27 September 2005

More from the e-mail out-box

To: K___ B_____
From: "Phillip R. Johnson"
Subject: Cr--t-r?!

Dear K_____,

You wrote:

> I serve M-ss--h in a Jewish
> context. Hence the omission
> of the vowels in the names
> of G-d. You have my per-
> mission to publish any part
> of my messages you choose,
> but I have one request: Please
> do not edit my words so as to
> add the letters I have omitted.
> Were my post to come into the
> hands of a Jew, my credibility
> with the community would be
> suspect for writing out the
> name of the Cr--t-r. See what
> Rav' Shaul (the apostle Paul)
> wrote in 1 Cor. 9:20-21.

Perhaps you could explain this practice further. It seems to me that this is an accommodation to a superstition that is grounded in an unbiblical notion of what it means to take the Lord's name in vain. And as far as I can tell, it is not even the whole Jewish community who follow this superstition, but a fairly narrow segment of Hasidim.

Since the whole idea behind this practice goes against what Christ taught, I've always felt it is inappropriate for Christians to cater to it. We don't cross ourselves or bow to the communion elements in order to accommodate the superstitions of Roman Catholics. Why omit vowels in order to accommodate selected Pharisaic-style superstitions? (And even in the word Cr--t-r?!! That's the first time I've seen that.)

This isn't a case of obeying any law or tradition that reflects the true intent of the Old Testament commandments. In fact, it tacitly seems to sanction a perversion of God's law. It's precisely the kind of thing Y'shua refused to accommodate for the sake of pleasing overscrupulous Pharisees (cf. Mark 7:2-9). In fact, He attacked the myth that lies behind the superstition against pronouncing or spelling out the name of God (cf. Matthew 23:16-24).

I also think it's a huge and totally unwarranted logical leap to portray this practice as a legitimate application of the 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 principle: "Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law . . . that I might gain them that are without law."

Since you've appealed to that text, I have four questions for you:

  1. Have you carefully considered the possibility that your observing this practice is perpetuating a myth about the appropriate way to express one's reverence for God's name? Again, I refer you to Mark 7:2-9 for our Lord's own example of how to deal with Jewish traditions that subvert the true meaning of the law.
  2. If the no-vowels-in-God's-name rule is a perversion of the law rather than a legitimate application of the third commandment, do you really imagine Rav' Shaul would have sanctioned it?
  3. Do you follow both sides of Rav' Shaul's maxim? When you write to me, you're writing to a Goy. So why do you insist on retaining (and to a large degree, it seems, flaunting) the ceremonial and religious accoutrements of Jewish culture? What about becoming as one who is without law to them who are without law? Do you ever do that? Or are you treating certain Old Testament ceremonial requirements as inviolable, even among the Goyim?
  4. Are you really Jewish? Because in my experience, a high percentage of Christians who imitate Hasidic practices are not really from orthodox Jewish backgrounds at all, but Goyim-born Hebrew-wannabes (or secular Jews who have embraced Christ as Meshiach)—with the mistaken notion that cloaking the Christian faith in the robes and phylacteries of Orthodox Jewish religious traditions somehow makes Christianity seem more "authentic." (As if Christ were not Savior of the Goyim, too.) That's the very mindset that gave rise to Galatianism, and it's a troubling and persistent tendency of Messianic Judaism, I fear.

You wrote,

> As a trained Rav', surely Shaul
> would have not have shown such
> disrespect to G-d's name as to
> write it out when corresponding
> with fellow Jews.

However, he did just that, in his epistle to the Romans, which included Jewish recipients.

And he certainly would not have shown such disrespect to his Gentile brethren as to insist on treating God's name as unspeakable in his correspondence with them. Nothing you have said explains why you insist on observing Hasidic superstitions in your correspondence with me.

Thus my objection to the missing vowels still stands. This is not a legitimate principle of Old Testament law, but a manufactured tradition invented by men, or worse—a matter of superstition based on a serious corruption of the law.

And I think it is a serious mistake for Christians to play along with such superstitions.

Phil's signature


pilgrim said...

"Are you really Jewish?"

A fair question, I know Christians who have worshipped at a messianic congregation that have no Jewish blood as far as they know--nothing wrong with that in and of itself--but this congregation seemed to lean toward legalism as opposed to grace. The removal of vowels was not imposed on others, but was seen as being better, and one of gentile worshippers tied to explain it--and it sounded like the email you posted.

