Press of the BeComingOne Church

[Taken from the God Papers  by Walter R. Dolen
 Copyright © 1977-2003 by Walter R. Dolen and/or BeComingOne Church]


[The following was taken from Part 1 of the God Papers by Walter R. Dolen]

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What is God's Name

gp87 As we've just seen there is great significance placed on God's Name in the Bible. The importance placed on God's Name has little to do with the pronunciation of the Name. Unlike today in many nations, the Hebrews placed more significance on the meaning of names. This is very important. We must not only take care to understand what is God's Name, more importantly we must understand the meaning of God's Name. The paradoxes of God and the problem of evil can only be understood by knowing the true meaning and significance of God's Name.

gp88 For some persons what follows is too detailed and repetitive, for others it is not detailed enough. We will repeat some things many times in order to make our point as clear as possible. See "More Details" at the end of GP 1 for more specific information on some topics.

What Is God's Name?

gp89 We must go back to the book of Exodus to find God magnifying and revealing His Name to Moses:

Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" (Exo 3:13)

And God answered the question:

"I will be that I will be." (Exo 3:14)

[ Hebrew  = ]

gp90 This is the literal translation from the Hebrew text. But in the King James Version it reads: "I am that I am." The majority of English Bibles translates it this way. But it is a wrong translation. I repeat, the "I am" translation is incorrect. In the note for Exodus 3:14 in the American Standard Version it correctly says the verse is: I will be that I will be. In a footnote for The NIV Study Bible, it has I will be what I will be.

gp91 In most Hebrew lexicons it shows that this phrase in Exodus 3:14 should be translated, I will be that I will be, or I will be who I will be.

gp92 In the Englishman's Hebrew-English Old Testament, by Joseph Magil (printed by Zondervan in 1974), Exodus 3:14 reads: I will be that I will be.

gp93 According to The Pentateuch And Haftorahs: Hebrew Text, English Translation And Commentary, edited by Dr. J. H. Hertz, C. H. (former Chief Rabbi), published by Soncino Press, London (1956), in its commentary it states: "Most moderns follow Rashi in rendering [Hebrew - ehyeh asher ehyeh] 'I will be what I will be.'"

(But even though this is close to how Exodus 3:14 should be translated J. D. Hertz still allowed the traditional rendering of Exodus 3:14 to be used in the book's English translation of the verse.)

gp94 According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915 Edition) under "God, names of," page 1266, we see that it should be translated: I will be that I will be.

gp95 By looking up the Hebrew words in The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, by Benjamin Davidson we see that the correct translation is: I will be that I will be.

gp96 Even the Bible in Today's English Version, published by the American Bible Society in 1976, has in a note for Ex 3:14, I will be who I will be.

gp97 And in the New International Version (1978) it has a note for Exodus 3:14, "I will be what I will be."

gp98 And from the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, "I shall be the one who will be."

gp99 The "that," or "who," or "what," in "I will be ... I will be" is a relative pronoun, 'asher (# 834), which can be translated in several ways such as: "that" or "who," or "what" or "when," etc. (see Lexicon)

Exodus 3:12 v. Exodus 3:14

gp100 To transliterate "I will be that I will be" from Exodus 3:14 into English without the vowels we get:

'hyh 'shr 'hyh. 

[ Hebrew  = ]

gp101 The Hebrew 'hyh [], in its common imperfect, first person, and singular form. (Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, note Table N; Gesenius' Grammar, §40a-c; The Essentials of Biblical Hebrew, by Yates, p.41) The Hebrew hyh is a to be verb (Strong's # 1961). This is the same verb as in Exodus 3:12: "I will be with you." Most English versions of the Bible translate Exodus 3:12 as, I will be, even the versions that translate Exodus 3:14 as, I am who I am. This is important, so I'll repeat.

'hyh [] appears in both Exodus 3:12 and 3:14. In 3:12 it is translated, "I will be with you." But for some reason it is translated as, "I am who I am" in Exodus 3:14 when pertaining to God's Name. In most other places in the Bible in most translations it is translated, "I will be." In fact, for 43 times in the Bible in most English translations it is mostly translated as, "I will be." See "I will be" in context.

Notice from the Kings James Version:

And he said, Certainly I will be [] with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. (Exodus 3:12)

And God said unto Moses, I am that I am
: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am [] hath sent me unto you. (Exodus 3:14 )

Something strange is going on here, and that something has to do with the influence of Grecian philosophy on Biblical study, as well as the real reason -- the "other-mind." We'll examine more on Grecian philosophy later.

