Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 16 (2016) - Review

Shaw, Frank, The Earliest Non-Mystical Jewish Use of Ιαω (Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology, 70; Leuven/Paris/Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014). Pp. x + 431. Hardcover. €60.00. ISBN 978-90-429-2978-4.

The God of the Hebrew Scriptures has many names, broadly construed, but none have been more studied or aroused more curiosity than the Tetragrammaton, YHWH. Several issues, nonetheless, have eluded scholarly analysis, such as the reception of the divine name among Aramaic and Greek writing Jews of the Second Temple period. A case in point is the understudied early history of the Greek name Ιαω. The assumption that Ιαω was invoked merely in the contexts of mysticism and magic dominated twentieth-century scholarship, which in effect marginalized several important early non-mystical uses of the name. Frank Shaw seeks to correct this imbalance.

Shaw provides the first comprehensive account of Ιαω's earliest attestations. He explores, for example, Ιαω as the rendering of the Tetragrammaton in 4QpapLXXLevb (i.e., 4Q120), the use of Ιαω in the explanatory columns of LXX onomastica, the similarity between Ιαω and the Aramaic form of the divine name YHW/YHH, and the use of Ιαω among Greco-Roman authors. Shaw's goal is to examine “all available occurrences…so as to provide a comprehensive review of the earliest and/or non-mystical attestations of the name…” and further to date “the move of the name Ιαω from the non-mystical to the mystical realm” (pp. viii, 2).

While Shaw's work is based on his 2002 dissertation, he updates his discussion in light of recent scholarship. He offers, for example, a detailed examination of the debate over Ιαω's role in the LXX's textual history (ch. 6). Here, the long-standing question has been what form of the divine name did the LXX translators use first: יהוה, Ιαω, or κύριος? Shaw states that all theories assume, a priori “(1) that there was basically a single original form that for some reason all Septuagint translators, regardless of their geographic location, time of translating, theological bent, or literary training, employed with no deviation in nearly every instance of rendering Yahweh from the mother text, and (2) that this can be ascertainable today” (p. ix). In particular, Shaw contends that arguments for the “originality” of κύριος in the LXX are inconsistent and contradictory (cf. Shaw's evaluation of the “Baudissin defenders” Pietersma [pp. 136–37], Rösel [p. 156], and Perkins [p. 161]). He concludes that “[t]he matter of any (especially single) ‘original’ form of the divine name in the LXX is too complex, the evidence is too scattered and indefinite, and the various approaches offered for the issue are too simplistic…” to account for the scribal practices as they happened (p. 158).

For Shaw, the discussion of the earliest divine name(s) in the LXX is but one component of his larger contribution. In exhaustive detail, he builds an argument in chapters 1–8, intended to have a “cumulative effect,” leading the reader toward the unavoidable conclusion that the use of Ιαω, particularly as a “pronounceable” form, was far more widespread than previous scholars have allowed. Shaw thoroughly examines the earliest LXX onomastica (ch. 2), classical authors and Greco-Roman sources (chs. 3–4), Jewish and Ecclesiastical writers (ch. 5), and after critically reviewing past arguments for the original divine name in the LXX (ch. 6, noted above), Shaw explores possible allusions to Ιαω in early Christianity (ch. 7). His argument peaks in the discussion of the name's “Persistence, Disuse, and Transformation” (ch. 8). Shaw then presents his “Synthesis” (ch. 9) followed by some innovative suggestions for the use of Ιαω in New Testament autographs (ch. 10).

The current review discusses three examples that demonstrate the importance of Shaw's research, followed by a reflection on his conclusions.

