Do We Have to Call God “Yahweh” to Be Saved?
Eric V. Snow 2-19-2005 Split Sermon UCG Lansing, Michigan
Do we have to call God “Yahweh” in order to saved? Must our Savior be called “Yeshua”? Is it a sin to call God “God”? Is it wrong to call the Lord “the Lord”? Must we use the Hebrew language for the words referring to God? Does God condemn Christians for using Greek or English words about the true God because the pagans used the same words for their false gods?
The “Sacred Names” churches have taught a doctrine that has confused or enticed a number of people over the years in the Church of God. They basically believe we have to call God “Yahweh” and Jesus “Yeshua” in order to be saved. Those who persist in calling God “God” or Jesus “Jesus” can’t be saved.
S.P.S. The Sacred Names teaching is fundamentally wrong because the Bible places no restrictions on its (accurate) translation and because the Bible will use words referring to the Supreme Being from different languages.
Just what is a “name” to begin with? What is a “word”? It’s is a symbol that uses a particular noise from our mouths or squiggle on a piece of paper that represents something in physical reality. Different sounds or squiggles in different languages can have the same referents.
English, “frog,” Spanish, “la rana,” French, “la grenouille.”
English, “God,” Spanish, “Dios,” French, “Dieu.”
John 17:11-12, 26
Were Jesus’ disciples called “Yahweh” when they walked the earth?
Notice what is meant here is “authority,” such as a police officer using the phrase, “Stop in the name of the law!” It doesn’t mean a minister must speak the word “Yahweh” when you’re put under the water.
The word “name” can refer to “reputation” also. As someone observed, I doubt that they defiled God’s name while in the throes of ecstasy by calling out a translated version of “Yahweh”! How do you ruin the family name? By mispronouncing it? Don’t be so literal!
(Isa. 56:5, Prov. 22:1)
Guides and identified by one’s worship of that God, not so much pronouncing a correct sound referring to that God/god.
There’s a lot more to “the name of God” than correctly pronouncing one of His names right!
False “title” versus “name” distinction. “God,” title, “Yahweh,” name.
Amos 5:27; Ps. 48:10
Neither Greek nor Hebrew makes such a distinction, even in English, not watertight difference.
Titles of English aristocrats, how used in literature and historical writing example.
Duke of Wellington vs. Arthur Wellesley, known by “title” more often, “Wellington.” (Winner of Waterloo, best British general during Napoleonic Wars).
II Tim. 2:19
Messiah/Christ vs. Jesus/Yeshua.
Another basic problem with the Sacred Names teaching is that the actual pronunciation of “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” was lost.
Lev. 24:11, 16
“Nachav” can mean “to say clearly” or “to blasphme.” The Jews, putting a “hedge” (oral law) around the “garden” (written law), played it safe, and stopped saying “Yahweh” completely some time after returning from Babylon (after 450 b.c.) Initially prohibited for common people, then for regular priests. Then only the high priest, and then only on the Day of Atonement, could say it. The high priest Simon (300-270 b.c.) was the last to speak it lawfully.
Because Hebrew uses only consonants and semi-vowels, the reader adds the vowels while reading the consonants. In Hebrew, the four letters for “the Name,” are “YHWH.” Hence, this is called the Tetragammaton, Greek for “the four letters.” But since the Jews developed a tradition of never saying the word, the correct pronunciation wasn’t preserved by them. When someone in the synagogue would stand up to read from the Tanakh, they would see the YHWH but say “the Lord” (“Adonai”) or in some cases to avoid repetition “God” (“Elohim”). Later perhaps around the 6th or 7th centuries A.D., the Jewish scribes called the Masoretes added little markings, the vowel points, to clue readers what to read or say.
Obviously, if the exact pronunciation was necessary for salvation, God would have ensured its preservation. Debates over exact pronunciation by Sacred Namers. “Jehovah” as alternative transliteration using (wrong) vowel points from “Elohim” or “Adonai.”
Here Jesus stood up to read the “SPS” for His ministry. Notice the hometown crowd’s initial reaction. Had He dared to say “The Name” twice, they would have been shocked, and some would have demanded His immediate execution.
Remember, the Pharisees and scribes were constantly hassling Him and looking for any excuse to accuse Him with later in His ministry. Would they have had to find false witnesses to accuse Him had He constantly been saying “Yahweh” for 3 ½ years?
Central text on issue. But is this the only name of God? God has many names! Why focus so much on one, instead of (say) “El Shaddai”?
Do we have to call Jesus “Yeshua”?
Matt. 1:21, 23
Coincidentally similar sound to the god “Zeus” in Greek. Not proof of derivation: “Niggardly” PC example. “El” not from Spanish masculine singular article for “the”!
(Heb. 4:8: “Jesus” same as “Joshua” in Greek).
Acts 17:23, 27-28
Does anyone think Paul used the Hebrew words for God and Lord in this first time speech to the pagan Greek philosophers and others in Athens? Notice that the pagan word in Greek for “God,” “Theos,” from the altar could be used to refer to the true God.
