The Apple Of God's Eye

May 17, 2010

The Plain Truth About Sacred Names

The “Hebrew Names” teaching began in February, 1937 with Dr. John B. Briggs. He started the “Names Evangelization Program”  and “ Kadesh Name Society”  in Detroit. This group first obtained a charter as “Assembly of Y.H.V.H.” and later as “Yahveh Beth Israel.”

Dr. Briggs acted as executive, but apparently there was little growth or fruit borne, and he died in 1961, having ordained ministers to continue his work. This group believes Christ (whom they call “Yahshua”) was kept in prison a couple of days, and not crucified until the preparation for the weekly Sabbath, 28 A.D., and that He was raised three days later on the last day of Unleavened Bread. They dip three times to baptize (The Faith magazine, March 1969, page 4, and literature and correspondence from “Yahveh Beth Israel”).

The “Faith Bible and Tract Society” had been publishing The Faith magazine, beginning March 1937.  It contained articles on the names of God or of Christ only in the Hebrew language — which they, of course, termed the “sacred names.”

All the evidence proves, that the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language. It was inspired by the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. And by inspiration of the Holy Spirit the names of Jesus and of God, as well as the titles, were inspired to be written in the Greek language — not Hebrew.

“And further, much of the New Testament contains quotations or citations from the Old Testament, and wherever those Old Testament passages contained the names or titles of God, the Holy Spirit inspired them to be written into the New Testament in the Greek language.

Some may argue that the New Testament must have been originally inspired and written in the Hebrew language, and the Greek copies of the New Testament must be uninspired and erroneous translations. But this is erroneous as all authorities know that the only copies of the original writings that have been preserved are in Greek — absolutely none in Hebrew. And if they are in error wherever the names of Jesus or of God are mentioned, how do we know that they are not in error in many other places? Then we have no sure Word of God for the New Testament Scriptures — only uninspired translations.

If those sincere (though deceived) people who insist we must speak the Hebrew language when we come to the names of God or of Christ, try to establish that the New Testament was originally inspired and written in the Hebrew language, then:

1) the burden of proof is on them — and there is none!

2) we are left with only faulty, erroneous writings for the New Testament. But God has said, “… the truth of the Eternal endureth for ever” (Ps. 117:2) and, “… his truth endureth to all generations” (Ps. 100:5). “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever” (I Peter 1:25). And Jesus Christ said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Mark 13:31).

Division and Confusion

There still exist groups advocating the so-called “sacred names.” They are divided among themselves in many ways, especially as to what the Hebrew names are.

First, understand just what is the contention of this so-called “Sacred Name” teaching.

Advocates of this belief do not contend that we must read the Bible only in the Hebrew language. They themselves use English-language translations of the Bible.

What they do claim is that the names of the Creator-Father, and of His Son the Saviour, are “sacred” only in the Hebrew language. The truth is, the names of God or of Christ are as sacred in one language as another, and there is no scripture to the contrary.

In other words, they allow that we may freely translate all other words of the Bible into our English language — except those words that are the names of the Father and the Son. They claim it is wrong, even sin, to use the names of the Father or the Son in the English language. But that contention is not substantiated by the Scriptures.

They contend that we may use English translations of the Bible, until we come to the names of the Father and/or the Son. THEN we must speak the Hebrew language in pronouncing or writing their names.

Does any scripture teach that the people of any language may read, or quote the Bible in their language, except for the names of the Father or the Son — and that these names must always be written or spoken or copied in the Hebrew language? Most assuredly not!

Then does the Bible, as they claim, substantiate their teaching? Even the question sounds ridiculous! There is no such statement or command anywhere in the Bible!

Then how do they arrive at such a contention? By a series of arguments and wrestings which arrive at an answer contrary to the usage of Christ or the apostles, or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Is their teaching, then, according to the Bible? Absolutely not, though they try to prove that it is. No scripture gives any such teaching.  In nearly every instance an error is based on a false premise, assumed and taken for granted.

