24 July 2009


More from the e-mail out-box

ere's a brief e-mail exchange relative to our occasional discussions about "contextualization." I originally posted this on the first "Pyromaniac" blog several years ago, and it generated quite a conversation. Let's have a go at it again:

To: K___ B_____
From: "Phillip R. Johnson"
Subject: Cr--t-r?!

Dear K_____,

You wrote:

> I serve M-ss--h in a Jewish
> context. Hence the omission
> of the vowels in the names
> of G-d. You have my per-
> mission to publish any part
> of my messages you choose,
> but I have one request: Please
> do not edit my words so as to
> add the letters I have omitted.
> Were my post to come into the
> hands of a Jew, my credibility
> with the community would be
> suspect for writing out the
> name of the Cr--t-r. See what
> Rav' Shaul (the apostle Paul)
> wrote in 1 Cor. 9:20-21.

Perhaps you could explain this practice further. It seems to me that this is an accommodation to a superstition that is grounded in an unbiblical notion of what it means to take the Lord's name in vain. And as far as I can tell, it is not even the whole Jewish community who follow this superstition, but a fairly narrow segment of Hasidim.

Since the whole idea behind this practice goes against what Christ taught, I've always felt it is inappropriate for Christians to cater to it. We don't cross ourselves or bow to the communion elements in order to accommodate the superstitions of Roman Catholics. Why omit vowels in order to accommodate selected Pharisaic-style superstitions? (And even in the word Cr--t-r?!! That's the first time I've seen that.)

This isn't a case of obeying any law or tradition that reflects the true intent of the Old Testament commandments. In fact, it tacitly seems to sanction a perversion of God's law. It's precisely the kind of thing Y'shua refused to accommodate for the sake of pleasing overscrupulous Pharisees (cf. Mark 7:2-9). In fact, He attacked the myth that lies behind the superstition against pronouncing or spelling out the name of God (cf. Matthew 23:16-24).

I also think it's a huge and totally unwarranted logical leap to portray this practice as a legitimate application of the 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 principle: "Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law . . . that I might gain them that are without law."

Since you've appealed to that text, I have four questions for you:

  1. Have you carefully considered the possibility that your observing this practice is perpetuating a myth about the appropriate way to express one's reverence for God's name? Again, I refer you to Mark 7:2-9 for our Lord's own example of how to deal with Jewish traditions that subvert the true meaning of the law.
  2. If the no-vowels-in-God's-name rule is a perversion of the law rather than a legitimate application of the third commandment, do you really imagine Rav' Shaul would have sanctioned it?
  3. Do you follow both sides of Rav' Shaul's maxim? When you write to me, you're writing to a Goy. So why do you insist on retaining (and to a large degree, it seems, flaunting) the ceremonial and religious accoutrements of Jewish culture? What about becoming as one who is without law to them who are without law? Do you ever do that? Or are you treating certain Old Testament ceremonial requirements as inviolable, even among the Goyim?
  4. Are you really Jewish? Because in my experience, a high percentage of Christians who imitate Hasidic practices are not really from orthodox Jewish backgrounds at all, but Goyim-born Hebrew-wannabes (or secular Jews who have embraced Christ as Meshiach)—with the mistaken notion that cloaking the Christian faith in the robes and phylacteries of Orthodox Jewish religious traditions somehow makes Christianity seem more "authentic." (As if Christ were not Savior of the Goyim, too.) That's the very mindset that gave rise to Galatianism, and it's a troubling and persistent tendency of Messianic Judaism, I fear.

You wrote,

> As a trained Rav', surely Shaul
> would have not have shown such
> disrespect to G-d's name as to
> write it out when corresponding
> with fellow Jews.

However, he did just that, in his epistle to the Romans, which included Jewish recipients.

And he certainly would not have shown such disrespect to his Gentile brethren as to insist on treating God's name as unspeakable in his correspondence with them. Nothing you have said explains why you insist on observing Hasidic superstitions in your correspondence with me.

Thus my objection to the missing vowels still stands. This is not a legitimate principle of Old Testament law, but a manufactured tradition invented by men, or worse—a matter of superstition based on a serious corruption of the law.

And I think it is a serious mistake for Christians to play along with such superstitions.

Phil's signature


Mark B. Hanson said...

