“Why is the Tetragrammaton kept separate from other names?” Luther asks. ”Can it be so sacred, and other names so profane, that it is polluted when brought into contact with them? Such would be the fictions of the Jews.”
No Kabbalist he. Yet, he goes on:
“The meaning [of the Tetragrammaton] is this: Iod = ‘origin,’ he = ‘this,’ vaf = ‘and,’ he = ‘this.’ Let these be put together grammatically and in Latin this sentence will result: ‘The origin of this and this.’ And this fits with the name of the holy Trinity in all respects, because the Father in his divinity is the origin of this, that is the Son, and this, that is the Ho y Spirit. For these pronouns, ‘this and this,’ rather obscurely represent the Son an Holy Spirit, as was suitable to that scripture in which the mystery of the holy trinity was not to be revealed but was only indicated.”
Kendall Soulen (The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity: Distinguishing the Voices, pp. 90-92) adds this: “Luther notes that some Christians have proposed that the Tetragrammaton foreshadows not only the name of the Trinity . . . but also the name ‘Jesus,’ inasmuch as the latter consists of the Tetragrammaton plus the letter shin. According to this theory . . . the incarnation of the Word marks the end of the epoch of the ineffable name of four letters, and inaugurates the yet mightier age of the effable Pentagrammaton, ‘Jesus.’ Luther admits that he wishes the theory were true, but in the end he rejects it for etymological reasons.”
In Soulen’s view, Luther’s adherence to a version of Christian Kaballah is reflected in his decision to render the Tetragrammaton as HERR in his translation of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, since the name is used exclusively of “the real true God.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm
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