In the July 2005 issue of Present Truth, our lead article was entitled, “Christ is Coming Soon.” In this article we noticed that several pagan religions are expecting the return of “Christ,” in a similar way to how many Christians are expecting Him to return, and some pagans even call their savior “Christ.” This has caused people to question whether we should continue to use the names “Christ” or “Jesus” to refer to our Saviour. This sentiment is bolstered by the sacred name movement that is seeking to restore the usage of Hebrew names for the Almighty God and His Son, as well as to remove all pagan, or supposed pagan, words from our use. I have received several letters from our readers inquiring into this subject, wanting to know the facts of the matter.
I would like to take some time to examine this issue. Let us keep in mind that the Bible is the best source book to turn to for all the answers to theological questions. Let us consider it the final authority on these questions.
Most of the time when this subject is agitated someone will claim that the most common words used for God and His Son have a pagan origin, and therefore should not be used by Christians. These words include God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, etc. Many are not content with only banning words used for God and His Son, but also wish to ban words such as, church, Bible, holy, sacred, sanctified, hallowed, glory, divine, divinity, deity, sacrifice, amen, etc. This list is taken from a book by C. J. Koster entitled, Come Out of Her My People, published by the Institute for Scripture Research. Other authors have included many other words in their lists of banned words, but we can be content to look at a few of these words to give us an example of the reasoning used for banning them.
Recently a dear friend gave me a copy of C. J. Koster’s book, Come Out of Her My People (hereafter referred to as COMP), and he asked me to read it and give my thoughts. The book had some good information on pagan holidays, including pagan Sunday observance, but the primary focus was on “pagan” words. It is a prominent book used to promote the idea that we should use Hebrew words for God instead of English words. We will be quoting from C. J. Koster’s book several times in this article. We have no desire to portray him in a bad light, nor to call his integrity into question. I appreciate Koster’s zeal to share his thoughts. I understand he has recently passed away, and I am sorry for that. We have no problem with him as a person. We wish only to examine some of the theories presented in his book to see if they are valid and reliable.
The English word “Lord” means, “a king… a) God. b) Jesus. c) A man of renowned power or authority.” (The American Heritage® Dictionary) It is used very often for men, and it is found many times in the Bible to refer to the true God of heaven. COMP says, “Dictionaries tell us that it [Lord] originated from the Old English hlaford, which in turn came from hlaf-weard = loaf-keeper. This may be true, but…” (COMP, page 58) The book continues by commenting on three pagan deities who had names that sound similar to Lord, i.e. Larth, Loride, and Lordo, and postulates that the English word “Lord” may have come from these pagan names. It continues, “the word ‘Lord’ is not so clearly related to, or originated from, frank Sun-worship,…” (COMP, page 59) Even though COMP admits that the word “Lord” cannot be traced to paganism, it advocates that we should not use it, and should use “master” instead. There is no valid reason for not using the word “Lord” to refer to the God of heaven or His Son. COMP’s main reason for not using “Lord” is because the Old Testament translators used it so much as a substitute for God’s name.
In the Old Testament, the translators of the Bible used all capital letters (LORD) to indicate that the Hebrew name Yahweh (YHWH) was being used. The translators were following the example of the Jews who had come to the point where they would not pronounce God’s name because they thought it was so holy it should not be uttered for fear His name would be used in vain. The Jews, when reading the Old Testament, would say Adonai (Hebrew for “Lord”) instead of Yahweh whenever they came to a place where God’s name was used. When a group of Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek (called the Septuagint), about 300 years before Christ, they chose to use the Greek word Kurios (Greek for “Lord”) as a substitute for the Hebrew name of God, Yahweh. When the Bible was translated into English, this practice was continued, substituting LORD for the name Yahweh.
Whether this move by translators was a good one or not is debatable. Many Jews think that if a person pronounces God’s name they will be lost, while many who promote the use of God’s name insist that we must pronounce it or we will be lost. This action by the translators has helped to keep God’s name from being used by common people who use profanity, in which case it is a good move. However, the long duration of disuse of the name has resulted in uncertainty regarding the correct pronunciation. The Hebrews themselves are not certain what the correct pronunciation is. The Bible was written without any vowel pointings to indicate the sounds between consonants. So the original is hwhy(YHWH). About five centuries after Christ some Jewish scholars, known as the Masoretes, included vowel pointings in the Hebrew text, and rendered the name hw”hoy> (Yehovah). How did they know what vowels to insert? The fact is they had no way of knowing because the pronunciation had been lost, so they guessed, and inserted vowel pointings to make it sound like Yehovah.
