What’s In A Name?
By Fred Pruitt
Some more questions from a reader:
In your recent article you wrote:
“Moses asked God at Mt. Sinai what was His name. We know the reply, “I AM THAT I AM.” He then tells Moses to say, “Tell them ‘I AM’ sent you.” Interesting phrasing, don’t you think. He could have said, “’He IS’ sent me,” referring to God in the third person. But no, Moses keeps it in the first person. “I AM” sent me to you. And that’s where we have been brought. It has been God’s plan from the beginning. We are I AM!”
My question now is whether believers before the time of Moses knew the name of God. I would say Abraham certainly did as well as Adam, wouldn’t you say so?
What was it that God revealed to Moses about his name? Just the sound of it? A new way of saying it?
It alludes somewhat to the point you make earlier in the piece about objective reality vs truth I guess. I don’t really understand what it was that Moses was inquiring and getting.
All the blessings!
Thank you for your patience. I’ll explain to you how I see the issue regarding the “Name” of God.
The point I was making in the passage you quoted, is that God’s “Name” is in first person. He didn’t tell Moses to tell them, “He IS,” but instead instructed to Moses to say, “I AM sent me.” He left it in first person.
I believe we err when we refer to God as “Yahweh,” or Jehovah. I wouldn’t call it a serious error. There’s no malevolence in it, just a misunderstanding, mainly due to the fact we’ve seen things in separateness and individual distinction our whole lives. We’re born that way.
That separated vision isn’t entirely incorrect. Adam (we) was appointed to “name” things in his world, animals, plants, etc. That “naming” process is vital, because we have to know things like that in the visible world. There is a difference between a cow and a deer. Or between a river and a lake. The more detail we see, the greater our consciousness of the realities of the world we live in. There is nothing wrong with that. However, that aspect of naming is not the same when it comes to describing God.
That is why part of the “renewal of our minds” is involved in opening our consciousness to a greater and a more universal vision. Understand what a “name” is in regard to our humanity. A “name” is a point of identification and distinction from others. That’s the human world. In the world we have friends, and we know them by their human names, whether it be William, Jane, Charles, Rebecca, etc. Each person is distinct and whole and one’s name is that which differentiates that person from all other persons, even persons that have the same “proper names.”
My wife is a musician and she used to play in a band with “the mighty Mikes.” She wasn’t referring to microphones, but to the fact that the bass player was named Mike and the drummer was named Mike. If one of them had asked her to run an errand for them, she might say to the person when she arrived, “Mike sent me.” In other words, some other person different from me sent me with a message from him to give to you. She would be referring to Mike in the third person.
However, God is not a “separate Person” from us because He is universal. As Paul tells us, He is “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph 4:6). Unlike each of us, distinct from all others, which is the reason why we have “proper” names, to point out that distinction and “name” it in order to solidify the fact that I am Fred and you are you.
However, the Eternal God, the Creator and Upholder of the universe, is not a separate individual with a name to solidify His distinction as a Person, apart from and separate from us. Now, because of certain images from scripture, such as descriptions of God on a Throne with everyone gathered before Him, that image seems to say that God is a “Person” in the same way we are, that is, He is a separate individual who happens to be God, and we are separate individuals who happen to be created human beings. He’s just a BIGGER distinct and separate person.
Let me interject something here that might clear our understanding a bit. In the past when I’ve used the word, “universal,” some have thought that I was saying I am a “universalist,” which I am not. When I say God is “universal,” I am meaning that He dwells in every nook and cranny of the universe He created. Not only is He everywhere, since He is not a distinct individual like human persons are, He isn’t “really really big,” or even, “stretched thin” because He has to cover so much territory, He is everywhere the wholeness of Himself. If I could quantify God physically, I would say that everything that God is throughout the entire universe, He is as full and equally the same in every physical molecule in the universe. He spoke it into existence and it is maintained and upheld by the Word of His power. There is as much of God on the sharp tip of a sewing needle as there is throughout the vast limitless reaches of interstellar space and time. As the scripture says, “He is past finding out!” (Rom 11:33).
So that’s why I say He really has no proper “name” to distinguish Him from all other persons. He’s not like Bill or Bob or Shirley, who are all distinct and separate individuals from all others. He is “All in all.”
People in our time have taken to calling the Father, “Yahweh,” believing He is another person from themselves with the proper Name, “Yahweh.” But as I said above, this is a misunderstanding of Who God is and who we are. The word, “Yahweh,” is not a proper name. As you probably know, it comes from the four Hebrew letters which in English we render it as YHVH. In terms of theology it is called the Tetragrammaton, meaning four Hebrew letters which are the “name” of God. In Judaism, wherever that Word appears in scripture, they believe it is too holy to pronounce, and substitute instead, “Adonai,” usually meaning, “Lord.” Or “Elohim,” often translated “Lord God,” and also has a plural sense to it, e.g., “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen 1:26).
Now that is why He told Moses His name, not to give Him a proper name like we humans have, and told Moses to not change it to the third person when speaking to the Israelites, but instead to keep it first person. The Hebrew children would have known the literal meaning of the word. They would have heard, “I AM THAT I AM,” and when Moses spoke the Name to the people, they would have also known (whether they understood it or not) that Moses was telling them the Name out of his own mouth, saying, “I AM THAT I AM!” In other words, GOD was speaking through Moses. The Lord God was aligning Himself to Moses and commanding Him to repeat that name to them without changing it to third person, but keeping it in the first, with Moses identified in first person with God. In other words, Moses and God were announcing their oneness and union of persons.
God has proper names in every human offspring of His. So now we get back to Bob or Bill or Charlie, but with a different aspect to our understanding. If we see Him as “Yahweh,” it’s just another name like any other. If we see His eternal name in the Godhead as “I AM THAT I AM,” instead of a word that for most of us is meaningless – it’s just somebody’s name – we are included in that name! It is actually the NAME in all of us. It is also “our” name! In God’s Eternal Name, “I AM THAT I AM,” we live and move and have our being.
So if someone asked me, “What is God’s name?” I would not say “Yahweh.” I would say, “I AM THAT I AM.”
As far as knowing whether others prior to Moses knew that, I can’t say.
Well, I hope this helps. Let me know how it is with you when you are ready.