THE SACRED NAMES OF GOD
J.B. Rotherham asked the following penetrating question in the preface of The Emphasized Bible:
Men’s names are throughout the Scriptures fraught with significance, enshrining historical incidents, biographical reminiscences, and so forth; and why should the Name of the Ever-Blessed be an exception to this rule?1
The Father’s Name
Ironically, while we can find the names of at least thirty-seven other gods in our Bibles, we cannot find the name of the God of the Bible. The King James Version, like all mainline translations, renders the Third Commandment as follows:
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
This is not how God’s Holy Spirit intended for the Third Commandment to be written. The inspired Third Commandment is as follows:
Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain; for YHWH will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Making Vain the Name
YHWH, most often pronounced Yahweh, is the English transliteration2 of the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters representing God’s name. God’s Holy Spirit inspired the Tetragrammaton to appear in the Old Testament 6,823 times. Why then can we not find it in our common English versions? An abbreviated form appears at the end of hallelujah, which translates “praise ye Yah,” and at the end of numerous Hebrew names – when spelled correctly. But these exceptions are not sufficient to render due honor to God’s name.
On their own volition, the English translators replaced God’s name with uninspired titles and, occasionally, with the false name “Jehovah.” No translator has the right to remove or replace God’s inspired words – much less God's inspired name – regardless of how lofty the excuse:
...what is his [God’s] name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell? Every word of God is pure.... Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:4-6)
This is precisely what most English translators have done. They have taken away and added to God’s Word by replacing His personal name with the capital letters “LORD” and “GOD” or with the counterfeit name “Jehovah.”
When they perverted the Hebrew text, the English translators broke the Third Commandment by making God’s name vain, or of none effect. The word “vain,” as found in the Third Commandment, is translated from the Hebrew word (shav). William Gesenius defined it in part as: “emptiness, nothingness, vanity ... worthlessness.”3 It is the same word translated “false” in the Ninth Commandment:
“Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.” (Deuteronomy 5:20)
We are not to use God’s name falsely or bear false witness to it by replacing it with titles and other substitutions.
Authority vs. Identification
Some people claim the Third Commandment has nothing to do with the literal name of God, but rather with the authority of His name. The authority intrinsic in God’s name is found only in His name. For example, a Roman soldier’s authority was in the name of Nero. Had he presented himself in the name of Nebuchadnezzar or any other ruler, no one would have recognized his authority.
Consider the emphasis God placed upon His name:
And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the Children of Israel, YHWH God of your fathers ... hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (Exodus 3:15)
Although we have been charged to remember, commemorate, and memorialize God’s personal name, most modern translators have done just the opposite by erasing His name from the Scriptures and, thereby removing it from the memory of His people.
After admitting that “it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh,’” the translators of the Revised Standard Version excuse themselves for removing the Tetragrammaton from the Old Testament:
For two reasons the [Revised Standard Version] Committee has returned to the more familiar usage [of substituting “the LORD” or “GOD” for YHWH] of the King James Version: (1) the word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the name ever used in Hebrew; and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God ... was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church.4
No man or group of men has the right to overrule God, regardless of the excuse. Yahweh, and Yahweh alone, knows what standard is appropriate for the Christian Church.
The editorial board of the New American Standard Bible made the following admission:
This name [Yahweh] has not been pronounced by the Jews.... Therefore, it has been consistently translated Lord.5
What the Jews pronounce or do not pronounce should have no bearing on how God’s inspired Word is translated.
The Smith and Goodspeed translation is probably the most candid:
In this translation we have followed the orthodox Jewish tradition and substituted ‘the Lord’ for the name ‘Yahweh’ and the phrase ‘the Lord God’ for the phrase ‘the Lord Yahweh.’6
In light of Matthew 15:3, the English translators have no excuse for their actions:
But he [Yeshua] answered and said unto them [corrupt Judahite scribes and Pharisees], Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
In short, “LORD” and “GOD,” when found in all capital letters in the Old Testament, should be replaced with YHWH.
