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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vom Schem Hamphoras – by Martin Luther (a translation, Part 8)

[2017-05-31: see added note at bottom]
    This continues from Part 7.  See Part 1 for an introduction and Table of Contents. 
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Vom Schem Hamphoras
by Martin Luther

(Part 8, continued from Part 7)

     74.  Against this abomination is slightly less what they fool and drivel by the name TETRAGRAMMATON, of which I must speak to reveal their folly to us Germans.  In the Scriptures God has many names, but mostly they count ten, one of which is for them the great TETRAGRAMMATON and hold it to be the holiest, so that the other names are sometimes also used for angels and other creatures, but this name is always only of God.  Here they are so holy and spiritual that they therefore call this name not with the mouth since he is unspeakable, but in its place another, or the four letters of the same name: Jod, He, Vof, He. Thus speaks St. Jerome that the Greeks, because they are not aware of those letters, read it PJPJ, the He considered for a P.

     75.  First, I will take the ten names, as this is not new, but also St. Jerome extracts "In Epistola ad Marcellum" [letter to Marcel] where he counts these: El, Elohim, Elohe, Zebaoth, Eljon, Ejhe, Adonai, Jah, Jehovah, Schadai. Others make it different; I think nothing of it. There are well more names of God in the Scriptures, for these, as, Ab, Bore, Or, Chai, etc., Father, Creator, Light, Life, Salvation, and the like.  And whatever can be meant or be good, that God must not be given priority since he is good in himself, as Christ says: God alone is good, but we receive from him whatever we are and have. But now we want to deal with the name Jehovah, with which the devils and Jews carry on much magic and all kinds of abuse and idolatry.
     76.  This name Jehovah, according to grammar comes from the word Haja, or Hava, that is in Latin fuit, in praeterito, esse; in German: essential, or to be; and the J can be nota nominis verbalis, as Josaphat Jesias, Jeremiah and many other names, and is as much as the Latin ens, the Greek on. We need to speak German: "he is it"; and thus is in Latin Trigrammaton, in Greek DygrammatonHexagrammaton in German, or if we incorrectly just take "is" so it is also a Trigrammaton. That they now claim the name Jehovah was to be inexpressible, they do not know what they babble; if they mean the letters, so it cannot be true since he is called Jehovah. And he that can write with pen and ink, why should he not call with the mouth which is much better than pen and ink? Or why do they not call him unwritable, unreadable, unthinkable? In short, it is a foul thing.  If they therefore do it out of honor, they should do it for all other names, and let them also be unspeakable. For he says: "Thou shalt not take God's name in vain", so this is also foul. Nowhere does the Scripture say that any of God's names should be inexpressible [or ineffable], otherwise everyone would be innocently misusing God's name, therefore they would want to say they cannot call on his name, and keep silent rather than misuse it.
     77.  There they well speak that God's nature, power, wisdom, goodness, and whatever one can say more of God, is inexpressible, measureless, infinite, incomprehensible etc.; that not the letters or syllables, but these are what it means to be inexpressible. Yes, so must one speak of the inexpressible name of God.  For he has his essence from no one, also has no beginning or end, but is from all eternity, in and of himself, that his being cannot be said "was" or "will be", because he has never started, is not able also to become, has also never ended, also cannot stop being; but it is said of him always is or "being", that is Jehovah (Exodus 3:14). Because the creature was created, there his being is inherently, and what he is yet to become, there he is ready with his being.  In this manner Christ speaks of his divinity, John 8:58: "Before Abraham was, I am"; he does not say: There I was as if he was not anymore afterwards; but: "I am"; that is, my nature is everlasting, not will be, will not become, but is an everlasting "Is".
     78.  Therefore, as his "Is", Being or nature is incomprehensible, it is also inexpressible since no creature can understand that which is so eternal. Hence, the angels are forever blessed, because they cannot see and be pleased enough of the everlasting being of God, nor understand; and where it could be understood, it could not be eternal, and must also have a beginning or end to itself, and no one could give or preserve such a nature because its nature would be uncertain. Further, his wisdom, power, goodness, etc. is also everlasting and is incomprehensible because it must be nothing other than his divine nature itself. Thirdly, one which is more important, that in the divine nature is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons are in one, everlasting, incomprehensible essence. Yes, such all of this says of God which would make an incomprehensible, inexpressible name.  Who wants such a wonderful nature to name, devise, speak of, write about?  In that way the ancients perhaps have called inexpressible the name of Jehovah, because they meant God's Nature, according to grammar, (as heard) an always Is, from eternity, and of three persons is named.
