Writing the Unwritable

Susie Miller at Sojourn Ministries has an interesting post which brought back memories for me: why i write G-d…. Coincidentally perhaps, my friend Trev sent me something he’d written, also using “G-d” throughout. During most of my undergraduate years, I was part of a Messianic Jewish congregation in El Paso, which observed the Jewish reverence for the divine name by writing it with a hyphen, G-d.

That reverence is why the Old Testament is filled with the phrase (usually in small caps) “the Lord” instead of the ancient divine name, Yahweh. Most translations follow that tradition, which causes many verses to lose their original meaning. Compare “the Lord is God,” with “Yahweh is God,” which implies that Yahweh is God, and Baal, Moloch, Ashtoreth, et. al. are not.

Susan writes:

Thus i write G-d, like the Hebrews do: to allow there to be Mystery within the very name i use for The Incomprehensible Eternal One….to acknowledge the limits of our rudimentary language and its awkward inability to really name anything, beyond the accepted semiotic usage of the day and time…

On the mystical path, all words and pronouns seem woefully inadequate, and writing “G-d” calls attention to the fact. I might do that myself, except that I hate hyphens as no other mark of punctuation! Jacques Derrida would probably write “God” to show that we’re just borrowing a word for Something beyond all concepts.

icon of ChristA strictly impersonal metaphor, such as the Tao, could be “It”. . . but even capitalized, “It” seems too impersonal. The Sanskrit word Tat (That) seems much better, since “that” can be personal or impersonal. Early Buddhists spoke of Suchness, and called the Buddha “the one who has come from Suchness.” Some Christian mystics used similar words. Meister Eckhart called God “Isness”–emphasizing “him” as the Ground of Being, and Hildegard of Bingen called God hæcceitas, This-ness.

Eastern Orthodox icons of Christ have the Greek words Hō On (The Being) written on the halo’s cross (left), which is the Greek translation of “I am that I am,” the divine name in Exodus 3. Eckhart Tolle also uses the word Being as a substitute for God.

Pronouns are a special problem. The default divine pronoun is masculine and personal, in view of the very common (and often misleading) personal, masculine metaphor of God. Using “divine” sometimes gets around the need for possessive pronouns, but it seems rather weak. I like the definite quality of This, That, and Such, although they’re probably too strange for prime-time, and should be used sparingly.

For God so loved the world, that Such gave This only-begotten Son…

I usually fall back to the “defaults” for convenience. Any thoughts out there?