Reflections on the name of God, written as YHWH, but replaced by ‘Adonai’ in spoken version of the Jewish prayer called the Shema, and other names for the Divine.

How I long to see
among dawn flowers,
the face of God.
― Basho


God’s name is not known; it is wondered at. — Gregory of Nyssa

He is who He was, and He is also who He will be because the great I Am never steps out of the present tense. ― Tony Evans

I am a passionate seeker after truth which is but another name for God. — Gandhi

You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion. — Meister Eckhart Tolle

He loves each one of us like there is only one of us to love (when God whisper your name) — Max Lucado

Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight. — Maya Angelou

SONGS about NAMES of GOD

The incarnate Word is with us,
is still speaking, is present
always, yet leaves no sign
but everything that is.
— Wendell Berry


The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things,
I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever …
— Mary Oliver


When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning. — John O’Donohue


Just as a person is in relation to you a father
and in relation to another either son or brother —
So the names of God in their number have relations:
He is from the viewpoint of the infidel the Tyrant (qaher);
from our viewpoint, the Merciful.
— Rumi, Divan e-Kebir, tr. Annemarie Schimmel


With us, the name of everything is its outward appearance;
with the Creator, the name of each thing is its inward reality.
In the eye of Moses, the name of his rod was “staff”;
in the eye of the Creator, its name was “dragon.”
In brief, that which we are in the end
is our real name with God.
— Rumi, Mathnawi I:1239-40, 1244


Whether you believe in God or not does not matter so much, whether you believe in Buddha or not does not matter so much; as a Buddhist, whether you believe in reincarnation or not does not matter so much. You must lead a good life. And a good life does not mean just good food, good clothes, good shelter. These are not sufficient. A good motivation is what is needed: compassion, without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy; just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their rights and human dignity. — Dalai Lama XIV

RESOURCES about the name of God:


YHWH: The Tetragrammaton

The Tetragrammaton, referred to in rabbinic literature as HaShem (The Name) or Shem Hameforash (The Special Name), is the word used to refer to the four-letter word, yud-hey-vav-hey (יהוה), that is the name for God used in the Hebrew Bible. The name, which some people pronounce as Yahweh and others (mostly Christians) as Jehovah, appears 5,410 times in the Bible (1,419 of those in the Torah). — My jewish Learning (full article: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-tetragrammaton/)

The letter from the Holy See explains that the Divine Name as revealed in the Old Testament, יהוה (YHWH), has been held as unpronounceable as an expression of reverence for the greatness of God. The directive notes that “in recent years the practice has crept in pronouncing the God of Israel’s proper name,” known as the holy or divine tetragrammaton, written with four consonants, YHWH, in the Hebrew alphabet. In order to vocalize it, it is necessary to introduce vowels that alter the written and spoken forms of the name (i.e. “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”). Citing theological and philological reasons, and in keeping with tradition, the letter reminds the bishops that “from the beginning… the sacred tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any languages into which the Bible was translated.” Historically the Divine Name was rendered in Hebrew as Adonai, in Greek as Kyrios, and in Latin as Dominus. — Letter to Bishops Conferences (link to full resource)

The most common name of God in the Hebrew Bible is the Tetragrammaton, יהוה, that is usually transcribed as YHWH. Hebrew script is an abjad, so that the letters in the name are normally consonants, usually expanded as Yahweh in English. Modern Jewish culture judges it forbidden to pronounce this name. In prayers it is replaced by the word Adonai (“The Lord”), and in discussion by HaShem (“The Name”). — wikipedia

GOD’S NAME for US

The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. Rachel Held Evans

And the Word that had most recently come from the mouth of God was, “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” Identity. It’s always God’s first move. Before we do anything wrong and before we do anything right, God has named and claimed us as God’s own. But almost immediately, other things try to tell us who we are and to whom we belong: capitalism, the weight-loss industrial complex, our parents, kids at school—they all have a go at telling us who we are. But only God can do that. Everything else is temptation. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The love of God is not generic. God looks with love upon every man and woman, calling them by name. — Pope Francis

I believed that there was a God because I was told it by my grandmother and later by other adults. But when I found that I knew not only that there was God but that I was a child of God, when I understood that, when I comprehended that, more than that, when I internalized that, ingested that, I became courageous. — Maya Angelou

