"Sacred Name" Background
By Frank Brown
The main "beef" between nominal Christians and those who keep the Commandments
has always been over the 4th Commandment, the Seventh Day Sabbath versus Sunday observance. They insist that the
Laws found in the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, are "done away," and therefore not binding
on New Testament believers. Many teach that all 10 were "nailed to the cross," and then later nine were
brought back, leaving out what they often term "that old Jewish Sabbath." Others simply believe that
the Sabbath command somehow was transferred to the first day of the week in the New Testament.
I first learned that the Biblical Laws were not "done away" in 1961, when I came in contact with a "World
Tomorrow" broadcast. Soon thereafter, I came to realize that we were not living the kind of lifestyle that
was pleasing to the Creator. Repentance and baptism soon followed, and for the next 23 years, I kept the 10 Commandments
as I then understood them, as a member of the Worldwide Church of God.
During this time, I often heard negative references to the Creator's Name. We assumed that the Third Commandment
means that we should not curse and swear using His Name, which we assumed to be Lord or God. But I found in Scripture
where He repeatedly refers to His Name as "My Holy Name," and where His prophets used the expression
"His Holy Name" in their inspired writings. Psalm 68:4, in the King James version, admonishes us to
"…praise Him by His Name Jah." (pronounced "YAH," as in HalleluYah). Then there is the question
posed in Proverbs 30:4.
Prov 30:4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound
the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's
name, if thou canst tell?
In the spring of 1985, I was challenged to learn the answer to this question. I quickly learned that in each instance
in the King James or Authorized version of the Old Testament portion of the Bible, that "the LORD," and
"GOD," had been inserted in the text to replace four Hebrew letters that had been written there by the
original inspired authors. This has been done a total of 6,823 times. The four replaced Hebrew letters are "Yod,
Heth, Waw (or Vav), and Heth." In English they are YHWH. Hebrew is written without vowels, and according to
the Jewish Encyclopedia and most other authorities, this Name of the Creator is pronounced "Yahweh."
Many Bible prefaces explain that the translators were following "long standing tradition" in taking the
Creator's Name out and replacing it with substitute titles. For example, the New English Bible (Oxford Univ. Press;
Cambridge Univ. Press) from the introduction, page xvi: (they first explain that the original Hebrew text was written
only in consonants, but in order to preserve what they regarded as the correct pronunciation, the Rabbis added
vowel-signs to the text. Then they say:
"One variation of this convention is of special importance, inasmuch as it affects the divine name. This
personal proper name, written with the consonants YHWH, was considered too sacred to be uttered; so the vowels
for the words 'my Lord' or 'God' were added to the consonants YHWH, and the reader was warned by these vowels that
he must substitute other consonants. This change having to be made so frequently, the Rabbis did not consider
it necessary to put the consonants of the new reading in the margin. In course of time the true pronunciation
of the divine name, probably Yahweh, passed into oblivion, and YHWH was read with the intruded vowels, the vowels
of an entirely different word, namely, 'my Lord' or 'God'. In late medieval times this mispronunciation became
current as Jehova, and it was taken over as Jehovah by the Reformers in Protestant Bibles. The present translators
have retained this incorrect but customary form in the text of passages where the name is explained with a note
on its pronunciation (e.g. Exodus 3.15) and in four place-names of which it forms a constituent element; elsewhere
they have followed ancient translators in substituting 'LORD' or 'GOD', printed as here in capital letters, for
the Hebrew name."
(Note they admit they have "retained this incorrect but customary form," and "have followed ancient
translators in substituting LORD or GOD.... for the Hebrew Name.")
All this is easily proven in any good dictionary, encyclopedia, or concordance. The problem is that while many
people realize He does have a Name, they still seem to think it makes no difference to Him what we call Him. Some
have said "We speak English - if we are reading along in our Bibles, why should we suddenly have to start
speaking Hebrew when we come to His Name?" What they fail to realize is that proper nouns, names of people
and places, are not translated, but transliterated. This means that the same sounds are brought forth into the
new language, as nearly as possible. Every other proper name in the Bible is transliterated, so we are in effect
speaking Hebrew when we say any of these names, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
David, Solomon, etc.
The Creator, when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush incident, was asked by Moses, "What shall I tell
the people when they ask me 'what is this god's Name?'" (Exo 3:13) Yahweh's response was, (Exo 3:14) And 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. (Exo 3:15) And 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.
This scripture is quoted verbatim from the King James Bible. Most people who teach against usage of the Name, quote
verse 14 and stop. But in verse 15, this great Being declares that His Memorial Name is YHWH. Men following tradition
took out His Name and inserted a substitute. What He really said is, "Thus you shall say unto the children
of Israel, YAHWEH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent
me unto you: this is My Name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations."