I remember going to a Jewish bar-mitzvah several years ago, when I could still reed Hebrew letters. I remember that 13 year old Jewish boy reading large portions of the scripture in Hebrew. The only thing he didn't read verbatim was the tetragrammaton (YHWH), for which he substituted Adonai. In a true Jewish assembly, that is the only name of God forbidden to pronounce. And, of course, it is the only Hebrew word in the modern Hebrew text that has no vowels.

I have noticed in some Jewish writing in English the use of G-d, which apparently modern Jews consider the proper translation of the name of YHWH, but no modification of any other such word - especially descriptive ones like messiah or creator.

I think your calling him out as a poseur was correct.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Oh, and as for the broader topic, I think superstition may underplay a serious problem, which involves at best lack of consideration about what the third commandment really means (the Westminster Larger Catechism pretty well covers the turf here), and at worst a belief that God won't notice our disobedience if only we don't mention his name.

I am reminded of Jesus' argument about swearing on the altar vs. the gold on the altar.

donsands said...

".. a high percentage of Christians who imitate Hasidic practices are not really from orthodox Jewish backgrounds at all, but Goyim-born Hebrew-wannabes"

I have had Gentile friends, who said, "I never say Jesus, but always Yeshua." And I even had one Gentile friend wear a yarmulke, and we had some short debates on the purpose of the law, let me tell you.

I rejoice so much for God's sovereign grace upon the Apostle Paul to write the epistle to the Galatians.

Thanks for the good post.

DJP said...

This is indeed Classic Phil. It illustrates perfectly why some people love you, and some bark, howl, bite their ankles and scrabble at walls.

Polite, measured, razor-sharp, clear-thinking, articulate, dead on-target.

Classic Phil.

Josh said...

What is your opinion on people that attend Messianic congregations? My wife's aunt attends one and it has always bugged me. I guess I just don't get the point of it all, but it seems to me that their major points are meeting on friday evenings, celebrating the feast days, and observing the dietary restrictions. A lot of it seems like an unnecessary hassle, and from my impression it appears to spring forth from a love of Jewish culture and for the nation of Israel. I think the part that bothers me the most is that a number of these people put such a huge emphasis on Israel and the Christ seems to come second to that. Just my impression, I could be wrong. It seems to me that it is a form of works righteousness.

eastendjim said...

In one of the Way of the Master episodes, a rabbi got angry about a million dollar bill Ray handed out to his son(?) when he realized that it was a gospel tract. In the ensuing rant, the rabbi refused to say the name of Jesus Christ, but would only refer to Him as J_C_.

Does that meant he was acknowledging that Jesus is God?

Frank Turk said...

We miss Phil when he's having a real life. My suggestion unto him is that he abandon his real life and stay here with us where it's warm and safe.

This is his blog, after all ...

Frank Turk said...

BTW, I have met a few actual "messianic jews" in my travels as a former bookstore owner, and it's funny how they sorta get that messianism is sort of "for them" and "not for" me -- a non-Jew.

That is: they think that Jesus means something more to them than he does to me. And in one sense, they may be right -- or would my dispensational friends reject the idea that the messiah has promises He must fulfill to Israel which are not for the Gentiles?

... :-) ...

DJP said...

Oh, I know. Terrible, isn't it? Like those people who think there are things men can do that women must't! Don't they know we're just one big gloppy mess of covenant goodness?


Bob said...

When I Pastored in Brooklyn NY, I ministered to alot of Jews. I never had this kind of communication with them. There is certainly something "off" with his communication. I am tempted to agree with the "poser" theory. Most of the Jews that were in our church in Brooklyn that were converted were previously secular, so when they were saved, it was hard to tell them from the Gentile believers. We were all just, "believers".

donsands said...

"..the messiah has promises He must fulfill to Israel which are not for the Gentiles?"

There's a nice rabbit path to wander down, but I won't.

"Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham, I am one of them, and so are you."

Chad V. said...

So true donsands

Eph. 2:11-13 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Gal 3:29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

DJP said...

Amen. Sons of Abraham.

Not of Jacob.

DJP said...

OK now, to unscramble this e... well, to un-Frank this meta:

This post takes me back. It was before Phil teamed up with Frank and Pec and me to form Pyromaniacs.

I sort of tag-teamed with Phil on this post, and contributed THIS.

donsands said...

"Not of Jacob."


And not of Ishmael, but of Issac?

DJP said...

I've gone back to Phil's topic. Join me?

Doug Hibbard said...

