One of the most important decisions any Bible translation team has to make has to do with how their translation will treat the divine name. The Voice translation team looked hard at the question and decided to translate God’s name “the Eternal.” In the last post I shared with you two reasons we took that approach. In this third and last post on the question, I want to share with you our final reason.
While we have anglicized most other names in Scripture (Benyamin = Benjamin; Shemuel = Samuel; Jeshua = Joshua; Petros = Peter; Paulos = Paul), we have chosen not to do so with the divine name out of respect for that name and our deep appreciation for both Jewish and Christian traditions. The Ten Directives warn against using the name of God in any frivolous, self-serving way (Exodus 20:7). Over time—and under the influence of this directive—faithful Jewish communities spoke the name less and less until it was prohibited from use altogether except on the most solemn occasions in the temple. Even when Scripture was read aloud in the synagogue, the readers did not utter the divine name; instead, when they came across it in the text, they substituted a word for it. In Aramaic-speaking synagogues they would say “Adonai”; in Greek-speaking they would say “kyrios.”
Many Jews today carry on this tradition of reverence by refusing to speak the name at all and referring to God as “HaShem” (“the Name”). Early Christians continued similar practices regarding sacred names and invented new ways to signal that respect. When, for example, scribes wrote and copied the Scriptures, they refrained from fully spelling out the names and titles associated with God the Father, Son, and Spirit. Instead, they employed what we call today nomina sacra (sacred names). When copyists came across these special names in the text, they would abbreviate them with two letters (generally) and draw a line above those letters to indicate to the reader that this is a sacred name. On the image I've attached to this blog you can see the nomina sacra in the top corners of the image. It says "Jesus the Christ." In the halo around Jesus' head it reads: "the one who is" from the book of Revelation.
The Voice translation of the divine name by “the Eternal” and “the Eternal One” carries on the church’s long-standing tradition of reverence for God and His name. It also attempts to translate the meaning of the name and re-contextualize it for our culture. We wish to emphasize both the covenantal and eternal aspects of God’s name. It is covenantal in that God is revealing His special name as a prelude to an enduring relationship with Him, a relationship in which He promises to be there with and for us. It is eternal in that God’s name, like God Himself, is timeless and unchanging.