Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gawd! Using the Lord’s name in vain.

Are you one of those sensitive to the nuances of words? I know of cultures whereby if you say “dress” it could mean any type of attire. Then, there are languages whereby every word paints a slightly different picture. 

The Bible was written, mostly, in Hebrew in the Old Testament (with some sprinkling of Aramaic), and in Greek in the New Testament. If you’ve tried to study Hebrew or Greek you’d quickly realize that the subtleties in each word in these languages are more pronounced than in English. Is it any wonder that Jesus said in the Bible (Matthew 5:18),

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

In fact, the Expanded Version clarifies it more:

18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth ·are gone [pass away; disappear], not even ·the smallest letter [T one jot; L one iota; C the smallest Greek letter] or the smallest ·part [stroke; T tittle] of a letter will ·be lost [pass away; disappear] until everything ·has happened [is accomplished/achieved].

Worse, in the Book of Revelation we see the seriousness of the weight of each word when Revelation 22:18 talks about the words of the prophesy in the scroll:

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.19And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

Why would it have any significance if a word was removed, or exchanged, and another word substituted? After all, the basic meaning would remain the same, wouldn’t it? For instance, if we just exchanged the word for a synonym, would we really have done something so abominable?

It appears to be so. 

Why? Because every word in the Bible carries its own weight and subtleties, that‘s why. (And again we are referring to the original words which are in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.)

Which goes to show how important it is, from time to time, to return to the original Hebrew, or Greek. Or at least we should have our pastors explain these root words and study them for their full impact and to get the true meaning in any verse. As Bereans (Acts 17:11) we are to study the scriptures, to make sure that we have not been taught wrong, even if it’s just a slight veering from the intended meaning that our one true God meant for us.

So how is this related to using the Lord’s name in vain you might ask?

When I wrote my teen psychological thriller, Dead Dreams, Book 1, I was writing it for an unbelieving audience, or perhaps, a young believer who is still unsure about the right spiritual path to take. This is not to say that a mature believer cannot enjoy the thriller. (One of my motives for writing Dead Dreams is to write exciting fiction that takes readers on an emotional roller coaster of intrigue and mystery but still not drag them through foul language or R rated content of secular thrillers.) 

Most of my Dead Dreams reviews are by the general public but occasionally when I come across a blogger I might offer them a free book in exchange for an honest review. One of my reviewers, no doubt a well-meaning Christian, took offence to one of the unbelieving characters (Sarah McIntyre) saying “Gawd” (God with a southern twang,) in expressing her frustrations. This, to my reviewer, was using the Lord’s name in vain.

Don’t take me wrong, please. I don’t condone taking the Lord’s name in vain. But if we look at the Bible “God” is not the Lord’s name. The word “God” is a general word, like “apple” as opposed to “Granny Smith” and it is nonspecific. Even Satan is called a god by the Bible—the god of this age. (2Corinthians 4:4)

The Bible itself when referring to our true God’s name (in the English versions of the Bible) capitalizes the word LORD as opposed to merely having it written as “lord” or “Lord”. (For instance in Exodus 20:7).

"You are not to misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave the one who misuses his name unpunished.”

In Hebrew the “LORD” is actually YHWH (Yahweh) and not just god or lord. The Living God, is known as Yahweh in the Old Testament.

So if we place YHWH into the verse it would read:

"You are not to misuse the name of (the) YHWH your God, because (the) YHWH will not leave the one who misuses his name (YHWH) unpunished”

In fact, so afraid are the religious Jews in writing the name of YHWH that they do not even spell it out—Yahweh.

But in no way is “God” or “Gawd” (as is found in Dead Dreams, Book 1) God’s name. Does it mean I go about saying, “Oh, my God!” in my everyday life? No. But I am a stickler for being precise. (I truly believe every word in the Bible is there not by coincidence but crafted by the hand guided by the Holy Spirit) Saying “Gawd” is not using the Lord’s (YHWH) name in vain.

As an author trying to reach the lost world through fiction, or at least I hope to make a dent in the lost world by exposing them to some semblance of the Word in my fiction, I have to be somewhat realistic when I have non-believing characters in my fiction speak. (And I don’t and won’t be having dirty language in my fiction—but I don’t think God is a dirty word, do you?)

Why do I make such a big deal over this? One reason is because I believe even the names of people and places have significance in the Bible. They are not just there by chance.

I hope to go into more details about the significance of names, words and phrases in the Bible in the weeks to come and hope you will visit me here or at my blog.

Also, here's a suitable song since we are on the topic of "Yahweh." It's by Phil Wickham, titled, "At Your name."

About the Author

Emma Right is a happy wife and homeschool mother of five living in the Pacific West Coast.  Her eldest son has already graduated and is presently working. Besides running a busy home, and looking after too many pets, she also writes stories for her children—when she is not behind the wheel driving her children for various activities. Her books have won literary awards. She loves the Lord and His Word deeply, and hopes her stories will help empower young adults and children, and instill the love of learning and reading. Ms. Right worked as a copywriter for several major advertising agencies and has won several national and international advertising awards, including the prestigious Clio, in her copywriting career.


  1. You might replace Gawd with ye gads.

  2. When a character in a work of fiction speaks, the language must be suitable to the character. The Christian principles that the author applies to her own speech are not the issue. The issue is truth. The language spoken by the character must be true to the character. A Christian writer is not obligated to put fake words in the mouths of characters; a Christian writer has an obligation to truth.
    There are certainly many ways to tell the truth, but a writer who wants a bad character to ring true with readers, especially readers who are not Christians, need not pussyfoot around with the words. Let the person who is evil sound evil. Let the person who is trying to sort out right and wrong muddle through and make some mistakes. Let every character be exactly who he is. But above all else, let Christ and his redemptive power shine through the story.
    In the Bible, the story of Tamar is a good example of a story where truth, in all its evil facets, is told, yet God's redemption works through that story and many others. If somebody filtered out the evil in that story, it would be a mealy-mouthed mockery of God's power. If we read the genealogy of Jesus and did not know the truth about Tamar's story, God's message of redemption and transformation would be severely weakened.
    I agree that "Gawd!" is not the sort of exclamation meant by the commandment never to misuse God's name. But even if it were, the point is not whether the author would speak that way but rather, whether the story is truth.

  3. Check out John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark. They don't use Gawd but do use other slang terms.