Why Hebrew?

Study No. 13

  In all the years that I have been a Sabbath-keeper I have, within the Sabbath-keeping community, encountered many different doctrines apart from the Sabbath. Yet there always seemed to be a sense of closeness with all these people because of the Sabbath alone. Even meeting a Jew would be a pleasure because of our similarities.

About the winter of 1976, I came across a teaching which I had read about in 1972. I really didn’t give it much consideration because it was so foreign to me at the time. This teaching and the groups that applied it to their lives and their leaders were so close, if not very close, in all points to the same teachings that I had accepted while being a Sabbath keeper, except one. They insisted that the names of the Father and His Son be spoken in the Hebrew tongue.

In 1976 I, with all my effort and what I had at my disposal, studied this doctrine to see if it had any credence and should be applied. I even talked to one of the leaders of this teaching on two occasions (long distance) and it was apparent to me, that whatever questions I would ask, there was some sort of an answer, even though the information I had at my disposal seemed to contradict what he said.

Then the remark was made by him to me that "this leader had an advantage over anyone else or others because he knew the Hebrew and Greek languages fluently." My question then was . . . if it was needful to know those languages for salvation, then why was not the whole nation of Greece and the entire Jewish community converted, or at least the majority?

The Holy Spirit inspired Exodus 6:3 to state that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob DID NOT KNOW this specific Hebrew name! Yet this leader insisted that they did know. Since Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6 show that the Creator does not change, then if this Hebrew name is required for salvation now, why was it not necessary for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? This leader still insisted that they did know and that ended the telephone conversation.

In light of Matthew 24:35 and 4:4, it seemed to me at the time that the Creator was not limited to only apply His name and texts in specific languages. The question also arose within me of why would the Eternal lead me into much truth which was so plain and clear and then . . . BANG! . . . leave me hanging on the most important doctrine of all? Why this confusion and not clarity especially when reading I Corinthians 14:33? Yet the people who accepted this teaching did not seem confused. The were headlong right in it and very adamant about it, almost vainly so.

I realized at the time that I had to study this doctrine from the information I had at hand . . . the only authentic source . . . the Holy Bible, and see if it fit and if not, why not? I had to come to the realization that the Almighty is not limited in His power to do anything (Luke 1:37) and to translate or transmit His word and meaning (I Corinthians 14:11) in any language was not difficult for Him (Acts 2 and I Corinthians 14:21). The Hebrew names advocates would say you could not rely on the Greek manuscripts and "only the Old Testament must be relied upon for all doctrine." They have even gone to the point of having their own Bible which follows the King James version closely except in areas which seemingly contradict. Then the text is changed to suit their teaching. It seems apparent that they use that Bible much like some look to the King James version and none other that might clarify any one given text. To do this in light of Revelation 22:18-19 simply frightens me to no end.

The teaching that emanates from them is that the personages of ‘Zeus, Theos, and Jesus’ are one and the same. But is this true? While looking at Acts 14:12, and comparing with Acts 13:33 and other Scriptures, ‘Zeus’ and ‘Jesus’ are two different personages! A simple reading of the Revised Standard version of the same texts and a simple check of the Strong’s Concordance in the Greek (#2203 and #2424) would clarify this difference for any interested person. It will show that the word ‘Zeus’ was translated ‘Jupiter’ and was a completely different word in Greek than the one translated ‘Jesus’.

Is the Eternal limited only to the Hebrew language to communicate with man according to Acts 26:14 as they advocate? In light of Acts 2, Genesis 11, I Corinthians 14:21 and Luke 1:37, there is nothing impossible with the One who created everything. Does the Almighty have limitations? I had to conclude . . . NO! But yet is there something special to the phonetic sound in Hebrew that breaks you through to the Eternal? Have the vowels been lost? Some say ‘yes’ and some say ‘no’. Whatever their conclusion is they still disagree on the proper transliteration and pronunciation. Why this confusion? Does my salvation depend on a ‘v’ or ‘w’? As one song states, "Is that all there is?" Is that what I must ultimately know? What about I Corinthians 1:25-29 where it states that the majority of those called were not really all that scholarly? What about I Timothy 6:3-6 where we are not to strive over words? Is this a strife over words? It could be. Is it a picky doctrine? NO! Not to the advocates of it. They insist that it is most essential for salvation and that it is a sin to use any other appellation even to the point of "blasphemy." But wasn’t Paul relating what was said to him by the Saviour in Acts 26 to Agrippa in another language?

