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Is a Christian Required to Use the Sacred Name?

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Is a Christian Required to Use the Sacred Name?

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Some people believe that humans must use only one name when addressing God—the Hebrew word YHWH. This is known as the tetragrammaton, Greek for "the four letters" or "the four characters." However, there are many other names and titles of God in the pages of the Bible.

Some people still insist that this name is unique. Yet it can be clearly demonstrated that other names for God are also identified as unique, and identified by God as such, in Scripture.

In Matthew 1 we find the story of Joseph and Mary. An angel appears to Joseph to tell him that he need not fear to take Mary as his wife, for she has become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Then in Matthew 1:21 the angel says, "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

God could have easily allowed Joseph to name Jesus with whatever name struck Joseph and Mary as desirable. Yet we see God deliberately intervened and chose the name to be given to His Son. So we see the name of God in the flesh—Jesus the Christ—was significant and warranted direct intervention by God.

In Acts 4:12 the apostle Peter tells us just how unique and special this name Jesus Christ truly is: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Certainly, this name is more important and significant than any other. But God makes it clear that He can be called by many names in the Scriptures. After all, it is God who first confounded the languages at Babel in Genesis 11:9. If He had not wished for the correct pronunciation and usage of the name YHWH to be lost in history, He could have seen to it that the word remained the same in all the languages of the peoples leaving Babel. Yet the all-powerful God did not choose to do so.

Yes, names are important. The Bible places great significance on names. And we find God changing the names of individuals whom He chose. Abram's name was changed in Hebrew to Abraham, which meant "a father of many nations." Jacob's name, which meant "supplanter," was changed to Israel, meaning "prevailer with God." But both were changed within their native tongue, not into another language.

The Son, Jesus Christ, came in His Father's name (John 5:43). What is that name? Unless you, too, bear the name of your Heavenly Father, you are not His son and heir. Jesus refers to Him as "My Father" in the Greek language throughout the New Testament. And that Greek word is pater or Father.

Just as the Old Testament books were almost all written in Hebrew, the New Testament books were preserved in Greek. God inspired the Greek version to be preserved and canonized for us today.

We find much evidence today that the most common language of the people of the Roman Empire of Jesus and Paul's day was Greek. Greek was the language of commerce and common to almost everyone. In John 1:41, we find that the Greek-speaking audience was not generally familiar with the meaning of the Hebrew word Meshiach, which means "the anointed." Messias is the Greek spelling of the Hebrew word Meshiach. Most Greeks were not familiar with that word, so John translates it into the Greek word Christos here, which means "the anointed one."

Names for God Other Than YHWH

Both Testaments of the Bible contain many names for God. Some people use the argument that the Creator's only true name is the tetragrammaton YHWH in the Hebrew, and that it is the only name we must use in referring to Him. This argument focuses on the English word "LORD" used in the Old Testament to translate YHWH.

However, the other names for God that occur in the Old Testament and New Testament are not just titles, as is sometimes alleged. God was also known by another "name" before Exodus 3:15, when He revealed Himself as YHWH to Moses. And it was a "name," according to the Bible, not a title. Notice Exodus 6:3. God tells Moses that He was not known by the name YHWH to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but by the name El Shaddai or El Shaddee.

Those who insist that Christians today use the name YHWH in reference to God do not, for whatever reason, insist that we must use the earlier name, the covenant name by which He made Himself known to our covenant father Abraham. It is, after all, through Abraham (ultimately through Christ, of course) that our blessings flow.

If we are only to address God by YHWH, then apparently Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will not be saved, because the name YHWH had not been revealed to them! They knew God not only as El Shaddai, but also by the name Elohim, as is proven in Exodus 3:15, when we look at the verse word by word in Hebrew. The name for God in this verse is Elohim throughout (although the word LORD in the King James Version is the Hebrew word YHWH by which Moses knew God).

(YHWH is used in the book of Genesis, but this is apparently because Moses, who wrote the book, was inspired by God to use it in relating the stories of the patriarchs.)


In the later books of the Old Testament (like Ezra and Nehemiah), we do not find God referred to by the name YHWH at all. We find that by this time the language of the Israelite peoples was Aramaic. And so the Aramaic names Elah, Eloah or Elaw are used and no longer Elohim or YHWH.

Again, in the New Testament we have many passages like Mark 9:38, where John told Jesus of "someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name." It is likely that the spoken language was Aramaic much of the time. And Jesus does say that they did these miracles in His name.

Someone who verbalized the name YHWH at this time would have been arrested, tried and perhaps stoned by order of the Sanhedrin (backed up and supported by the Romans).

How is it possible that God would perform miracles in this (undoubtedly Aramaic) name if He only honors the name YHWH? Would Christ have allowed such a thing in a name of His, other than YHWH, or would His Father back up and support such a thing if God the Father did not want to be honored and called by any name other than YHWH? This example is repeated many times in the New Testament.

Hebrew Pronunciation Lost

The Old Testament text was preserved for centuries with only consonants. The exact pronunciation of the words, with their vowels, was preserved only by oral usage. They were passed down from one generation to the next.

These vowel sounds were not written down until sometime around the sixth or seventh century. At that time, the Jewish scholars of the day, known as Masoretes, created symbols to represent the vowels that they were using by oral tradition. They added these symbols or points to the text of the Old Testament, which had only contained consonants up to that time.