Fundamental error of Sacred Names Doctrine: Preconceived theological idea taken from texts in Hebrew Bible. When New Testament’s Greek text contradicts it, they say the text is wrong rather than their doctrine. Conspiracy idea, all New Testament “cleansed” of Hebrew words for God, presumably in early second century A.D. “Kyrios,” “Lord,” appears 665 times, “Theos,” “God,” appears some 1,345 times. Claim would bring whole text into doubt: What else might they have changed?
Do we take this seriously or not?
At least 5309 Greek New Testament manuscripts, none have Hebrew names for God. Matthew not originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic: Its Greek is too smooth, and has word plays that are only possible in Greek.
This last part in Aramaic Bible, so why have this last part if originally written in Aramaic!
Notice that Jesus honored the Jewish tradition here. Had He said “Yahweh” instead of “Adonai,” the Pharisees would have instantly demanded His execution, rather than slinking off abased. Also, the Greek text, and thus the Holy Spirit, accepted the Jewish tradition here, since “Kyrios” appears here twice, not “Yahweh” or “Adonai.” If God inspired the word “Kyrios” in place of “Yahweh” when it refers to Himself, who are we puny humans to insist that God must be called “Yahweh”?
The crowds, quoting Ps. 118:26, surely weren’t saying “Yahweh,” but “Lord” (“Adonai” in Aramaic, “Kyrios” in Greek) instead!
Consider this argument the Sacred Names people use: Because (say) pagan Anglo-Saxons centuries ago used the English word “god” to refer to false gods, we can’t use “god” to refer to the Supreme Being. But now, consider the word “Elohim” in Hebrew. This word is normally translated “God” in English Bibles. Did pagans use some form of this word to refer to God? In Semitic languages, like Arabic, Babylonian, and Hebrew, variations upon the root word “El” as a reference to God appear. Perhaps the most well known is “Allah,” the Muslim word for the Almighty God. In the ancient city of Ugarit, a Canaanite city (c. 2000-1200 b.c.) whose ruins are in Syria, they used a language very similar to ancient Hebrew. In a myth about the struggle between the gods Baal and Mot, a form of the word “El” appears. Inference from clay tablets dated to around 1400 b.c. Does this mean Moses sinned by using “Elohim” to refer to the true God because pagans before his time used “El” to refer to false gods? This is obviously absurd.
Worse yet, showing how false this doctrine is, Scripture itself uses the same words to refer to both the One true God and false gods. “Elohim” is used 240 times to refer to false gods, “el” 15 times, “eloah” 5 times.
Aramaic sections of Old Testament vs. Sacred Names teaching. Much of Daniel, Ezra written in Aramaic, not Hebrew.
Seventy-eight times God inspired Daniel, Jeremiah, and Ezra to use the Aramaic word "Elah," not the Hebrew "Elohim." Here God clearly granted permission men to use words referring to Him in languages other than Hebrew. Furthermore, 16 times "Elah" is used to refer to pagan gods, showing once again God allows the same word to be used about pagan gods that is used to refer to Him. To say God only allows Hebrew words to be used about Him clearly contradicts the Old Testament.
“Elohim” used to refer to Dagon, the false god of the Philistines.
(Jer. 31:32, “Husband,” “Baal.”)
Personal names not changed argument: Would I still be called “Eric” if I lived in Mexico? Would my father, who was named “Richard,” be called “Ricardo,” if he had moved to Mexico? Would my last name become “Schnee” if I moved to Germany? There is an empirical problem with this argument: I happen to know two people given the names “Roberto” and “Jorge” in Argentina who were willing to be called “Robert” and “George” at least sometimes when they moved to America!
Use Scripture to correct preconceived ideas of God instead. Using human standards to judge what God thinks not reliable. God not as thin-skinned as many humans.
Tabitha, Aramaic; Dorcas, Greek
What does Lord’s prayer begin with? Not “Yahweh” in model prayer!
Fundamentally, the Sacred Names teaching is in error because it is a preconceived idea that is read into, and gained from, certain Old Testament scriptures that God must be called certain names in one language. Then, when the Greek New Testament's text contradicts this teaching, the text of the New Testament is called wrong, instead of this teaching! It denies that the Holy Spirit placed its sanction on the substitution of the name "the Lord" for the tetragammaton YHWH when the New Testament makes citations from the Old. It assumes, without proof, and against the witness of the Old Testament itself, that it is a sin to use a word referring to the Creator that also has been used about pagan gods. It says it is a sin to translate or use other words that refer to the true God other than Hebrew ones without citing any specific commands in Scripture concerning this, and against the witness not only of the Greek New Testament, but also the Aramaic portions of the Old Testament. Furthermore, it turns certain particular noises made by human mouths and squiggles made by human hands into a condition for salvation. It confusedly exalts the sounds and sights of the symbol for a word over and above the meaning of a word itself, which is what really matters. For in the end, what matters in God's sight isn't what we say, including pronouncing His name in a certain manner, but what we do while serving him in faith: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).