The Name of God: ‘I BECOME WHO I BECOME’ (Exodus 3:14)
From: You shall be as gods, Erich Fromm, 1966.
God makes repeated concessions to various pleas made by Moses, who states that the pagan
Hebrews cannot understand the language of freedom or the idea of a God who reveals himself
only as the God of history, without mentioning a name: “I am the God of your father, the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6).
Moses argues that the Hebrews will not believe him: Moses tells God, “If I come to the people
of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me,
‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13)
Moses’ objection is well taken. The very essence of an idol is that it has a name; every thing
has a name because it is complete in time and space. For the Hebrews, accustomed to the
concept of idolatry, a nameless God of history could not make sense, for a nameless idol is a
contradiction in itself. God recognizes this and makes a concession to the understanding of the
Hebrews. He gives himself a name and says to Moses: ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say
this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Ex. 3:14).
What does this strange name which God gives himself mean? The Hebrew text says EHEYEH
asher EHEYEH; or “Eheyeh has sent me to you.” Eheyeh is the first person of the imperfect
tense of the Hebrew verb “to be.” In Hebrew there is no present tense but only two basic tense
forms: perfect and imperfect. The present can be formed by the use of the participle, as in
English “I am writing,” but there is no tense corresponding to “I write.” All relations of time are
expressed by certain secondary alterations to the verb. Fundamentally an action is
experienced as being either perfected or nonperfected. With words denoting actions in the
physical world, the perfect necessarily implies the past. If I have perfected writing a letter, my
writing is finished; it is in the past. But with activities of a nonphysical nature, like knowing, for
instance, it is different. If I have perfected my knowledge, it is not necessarily in the past, but
the perfect of knowing can — and often does — mean in Hebrew “I know completely,” “I
understand thoroughly.” The same holds true of verbs like “to love,” and the like.
In considering God’s “name,” the importance of the Eheyeh lies in the fact that it is the
imperfect of the verb “to be.” It says God is, but his being is not completed like that of a
thing, but is a living process, a becoming; only a thing, that is, that which has reached its final
form, can have a name. A free translation of God’s answer to Moses would be: “My name is
Nameless; tell them that ‘Nameless’ has sent you.” [Or: “I Become Who I Become” — Raquel]
* Only idols have names, because they are things. The “living” God cannot have a name. In
the name of Eheyeh we find an ironical compromise between God’s concession to the
ignorance of the people and his insistence that he must be a nameless God.
This God who manifests himself in history cannot be represented by any kind of image, neither
by an image of sound — that is, a name — nor by an image of stone or wood. This prohibition
of any kind of representation of God is clearly expressed in the Ten Commandments, which
forbid man to bow down before any “graven image,” nor any likeness of anything that is in
heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Ex. 20:
4). This command is one of the most fundamental principles of Jewish “theology.”
* The meaning of a nameless God has been beautifully captured by Master Eckhart. “The final
end of being,” he said, “is the darkness of non-knowing of the hidden Godhead, in whom this
light shines, and this darkness did not comprehend it. Hence Moses said: ‘He who hath sent
me’ (Ex. 3:14). He who is without a name, and who never obtained a name, for which reason
the prophet said: ‘Truly thou art a hidden God’ (Isaiah 45:14) in the ground of the soul where
God’s ground and the soul’s are one ground. The more one seeks Thee, the less one can find
Thee. You should seek Him in such a way as never to find Him. If you do not seek Him, you
will find Him.” (James M. Clark, Meister Eckhart: An Introduction to the Study of His Works
with an Anthology of His Sermons [Edinburgh: T. Nelson Sons, 1957], Sermon XXIV, p. 241.
[My italics, E.F.]
|The God of the Jews vs The Logos of Christ
Insight from: The Controversy of Zion, Douglas Reed, 1978
Reed's book is graduate studies in Zionism.
This day will I begin to put the dread of thee
and the fear of thee upon the nations that are
under the whole heaven, who shall hear
report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in
anguish because of thee.
He loved thy fathers, therfore he chose their
seed after them . . . to drive out nations from
before thee greater and mightier than thou
art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for
an inheritance . . .
And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them
before thee, thou shalt smite them, and utterly
destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant
with them, not shew mercy unto them; neither
shalt thou make marriages with them.
. . . ye shall destroy their alters and break
down their images . . . for thou art an holy
people unto the Lord thy God; the lord thy
God hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people
that are upon the face of the earth.
. . . thou shalt consume all the people which
the Lord thy God shall seliver thee; thine eye
shall have no pity upon them . . . But the Lord
thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and
shall destroy them with a mighty destruction
until they be destroyed.
. . . He shall deliver their kings into thine
hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from
under heaven, there shall no man be able to
stand before thee, until thou have destroyed
. . . Every place whereon the soles of your
feet shall tread shall by yours . . . Of the cities
of these people, which the Lord thy God doth
give thee for an inheritance, thou shall save
nothing alive that breatheth . . . thou shalt
lend nunto many nations and thou shalt not
borrow . . . Ye shall utterly destroy all the
places wherein the nations which ye shall
possess served their gods . . .
Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall
be called the children of God . . . I am not
come to destroy" (the law of the Prophets) but
. . . Ye have heard that it hath been said,
Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine
enemy. But I say unto you, Love your
. . . Lay not up for yourselves treasure on
earth . . . what is a man profited if he shall
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . this is
the first and greatest commandment; and the
second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself. On these two
commandments hang all the law and the
. . . Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees . . .
ye are the children of them which killed the
prophets . . . Forgive them for they know not
what they do.
-- The Gospels