For centuries men and women have used various names to refer to the Almighty. He has been called the Creator, the Lord of Hosts, Sovereign and by the intimate term "Father." But does God have a specific, revealed name? Is there a name He wishes to be called that is above all other names? Is there a name that is His proper, "sacred" name?
There are a number of people who believe our Creator and His Son do have specific "sacred" names. They say the Heavenly Father has a "sacred" name of Yahweh, and His Son Jesus Christ has a proper name of Yahshua, the Messiah. They believe all popular versions of the Bible have incorrectly translated the true names of the Creator and His Son.
These "sacred" name advocates have researched the word "name" in scripture looking for a "proper" name for God. Because the scripture emphasizes "this is my name forever" and "there is only one name given" they believe using the "proper" name for the Almighty is critical to salvation. They believe that it is necessary for the Most High to be identified by a proper name to indicate Who He is as a "person." They found that when the word "LORD" was used in the Old Testament, the original Hebrew text was "Yahweh." They believe that in the name "Yahweh" they have uncovered the "proper" name that has been kept hidden from us. In their opinion, references to the Almighty in Scripture, should be rendered "Yahweh."
We have been studying the scripture seeking answers. Has there been a conspiracy among all the popular Bible translators to keep the revealed name of God and His Son from us? Does the Almighty have a proper name that we are to call Him, just as each man is given a particular name?
A key scripture used to support the theory that God does have a "sacred" name is Exodus 3:13-15:
13And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 15And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
In the above scripture, we must first understand the conversation between God and Moses. Notice that God did not approach Moses commanding him to reveal to the children of Israel His "sacred" name. Quite the reverse occurred. Moses showed his reluctance and fear that the Israelites would not believe him. Moses requested that God give him His name so that he would be received by the people. In response, God left Moses no wiser by the answer, "I AM THAT I AM!"
Instead of revealing one, "sacred" name, God refers to Himself with several names and titles: I AM, LORD God, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob. God also states, "this is my name for ever." Apparently, God is using the word "name" in a broader sense than just His "proper" name since He calls Himself by several names in this one passage.
Individuals are given a "proper" name at birth which usually does not have any particular significance. However, when the word, "name" is used in the Bible in reference to God, it reveals His attributes. Before looking for a "proper" name for the Almighty, let's examine the meaning of the word "name."
According to CRUDEN'S COMPLETE CONCORDANCE, when the word "name" is used in scripture to reference God, it "signifies any thing whereby His nature and will is made better known to us."
The New COMPACT BIBLE DICTIONARY says name is "the person as he has been revealed; for example, the 'name of Jehovah' signifies Jehovah in the attributes He has manifested - holiness, power, love, etc. Often in the Bible the name signifies the presence of the person in the character revealed (1 Kings 18:24). To be sent or to speak in someone's name signifies to carry his authority (Jeremiah 11:21; 2 Corinthians 5:20). . . . To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray as His representatives on earth, in His Spirit and with His aim, and implies the closest union with Christ."
WEBSTER'S SEVENTH NEW COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY defines name as "spiritual nature or essence [Praise his holy ~]."
NOAH WEBSTER'S 1828 DICTIONARY states that "in Scripture, the name of God signifies his titles, his attributes, his will or purpose, his honor and glory, his word, his grace, his wisdom, power and goodness, his worship or service, or God himself."
The confusion lies with having a literal interpretation of the word "name." "Name" when used in reference to God is not limited to a "proper" unique name. "Name" includes anything whereby God's nature and will are revealed to us.
Let's assume God does have a "proper" name which is above all His other names and titles. The key words in searching for His "sacred" name in the above-scripture are God, I AM, and LORD. In the following paragraphs we will examine each of these words.
The word "God" is from the Hebrew word "elohiym" (No. 430 in STRONG'S CONCORDANCE) and in a specific sense means "the supreme God." Although the Bible does not contain a formal definition of the word "God," His being and attributes are displayed on every page. (See The New COMPACT BIBLE DICTIONARY under God.)
"I AM" are the words God used to answer Moses' question regarding His name: "I AM THAT I AM." The word "AM" is referenced in STRONG'S (No. 1961) as "Hayah," a primary root meaning "to exist," "be" or "become" and is always emphatic. Notice "I AM THAT I AM" is a verb form, not a proper noun.
The word rendered "LORD" is referenced in STRONG'S as "Yehovah" (No. 3068) and means "self-Existent," "Eternal" or "He is." "Yehovah," more properly spelled, "Yahweh," is from "Hayah" (AM).