God Revealed His Name To Moses

gp102 In context notice what God said after He said, "I will be that I will be":

Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "I will be that I will be." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I will be has sent me to you.' " (Exo 3:13-14)

gp103 In answering Moses, God used a Hebrew imperfect verb to state His Name. First God repeated it twice: I will be that I will be. Right after that God used the same verb another time: "And He [God] said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I will be has sent me [Moses] to you [Israel].' " As we mentioned, this same Hebrew imperfect verb is used in Exodus 3:12: "I will be with you." It is the imperfect Hebrew verb ('hyh) in its common first person singular pronoun form.

gp104 Then right after God said to Moses to tell Israel that "I will be" had sent him (Exo 3:14), God rephrased His words and said unto Moses:

"You shall say to the children of Israel that Yehowah ... has sent me [Moses] to you [Israel]." (Exo 3:15)

"and say to them, 'Yehowah the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me [Moses]." (Exo 3:16)

After Moses asked God His Name, He answered with I will be repeating it twice, then He told Moses to tell Israel that His Name was I will be, and right after this He told Moses to tell Israel that His Name was Yehowah. "Yehowah" means: he will be or he (who) will be. (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon; Gesenius' Gram. §75s)

gp105 Why did God make this change when giving His answer to the question? Let's look at it again. God repeated His Name twice for emphasis, "I will be that I will be." He then says again that His Name is I will be. He only changes it to He will be or Yehowah because this is the grammatically correct way for Moses or anyone else to address God. Moses could not say to Israel, "I will be has sent me to you." so Moses was told to say, "He will be (Yehowah) has sent me to you." By using "Yehowah" Moses correctly communicated God's Name to Israel. As Moses used "He will be" (Yehowah) to say God's true Name, so must we to be grammatically correct. We wouldn't call the true God, I will be, but we would say, He will be or Yehowah.

gp106 When God spoke of His Name He used the first person I-Will-Be. But when we speak of His Name we use the third person He-Will-Be. The usual Hebrew word for He-Will-Be is yhyh . (Analytical Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon, in Lex. and in § 24 rem. 3e; and see the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius' Hebrew And English Lexicon, under hyh and hwh) But God's Name is spelled "Yehowah" or yhwh. Moses apparently used a less common form of He-will-be to set God's Name apart, to make it holy.

Yehowah, The Name, is a Verb

gp107 Without its vowels, Yehowah is spelled YHWH. Yehowah is a to be verb and is in the correct form for an imperfect verb in its third person, singular, masculine gender. (see BDBG Hebrew and English Lexicon; Gesenius' Gram. § 40 & § 75s; see below) It is not a noun per se, but it is used as a proper noun, and from context we can call it a noun. (Gesenius' Gram. §125a) One problem people have with God's Name is that they do not understand that in Hebrew verbs can be used as nouns, even proper nouns. (Gesenius' Grammar 79, 82, 83, 116f, 125a)

Name: An Imperfect Verb

gp108 Yehowah is an imperfect verb in the third person singular pronoun form of the verb hwh. The Hebrew hwh () is Strong's # 1933 and means "to be, become, or come to pass." (Hebrew and English Lexicon, Brown, Driver, Briggs, & Gesenius, under ) It is felt by some to be a more ancient form of the verb hyh, and is found in Genesis 27:29. (Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Zondervan, p.172; and other Hebrew Lexicons) Yehowah is the correct form for an imperfect verb in its third person, singular, masculine of the verb, hwh, according to the table in Gesenius' Grammar, §40.

Name: Imperfect Verb, Not Future Tense

gp109 Some call the Hebrew imperfect verb a future tense word, but this is not correct. From Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (Oxford, 1980 reprint) we see that:

"The Hebrew (Semitic) Perfect denotes in general that which is concluded, completed, and past, that which is represented as accomplished, even though it is continued into present time or even be actually still future. The Imperfect denotes, on the other hand, the beginning, the unfinished, and the continuing, that which is just happening, which is conceived as in process of coming to pass, and hence, also, that which is yet future; likewise also that which occurs repeatedly or in a continuous sequence in the past (Latin Imperfect)." (§ 47.1, note 1)

gp110 More on the Hebrew Imperfect verb from S.R. Driver's Hebrew Tenses,

In marked antithesis to the tense [perfect] we have just discussed, the imperfect in Hebrew, as in the other Semitic languages, indicates action as nascent [beginning], as evolving itself actively from its subject, as developing. The imperfect does not imply mere continuance as such (which is the function of the participle), though, inasmuch as it emphasizes the process introducing and leading to completion, it expresses what may be termed progressive continuance." (p. 27)

To Summarize

gp111 It is clear here; there is no mystery. First God said His Name was I will be, then He changed its form so Moses would be grammatically correct, when Moses said "He will be (Yehowah) has sent me," instead of the incorrect, "I will be has sent me."

gp112 Moses used a less common form of the verb to be. The common form was, hyh. If Moses used the to be verb "hyh," then God's Name would have been expressed as, 'hyh when spoken by God, or yhyh when spoken by us. For God's Name Moses used the less common form of the verb to be; Moses may have used hwh instead of hyh in his books in order to differentiate God's Name from the more common, hyh. The meaning of either yhyh or yhwh, is He Will Be.

