Critical Notes -- By: Thomas Laurie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 045:179 (Jul 1888)
Article: Critical Notes
Author: Thomas Laurie


Critical Notes

I. The Name Of God And The Cuneiform Inscriptions

Thomas Laurie

Holy Scripture not only exalts God, but also gives special prominence to his name. The name of God occurs often where we would speak of God himself. Thus God says to Pharaoh (Ex. 9:16), “I have raised thee up— that my name may be declared throughout the earth,” i.e., that I may be known everywhere. So God speaks (Ex. 20:24) of “places where I record my name.” He also says of Solomon (2 Sam. 7:13), “He shall build a house for my name.” Compare 1 Chron. 22:8; 2 Chron. 6:9; 7:20. God speaks of his name being blasphemed (Isa. 53:5); of its being great among the Gentiles (Mal. 1:11); of giving glory to his name (Mal. 2:2); and of “you that fear my name” (Mal. 4:2). The third commandment is, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain “(Ex. 20:7). We are told to pray, not, “Be thou glorified,” but “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9). And the glorified Redeemer commends one church because, to use his own words, “Thou holdest fast my name” (Rev. 2:13), and another, “for thou hast not denied my name “(Rev. 3:8).

All this constitutes a very marked usus loquendi; and without presuming either to account for it, or to call in question the common explanation of it, it is the object of this paper to inquire what light is thrown on this mode of speech by the cuneiform inscriptions.

It appears from them that just as the old realistic philosophy held that there is not only an idea in the mind when using words that denote genera and species, but also actual entities back of the words; so the old Babylonians held that names were things, not only representing objects, but themselves the equivalents of the things they represented. Thus the first line of an account of the creation1 reads, “When the heavens above had not yet announced, nor the earth beneath recorded a name,” as though announcing or recording a name, and creating the things so named were equivalent acts. So it is written, lines 7-9 of the same tablet, “When the gods had not any of them come into being, were mentioned by no name,— then the great Gods were created,” as if the gods came into being when names were assigned to them.

Their magical incantations also confounded together persons and their names. Many specimens of these have been found, and it only needed the name of a person to be inserted in the reading of a spell either to afflict him with disease or to heal him. The idea was that whatever was spoken concerning the name was done to the person that bore the name. The idea that incantations could injure by means of pic...

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