by Jerry Gentry
"The sons of Amram; Aaron and Moses: and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever" (1Chr. 23:13).
Moslems speak of Allah, the name of their god, as their holy one. Buddhists name Buddha as their holy god. Hindus speak of their gods in many forms and natures. Various tribes all over the world worship the sun, the moon, all of creation and every name imaginable as their gods.
Who then is the Christian God? What is His holy name? How must we learn to address Him, in prayer, in conversation, in song and praise worship, and honor His holy name? It is a sobering question, lest we "take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Exod. 20:7).
Most of the Christian world today speak in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, without controversy, as the holy name of the Christian God. Why then is there at least a question, at least some doubt, about such a name, among remnant churches and societies not a part of mainline Christianity? Why do such churches commonly refer to the Creator and Israel's Holy One by names mostly unknown to mainline Christianity and mostly not found in the Bible? Following the history of the "sacred name" usage reveals some insight in the quest for the truth about His holy name.
As a reaction to the growth of "grace only" Christianity, and other issues, which grew out of great persecution and bloodshed during the protestant reformation, some few men sought to find a closer connection with the genuine Christian God, that "high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy" (Isa. 57:15). The ancient Israelites had been warned against taking such an holy name in vain: "Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD" (Lev. 22:2). They were told, "Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD" (1Chr. 16:10).
Scholars have researched His name, this "I AM THAT I AM," this "LORD," this "Jehovah," and arrived at various conclusions. They have delved into the ancient Hebrew texts and learned lexicons, in an effort to find a "sacred name" suitable for use in English. Such a search gave birth to what might be called the "sacred name" movement, beginning in the mid to late nineteenth century, and continuing through the present. One English scholar who bolstered "sacred name" research was Joseph Bryant Rotherham, with his "Rotherham Emphasized Bible," translated during the last half of the nineteenth century. He defended the transliteration of "YHWH," and printed "Yahweh" everywhere "the LORD" appears in the King James Version. The "sacred name" is claimed by some to be "not only incommunicable but unpronounceable." (Rotherham Emphasized Bible, J. B. Rotherham, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, reprinted 1959, p. 22).
In his introduction, Dr. Rotherham clearly rejects the King James Bible. As an example, he prefers "Doth this cause you to stumble?" to the more simple "Doth this offend you?" in John 6:61. "The A. V. [KJV] rendering of this passage leaves much to be desired. . . ," he states. Elsewhere, the plain KJV rendering, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9), becomes, according to Dr. Rotherham, "<the keeper of my brother> am I?" (Ibid., p. 13). Dr. Rotherham rejected the King James Version, along with the Received Text of the Greek New Testament, in favor of the corrupt texts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) preferred by higher critics such as Drs. Westcott and Hort. Dr. Rotherham gives his position on the Received Text, "that it would appear an act of sheer madness to go back to the critical apparatus of our great-grandfathers" (Ibid., p. 20). A Bible believer's answer to Dr. Rotherham, and others who reject God's pure Word, is that no "critical apparatus" of any generation will ever improve the already perfect "word of the LORD," found in the King James Bible. Its words are "pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6). It is "the word which he commanded to a thousand generations" (1Chr. 16:15). God's Word both defines and clarifies itself throughout.
If the LORD God Almighty has preserved his Word for the English speaking world, and if that Word is established infallibly and completely in the Authorized KJV Bible, then scholars such as Dr. Rotherham have taken a tangent. They have gone outside of the authorized text to find what is called "the sacred name." Such a name nowhere appears in the KJV, nor does even the word "sacred" appear. At best, Dr. Rotherham's motive was misguided zeal; at worst, it was sheer intellectual pride against the Word of God. The American Standard Version followed Rotherham's lead, but used "Jehovah" instead of "Yahweh," in place of the King James' "LORD," as did also the much later Catholic "Jerusalem" Bible.
Historically, both John Calvin and Martin Luther translated their respective Bibles and wrote "the Lord," in their respective tongues, rather than "Yahweh," or some other transliterated form of "YHWH." The Geneva Bible associated with John Calvin speaks of "the Lord God," and Luther's German Bible writes "Herr" and "Gott." "Herr" is the German equivalent of the English "Lord." Ultimately, the King James Bible translators built upon the reformers use of the "Lord" and "God," for "YHWH," in nearly every instance. They made the small change of "Lord" (All Caps), for "Yhvh," in contrast with "Lord" (lower case), for other words indicating diety. Hereby the King James translators, in a manner, preserved the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, at least to the eye of every reader of the King James Bible. Neither Calvin nor Luther made such a distinction in their translations.
