Is My Name Forever"
The name or title by which one refers to Deity has been a subject of interest to mankind from time immemorial. Who is the Creator of the universe, and what is his name? While various titles, including God, Lord, the Great King, the Almighty, and the like have been applied to the Creator, he must certainly have a personal name, a name which expresses his nature and being as names applied to individuals did in Hebrew culture.
This was the question that Moses put to the Eternal God when he was commissioned to liberate Israel from Pharaoh’s bondage: "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 unto me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?" (Exodus 3:13). When the time came for the exodus, God equipped Moses with an infallible witness for his authority to organize such a momentous event when he revealed to him the meaning of his secret name, the name by which he was to be known forever. Listen to God’s answer to Moses’ question in Exodus 3:14, 15: "And Elohim [God] said unto Moses, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I AM WHO I AM] . . . and Elohim said again to Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yahweh of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations."
The Name and Its Pronunciation
The name Yahweh has been called the tetragrammaton because it is composed of four Hebrew letters, hwhy. YHWH in English cannot be pronounced because it has no vowels. On this technicality of the usage of vowels and their placement within the tetragrammaton, there is much controversy; however, the consensus of scholarship concludes that the most likely pronunciation is Yäh´-wêh.
Since the tetragrammaton appears so frequently in the Hebrew texts, it is important that we maintain the sound of that name as we bring it into English. This process is referred to as transliteration, which literally means to "represent, as a word, by the alphabetic characters of another language having the same sound." Transliteration enables us to bring the letters of one language across into another so that the word, when pronounced, sounds the same in both languages. While words may be translated from one language to another, names can only be transliterated. If one’s name were Smith in English, it would still be pronounced Smith in Russian. Although the characters of the alphabet would be different, the sounds of the Russian letters would approximate the sounds of the English letters, S-m-i-t-h.
We cannot circumvent the fact that the Bible is a Hebrew book. It is essential, therefore, that we transliterate (not translate) Hebrew names from that book. Most scripture versions maintain this principle; however, when they come to the name of Deity, they break the rule and substitute a title for it. Hence we have Lord for Yahweh. If the principle had been consistent, we could just as logically have George for Moses. Consistency must be maintained; therefore, we must transliterate the name of names, YHWH.
Meaning of the Name
The Hebrew name Yahweh can be compared with the Hebrew word for being, hayah, to gain the full significance of its meaning. Hayah means "I am." Yahweh means, "I am because I am, I am that I am, or I cause myself to be." It is a formation of the causative (hiphil) conjugation of the verb and is intended to reveal the cause of existence. Yahweh’s choice of this name to express his being then, was highly accurate, for he alone possesses the quality of aseity–he is the cause of his own existence.It is also an accurate expression of the fact that God alone is the cause of all existence. "Without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). The name Yahweh has also been translated, "I will be what I will be," which is a statement of God’s immutability, a characteristic which he alone possesses. This name can also be translated, "I will be there," a statement of his eternal presence.
God’s statement in Exodus 3 regarding his name, Yahweh, has a very noteworthy ring of finality: "This is my name for ever." The prophet Hosea reconfirms Moses’ account of God’s name: "Even Yahweh is Elohim of hosts; Yahweh is his memorial [name]" (Hosea 12:5). Isaiah corroborates this: "I am Yahweh; that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another" (Isaiah 42:7). Jeremiah adds his confirmation: "They shall know that my name is Yahweh" (Jeremiah 16:21). Amos says, "Yahweh is his name" (Amos 5:8). Zechariah declares: "In that day there shall be one Yahweh, and his name one" (Zechariah 14:9). Considering the explicitness of this evidence, why would anyone wish to discontinue the use of the name of the Supreme Deity?
Because of their fervor to avoid misuse of the name Yahweh and their fear of violating the third commandment ("Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."), over time, the Jewish people became very reluctant to use the name at all. By the time of Christ, it was used only once a year by the high priest on the day of atonement and then only in such hushed tones that it was virtually lost in the chanting of the priests. Fearing an unwitting violation of this commandment, Jewish scholars substitute the word Adonai (Lord) instead of the name Yahweh in their reading of the Scriptures. In the later Masoretic text, the vowel pointing for the word adonai was used with the consonants of the name YHWH to underscore the fact that adonai should be read instead of Yahweh. The Talmud says, "It is written yothe hay [Yahweh] but it is pronounced aleph daleth [Adonai]." Because their lack of understanding of this this rabbinic vowel pointing of YHWH, later translators offered the word Jehovah as the name of God (which is totally in error).
When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into the Greek of the Septuagint, this emphasis was maintained so that Yahweh was "translated" Kurios, which means Lord. Subsequent translations of Holy Scripture have respected this same Jewish tradition of not pronouncing the name YHWH and offering instead a substitute rendering. It is primarily for this reason that we have the present-day representation–we cannot say rendering–in the Authorized Version, which is "Lord" in most cases. A seemingly legitimate reason for not transliterating the name YHWH, therefore, has caused the pnonunciation and understanding of God’s personal name to be lost to the vast majority of the Christian community.