Even though the Creator called me ‘unwise’ and a ‘fool’, He revealed to me many clear truths of the Sabbath and other teachings. Does that mean that I would have to be scholarly eventually to have an inroad with Him to be able to ascertain truth and obtain salvation because I had to discern between a ‘v’ and a ‘w’ and a certain phonetic sound? Is this what pleases Him? Is this what Daniel 12:4 is saying to me? Those involved in this teaching practically talk about nothing else but ‘the name'. I have heard quite clearly over the radio one of their leaders say that he "was not trying to convert anyone, just give them knowledge." What about Acts 3:19? That’s not what Peter said! Yet is this a picky doctrine? The Eternal tells me to "prove all things" (I Thessalonians 5:21). Acts 17:11 shows me an example to see whether these things are so. I am sure that the Eternal wants me to get all the facts to come to a conclusion in His sight and to live purely before Him knowing that I answer solely to Him and Him only. I know my part in the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20). But was the Hebrew name what the Saviour of the world told His disciples to observe and teach others? Or was it repentance, changed lives, conversions, and baptisms? I could not honestly find this teaching in the four gospels, and yet could I find it somewhere else?

What about the fruits of Galatians 5:22-23? What about where it says in I John 4:1 to try the spirits? And not to believe just anything even if it seems plausible. What about being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14)? Was this a rock solid, crystal clear, unmovable, unshakable doctrine, easy to be understood (I Corinthians 14:9), a clear sound (verse 8)? I came to the conclusion that while not condemning anyone of that persuasion which we are not to do (Luke 6:37), I must judge righteous or right judgment (John 7:24). This is my responsibility.

While studying this teaching thoroughly again and again, and talking to the advocates of it, I could never prove it! I Thessalonians 5:21 says I MUST PROVE IT! While holding fast to that which is good, I have found that this doctrine cannot be proved from the Holy Scriptures. There is no Scripture in the Bible which states that we must speak the names of our Creator only in Hebrew! There is absolutely no Scripture that says if we do not speak the names in Hebrew, it is a ’sin’ and ‘blasphemy’!

Everyone must stand before the Eternal’s judgment seat (Romans 14:10-12). No matter whether you accept this teaching or not, Matthew 7:1-2 warns us not to judge (Greek: condemn) one another. Everyone must come to his own conclusion. We are all adults and should be mature enough to study and go to the only source of infallibility for truth, the Bible, and not to reasoning of men. One thing is as sure as the rising and setting of the sun: our Creator and Saviour has existed eternally. The fact is, that He is alive today at the right hand of the Father, has all power, controls the entire universe, and has power over life and death. His people are in His hands, and if you believe, or if anyone tells you, that using the names "God" and "Jesus Christ" is "blasphemy," you had better make sure that it is right and that YOU are right! You could be on very dangerous ground!!

Read Revelation 3:8. Could YOU have denied and called His name Satanic by putting a blasphemous connotation on it? II Peter 1:20 says that no Scripture is of any private interpretation, translation, or language solely. Could YOU have limited the Creator and therefore deny the works of the Holy Spirit? Could you be denying the power of the Almighty and be in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit? THINK again!!! You had better be sure! There should be no shadow of doubt! BURN THIS INTO YOUR MEMORY . . . 

"Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation . . ." (Mark 3:28-29).

— written by Bill Phillips

 Additional Notes by Richard C. Nickels

Exodus 6:3 does not contradict other plain scriptures. Eve knew the name Yahweh, Genesis 4:1. In Seth’s day, men in general knew the Eternal’s name, Genesis 4:26. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars to Yahweh and called upon the name Yahweh, Genesis 12:8, 13:18, 21:33, 26:24-25, 28:20-22. Notice in the KJV for Exodus 6:3 that "the name of" is in italics and not part of the original. It should say, "and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by El Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh was I not known to them." The word known is from the Hebrew yada (Strong’s #3045) and means "to be revealed, gain intimate knowledge of, let oneself be seen, be discovered." Abraham ate a meal with the Eternal. Jacob wrestled with the Lord. But Moses was unique. The Almighty Yahweh spoke to him face to face, Exodus 6:2, Numbers 12:6-8. Moses saw the burning bush, and even the very glory of the Eternal, Exodus 33:11-23, who proclaimed His very name and power, Exodus 34:5 such that Moses’ face shone, Exodus 34:29-35. Moses, unlike Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, knew THE NAME OF Yahweh, he saw the Eternal’s glory.