Their Basic Premise

The central, basic premise, on which this false doctrine of using only Hebrew names is based, is this: it is carelessly assumed — taken for granted — the false supposition that the name “God” is of pagan origin, and therefore we are following a pagan custom in using the name God.

Their argument is that our Germanic-speaking ancestors used the name “God” to refer to their idols. But notice what the Bible reveals:

“When they [the Gentile nations] knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations [reasonings], and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-23). And in verse 28, they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”

Now understand this: ‘The above is quoted from the English-language translation. It was translated from the Greek version, which was inspired through the Holy Spirit. In the original writing, the Holy Spirit inspired the Greek name for God, Theos. The very context shows that in the clause “when they knew God [theos],” the Holy Spirit used the name theos to mean the true Creator. The Gentiles once knew this true Creator as God. But they turned from Him — changing the incorruptible glory of the Supreme Creator into Idols, calling them god. They did not like to retain the true Creator in their knowledge — they substituted idols, which they came to honor as god. They applied the name of the true Creator to their idols.

Now notice the faulty reasoning of the “Hebrew name” people: Because the Gentiles used the name of the Creator (in Greek theos — in Hebrew elohim — and in English “God”) which originally they knew as the name of the true Creator, and began looking on their idols as God, these “Hebrew name” people reason that we are using the name that originated in idolatry.

Actually it was just the reverse. The pagans took the names of the true God and called their idols by those names that made their idolatry all the more sinful. But did it contaminate or corrupt or paganize the names themselves? Of course not. Notice further:

The Apostle Paul told certain men of Athens: “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD [THEOS]. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23).

Beyond controversy it was theos whom the Athenians superstitiously honored by that altar, lest they should accidentally overlook any unknown deity who might possibly exist. But that theos, said Paul, is the Deity he declared (preached, proclaimed) to them. There is no escaping the fact that whatever was written in Greek on that Greek monument as the name of deity, that was the name Paul applied to the true God he preached. That Greek name was theos!

The English name “GOD” is merely the English translation from the Greek THEOS. Like theos, the Teutonic word “god” originally meant simply “that which is worshipped,” without reference to its use in paganism. (“God” has no known connection with the Old Testament name Gad.)

The customary practice of the pagans was to take the true names of God and apply them to their idols. In the inspired Hebrew of the Old Testament the Hebrew name elohim is used 240 times as the true name of the true God, but is also used for pagan idols. Notice just two examples: the idol gods of Egypt arc called elohim, “… against all the gods [elohim] of Egypt I will execute judgment” (Ex. 12:12). The Egyptians once had known of the true God but became total idol worshippers.

Speaking of the heathen nations — Hittites, Perizzites and Canaanites — God commanded, “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods [elohim]” (Ex. 23:24).

And so that basic false assumption is clearly the source of the error. Of course it is an attempt to read doctrine INTO the Scriptures.

Same name — Different Language

Here are a few examples of how the same name is spelled and pronounced differently in different languages.

The name Anthony in English is Antoine (pronounced Antwán) in French. It is Anton in German, and Antonio in Spanish.

The name Charles is Karl in German, and Carlos in Spanish.

The name Henry is Henri in French, Heinrich in German and Enrique in Spanish.

James is Jacques (pronounced Zhock) in French, Jakob (pronounced Yahkob) in German, and Jaime (pronounced Highmay) in Spanish.

Peter is Pierre in French, and Pietro (pronounced Pi-ettro) in Italian.

William is Guillaume in French, Wilhelm (pronounced Vil-helm) in German, and Guglielmo in Italian.

The city of Vienna, in Austria, is spelled Wien there, and the “W” is pronounced like “V”. The city of Naples is Napoli in Italy. The city of Belgrade is Beograd in Yugoslavia.

The Holy Spirit, inspiring the original writing of the New Testament in the Greek language, translated not only all other words quoted from the Old Testament into Greek, but the names of God as well, thus setting the precedent for us, when translating into English, to translate these names into English. The Holy Spirit of God did not make any mistake!