Out of respect, Dan, I think you should say you've gone back to Ph-l's topic here on the P-r- blog.

But maybe I'm just nuts.

Doug, one not worthy to omit his own vowels.

donsands said...

"As I recall, C. S. Lewis referred to this sort of thing as "trying to be holier than God."- Dan

Nice article Dan.

olan strickland said...

That was a great but short game of tag between Frank, Dan, Donsands, and Chad - but Dan won - after he tagged everyone he got on base where he can't be tagged again (see 6:54 and 7:26 AM).

There seems to be no end to the misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 9:20-21.

ntl nxt tm! :)

Phil Johnson said...

That post by Dan was one of the major reasons when I started team-blogging, I wanted him on the team.

See also this follow-up, a rare guest-post, written by my longtime best friend, Steve Kreloff.

Anders said...


You write about Galatians.

I recommend you and the reader of this post to do an extensive research of NT and Pauls doctrines (and learn what the followers of Ribi Yehoshua – the Netzarim - said about Paul; see the below website) to find about its origin and the origin of the Church.

Read more here:

Anders Branderud
Geir Tzedeq, Netzarim

The Squirrel said...

"Profile Not Available"

OH, I am just SHOCKED! Not...


John said...

_t s--ms t- m- th-t -n -rd-r t- b- c-mpl-t-ly f--r w- m-st -v--d -ll v-w-ls wh-n c-mm-n-c-t-ng, -ft-r _ll, "_ s--d y-- -r- g-ds". S- fr-m n-w -n, Fr-nk pr-m-s-s n-t t- -s- -ny m-r- v-w-ls.

Larry Geiger said...

I appreciate that whether he agreed or disagreed with KB, he respected his request and the quoted post was left as KB wrote it.

donsands said...

"I recommend you and the reader of this post to do an extensive research of NT and Pauls doctrines"

That's what my whole life is all about. I have a local church and pastors/teachers, whom I know and trust.
I have my own Bible, and I have fine leaders in the church like RC Sproul, John MacArthur, Sinclaur Ferguson, DA Carson, and many others to learn from, as well as Phil Johnson and his pyro-comrades.

Don't need Netzarim. Whatver it may be.

Chad V. said...


It's Phariseeism.

Now we've done it, we've fed the troll.

Frank Turk said...

How exactly was my comment off-topic?

Anonymous said...


Some dispensationalists go overboard in this area. They place too much emphasis on Israel and the Jews and seem to forget that they need Christ too.

It irritates me that many are constantly looking at the daily news coming from Israel and attempting to read it into the major and minor prophets, rather than letting the OT speak for itself.

As if we needed more proof that God is working His plan in the world.

Rhology said...

Some good friends of mine are not Messianic but just really really like studying the OT and even celebrating the feastdays and suchlike. They enjoy it and point to Christ therein and all that, enjoin no obligation on anyone to do any of their distinctives but simply invite their friends to come with them if they want.

For this, their church excommunicated them for violating Galatians, b/c according to some of the people in the church, they'd seen visions that showed that Satan was entering into their congregation b/c of my friends' voluntary actions in their small group. Sigh.

This is a great post, and it shows that good smacks upside the head are due all around sometimes.

Marie said...


They excommunicated them?! Doesn't that seem more than a little knee-jerk??

I noticed this tendency for some Christians to celebrate Passover, use "Yeshua" instead of "Jesus" and other OT customs a few years ago online, and to tell you the truth it always seemed a little strange to me...like they were trying to "play Jewish". But, if someone wants to do that and it helps them understand and appreciate the faith tradition, what harm is there in it? It should never divide believers.

That's shocking that a church would come down on your friends like that...especially as many churches now actually do some sort of Passover Christian celebration.

DJP said...

Maybe we should start a movement calling Him "yay-SOOCE" (the Gk. pronunciation), since the Bible never once calls Him "Yeshua."

Boerseuntjie said...

I note from Young's Literal Translation (YLT) -

Deuteronomy 5:11
"`Thou dost not take up the Name of Jehovah[YVH] thy God FOR A VAIN THING, for Jehovah[YVH] doth not acquit him who taketh up His Name FOR A VAIN THING."

Certanly in Exposition or Hymns and Spiritual Songs, as in Spiritual conversation we are not ever INTENDING to use the Nameof YVH for a vain thing? If we are, there is something seriously amiss in our salvation - the Spirit of the Living God surely does not speak against Himself!?

