Expansive Language


In the act of prayer and devotion, I believe the language we choose shapes the reality in which we live. 

God — the first-person of the Trinity; the Creator; the one Jesus called “Abba” — has a name. God’s name is “I am who I am,” or “I will be who I will be.” (Scholars aren’t sure which. Check your bible; there’s likely a footnote.)

Ancient temple priests revered God’s name so highly, they would not speak it out loud. At some point long ago — I don’t know when — the vowels were removed from God’s proper name, leaving behind the tetrogram: YHWH. To this day, Jewish liturgists reading scripture replace the proper name of God with words like Adonai (“my lord”), Elohim (“god”) or HaShem (“the name”).

In most Christian versions of the Hebrew Bible, YHWH is transcribed as the LORD (in small capitals). I have a variety of issues with this.

First, the word “lord” is exclusive. In gendered languages like Greek and Hebrew “Adonai” (my lord) is male, thus rendering God masculine whenever a pronoun is required. God created all humanity — male and female — in the divine image. Even the Apostle Paul pressed this point: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). Shouldn’t God’s name be as big as we can make it?

Second, and perhaps more importantly, “lord” has little connection with the meaning and power of God’s name — that of being and becoming. God chose his or her or their (cf. Genesis 1:26) own name to invoke a relationship of growth and adaptation, not one of domination and submission.

Therefore, in reading scripture I replace “The LORD” — which is itself a replacement for YHWH — with “The Holy One.” (I considered “The Evolving One” but that seemed too ridiculous even for me.)

God is worthy to be praised, supreme and almighty. In my faith and life, God wields singular authority and commands me. I am comfortable bowing before God as my master. Better God than television, vice or possessions. Even though God is my lord, that is not his/her/their name. What name would you choose for God?
We could, I suppose, just call him Olga.

To learn more about expansive language click here.