Because of the uncertainty of the correct pronunciation there are a large variety of pronunciations being used today. Some of them are: Jehovah, Yahweh, Yahuweh, Yahvah, Yehovah, Yehoweh, Yehuveh, Yahovah, etc. Each pronunciation has people who insist that it is the correct one for various reasons. None of these reasons even come close to giving us assurance that we know the correct pronunciation. Commenting on the validity of the Masoretic pronunciation of the name, COMP admits, “we don’t know for certain.” (COMP, page 132)
The fact that the correct pronunciation has been lost proves that it is not necessary for us to use it to be saved. God certainly would not require of us something that is impossible for us to perform. It is nice to know that God has a personal name, and to have some idea of how it is pronounced, but the meaning of the name is more important than the sound. The name Yahweh literally means, “the existing One.” This name originated from the name given to Moses at the burning bush, I AM. The name Hayah (I AM) literally means “to exist, be in existence.” God has many names in the Bible, none of which come close to revealing His entire character. I believe that is why He has so many names, to allow us to get a bigger picture of His character. Christ’s favorite name to call God was, “Father,” and He left us the same example, telling us that when we pray we should begin by saying, “Our Father.” (Matthew 6:9) It seems that this example has been followed by most Christians. It is personally my favorite way of addressing God. It brings our relationship to a more personal level. Whenever my son addresses me by my name, I ask him to call me “dad,” instead of Lynnford. I believe God prefers to be called “Father” as well.
In English, the title “God” is the most common word used for deities of any kind. The American Heritage® Dictionary defines God as “A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.” The Greek equivalent for God is Theos, and the Hebrew equivalent is El (singular) or Elohim (plural, often with a majestic singular meaning).
The book, COMP, maintains that we should not use the English word “God” because it claims that it came from pagan sources, and pagans use this word for their deities. COMP says, “If the Teutonic pagans called all their idols by the generic name ‘gott’ or ‘god,’ shall we continue to call the One that we love by the same generic name-title, or name?” (COMP, page 56)
Let us think about this point for a moment. The reasoning here is that since pagans use the word “god” to refer to their idols, that we should not use the word. Yet, many times COMP refers to our heavenly Father as Elohim—the Hebrew word for “God.” If this logic is valid, then it can also be applied to the word Elohim, for it is used for pagan deities many times in the Bible. Let us notice a few cases.
“Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god [elohim], and to rejoice: for they said, Our god [elohim] hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.” (Judges 16:23)
“And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god [elohim].” (1 Samuel 5:7)
The Philistines called the pagan god, Dagon, elohim, the very same word the Hebrews used for the true God of heaven. God Himself referred to false gods as elohim. God said, “They have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess [elohim] of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god [elohim] of the Moabites, and Milcom the god [elohim] of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.” (1 Kings 11:33)
Not only did the God of heaven refer to false gods as elohim, He also used this same word for Himself. He said, “Be still, and know that I am God [Elohim]: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10)
Obviously the true God of heaven is not offended when He is called upon using a word that pagans use for their false gods. According to God Himself, the fact that pagans use a word to call upon their gods is not sufficient reason to discard that word. The fact is that the word elohim is a generic Hebrew word meaning deity (God). If you speak English, our heavenly Father is no more pleased with you if you use the Hebrew word for God, “Elohim,” than if you use the English word “God.” It makes no difference to Him, but it could determine whether or not you are understood by others if you insist on using another language for certain words. I have read some papers written by people who refuse to use words they consider pagan, and it seems that every other word is a Hebrew word. It is very difficult to decipher what they are trying to say. Paul said, “I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” (1 Corinthians 14:19) “So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.” (1 Corinthians 14:9)
When we share the gospel with people God wants us to be understood. On the day of Pentecost God performed a miracle to allow everyone to be able to hear the gospel preached in their own language. He wanted to be sure that they understood the message. If we are speaking in a language not understood by the hearers, we are better off to keep silent, or seek to use words that are easy for people to understand.
