In this fifteenth video on “Theological English”, Jonathan Dunne looks at the importance of names. “Name” is “man” in reverse with a final “e”, and we read in Genesis chapter 2 that God brought the creatures to Adam so that he could “name” them – in effect, so that he could translate them and choose the right word. God didn’t ask Adam to make the creatures because he is not an author – he cannot create out of nothing. He, and the rest of humankind, are translators. So “name” is central to man’s role in this world. What can the names of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary tell us about their roles? And what meaning can we find in the names of people like Strauss and Grant Gustin, and countries like Ukraine?
We saw in the previous article that the letters O WN in icons of Christ Pantocrator refer to the verse Exodus 3:14, in which God meets Moses at the burning bush and reveals his name to him:
God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’ (NRSV)
O WN is the Greek Septuagint translation. It literally means ‘the being’, but in English translations of the Bible the name of God is rendered I AM.
I live in Bulgaria. Here, I have seen these Greek letters, O WN, written O WH, possibly because the letter N is written H in Cyrillic. These two letters are closely connected – in effect, the crossbar between the two parallel lines has simply been straightened, H could be a stylized version of N. If we make them lower case, h is simply an extension of n. We find this a lot in word connections – letters that have been extended: h-n, i-l, v-y.
But there is another reason for introducing the letter H, and that is because ‘the being’ in Greek has a rough breathing: ὁ ὢν. Do you see that little c atop the letter o (which is the definite article, ‘the’)? This little cup or cap atop the letter o represents the sound h in Greek (though it is ignored in modern Greek pronunciation, which I think is a shame). So actually the correct transcription would be HO WN.
Let us look at the alternative spelling, O WH. It is remarkable that as O WN spelled OWN, WON and NOW, so these three letters spell WHO and HOW.
The answer to both questions is Christ.
WHO? The answer is I AM (the English translation of the name of God in Exodus 3:14).
HOW? Christ gives us the answer to this question when in John 14:6 he says, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’ WAY is I AM written with the semi-vowel y (and the m turned upside down).
So the answer to life’s most important question is contained in language. WHO and HOW. In the act of creation (related in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis), the question word was WHAT: what is this creature, what will you call it? Today we are in the habit of selfishly asking WHY. WHY corresponds to the demands of the ego, that is I. In WHAT to WHY, there has been a progression from the first letter of the alphabet – A – to I.
But it is the wrong question. The right question, the only one that will give us an answer, is WHO. When we ask this question, we get the answer: I AM.
In this way, we make the progression from the letter of creation – A – to the ego – I – to O. We count down. The Greek alphabet makes this progression because the last letter in the Greek alphabet is Omega. The Latin alphabet, which we might equate with a more rationalistic, legalistic way of thinking, does not make this progression. It counts up – from I to Z (or 1 to 2).
If we write the correct progression AIO but replace the final letter o with the Greek way of writing Omega, w, that is AIW, we find we are back to I AM. AIO (AIW) is the progression of human life, but the Latin alphabet makes the fatal mistake of counting up: AIZ. Once you start counting up, there is no end. You will never reach an answer (and all the time the answer was right behind you, but you have to have humility, you have to turn around, you have to count down, from I to O).
AIZ is an act of hubris, AIO is an act of humility. But what do we teach our children in school? We teach them to count from 1, not 0 – starting with the ego, I, not with God, O.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this then affects our whole way of thinking: we see everything from our own point of view, in terms of ownership, instead of seeing things as God would have us see them, in terms of service. It is a real wrench to change our way of thinking, but this is what we should be teaching our children. To take a step back, not to affirm the ego (don’t worry, as soon as we lose ourselves, Christ has promised us we will find ourselves again, just as in the act of translation, where the text must disappear momentarily before it reappears in another language).
So we make the progression from WHY to WHO. This progression from I to O is found in other word connections. We make the progression from I to O in LIVE to LOVE, for example, instead of turning LIVE around, perverting it, and getting EVIL. That is the choice that is open to us in this life. Another example of the progression from I to O is SIN to SON. We stop sinning, or at least we try to, and become children of God. Even CHRIST made this progression when he submitted to death on the CROSS for our sakes. He counted down (look at the vowels), albeit he is God already, to show us the way. He deleted the I and turned it into a Cross, †, which is also a plus-sign, +. We saw this in the article Alpha and Omega.
But the answer only became available with the Incarnation of Christ, that is with the New Testament. The New Testament fulfils the Old. The Old is not enough – it contains the law and the prophets, that is it looks forward to the coming of Christ in human form. We know this because perhaps the most famous name of God in the Old Testament is the Tetragrammaton, YHWH (which is normally transcribed Yahweh). YHWH corresponds to the question word WHY. It has not made the progression to O WH (WHO).
Another name of God in the Old Testament is EL. We find this name at the end of the names of archangels, such as Michael and Gabriel. And what happens when we combine this name of God in the Old Testament, EL, with the name of Christ, O WH. What word do we get?
EL + O WH = WHOLE.
Christ makes us whole.
We like to think of ourselves as isolated beings, with parapets around us protecting us from unwanted intrusions, but the fact is we are peppered with holes. They are called pores. Actually they are what permits our skin to breathe, they are necessary.
But on a metaphysical level, we feel we have a hole when we are not fulfilled and we might try all kinds of ways, all kinds of substances, to block up this hole – we might seek comfort in drink, in drugs, in anything that takes our mind off the gaping hole at the centre of our lives.
Only the Holy Trinity will do this, will supply the answer. The Holy Trinity can be linked with the number 3. When we add the number 3 to HOLE (and rotate the number 3 so that it becomes the letter W), we get WHOLE. WHOLE is HOLE with God (3) at the beginning.
And once we have made that change, once we have repented, a miracle takes place. Because what word is contained in WHOLE that is not in HOLE?
Word connections sometimes involve the addition of a letter, most commonly h (the letter that represents breath). The letters v and w are closely connected – they are next to each other in the alphabet, and their pronunciation can be confused (think of Latin and German).
If we make these changes – v-w, addition of h – to WHOLE, what word do we get? LOVE.
WHOLE is a combination of EL and O WH – the New Testament fulfils the Old.
It is a combination of our HOLE and the Holy Trinity, represented by the number 3 (or the letter W).
And it contains LOVE, which is what happens when we take the ego, I, and count down to O.
All of this – all this message – is contained in language, in the words we use every day, but we have no idea. We study language horizontally, in terms of history. We don’t study language spiritually, apart from time. That is why I compare language to the environment. We look on them both two-dimensionally, as put there for our own use, but they reflect their Maker. The environment reflects the Creator, who created it in the first two chapters of Genesis, and gave us the creatures to translate (that is, to name). Language reflects the Word, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. For all we know, the words we use are fragments of him – breadcrumbs.
But to perceive this, we need God at the centre of our lives, not ourselves. We need to open our spiritual Is so that they become Os.
O is simply an I that has been opened. An eye that sees for the first time, a progression we all need to make in this life.
Jonathan Dunne, http://www.stonesofithaca.com