The Jews avoided using God’s name in an exaggerated reverence. They put verbs in the passive voice to avoid pronouncing his name.

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit;
Revelation 9:1 NRSV

The book of Revelation is full of what today is called the “divine passive,” the passive voice indicating divine action. In this paragraph alone of the ninth chapter are these:

  • “they were given authority,” verse 3
  • “They were told,” verse 4
  • “They were allowed,” verse 5

In the New Testament this use of the divine passive seems to hint that, behind the scenes, God is always acting, in control of events, though not so visible to human eyes, but somehow moving history to the end which he has determined.

The verb may be in the passive voice, but God is anything but passive.

4 thoughts on “Divine passive

  1. There is a Hebrew (or maybe Greek) taboo on naming the name of God, and so the use of the ‘divine passive’ allows an easy way for Jewish authors to avoid using the name of God.

What do you think?