Saturday, April 16, 2011
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
In Australia aboriginal languages are fast disappearing. As in Scotland, many place names survive, but in their Anglicized forms. It’s always beautiful to see the swag of names rolled out and their meanings unpacked. When I first arrived in Australia from Winnipeg (a Cree word meaning ‘muddy water’), Manitoba (‘great spirit’), I lived in Toowong (place of doves) near Mount Coot-tha (almost looks like Gaelic!), but is an Aboriginal word for ‘honey’ (ku-ta, even dark honey from the native Australian bee). A name frames a picture. It is a container into which meaning is poured. Adam was corralling every living creature by naming them.
The Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek with a little Aramaic (a language very similar to Hebrew). We are thankful that the original languages have been translated for us, and that there is a plethora of lexicons to assist us in our etymological study. No book more than the Bible reveals to us the great importance of understanding the meaning of words. For example, the Koine Greek words, dikaio (justify) and logizomai (impute) impact greatly on our understanding of the way of salvation.
In the Old Testament Hebrew all the names for God are revelation of who God is. Generally speaking, e.g., El is ‘God’; El elyon is ‘the Most High God’; Elohim is ‘the Triune God’, (i.e., God, the plurality of at least three Persons); Eloah is God (in the singular); YHWH or Jehovah, usually rendered LORD, is the personal or covenant name of the Eternal God, the ‘I AM’; and Jehovah Elohim (usually rendered LORD God) is ‘I AM the Triune God.’
These names have been designed by God to reveal to us something of who He is. In the New Testament Greek God reveals His name (singular) as ‘Father and Son and Holy Spirit.’ To be baptized into the Triune name of God is to have meaning and purpose affixed to you. By having His and your names locked together in the baptismal ceremony, you are sealed, for you have now entered into God’s frame of reference and He into yours. You now wear His holy name.
The Old Testament word for ‘word’ is debar and means ‘word, speech, matter, thing, history, promise, reason’ and other nuances. The New Testament Greek equivalent for this is logos, from whence we get the word ‘logic.’ Jesus Christ is the logic of God. He is the eternal Word who became also flesh. Thus Christ-ians are logic-ians. Therefore, of all people, Christians ought to be the most reasonable and logical!
Christ is also called ‘the Alpha and the Omega,’ and as the Word, includes the whole alphabet, A-Z. It is by Him that all words we speak are measured, ‘But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it on the day of judgment: For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned’ Matthew 12:36-37. The good news is that ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ Romans 10:13. ‘His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed’ Psalm 72:17.
God is summed up in Jesus Christ. He is the frame, the container, the embodiment of the eternal truth of God. It’s as the Truth incarnate that Jesus says, ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ John 8:32. Therefore to know Jesus as your Saviour is to be free indeed. He is the history of God. He is God’s final word to mankind. ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ Acts 4:12.
The Gospel promise was given by God to man right after the Fall of man. In due time the serpent’s (ie, Satan’s) skull was to be crushed. This took place at Calvary when Christ was crucified and then resurrected. Calvary is Latin for skull. It is found in Luke 23:33, ‘And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him.’ The actual Greek word there is kranion, (a skull) from which we get ‘cranium’. Golgotha means the same thing, a skull. For His feat of skull-crushing God has given Jesus the name which is above every name, to which all must bow the knee.