pronunciation of God’s name has been lost. YHWH are the actual letters we have. Some have guessed at the vowels and come up with Yahweh.

YHWH is the third person singular imperfect of the verb "to be", meaning, therefore, "He is". This explanation agrees with the meaning of the name given in Exodus 3:14, where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person — "I am".

Another guess is Jehovah. "Jehovah" was created by adding the vowel points of "Adonai." Early Christian translators of the Torah did not know that these vowel points only served to remind the reader not to pronounce the divine name, but instead say "Adonai," so they pronounced the consonants and vowel points together (a phonological impossibility in Hebrew). They took the letters "IHVH," from the Latin Vulgate, and the vowels "a-o-a" were inserted into the text rendering IAHOVAH or "Iehovah" in 16th century English, which later became "Jehovah."

Orthodox and some Conservative Jews never pronounce YHWH for any reason. Some religious non-Orthodox Jews are willing to pronounce it, but for educational purposes only, and never in casual conversation or in prayer. Instead of pronouncing YHWH during prayer, Jews say Adonai. Substituting Adonai for YHWH dates back at least to the 3rd century BCE.

Many English translations of the Bible, following the tradition started by William Tyndale, render YHWH as "LORD" (all caps) or "LORD" (small caps), and Adonai as "Lord" (upper & lower case). In a few cases, where "Lord YHWH" (Adonai YHWH) appears, the combination is written as "Lord GOD" (Adonai elohim). Neither "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" is recognized in Judaism.

Words such as Elohim (God), El (mighty one), El Shaddai (almighty God), Adonai (master), El Elyon (most high God), Avinu (our Father), etc. are not names, but titles, highlighting different aspects of YHWH, and the various roles which He has. This is similar to how a man may be called by his name, or by 'Dad', 'Husband', 'Boss', 'Sir', 'Son', etc, however his personal name is the only one that can be correctly identified as his name. In the Tanakh, YHWH is the personal name of the God of Israel, where as the other words are titles which are ascribed to Him.

(This lesson includes some material from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_God_in_Judaism.)

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