Archive for the ‘YHWH’ Tag

Liberating Grace   5 comments


Above:  A Germane Source Card from My Collection of Research Note Cards

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor


The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 2:15b-25 (19th Day)

Exodus 3:16-22; 4:18-20 (20th Day)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:9-12 (19th Day)

1 Peter 2:13-17 (20th Day)


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 2:

Exodus 3:

Exodus 4:

1 Peter 2:


You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

–Psalm 23:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Names have power, or so many people believed in the time of Moses.  To know someone’s name was usually to have some power over that person, hence God provides more of a description than a name–and a vague one at that–in response to the query of Moses.  The transliterated Hebrew text reads:


which is how TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders it.  The germane footnote in the that translation says:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated:  ”I Am That I Am”; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

The relevant note in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins:

God’s proper name, disclosed in the next verse, is YHVH (spelled “yod-heh-vav-heh” in Heb.; in ancient times the “vav” was pronounced “w”).  But here God first tells Moses its meaning:  Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, probably best translated as “I Will Be What I Will Be,” meaning “My nature will become evident from My actions.”

–page 111

“Ehyeh,” or “I Will Be,” is not a name that says much.  It denies opportunities to attempt to have power over God and preserves mystery while indicating how to learn about God.

Volume I (1994) of The New Interpreter’s Bible informs me that the name YHVH/YHWH derives from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be,” so:

This God is named as the power to create, the one who causes to be.  This God is the one who will be present in faithful ways to make possible what is not otherwise possible.  This God is the very power of newness that will make available new life for Israel outside the deathliness of Egypt.

–page 714

The politics of Exodus 2 and 3 is that of liberation of the oppressed from their oppressors.  God, these texts tell us, will free the Hebrews from the tyranny of the Pharaoh.  Yet I read difficult politics–that of submission to authority, regardless of its moral nature–in 1 Peter 2:13-17.  The next pericope is more chilling, for it tells slaves to obey their masters.  There have been different forms of slavery over the course of time, of course, but I propose that this, for the point I am making today, is a distinction without a difference; no form of human slavery is morally acceptable.  1 Peter comes from a time when many Christians were attempting to prove that they did not constitute a threat to the Roman Empire, which had executed the founder of their religion via crucifixion.  And many Christians thought that Jesus might return soon, so social reform or revolution was not a priority for some.

The relationship of Christians to civil authority has long been a challenging one, especially in Lutheran theology.  And the arch-conservative (racist and reactionary, really) Presbyterian Journal, which helped to give birth to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination in December 1973, spent much of the 1940s through the 1960s lambasting civil rights efforts and activists and quoting the Bible to justify Jim Crow laws.  (I have examined original copies of the publication and possess the notes to prove the statement I just made.)  The Journal writers, who called Martin Luther King, Jr., a Communist even after he had died, did not approve of his opposition to the Vietnam War either.  They, in fact, criticized in very strong terms even conscientious objectors and all forms of civil disobedience, claiming them to be contrary to Christianity.  The beating of this drum continued into the 1970s.  In the 30 October 1974 issue, on pages 11 and 16, Editor G. Aiken Taylor commended and reprinted words by one Joan B. Finneran, whom he called

an elect lady of Simpsonville, MD.

Finneran wrote that the Bible commands us to obey earthly authority, for God establishes governments.  Therefore:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

God is in control, Finneran wrote, even if we, in our ignorance, do not understand divine plans.  And we Americans ought to vote carefully and to pray for our elected officials–and obey them, of course.  Finneran’s message, cloaked in details of Reformed theology,was one of submission to authority–even genocidal tyrants.  That fact overrides any technically correct parts of her case in my mind.

I reject Finneran’s message, for, if one cannot disobey the Third Reich righteously, which regime can one oppose properly?  Even the very conservative Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America understood the limits of obedience to human authority well in 1896, when the Synod passed a resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for its massacres of Armenians and declaring that the Sultan’s regime had lost its moral right to govern.

I must, in all fairness and accuracy, point out that the Presbyterian Church in America has (subsequent to 1974) approved of civil disobedience in some cases and (in 2004) approved a pastoral letter condemning racism.

The Old Testament reveals the character of God mostly by recounting what God has done.  God has, among other things, freed people.  The central theme of the Bible is liberation to follow God.  Our patterns of behavior reveal our character.  Do we even try to follow God?  Do we even attempt to aid those who suffer?  Do we even care about the oppressed?  Good intentions are positive, of course; they are preferable to bad ones.  Yet we need grace to succeed.  That, fortunately, is plentiful from God, who makes life itself and new life free from tyranny possible.