In Deuteronomy 4:2, He inspired Moses to write, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither
shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you."
You will notice that this is not what you read in your King James Bible, or in most other versions. Instead of
"Yahweh your Elohim," it has been changed to "the LORD your God." Ironically, in the very
scripture where He says, "don't make changes," man HAS made changes.
Deuteronomy 12:32 also admonishes us about making changes in His Word. "What thing soever I command you,
observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it." Proverbs 30:5-6, Every word of Elohim
is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee,
and thou be found a liar.
Following tradition was what kept the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and others at odds with the Savior, Yahshua.
He told them in Matthew 15:3, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of Yahweh by your tradition?"
(v.9) "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Mark 7:9, "And
He said unto them, 'Full well you reject the commandment of Yahweh, that ye may keep your own tradition'."
What commandment could He have had in mind? Several, probably, and surely the third one. You shall not take the
Name of Yahweh in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain. (Exodus 20:7). To "take
in vain" means to misuse, or to bring to nothing. How more can we "take His Name in vain," than
to ignore it completely, and use substitutes instead? This practice fits Yahshua's admonition perfectly, as the
Bible translators admit they are following "tradition" by taking His Name out and putting in substitutes.
Some of the arguments put forth to justify not using His Name are similar to the arguments used to justify Sunday-keeping:
"The pronunciation has been lost" (time has been lost). "He knows who we mean when we call on Lord
God, even if it's wrong" (He accepts our Sunday worship even though it's not the original Sabbath). "His
Name is not in the New Testament" (The Sabbath command is not in the New Testament). This is wrong on both
counts. To find out what day He is "Lord" of, see Mark 2:27-28. While praying to the Father, He said
He had taught the Father's Name to His disciples. See John 17:6, 11, 12, and 26. To find out what His Name is,
see Revelation 19:1-6. Four times we read of the great multitude shouting "Alleluia!" This is the Greek
transliteration of the Hebrew phrase, "HalleluYAH," which means "Praise Ye Yah." Yah is the
short or poetic form of Yahweh.
In like manner, the Savior's Name, Yahshua (Yah-Shua), means Yah's Salvation, or "Salvation of Yahweh."
In Mat 1:21 the angel told Joseph about Mary's child: "..And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call
his name YAHSHUA: for he shall save his people from their sins." The names Yahweh gave to people meant something.
In this case, He was to be called Yahshua, as explained, for (or because) He shall save his people from their sins.
That is His Name, and that is why He came. He is the Salvation of Yahweh. He became the Savior of all who will
repent and follow Him, and His very Name denotes His reason for coming.
I have heard it said that those of us who use the "Names," teach that the pronunciation must be exactly
correct in order to attain salvation. I certainly do not subscribe to such a belief, and in my 15 years of association
with various groups and individuals, I have never heard anyone teach this. Most pronounce it Yahweh, some few Yahveh,
Yahvah,Yahoweh or Yahueh. Any of these is far closer than "Lord" and "God," which at best are
only substitute titles for the real thing. However, according to most authorities, including the Encyclopedias
Britannica and Americana, the Jewish Encyclopedia, and most commentaries, "Yahweh" is most likely very
close to the original pronunciation.
Our local group is not affiliated with any organization, but we do fellowship and interact with several small to
medium sized groups, some of national and international scope. We have local meetings on most Sabbaths either in
rented halls or private homes. Our largest meeting is on the second Sabbath of each month at the Hartman, Arkansas
Community Building at 10:30 AM, with a pitch-in meal afterward. Attendance is usually around 30 to 40. Some of
us keep the annual Festivals, some do not, but all are Sabbath keepers who worship Yahweh the Creator and Sustainer
of the Universe, and His Son, Yahshua the Messiah.
While our meetings are not as tightly structured as in some Church of God and Assembly of Yahweh groups, we generally
follow a somewhat similar format: Opening prayer, congregational songs of praise, special songs by individuals
or groups, prayer for the sick and afflicted, usually two speakers, but sometimes three or even four. However,
most sermons are shorter than the traditional stem-winders some of us became accustomed to in our former affiliations.
Although there are differences of opinion on some doctrinal matters among us, we do have a unity of Spirit in that
we all love our Savior, and one another. We are striving to please Him, emulate Him, and obey Him. Someday soon,
we hope to be with Him in His glorious Kingdom.
We invite you to meet with us anytime you are in this area on a Sabbath. For more information about us, the Divine
Name, the Sabbath, Holy Days, or any other Scriptural subject, you may write to me, Frank Brown, at the address
on the front cover, via email or US Mail. Or check out the other articles posted here.