Both Calvin and Luther, and a host of other reformers, made no dispute over what later became a controversy over the "sacred name." They used the same Hebrew Masoretic text, wherein appears "YHWH" nearly 7000 times, and almost without exception they wrote "the Lord" or "God" in their respective translations.
What then is His holy name in English? And what is this "sacred name" controversy all about? We must look to the Bible to find the surprising answers to these long debated and controversial questions.
The name of God has from the beginning been indicative of his power, benevolence, and all His other qualities. For instance, the God of Adam was the plural "Elohim," the Creator God. Over time, this God (Elohim) further revealed Himself progressively as follows:
El Elyon translated Most High (Gen 14:14)
El Roi translated "Thou God seest me" (Gen 16:13)
El Shaddai translated "Almighty God" (Gen 17 1-20)
El Olam translated "Everlasting God" (Gen 21:33)
YHWH translated "the LORD" (Gen 2:4) and "I AM THAT I AM" (Exod. 3:14)
YHWH Jireh translated "Jehovahjireh," meaning, "The LORD will provide" (Gen 22:14)
YHWH Rapha translated "the LORD that healeth thee" (Exo 15:26)
YHWH Nissi translated "Jehovahnissi" meaning, "The LORD my banner" (Exo 17:15)
YHWH Qadash translated "the LORD that doth sanctify you" (Exo 31:13)
YHWH Shalom translated "Jehovahshalom" meaning, "the LORD is peace" (Judg. 6:24)
YHWH Sabbaoth translated "the LORD of hosts" (1Sam. 1:3)
YHWH Raah translated "the LORD is my shepherd" (Psa. 23:1)
YHWH Tsidkenu translated "the LORD our righteousness (Jer 23:6)
YHWH El Gmolah translated "the LORD God of recompences" (Jer 51:56)
YHWH Nakeh translated "the LORD who smites"
YHWH Shammah translated "the LORD who is present"
What does all this mean? Simply put, the LORD God, "the Holy One of Israel" (2Kgs. 19:22) reveals Himself progressively to His people, and becomes whatever is necessary to provide for, deliver, set apart, shepherd, heal, sanctify and ultimately redeem, forgive and rule His people Israel. He never fails. He is always there. He forever hears their prayers and makes a way for their preservation for all of time and eternity.
Such is Israel's God, "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; [who says] I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15).
It is only right and proper to ask, "With so many names He is called in the Bible, what is that singular "holy name" spoken of so often in scripture? Who is this One whose "name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6)? The question of His holy name supercedes that of the "sacred name," as we will soon see.
God revealed himself over time, in all his various names and attributes. Due to Israel's sins and whoredom, He divorced her and scattered her in dispersion. Yet, the great "I AM" had a plan, from the foundation of the world, to redeem, save and restore his people Israel, at a future time. It was all prophesied of old:
"He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name" (Ps. 111:9). Often, his name is spoken of without being stated.
All the forward looking prophesies of the Old Testament culminated in a single awesome historical event, that being the birth of Jesus Christ. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Speaking of Joseph's espoused wife Mary, the Bible says: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). "Holy and reverend is his name," the redeemer, Jesus, the prophecies had stated. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). Who is this Lord God of Israel? He is none other than the second person of the Godhead, Jesus. "We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel" (Luke 24:21). This is not the Father but the Son, Jesus of Nazereth.
Who "shall save his people from their sins?" Answer: The very one whose "name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb" (Luke 2:21).
Yes, purely and simply, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). None of the former names given for this Creator of heaven and earth spoke to the redemption of Israel like the name of Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, who had created all things. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3).
This same Holy One had previously been called by another name: "As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 47:4). Beginning with the first advent of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), the name "called JESUS, which was so named of the angel," became the heavenly name above all other names.
Purely and simply, to repeat, "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Not God, not Jehovah, not Yahweh, not Yashua, not the LORD of hosts, not Emanuel, not any name besides Jesus, the very name rejected as corrupt by most who insist on speaking some version of the Hebrew/Anglicized "sacred name." To the contrary, so powerful is that name of Jesus that even the devils believe and tremble: "And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Matt. 8:29).
We know that God spoke to men of old through dreams, by angels, and the prophets. But in what name does he speak to us today? Hear this:
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets" (Heb 1:1).
"Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (v. 2).
"Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (v. 3).
"Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (v. 4).
