A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,
In our previous lesson, we discussed the nature of leaven and apostasy as well as how they relate to one another. We also studied what happens when a Christian falls from grace (Romans 3:23) and how his fellowship with Christ can be restored. In this lesson, we will examine briefly how all it takes is just a little leaven for churches of Christ to depart from the "faith which was once delivered unto the saints," (Jude 3). We will also learn what we can do to help congregations, including those with whom we presently worship and work with, to get back on the straight and narrow road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-15). Before we begin, let us summarize the underlying problem.
As previously mentioned, apostasy always begins when churches of Christ, as well as individual christians, allow Satan to take up residence in their lives. The main root of the problem is a complete disregard for Bible authority. In a tract titled The Changing Image, brother Luther Blackmon states,
Lack of respect for Scriptural authority lies at the root of all others, and always has. Every apostasy is traceable to this condition. The pattern is always the same. Leaders in the church, ambitious above that which is written, engage in practices which they cannot scripturally defend, then stir up the people against those who oppose them by charging them with "legalism" and with "binding where God has not bound." This was the wail of the digressive element when brethren opposed the missionary societies and instrumental music, (2).
Many churches of Christ no longer believe that we must have authority for everything we say and do (Colossians 3:17). They are like those whom the Bible describes in Judges 17:6:
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.Also,
this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, "See not;" and to the prophets, "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits," (Isaiah 30:9-10).
In addition, they have redefined and reapplied Bible authority. Their main premise for deciding if a practice is authorized is if it does not violate what they call the "Royal Law"--loving God and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40)-- even though the practice is not specifically condemned in a "thou shalt not" and other similar statements. This "Royal Law," according to liberal brethren, is the only law we are to obey. I have even heard some say that it would be perfectly acceptable to God, for example, to break into a grocery store and steal food for one who is destitute, despite the fact that stealing is condemned in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 6:10). Their argument is that since Jesus broke the law, we may do likewise. Such an argument is foolhardy since Jesus never broke a commandment. It is only an excuse made by apostate brethren, whose desire is to make the church and the Bible fit culture, and not the other way around.
Unfortunately, out of their zeal for serving Christ, they over exaggerate Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus is not saying these two laws are the only ones we must obey. Rather, "on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." For example, if we love our neighbor whom we see committing sin, we will teach him privately concerning "the way of righteousness," (Proverbs 8:20) and bring him unto Christ. If we truly love Christ, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).
Knowing these things, brethren, how does it take just a little leaven to corrupt the local church? It takes only one sin to change a church from sound in doctrine and practice to one that is unfaithful. Consider several of the seven churches in Asia whom Christ rebukes for their apostasy (Revelation 2-3). Each church was faithful in all that the Lord commanded, and yet sinned, whether it was done ignorantly or willfully (Hebrews 10:26). This is not to say that every church must be perfect, without sin continuously, for only Christ is the one who lived a perfect life. However, we should not use this as an excuse to not strive to keep our garments spotless and white until He comes again (1 Peter 2:21-25).
Regardless of what sin a church commits, it always begins when Satan is allowed to enter in only two ways: 1) the front door - openly; and, 2) the back door – secretly. When we speak of Satan entering the church by the front and back doors, we are speaking in terms of figurative language. Let us examine them briefly.
What does it mean when Satan enters the church by the front door? When a church permits Satan to enter in by the front door, sin is committed openly. Oftentimes, it is done in willful ignorance. For example, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul rebukes the church at Corinth for failing to practice church discipline, in regards to the man and his mother living in sin and refusing to repent. Whether others were involved in the sin, it is not for us to speculate. The church at Corinth continued to have open fellowship with them and disregarded the clear teaching of Ephesians 5:11 and 2 Corinthians 14-18.
How does Satan enter the church by the back door? When a church permits Satan to enter by the back door, sin is committed secretly, in a deceptive manner, sometimes unbeknownst to other members. Paul warned the Elders of the church at Ephesus that such would occur among them. He said,
"And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears," (Acts 20:25-31).
There are many other ways in which Satan can enter the church, openly and/or secretly. These examples from the Bible should be sufficient in order to teach the seriousness of this matter. Through the years, we have seen numerous instances in which such has occurred within the body of Christ. It would take many books to discuss every one of them.
In the religious world there is much confusion about the Tetragrammaton (a Greek term meaning "the four letters"), referring to the name of God in the Old Testament, designated with the consonants YHWH. There are some religious organizations that place great emphasis on this name, and there is also generally much confusion over how it is to be pronounced. The former issue we will explore later; let us now examine from all available evidence the latter question: how is YHWH to be pronounced?
It would be good to first examine the source of the problem: why is there confusion over how to pronounce YHWH? The Hebrew language in its original form was written without vowel pointings; after all, one wrote down what one heard and he could fill in the vowels when speaking. This is true of all western written languages before the Greeks developed an alphabet that included vowels. The entire Old Testament text, therefore, was originally not vocalized. As time progressed, naturally, there were difficulties maintaining proper pronounciation: to solve the problem at first, three consonants were given a new role as vowel letters to indicate vowel types (called matres lectiones, "mothers of reading"), and in the latter half of the first millennium CE, when Hebrew waned in Jewish culture, the group of Jews responsible for maintaining and handing down the text of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Masoretes, developed a system of vowel pointings used even today. Generally, the Masoretic pointing is accurate; it has been confirmed by transliterated names of people and places and also in other ancient documents. We must remember, however, that at the time of Christ the vowel letters were used haphazardly but otherwise vowels had to be supplied by the reader.
