Anthropomorphism and the Name of G-d
In traditional Judaism you’re not supposed to say the name of God ’YHWH’ because it is too sacred. When they read their Scriptures and come across "The Name" (that is, ‘YHWH’), they say ‘Adonai’ (‘Master’) instead. Indeed, in their Scriptures they print YHWH without the vowel points — there’s no point! In some forms of Judaism they won’t even say the word ‘God’ in ANY language. You can see this in the gospels: The Gospel of Matthew was directed to the Jews, so although the other Gospels use the phrase "the Kingdom of God", in Matthew you’ll only find "the Kingdom of the Heavens." Let’s try that out in this blog and use ’G-d’ to refer to You Know Who.
A standard notion in our Myth of Progress (a fundamental Myth of our culture) is that primitive cultures had anthropomorphic (human form) ideas of G-d — an old man in the sky sitting on a throne. Like Zeus, for example. But as a result of the Steady March of Human Progress™, we now have more sophisticated notions of G-d that aren’t anthropomorphic. So the story goes. But do we?
We say that G-d is ‘omnipresent’ — present everywhere. As a human being I have extent in space — height, girth (a little too much of that), etc. By ‘omnipresent’ aren’t we saying that G-d also has extent in space — except that Hers is infinite and mine is not? We say that G-d is ‘eternal’. As a human being I exist in time for a short while on this earthly plane, but G-d forever. By ‘eternal’ aren’t we saying that G-d also exists in time — except that His time is forever and mine is not? Or we say that G-d is ’conscious’. That is, She has ‘consciousness’ like ours, only infinitely more. In all these cases aren’t we saying that G-d is like us — only infinitely more? Isn’t that still anthropomorphic? How do we know that the nature of G-d bears any resemblance at all to how we humans are in space/time or the nature of our human consciousness? Or in any other way?
In all these cases we are saying G-d is like us, only much much more of the same. That boils down to a difference in QUANTITY. Instead, I have to wonder if G-d isn’t different in QUALITY — in fundamental nature altogether.
We say that Jesus is G-d made flesh. But when I consider the Christ, I don’t see someone like me only a whole lot more good and with all the bad left out. No, I see Someone who is QUALITATIVELY DIFFERENT from me. Fundamentally different down to the bone.
So I have to wonder if Judaism isn’t on to something with not saying the name ’G-d’: not only because His name is so sacred, but also because I may have no idea what I’m talking about! That my mind and concepts may be nowhere equal to the task. At the very least it helps me remember to bring humility and an open mind to any discussion about the nature of G-d.