I think we have "LOST" the value of the Name that is ABOVE every name; by omitting or replacing it with LORD/Adonai.

I love YVH, the Elohim of Jacob/Isarel. Therefore I rejoice in His Name - using it in fear, love and reverance; because He has become my Salvation (Isaiah 12:2) - Yes even me a Goyim... (See the prophet Jonah and many other examples of "grafting in the Goyim into te Root of David, Messiah Yeshua.

At the end of the day the Scriptures and the LORD of the Scriptures never changes no matter what the Rabbis or Pastors may say.

I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Phil Johnson - we have to be careful not to assume what the Scriptures do not teach; such things are without authority.

As Dr. C. W. Smith of the Masters College said in his final Chapel "Don't tell me what YOU THINK the Scripture say - TELL ME WHAT THE SCRIPTURE SAYS!"

Without direct and explicit Scriptural REFERANCE there is not the Authority of YVH: Our Father, or of His Messiah, or of His Spirit - therefore there is not Authority to bind in either case.

Your bondslave for the Root of David - the Messiah of all the world and it's all it's nations and tribes Alone,

Rhology said...


Yes, very knee-jerk. When I first heard about it, I was afraid since the church had a fairly solid rep.

So I got together with the "ringleader" over coffee and said "man, they excommunicated you! That's serious." He was like "tell me about it."
So I looked him in the eye and asked, "Do you believe that the guilty sinner is reconciled to God by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone?"
He looked me right back and said, "Yes."

What else was there to do but commiserate with this dear brother who had been the victim of "visions"? That church treated my friends very unfairly and unbiblically.

Solameanie said...

I actually allowed myself to get sucked into that once when trying to witness to a Jewish lady, who was also schooled as an "anti-missionary." She told me I was breaking the command not to take God's name in vain. In my mind then, I thought the Gospel was more important than getting sidetracked into a dispute over a hyphen, but in retrospect, I wish I hadn't given ground on that area. It is indeed a precise example of Jewish tradition getting in the way of what God actually commanded.

As an aside, I didn't think Frank derailed the meta, but the momentary doubt did make me wonder about something. If I derail a meta -- intentionally or unintentionally -- does that mean I am taking advantage of franking privileges?

Phil said...

No Sol, it just means you have taken the fr-nk-ng pr-v-l-dg-s in vain.

Sir Brass said...

I have to wonder....are those pyro-dogs in the picture.....oh, I don't know..... kosher?

Sorry, I couldn't resist :P.

lee n. field said...


Profile Not Available"

OH, I am just SHOCKED! Not..."

I think this same guy showed up briefly on Freerepublic, with a single post along this same line.


"Maybe we should start a movement calling Him "yay-SOOCE" (the Gk. pronunciation), since the Bible never once calls Him "Yeshua.""


But they don't want to hear about that. You'll hear about hypothetical hebrew originals (of which no examples exist).

Joshua said...

You should still honor the guy's request, and pass on any of his communications faithfully, since it's just plain bad practice to edit out clear semantic intent. However, it would be perfectly appropriate to put "(sic)" after all of the hyphens, since that is, indeed, sick.

DJP said...

You'll hear about hypothetical hebrew originals (of which no examples exist).

Well, there is the Codex Davehuntiensis, that contains only Acts 13:48....

Anonymous said...


You are a man after my own heart. You must read two of my posts:



I think you will appreciate them.


Anonymous said...

let me try that again:




I hope you can get those, I couldn't figure out what I did wrong before in pasting the links.

greglong said...

It is my understanding that in order to "put a hedge around the Torah", many Jews will not even speak the name "Adonai" in place of "YHWH", but will rather say "Hashem" ("the name") in its place.

See here and here

Interestingly enough, it seems that this practice began at about the same time Jesus Christ was on the earth:

After the death of the high priest Simeon the Righteous, forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, the priests ceased to pronounce the Name (Yoma39b). From that time the pronunciation of the Name was prohibited. "Whoever pronounces the Name forfeits his portion in the future world" (Sanh. xi. 1). Hananiah ben Ṭeradion was punished for teaching his disciples the pronunciation of the Name ('Ab. Zarah 17b). (Jewish Encyclopedia)

Solameanie said...

Now Dan "frank-privileges" the meta by trying to get a Dave Hunt row started. And appropriately so, since we're celebrating John Calvin's birthday.