In chapter 2, “The Evidence of the Onomastica,” Shaw makes skillful use of P. Oxy. 2745, Pap.Heid. I.5, Codex Marchalianus, Vat. Pius II Gr. 15, Onomasticum Coislinianum, and some Syriac and Ethiopic onomastica translated from Greek. Expanding upon Skehan's use of a narrower selection of this evidence,[1] Shaw shows how in our earliest extant papyrus onomastica the Greek transliterations of Hebrew names are listed in one column (e.g., Ιωναθαν) and explicated in another (e.g., Ιαω δόμα; or Ιωσηφ rendered as Ιαω πρόσθεμα). The basic fact that a scribe writes Ιαω in the explanatory column suggests that “there must have been a somewhat substantial number of Jews employing, and copies of the LXX itself that contained, the divine name Ιαω” (p. 33; emphasis Shaw's). Later in chapter 6, Shaw uses a misreading of his earlier dissertation as an opportunity to clarify the larger import of the onomastica. One scholar presumed that Shaw considered the theophoric elements as definitive evidence for the independent use of Ιαω. Shaw argues more precisely that “it has everything to do with” the explication of the Greek transliteration of personal names found in the onomastica, which “shows that such a composer was freely employing an active pronunciation of the name in the explanatory column” (p. 156; emphasis Shaw's).

Chapters 3–4 explore the implications of the use of Ιαω by Greco-Roman authors. Perhaps most notable is the use of the name by Diodorus of Sicily, mid-first century b.c.e. In Library of History 1.94.2, Diodorus mentions the Jews, Moses, and the deity Ιαω along with other well-known nation-lawgiver-deity combinations (i.e., Egyptians-Mneves-Hermes; Cretans-Minos-Zeus; Spartans-Lycurgus-Apollo; Arians-Zathraustes-Good Spirit; and Getae-Zalmoxis-common goddess Hestia). These deities and lawgivers were more or less common knowledge. By association, Diodorus's use of Ιαω must also have been intelligible to his audience; therefore, the divine name must have circulated in gentile contexts, which in turn must reflect prevalent Jewish use. Shaw also discusses the use of the name by Varro, Philo of Byblus, Valerius Maximus, and Emperor Gaius.

In chapter 8 Shaw offers a meticulous discussion of the “dynamic behind, and the chronology of the divine name's gradual” move from the non-mystical to the mystical realm (p. 185). His research is especially welcome as past scholarship is muddled on the issue of dating the uses of Ιαω in the common era. Shaw concludes that Ιαω was used magically beginning with gnostics and magicians (late first/early second century c.e.), peaking in gemstones (second and third century c.e.), and slightly later found in lead and metal tablets and magical papyri (ca. fourth century c.e.) (p. 235). This chronological framework will provide clear reference points for future studies on the topic.

A few words may be said about Shaw's conclusions in chapter 9, “Synthesis: A New Perspective, or a more Nuanced, Mature View.” Shaw begins with the question: Who were the “users of Ιαω”? More specifically, he seeks to identify the social class of Ιαω users. In this endeavor Shaw interacts primarily with secondary scholarship, an approach that veers from his evidence-based argumentation in chapters 1–8. In particular, he draws on Baudissin, Bickerman, McDonough, Hengel, Feldman, and Goodenough to propose that the users of Ιαω “were average people, those of the non-elite” belonging to “lower classes of Judaism” (pp. 247–48).[2] Readers will consider this proposal intriguing, and some aspects even probable. In its current formulation, however, I find it difficult to substantiate for two reasons. The first involves Shaw's appropriation of secondary scholarship, the second pertains to the extant evidence for social class distinctions.

The majority of secondary scholarship that Shaw develops was originally written with the later mystical/magical users of Ιαω in mind. To draw implications from later users (c.e.) about the earlier users (b.c.e.) risks anachronism. Here, Shaw posits continuity, such that the “lower-class” Ιαω users of the common era are indicative of the social class of Ιαω users of the Second Temple period. Rather than continuity in social classes (b.c.e. and c.e.), however, the evidence seems to suggest that the move from non-mystical to mystical uses was paralleled by a constriction of the social strata of the users.

The Second Temple Ιαω users probably represent a variety of social classes, not simply the lower class. The evidence for this position includes the scribe/translator of 4Q120, the educated users of the onomastica (surely lower-class Jews would have no need for onomastica), and more broadly, if we include Jews who used a similar pronounced form of the name Ιαω, attention should be given to the documentary, diplomatic, and priestly uses of YHH/YHW at Elephantine, the liturgical use of YH[W] in P. Amherst 63, and the administrative context of the Idumean (“House of YHW”) Ostracon. While Shaw discusses most of this evidence in chapters 1–8, its application is curiously missing when it comes to the identification of the earliest Ιαω users in chapter 9.

