November 29, 2012

Prof. Serge Verhovskoy: The Distinction Between the Created and the Uncreated Names of God.

A particular form of the revelation of God in a word is the revelation of God in the Divine Names. A Name of God, as a human word, is, of course, created. (It is, therefore, possible to use it senselessly or “in vain.” The identification of a Name of God, as a [created] word, with God Himself is a heresy which was condemned by the Russian Holy Synod in the twentieth century.) But God Himself can dwell and act in it.
The Divine aspect of a Divine Name is, as it were, a Divine “self-definition” or a thought of God about Himself. The presence of a divine principle in the Divine Names follows from the whole attitude of the Old Testament toward Them. The Name of God is Holy, and God sanctifies Himself in His Name (Lev. 22:32). Men can offend the Name of God by their sins (Am. 2:7). God acts for the sake of His Name (Ez. 39:7, 25). The [uncreated] Name of God is one, great and eternal, as is God Himself (Ps. 9:2, 135:13, Zech. 14:9). God acts through His Name (Ps. 54:1). If there were nothing Divine in the Name of God, how would it be possible for us to bless, praise and love it, worship and serve it, rejoice in it and be persecuted for it’s sake? Finally it is striking that God reveals His Names (e.g. Ex. 3:13–14, 6:3). It follows that They express the genuine Divine reality.

God is near to a man in His Names (Ps. 76:1). The presence of God is equivalent to the presence of the Name of God. The Name of God dwells in the whole earth and especially in the Holy Land, in Israel, in Jerusalem, in the temple and in individuals. The Jews loved to give their children names in which there was a Divine Name (Ishmael, John, Joachim, Jesus, etc.).

There are about one hundred Divine Names in the Old Testament. Each of them has its own meaning. It is possible to include into Them the entire theology of the Old Testament. The Divine Name is “wonderful” (Jg. 13:17–18); it is “remembrance of God” (Ex. 3:15). God reveals His Name in order for men to know Him (Ex. 6:3, 33:19; Jer. 23:6).

"God and man: the Doctrine of the Knowledge of God in terms of Eastern Orthodoxy," pp. 95-6,  Serge Verhovskoy
Professor of Dogmatic Theology,
St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.