jesus, the name of god

Lots of thinking has been done about Jesus as the logos or “Word” of God (notably, Jn. 1:1-18). But for a paper on naming God and the question of whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same god, I’m doing some thinking about Jesus as the “name of God.”

Here are a few disparate thoughts…

What does it mean to say that Jesus is the name of God…? This makes God infinitely more universal as well as infinitely more historical and particular…

Universal because it if the man Jesus is the name of God, then there’s no need to utter the name—every word uttered from the mouth of a human participates and (in some mysterious way) honors and glorifies God, because God has in Christ sanctified all mouths and all words.* Yet particular because he did this through one man, living at one point in time—and then (mystery of mysteries!) not living at all, then living again eternally in some strange fashion none of us has ever experienced.

So the sort of exclusivity Christians enjoy by virtue of worshipping God through his very name is not the sort of exclusivity which is generally meant when someone claims to be worshipping a god by name. Jews have “Yahweh,” the sacred name of God given to them in the story of Moses’ encounter at the burning bush (Ex. 3). Muslims have “Allah,” given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel, though this is not considered by them to be a proper name (but merely the Arabic word for “God”–literally, “the god”).

Thus, each tradition implicitly claims exclusive access to God by virtue of calling God by his true or proper name.

*(This might be considered a parallel insight to the one undergirding the atonement theory commonly called “Christus Victor,” in which God redeems all men by virtue of becoming a man himself.)

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