and esoteric books have a definite taste for the ‘names’ of God and
for His multiple ‘attributes’.
‘names’ are supposed to embody aspects of the divine essence.
might think they are immutable by nature, but human language and
human-made names are not immutable, by nature, so the names keep
of Alexandria devoted a whole book (De mutatione nominum)
precisely to the question of changing names in the
abound. Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai is renamed Sarah, and Jacob
book, Philo dealt with the important question of the names that God
gave to himself.
the specific name that God revealed to Moses, « I am that I am »
(Ex 3,14), Philo has this comment: « It is equivalent to : my
nature is to be, not to be said ».
the original Hebrew, Ex
3,14 reads: אֶהְיֶה
asher ehyeh« .
literal translation might
sound like: « I
am who I am »,
— or « I
shall be who I
shall be », since « ehyeh »
is the 1st person of the present-future of the verb
we want to
the Hebrew idiosyncrasy of
the original text.
could also simply focus on the word ehyeh that
doubly expresses the notion of « Being », in two different
modalities: « I am ‘I AM’ « .
could then assume that God’s name might be ‘I AM’, which may be
confirmed by the fact that God also said to Moses, just immediately
shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: I AM hath sent me unto
Exodus, God clearly affirms a key aspect of his essence
through his Name. This essence is « Being ».
John’s Gospel, another aspect of the essence of God is given: Word,
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God. »ii
this Word be His Name?
not seem so, at least if we consider what John quotes about Jesus
have manifested thy name (onoma) unto the men, which thou
gavest me out of the world. Thine they were, and thou gavest them to
me; and they have kept thy word (logon). « (John 17, 6).
here, the Word (Logos) is not the Name (Onoma).
Name is ‘manifested’. The Word is ‘kept’.
does that mean?
Name embodies the very ‘presence’ of God, it « manifests »
texts, the Hebrew word Shekhina is
used to celebrate
Word is something else entirely. It is neither the Name nor the
what was « in the Beginning », — and what was « with
God », — and what was « God ».
else entirely than ‘just a Name’.
Logos is not God’s Name, and Logos is not God’s Shekhina.
also said to God: « And now I am no more in the world, but these
are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine
own name (onoma) whom thou hast given me, so that they may be
one, as we are. « (John 17, 11)
According to John’s original text (in Greek), Jesus asked God to « keep » the men through His Name (onoma).
Jesus, who is the Logos (Verb), asks God to « keep » men through His Onoma (His Name).
This indicates that Logos and Onoma play indeed a different role.
are these different roles?
The Logos « is with God » and « is God ». The Onoma is a ‘Name’ and is not God.
« keep » the Logos. The Onoma « keep »
the men, « so that they may be one ».
Logos is said to be « one » with God. The Onoma
can make the men be « one »with God.
obviously not synonymous, ‘Onoma‘, ‘Logos‘ and ‘God’,
are however somewhat converging into ‘oneness’.
Let’s add that any ‘Name’ of God has therefore to be considered to have a formidable power.
Any ‘Name’ of God potentially includes all the other Names, those that are revealed and those that will remain ever hidden.
likelihood, Hidden Names abound.
speak metaphorically, there are as many Names as there are angels,
and conversely, each angel « bears » one of God’s Names.
Babylonian Talmud teaches on this subject: « The Archangel
Metatron, who is said to bear the Name of God » (« Metatron
che-chemo ke-chem rabbo) » (Sanhedrin 38b).
these (infinite) Names are not just names.They are divine beings, or
rather they are figures of the divine Being.
belonging to the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, the « Gospel of Truth »,
composed by Valentine in the 2nd century, specifies it in this way:
Name of the Father is the Son. It is He who, in the Principle, gave
name to the one who came out of Him, who was Himself and begot Him as
Son. He gave Him his own name. (…) The Father. He has the Name, He
has the Son. We can see him. But the Name, on the contrary, is
invisible, because it alone is the mystery of the Invisible destined
to reach the ears which are all filled with it (…) This Name does
not belong to words and it is not names that constitute its Name.
same idea is expressed in a slightly different way in the Gospel of
Philip, also from the Nag Hammadi manuscripts: »‘Jesus‘ is
a hidden name, ‘Christ‘ is a manifested name »iv.
‘Jesus’ is a hidden name, how can he be known?
of Lyons gives a possible answer: « Iesous
is only the sound of the Name, not its virtue. In fact, the entire
Name consists of not only six letters, but thirty. Its exoteric (or
pronounceable) composition is IHCOYC [Iesous], while its esoteric
composition consists of twenty-four letters.»v
exoteric name IHCOYC consists of six Greek letters. The full Name
contains thirty of them.
arithmetic: 6 (exoteric letters) + 24 (esoteric letters) = 30 letters
of the full Name
Irenaeus of Lyons does not reveal what are the 24 esoteric letters.
if he had done so, would they have stayed ‘esoteric’?
up to us then, to try figuring them out.
that the Greek alphabet includes precisely twenty-four letters, the
first one being ‘alpha’, the last one being ‘omega’, we could imagine
that this esoteric Name is not a fixed name, but that it is
constantly woven from the infinity of all their possible
combinations, like this one:
Here is a selection of names that I like a lot:
also try with Hebraic letters
lot of research ahead of us!
Guy Stroumsa, Ancient
Christian Magic : Coptic Texts of Ritual Power.
Gospel of Philip 58,
of Lyons .Adv. Heres.I.
14, 1-9. Trad. A. Rousseau. 1979