Sacred Names:

What Should We Call

the Father and Son?

The issue of Sacred Names has affected Sabbath-keeping congregations for over 50 years. The Old Testament has numerous verses indicating that we should praise and use His Name (see page 7). Yet, the Jews, who have copied the Old Testament, have not pronounced that name for centuries and "officially" claim that they no longer know what it is. This was done to prevent the name from being blasphemed (see page 9).

This article will probably not answer all of your questions on this issue, but it will demonstrate the basis for the arguments and, hopefully, help you tolerate people with various views.

What Is the Father's Name?

The name of our Father is technically called the "tetragrammaton" and, in Hebrew, is hwhy. It is used over 6500 times in the Old Testament. The English representation is YHVH or some will say YHWH. (We have barely gotten started and we already have a debate!) This word is translated "Lord" in most Bibles—using small capital letters to distinguish it from "Lord" which is translated from the Hebrew Adonai and means "master" or "boss". Sacred Name proponents are quick to point out that the name of the false deity Baal also means "lord" or "master". Hence, they try to completely avoid using the word "Lord". However, the word Adonai is used to address our Father many times in scripture (Ex 4:10, Num 14:17, etc.).

Most scholars agree that the meaning of hwhy is "the ever living One" or "the One that was, is and shall be." Hence, Moffatt and a few other translations render it "the Eternal". There is, of course, debate as to whether we should use a word that sounds the same as hwhy or if we should use a word that means the same thing in our language. We will discuss pronunciation issues later.

In addition to the name mentioned above, there are many other words used for our Father in the Old Testament. Translated, some are: "the Almighty", "Healer", "Helper", "Most High", etc. The most common one is obviously "God." It is translated from the Hebrew Elohim which is used over 2600 times and essentially means "mighty one". It cannot be considered a sacred name because it is also used numerous times for false gods (Gen 3:5, 31:30; 2Kngs 1:2). Our word "god" means essentially the same thing as elohim; it can refer to true or false gods—we capitalize it to indicate the true God. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that the word "god" is derived from the name of a German false deity, so some brethren refuse to use that name in an effort to obey Ex 23:13: "make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth." However, this is a bit of doctrinal stretching because the word "god" does not imply a German false deity to 99.99% of the people who use the word, nor can any such definition be found in most dictionaries.

It is clear from research that "Lord" is a poor translation of the Father's name. The use of the word "God" is only slightly questionable. But let us assume for a moment that both names are "names of Baal." Does that mean that people who pray using those names will not have contact with our Father? The answer is probably here:

"And it shall be, in that day," Says the Lord, "That you will call Me 'My Husband,' And no longer call Me 'My Master' [Hebrew: Baali], For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, And they shall be remembered by their name no more" (Hos 2:16-17).

This verse shows that the Eternal does not want to be called by names of Baal, though it does not define exactly what those names are. Some people claim it includes every name except their pronunciation of the tetragrammaton, others would say it simply includes names of known false gods. However, we can see that our Father did accept that it was Him being addressed. He said "no longer call Me Baali," not "no longer call upon Baali."

We can gain some insight when we read the parts of the Bible that are not written in Hebrew. Many people do not realize that Daniel 2:4 through 7:28 as well as parts of the book of Ezra are in Aramaic, not Hebrew. In these books we find no example of an attempt to transliterate the tetragrammaton into Aramaic. The Aramaic Elahh' is used, which largely corresponds to the Hebrew Elohim—meaning "God." In Daniel 5:23 we also find the Aramaic ma-re' used for our Father. It means "dominant one" or "lord" and is twice used to describe Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:19,24).

Nearly all New Testament manuscripts do not contain any transliteration of the tetragrammaton. A very few old fragments have been discovered that have Hebrew names, but it is not possible to know if these are copies of what the New Testament writers originally wrote or if they are copies of entirely Greek manuscripts where someone inserted Hebrew names. It is quite possible that there were "Sacred Name" sects 1700 years ago!

The word "alleluia" occurs in Revelation 19:1,3,4,6 and is a transliteration of the Hebrew hallelujah which means "praise Yah". Most will agree that Yah is a short form of the tetragrammaton. Finally, some claim that part or all of the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew and then later translated into Greek when the Sacred Name was edited out. While we have seen evidence that Matthew, Revelation and a few other books might have once been written in Hebrew, there is no evidence that some of the other books were—especially Paul's letters to the Gentiles. In reality we find that the Greek word Theos is constantly used for "God" (the Father) and the Greek kurios is consistently used for "Lord" (referring to the Father, Son and other authority figures). It is clear that our Father did not find it essential to maintain or command the use of His Hebrew Name in the New Testament which has been preserved for us. We also understand that such a lack of a New Testament command is not necessarily a basis to cease from performing an Old Testament action.

What Name Should We Use?

While we believe that we have established that the use of our Father's Hebrew name is not necessary for salvation, it seems better to use His name rather than a term like "Lord", which neither conveys the meaning nor the pronunciation of the Hebrew. The ancient Hebrew Bible manuscripts do not contain vowels, so they do not tell us exactly how to pronounce it. The Jews have said Adonai ("Lord") or HaShem ("the Name") when they read the Name in Scripture for hundreds of years, and most no longer claim to know the original pronunciation. The question is, "How should we pronounce His Name?"