Jesus is the name above all names, at His name every knee shall bow, and teh NT doesn't remove the vowels when it tells us these things.

I do think some people may do this sincerely, but there is a fine line that leads to legalism, and a fine line that presumes on grace.

Let's see what scripture says before crossing any line...

Ryan DeBarr said...

I think you're being too uptight, Phil. It's true that Jesus bashed a lot of Jewish traditions, but He also observed many Jewish traditions (such as the festival of lights). He went out of His way to bash harmful traditions. Omitting letters may be stupid in your opinion, but it harms nothing, whereas not doing it can actually offend Jews.

What bothers me most is the insistance on calling the Apostle Paul, Rabbi Shaul even when speaking to another Christian. I do have personal experience in Jewish evangelism- in Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York no less- and in my opinion, Jews see attempts to represent Paul as a Rabbi as rather foolish and pretentious if not downright dishonest.

Kay said...

Wierd, eh? You've got some Messianic Jews on the one side being too superstitious to even write things that allude to God with the vowels in, and right at the other end you've got JW's being so superstitious about the divine name that they insert it in the NT when it isn't there...

But hold on a sec.. if those who hold to this peculiar quirk believe Jesus or Yeshua is the second person of the Trinity, why don't they follow through with the vowel thing and call Him J-s-s or Y-sh--, particularly if they think the word Creator needs some vowel-disemboweling?

Very good point about the 'all things to all men' quote - I do know people who use this as a badge of authenticity, and I've heard them use that quote to reason that they are trying not to offend Jewish people. I haven't followed through with the logic of that, But I may well now, cheers.

kletois said...

R_ght on Ph_l, _'ve alw_ys fo_nd th_s pr_ctice abs_lute r_bbish

Ray said...

Phil, I very much enjoy your column and most times I agree heartily with you, however this time I feel that, while it is your blog, and your opinions, I found your response to be overly harsh. (Now, truth be told, I may not have seen the entire conversation, who knows?)

However, I will say that I am a Messianic Jew (yes, an ACTUAL Jew), and I will also omit the vowels when writing our G-d at times. And at times I don't... I am not superstitious, it is simply a mark of reverence for the name of God (see I CAN write it both ways!)

While there are many traditions in the protestant community that are simply that, traditions, I do not hold my brethren up to ridicule because I believe their traditions are silly, or somehow inconsistent with my feelings.

Now, some in the Messianic Jewish movement do omit vowels in a superstitious way, those are wrong, but to paint all of us with the same brush is, at best, ignorant of our reasons, and at worst, cruel, and pompous.

I do not believe that your intent was to be either, and I believe that you simply responded to someone who might have been a bit of a pain, however, a moment of reflection before sending, or better yet, posting this might have been a good thing.

The Messianic movement's number one problem, as you touched on, is that of Jewish wannabees, who suddenly have discovered that we 'got it right' after all these years... They fail to see that we who are Jews still worship in a way that is Jewish, but nowhere in the New Testament is anyone else (Goyim) called to do that, as a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite.

If one wants to worship at a Messianic congregation, then more power to them, but the problem I have is that so many in the gentile community go to a Messianic congregation for a year and suddenly they become the 'experts' on everything Jewish, and are harassing people such as yourself who fail to follow a custom that many in the Jewish community don't follow anyway!

Sorry for the lengthy post, I am usually quiet on this blog as I find that many others are much more knowledgable than I, but I did feel that I might be able to add to this discussion.

Phil Johnson said...


Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. I'm a little surprised you think my response here was "harsh." Even re-reading it, I don't see any harsh language, and the guy I was corresponding with didn't think me harsh. He actually thanked me for being thorough and raising good questions.

What's "harsh" about it? The word superstition? Because other than your belief that this practice may be motivated by a view of "reverence" that's not rooted in superstition, it looks to me like you and I pretty much agree.

I'd be interested in your non-superstitious explanation of how this practice shows "reverence." Would it show an extra measure of respect to you if I spelled your name as "R-y"? I still contend there's nothing inherently respectful in the practice, but it's rooted in a wrong belief about the third commandment. If there's a different explanation for why this practice is followed, I'd love to hear it. If not, I don't think it's overly harsh to point out its similarity to other types of manmade rules and superstitions.

BTW, the guy in the e-mail wrote a very friendly reply in which he responded to every question I raised except the question about whether he was really Jewish.

Frank Martens said...

SOoo.. Here's a question for ya Phil, however not related to superstition.

