Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No more 'Yahweh' in songs, prayers Vatican rules

Update: there is now some great discussion of this post over on the Awilum blog (click here).

The Catholic News service is reporting that the Vatican has now decided to longer have the divine name Yahweh used in songs and prayers at Roman Catholic Masses (click here). The reasoning seems based on the relatively late tradition that the name was too holy to be pronounced, and the fact that the name was replaced with "Lord" in the early Greek and Latin translations used by the church. Comments welcome...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the "relatively late" tradition has the benefit of antiquity in liturgical contexts. Another way to put it is that for the entire history of the Christian church this has been the tradition; it is thus a pretty old one.

Indeed, the reticence about the divine name is a development in the religious traditions of Israel; we do not take the liturgy of the temple to be normative for us in other ways. Why should we do so in this way?

How do we distinguish developments which have made us who we are, from developments which represent "late traditions" we are free to switch around?

Also your post seems to suggest that the replacement "Lord" originated in the translations. I think that's a little misleading; surely it goes the other way: the Septuagint uses "kyrios" because that was already the practice of Jewish readers of the Scriptures at the time of the translation, right?

Another way, then, to tell the same story: The reasoning seems to be based upon the common tradition of Christianity and Judaism about reticence toward the divine name, and the fact that at the time of Jesus, and for the entire history of the Church, there has never been any tradition of using the divine name in worship. It's use is therefore an innovation which needs some justification.

(I suspect part of the untold part of the decree is also that the divine name was popular in place of "Lord" out of a desire to avoid the word "Lord".)

Wed Aug 13, 07:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Many thanks for these comments, Thomas. Your comments always probe into the meat of things. Yes, indeed, in considering this, one would want to weigh the tradition of the church on the one hand over against the practice of Biblical Israel of being on an intimate name basis with God. I myself would see both positions as goods to be weighed and balanced. Part of the problem would be considering whether the practice of primitive Christianity and the early church was intentional in some way, or just taken over unconsciously from the practice of contemporary Jewish readers of the Scripture. Also, of course you are right that the Versions are reflecting contemporary practice, not innovating when they use the replacement "Lord." I think I was paraphrasing the CNS article, which reads: "from the beginning, ...the sacred Tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated."

Thu Aug 14, 12:48:00 PM GMT-5  

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