God calls each and every star by name. It’s not likely He has forgotten yours. — Louie Giglio

USING OTHER WORDS for the UNPRONOUNCEABLE NAME of GOD

Historically the Divine Name was rendered in Hebrew as Adonai, in Greek as Kyrios, and in Latin as Dominus. — Letter to Bishops Conferencs (link to full resource)

Hashem is a Hebrew term for God. Literally, it means “the name.” In the Bible the Hebrew word for God is made up of four vowels, and according to tradition it was only pronounced on Yom Kippur by the High Priest. Saying God’s name was considered a very serious and powerful thing, so much so that one of the Ten Commandments prohibits us from saying God’s name in vain. As a result, people have come up with various substitutions. When reading Torah, we generally substitute the word Adonai for the four letter un-pronounceable name of God. Outside of reading and praying, God is often referred to as Hashem, a creative way of not saying God’s name. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, it’s kind of the opposite of how Voldemort was referred to as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” — My Jewish Learning (full article: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hashem/)

There are many other names for God in Jewish tradition, including Adoshem, Yah, Yahweh, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, El Shaddai, Av Harahamim, and Harahaman. — My Jewish Learning (full article: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hashem/)

Instead, a variety of pseudonyms are used, such as Adonai (Lord), Elohim (God) and HaShem (The Name). — My jewish Learning (full article: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-tetragrammaton/)
SOME WAYS of PRAYING the NAMES of GOD

See the songs above for some approaches to the 99 names and 72 names of God as acts of prayer.

Additional resources:
• Praying the names of God by the Navigators:
https://www.navigators.org/resource/praying-names-attributes-god
• Praying the names of God with Tony Evans: http://tonyevans.org/praying-and-pronouncing-the-names-of-god/ • Praying the names of God with Ann Spangler: https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/prayingnamesgod/
• 99 Names of God: https://marytn.medium.com/the-most-beautiful-names-of-god-99-names-of-allah-b898f624cada
• 72 Names of God: https://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/1388270/jewish/72-Names-of-G-d.htm

REFLECTIONS on NAMES of GOD

Watches have watch makers, paintings have painters, designs have designers, and creation has a creator. ― Tony Evans

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. — William Makepeace Thackeray

The name of this infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being is God. — Paul Tillich

God is the same, even though He has a thousand names; it is up to us to select a name for Him. — Paulo Coelho

There is no greater spellbinder of peace than the name of God. — GandhiIt has been said that people never do evil with more enthusiasm than when they do it in the name of God.  — Tony Campolo

God is a name we give to love. — Nancy Pickard

I guess if you’re doing God’s work, whatever you do is in His name. — Edward Zigler Christians have abused, oppressed, enslaved, insulted, tormented, tortured, and killed people in the name of God for centuries, on the basis of a thelogically defensible reading of the Bible. — Sam Harris

The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think. — Maya Angelou

We could not become like God, so God became like us. God showed us how to heal instead of kill, how to mend instead of destroy, how to love instead of hate, how to live instead of long for more. When we nailed God to a tree, God forgave. And when we buried God in the ground, Got got up. — Rachel Held Evans
Lo, for I to myself am unknown, now in God’s name what must I do? — Rumi

When you bow deeply to the universe, it bows back; when you call out the name of God, it echoes inside you. — Morihei Ueshiba

The God we worship writes his name upon our faces. — Roger Babson

We could call order by the name of God, but it would be an impersonal God. There’s not much personal about the laws of physics. — Stephen Hawking

Many are the names of God and infinite the forms through which He may be approached. —Ramakrishna

Somebody said once or wrote, once: ‘We’re all of us children in a vast kindergarten trying to spell God’s name with the wrong alphabet blocks! — Tennessee Williams

We, like the people of Israel, would like to think we get to name God. By naming God, we hope to get the kind of god we need; that is, a god after our own likeness. — Stanley Hauerwas

I need a God who is bigger and more nimble and mysterious than what I could understand and contrive. Otherwise it can feel like I am worshipping nothing more than my own ability to understand the divine. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

God wrote a book on suffering, and its name is Jesus. — Joni Eareckson Tada

Make your god transparent to the transcendent, and it doesn’t matter what his name is. — Joseph Campbell

The love of God is not something vague or generic; the love of God has a name and a face: Jesus Christ. — Pope Francis

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