Adapted from this post:


Metropolis (1927)   Leave a comment


Above:  Shift Change from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture I Took


Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Thea von Harbou

To say that Metropolis is a classic and influential film is to understate reality greatly; immediately I recognize echoes of it in the works of James Whale (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein), George Lucas (Star Wars, sequels, and prequels), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner).  Scholars of cinema can and do create long lists of influences and subsequent homages.  And to state that those who butchered the movie (even destroying cut scenes) shortly after the movie’s debut were blooming idiots is to claim the obvious as true.  Fortunately, a nearly complete restored version (finished in 2010) is available.

There are versions of the movie available for home viewing.  I have the 2001 restored version (with about 3/4 of the movie present) and the 2010 restored version (with 99% of the footage included).  Alas, two scenes are, to the best of current knowledge, beyond salvage, so intertitles summarizing them will have to suffice.  Each of these versions–the Restored Authorized Version of 2001 and the Complete Metropolis of 2010–has different and helpful special features, so I recommend owning both if one is a cinephile.  The commentary track on the 2001 version is quite informative, for example, as is the documentary included with the 2010 edition.

This is a religious blog, so I choose to leave most aspects of the movie to already extant websites (such as and ), which cover that ground quite well as I ponder some of the movie’s spiritual connections.  A film in which a city leader rules from the New Tower of Babel (a reference to Genesis 11:1-9), people read from the Book of Revelation (with references to the Whore of Babylon from chapters 17 and 19), and the leader’s son must serve as the mediator between the head (the ruler) and the hands (the oppressed workers) calls out for theological analysis.

Thea von Harbou’s story is set in an unnamed European city in 2026.  Urban elites live in skyscraper penthouses and play in the Eternal Gardens.  Meanwhile, those who built the city and who keep it functioning live hard lives, work ten-hour shifts, and occupy subterranean homes.  Joh Fredersen, the ruthless industrialist who governs the city, considers this arrangement just; the workers are, he says,

Where they belong.

His son, Freder, is naively unaware of the plight of the “other half” until Maria, the prophet of the working class, brings some of the workers’ barefoot children, clad in rags, to the Eternal Gardens and shows them their

brothers and sisters.

The butler shoos them away, of course.  But Freder begins to search the city in search of the woman with whom he has just fallen in love.  He does find her eventually, but not before he witnesses and experiences the harsh industrial conditions.  And he begins to realize his destiny to function as the mediator who will avert the violent overthrow of his father’s regime and who will create justice for the workers.

Some characters are inexact analogs for biblical figures.

Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure.  Not only is he the mediator, but he is crucified on a clock in one scene in which he takes a worker’s place.

If Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure, his father Joh is the YHWH figure.  If one reads the Hebrew Scriptures closely, one realizes that YHWH is not always nice.  Joh does approve of the workers’ rebellion so that he can crush it, eliminate troublemakers, and rule with an even more iron fist; he is an unsympathetic character.  Meanwhile, back in the Old Testament, depictions of YHWH are sometimes unpleasant; YHWH does send plagues and pestilences upon innocent populations more than once.  (See Exodus 7:14-12:32 and 2 Samuel 24:10-17, for example.)

Above:  Rotwang shows Joh Frederson the “Machine Man”

Rotwang, the inventor and prototypical cinematic mad scientist, is the Satan figure.  He pursues his own agenda and desires to undermine Joh.  Rotwang almost succeeds.

The movie portrays inhumane industrial conditions as idolatry.  In one scene Freder witnesses an industrial accident which claims human casualties.   He imagines the machine as Moloch/Molech, the Ammonite deity mentioned in 1 Kings 11:7 and 2 Kings 23:10, and experiences a hallucination of the machine consuming willing and unwilling human sacrifices.

Alas, the film’s conclusion does seem like a too-convenient deus ex machina, one which leaves the oppressive Joh Fredersen in charge.  But perhaps he will change his ways; nobody is beyond repentance and redemption, right?

Metropolis, despite its inconsistencies, is a staggering achievement and a masterpiece, one worthy of thoughtful appreciation and analysis beyond its obvious technical excellence.  This is not a story of the violent overthrow of the dictatorial and insensitive regime. Rather, the aborted uprising is the work of Rotwang, the Satan analog, who seeks to overthrow Joh, and of Joh, who wants to use the opportunity for his own purposes, only to find that they backfire on him.  So the politics of the film are inconsistent.  One might guess, based on the early scenes, that the ending might be different:  Freder and Maria overthrow Joh, with the screenwriter’s approval.  But no!

Yet the movie is what it is.  And the theme of social justice, especially that of the economic variety, is consistent with the ethos of the Hebrew prophets.