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The Question Essentially

  • Is it possible that God's name is a nominal version of the third person masculine singular verb to exist or to be: יהיה.

  • Can יהיה be validly understood as "he [that] liveth"2 or understandable as such as a name (with an infixed waw, יהוה), in Hebrew?


This seems at once to be 'to simple to be true' and reinventing the wheel(given that no one really seems to know the meaning of the Tetragrammaton), but I'm asking it anyway.

(See my related question here).


What makes me think this is a passage in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus uses "He that liveth" as a title or name of "the First and the Last." Together with the Septuagintic translation of Exodus 3:14.

Revelation 1:17-18 (W&H w/ NA27) (translation mine)

Καὶ ὅτε εἶδον αὐτόν, ἔπεσα πρὸς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ὡς νεκρός· καὶ ἔθηκεν τὴν δεξιὰν αὐτοῦ ἐπ' ἐμὲ λέγων Μὴ φοβοῦ· ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, καὶ ὁ ζῶν καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρὸς καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶν εἰμὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων καὶ ἔχω τὰς κλεῖς τοῦ θανάτου καὶ τοῦ ᾅδου.

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. And he placed his right hand on me, saying, Fear not, I am the First and the Last, even He that liveth. And I was dead, but see: I live forever; and I hold the keys of Death and hell.

There is good reason, I think, to see "He that liveth" as proper title or name for "the First and the Last," namely, the God of Israel:

  • "the First and the Last" is only used of God, and is a title of His. Signifying, of course, His eternal nature and unique status as such, as God (Rev 22:13; cf. Isa 43:10-11; 44:6).

  • This και would definitely seem to be appositive rather than adjunctive, and it's obviously not adversative.

  • It's simply the most natural reading.

(I would note that the verse transition was misplaced in this passage, by whoever did it, and verse 18 ought to have started at 'And I was dead')

If this is the case, and God is titled or called "He that liveth," could this explain the translation of Exodus 3:14 in the Septuagint (LXX)?

Exodus 3:13 (LXX/Brenton):

And Moses said to God, Behold, I shall go forth to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of our fathers has sent me to you; and they will ask me, What is his name? What shall I say to them?

Exodus 3:14 (LXX) (translation mine)

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

And God said unto Moses, I am the Being One [or, 'He that is'], and thus you shall say to the children of Israel, He that is has sent me unto you.

Needless to say, it's not exactly a stretch from 'Living One' (ὁ ζῶν) as opposed to, or as another sense of, 'Being One' (ὁ ῶν), as in Revelation 1:18/Exodus 3:14.


Question

Could these two be synonymous translations of ('the Living,' 'the Being'), and thus the meaning in reality, of the Tetragrammaton?

Thanks in advance.


1 If not 'He that liveth' as a primary understanding, then as an accidental meaning('Who exists, and therefore lives forever'). The name Eve (חַוָּה) is directly explained in the Hebrew text itself as 'life' (Gn 3:20), even though the root clearly appears to be this verb of 'to exist'). My Hebrew is nowhere near good enough to say either way, hence this question.

  • No, this ignores the Hypostatic Union. He has two natures; one of which certainly can die, and did. "The Lord of Glory" died. Was crucified, in fact. See my related answer. – Sola Gratia Dec 2 '17 at 13:48
  • We'll have other more appropriate opportunities to discuss this in the future, I'm sure. Peace. – Ruminator Dec 2 '17 at 16:33
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The Name revealed in Ex 3:15, "YHWH", comes from "hwh", an earlier variant of the root "hyh", "to be". In contrast to "Ehyeh" of Ex 3:14, it can have two possible meanings depending on its vocalization:

  • qal stem, third person, singular, imperfect form, if vocalized "Yihweh", meaning "he was", "he is", or "he will be", all in a continuing sense, and depending on the context where it may be used. So if it is used by a creature, which exists in time, to refer to God, it would refer to all three meanings at the same time, as in the past God continually Was, in the present God Is, and in the future God will continually Be: "He Was, Is and will Be". Thus, in this case the Tetragrammaton is the same Name revealed in Ex 3:14 but pronounced by a creature, denoting God as He Is in Himself: Absolute, Subsistent Being. (*)

  • hifil stem, third person, singular, imperfect form, if vocalized "Yahweh", meaning "He causes to be". In this case, while the Name of Ex 3:14 denotes God as He Is in Himself, the Name in Ex 3:15 denotes God as the creatures relate to Him: He Who causes them to be, the Creator.

