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Yeshua Explored

Blasphemy

todayJuly 6, 2021 16

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Let’s read Exodus 20:7:

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

It’s the one about blasphemy. Breaking this one had consequences:

Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible;anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death’. (Leviticus 24:15-16)

It’s as well we are not under the Old Covenant in terms of consequences of actions, otherwise the world would be a very lonely place, inhabited only by a few maiden aunts and the odd vicar, because the rest of us would have been stoned to death for blasphemy!

But I’ve never taken the name of God in vain in any way! Yes you have. Here are some euphemisms for “God”; by gad, oh my gosh, by gum, by Jove, by George, so ‘elp me Bob, by Godfrey, great Scott, good grief, goodness gracious, begorrah, We’ve all uttered one or two of these in our time, haven’t we?

Have we taken the Lord’s name in vain? Of course we have, though, in mitigation, we mostly haven’t realised it, or have felt safe in the knowledge that a derivation is not the actual word, so no worries! I wonder what God thinks?Yet even Christians have been known to utter such epithets as “Oh my God!” or “Oh God”. These may not be seen as blasphemies, but perhaps can be suggested as over-familiarity with the Deity. The use of the phrase “Jesus Christ!” in all of its derivations seems to be on the rise in popular dramas, even our daytime soaps. We don’t need euphemisms these days as there is no guilty conscience or penalties in uttering blasphemies. That’s a good indication that our society today is very much Post-Christian.

And what of the Jewish experience? The rabbis have always taken the punishments described in Leviticus 24 seriously with regards to taking the Lord’s name in vain. Whereas “Christian” society in the UK has produced a whole catalogue of euphemisms that are thinly-veiled substitutes for the Lord’s name, Jews go a lot further. It goes back to the Masoretes, the Jewish scholars who compiled the definitive Hebrew Old Testament in the 10th Century AD and it concerns the sacred name of God, YHWH, when it appears in Scripture.

It was the Name never to be pronounced, because of the Commandment. But the Masoretes’ job was to add vowels to all words and make them pronounceable. What they did was to use the vowels from the word Adonai (Lord) and splice them into YHWH. The reason for this is that Jewish readers would be reminded to use the word Adonai, rather than YHWH, thus not breaking the commandment. The early English translators of the Bible were unaware of what the Masoretes had done and also had no fear themselves about uttering the sacred Name, so they translated exactly what they saw. They ended up with Jehovah.

And thus a new name for God was produced, an incorrect one. The rest, as they say, is history.

What of today? What is the acceptable attitude today among Christians? Are we bound by the sensibilities of those Jews who declared that the Name of God was unutterable or do we attempt to say His name, but at least get it right? Orthodox Jews today NEVER ever write the name “God” or even “Lord” and replace the vowel with a hyphen, writing it thus, “G-d” or “L-rd”. In speech they use other terms. A popular one is Ha Shem (The Name). There is even one used by Matthew, the Gospel writer specifically writing to the Jewish people of his day. When speaking of the Kingdom that Jesus had come to initiate, all other writers used the expression “Kingdom of God”. In Matthew’s case, although he used this expression four times, he used another one 34 times, the only Gospel writer to do so. He used the expression, Kingdom of Heaven. This avoided using the word “God” and used instead the euphemism, Heaven.

So, the first four “sayings” in Exodus 20 remind us of the Kadosh, holiness, of God. To remind you:

And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below  … You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

There is one more saying, in the next few verses, that is concerned with our responsibilities towards God Himself:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy …” (Exodus 20:8)

So Sabbath is also a matter of Kadosh. We have already discussed this but now perhaps we can start to think again and wonder why it is the only one of the ten commandments/sayings that is deliberately not followed by some Christians. This one is really between you and your God.

More next week.

This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp

Do we take God’s name in vain? 

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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