I know missionaries who do the same thing (remove the vowels or parts of the word) with words like God, Christ, Jesus, Prayer, etc... from letters and e-mails.

They do this so to keep a low profile in the areas that they are as so not to draw attention to themselves from the authoraties of whatever country they are in.

So my question, is this biblicly ok? For some reason I want to think it's just another way to keep from professing Christ before men (when Christ says not to do that in Matthew 10:26-33), but maybe I'm wrong.

If this is not a question to be asked here, let me know.


TEX said...


Don't know if this will help...or if I am just "barking up the wrong tr--". (I'm sure you already know this) But the Old Testament in Hebrew didn't add the vowel points until after the time of Christ. It was all just consonants. When they did add the vowel points they decided to add the vowel points for adonai to the true name of God YHWH...thus (through various meanderings) we get Jehovah. I find it interesting that they leave the vowel out of an English word that is not a name...God is not His name...YHWH (Yahweh) is.
I am wondering if some weird corrupted form of this fact (no consonants in Hebrew original) is partially behind the desire to leave vowels of out English words.
I'm sorry if this is somewhat unclear...I have been displaced by Hurricane Rita and got several phone calls while trying to post this comment.



Stephen Morse said...

Boy Phil; great challenge for those of us who are 'simply' Christian (not Messianic & Jewish at the same time). How often do we also 'act' and 'talk' Christian among our 'Goyim' (read pagan) friends and family? No wonder people have a hard time understanding our language. Who would know what vowels to insert to make it understandable anyway? I am certain that the great 'words' of God can be communicated effectively without masking them in our church jargon. We need to be so much more careful to focus on 'making disciples...teaching them to observe all that I (Christ) have commanded.'
Keep it up brother!

LeeC said...

Although I don't ascribe to such a practice, I don't see anything wrong with it in a case such as Rays. But when it becomes legalistic rather than a personal expression of revrence then you have a problem.

It's certainly preferrable to me than the other extreme I so often see these days.

For instance, I am certain that this individual thinks what they are doing is honoring to God, but it makes my stomach turn:

Ray said...


Maybe I am the one who is over-sensitive... :-)

I just find that many in the community of believers ridicule or demean ANYTHING that we, as Jewish believers, do (such as celebrate Passover in the light of Messiah etc)

The truth be known, as Tex responded, the word Adonai, which everyone seems to be comfortable using, is, in fact, an 'abbreviation' of YHWH as well, developed by the Jewish people to preclude the using of the proper name as well. Yet, many in the Christian community use that word without thought about its origins.

The reality for many Jewish people is that using the PROPER name is disrespectful, especially outside of Temple usage.

While I do not prescribe to that view (re: the Temple), one of my reasons is that I want to show proper reverence. Quite frankly, find the cavalier manner in which the name of the Lord is thrown about even in the church is distressing. We have lost (IMHO) a reverence for God, not just in name, but that is one area, and in this small way I show respect to the name of God.

Also, we do not use Adonai exclusively, we also use HaShem (The Name) to reference the Holy One. Ha Shem is another way that the Jewish people show reverence.

Also, you may already know this, but when transcribing the Torah, the scribes would actually go to the length of changing writing stylus and washing before even writing YHWH. It may sound extreme, but it was this type of reverence for God and His Word that deleiverd the Old Testament faithfully through millenia.

So, if I seem out of line I apologize, I just felt that there was an underlying ridicule.. I possibly was doing a bit of eisegesis... (Oops)...

Jonathan Moorhead said...

For the “Goyim-born Hebrew-wannabes,” I personally think it is a matter of #4.

Another question: Among the “Goyim-born Hebrew-wannabes” who abbreviate, how many are NOT dispensationalists? I would imagine it is a small number.

Ray said...

Oh, BTW -- Cr--t-r???? I have never heard that one, and the M-ss--h one is also off... The only one that I use, or have even heard of being used, is the one that we have been talking about G-d, or L-rd....(Maybe extreme Hasidics?)

I wonder -- do the Lubavitchers spell it this way: Rabbi Schn--rs-n?

Thanks for letting me post BTW, I do enjoy the discussions and the responses...

Daniel said...

teh funny thnig is taht msot of us can raed eevn teh msot ridiculuosly mipselled wrods wihtuot any diffciulty. Even wrods taht a splel chekcre wuodl miss, aer esaily cmopreehnded, sicne our midns flil in teh balnks.