The Son of God and His Name
When the Son of Yahweh was brought into the world in the role of Savior, he maintained the name of divinity by which he had previously revealed himself to Moses and other patriarchs of Israel in his pre-incarnation Christophanies. The name which the angel Gabriel instructed Joseph and Mary to call him was Yeshua, which simply means Yah in the role of Saviour. Jesus was the Memra (Logos in Greek), the Word of God who existed with the Father from eternity past and shared the name Yahweh. It was only fitting, then, that when he became man, he should maintain that name together with the expression of his role. Some have even suggested that the name Yah was more emphatic in the Saviour’s name. The Emphatic Diaglott says, "For Isoua among the Hebrews is salvation, and among them the son of Nun is called Joshua; and Iasoue is the salvation of Jah."
The English word by which we refer to the Son of God is Jesus, which is a transliteration of the Latin Iesus, which comes from the Greek form Iesous, which in turn is a representation of the Hebrew Yeshua. Some have supposed that the word Jesus is a translation of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. It is totally inconceivable that the scholars who translated the Hebrew into the Greek for the Septuagint Version would have used the name of a pagan deity in reference to their national hero, Joshua, who was called Yeshua in the Hebrew but was called Iesous in the Greek. This is the reason why Joshua is called Jesus in Acts 7:45 and in Hebrews 4:8 of the Authorized Version. We are certainly at liberty to use Jesus as the name of our Saviour in addition to his Hebrew name, Yeshua.
The name Yahweh was understood by the early Christian scholars. Clement of Alexandria (212 C.E.) gave Iaove (pronounced ë-ä-oo-ê , or Yahweh) as God’s name. Origen (253 C.E.) gives Iae as God’s name, a transliteration of Yah, the abbreviated form of Yahweh. Epiphanius (404 C.E.) and Theodoret (457 C.E.) give Iabe.
A Balanced Approach to Using the Name
One might well question the importance of learning the proper name of Deity. After all, in the most popular versions of the Holy Scriptures, this name does not appear. The Authorized Version gives his name as I AM THAT I AM and occasionally refers to him as Jah or Jehovah. Most often it names him as "the Lord." When one reads the Hebrew Scriptures, however, the continued and repetitive use of Yahweh in reference to Deity is unmistakable. This personal name Yahweh appears approximately 5,500 times in the Hebrew Bible. If the Heavenly Father was careful enough to give Israel his proper name, it would seem that we who honor and worship him should want to learn that name for ourselves.
On the other hand, it is certainly not so utterly distasteful for believers to refer to Yahweh by the various titles which rightly apply to his Being that he would cut them off for worshipping false gods, as some have mistakenly suggested. Using such titles and names to refer to Deity could not be construed as violation of the third commandment, for one would have to take or use the name Yahweh in vain, not use another name or title in sincere reference to the Eternal. Indeed, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Our Father," not, "Our Yahweh." While the names of Deity are important, it should be remembered that all names are merely words designed to reveal the qualities of the bearer. Though Yahweh and Yeshua are the proper names of deity, it is appropriate to say, "The Eternal," or "The Savior."
Too often God’s people lack balance. This has been the case with the name Yahweh. The Jews were so afraid of violating the third commandment by pronouncing the name that they avoided its use and nearly lost its pronunciation altogether. Some Christians have rediscovered and restored the use of the name and have taken the other extreme, believing that failure to use the name exclusively is a violation of the third commandment. We must remember that God speaks English, Chinese, and Spanish, as well as Hebrew and that we can use terms and names that communicate with one another and with the public our understanding of God.
We must use wisdom in conversing the unbelievers in the language with which they are familiar. By isolating ourselves totally to the use of biblical Hebrew surnames of God, we severely restrict the effectiveness of our witness. While understanding the name of God is important for information’s sake, understanding the authority and meaning of the name is more essential to the believer today.
Biblical names in Hebrew forms, transliterated into the world’s languages, are a part of the restoration of Christianity’s Jewish foundations. Believers should gain this knowledge and enrich their relationship with God by understanding his nature revealed in his name and by communicating with him and about him, using his proper name, Yahweh.
The need for restoring the knowledge of God’s name by the believers today is readily recognizable in the fact that those who are called his elect are referred to in Revelation 14:1 as "having his Father’s name written in their foreheads." Surely those who will be called by his name would want to know his name. Moses did!
The name, Yahweh, is but another part of the great heritage of Judaism that is being restored in our day. It is a part of the better way of recognition and worship of the Eternal.
Excerpt from: RESTORING OUR LOST LEGACY Chapter 18 author: John D. Garr Ph. D.