This difficulty is compounded by the Jewish traditions regarding the Tetragrammaton. Early in Israelite history few if any had difficulties in saying the name of God-- YHWH-- as evidenced in direct speech in narratives (cf. Ruth 2:4). As time wore on, however, traditions developed regarding the third commandment-- to not take the name of YHWH in vain (Exodus 20:8)-- that meant that no one at any time save the High Priest on the Day of Atonement should utter the Tetragrammaton. As long as the Temple stood there were some who would utter the Tetragrammaton on occasion, and even after its demise there is evidence that some Jews did remember the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. In all of our Hebrew texts with vowel pointings, however, there are none that in any way retain the true vocalization of the Tetragrammaton; therefore, all evidence regarding how YHWH is to be pronounced must come from other sources. Let us now look at the evidence for its pronunciation.
As we shall see, the evidence we have points to the pronunciation of YHWH as "Yahweh."
And God said unto Moses, "I AM THAT I AM:"
and he said, "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, "I AM hath sent me unto you.'"
In Hebrew, God calls Himself "'ehyeh asher 'ehyeh," and charges Moses to tell Israel that 'ehyeh sent him to them. If we analyze "'ehyeh," we see that it is a first person common singular imperfect form of the verb "hayah," to be.
This form was turned from a first person to a third person (from "I am" to "he is"), and we have a change of glides: w/y are often interchanged in Hebrew, and the form we see later is YHWH, which, if translated, would be closest to "He is," or "He will be." A non-altered third person masculine singular form of "hayah" would be "yihyeh."
Further, the mystic name of the four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called "Iaoue," which is interpreted, "Who is and shall be." The name of God, too, among the Greeks contains four letters [Greek theos, where "th" is represented with theta-- ed.], (Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, V. 6).
Theodoret and Epiphanius, both later, establish that they heard the name as "Iabe." From this information we confirm that the Tetragrammaton was pronounced "Yahweh," since we must recognize the phonological differences between Greek and Hebrew: Greek has no consonantal "y" and recognizes the letter as the vowel "i" (as "Yeshua" becomes "Iesous"); Greek has no "h" save rough breathings at the beginnings of some words and does not account for the letter; Greek has neither "w" nor "v," and it is very likely that a Greek listener (as were Theodoret and Epiphanius) would hear a "b" when a Jew said "v" (since in Hebrew b and v are separated by spirantization of the former only), and hearing "w" would sound like "ou."
From this evidence, therefore, we can conclude that the Tetragrammaton was most probably pronounced as "Yahweh."
It will be asked by many, however, regarding the word "Jehovah," the common translation (and supposed transliteration) of the Tetragrammaton in English Bibles. This form can be traced back to about 1489, and introduced popularly in 1520 by one Galatinus, a "confessor" of Pope Leo X (cf. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, p. 218). Its derivation is explainable as the mistake of a Christian reader of the Hebrew Bible who did not understand its pointing. Let us explain a bit about the pointing of the Hebrew Bible.
When the Masoretes pointed the Hebrew text of the Old Testament in the latter half of the first millennium, they recognized that there were many probable errors in the text. Since they held the text in high esteem, however, they would never alter any of the text itself, but instead favored a system called the ketib/qere system (ketib, meaning "written," and qere, meaning "said"). When there was a word of some difficulty in the text, the consonants would remain unaltered, but there would be a note in the margin in Aramaic explaining what word should be read in synagogue. The vowel pointing in the text itself, however, would be the vocalization of what should be read (the "qere") and NOT what was written (the "ketib"). A knowledgable Hebrew reader would look at the word and recognize that the vowel pointing was not consistent with the written word and would therefore look for the "qere" in the margin to read.
This is precisely what happened with the Tetragrammaton, but as opposed to having a marginal note with the proper consonants listed it was considered a "perpetual ketiv/qere," meaning that whenever one saw the consonants YHWH as the Tetragrammaton one would recognize that it was a "ketiv" and that the "qere" should be one of the various other designations for God-- Elohim, Adonai, Ha-Shem ("the name"), etc. Depending on the text, YHWH would appear with the vowel pointings for one of the other designations. Our medieval friends came to one such Hebrew manuscript and simply transliterated what he saw: the consonants YHWH with the vocalization for Adonai: a o a, and we have "Yahoah." Adapt the term to fit German reckoning, and we have "Jehovah."
"Jehovah," then, is a medieval misunderstanding of the Hebrew text and should not be understood as the proper pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. Its constant use in Bible versions (starting with one use in the KJV and becoming the translation of choice for YHWH in the ASV) secures its place in the English language and it will probably always be used to describe the LORD, the God of Heaven. While it is inaccurate it is not a "sinful" designation, but as those who strive to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), we ought to recognize and understand that YHWH was never pronounced as Jehovah but more likely as Yahweh. Let us therefore recognize that if we are to pronounce the Tetragrammaton YHWH accurately, we should use "Yahweh" and not "Jehovah."
Ethan R. Longhenry
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