In the following verse, did Jesus in fact say the word, the name of God, that no Jew would dare to say aloud at that time?

As soon then as he had said unto them, I am [he], they went backward, and fell to the ground (John 18:6)

  • 1
    I'm not sure what this question is asking. Does it help to know that Jesus was probably referring to Exodus 3:14? – Jon Ericson Jul 10 '12 at 0:22
  • My question here is did He say exactly that Hebrew word that no one of the Jews would say aloud? – brilliant Jul 10 '12 at 0:45

Jesus seems to have followed, out of courtesy, the taboo by the Rabbis on pronouncing the Lords name (יהוה‎) Yahweh as though there was something sacred about it. This was not the original practice of the Hebrews but a ban on pronouncing the name started to appear around the time of Antiochus IV (175 BC).

Simply from the fact that the New Testament never brings up any kafuffle about the name it is clear Jesus respected the superstition as a man of peace. The Jews wanted to kill him for declaring He was Jehovah, not for simply pronouncing the name. Curiously there is ‘another modern movement' based on seeming high degrees of confusion over the so called ‘sacred name’, and there is even a website dedicated to arresting its development here.

The verse itself seems to simply mean that when Jesus spoke, his breath was like his infinite power bringing his enemies to their knees. It signifies that Jesus could have destroyed them all in a ‘burp’ but it was His will to surrender as a Lamb to be slain.

Regarding the taboo itself as it is not even mentioned in the Bible anywhere it was never considered significant enough to respond to, or even record the history of.

  • Thank you, Mike. I think you've nailed it here. The links in your answer are just amazing!!! – brilliant Jul 16 '12 at 1:42

I am writing this as an expression of disappointment with the answer provided by Mike, particularly their statement

... Lords name Yahweh as though there was something sacred about it

"as though there was something sacred about it' is very strongly disrespectful to the One who brought about Mike's existence.

Firstly, writing Lords rather than LORD's indicates his incomplete understanding of the significance of the name even when applied to the realm of established Christian theology. If not incomplete understanding, then at least complete disregard for established Christian theology on the matter.

Where this phenomenon is widespread in lay-theologians' frustration with the intransigence of Jews' accepting the Christian gospel. An acceptance that would complete their confidence in their own Christian faith. Just as much as Jews' acceptance of the Quran would bolster the confidence of Muslims in their faith.

This phenomenon is exhibited by Watchman Nee's insistence that the Sabbath is put on hold, until the "2nd coming of Jesus". I have heard many radical Evangelical hard-driving pastors express such views and Mike's opinion of Jewish superstition. Despite that Jesus declared that he is the provider of Sabbath and that observance of Sabbath:

Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.—Matthew 11:28 (KJV)

I wish people to understand why Jewish "refusal" to pronounce the Name is not a superstition and not a kerfuffle.

The source of "the problem":

Of course, discussion of this topic is incomplete without quoting Exodus 20:6 (20:7 in Christian translations)

לא תשּא את שם יהוה אלהיך לשוא

You shall not act/tolerate towards Name of the LORD your g-d in void/emptiness/futility.

You will not come before the presence of your LORD empty-handed and in futility.


It is not a refusal to pronounce. Jews believe in pronouncing the name of the LORD. Except that the Name cannot be pronounced verbally.

To pronounce the Name of the LORD verbally is pejorative. Pronouncing the Name yahweh would be like meeting a Chinese person and calling him/her "Chink". Very quick and efficient but totally inaccurate way of describing that person. Not to say disrespectful.

Encouraging pronouncing yahweh is not only pejorative, but perjury - bearing false witness to the nature of our Creator.

Many radical Evangelical layman have sought a quick and painless way to address the issue of "simplicity of the gospel". I had a childhood friend with whom I attended Engineering school, who believed that the message of the gospel of Jesus is so simple that the only scripture that need to be read is the KJV. When I tried to go into the exegesis of the Greek or Hebrew, he would sweep aside my attempts saying that his god will not provide a gospel which required believers to attempt complex exegesis in order to gain salvation. I realised that many in his religious social circle held similar views too.

If Mike is also of such nature, I rest my case.

It was a relatively "recent phenomenon"

Proponents of the yahweh pronunciation point to the Jewish refusal to pronounce the Name as "relatively recent" phenomenon. It started only 200 years after the building of the 2nd temple, and therefore such Jewish practice is fraudulent.

First of all, there is no proof that this tradition did not exist during the time of David or Moses.

2ndly, to say that being a "relatively recent" phenomenon is to invalidate 1Peter 1:7 or Proverbs 17:3.

To say that after trials and tribulations of wars and conflicts and exile, and the subsequent Jewish return to their homeland is not entitled a more accurate understanding of their LORD, of the Name of the LORD. That the Jewish graduation towards a more precise understanding of the nature of their Creator is indeed fraudulent.

If such Jewish enlightenment 200 years prior to the appearance of Jesus is fraudulent, then the enlightenment of Jesus must indeed be fraudulent too. Would you say that?

Knowing your Creator

I read JI Packer's book, but after 1/4 I started flipping.

The Jewish view is that our Creator is unknowable - meaning that we humans are capable of knowing a tiny dot of the whole infinite nature of the Creator. To say that we can know His complete nature, and therefore qualified to pronounce the Name verbally, is the actual fraud.

Do you think that the high priest would survive his once-a-year encounter within the Holy of Holies if he had not pronounced the Name properly for the whole year? Would he survive if he came to the Presence of the LORD empty-handed? That he did not save a widow from being bullied by her neighbours? That he proposed against the collection of taxes to provide health-care to those who have none - would he survive the encounter?

What is pronouncing the Name? By saying "yahweh"? Just a quick simple efficient dropping a coin in the box and buy your salvation through such an indulgence? Superstition?

The Calvinist quarters of Christianity has driven too deep a dichotomy between Faith and Works. That so long as you have Faith, Works can take a back seat and your salvation is assured. Not realising that the Hebrew word for faith encompasses assuredness, trustworthiness, confidence, truth, agreement. Not realising that the word for prayer and devotion is the same word as Work - avodah.

Faith and Works are the two sides of the same coin. You cannot even start attempting pronouncing the Name without indulging yourself in good works. Vice versa, that your good works are but vanity without the equivalent Faith.

Thou shalt not come to the Presence of the LORD empty-handed in futility and in vain. Not to say that good works and faith completes the pronouncing of the Name - I dare not say that. That would be committing a presumptuous sin.

I counsel thee to buy from me gold that is purified by fire, so that you can cover your embarrassing nakedness - I know there is such a verse in Revelation 18 somewhere.

  • "This phenomenon is exhibited by Watchman Nee's insistence that the Sabbath is put on hold" - As far as I know, there are many theologians who hold this view. Why do you specifically mention Watchman Nee here? – brilliant Jul 16 '12 at 1:42
  • "Not realising that the word for prayer and devotion is the same word as Work - avodah" - What's the Strong's number for "avodah"? – brilliant Jul 16 '12 at 5:04
  • I mentioned Watchman because I read a lot of Watchman and Tozer. – Cynthia Avishegnath Jul 16 '12 at 18:29
  • I am not familiar with using Strong's numbering - Avodah is a word found in traditional Jewish liturgy/manuscripts. – Cynthia Avishegnath Jul 16 '12 at 18:32
  • 1
    Blessed Geek: I'm having trouble with this answer since it doesn't really answer the question. Most of it seems rather a personal rant against Mike and people you know. I tried to edit the answer into shape, but I can't really follow it. – Jon Ericson Jul 17 '12 at 0:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.