Finding the answer to that question is much like answering the question: "What is the correct Biblical calendar?" The first paper you read seems to have the issue all solved. So does the second, third, tenth and twentieth paper—but most end up with different conclusions. We are continually amazed by the amount of opinion stated as historical fact with no supporting evidence. But when evidence is used, there is an incredible variety of form and type. We have seen pronunciations for the name derived from Hebrew pronunciation studies, etymology, Rabbi's opinions, ancient documents in other languages that supposedly contain His name, "secret" ancient documents, claimed divine revelation, and more. We have never seen a paper that attempted to compare all of the various arguments and conclude which is right. We would like to produce such a paper some day, but, it will take hundreds of hours and we will not do it anytime soon. For now, we must say that we are not sure.

The most common pronunciation of our Father's name is probably "Jehovah", since it is used in the KJV Bible (Ex 6:3; Pslm 83:18; Isa 12:2, 26:4). and because it is "pushed" by the Jehovah's Witnesses. The most common pronunciation used by Sacred Name groups is "Yahweh." However, we also have papers giving "proof" for "Yehovah", "Yehowah", "Yaveh", "Iiaaooee", "YaWee", "Yaohu Ul" and others.

What is the Son's Name

But the problem of names does not end with the pronunciation of the Father's name. The correct pronunciation of the Son's name has also been put forth as "Yeshua", "Y'Shua", "Yahshua", "Yahoshua", "Yahshahwa", "Yao-hushua" and others. The reasonings used differ as much as the reasonings used to derive the pronunciation of the Father's name. There are a few key scriptures that people use to place great importance on the name of the Son. We are told to ask the Father in His Son's name (John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23), that we must be saved in that name (Acts 4:12—though there is some debate on this), that those who "believe in His name" will be children of God (John 1:12), and the Philadelphians are partly described as those who have "not denied My name" (Rev 3:8).

What is wrong with using "Jesus"? It is the English version of the Greek Iesous, which some will claim comes from "Zeus", king of the Greek gods. That is a minority etymological view, even though the sound of "Jesus" is more similar to "Zeus" than to the common Jewish Hebrew pronunciation of "Yeshua". Nearly all scholars agree that "Jesus" and the Old Testament "Joshua" are the same name. We can be fairly sure of this since the Greek Iesous (usually "Jesus") is also properly translated "Joshua." in two places (Acts 7:45, Heb 4:8). Most Jews would claim to know how this name is pronounced ("Yeshua" or "Y'Shua"), but many Sacred Name groups claim the Jews at some point intentionally corrupted the pronunciation.

Finally, there is a Greek/Hebrew controversy of the Son's title. "Christ" is translated from the Greek Christos, and means "anointed." However, some researchers find undesirable associations with this term and prefer the Hebrew mashiyach or English "Messiah." It is difficult to substantiate that "evil translators" tried to remove all references to mashiyach from the Greek New Testament because the Greek equivalent, Messias, occurs twice (John 1:41, 4:25). Of all the Sacred Name issues, this is probably the least debated. However, it is good to understand it since you may hear the expression Mashiyach Yashua (Christ Jesus), Yeshua HaMashiyach (Jesus the Christ), or some other variant in religious discussions and writings.

The Hebrew word for "name" is shem (Strong's #8034). Some insist that it always refers to the actual sound or writing of a name—therefore we cannot fulfill scriptures to call upon or praise His name unless we actually pronounce it. A study of the word shem shows that it can have other meanings and uses. It can refer to a person's power, character or reputation (Gen 6:4, 12:2; Deut 22:14,19, 1Chr 5:24, Ezk 23:10, and many others). For example, "A good name is better than precious ointment..." (Eccl 7:1) is not talking about a pleasant sounding name. The majority of uses of shem may well refer to the sound or writing of a name, but the Hebrew does not support the dogmatic claims of some Sacred Name teachers.

Avoiding Division

Servants' News encourages brethren to tolerate one another's understanding of this subject and not be quick to judge. Some of our writers use the understanding of the correct Sacred Names and others use the traditional Christian names. This writer prefers using "the Eternal," "Savior" and "Messiah" because they have appropriate meanings and are acceptable to a great number of people. Most of our readers have witnessed miracles and answered prayers made using the names "God" and "Jesus'. People who use other names have experienced similar results. We should be able to talk to people about doctrinal issues if they use almost any reasonable name. If one does not understand it, just ask. But if brethren feel that we must correct others for the names they use, it will be difficult to talk about any other subject.

Although they probably do not consciously plan it, sometimes it seems that people adopt certain doctrines just so they can feel more righteous than others. This happens with Sacred Names as well as the Calendar, Passover, Pentecost, Remarriage and a host of other doctrinal issues. The effect is to divide people who could otherwise work together in groups so scattered and small that they have a difficult time assembling together or reaching out to teach others.

If we understand a certain thing in the Scripture, then we should do it—it is righteousness. It is important to realize the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. If we can no longer fellowship with other people because they do not do everything we do, then we may have become self-righteous. Our Savior and His apostles spent their ministry teaching, healing and going to services with people who were obvious sinners lacking in doctrinal understanding. Does anyone think he or she is more righteous than our Savior and His apostles?

There are obvious limits regarding working with others. It is hard to fellowship with someone who worships on a different day. Our Savior found places where the attitude was so bad that He could accomplish little (Mark 6:2-5). But among Sabbatarians today, it seems that there are too many issues used as points of division instead of working together.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled (Matt 5:6).

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God (Matt 5:9). —Norman S. Edwards

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