The Savior’s Name
The Savior’s given Hebrew name is Yeshua (pronounced yay-shoo'-ah) – an abbreviated English transliteration of the Hebrew Yehoshua. Although Jesus is a legitimate English transliteration of the Greek Iesous, please consider the following seven reasons for using Yeshua instead of either Jesus or Iesous.
Yeshua Is His Given Name
The Savior, born a Hebrew by a Hebrew mother and reared by a Hebrew father, was given a Hebrew name. That Yeshua was His given name is demonstrated in the book of Acts. In only three New Testament passages do we find the Son introducing Himself. Acts 9 provides the first instance in the account of the Apostle Paul’s conversion. The second and third instances are found in Acts 22 and 26, wherein Paul recounted the same event. Acts 26 informs us of the language in which the Savior chose to introduce Himself to Paul:
...I [Paul] heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue.... And I said, Who are thou, Lord? And He said, I am Yeshua.... (Acts 26:14-15)
Although the name Jesus is found in our English Bibles, nowhere do we have biblical record of our Savior using either this name or Iesous to introduce Himself. Both Iesous and Jesus can be legitimately used as accurate Greek and English transliterations of His name, but they are not His given name, nor the name He used to introduce Himself. If we wish to honor Him and follow His example, we will use His given Hebrew name, Yeshua.
Yeshua Is the Memorial Name
When Mary was pregnant with the Son of God, the Angel of Yahweh told Joseph to give her offspring a name that meant “he [Yahweh] shall save his people” (Matthew 1:21). “He saves” is precisely what Yeshua means. Yeshua in Strong’s Concordance is #3442, the shortened form of #3091 (Yehoshua), which is defined as coming from #3068 (Yahweh) and #3467 (yasha), which means “to save.”7 Yehoshua is a combination of Yahweh and yasha. Yeshua, the contraction of Yehoshua, means “He [Yahweh] saves.”
According to Exodus 3:15, God chose Yahweh to be His memorial name to all generations. Yeshua, meaning Yahweh saves, best memorializes the name Yahweh in its meaning.
Yeshua Is the Name Above All Names
Philippians 2:9 proclaims that Yahweh “highly exalted” Yeshua and gave “him a name which is above every name,” whereas David asserts that Yahweh is the name above all names:
I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name … for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word. (Psalm 138:2, RSV)
Because the name above all names is Yahweh, and our Savior’s Hebrew name means Yahweh saves, His name is, therefore, best rendered Yeshua.
Yeshua Is the Excellent Name
The Son inherited an excellent name from His Father:
Let them praise the name of Yahweh: for his name alone is excellent…. (Psalm 148:13)
…he [Yeshua] hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name…. (Hebrews 1:4)
The Son could only inherit from His Father what His Father Himself possessed. Which name did the Father possess – Jesus or Yeshua? According to the Psalmist, only the name Yahweh is excellent, and according to the author of Hebrews, our Savior inherited that excellent name. In the Messianic prophecies found in Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Zephaniah 3:15-17, the Son is identified with the name Yahweh.
Additionally, in several other Old Testament passages, Yahweh is identified with a word closely related to Yeshua, translated “salvation”:
YHWH is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation [yeshuwah]: he is my God…. (Exodus 15:2)
Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation [yeshuwah]. He only is my rock and my salvation [yeshuwah]…. (Psalm 62:1-2)
Behold, God is my salvation [yeshuwah]; I will trust, and not be afraid: for YH YHWH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation [yeshuwah]. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation [yeshuwah]. And in that day [the day the Messiah was born, Isaiah 11:1] shall ye say, Praise YHWH, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. (Isaiah 12:2-4)
Our Savior’s given Hebrew name reflects the name Yahweh because Yeshua means Yahweh saves. The Son did indeed inherit His Father’s name.
