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Shaw, Frank


The Earliest Non-Mystical Jewish Use of IAO.


Leuven: Peeters Publishers 2014. XX, 431 S. = Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology, 70. Kart. EUR 60,00. ISBN 978-90-429-2978-4.


Bob Becking

This important book contains an abundant but thorough argument based on three Greek letters in a Qumran manuscript. Frank Shaw starts his exposition with a remark on LXX manuscript found at Qumran. In the document 4QLXXLevb = 4Q120 the Greek translation of the first five chapters of the Book of Leviticus is transmitted. Of great importance is the observation that the name for the Israelite divine is not rendered with κυριος, ПІПІ or the paleo-Hebrew form of the tetragrammaton, but with the word Ιαω. ПІПІ occurs in LXX-manuscripts and is a redrawing of Hebrew yhwh in Greek characters. This occurrence of the divine name apparently in its pronounced form is the starting point for a discourse challenging some long established ideas: (1) The orig-inal LXX renders yhwh with κυριoς and it is only in later Hebraizing revisions that this word is replaced by ПІПІ or the paleo-Hebrew form of the tetragrammaton. (2) The divine name was not articulated by Jews already long before the Christian era. (3) The word Ιαω known from Gnostic, mystical and magic writings had been used long before the Christian era in its mystical meaning, which was one of the supposed main reasons for Jews not to ar-ticulate the divine name.
In the first stage of his discourse, S. analyses the evidence from the onomastica. He refers to a group of texts in which generally in an alphabetic order Hebrew names are given an explanation in Greek – and in some documents in Syriac and Ethiopic. He makes the correct observation that in many cases the Yahwistic theophorous element in Biblical names is rendered with some form of the word Ιαω. This habit has very deep roots in history and is already attested in the age of Philo of Alexandria. Next to that the word Ιαω in these onomastica is not used in a mantic or mystical way.
In a second step, S. pays attention to the evidence from Greek and Latin sources. His star-witnesses are Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca i.94.2, and Marcus Terentius Varro apud Johannes Lydus, de Mensibus 4.53. After a more than thorough investigation, he concludes that both authors must have been aware of the non-mystical use by Jews of their divine name articulated Ιαω. As regards Siculus, I am convinced. S.’s contextual reading of the Varro fragment, however, is not without its problems. Next he turns to the Phoenician His-tory of Pseudo Philo who claims that in his second millennium BCE source, Sanchunyaton, mention is made of »the priests of a god Ιευω« (or Ιαω in a quotation in Theodoret of Cyrrhus). Although this reference most probably gives evidence for the second half of the first millennium and a clear connection with the Israelite religion is absent, it can be concluded that among Semitic speaking people such a deity was venerated. The next pieces of the puzzle are even less clear and do – in my opinion – not have any argumenta-tive force. S. refers to a passage in the Roman author Valerius Maximus, a remark by the Roman official Gaius in Philo, Legatio ad Gaium, 353, as well as a set of possible connections between Ιαω and the divinized Eternity as well as Dionysius. A minor and likewise in­conclusive section is devoted to the strange fact that in Coptic the word Ιαω is homophonic with their word for »ass«.
He then turns his attention to the evidence from ecclesiastical and Jewish sources. Only a handful of traces for the use of Ιαω in first millennium Christian documents have been found. An interesting piece is the mention of this name on a terra-cotta lamb found in a Christian context in Corinth in the fifth-sixth century. A few attestations in the pseudepigrapha make clear that in Jewish circles the name Ιαω remained in use in a non-mystical way (e. g. Apocalypse of Abraham 17.13; Ladder of Jacob 2.18; Apocalypse of Moses 29.4). The passage from Mishna Sukkah 4.5 that S. reads as a piece of evidence is not very clear. I would list this as a form of theory-laden-observation. Interesting is his discussion of the syna-gogue from Dura Europos.
Then, S. turns from texts to theory. Here he makes two important remarks. (1) The evidence displayed does not support the view that »original« LXX would have contained κυριος at all instances. (2) The mystical use of Ιαω is, contrary to common opinion, not attested in texts dating from before the turn of the era. Only a few attestations for the first century CE are known. The heyday of this use in Gnostic writings, mystical texts and on apotropaic utensils lies in the third century.
On the basis of all these observations and analyses he correctly concludes that the three ideas mentioned above can no longer be held for true. Jews continued to articulate the divine name as yahô well into the Christian era. The mystical use of Ιαω is to be seen as a later development provoked by changing ideas on the character of the divine. His argument is compelling.
Nevertheless, I would like to make a few critical remarks. (1) S.’s use of the term »mystical« is rather sloppy. Under this umbrella he brings together of mantic and magical practices. (2) His treatment of scholars who hold opinions different from his is at times un-pleas­ant and disrespectful and shows in a pedantic way the mind-set of a scholar who has seen the light. (3) A few minor errors: To label the Yahwistic community in and around Elephantine in the fifth century BCE as »Jewish« is an obvious anachronism. The absence of W. W. G. von Baudissin, Kyrios als Gottesname im Judentum und seine Stelle in der Religionsgeschichte (4 Bände), Gießen 1929, is as-tonishing given the fact that S. quite constantly argues against him. It was only by coincidence that I found this work listed under the abbreviations. Despite these remarks, I hope that his book will be read not only by Biblical scholars and ancient historians, but also by all those clergymen who continue to communicate the idea that the divine name was not articulated by Jews at a very early stage in the development of the Yahwistic religion.