Tuesday, February 16, 2016

RSV and the No-Name God

Revised Standard Version 1952
Before starting this article I wondered how relevant an article on the RSV Bible would be. The RSV is relatively “old” (1950-ish) compared to other modern Bibles. I was surprised to find that it, along with the New RSV, is much in use. So then I wondered which religions use it. I expected it to be more a Protestant Bible. Again, I was wrong. There is even a version specifically for Catholics. Then it finally dawned on me the main idea of this article is very much still relevant given that most churches claiming Christianity would agree with the assertions the RSV made. In the preface, it says: “The use of any proper name for the one and only God . . . is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church." (See paragraph 17)

They allude to why they drew that conclusion when they say "one and only God." While it is true that Jehovah is the only TRUE God, even the Bible acknowledges there are" many gods and many lords." (1Corinthians 8: 5,6) In that people do indeed worship other (fake) gods, and to some extend people’s belief in these affects their lives for better or worse, gives evidence that the beliefs and actions alone can raise even the unreal to godlike status. Even one's belly can become a god. (Philippians 3:19) So the claim made by the RSV that “the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished….” is false reasoning.

Especially now, in this ever-shrinking world, the need to differentiate (by name) the TRUE God (Jehovah), from the myriads of false gods worshipped by people coming from India, China, and other places, demonstrates how short-sighted the RSV was. Just identifying the true God as merely "God" would seem foolish or arrogant (or both) to those with non-Christian, non-Jewish backgrounds. In talking with people from those cultures, other religions claiming Christianity have resorted to saying God's name is Jesus. However, this is not what the Bible says.

Another statement made by the preface of the RSV is: “the use of any proper name for the one and only God ... was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era.” Yes, but not because they didn’t recognize the Tetragrammaton as the legitimate representation of the name of the true God. Rather, it fell into disuse because of a phobia that using God’s name even in praising him could somehow be viewed by God as using His name “in vain.” So they banned the use of it altogether.

Early in the history of Christianity, a meeting is recorded that drove home the need that God’s name be used. Rather than debate what form that name should take, whether it be merely referring to the Tetragrammaton (YHWH or JHWH), calling him Yahweh, or Jehovah, the important thing is that we do differentiate him from the myriads of false gods that are worshipped today. But to totally forget it is a different type of sin.

No comments:

Post a Comment