Yeshua Came in the Name of Yahweh
Our Savior made known His Father’s name while here on earth:
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world…. (John 17:6)
Had our Savior used either the Greek name Iesous or the English name Jesus, He would not have manifested His Father’s name. But because He was born and introduced Himself with the Hebrew name Yeshua – the name He inherited from His Father – He could accurately say: “I am come in My Father’s name....” (John 5:43)
In John 12, certain Judahites heralded Yeshua’s entrance into Jerusalem:
Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the LORD. (John 12:13)
This salutation is a quotation from Psalm 118:26 in which the title “the LORD” was unlawfully substituted for the Tetragrammaton. When the Tetragrammaton is reinserted, we find that the Israelites in John 12 were proclaiming the Messiah as having come in the name of Yahweh, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. Only in the name of Yeshua (Yahweh saves) can it be said that the Savior came in the name of Yahweh.
New Testament Baptism:
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Evidence from the book of Acts demonstrates that the disciples did not baptize using the phrase “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). Rather they baptized in the one specific name that represented all three (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5). Given the options of Iesous (Greek transliteration), Jesus (Greek/English transliteration), or Yeshua (Hebrew transliteration), Yeshua is unquestionably the name that best represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In Romans 10:13, the Apostle Paul quoted Joel 2:32. Properly rendered, this prophecy declares in whose name we are saved:
…whosoever shall call on the name of YHWH shall be saved. (Joel 2:32)
How does a person call upon the name of Yahweh?
[Ananias speaking to Paul] And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)
Just three days prior to Paul’s baptism, our Savior identified Himself in Hebrew as Yeshua. Consequently, Paul was immersed in the name of Yeshua – the name that represents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in fulfillment of Joel 2:32, Matthew 28:19, and Romans 10:13.
The more consequential reason for using the Hebrew-English spelling and pronunciation of our Heavenly Father’s name and our Savior’s name is that they prove Yeshua’s deity. Had God’s Hebrew name been left intact in the Scriptures, it would be much more difficult for someone to deny the deity of Yeshua.
Consider the Old Testament prophecies, regarding Yahweh, which were attributed to Yeshua. Whose way was John the Baptist to prepare? Who was to be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver? Whose side was to be pierced? Who was the stone, rejected by the builders, who later became the chief cornerstone? Who was the Branch? Who was the King of Israel? Whose feet were to stand on the Mount of Olives? If your answer to these questions is Jesus, it would be prudent to look again at these prophecies. In all of these prophecies – Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1, 4:5; Zechariah 11:12-13, 12:1, 10; Psalm 118:19-22; Isaiah 8:13-14; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zephaniah 3:15-17; Zechariah 14:3-4 – Yahweh’s name was removed and replaced with the title “the LORD.” Restore God’s personal name to these passages and it becomes immediately apparent that these prophecies were about Yahweh and were fulfilled in Yeshua.
Yeshua, the Hebrew name of our Savior, does not describe what some man, prophet, or another god is doing. It expresses what YAHWEH, the GOD of gods, the great I AM, Immanuel, God with us is doing!8
1. J.B. Rotherham, “Introduction,” The Emphasized Bible (Cincinnati, OH: The Standard Publishing Company, 1897) p. 26.
2. Transliteration commutes the letters of a word from one language to another. Personal names are almost always transliterated, whereas other words are almost always translated, commuting the meaning of a word from one language to another language.
3. William Gesenius, et al., “shav,” The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979) p. 996.
4. Revised Standard Version Committee, “Preface,” The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version (Cleveland, OH: The World Publishing Company, 1962) p. v.
5. The Lockman Foundation, “Foreword,” New American Standard Bible: Updated Edition (Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1977) p. iv.
6. J.M. Powis Smith, “Preface,” (1927) The Complete Bible: An American Translation (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1948) p. xv.
7. James Strong, “Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary,” The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, s.v. “Yeshua,” “Yehoshua,” “Yahweh,” and “yasha” (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990) pp. 47, 48, 53.
8. For a more thorough explanation concerning the use of the names of God, “The Third Commandment” may be read at www.missiontoisrael.org/3rdcom-pt1.php, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of Yahweh thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
*Although we have provided a suggested price for our books, we do not sell them. In keeping with 2 Corinthians 9:7, this ministry is supported by freewill offerings. If you cannot afford the suggested price, inform us of your situation, and we will be pleased to provide you with whatever you need for whatever offering you can send.