In plain English, the Hebrew word rendered "LORD" is Yahweh and means "He is." When God speaks of himself (first person), He says, "I AM." When we speak of Him (third person), we say, "He is." Therefore, "Yahweh" is the third person form of "I am" in Hebrew. (See NIV STUDY BIBLE note at Exodus 3:15.)
The most direct answer by God for the name by which He wished to be known in Israel was "I AM." "I AM" is a verb form, not a proper noun. If Moses was expecting to be given a "proper name" for God, God's remarks left Moses no wiser as to that name. However, the Almighty's words did reveal His character. The words "I AM" mean "to exist." Who dares question the Almighty or limit Him to one particular name for, "He is."
Jesus applied the concept of "self-Existence" to Himself. He used the first person form of the verb "to be" and proclaimed, "Before Abraham was, I am" ( John 8:58). Only God could be "I AM," but now Jesus was claiming that same, self-existent power. The Jews were outraged and wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. Christ's emphatic declaration echoes God's great affirmation in Exodus 3:14. "I AM hath sent me unto you." Jesus did not say, "I was" but "I am," expressing the eternity of His being and His oneness with the Father. With this climactic statement Jesus concludes His speech that began with the related claim, "I am the light of the world" (verse 12). (See NIV STUDY BIBLE note at John 8:58.)
According to the Priestly tradition, the name "Yahweh" originated in the revelation of God to Moses at Exodus 3:14. There it appears as the so-called imperfect tense of the verb "to be" and is rendered accordingly, "I am that I am." That is to say, God is One Who exists and Who can never cease to exist. Nothing could be independent of the power and purpose of the everlasting God-"the Eternal." It was the great prophets who put into the name "Yahweh" its universal significance, and who saw in the God of Israel the God of the whole universe. This very exaltation of God, however, gave rise to a tendency to put Him farther and farther away from men. His greatness limited His accessibility. There arose elaborate priestly ceremonies to approach "the awful and august God." (See HARPER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY under God.) Even the name "Yahweh" eventually ceased to be pronounced because Jews thought it too holy to be uttered and feared violating Exodus 20:7 and Leviticus 24:16. (See NIV STUDY BIBLE note at Deuteronomy 28:58.) Judaism, with its complicated system of worship and excessive glorification of the Law, assumed God's remoteness.
According to the Christian view, the gulf between man and God is bridged by Jesus Christ, who partakes of the nature of both. He is both Son of God and Son of Man. No more is God thought of as this high and awesome One who is completely separated from all that is earthly and human. Through Jesus Christ, God the Father is seen as the God of redeeming love and the power Who seeks to make all men His sons ( John 1:12, 13). (See HARPER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY under God.) No more is God perceived as an "awful and august God" whose name "Yahweh" is too sacred even to pronounce.
A tradition grew up among the Hebrews to use words that meant "Lord" in place of the "sacred" name "Yahweh." When the English translators came to the word "Yahweh," they rendered it "LORD" in all capitals. Perhaps the translators could have picked "the Eternal" or "self-Existent" instead of "LORD," to more clearly separate Our Lord from the false lords. We are not going to dispute with the translators because it is the Spirit represented by the name, not the name itself, that matters. "LORD" does imply the "Everlasting One" whom we worship. "Yahweh" implies nothing because it is not an English word.
The "sacred" name advocates say "Lord" is just a title, but "Yahweh" is His revealed, personal name. We disagree. "Yahweh" translated "He is" is just one more description of God's infinite being. "Yahweh" arose out of Judaism with its complicated system of worship and excessive glorification of the Law. It was a name held sacred by the Jews who assumed God's remoteness. It is a remnant from the days of elaborate ceremonies devised by the priestly and legalistic mind. Those of the household of faith who believe in the better promises of Jesus Christ need not use a lofty "sacred" name for our God. We call Him by the intimate name of "Father."
Our God is not to be limited by giving Him a proper name like human beings or pagan gods. Are we not in error if we assign Him a created name and then worship and serve this created thing? Is this not a form of idolatry because we limit the Almighty to a created name? The false gods have limited realms and jurisdictions. Our God's realm is without limit. Our God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. If these people can convince us to be satisfied with a proper name of "Yahweh" for the Almighty God, then we will have no reason to search further into His omnipotent being. If we give Him a distinct name, we limit Him. We will not say He has a proper name because, "He is."
