Jesus - Yahweh!
By Dr Paul Petersen, Field Secretary, South Pacific Division
Yahweh is the Old Testament name for the personal God of Israel. In the centuries up to the time of Jesus, the attitude of the Jews to this name became more and more reverent, and when Jesus walked on earth, the name was only allowed to be pronounced once a year, by the High Priest when he on the Day of Atonement enterned the Most Holy in the temple.
When reading the holy writings, the word "adonay" (meaning "Lord") would be pronounced in stead of Yahweh. At a later point in time, when Western Europeans did no longer know the Hebrew language, that fact gave occasion to the misunderstanding that the name is "Jehowah", which in reality is using the vowels of the wrong word.
The meaning of the name is indicated by the dialogue between God and Moses at the burning bush when God as a reply to Moses' request for the name of God says, "I am the one I am", or "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14). God is the self existent one, by implication he is the creator of everything.
In most Bibles today, the name Yahweh is translated by "LORD", often written in capital letters to distinguish it from other words with the same meaning. In the major Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the so called Septuagint, the Greek word "kyrios" (Lord) was used for Yahweh. This name is commonly is applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament (as in Luke 2:11; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5 and many, many more), thus identifying him with Yahweh.
This identification of Jesus with Yahweh is in the New Testament particularly evident in the writings of John, though not exclusively so. When the father of John the Baptist, the old priest Zechariah, under inspiration sang about the future mission of his son, he told that John the Baptist was to prepare the way of Jesus. He did so by quoting the prophecy of Isaiah, who foretold that John the Baptist was to "prepare the way of the Lord", that is Yahweh (Luke 1:76, cf. Isaiah 40:3).
But John is the one New Testament writer who more than anyone else makes the identification clear. In his gospel he does it by his many so called "I AM" statements. Jesus claims, "I AM" the resurrection and life (John 11:25), the light of the world John 8:12), the bread of life (John 6:35), the good shepherd (John 10:14), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) etc.
In these examples, "I AM" is followed by a predicate, and at times you may wonder at the exact identification. Is Jesus just giving himself a name, or is he really saying that he is Yahweh. But in some text, this claim is self evident, as when Jesus calls himself "the Good Shepherd" whom everyone knew to be Yahweh, "the Lord is my shepherd" (Psalm 23:1). The identification is even more clear in the texts without a predicate, such as in John 13:19 where Jesus speaks with the authority of the self existent one who knows the future, in John 18:6 where the listeners a brief moment fall back in awe and terror in face of the Lord of the Universe, and not least in John 8:58 where Jesus straight out takes the divine mouth in his mouth. As a consequence, the Jewish leaders take up stones to execute him for making himself one with Yahweh.
Ellen White comments this occasion with these words, "Silence fell upon the vast assembly. The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had been claimed as His own by this Galilean Rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the self-existent One, He who had been promised to Israel, ‘whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity." Desire of Ages, 469.
In all of these texts in John, Jesus is using texts from the second part of the Book of Isaiah in which the Hebrew expression "ani hu" ("I am the one I am") is repeatedly used by Yahweh to emphasize his eternal nature, his creative power, and his control of past, present, and future (see Isaiah 41:4; 43:10, 13, 25; 48:12 et alia).
This is in harmony with the fact that God the Father according to John shares his glory with the Son on earth (John 17:5, 24), yet according to Isaiah God shares his glory with no one (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11)
In the last book in the Bible, Revelation, John further identifies Jesus with Yahweh with specific reference to these texts in Isaiah. When Jesus presents himself to John on Patmos as "the first and the last" (Revelation 1:17), he quotes Isaiah 44:6 directly. In this text Yahweh speaks, "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god." This identification with God as the first and the last is further underlined by the name "Alpha and Omega" which in Revelation is given both to the Father and to the Son (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). Father and Son are distinct persons, yet one God!
Is Yahweh just a name Jesus was given? Is Yahweh someone Jesus became? That claim is at times made by anti-Trinitarians. The thesis is self contradictory. Per definition you cannot become the "One who Is." You cannot become the self-existent One, as little as you are able to draw a round square..
Jesus was. He always was. In his pre existent state, before the incarnation as a human being, he had no beginning.