"Sacred Name" proponents go too far when they say that "Yahweh" is the "name of everlasting life" and that "we cannot receive everlasting life unless we call upon this name. It is the Name that will restore to life those who are the righteous dead" (Sacred Name Broadcaster, 6/80). My Bible says that the Spirit is life (not the name Yahweh). If I have this Spirit of everlasting life, I will be resurrected from the dead, or changed, to Eternal life at the return of the Messiah, Romans 8:10-11, I Thessalonians 4:16-17. Some "Sacred Name" believers seem to be open minded, serious students of the Bible, having a spirit of love and meekness, but we strongly reject Sacred Name exclusivism.

I often use the name of "Yahweh," and "Yahshua" as a matter of respect and reverence to my Creator, not judging those who do not. I have not found a Scripture stating that we must use the Hebrew names. I am nauseated by Sacred Name advocates who can talk of nothing else, neglecting the great commission of repentance, conversion, baptism, and a changed life. The Sacred Name doctrine of itself has practically nothing to do with how we live. But it is the all in all to some of its adherents. Place a list of religious material on a wide variety of practical, down-to-earth topics before some Yahwehists, and they will spurn them in favor of material relating to the name of Yahweh. Yahwehists who say nobody but they have the Holy Spirit and can talk of almost nothing else but this one doctrine are in our opinion, idolaters.

"Proof" offered that the names God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Church, etc. are of pagan origin are very tenuous. I haven’t seen one shred of proof that the word "Jesus" came from Zeus, since all the sources I have seen show it came from Joshua = Yahshua. Pagan idolaters in Canaan worshipped YAHWEH, but it was idolatry! LORD and GOD are titles, not names. Our language is full of names used in the past for pagan deities. Yahwehists use the term "Heavenly Father" when the dictionary shows "father" comes from the Latin pater, a title of pagan deities! Anyone who has ever studied Biblical Hebrew would have to admit that it is an imperfect language! Hebrew has been so corrupted through the ages that there are many words, like in the English, that do not spell like they sound.

"Proof" that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew is absent. Most Sacred Name believers distrust the Greek New Testament as a "tampered with" translation that cannot be accepted as divinely inspired. This is an extremely dangerous and false concept. We do not have a Savior if the official record of His existence is not to be trusted. Matthew 4:4 and Revelation 22:18-19 warn against this.

"The name of YHVH is a strong tower: the righteous run unto it, and are safe" Proverbs 18:10. What does this mean? Just using the name Yahweh? Or doesn’t it mean to obey Yahweh in everything? Not everyone that says Yahweh, Yahvah, or Yahshua, Yahoshua, or however they pronounce the Creator’s names, will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of the Heavenly Father.

People debate on whether or not YHVH or YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh, Yahvah, etc. We follow the tradition of Herbert W. Armstrong in often using "the Eternal" instead of "LORD," etc. People’s ears are often dull of hearing the words, Jesus Christ, Lord, God, etc. A different form of the words for the Supreme Being will help to keep up interest.

The "Sacred Name" doctrine is not the key to all Truth, because Yahweh groups are splintered, divided and recently two of the largest groups were involved in a lawsuit against each other. They should stop short of name worship idolatry, and not cause the name of their Creator to stink by their vile actions. True respect for the Eternal’s Hebrew name is shown by obedience to His laws, being a shining light in a dark world.

There are many more important issues: marriage, family, Sabbath, Holy Days, tithing, etc. Pronunciation of Yahweh, Yahvah, Yehowah, etc. is not to be compared to the weightier matters such as mercy, judgment and faith. Satan knows the exact pronunciation, but he does not obey the commandments! W


For a further understanding of the Sacred Name doctrine, we recommend the following articles:

"The ‘Sacred Names’ Question" by Answers Research & Education, P.O. Box 612440, San Jose, CA 95161.

"The Sacred Name — Is It Sacred Or Mystical?" by Church of God, The Eternal, P.O. Box 775, Eugene, OR 97401.


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