If taht is teh caes, it is floolish to imaigne taht laeivng uot a voewl heer adn tehre is ni soem wya tantamnout to shwoing rsepect fro uor Lrod - beacuse teh wirtten wrod has olny oen prupose - to trasmnit teh writre's thuohgts to teh raedre - adn thoes thuohgts aer trasmnitted regradless of wehther voewls aer missign or not.

Taht beign teh caes, we cretainly add no praticular revreence to teh naem of teh Lrod by pertending taht by dipslaying it diffrently we have avioded teh "taboo" of soem legle reqiuremnt.

Ryan DeBarr said...

I wonder -- do the Lubavitchers spell it this way: Rabbi Schn--rs-n?

No, they don't. But neither do they believe the Messiah to be divine.

Ray said...

ryan debarr - I was actually joking about that one; however, truth be told, they don't actually use his name at all (at least the small circle of acquaintances I have), but rather refer to him as, simply 'The Rebbe'.

However there is a small, but vocal (isn't that the ways it always is?) group that believe that he is, in fact, the Mosiach (Messiah) and are awaiting his return...

But, you are correct, the Mosiach is looked at differently in the Hasidic community than it is within the community of believers in Yeshua/Jesus. Not as divine, but as sent from G-d...

FX Turk said...

Dear Ph_l,

In honor of the _m_g_ of G_d in y__, I have officially converted my grammatical rules to make sure I h_n_r y__ with due piety.

I will also extend this h_n_r to P_c_d_ll_ and C-Tr__n so they don't feel like I have blasphemed.

have a nice day. :-)

Ephraim said...


I appreciate your being willing to do a backstroke in some deep waters. I am reading the comments with interest as this topic can lead to some very difficult subjects.

Carry on then.


Andrew Jones said...

gd pst, Phl. lkd t vry mch. thnks.

always interested in the contextualization of the gospel message into other cultures. Or, in this case, from Jewish culture into ours and vice versa.

. . . hey phil. when are you going to allow comments from non-blogger bloggers? i would love to comment with my own tag and blog.

David said...


I would never ridicule a Jewish Christian for celebrating the Passover. When I come to the Lord's table, I believe I am celebrating the passover. The blood of the Lamb has been applied the doorposts and lintel of my soul, saving me from death. Just as the OT Jews remembered the sacrifice of the passover lamb in Egypt, I remember the sacrifice of the "Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world." I am in no way a "Jewish wannabe" - I like bacon.

What are your thoughts on that?

Also, Moorhead and other TMS types, what do you think?

Phil Johnson said...

Ephraim: Backstroke? I'm barely dog-paddling here. My thoughts on this issue aren't all that strong, and it's not something I've got any vested interest in. I might be persuaded if there's really a strong argument in favor of disemvoweling references to deity. I'm just saying I haven't heard such an argument yet.

In fact, I never saw anoyone do this until about 10 years ago. Recently, however, I even saw a secular newspaper using the abbreviated expression "G-d" when quoting a Jewish religious leader. So it seems to be coming into common usage pretty fast. I'm mainly looking for someone who observes the vowel-omission to give a reasonable or biblical argument in favor of it.

Seriously, if there's a good reason to use the abbreviation and avoid unnecessary offense, I'm willing to do it. But if it is just an affected practice based on a superstition rooted in a misapplication of the third commandment, I think it's important not to play along.

Phil Johnson said...


I don't want to open the blog to totally anonymous drive-by remarks, and the only way I know to stop blogspam without going to Haloscan or something is by the setup I'm using.

There are two options open to you:

1. The current setup does allow limited html tags. You can imbed an href tag back to your own blog in your comment or signature.

2. The account you set up on blogger doesn't require you to have an actual blog with blogger, just an account. You can actually imbed a link back to your blog in your blogger profile, and while it adds an extra step, it is an easy way of linking from your comments here back to your own blog.

Ryan DeBarr said...

Ray- I attended a Lubavitch synagogue in the Flatbush of Brooklyn for a while, as an observer. They do indeed believe their deceased leader was the Messiah. But overall I found them to be very kind and warm people- as long as you weren't evangelizing.

Phil- Isn't this whole issue about on the same level as capitalizing pronouns refering to Christ? I still do it out of habit, but it's an incredibily petty thing to squabble over.

Jeremy Weaver said...

'Disemvoweled'! That's funny!

Brad Williams said...

I don't know which was funnier: Daniel's comment or the fact that I could read it.

Ephraim said...


