In a recent news item in Christianity Today we learn that the Vatican has decided to remove the word “Yahweh” from public pronunciation and liturgy and song. A professor from
Reformed Western Theological Seminary in Hope MI agrees. Here are my thoughts:
First, as Protestants we affirm and follow the Scripture first principle. The Bible reveals the name “Yahweh” (YHWH) as the Name of God: Exodus 3:13-15.
Second, the Bible never prohibits pronunciation of God’s Name. It warns strongly of using the Name of God in vain (Exod 20). The point needs emphasis: the Bible does not ever say “do not pronounce this Name.”
Third, there developed a “hedge around the 2d commandment” in Judaism: if you never say “Yahweh,” you never use the Name in vain. Which is, of course, quite true. But, which was also taught, the Bible also clearly connects “in vain” with more than pronunciation: how one lives either brings honor to God’s Name or dishonor to God’s Name. I respect not pronouncing the divine Name; I do not consider it a biblical teaching. Another way: The interpretation of the 2d commandment in this way nonetheless remains an interpretation.
Fourth, in the presence of observant Jews who are offended by public pronunciation of God’s Name, Christians will do well to avoid using that Name. In writings for an audience that might include Jews, I recommend writing “YHWH,” something I myself have not done consistently in my career, though since about 2000 I think I have.
Fifth, in the public worship of God in Christ, in the company of Christians, Christians should have no scruples or hesitations in using the Name that God reveals and nowhere prohibits pronouncing. I do not think rabbinic scruples about the Sacred Name should change how Christians speak of God when they are in the presence of one another or when they are addressing God personally.
Sixth, but consider this: Why is the sacred Name never used in the New Testament? Does that indicate that the early Christians simply shared the custom of not using the sacred Name? Does the absence of the sacred Name constitute a teaching not to use the sacred Name?