Is There MAGIC in The NAME?
Good News Magazine
November-December 1972
Volume: Vol XXI, No. 7
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Is There MAGIC in The NAME?

Without realizing it, the Hebrew names advocates may be falling into an ancient error which led the pagans into superstition and magic!

   THERE was a primitive belief that to know a name gives power over its bearer - even when it was God Himself. The superstition prevailed that when a man uttered the name of a god and then demanded or asked something, it would be fulfilled because he spoke the name. "Men can have this magical power over the god only because... the name is essentially linked with the one who bears it. Of both men and gods it is finally true that the name contains mana (supernatural force or power). The name is thus a power which is very closely associated with the bearer and which discloses his nature. Pronouncement or invocation of the name sets in operation the energy potentially in him" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. V. p. 243).
   This irrationality was not restricted to the heathen as one might assume. Rather, "Gentile and Jewish magic intermingled freely in Egypt. This may be seen in the fact that the efficacious vowel sequences often echo Yahweh, or the name Iaw often appears. In order that the magic may work the true name must be named, the one made known by the god himself' (ibid. p. 251). The pagans "... supposed that anyone who doubted the power of names did not believe in the gods at all" (Luc. Philops., 9f., 12, 17).
   There is no doubt that today God's name - in any language, including YHWH in Hebrew - symbolizes all of His power and authority. But that power simply cannot be magically conjured by pronouncing or carefully tracing Hebrew letters. Mere squiggles on a piece of paper or parchment are neither sacred nor magical even though they spell God's name. Neither does precise pronunciation of those same letters magically capture God's attention and unleash His power. God responds to those whose hearts are contrite, submissive and obedient. He hears those who have faith in the redemptive sacrifice of His Son. He honors those who have repented, been baptized and so have his Holy Spirit.
   Nowhere do the Scriptures command the Christian to become a perfect penman or excellent enunciator. Everyone knows you can still properly worship God with your hands cut off and your tongue torn out.
   God simply is not concerned about specific sounds. He is concerned about both the attitude in which a sound is made and the mental concept it represents. Paul used the Greek word Theos to teach about the Hebrew word YHWH. He defines the concept of both words at once: This One is Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth. He needs nothing from man. He is utterly superior to man who depends upon Him for life itself. Every race and each man has been given the time and space to find God (Acts 17:24-28).
   The name of God is more than a mere label. YHWH, Theos, Gott, and "God" are words that speak volumes. They concentrate His fame, renown, glory, reputation, character. These names are all laden with His authority, power, holiness. There are other native language names through which He is revealed to all mankind. But think! No three- or four-letter word, nor even any short phrase such as "I AM THAT I AM" (Ex. 3:14) or "Him which is, and which was, and which is to come" (Rev. 1:4) can really convey all that is needful even though they enlarge the concept contained in the names of God.
   Nonetheless, the English-speaking Christian can quite properly worship The Creator by using the name "God." Why? Because the transplendent magnificent concept is in that wonderful name: "The supreme and ultimate reality. The holy, infinite and eternal spiritual reality presented in the Bible as the Creator, sustainer, judge, righteous sovereign, and redeemer of the universe who acts with power in history in carrying out His purpose. The eternal, invisible, arbitrarily omnipotent Lord of the worlds and final judge of all men. All-knowing, just, compassionate, merciful and unchangeable perfect Being that is the first and final cause of the universe. The one ultimate infinite reality that is pure existence, consciousness, and bliss without distinctions (as of time and space). The Being supreme in power, wisdom and goodness that men worship and to whom they pray" (Webster's Dictionary).
   Now, that is a NAME - real and practical - NOT MAGICAL!

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Good News MagazineNovember-December 1972Vol XXI, No. 7