Well, I can't help you there. I do not observe the vowel omission thing myself. And sometimes I do that on purpose just to give old brother Yehudah something to think or complain about.

But, then again, I sometimes do similar things with Christians and their unscriptural superstitions, just to give them something to think or complain about.

You know, Ezekial spoke about this very subject. The two cultures coming together at the end of the age. You can read it in the second half of chapter 37. The two sticks.

And what do those sticks have to do with reformed baptists and this conversation? Well, there is where the feet no longer touch the bottom, and the current is strong.

See you in the wilderness.


Phil Johnson said...

Ryan: "Phil- Isn't this whole issue about on the same level as capitalizing pronouns refering to Christ? I still do it out of habit, but it's an incredibily petty thing to squabble over."

That's sort of the very question I'm asking. If the practice is motivated by superstition, then it's not an indifferent matter. But give me any plausible non-superstitious reason for doing it, and I'll agree with you that it's a petty non-issue.

The bare assertion that it's not worth squabbling over doesn't count.

LeeC said...

"That's sort of the very question I'm asking. If the practice is motivated by superstition, then it's not an indifferent matter. But give me any plausible non-superstitious reason for doing it, and I'll agree with you that it's a petty non-issue.

The bare assertion that it's not worth squabbling over doesn't count. "

The people I know who do this do so because it does take effort and so it helps them to be reminded to take His name seriously... just like I like to capitolize when referring to God.

I would never want to go so far as to build walls around the walls of the law, but on the other hand if I had a nickel for every time I have heard people using euphemisms for taking the Lords name in vain even from the pulpit I would be rich. And often if the topic is brought up to them they are stunned when I point out that "gosh" is simply a euphemism for God.

So what IS taking the Lords name vainly, and how should we avoid it?

LeeC said...

That being said by the way, in no way justifies those who DO use it superstitiously, or see it as a sign of being more holy.

puritanicoal said...

"...but give me any plausible non-superstitious reason for doing it, and I'll agree with you that it's a petty non-issue."

The definition of the word "superstition" makes this a petty non-issue.

Superstition - An irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome.

From what I read (and, I have only been provided with clips of it), it seems the lack of vowels is for respect, NOT strictly superstitious.

It doesn't appear that by leaving out the vowels, there is some belief in "good fortune," such as when you find a penny heads-up on the ground. There is no "cause and effect," it's simply their way to pay respect to the Name of God.

The comment regarding the capitalization of pronouns is a perfect analogy. We capitalize to show respect in many cases. It's not "superstitious," it's just respectful, given our protocol of written communication.

DJP said...


<< But hold on a sec.. if those who hold to this peculiar quirk believe Jesus or Yeshua is the second person of the Trinity, why don't they follow through with the vowel thing and call Him J-s-s or Y-sh--, particularly if they think the word Creator needs some vowel-disemboweling? >>

Very well-put.

I independently (but not as bon-mot-edly) had that thought and others; see bibchr.blogspot.com. (Couldn't find your email, but am perusing your blog.)

Brad Huston said...

If the practice is motivated by superstition, then it's not an indifferent matter.


But give me any plausible non-superstitious reason for doing it, and I'll agree with you that it's a petty non-issue.

Phil, what if its an issue of reverence or respect for the individual? I agree, there is no biblical basis for capitalization or for writing G_d instead of God. But that said, I do find it odd that people use the word god all the time as if he is impersonal.


MTG said...

Goyim born Hebrew wannabees...


I was born Jewish, now a Calvinist (OPC) oh I can sooooooo relate to this take on it.

Ray said...

ryan debarr - I agree, my friends who are in the Lubavitcher community are very decent people... I did not mean to imply differently...

Phil Johnson said...

Puritanicoal: "it's simply their way to pay respect to the Name of God"

Yes, I understand that's the claim. But why? how does eliminating vowels "pay respect" to anything? Would you take it as a sign of "respect" if I addressed you as P-r-t-n-c--l? How does this signify "respect?"

I've suggested this is actually rooted in the superstitious belief that reverence is shown God by employing euphemisms in place of His name. Since Jesus actually taught it's folly to think this shows proper respect to God, what other reason can anyone give me for thinking dismvowelment shows "respect"?

Please don't merely keep asserting that "its an issue of reverence or respect for the individual." I understand that. I'm asking for someone to give me a biblical (or even common-sense) rationale for WHY this might signify respect, as opposed to always spelling the divine name with all caps, or an old-English typeface.

Ryan DeBarr said...

