God’s Nicknames

onomasticon \on-uh-MAS-ti-kon\

1. a list or collection of proper names. 2. a list or collection of specialized terms, as those used in a particular field or subject area.

I have been fascinated by the names for God that we use. One of my favorites (perhaps the oldest) is the name that God revealed to Moses. I think of it as God’s first name. In Exodus 3:14, from the NIV (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+3), Moses had the audacity to ask God a question framed in a supposition and preceded by a question: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” And if you follow the footnote [c], it says, “Or I will be what I will be.”

This reminds me of a question I sometimes ask people, “How do you say your name?” I listen carefully. My name is Nelson. Not Nel or Nellie or Nelz or Buck or Buddy. It’s Nelson. Say it right and you earn some respect. Flub it up, shorten it, or put the accent on the wrong syllable (sih-LAH-bull), and I’ll write you off. It makes me wonder what Moses heard when he was kneeling on Holy Ground with his sandals off and his face glowing red in the presence of that burning bush.

This phrase, this name, I am who I am, makes me think of Popeye. It is written with four Hebrew letters, which translate to our alphabet as YHWH. And if you start digging in wikipedia for YHWH (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YHWH), you will never come out. I found that once YHWH is written, it is sacred, and never to be erased. Or backspaced. It becomes indelible. Carved in stone. Not written, nor said, nor called lightly. Indeed, from Exodus 20:7 (NRSV) we have, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.”

I have also heard that “I am who I am” is a Yiddish colloquialism, that means something like “Never-you-mind who I am.”

When I pronounce Yahweh, I recall a sermon by Jay McKell, in which he instructed us to pronounce God’s name with an inhalation and exhalation. This is the way the High Priest would address God on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in the Holy of Holies. So, it would be Yah (inhale) – weh (exhale). And he pointed out that every time we breathe, we are pronouncing God’s name, which is appropriate, since God breathed on Adam and made him living soul.

YHWH is a mantra of mine. I say-think-pray it in a 5 step cadence: Yah (inhale [step-step-step]) Weh (exhale [step-step]).

Another common English translation (or substitution) for YHWH is LORD. This gives us an easy word to pronounce and read, but I think it takes away a lot of the mystery of YHWH. These first translations lead me to make some of my own, and below I have started a list of the four (and fewer) letter “nicknames” for God that I commonly think of. I view them as the vanity license plate names for God. My current favorite (and most substituted for LORD) is WIND; because all we are is dust in the WIND.

0 1 A
ALFA AWSM
BRTH BRED (WINE) BYND
FSHR FIRE
GRAC GRAL GOD GEST GOST
GLRY HONR POWR
HELR HLPR HOLY HOST
I AM
JOY
KING
LIFE LOVE LAMB LION LORD LADY
MRCY (MR C) MSIA MANA
ONE (0N3 1N3)
PAPA MAMA ABBA
ROCK RDMR
SUN SON SFIA
TOWR
WIND WORD WSDM
XRTR, XRST, and HOLY SPRT (GOST)
YHWH
OMGa

ONE, 1N3, and 0N3 rely on different substitutions for the letters in ONE. I like the ambiguity of using zero in 0N3. I like the dual-meaning of 1N3. I love that 3 is the leet (password) substitution for E. And 0 (zero) is leet for O (oh). And they work out nicely on a QWERTY keyboard, because the numbers lie just above (and beyond) the letters to which they correspond. Of course, I was recently chastised for these spellings by Weird Al Yankovic in Word Crimes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc

GRAL came to me one day as I was running. I was headed west on Ward Parkway, I turned south onto State Line Road, and on my left was the Carriage Club. It’s beautiful. And at the gates it says, “Members and Their Guests Only.” I looked past those (pearly) gates, and saw a fountain that was reminiscent of a communion cup or wine glass. I thought, “There’s the Holy Grail.” It was just beyond reach.

ABBA means “daddy” in Aramaic, and it’s the name of a rock band!

The Shema can be written as “Behold, you God-Wrestlers (Israel), YHWH our God is 1N3 YHWH!”

Peter’s declaration at Matthew 16:16 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+16) becomes “U R the MSIA, the XRST, the 0N3 sent by YHWH.”

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2 Responses to God’s Nicknames

  1. Pingback: Tree of Life | A Runner's Experiment

  2. Pingback: We Are Word Ruminants | A Runner's Experiment

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