What is God's Name?

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Does God DEMAND we refer to him using a special or "sacred" name? Do people sin when they refer to our Creator as GOD? Do requests and pleas for help go UNHEARD if a particular Hebrew word referencing the Almighty is NOT used in prayer? Is it sinful and disrespectful to call the Savior of the world Jesus or Jesus Christ? 

There are many arguments supporting the doctrine that, like a unique key, God is reachable only through a SPECIAL name whose spelling or pronunciation is correct. One of the most popular set of names used to refer to God revolves around what is known as the Tetragammaton. The Tetragammaton is composed of four consonants, usually YHVH or YHWH, that are used in the Hebrew language to refer to God. When ancient Hebrew was written it was done so without any vowels. Those who read the consonants referring to God were forced to supply the vowel sounds that were missing.

What IS a name?

Before we begin our study, we need to first define what a NAME is. Generically, a name is a word or term by which a person (or a place, thing, concept or object) can be distinctively labeled and known. Names reference things that exist in the real world. Different languages will have correspondingly different words or names for the same things For example, in English we refer to the divine Being who created everything as "God." The French word for our Creator is "Dieu, " the Spanish word is "Dios" and so on.

Pagan references

One of the many arguments touted for using a 'sacred name' is that since the English word "God" was used to also reference pagan gods, it can never be used to refer to the one true Creator. One fact this claim ignores, however, is that one of the Hebrew words used to refer to the Creator, Elohim (Genesis 1:26, etc.), is ALSO used in the Bible to refer to false gods time and time again.

 
 
 
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In the Old Testament "Elohim" is used at least 240 times to refer to pagan gods. Variations of Elohim are also used in reference to false gods, such as "El" (15 times) and "Eloah" (five times). By the same reasoning used to reject the English designation for the Supreme Deity the Hebrew words Elohim, El and Eloah should not have been used to refer to the Supreme Being by the inspired writers of the Old Testament!

What is often overlooked is the fact that the root word "El" was used by pagans to refer to their gods about the SAME TIME Moses completed writing the first five books of the Bible. This is one proof that shows our Father does NOT prohibit the use of words in other languages to refer to him.

Hebrew references

The Hebrew word Elohim, which literally means 'mighty ones,' is used for God in the Old Testament more than 2,000 times. The first time this word is used in the Bible is in Genesis.

"Then God (Elohim) said, 'Let Us make man in Our image . . .'" (Genesis 1:26)

The root word "El" used to compose the word Elohim was also used in reference to FALSE gods worshipped by the peoples that were Israel's neighbors. Discoveries made at the Canaanite city of Ugarit show this to be a fact.

Abraham

We know Abraham to be the Father of the faithful – which is to say, the father of the covenant of Faith. Because of his faith He was not only considered righteous (Romans 4:3) but GOD considered him a FRIEND (James 2:23)! Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be in God's kingdom (Matthew 8:11). Surely, such a man called upon the Creator, if required, by a special or sacred name. How do we explain, however, that God told Moses that Abraham knew him by one name but not by another one?

"I am the LORD (YHVH). I appeared to Abraham . . . as God Almighty (Hebrew: El Shaddai), but by My name LORD (YHVH) I was not known . . ." (Exodus 6:2-3)

Read the above verses carefully. God said He appeared to Abraham and the fathers as El Shaddai. They, however, did not know him as YHVH. How could they possibly be saved if they NEVER used the special name of YHVH or variation thereof to call upon him - a name many believe MUST be used in order to receive salvation? Remember, Jesus said the fathers would soon be resurrected to eternal life. The answer is simple. Our Father allows humans to refer to him in a variety of ways!

The strongest proof

The greatest argument that combats the belief that God wants to be referred to by some special name or title is the Greek language itself from which we get the New Testament.  The word "kurios" (Strong's Concordance #G2962), from which the English word Lord is derived, occurs 665 times while "theos" (from which we get the word God) occurs 1,345 times.  Interestingly, in several places where the Old Testament is quoted, the GREEK kurios for Lord is used in place of the Tetragammaton (YHWH / YHVH) that was used in the Hebrew!  One example of this is in Matthew 3 which quotes a passage from Isaiah. 

Prepare a road for the Lord (kurios), make a straight path for him to travel (Matthew 3:3)

The original language version of Isaiah 40:3 from which Matthew 3:3 quoted uses YHVH (Strong's Concordance #H3068) for "the Lord."  The apostle Paul also substituted YHVH when he quote Old Testament verses (see 1Corinthians 1:31; Romans 4:8; 9:23, etc.). When Jesus made his triumphal arrival in Jerusalem the people did not say YHVH or variation thereof when the quoted Psalm 118:26 but rather the following.

"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord (kurios)!" (Matthew 21:9)

When Jesus quoted the Psalms in reference to Himself He did not say YHVH or YHWH or insert vowels to pronounce the word correctly. Had he done so the self-righteous religious leaders who HATED him who have had him immediately executed (see Luke 20:41-44)! 

Did Jesus ever say YAHWEH?

Did Christ and the apostles use "Yahweh" in their public preaching, at least among the Jews in the first century?  If they had, the common people would have reviled them, and the Scribes and Pharisees would not have had to wait long to execute them all.  Remember that when Christ was on trial, the Sanhedrin sought, and got, various false witnesses in order to accuse Him (Mark 14:55-59; Matthew 26:59-61).  Had He said the name "Yahweh" any time during His public ministry, sentencing Him to death by the religious leaders for what THEY considered was a sacred name would have been easy. 

The New Testament silence concerning the use of Yahweh is deafening, especially when considering the Scribes and Pharisees were looking for ANY charge on which to accuse Christ. Of course, Christ Himself would not have believed it was wrong to say "Yahweh," especially since He WAS Yahweh in the flesh (John 1:1, 14; 1Corinthians 10:4, etc).  But, in order to be able to effectively evangelize and witness to the Jews, He simply could not have used this reference.  Since neither He nor His disciples used "Yahweh," Christians should not see it as a requirement for salvation to use it either.

Fundamental error

Fundamentally, the error committed by the doctrine that Christians must use Hebrew names when referencing the Godhead is an idea that is read into several scriptures in the Old Testament.  When those who have such beliefs confront New Testament Greek text that contradicts their position, the text is said to be wrong. 

What is almost entirely forgotten is that, in God's sight, it is not what we say but what we do while serving him that matters (Matthew 7:21). Let us look at one last scripture.

In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God . . . Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. (Hebrews 5:7)

Note that Jesus was heard not because He used a special reference to his father. He was heard because his was humble and feared God.

In conclusion

To the Eternal, disputes over what is his 'real' name and how to pronounce it are trivial by comparison to us learning more about His magnificence, power, and authority, which the meaning of his titles and names point to. Using one name or pronunciation over another in reference to God does not affected our prayers are heard or not. In the final analysis, if God want us to use a special name for him, he will no doubt tell us in the resurrection.

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