The custom of not having 13th floors in buildings is a silly superstition, but it is equally silly to insist that the elevator buttons be changed to buck the custom.

Not putting vowels in God's name shows respect in that it sets Him apart from man.

Ray said...

I believe that everyone is on the same page (or close).

1. It is out of respect, like the capitalization of pronouns.

2. Disemvoweled - LOL, great...

3. I didn't mean to start a big discussion about something that I am not even hard-lined about, but I have enjoyed the conversation immensely.

4. david kjos - I think that your perspective is great, I think there is nothing wrong with that... Also, I like shrimp, but bacon is not one of my favorites. :-)

5. morgan -- I hear you! I have been through the whole gamut -- Born Jewish, through the arminian route, Baptist, Charismatic (for a hot minute), and finally pastoring a Bible-base independent church, more and more reformed all the time (Actually I am reformed, but learning more and more). And hanging out with smart folks like the people on this blog and others has been tremendously helpful...

GoodieGoodie said...

I thought your post to andrew was another post like Daniel's with the letters messed up to test my brain, but then I realized it was just bloggerspeak.
Don't I feel silly

Brad Huston said...

Please don't merely keep asserting that "its an issue of reverence or respect for the individual." I understand that. I'm asking for someone to give me a biblical (or even common-sense) rationale for WHY this might signify respect, as opposed to always spelling the divine name with all caps, or an old-English typeface.

Biblical? There isn't one. Is it traditional? Yes, seems so. Likely from pharasaic roots that are rooted in a supersition over the third commandment to boot.

But again, I think they argue that by typing G_d that it is (to some) a sign of showing reverence in that God's name is so holy to them that his name should not be written out as casually as the common word. Is it overkill? I think so. Where is the line between reverence and superstition here? I don't know.

Your begging the question though, other than it being wholly annoying at times and considering the intent of the user is outside mere superstition, do you think it sinful if someone continues the practice it on the basis of reverence or respect?


Ray said...

Phil - I don't know if this answers you; probably not, but here is a brief thought:

One's name also bespeaks their character, especially in ancient Jewish thought, and in order to ensure the name and character of YHWH was not besmirched, it became common practice to omit letters, showing His character to be not common, much like Adonai as I spoke of in an earlier post. (yes, this is building a hedge around it)

But to call it superstitious is not TOTALLY accurate -- Superstition is something that has consequences if it is not followed, i.e. breaking a mirror etc. Now, I will heartily agree that some in the Jewish community are superstitious about it, but I feel about it much like the capitalization in the pronouns. These are even done in the Bible and I do not believe that they are simply being superstitious.

I am not propagating a superstition as I am not insistent on this, it is my own personal thing, I don't even do it to placate my brothers in bthe flesh, and sometimes will intentionally NOT do it to spark discussion.

That is my perspective, and I am not dogmatic about it, just providing my perspective...

Kay said...

Just had a thought (happens occasionally). In my conversations with Muslims, they often make a point of how much more respectful they are of Jesus than we are, because they say 'peace be upon him' after His name. Is there a real material difference between this practice, and the attendant pride, and the disemvowelment discussed here?
Surely the pride is the issue, and therefore the objection lies in the motivation..

Jonathan Moorhead said...

David Kjos, I do not speak for other TMS men, but I happen to think it is , , , well, sin not to remember what God has done in the OT. God calls on us to “remember” His mighty acts of the past. It is a good idea to celebrate/remember Shavuot, Purim, Succoth (camp outside with your kids for this one), Hanukkah, etc. I also have the crazy idea that we should all have “standing stones” (however you want to create them [not always literal ok]) to remember what God has done in your life.

The important thing is to remember these things through Christian lenses though. I used to attend the Messianic Pessach at Grace Community Church (the closest thing to heaven) and thought it was very meaningful. I like to try to do this every year.

P.S.- Timothy Webber in, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend” touches on this issue with Messianic folks. He cites a statistic that “60 percent of the membership [of Messianic congregations] and 50 percent of the leadership were gentile Christians . . . to the average Jewish visitor, the typical Messianic congregation often looked like a bunch of gentiles trying to figure out what a Jewish version of the Christian faith might look like” (242).

puritanicoal said...

Most, not all, things we do to signify respect are arbitrary, and to some degree subjective.


I am regularly required to stand when Court is in session. I also refer to the judge as "Your Honor." Both are arbitrary means of showing respect. Why don't I bow or kneel when the Judge walks in? Why not refer to the bench as Mr. Judge, we say Mr. President, don't we? Answer: someone decided this and made it a rule.