I Am | Lord

gp113 The Hebrew word translated "I Am" in many of today's translations in Exodus 3:14 is an incorrect translation because the Hebrew word is an imperfect or incomplete verb. The translation of "I am" doesn't give the full meaning of God's Name. The translation, "I am," doesn't take into consideration that it was translated from a Hebrew imperfect verb. The "I am" translation is not from the Hebrew text, but taken from a mistaken Greek translation of the word. Those who follow the "I am" tradition are mistakenly using the faulty Greek version as their basis.

gp114 Instead of "I will be that I will be," the Greek (Septuagint) has "I am the Being" and "The Being has sent me to you" for Exodus 3:14.

LXE Exodus 3:14: And God spoke to Moses, saying, I am The Being; and he said, Thus shall ye say to the children of Israel, The Being has sent me to you. (English of Greek text)

It is important to point out the Greek version, the Septuagint, was made in Egypt and the Egyptian's god, Osiris, was addressed in their prayers as "the Being." (p. 151, The Gods of the Egyptians, by W.A. Wallis Budge)

gp115 But the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, not Greek. Besides the mistranslation of Exodus 3:14, the Septuagint mistranslates the Hebrew word, YHWH; for YHWH it substitutes the Greek word for "Lord," which is Kurios (# 2962). From this early Greek translation we see many translations that use "Lord" instead of "Yehowah" or as commonly misspelled, "Jehovah" or "Yahweh."

gp116 It was the "fathers" of the Catholic Church such as Augustine that were insistent on using translations from the Greek text instead of the Hebrew text:

gp117 "There have, of course, been other translations of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. We have versions by Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and an anonymous translation which is known simply as the 'fifth edition.' Nevertheless, the Church [Catholic] has adopted the Septuagint as if it were the only translation.... From the Septuagint a Latin translation has been made, and this is the one which the Latin churches use. This is still the case despite the fact that in our own day the priest Jerome, a great scholar and master of all three tongues, has made a translation into Latin, not from Greek but directly from the original-Hebrew. The Jews admit that his [Jerome's] highly learned labor is a faithful and accurate version, and claim, moreover, that the seventy translators [Septuagint] made a great many mistakes in their version. Christ's Church [Catholic], however, thinks it inadvisable to choose the authority of any one man [Jerome] as against the authority of so many men -- men hand-picked, too, by the high priest Eleazar for this specific task. [Augustine here speaks of the myth of the 70 or so translators of the Greek text. (The Canon of Scripture, F.F. Bruce, pp 43ff)] For, even supposing that they [the 70] were not inspired by one divine Spirit, but that, after the manner of scholars, the Seventy merely collated their versions in a purely human way and agreed on a commonly approved text, still, I [Augustine] say, no single translator should be ranked ahead of so many. The truth is that there shone out from the Seventy so tremendous a miracle of divine intervention that anyone translating the Scriptures from the Hebrew into any other language will, if he is a faithful, translator, agree with the Septuagint; if not, we must still believe that there is some deep revealed meaning in the Septuagint." [City of God, by Augustine, book 18, chapter 43]

gp118 Name, Forgotten By Judah. It is very significant that Judah was prophesied to forget God's Name:

"Behold, I have sworn by My great Name, says Jehovah, that My Name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt." (Jer 44:26, King James II Version)

gp119 The Septuagint translation was done in Egypt, and it was in Egypt that the Jews were to forget God's Name: they began to use the Greek equivalent for "Lord" instead of the Hebrew YHWH or Yehowah ("Jehovah"). The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (1915 AD) speaks about the translation:

gp120 "It is one of the outstanding results of the breaking-down of international barriers by the conquests of Alexander the Great and the dissemination of the Greek language .... The Jewish commercial settlers at Alexandria forced by circumstances to abandon their language, clung tenaciously to their faith; and the translation of the Scriptures into their adopted language, produced to meet their own needs, had the further result of introducing the outside world to a knowledge of their history and religion.... The LXX [Septuagint] was also the Bible of the early Greek Fathers, and helped to mold dogma; it furnished proof-texts to both parties in the Arian controversy." (under "Septuagint")

Greek Mindset

gp121 If God's Being is what or like what others say it is, then God's very Name should have been written or spoken with a perfect verb.  .  .  . [The rest of this section is included in GP1]

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