26 August 2008

The Tetragrammaton

Even as a Protestant I was uncomfortable with the name "Yahweh" as a transliteration of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH - the Hebrew Name of God). Not even the rabbis know how to pronounce the sacred name the Lord gave to Moses. It has always been translated as "Lord", even in the Catholic Church until recently.

In fact, there is no "W" in Hebrew, thus the name "Jehovah", which I have equal distaste for. But there was this trend, especially among Charismatcis and Pentecostals, for spicing up worship services with some Jewish flavor. I do enjoy the modal quartertone scales and upbeat style of "Messianic" music, and don't mind calling Jesus by His given name "Yesh'ua" or even to refer to the Father as "Adonai". But it never made sense to borrow someone's music then offend them by using a name for God that is sacrelige to use.

I bring this up after hearing a discussion today on Al Kresta's radio show about the two-page letter from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, dated June 29 and addressed to episcopal conferences around the world:

"By directive of the Holy Father, in accord with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this congregation... deems it convenient to communicate to the bishops' conferences... as regards the translation and the pronunciation, in a liturgical setting, of the divine name signified in the sacred Tetragrammaton," declared the letter signed by Cardinal Francis Arinze and Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, congregation prefect and secretary, respectively.

"As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: 'Adonai,' which means 'Lord,'" the Vatican letter said. Similarly, Greek translations of the Bible used the word "Kyrios" and Latin scholars translated it to "Dominus"; both also mean Lord."

That means that in the reading of Biblical texts taken from the Lectionary, as well as in prayers and hymns, "Yahweh", "Jahweh" and "Jehovah" must not be used. I guess this is another blow to the New American Bible not being used liturgically, and backs up why I use my trusty old RSV Catholic Edition.

Now, if we could only stop using the songs where the congregation sings the "God" parts (think of the popular, "I am the Bread of Life"--I'm still a huge JMT fan)... but that's another discussion...

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