Military salute. How in the world does placing a stiff hand to your forehead show respect? It doesn't, intrinsically. It is simply an arbitrary sign to show respect. It is also subjective because the person saluting may not really have any real respect for the person.

Taking your hat off during the national anthem for men only. Why not women? I am sure there is some cultural difference, and maybe it's even tacitly Biblical, yet how does it intrinsically show respect? It doesn't. It is merely cultural convention.

Now, back to subtracting vowels. Someone decided, based on OT tradition, albeit, manmade tradition, that this is a way of showing respect. I don't do it. But, I can't say that it is wrong, as long as it is not viewed as some linguistic talisman to confer some pecuniary benefit.

puritanicoal said...

Here's my real theory on this:

Phil was reading through his out-box when he happened upon this email. He read it and thought it was actually quite weak as far as content was concerned. However, a silly word entered his train of thought; "disemvoweled." He chuckled with excitement to himself and thought, "If I can just drop this 'D-bomb' in a comment, it will only serve to bolster my kinder, gentler, witty side."

And, here we are, like a bunch of horses led by a Judas horse, arguing over whether someone who leaves the vowels out of the various names for G_d are heretics and should be burned at the stake! (That was a joke for you uptight types).

Phil Johnson said...

Brad: "other than it being wholly annoying at times and considering the intent of the user is outside mere superstition, do you think it sinful if someone continues the practice it on the basis of reverence or respect?"

That's the issue I'm grappling with and why I raised the thread. To be clear:

1. The omission of vowels per se doesn't really "annoy" me.

2. Nor do I object to authentic Hebrew ethnicity in the context of the Christian church. (I'm actually something of a Hebrew-o-phile. I like Semitic culture, the Hebrew and Yiddish languages, Jewish humor, and kreplach soup. My closest friend for the past 35 years is a Jewish guy originally from Brooklyn with a pronounced Seinfeldian streak in his personality. I once worked as a volunteer with an organization in Chicago that sponsors several Messianic synagogues. I've edited books for Moishe Rosen. I'm perfectly comfortable with, and not "annoyed" by, Jewish culture.)

3. I am, however, put off by phony Goyim who think imitating Hebrew custom is a "spiritual" thing to do.

4. And I am concerned about practices that may in fact be rooted in superstition or Pharisaical legalism. In my experience, most who affect the no-vowels custom have not carefully thought through the rationale for why this may or may not be a good thing.

5. I do think superstition is sinful, and the imitation of superstition may be sinful. So one of my reasons for raising this issue is to try to generate some reflection about the questions of whether it might be sinfully motivated, whether it really honors God, whether it advances our testimony or hinders it, etc.

6. I don't think those are questions that ought to be lightly brushed aside as trivial, based only on how we as individuals might feel. I think this is a classic example of the kind of issue where we are taught in Scripture to apply careful discernment and serious reflection on the biblical principles that might be at stake.

7. I can't get away from the notion that the principle of Matthew 23:16-22 has a direct bearing on this sort of euphemizing with the divine names.

8. My goal in broaching the subject, however, was merely to provoke some thoughtful discussion about it, not to advocate a new rule one way or the other.

(Plus, just as Puritanicoal speculates, it was the perfect opportunity to coin the expression "disemvoweled." I couldn't pass that up, could I?)

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone who chimed in.

You may now return to your mindless high-fiving and other revelry.

Pecadillo, turn on the "Chicken Dance" music, please. Let's get the atmosphere in here back to what it should be.

LeeC said...

"Pecadillo, turn on the "Chicken Dance" music, please. Let's get the atmosphere in here back to what it should be. "

I don't have to wear the suit do I???

puritanicoal said...

It's "puritanicoal" with a little "p." The capital "P" is offensive to me.

Ephraim said...


I would never have guessed. That is way cool brother. Celebrating the appointed times of YHWH. It is our priviledge to enter into those set times through, and with, our understanding of Messiah. What a rich, delightful meal prepared for us by our loving Father in heaven.


Scripture actually speaks against the practice of hiding the name of the Father. Consider Yochanan chapter 17. Three times Yeshua mentions that He had restored the name, given the name and protected His talmadim by the name of His Father in heaven.

But, as one brother said so well (not someone who is known here), if YHWH had based our obtaining salvation, even partially, on the correct spelling and pronunciation of His name, you can bet everything you own that He would have made sure each of His children would know exactly how to do both.