Additional PROOF!

God attaches great importance to the meaning of names. His name is, indeed, of supreme importance.

God names persons or things what they are. The archangel — the cherub Lucifer (Latin, “light-bearer”), was so named because from the time God created him he was a bringer of light and truth. His name (in Hebrew, Helel ben Shachar) meant “Shining Star of the Dawn.” But when iniquity was found in him — when he rebelled, turned to vanity, lust and greed, became an adversary and enemy, God changed his name to Satan, which means “adversary” — “enemy” — “competitor.”

Jacob was so named because he was a “supplanter,” and that is the meaning of the name Jacob. But when he prevailed with God, and overcame, God changed his name to what he then was — Israel, which means “prevailer with God” or “overcomer.”

English-speaking people know that the name GOD means the supreme Creator — but if we use “Yahweh” — or “Yahvah” — or “Yah” — or “Yahshuah” — or “Yahashuah” — or some other form which these “Hebrew names” people advocate, English-speaking people would not know who was being talked about. We use the names of God in whatever language we are speaking so the people of that language will understand, and get the message!  Jesus and Paul did this, setting us the example, which we follow!

If we do not use names in the language of the people to whom we speak — if we do not use the names that convey meaning, we are simply making useless, meaningless and uncertain sounds.

An “Uncertain Sound”

The “Hebrew names” people say we must speak in another language — another tongue — the Hebrew — when using the name of the Father or the Son. The Bible teaches otherwise. For these Hebrew words or names are an unknown — foreign — tongue to nearly all English-speaking people, as well as French-speaking, German-speaking, Spanish-speaking or those of other languages. But listen to the inspired teaching:

“For the speaker in a foreign tongue does not speak to men … no man understands it…. So you also, with your languages, unless you produce an intelligible speech, how can it be known what is spoken? For you would be talking to the wind” (I Cor. 14:2, 9, Fenton trans.). And the 8th verse says: “And if a trumpet should give an unknown [uncertain in the Authorized Version] sound, who would prepare for battle?”

Languages other than Hebrew have to be spoken to people who do not understand Hebrew — to people who would not know who we were pointing them to if we use the Hebrew YHWH. And no one can be certain how to pronounce or sound that name in Hebrew. Its pronunciation has been lost — and these Hebrew names groups disagree among themselves as to how to pronounce the name! Certainly we would be giving out an “uncertain sound.”

Christ’s Example

Jesus started the Work of God, proclaiming this Gospel. He never once is recorded to have used the Hebrew YHWH during the entirety of His earthly ministry, though He spoke Hebrew.

Paul spoke to Gentiles who spoke the Greek language. There is no recorded use of the Hebrew YHWH — but he used the same names in the Greek language.

The Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament in the Greek language — and did NOT use the Hebrew YHWH, or “Yahshua” or “Yahashuah,” but the Greek words that conveyed the meaning of the names of deity in the Greek language.

Moreover, although no one can be certain (though most think “Yahweh” is probably correct) of the correct vowels that should be used in the Hebrew YHWH, Hebrew scholars do show that it means “The Everliving One” or “The Eternal” or “The Self-Existent One,” or “The One who was, and is, and is to be.”

Why Name Is Important

The “Sacred Name” people contend the important thing, in using the names of the Father or the Son, is the sound, more than the meaning. But even they are not certain as to the sound — so they have “an uncertain sound.”

Names are important to God. God names things or people what they are.’ Names are used to convey meaning.

They may not realize it themselves, but to these “Hebrew Names” people the names are like having the “secret password.” And if one has the Hebrew sound of the name, that lets him through to the Father. But with God — and in the Bible — no magic password, no superstition is involved.

God’s name has meaning, and must convey that meaning, which is the Eternal, the Self-Existent One, the Ever-Living, the Creator — the One in auhority! In the case of the Father and the Son, the NAME conveys THE AUTHORITY of the Person so named, not merely a certain (or uncertain) sound. And even their sound is suspect — for no one, say the authorities, can be certain of the correct pronunciation or sound of YHWH.