So powerful is the name of Jesus that "it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). Jesus is Lord. So powerful is that name of Jesus that "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him [past tense] a name which is above every name" (Phi 2:9).
"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth" (v. 10).
"And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (v. 11). Most who insist on using some form of a Hebrew/Anglicized "sacred name," religiously reject the name Jesus Christ, and his title, the Lord. All who are devoted to the "sacred name," but deny the name of Jesus, that "name which is above every name," will burn in hell for all eternity. They are religious but lost. They reject Jesus, who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
A great covenant promise was given from God to Rebekah, the wife of Isaac: "Be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them" (Gen. 24:60). These millions, and ultimately billions of people, were that stream of gentile Caucasian peoples who spread out and multiplied from Asia minor, throughout Europe, the Isles and later North America and around the world. To these very people, the apostle Paul said: "For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:13). And what were these "thousands of millions" of gentiles ultimately called?
"And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name" (Isa. 62:2). To these "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:6), Jesus came. His "disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11:26), after His new name Jesus Christ. He proclaimed "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24). Thus, the gentiles of old were named Christians, derived from His holy name, Jesus Christ.
So potent was the name of Jesus, that Peter and John performed great miracles in that name, which fame spread throughout Jerusalem. The rulers recognized the power in that name: "And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (Act 4:18). Yet they continued to do mighty miracles: "By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus" (Acts 4:30).
Yes, great miracles were "done by the name of thy holy child Jesus," and none other name under heaven.
"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2Ti 2:19). How could those "that nameth the name of Christ" still need to "depart from iniquity?" Could one application be the act of setting up a "sacred name," not found in the Bible, above the very name of Jesus?
A close review of "sacred name" literature reveals that these groups generally teach doctrines not shared by the historic apostolic church. For example, most of these groups despise the name of Jesus. They also deny the trinity, while they teach a dualistic or monistic god. Most "sacred name" believers follow the Arian heresy. The rise of these groups find roots as far back as the 1860's, among societies known for their secret wisdom. As far back as 1909, The Esoteric Fraternity, Applegate, California, taught in the name of "Yahveh Elohim." (Bible Review, Henry Proctor, Vol VIII, p. 12, 1909).
Some were influenced by Alexander MacWhorter of Yale University, who wrote a book on The Memorial Name, or Yaveh Christ, copyrighted in 1857. Frederick Leonard Chapell, Resident Instructor of the A. J. Gordon Missionary Training College, Boston, Massachusetts, lectured on the "sacred name" around 1900, and was published by the Standard Bearer, John J. Scruby, Dayton, Ohio, 1911.
The modern "sacred name" movement began mostly among groups who trace their roots back to the Millerites, from which came Seventh Day Adventists and other church groups. It was in the 1930's that the "sacred name" theology sprang up among Church of God, 7th Day, groups in Michigan, Alabama, Texas and elsewhere. Men such as A. N. Dugger, whose father, A. F. Dugger, Sr., was an Advent Christian minister for 35 years, taught the "sacred name." C.O. Dodd (Church of God, 7th Day, West Virginia), A. B. Traina (Gospel Kingdom Assembly in Irvington, New Jersey), Squire L. Cessna (Church of God, 7th Day, Detroit, Michigan), as well as Bishop Smith of Detroit, Michigan, Pastor Roley of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Bishop C. H. Brown of the Island of Jamaica, who were African-American ministers, all taught the "sacred name" during the late 1920's through the 1930's. (See Stewarton Bible School, Sacred Name History, at http://fox.rmplc.co.uk/eduweb/
sites/sbs777/vital/snames.html), and Sacred Name Movement at http://www2.crosswinds.net/nashville/~thename/SNHistory.htm).
L. D. Snow mentions a book by Lewis Browne, called Stranger Than Fiction, A Short History of the Jews From Earliest Times to the Present Day that was copyrighted in 1925. That book purportedly "uses the form "Yahveh" freely for the Creator's Name and also speaks of "...Yahvist History (Judah) and Elohist History (Israel)."
"But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour" (v. 20). Are the "sacred name" pundits building on the Bible (gold and silver), which will never fail, or upon human intellect (wood, hay and stubble), which will ultimately be burned up?
The prophet Ezekiel had spoken of such a time when His holy name would no longer be polluted: "So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel" (Ezek. 39:7). What is that holy name ? That name is Jesus, the Christ, none other. Not Jehovah. Not Yahweh. Not Yashua. Not any other so called "sacred name." Nowhere are these names, regardless of Hebrew/Anglicized spelling, elevated to the same level as the simple name of Jesus, which appears about 950 times in the New Testament. Nowhere is there any name equal to the name of Jesus, if we are to believe the Bible.