An objection to the second option is that the hifil stem of hwh does not occur anywhere in Hebrew, only in Aramaic. I answer that objection by pointing out that, if the Exodus took place in mid-XV century BC, then the Name was revealed to Moses at a time when the Aramaic and Hebrew languages had not yet become differentiated. This is consistent with the reference to "the land of the Shasu of Yhw" in the temple at Soleb, Nubia (Sudan), built by Amenhotep III (1391–1353 BC).

The second option is supported by the fact that teophoric names of people (e.g. Netanyahu) and places, plus the shorter form of the name, Yah, have "a" and not "i".

To note, the second meaning implies the first, since only the Subsistent Being can cause contingent beings to be, i.e. create them and sustain them in existence.

The passage of Revelation which explicitely translates YHWH according to the first meaning above is the praise by the four living creatures, which corresponds to the praise by the seraphim in Isaiah's vision:

Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, YHWH Sabaoth; the whole earth is full of His glory." (Is 6:2-3)

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and they did not have rest day and night, saying: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, He Who Was and He Who Is and He Who Is to come (ho ēn kai ho ōn kai ho erchomenos)." (Rev 4:8)

Thus, this passage of Revelation expands the exegetic non-literal translation in the Septuagint of the full Name of God in Ex 3:14, "Ego eimi ho ōn" = "I Am He Who Is", including the three meanings of the Hebrew imperfect form.

(*) I usually capitalize the verb "to be" when it denotes Subsistent Being.

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  • Superb! I have accepted yours as the answer. – Sola Gratia Feb 3 '18 at 16:27
  • Thanks. FYI, this site by a Jewish scholar has a very good study on the subject of the Name revealed in Ex 3:14. It includes his own kabbalistic interpretation of the Name, but that's confined to a couple of pages. exodus-314.com – Johannes Feb 4 '18 at 2:04
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The context itself (of Revelation passage) moves the reader to conclude that there there is a temporal sequence of events "(1) καὶ ὁ ζῶν, linked with the time before the Jesus' coming down from the heaven, becoming a man; (2) καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρὸς, linked with the last act of his earthly course (his death); and (3) ζῶν εἰμὶ, linked with the Jesus' post-human life, like an immortal spirit.)". I see no 'doctrinal angle' in this.

As regards you questions on the 'linguistic (specifically Hebrew) angle (the Tetragrammaton)", that are, "(1) Is it possible that God's name is a nominal version of the third person masculine singular verb to exist or to be: יהיה; (2) Can יהיה be validly understood as "he [that] liveth"2 or understandable as such as a name (with an infixed waw, יהוה), in Hebrew?"

After, you summed up all the questions in only one: "Could these two be synonymous translations of ('the Living,' 'the Being'), and thus the meaning in reality, of the Tetragrammaton?"

The answer of mine - encapsulating all the questions of yours - is:

No, because - first of all - the verb you cite has not the meaning of a mere 'to be', or, 'to exist', but, instead, has the meaning 'to became', 'to happen', et similia. This makes a big difference, because, whereas the verbs 'to be', 'to exist' (or other similar ones) revolve themselves around a static concept, the verbs 'to became', 'to happen', and so on, include necessarily dynamic concepts.

Moreover, the expression "he that liveth" isn't a peculiar tract of the Creator. We've to remember that all the Bible God-given names were minted on the basis of a/some peculiar characteristic/s of the person that 'wear' it. So, since God give His name (Tetragrammaton) to himself, He unlikely minted a name with a meaning so general and trite.

Then, the fact that God 'exists', doesn't include a specific distinction linked with His Person (in fact, of all the material individuals - animals included - that are existing in this moment, we are logically 'authorized' to say "he that liveth").

The "infixed waw" you cite points a more ancient variant of the verbal root, simply. It is clear from the lexicographical studies that היה is a posterior variant of the older root הוה (and, more probably, the latter term is not either the more ancient variant [or, the original one] of this verbal root...).

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  • "the verb you cite has not the meaning of a mere 'to be', or, 'to exist', but, instead, has the meaning 'to became', 'to happen', et similia. This makes a big difference, because, whereas the verbs 'to be', 'to exist' (or other similar ones) revolve themselves around a static concept, the verbs 'to became', 'to happen', and so on, include necessarily dynamic concepts" Isn't it claimed that God said, "I will be what I will be"? – Sola Gratia Dec 4 '17 at 22:54
  • Actually ו and י when part of the root can be switched while keeping the same basic meaning - like in היה/הוה here. – A. Meshu Jun 9 '18 at 12:41

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