     79.  Herewith one should trouble themselves, and such of Jehovah, to learn to recognize the divine nature, and search the Scriptures as he has revealed himself through his Word in this life, and there will reveal in that life without words.  But that is too high for the Jews, yes, absolutely nothing, but so the delicate saints with their lips honor the letters of the name Jehovah that should and must be unspeakable, but the divine nature they understand through the letters, and measure it with cubits, pounds, and bushels, and that it must be so long, broad, deep, heavy and full as they want.  Notice this, that God had promised them the Messiah whom also he sent by his divine, wonderful, incomprehensible wisdom; so they go and paint him a picture or form, provide a measure of his wisdom and concept, how he should send the Messiah, namely as a way that the Kokhba undertook, not as Jesus of Nazareth; since their Messiah should not be crucified but slay the heathen, and make the Jews the lords in the world.
     80.  No other manner should find or meet the everlasting divine nature and his everlasting incomprehensible wisdom, but in this introduced manner of men forcing to let themselves understand and embrace; where not in this manner, so he should not be their God.  For it is they who can give aim, measure, weight, manner and form to God, not only in his works, but also in his everlasting divine nature, that he must not be three persons in his own being.  Since there they stand with their circle and angles, with cubit and lead rope, they will not suffer it from God that he should thus have an incomprehensible nature, and allow to be not much cleverer, wiser and more sensible than God himself is.  Why is it now that the Jews do not call or even pronounce with the mouth the literal names, but with the heart call his divine being, the true Jehovah, not only name, pronounce and judge, but also collect and force into their bushel? So they must act, as it is their manner (as Isaiah 29:13 prophesies) with the mouth to honor the letters, and defile and blaspheme with the heart; God still has to allow himself always to be made a fool that they devour the kernels, and spit the shells out in front of his eyes.
     81.  They are given up that they nothing upright do, live or speak, but must be lead to be vainly false, blind, demonized, senseless beings as Moses says.  It must be a precious thing that they do not mention the name Jehovah, and do not see meanwhile that they lead the same name in the shameful abuse of their Scham Haperes, that they adorn, honour and strengthen with their 72 invented angels, that is 72 lies and devils, with the same holy name of God, and in addition drive with it all kinds of magic, foolishness and idolatry.  I would want, and they would be also quite worth it, that they not only do not mention the name Jehovah, but also no letters from the whole Scripture name, read, write, hear, nor must have, for they nevertheless use them to disgrace God, to dishonor the Scriptures, and give themselves over to damnation.
     82.  And how can it be otherwise, dear brother! if God's Word does not shine and show us the way, Psalm 119:105 and his light to us do not shine in the dark place, 2 Peter 1:19, so nothing can be other than darkness, error, and lies which we invent for ourselves. Look at our experience, by which we under the Pope had put the heavenly Word out of sight and seized man's teaching for which thick darkness, lies and horrors we have there adored with masses, purgatory, worship of saints, monasticism, and our own works etc.  Now the Jews have no Word of God, so always darkness must be for them because circumcision and the law of Moses is no longer applicable, since at the time of the Messiah, he should bring another teaching, Deuteronomy 18:15, as he has done;  they did not want to accept this and indeed, must also make it that they not do what they want.  At that time, because Moses law was offered them, they did not want to do it and all prophets were beat to death over it; now that it is not offered any more, they want to do it, and struck the Messiah to death over it, and all his Christians; from ancient times with the deed, now with full desire, lust and wish of their heart.  It is the wrath of God come upon them as they have deserved.

(the end of Luther's first section of this writing)
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This completes the first section as of July, 29, 2012 @ 5:30 pm.  It has taken many hours and much concentration to translate Luther, but what a wonderful experience it has been, for truly he is God's servant paving the way and warning Christians against the manifold dangers to their faith.  I will add further comments in Part 9, a final blogpost on this series.

[2017-05-31: Franz Pieper quoted extensively from this portion in his Christliche Dogmatik here.(vol. 1, pp 463-464); however the English edition, Christian Dogmatics here, pp. 385-386, highly abbreviated Pieper's citation of Luther.  See this blog post for a side-by-side comparison.]

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