Speaking to repentant sinners, the apostle Paul states: "Ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1Cor. 6:11).
It was by His Hebrew name YHWH Rapha, translated "the LORD that healeth thee" (Exo 15:26) that God revealed himself as healer to Moses and the children of Israel. Not so later to Peter and John, however: "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole" (Acts 4:10).
What then is His holy name, the name above of all names?
"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him [Jesus] a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). Other names may be "sacred" in a scholarly sense. But Jesus is the holy "name which is above every name," praise God! What is the genuine Biblical holy name, above all other names of God?
If we will believe the Bible, Jesus is that name. Alleluia! Jesus is the Christ, Son of God. Jesus is the One and only. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the "express image" of the Father. Jesus is the great "I AM." Jesus is the Melchizedek of Abraham. Jesus is "the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star" (Rev. 22:16). Jesus, is the "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" (Rev 1:11). Jesus is saviour, Christ, Holy One. Jesus is the loveliest name you will ever hear.
The Hebrew/Anglicized name Yahweh is called sacred within many scholarly circles. The name Yashua is sometimes called sacred. What is the difference, then, between names that are called "sacred," and a name declared "holy" by the Bible itself? The difference is immediately discernable, to all who revere the Word of God above all other words. The one is man's effort, in his own intellectual strength, to approach unto God. The other is God's divine revelation and declaration to sinful man. One is earthly. The other is heavenly. One is scholarly and debatable. The other hushes the mouth of frail man, and humbles him into submission. The one appeals to religious intellect. The other speaks only to a humble heart, as Jesus invited: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28), and "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:16).
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." (John 15:16). Most "sacred name" believers erroneously attribute the Hebrew "YHWH" to the Father, and "Yashua" to the Son. A review of the nearly 7000 occurrances of "YHWH" in the Old Testament, reveals the vast majority refer to the preincarnate Jesus, the I AM, the Word, second person of the Godhead. Jesus and none other is "the LORD" of the Old Testament, with few exceptions.
There is no name under heaven like the name of Jesus. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Not only is the name of Jesus the holy name above all other names, here and now. That name will strike fear and love, into all of God's creation, for all eternity. Every principality and power and dominion in both earth and heaven will bow to the holy name Jesus, now and forever:
"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints" (Eph 1:15).
"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power" (v. 19).
"Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places" (v. 20).
"Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (v. 21).
Read that again. The Bible says that Jesus is the name, "not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." Can you say AMEN! to His holy name Jesus, for now and for ever? Or do you prefer a scholarly "sacred name" to that of Jesus, Saviour, the Son of God? When you pray, what name do you use most? To the degree that you pray to a Hebrew/Anglicized "sacred name" your prayers are intellectual, misguided, even prideful. Learn that "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6), Jesus said. Learn that Jesus is the only "door into the sheepfold" (John 10:1). Learn to pray to the Father in Jesus' name, none other.
Yes, the saved will speak His holy name, the name of Jesus now and for all eternity, to the glory of God the Father, praise God!
All believers who look for a new name will receive that name from Jesus.
"Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name" (Rev. 3:12).
Christian, learn His Holy name now and for ever. Speak that name above all names. Yes, speak and pray, hallow and heal, praise and worship, meditate and ponder, all in the name of Jesus. It is a shame that protestant Christians, who speak confidently in His holy name Jesus, mostly reject the Law/Word in favor of a "grace only" theology. Such a flaw in mainline Christianity should not discourage remnant believers from taking up His holy name, rather than a "sacred name" not found in the Bible. Jesus taught us to follow in his steps, to take up His words and obey them. His Words are found Genesis to Revelation, praise God!
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col. 3:17).
"And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you" (John 16:23). Friend, that name is Jesus, none other!
Christian, do not be misguided by "sacred name" enthusiasts, who espouse intellectual ideas but deny the truth of God's revealed Word. Most of these people know more about the "sacred name" than they know about "the name of thy holy child Jesus." Good as scholarly research may be, it is nothing compared with the simplicity of "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1Cor. 2:2), and the Word of God. "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:20).
Speak with love and confidence in His holy name, Jesus, now and for all eternity. Alleluia! To the glory of the Father, there is no name in heaven or on earth quite like Jesus, His holy name!