Wonder if Dave and crew had some cake in honor of Uncle John?

DJP said...

...Dan "frank-privileges" the meta....



TAR said...


TAR said...

Excellent research Greg!

This means that when this became a "practice" the OT had already been superseded by the New Covenant and God was about to destroy the "types "He had given them of the messiah they had killed.

No more temple., no more priesthood, no more sacrifices etc...and in their blindness they were still trying to please God with legalism.

Excellent research..thanks

Libbie said...

As I am nervously approaching being a dispensationalist myself right now, but not 100% convinced, I shall just add my original comment on this practice - it reminds me of the Muslims who insist that they're respecting Jesus more than Christians because they say 'Peace be upon him' after His name, instead of worshipping Him as Lord of all.

DJP said...

That we even need to say such things is a sad thing, Libbie. It should go without saying that God is the best judge of how to honor God. He moves men to write His name 6800+ times, I'm thinking He wants it said.

But no, men know so much better. I make burgers for my family. I love mayonnaise, and so does my Josiah. My wife doesn't. So my dear wife (at her request) gets a scrape of it, Josiah gets a slather of it.

But if I were like these grimly-determined holier-than-Godders, I supposed I'd slather mayonnaise on Valerie's burger, too, because I know that it's better to have more mayonnaise than less.

No matter what the actual consumer herself says.

Bobby Grow said...

This is just silly!

Neo Puritan said...

Dan, I really respect you and the other Pyros here. This has been an awesome blog, but I have to disagree with your criticism here. Really, this boils down to a matter of conscience. If these Messianics want to write God's name with the utmost reverence, why condemn them? Frankly, I don't see them trying to force it down our throats why try to make them do what we think, subjectively I might add, is right in this? I have to further say calling this dude out as a fraud was, shall I say untasteful. I think we should be attacking issues of much more importance than these little issues of no importance whatsoever. It is like calling a family out on the fact that they wear head coverings. Sure I am not going to make my family wear them but I am not going to impose my liberality on them. By dissing the saints, don't we also dis Christ?

Soli Deo Gloria

DJP said...

Who did I call out as a fraud?

As to the rest, you don't really interact with content, Bible nor reasoning beyond saying you find it distasteful for anyone to do so himself, to which I don't know that I need say more than "Sorry you feel that way."

Bobby Grow said...

NeoPuritan (are you sure you want to be a Puritan?),

This isn't a matter of conscience, but of obedience and privilege. If Jesus calls His Father, "Father," then so should we; if He calls Him God and LORD, then so should we; to not do so would be to say that we are holier than Jesus, that our ways are not His ways; etc. To be a Christian is to enter into the throneroom of God boldly, robed in the righteousness of Christ!!!

Michael said...

Since I am a Messianic Jew, I find all this refreshing. In our services we repeatedly remind people of the differences between traditions and commandments. It's too bad they don't do the same in all churches. Superstition isn't unique to any group.

Team Tominthebox News Network said...

Just a question. Do you use a Bible that has "LORD" in all caps in the OT? When you read this passage do you say "LORD" or "Yahweh"? Perhaps, we ought to do away with old superstitions by refusing to say "LORD" ever again when we encounter this in Scripture.

DJP said...

If you're asking me, there is no standard version that doesn't perpetuate the superstition. The HCSB uses "Yahweh" in a number of passages in its first edition, and even more in the second — raising the question of why they don't just use it, period. Their answer wasn't satisfying to me, at any rate.

In practice I do often simply say "Yahweh" when reading a passage with the code-words LORD or GOD. And when I translate, it's always "Yahweh."

Frank Turk said...

FWIW, when I taught my class at church thru the OT, one of the two or three most educational things I did for them was to read "LORD" as "YAHWEH" -- because when they wee that the text is refering to a personal name and not a title, suddenly the kind of covenant and relationship and interaction the text is talking about makes more sense.


DJP said...

Bless you, Turk, and your students were blessed by you, no doubt.

A main reason why it's a vivid issue to me is that I was saved out of a mind-science cult which stressed the impersonality of God, even calling God "Divine Principle" and such names.

Then when Christ saved me, of course the Person of Christ Himself was overwhelming; but I also shortly discovered that God had a name. He was a person. He was the original, if you will, of personality.

To turn around, then, and replace the name God gave Himself with a title seemed treacherous at worst, and counter-productive at best.