"Sacred" name advocates say God must first be identified by name to indicate Who He is as a person. We find no scriptural support for presuming the Heavenly Father is to be identified like a human person. Scripture says God is a Spirit:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The powerful operations and motions of God's Spirit, quickening or reviving the heart toward God, are compared to the blowing of the wind at John 3:8. The wind has been given various names to describe its characteristics such as breeze, gale, gust, blizzard, hurricane and tornado. The wind has many names to describe its attributes, but there is no "proper name" for the wind. Specific winds at particular seasons may have a specific name, such as monsoon or chinook, but these names do not describe all the attributes and power of the wind. Like the wind, the Almighty has been given many descriptive names. There is not just one correct and only name for our Heavenly Father. There are many names to describe God and our relationship to Him. When we look out at the majestic stars we may call Him Creator. When we are troubled and distressed, we may call Him Father. When we are praising His infinite wisdom we may call Him the Almighty One. All of the hundreds of names used in the Bible for God express His eternal, omnipotent being.
The name Jesus Christ is also in controversy. The "sacred" name advocates believe His "sacred" name is "Yahshua the Messiah" and think all popular versions of the Bible have been mistranslated. They believe the word "Jesus" should be replaced with the Hebrew word "Yahshua" and "Christ" with "Messiah."
The name "Jesus" is "IESOUS" in Greek (No. 2424 in STRONG'S CONCORDANCE) and is of Hebrew origin. The Hebrew name is "Yehowshua" (No. 3091) and is derived from two other Hebrew words, "Jehovah" (No. 3068) and "saved" (No. 3467). "Jehovah" (or Yahweh) is derived from Hayah (1961) which means "to exist." The name Jesus is derived from the same verb form as "I AM" in Exodus 3:13-15. The New COMPACT BIBLE DICTIONARY says, "The name Jesus means Saviour (Matthew 1:21) and is the same as the Hebrew name Joshua."
The name "Christ" is "CHRISTOS" in Greek (No. 5547 in STRONG'S CONCORDANCE) from No. 5548; meaning anointed, i.e. the Messiah, an epithet (title) of Jesus: - Christ. In the New Testament "the Christ," is the exact Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah." (See HARPER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY under "Messiah".)
We see no Scriptural or historical basis for calling Jesus Christ, "Yahshua," unless we speak Hebrew. Since we speak English, then the name we most commonly know Him by is Jesus or Jesus Christ. However, NAVE'S TOPICAL BIBLE lists over 200 Names, Appellations and Titles for our Savior, so His name is not limited.
The names we pick for the God we worship contribute little or nothing to our salvation and the seeking of the Kingdom. Arguing over "sacred" or "proper" names causes derision among His Church. It stirs up strife and tears down foundations. A group of people are saying the Bible is in error and must be retranslated. In the Old Testament the word "LORD" must be replaced with "Yahweh." They say in the New Testament the word "Christ" is to be replaced by "Messiah" and "Jesus" is to be replaced by the word "Yahshua." In the Old Testament this amounts to over 7,000 changes for the word "LORD." In the New Testament, there would be 555 name changes for Christ and 973 name changes for Jesus. Now if we start changing the words by which the Church has known our Father and His son for centuries, is not the entire scripture in jeopardy? I am deeply concerned about this "sacred name" ministry and spirit for if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalms 11:3). Wouldn't Satan just love to see God's children bickering over what God's name is and diverting them from the real work at hand?
And this is only the beginning. What about changing all the Hebrew names in the Bible? Why stop there? Why not change all the words back to the original Hebrew text? One who is justified by a tittle of the law is a debtor to do the entire. This madness would truly bring an end to our being a light on a hill!
It is vanity to think that we can set ourselves above others because we have some secret knowledge of His "sacred" name. The Apostle Paul compares such unprofitable doctrines to the wind (Ephesians 4:14). The wind is uncertain, now blowing from one direction, now from another. One moment silent, then howling. So are false doctrines. Now making a great noise, then suddenly vanishing. The wind, likewise, carries chaff, stubble, and such along with it, but well built houses stand firm. So, too, doctrines of false teachers carry aside unstable persons; but those that are rooted in faith and the grace of God will not be moved by every wind of doctrine.
We are in error for trying to assign a particular name to God as we do to man. The scripture clearly shows God is a Spirit. He does not have one particular name that is above all names. He is not consistently called one name, nor has He directed us to call Him by one particular name. When the word "name" is used in reference to God, it signifies anything whereby His nature and will is made better known to us.
Because humans have particular names, it seems wise that God, too, should have a specific, proper name. Moses made the same assumption at Exodus, Chapter 3, when he asked our Creator for a distinct name. God merely said, "I AM." Possibly meaning, "Don't limit Me by a single name."
Man is curious about the hidden things of God. Yet, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing" (Proverbs 25:2). "Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out" ( Job 37:5,23).