Shaw, nonetheless, does well to address several other important issues in chapter 9. He returns, for example, to the question of the forms of the divine name in the LXX (pp. 257–72) and makes an insightful suggestion that certain divine names appear in some passages because they are context specific (cf. Gen 4:26; Exod 3:15; 8:22; 28:32; 32:5; and 33:19). From this, he argues that diversity must have been characteristic of the earliest stages of the LXX's translation (p. 262). He addresses the perplexing issue of the blank spaces in LXX manuscripts as well as the spaces around the divine name in P. Fouad 266b and 4Q120 (p. 265). He draws on all the above to suggest again “that there was no one ‘original’ form but different translators had different feelings, theological beliefs, motivations, and practices when it came to their handling of the name” (p. 271).

The book ends with an epilogue and five well-researched appendices (Appendix I, “Ιαω in the Onomastica Listed”; Appendix II, “Translation and Commentary of John Lydus, De Mensibus”; Appendix III, “Valerius Maximus and Jewish Syncretism”; Appendix IV, “Origen, C. Cel. 6.32”; and Appendix V, “The Detailed Data of Iao in the Magical Sources in Chapter Eight”).

Overall, the comprehensive design of Shaw's book is impressive. The date for the “move” of Ιαω from the non-mystical to the mystical realm, within the parameters set by the book, is also well argued. If one wished to build on Shaw's discussion, however, a more thorough definition of the terms “mystical” and “magical” would be of first priority. Shaw points to a few major studies on the difficulty of arriving at a proper definition, but keeps the issue at arm length: “If the specialists in the field of magical studies cannot come to any consensus on a definition here, where does that leave non-experts…?” (p. xii). While Shaw does provide some notes on terminology (e.g., pp. xii, 231, 240, 241 n. 248), these may have served better collected, synthesized, and presented as a working definition.

Further study might also consider early uses of the Tetragrammaton that are possibly mystical/magical. Shaw's focus is strictly on Ιαω (p. 235), and justifiably so, but it may be helpful to consider the apotropaic uses of the divine name found as early as the Ketef Hinnom amulets (seventh century b.c.e.) or the apotropaic hymns and incantations known at Qumran (8Q5 and 11Q11). Shaw mentions 11Q11 (p. 239 n. 240), and here it would be insightful to know his views on the relationship between mystical/magical and apotropaic and/or incantational. If the Tetragrammaton is used in apotropaic contexts, why would the Greek form be an exception? And would such uses be understood as mystical/magical?

Despite the above questions, this book is a must-read for those interested in the use of the divine name in early Judaism, as well as for specialists in the sub-fields of LXX/translation studies, onomastic studies, mysticism and magic in antiquity, Greco-Roman perspectives on Judaism, and New Testament textual criticism. Moreover, the reader will find Shaw's discussion of the evidence in chapters 1–8 erudite and nuanced. I would like to thank the author for his thoughtful contribution. His work demonstrates the benefits of a comprehensive approach to the study of the divine name.

Anthony R. Meyer, McMaster University

[1] Patrick W. Skehan, “The Divine Name at Qumran, in the Masada Scroll, and in the Septuagint,” BIOSCS 13 (1980), 14–44. reference

[2] W. W. G. Baudissin, Kyrios als Gottesname im Judentum und seine Stelle in der Religionsgeschichte (Giessen, 1929), 2:196–201; Elias J. Bickerman, “The Edict of Cyrus in Ezra,” Studies in Jewish and Christian History (AGJU, 9; Leiden: Brill, 1976), 72–108; Sean M. McDonough, YHWH at Patmos: Rev 1:4 in its Hellenistic and Jewish Setting (WUNT, II/107; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999), 118–22; Louis H. Feldman, “The Orthodoxy of the Jews in Hellenistic Egypt,” JSS 22 (1960), 230–34; Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1953–68), 2:207; Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (London: SCM, 1974), 1:266. reference