Nazarenes and the Name of YHWH

Nazarenes and the Name of YHWH
By James Scott Trimm

One major distinction between Nazarene Judaism and mainline Judaism of the first century was in regard to their usage of the name of YHWH. While mainline Judaism had limited and in some cases even banned the use of the name of YHWH, Nazarenes were at time persecuted for not participating in this ban.

Banning the Name

Although use of the Name of YHWH was clearly commonplace in Tanak times (Old Testament times), by the first century the Name was used only in the Temple. Even whe reading the Scriptures, mainline Judaism used euphemisms or substitutions instead of pronouncing the name (j.Meg. 71d). According to the Talmud, after the time of Simon the Just (a contemporary of Alexander the Great) the priest stopped using the Name in the blessings (b.Yoma 49b). The ban on the name however, did not continue in this form. Later in the Second Temple era the name was used, but only in the Temple as the Mishnah states:

…In the sanctuary one says the Name as it is written
but in the provinces, with a euphemism….
(m.Sotah 7:6; b.Sotah 38b; m.Tamid 7:2)

In fact the name was used in the Temple even in giving greetings, as the Mishnah states:

[speaking of behavior on the Temple grounds]
And they ordained that an individual should greet his fellow
with [God’s] name, in accordance with what is said, “And
behold Boaz came from Bethlehem; and he said to the
reapers, ‘YHWH be with you!’ And they answered, ‘YHWH
bless you”
(Ruth 2:4)
(m.Ber. 9:5)

The first century Jewish historian Josephus mentions the ban on using the name of YHWH. Josephus, writing on the events of Exodus 3, writes:

…Whereupon God declared to him [Moses] his holy Name,
which had never been discovered to men before