20 December 2009


What a good idea it was - I think we Anglicans started it with our Authorised Version of the Bible - to print LORD in capitals; at least, in the Old Testament and at least when LORD stands for the four Hebrew letters YHWH. Most readers will know that what the Hebrew manuscripts actually have here is the Hebrew name for God. But for millennia our Jewish brethren have refrained out of reverence from uttering it aloud: when the reader gets to YHWH in the text what he actually utters is (the Hebrew word for) 'Lord'. To tip him the wink to do this, the texts put the vowels of that word onto the consonants YHWH, giving YeHoWaH (which is the origin of the version 'Jehovah'). So when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, and then Latin, the translators wrote, not YHWH, but (the Latin and Greek words for) 'the Lord'.

I feel that it is disrespectful towards the Hebrew origins of our Faith for Christians to utter this great and unutterable name. Even if the philologists are right to say that it was pronounced Yahweh, there is nothing more wince-making than to hear callow students of the Old Testament droning comfortably on about yarwey as if it were the name of their pet cat. Nor should we use in church translations of Scripture which encourage ignorant readers to read the Name aloud. Happily, the latest edition of the neovulgate Latin Bible eliminates 'Yahveh', and the Roman liturgical authorities have banned the public utterance of this word in Bible readings.

We don't always realise the significance of 'LORD' in our worship. The priest starts the Eucharistic Prayer by calling God 'Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Everlasting God' (at least, he does if he is using an accurate translation of the ancient Western 'Preface'). We thus begin by identifying the God we address as the ancient God of the Hebrews before we go on to identify him with the 'Holy Father' to whom our Saviour prayed at the Last Supper (John 17). As Pius XI pointed out, we are all spiritually Semites; the God to whom we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom we ask to receive it as he accepted the gifts of his righteous servant Abel and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham and what was offered by his high priest Melchisedech. Dom Gregory Dix wrote of 'the majestic tradition of the worshipping church, the rich tradition of the liturgy unbroken since the Apostles, and beyond - beyond even Calvary and Sion and the synagogues of Capernaum and Nazareth, back to the heights of Moriah and Sinai and the shadowy altar on Ararat - and beyond that again', in what he called 'the Church's quiet insistent proclamation in the Canon'. This is another reason for applauding Pope Benedict's 'Hermeneutic of Continuity' in reconnecting the worship of the Western Church with its ancient and glorious roots. (No wonder Patriarch Alexis of Moskow not long before his death spoke of this as ecumenically a unifying factor.)

One last point. The priest introduces the Eucharistic Prayer by saying 'Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God' (Cranmer's biggest mistake was to render this 'our lord God' as if 'Lord' is an honorific functioning as in 'our lord bishop'). The celebrant thus calls upon us to join him in making the one all-availing thank-offering to YHWH of his Son's Body and Blood. In the Tridentine Rite the priest, at these words, joins his hands together, the liturgical sign of total self-humbling (as a captive or slave might offer his wrists to be bound). And he raises his eyes to heaven and then bows his head. What a shame it is that modern rites ignore this wonderful reverencing of YHWH our creator God, the God of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God to whom once we offered a twice-daily Tamid sacrifice of a lamb in his Temple and to whom now we offer the Immaculate Lamb.


Anonymous said...

This references the "Neovulgate."
Where may it be purchased? I have yet to find a Catholic bookstore which has even heard of it (and that includes the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washingto DC.)

Laurence K. Wells+

Sue Sims said...

You're absolutely right. It's particularly horrible for Jewish converts like myself (I mean, converts from Judaism to Catholicism): hearing the Name read aloud feels like a punch in the stomach.

Gregory of Langres said...

The new Vulgate bible is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Biblia-Sacra-Vulgata-Bible-Latin/dp/1598561782/ref=pd_bbs_3?ie=UTF8&s=gateway&qid=1200403591&sr=8-3

rev'd up said...

The point being that the true Hebrew religion is practiced exclusively by Catholics not by Jews, who merely show a superstitious reverence for the Holy Name. This is a potentially powerful tool for the conversion of Jewry. Catholic reverence to the Holy Name is uniquely authentic and in accord with the practice of the Old Testament Patriarchs. In other words, Pharisaical Jews sometimes do the right thing, but for all the wrong reasons. For at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow…and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Joshua said...

Nova Vulgata is the Latin name, which in English we name the Neo-Vulgate, thus mixing together Greek and Latin in an ugly manner.

Fr H, comments on this unnatural practice?

I have mine at hand, I'll go get it and cite the details (gets up) (returns to laptop) here it is -

Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio (editio typica altera), Città del Vaticano: Libereria Editrice Vaticana, 1998.

Or you can just go to the Vatican website to read it:

Nova Vulgata

Joshua said...

Further details:

the New Testament in the NV is almost the same as the Vulgate (my edition gives a running list at the bottom of each page of any divergences - there are about half a dozen phrases noted per page); the Psalms are the Vulgate as amended by the Pius XII version to better fit the Hebrew (again, not too many differences); the rest of the OT I'm not qualified to say, but I understand there are bigger differences, even to the point of some of the books (e.g. Esther) being taken not from the Vulgate, but the Old Latin versions.

Michael McDonough said...

I believe one of the purposes of the Nova Vulgata at present is to provide for a single Latin version, to which the Liturgical texts in the vernaculars are supposed to "align". And the reason for that, as I understand it, is so that those texts which the Church has accomodated for particular liturgical purposes, do not cause "shock and awe" when read using some vernacular scholarly version. Examples of "accomodation" might be the use of Apoc 12 on the Solemnity of the Assumption, the use of Proverbs and other wisdom books as foreshadowings of the Immaculate Conception, etc.

Reason 58(b) for rejecting in toto the arguments of biblical scholars like the egregious episcop of Erie in objection to the new English versions!

BTW, so much for "global warming"! We must now dig out from under a foot or more of snow (said to be in the "top 10 since 1869" by the factoidal archivists!) in order to get to Mass (I have missed the TLM at 9, so it will have to be the NO at Noon). At present, our diligent contractors for snow removal are probably off seeing to the commercial parking lots (rates have probably doubled or more on this Last Shopping Sunday before Christmas, a "feast" on an entirely different liturgical calendar).

Damn them! Sorry, I take that back.

johnf said...

I learned from a Jewish website that while the Y*** word for the Lord can be displayed on a computer screen, it should never be printed, for fear of what might happen to the printed sheet.

I think that they are right

neilmac said...


Can you recommend a book outlining Old Testament history, please? It would be very helpful to be able to place the events of the OT into a chronological scheme, perhaps which also explains the historical context.

My email address:


Thank you

Neil Mackenzie