Meaning of the Word “Name”

The word “name” in the Bible signifies more than its mere pronunciation or sound. Moulton and Milligan in their Greek Lexicon show that a major use of the word onoma (name) in the New Testament “denotes the character, fame, authority of the person indicated.” In secular Greek literature use of the word “name” compares remarkably well with New Testament usage “as a title of dignity or rank.” The Lexicon gives several references to this well-known usage. One of them is Hebrews 1:4, where Paul says: “Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

James Moffatt, the translator, says in his commentary on Hebrews 1:4 that the word name “carries the general sense of ‘rank’ or ‘dignity'” (International Critical Commentary, p. 8).

This one verse, out of many in the New Testament, shows “name” means rank, dignity or authority. Moulton and Milligan also show how secular Greek authors used “name” consistently to signify “authority.” For example, a man told his deputy to “carry out everything in my name during my absence.” This shows the deputy had power of attorney to use the authority of his master. And even we today mean the same thing in common speech. “Stop, in the name of the law” doesn’t mean to pay attention to the “phonetic sound” of the word “law,” but it means “Stop, by the authority of the law.”

The lexicon gives other New Testament references showing “name” means “authority.” Notable among them is Philippians 2:9, 10. Another example is our closing in prayer; “in Jesus’ Name” means “by Jesus’ authority.” Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament gives many more references.


Now notice additional Bible proofs.

In the pivotal Olivet prophecy, Jesus said: “… Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am the Christ, and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5). They were not to come in their own name, saying they were Christ. They were to come claiming to have His authority, to be His representatives — His ministers. They were to claim to be the ministers of Jesus Christ, saying that JESUS is the Christ — yet deceiving the many.

Jesus did not say that a scattered, divided, fragmented few would come in the name of Yahshua, saying Yahshua is the Christ, and deceiving a few. (I don’t think the Hebrew name people will say that he was speaking of them.) But who were the many who have deceived the many — actually forming the largest religion on earth, deceiving the millions? What name did they come in? They came in the name of Christ. They called themselves Christians. They call their religion Christianity. They have deceived the world (Rev. 17 and 18).

If His name is ONLY YHWH or Yahshua, then Jesus made a mistake in this saying! The name they came in, He said, is His name.

Take another BIBLE proof.

On the day of Pentecost, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit had come from heaven, and filled the disciples. This tremendous miracle amazed people — multitudes of Jews from “every nation under heaven.” And when the disciples through the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues, they were confounded, and said, “How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? … we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:5-11).

All these, from “every nation under heaven” — each one — heard them (the disciples) speak of the wonderful works of God in his own language! They heard of the works of GOD — not in the Hebrew language, but each in his own native language.

Here again, the Holy Spirit, speaking in and through the disciples, spoke of God in the various many different languages! And yet the Hebrew names people think we sin if we do as the Holy Spirit did!

New Testament INSPIRED in GREEK

One vital proof, alone, however, is absolutely decisive!

That is the fact that the original writing of the New Testament was inspired through the Holy Spirit in the Greek language — and in that language the Holy Spirit did not use the Hebrew YHWH or Yahshua, but GREEK words for the names of the Father and the Son.

One second-century (Catholic) writer, Papias, put forth a theory that “Matthew compiled the reports in the Hebrew language.” We know of his statement through a quotation by Eusebius (also Catholic). It, however, offers no proof that Matthew did not write the inspired text in Greek, as virtually all scholars agree. Further, no copies exist of any inspired Hebrew original text by Matthew.

It is true that certain old fragments of manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Old Testament do have the tetragrammaton (YHWH) in either the Paleo-Hebrew or the Aramaic script. But this was not the normal usage. Most copies even of the Septuagint used the Greek Kurios, and it is definitely true that no New Testament manuscript has the YHWH.

