Firstly, due to the inherited Greek mindset, early Christians had tended to over-analyse the things of God. In earlier articles we read of the doctrine wars of the Early Church, brought about by the subtle influence of Greek philosophy. It is worth repeating what was earlier stated: the Greek mind says that we should strive for knowledge about God, the Hebrew mind says that we should know God. You can see Him shouting from the heavenlies, STOP READING ABOUT ME, ARGUING ABOUT ME … JUST TALK TO ME AND GET TO KNOW ME!
To be honest, these days this has been a problem more so for Jews, than for Christians. What it shows us is that even religious Jews need to rediscover their own Hebrew mindset, even they have succumbed to the influence of the Greeks. The Hebrew mindset tells us that, although doctrine is crucially important, just as important is a relationship with God. These days most Christians are rediscovering this, the problem has been taking it too far, when relationship has given way to familiarity. There is no such problem with religious Jews, as we shall now see.
How many times do you hear the three lettered word, God, these days? First there’s the popular usage, in blind ignorance of the Third Commandment.
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7)
“Oh my God!”, “God help me” and their ilk can be heard in offices, homes and schools throughout the nations. God calls this blasphemy and there are consequences for such flippancies, so be warned. The other place where this word is heard, in more reverent terms, is in Church of course, in Bible readings, prayers, sermons, liturgy and worship songs. One place you’ll never hear this word (or read it) is in a synagogue or in a religious Jewish home. Yes, you may say, it’s because they use the Hebrew word for it, you’re trying to trick me!
No, religious Jews have such a reverence for God that they can’t even write or say His name. When a scribe was copying Scripture onto a new scroll and came across the name of God, he had to use a special quill to write this most holy of names. In conversation these days, when referring to Him they use the word HaShem, which simply means “The Name”. They take the Third Commandment seriously! When they need to write His name down they miss out the vowel and write either G-d or L-rd. It is a practical reverence and, to be honest, for some it is borderline superstitious, but the intention is sincere.
Whenever reading from the Bible or prayer books, religious Jews also have another rule regarding the Name of God. In Hebrew script, the actual Name of God, as written by Moses and the other compilers of the Bible, has four letters, all consonants, as there are no vowels in Biblical Hebrew. Whenever Jews read this word, the word that they actually say is “Lord”, rather than saying the name of God and opening themselves up to the possible breaking of the Third Commandment. How this actually works will be described later on in a future article, when we examine the Hebrew language.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again)