Brad Huston said...

The omission of vowels per se doesn't really "annoy" me.

Actually, I was speaking of myself here. I've had a few, wonderful discussions with Christians of Jewish origin and let me tell you, when you have a lengthy conversation with one about theology, be prepared to insert quite a few vowels.


Brad Huston said...

You may now return to your mindless high-fiving and other revelry.

Pecadillo, turn on the "Chicken Dance" music, please. Let's get the atmosphere in here back to what it should be.

Phil, if you haven't seen it, I have an apology for you along this vein on the other thread.

Kuddos on the "Chicken Dance" jab, I got a chuckle out of that one...


David said...

Ray and Jonathan,

Thanks for your answers on the Passover/Lord's table issue. By the way, we have lamb and unleavened bread on Easter, although we make no attempt to be kosher. "Passover ham" has never sounded right to me!

jthomas899 said...

I actual wrote with the vowels while in seminary. It allowed me to take better notes, now I will often rvrt bck to tht styl wtht rlzng it.

pilgrim said...

I have no problem with people worshipping Jesus according to their culture, as long as that culture doesn't change, obscure, or deny the gospel.
This is a problem for missionaries in figuring out which parts of the culture would be anti-gospel and which are not.
I have no desire to be "imperialistic" about it--for that reason Jewish congregations are okay, as long as they, and the gentiles that want to join in keep this in mind-(As should we all)

Galatians 3:27-29 (New American Standard Bible)-
27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.

dogpreacher said...

Ephraim is correct about not hiding H_s N_me! His name is YHVH, or YHWH, depending on what era of Hebrew.

RAY: You shot yourself in the foot and proved Phil's point when you said that you practice this out of reverence. Then you turned around, and said sometimes you do it, but not ALL the time. Does that mean when you don't do it you have NO REVERENCE for his name? You can't have it both ways!

Scott Hill said...

Now we know who to blame for the whole "X-mas" thing.

Joel Weyrick said...

I wanted to just comment on the possibility that a similar practice might have occurred in the writing of the book of Matthew. I'll quote from Craig L. Blomberg's, Jesus and the Disciples.

"For the most part, however, Matthew avoids using the expression 'kingdom of God,' substituting instead 'kingdom of heaven.' This expression occurs thirty-three times in Matthew's Gospel and nowhere else in the New Testament. The numerous occasions on which these expressions appear interchangeably in otherwise parallel passages (including within Matthew himself--see, e.g., 19:23-24) make it clear they are synonyms. Almost certainly, Matthew is following Jewish scruples and using a 'circumlocution' or euphemism for the divine name to avoid treating something holy in an overly familiar way."

In class, we discussed this quite a bit more, but I'd rather not make a mistake about what was said.

I'm sure it would be pretty easy to explain away why this "circumlocution" occurred, but I think that it seems pretty telling about Matthew's thoughts on the issue.

Joel Weyrick said...

Sorry, that was from page 233 of the book.

Phil Johnson said...


Interesting point, and it's the best argument I've seen so far in favor of the vowelless spelling.

I can see doing that in order not to provoke unnecessary offense in direct correspondence with a non-Christian who might sincerely hold a strict Hasidic objection to writing out the name of God.

What I don't understand, however, is the way the practice seems to have spread chiefly among Christians in their correspondence with one another and on the Internet. Most of them are not in direct correspondence with Hasidim, so why do it?

It just strikes me as one of those totally phony things people do out of a zeal to appear so "genuine."

I also agree with Libbie's excellent observation that it makes about as much sense as punctuating every mention of Jesus' name with the Islamic abracadabra "peace-be-upon-him." It won't surpise me if someone picks up on that and thinks it would be really cool to start doing that.

Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I wonder about these things.

Jus Divinum said...

Phil Johnson wrote:

(Plus, just as Puritanicoal speculates, it was the perfect opportunity to coin the expression "disemvoweled." I couldn't pass that up, could I?)

Unfortunately, Usenet beat you to it by at least a decade.


Ray said...

dogpreacher - My feelings on this are a bit more involved than that, but as to your point -- touche...

Without wasting a lot of words: I will write it without vowels to show reverence, but I also wrote it with vowels to show that I don't think that it is a NECESSITY...

But, again, good point!

C said...

I wonder if Phil realizes that vowels are a later tradition in the Hebrew text. Maybe when Phil is working with Hebrew he does so without vowels to make sure that he is not influenced by this tradition.