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Jesus and the Divine Name

Soulen, R. Kendall

In his estimable work Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief, Christopher Morse wisely observes that in the biblical context God’s name is understood to be communicated by God. God’s name "is revealed as a proper and not a generic name or an appellation chosen by human preference." He goes on to elaborate: According to ancient tradition in Genesis the names of creatures are chosen by human selection: "whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name" (Gen. 2:19). Not so with the name of God. So sacred is this name in Hebraic tradition that it is not spoken. Another word, "LORD" (Adonai), is substituted in its place wherever the original appears."

In this essay, I want to explore the scriptural dynamics of God’s self-communicated name with special attention to what is no doubt a simple but nevertheless important and often overlooked fact. The practice of honoring the divine name by avoiding its use is not only a Jewish tradition, as Morse rightly observes, but a Christian one as well. I offer these reflections in token of my great esteem for Christopher Morse as a theologian of the church and in gratitude for his unfailing friendship and generosity.


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Union Seminary Quarterly Review
Union Theological Seminary

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Union Theological Seminary
Union Theological Seminary
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September 16, 2015