Unfortunately, the tetragrammaton YHWH, the name of the Creator, considered too sacred to be uttered, ceased to be pronounced by the Jews long before the Masoretes.

Whenever the Jews recited the text of the Hebrew Old Testament orally, they substituted the word Adonai ("Lord" in English). (The King James Version uses LORD in small caps for YHWH.) Later on the Masoretes, whenever they encountered the word YHWH, inserted the vowel points for Adonai or Elohim into the word YHWH. Hence, the original vowel points for YHWH are not found in any text.

This gave the synagogue ruler or reader of the text the cue to pronounce either Adonai or Elohim instead of YHWH. Most Hebrew scholars today admit that the exact vowel sounds and pronunciation of YHWH are not certain. Even the consonants are uncertain and YHVH or JHVH could be possible. If people tell you that they know how to pronounce it, they are only making a random decision. Most feel that Yah-weh is a close approximation of the way the word was probably pronounced. Other scholars disagree and feel it is pronounced Yaho, Yahwo or Yahu. There is no way to be certain, unless God reveals it.

The Jews in Jeremiah's time understood the pronunciation of YHWH. But the dreams of their false teachers misled them into believing that YHWH should not be pronounced! Thinking that it was too holy a word to be uttered, they stopped using it. And after the centuries its true pronunciation was lost.

If it were essential that we know the exact pronunciation, we would need to know exactly how the Creator pronounced it to Moses when He introduced Himself to him. Even Ezra, who later edited and compiled Moses' writings, would have only had tradition as his source for pronouncing the word Moses wrote (which contained no vowels).

Even today, Jews in different parts of the world have different pronunciations for the Hebrew vowels and even some consonants. Judges 12:6 indicates that there were variations in dialect at the time in the area between the Nile and the Euphrates.

Names for God in Languages of the Day

Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to use only the Hebrew form of His name. In fact, we are given many positive examples of these names and titles being translated into other languages. There are portions of the Old Testament where Aramaic is the original language rather than Hebrew (Daniel 2:4 through 7:28; Ezra 4:8 through 6:18; 7:12-26). Nowhere in these portions of Aramaic do we find the Hebrew words for the Deity, but instead we find the Aramaic form Elah.

If we examine the New Testament, we find a similar story. No Hebrew names are to be found.

The Greek terms Theos (God) and Kurios (Lord) are used. When passages from the Old Testament are quoted in the New Testament, the word Kurios is substituted for what would have been YHWH in the Old Testament. An example would be Matthew 3:3, quoted from Isaiah 40:3.

Unfortunately, there are some who present impressive-sounding arguments that the New Testament is corrupted (and therefore unreliable) and that the Old Testament Hebrew name of God (YHWH) has been removed from all 5,500 or more manuscripts of the Greek New Testament (not to mention more than 8,000 manuscripts of the New Testament in Latin). This would have been a greater task than was humanly possible. The editors would have had to gather all of these manuscripts from all over the civilized world and carefully remove all trace of the Hebrew tetragrammaton, substituting the Greek Kurios or Theos in its place.

Kurios occurs 665 times in the New Testament and Theos occurs 1,345 times.

The editing necessary is beyond the realm of possibility, especially without leaving behind any evidence of edits having been made anywhere.

Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Matthew 24:35). If the name YHWH had been used, it would have remained in the texts of the New Testament.

Although the apostle Paul spoke Hebrew, he didn't use the Hebrew YHWH in any of his 14 letters. The apostle Peter uses the Greek form Yesous Christos for Jesus Christ in Acts 4:10. Salvation is only through the name Jesus Christ! The Hebrew word Yehoshua or Yahshua is not used here at all. The Holy Spirit inspired these words to be written in Greek, not Hebrew.

God's Word nowhere says that it is wrong for people to read the Bible, which includes His name, in their own language.

Nor is it wrong for them to refer to their Creator in their own language in preaching or prayer. Salvation is not based upon a secret or mysterious word or pronunciation.

There is authority and power in the name of Jesus Christ. Whether the name is in Greek or English or any other language does not matter. People were healed and demons were cast out in His name.

Jesus said that He came to reveal the Father to His followers (John 1:18; 17:6, 26). Yet in all that the apostles wrote of Jesus in the New Testament, we find no trace of any reference to the Hebrew word YHWH. Jesus revealed to His disciples the way of life that the Father would have been pleased for them to lead: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

The Name in Other Languages

Perhaps the strongest evidence against the sacred name theory in the New Testament is the fact that on the Day of Pentecost, everyone understood the preaching in his own language. So when Peter spoke and used the name of God, everyone heard it in his own language.

Getting the name "just right" seems to have been very important in paganism. If we study the Bible carefully, we find that the Creator has many names and titles and provides no restriction or command not to translate those names and titles into other languages.

Jesus prayed that the Father would keep those whom He had given to Jesus, in the Father's name. The Father's family name is God in English. In Greek, it is Theos. Twelve times in the New Testament the name of the Church is stated to be the Church of God (Theos). Jesus called Himself the Son of God (Theos) numerous times in the New Testament. Many times He said He came in His Father's name.

Before we accept the theories of some that it is wrong to use anything but the Hebrew word YHWH, or that salvation is only possible through the correct use of one name, we need to recognize the overwhelming evidence that is contained in the New Testament to the contrary. UN