Names and the Name – 3

God has a name – 2

My hope with this series of posts on the Name is to fill out the significance of what we mean when we pray ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’. This first petition of what is commonly called ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ (perhaps better entitled ‘The Disciple’s Prayer’. It seems to me that the Lord’s Prayer is best exemplified in John 17) is probably the most ignored part of the prayer. It follows on from what can only be described as the very climax of the Gospel itself – the gift to humanity that we should know and call on God as ‘Father’ – and is also directed to what follows – ‘Your kingdom come’. My agenda: that we might better know, reverence and hallow God’s name before the nations to his glory. So that’s where we’re going with these posts. Before we get to the first petition of the prayer, however, we must spend some time understanding the meaning and significance of the Name in the Hebrew Bible. This will be the purpose of the next few posts.

The three main independent names for God in the MT, based on Israel’s experiences of God’s blessing and redemption, are Elohim, YHWH and Adonai. Most biblical scholars and theologians are quick to identify ‘YHWH’ as the unique self-named and self-revealed designation of Israel’s God on the basis that there are no certain occurrences of its use outside Israel prior to Moses. Certainly, the relationship between this Name and Israel was never lost thereafter.

Most OT scholars identify that in Israel’s thinking, God’s name was thought of in the larger context of the world of the ANE and its divinities. What Israel came to see at Sinai was that they had a unique God with a unique name. The name of the God of the fathers was YHWH. In the MT, this is God’s ‘proper name’. In Israel’s biblical tradition, this name alone was cultically appealed to (Israel called ‘on the name’) and closely connected with the Ark of the Covenant. This should come as no surprise, for as Eichrodt notes, ‘It is through her worship of this God that Israel is marked out from all other nations’. This also makes sense liturgically where we need to use God’s name not to talk about God but to and for him. This is no less true for how the trinitarian formulas were first utilised in the Early Church. And it is no less true for how we ought to address God today. More on this to come.

Note: For those preparing sermons for this Sunday (and the coming 3; ie for June), I’ll post some thoughts on 4 lectionary readings for the next 4 Sundays. The first one, on Romans 5:1–5, will be posted tomorrow.

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