Following is the evidence for the language of the original writings of the New Testament:

New Testament writers quoted frequently both from the Hebrew Bible and from the Greek Septuagint, but the vast majority of the quotations are from the Septuagint, because most Jews as well as the Greeks used the Greek language and did not read Hebrew. Consider: If the New Testament had been written in Hebrew, there would have been no need to quote from the Greek version. Yet — and let’s be specific — Matthew, the one author most usually cited as possibly writing in Hebrew or Aramaic, when quoting from Psalm 8:2 (Matt. 21:16) where the Septuagint and the Hebrew texts differ, uses the Septuagint, not the Hebrew. Such cases can be cited by the score. See, for examples, Isaiah 40:3 and Matthew 3:3 where Matthew again follows the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew; also Matthew 13:14 and Isaiah 6:9-10.

In the second century A.D., scores of writings were composed about the New Testament accounts. Only slightly later such men as Tatian, Papias, Tertullian, Irenaeus and many others not only refer to and quote from, but describe the original writings. Yet neither the second century nor later has provided us with so much as a single quote from other than a Greek text.

If the original had really been written in Hebrew, one would expect that at least some copies would still be floating around at such an early time — only a few years after the completion of the writings of the Apostle John. Their total absence must be taken either as an indication that the “conspirators” against the postulated Hebrew original worked very fast indeed, and very thoroughly, or that the proposition of a non-Greek original is, and must be, a fable of unscholarly theorists.

Certainly the translators of the New Testament into other foreign languages would have gone to the original version. Do we find the old Italian versions (second century) based on the supposed Hebrew or Aramaic original? We find nothing of the kind. The Muratorian canon (second century) is based on a Greek original. The Harmony of Tatian (170 A.D.) is based on a Greek original. The Old Latin (180 A.D.) is based on a Greek original. The Armenian, Palestinian, Egyptian, Gothic, Ethiopic, etc., etc., are all based on Greek texts, and not one of the scholars who made them ever used a different “original.”

Finally, it can be shown from the linguistic standpoint alone — involving the use of infinitives, genitive absolutes, etc. — that the New Testament could not have come from a Hebrew original. It is definitely not a translation of Hebrew!

The Saviour’s Name in Greek

Notice the inspired use of the name “Jesus” (English form of the Greek lesous):

The first place the Saviour’s name occurs in the New Testament is Matthew 1:1, where by God’s inspiration through the Holy Spirit, the GREEK words are lesous Christos, in English “Jesus Christ.” It is true that the Greek lesous is the Greek form or equivalent of Yahshua — but the Holy Spirit did not use Yashua, but inspired in the Greek language the Greek equivalent Iesous.

The translators properly have followed the Holy Spirit’s example in translating into the English language the English equivalent, Jesus Christ! And I am not willing to accuse either the Spirit of God of error or sin in having inspired the name in the Greek language, or the translators in having translated the name into the English language.

What name did the Holy Spirit inspire in the original writing of the Greek-language New Testament? The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, husband of Mary, and said, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus …. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:21-25). That is the name given by command of God! The name “Jesus” is the English form of the Greek lesous. This is the English translation from the Greek as inspired by the Holy Spirit. I am not willing to say, as the teaching of the “Hebrew Names” people implies, that the Holy Spirit erred or sinned, in having inspired the Greek lesous instead of Yahshua. Are you?


Now what is the only name by which we may be saved?

Peter and John had used this name, and by the authority of that name, had performed the remarkable miracle of healing the cripple, lame from birth. They were arrested, accused, imprisoned. The authorities demanded of Peter and John, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them … that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole … neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:7-12).

The Holy Spirit of God, inspiring the writing in the Greek language, inspired that only name by which we may be saved to be written in the Greek, and not in the Hebrew. Therefore if we were speaking in the Greek language, we should understand that name to be, in the Greek, Iesous. The Spirit of God did not inspire those words to be written in the Greek language, except for the only name, and then inspire that name in the Hebrew, as the Hebrew names people would have done. The only name was inspired in the same language as the rest of the writing. Therefore we should understand that same name in the language in which we read our Bibles — the English name Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

Source: Good News, November/December, 1972

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