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Everlasting One

December 11, 2013

Kurk has noted that Everett Fox wrote, 1995, in his intro, remarks, on page xxix,

Historically, Jewish and Christian translations of the Bible into English have tended to use ‘Lord,’ with some exceptions (notably, Moffatt’s ‘The Eternal’).

But we know that Grace Aguilar, a very well known Jewish writer in her day (died 1847), used “The Eternal,” Benisch, 1852 used “The Eternal” in his translation, and Leeser, 1853, used “The Everlasting One.”

Exo 3:15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Everlasting One, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

Buber and Rosenzweig used Ich Bin Da, “I am present” in German. But David E. Stein found that “The Eternal” was the most popular choice for a translation of Yahweh for the Gender Sensitive Jewish translation. However, for a variety of reasons it was not used. Stein writes,

The most favored rendering was as “the Eternal” — which is popular well beyond the bounds of the Reform movement, where it has appeared in Bible translations and liturgy for at least fifteen years.[3] Most informants involved in ritual settings gravitated toward the idea that the Name is related to the Hebrew verbal root for existence — a connection made by the Torah itself at the Burning Bush (Exod 3). This understanding commended renderings such as the Eternal, the Eternal One, The One Who Will Be There, the One, Being, Eternal Being, Becoming, Source of Being. Of these, “the Eternal” was most often named.

Some who suggested such renderings did so because they understood that for many contemporary Jews, God as a persona either makes no sense or is anathema. A few respondents mentioned der Ewige (a German coinage in 1783 by the Jewish philosopher and translator Moses Mendelssohn) or L’éternel (used in the most widely accepted French translation among Christians, by Louis Segond, 1874). Familiarity with those precedents seemed to make it more likely to find “the Eternal” unexceptional. However, a few respondents objected that such a term over interprets how the Torah presents its Deity; and another considers it “far too impersonal.”

Others focused less on the Name’s meaning than on its sound, finding it remarkable that the Name consists only of vowel-letters, such that its original pronunciation must have been unusually breathy. For Arthur Waskow, a rabbi in the Jewish Renewal movement, this warrants rendering the Name as “the Breath of Life.”

The editors opted for Yahweh written out in the Hebrew letters – a non-interpretive choice. There is a lot of philosophizing and theologizing  to be done on this topic, so more to follow.

If you click on the tag “Eternal” at the top right of this post you should get all 7 posts in this series.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2013 8:07 am

    I like your use of Stein’s quotation in contrast with mine of Fox’s. 🙂

    Explicitly the two write here in the short contexts:

    “unexceptional” in contrast to “exceptions”

    (Just a quick note on the James Moffatt Bible date – 1926 – so he seems to be following the others you mention.)

    Does anybody in your research consider “The Eternal” in the various English language Haggadot? Has the translation history of the Bible affected the translation history of the Haggadah? Or vice versa?

    Stein brings out some interesting motivations for favoring (and disfavoring) “The Eternal.” For me, there are places in the Bible, like Isaiah 26:4, where using “The Eternal” in English masks and loses too much of what’s going on in the Hebrew. Moffat, for example, makes it –

    “Always rely on the Eternal for the Eternal’s strength endures.”

    Compare this with the JPS –

    “Trust ye in the LORD for ever, for the LORD is GOD, an everlasting Rock.”

    The Hebrew is much nuanced and very full of wordplay here. Should an English translation ignore that in favor of any particular English God-name tradition?

  2. December 12, 2013 4:27 pm

    The striking aspect of the Name for me is the issue of remembrance. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. As such, I agree that “the eternal” as a name is distant. If the name is to be remembered, it is close. It is therefore, the one who is with us, who becomes in the manner as he works with us to become. (Could use hiphil here if English had one – I wonder how nuanced the causative sense is.)

    Now to Kurk’s example: when was it written – and where – and what does it say to me today in the land, or exiled?

    בִּטְחוּ בַֽיהוָה עֲדֵי־עַד כִּי בְּיָהּ יְהוָה צוּר עֹולָמִֽים

    Curious – it is a relatively rare combination of HaShem with Yah, the short form. Also the adi-ad form of for ever. – as in psalm 132:14 This is my rest for ever and ever; here will I remain for I desire her. Also the prior verse (set to music by S.S.Wesley – thou wilt keep him in perfect peace) – what a consolation if this is while in exile. How tender hearted is the verse? If I impose the te’amim as music – good grief the whole chapter is a song! It’s first three notes mimic the opening of David’s lament over Absalom!!! Talk about how we should read these texts. I think it may be very tender-hearted. It would take me a half-day to document the music – (maybe I will get my programming staff to try and automate the translation – still that would take 6 months and I can’t afford to pay for it!)

    My point – The Eternal is a misleading name – distant to us – how often the poet prays:
    O God do not be distant from me
    My God to my help hurry

    Yah and HaShem – I wonder how often they occur together? I could only find this and Isaiah 12. I did a generic search with double quotes in Mechon-Mamre. As for Yah in the Psalms, it is relatively frequent through the phrase Hallelu Yah. But Psalm 118 has a close relationship to Isaiah 26
    Open to me the gates of righteousness
    I will go into them
    I will give thanks to Yah

    Again, in that it is ‘going in’ – ascending to the hill of HaShem – there is Presence, and establishment (Yah’s doing), and closeness, and if I dare, because HaShem is building Jerusalem, there is a boundary to hardship…

    The Name is vital information – a contrast to T.S.Eliot’s the Journey of the Magi – where ‘there was no information’.

    blessings to you both

  3. December 12, 2013 5:53 pm

    בִּטְחוּ בַֽיהוָה עֲדֵי־עַד כִּי בְּיָהּ יְהוָה צוּר עֹולָמִֽים

    Curious – it is a relatively rare combination of HaShem with Yah, the short form.

    Blessings to you, Bob. I love your analysis of the Hebrew here. It may be worth our comparing various English attempts, but I do think your point is well taken about “distance” being not really what is emphasized.

    So trust in the Eternal One forever,
    for He is like a great Rock—strong, stable, trustworthy, and lasting.
    > The Voice (Christian)

    Trust in Adonai forever,
    because in Yah Adonai,
    is a Rock of Ages.
    > David H. Stern (Messianic)

    Trust ye in Hashem forever; for in G-d Hashem is Tzur Olamin
    > Artists for Israel International (Messianic)

    Trust Yahweh always,
    because Yah, Yahweh alone, is an everlasting rock.
    > Names of God Bible (Christian, adapted from GOD’S WORD®)

    Trust in the Lord forever,
    For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.
    > New American Standard Version (Christian)

    Trust in the LORD forever, because in Yah, the LORD, is an everlasting rock!
    > Holman Christian Standard Bible (Christian)

    Trust in the LORD from this time forward, even in Yah, the LORD, an enduring protector!
    > NET Bible (Christian)

    Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is an everlasting rock.
    > English Revised (Christian)

    Trust in the LORD forever! for Jah the LORD
    Is a rock everlasting.
    > The Chicago Bible (Christian)

    So trust the Lord always,
    because in the Lord Yah you have a place of safety forever.
    > Easy-to-Read Version (Christian)

    Trust in the Lord always,
    for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.
    > New Living (Christian)

    Trust in the Lord forever,
    for in the Lord God
    you have an everlasting rock.
    > NRSV (mostly Christian)

    Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yah the Lord, is the Rock of eternity.
    > The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary (Jewish,


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