“Silence Is Praise to Thee”: The Name YHWH in the Negative Theology of Medieval Judaism

  • Hillel Ben-Sasson
Part of the Jewish Thought and Philosophy book series (JTP)


This chapter examines the critique of three medieval negative theologians with regard to the Name. It begins by illustrating the efforts of R. Bahya Ibn Paqudah and R. Abraham Ibn Daud to abolish the status of YHWH as a proper name. I show how these two thinkers interpreted YHWH as either a common name or a homonym (Ibn Daud), or a mere arbitrary sign (Ibn Paqudah). The chapter then contrasts these views to Maimonides’ audacious proposal in chapters 61–63 in part I of The Guide for the Perplexed. By denying YHWH any grammatical connections to natural language, Maimonides gave this name the status of a Kripkean “rigid designator”. As a rigid designator, the name YHWH succeeds in pointing directly at the named entity—God—without describing Him.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hillel Ben-Sasson
    • 1
  1. 1.Jewish Theological SeminaryNew YorkUSA

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