After listing several possible pagan origins for the word “God,” such as, Odin, Goda, Wodan, Indra, etc., COMP postulates, “Although the majority of dictionaries do not acknowledge it, there are some that frankly admit it and clearly state that the origin of the word ‘god’ is uncertain or unknown. Why uncertain or unknown? What was there to hide?” (COMP, page 55)
Notice the reasoning here. COMP admits that the origin of the word “God” is uncertain or unknown, demonstrated by the wide variety of possible pagan origins listed in the book, yet it has to conclude that the origin is still unknown, then it argues that if the origin is unknown that somebody must have purposely hidden it to keep people from discovering its real origin. However, many English words have uncertain or unknown origins, not because someone has purposely hidden them, but because their history is difficult to trace, and their origins have been lost. In my American Heritage® Dictionary many of the origins of words are listed, but they are left out in many cases. Would it be accurate to conclude that because we cannot trace the history there must be a plot to cover it up? This is poor logic. It is reasoning based on lack of evidence. This type of reasoning could not hold up in court, yet it is often used by those who do not have evidence for their beliefs. I found this type of reasoning used several times in COMP as I read it through in its entirety.
COMP notes that some “dictionaries propose that the most likely origin of the word ‘god’ is the Indo-Germanic (or Sanskrit) word huta.… another name for Indra, the Indian Sun-deity,…” (Ibid.) COMP continues, “We do accept this, but would be happier to find a word with an ‘o’ instead of an ‘u.’” In a quest for an Indo-Germanic word that sounds more similar to “god,” the author searches for a word with an “o” instead of an “u,” regardless of whether it can be traced as an origin of the English word God. COMP shares his findings, “In the Indo-Germanic dictionaries there is only one word which resembles the word ‘god,’ in fact, it is pronounced exactly the same. This is the word ghodh.” (Ibid.) COMP goes on to point out that ghodh means “union, also sexual union or mating.” (Ibid.) COMP concludes by stating, “The original meaning and concept of ‘Elohim’ and ‘God’ differ totally, especially because of the latter’s carnal or sensual meaning.” (COMP, page 56)
As hard as it is to follow, I want you to notice the logic used to get to this conclusion. The author found a dictionary that claimed, “the most likely origin of the word ‘god’ is the Indo-Germanic (or Sanskrit) word huta.” After supposing that he had discovered the original language from which the word “god” came, and not content with the dictionary’s proclamation that the origin for the word “god” was huta, he turns to an Indo-Germanic dictionary and looks for a word that sounds like “god,” even though he already stated that the origin was in a totally different word, huta. He found another Indo-Germanic word that sounds like “god,” namely ghodh, and concludes that the word ghodh must have been the origin for the word “god.” Then he points out that ghodh can mean a sexual union, and concludes that the English word “God” originally had a “sensual meaning.”
COMP used the “sounds-alike” argument to reach this conclusion. The author found that there is an Indo-Germanic word, ghodh, that sounds like the English word “God,” and concluded that the English word “God” must have come from the Indo-Germanic word ghodh, even though he did not have a single reference to back up his claim.
The Polish word for God is Bóg (Bookh). When a Polish man says this word, it sounds very much like the English word “book.” However, it is not correct to say that the word Bóg came from the word “book,” nor that “book” came from Bóg, even though they sound alike. The Swahili word for “God” is Mungu, which sounds similar to our English word “mango,” but again, this is not sufficient evidence to prove that our word, “mango,” originated from the Swahili word Mungu, nor vise versa. In English we have words that sound very similar but they have no connection whatsoever, such as “bell” and “ball.” They look and sound very similar, but there is no connection between the two.
I wanted to cover this supposed etymology research put forth in the book Come Out of Her My People for the word “God” just to give you an example of the reasoning used to find some excuse for banning the most common English words used for our heavenly Father and His Son. I read the entire book, and it was laborious to try to follow the reasoning as the author jumped from one language to another, and then to another to try to prove his points. Again and again his conclusions were based on unsound reasoning. I don’t say this to put the man down. But for the grace of God, I would do the same. I just want us to be alerted to the real facts in the case, and not settle for supposed facts that have no support whatsoever.
The fact is, the English word “God” is a generic word that refers to a deity, whether that deity is pagan or the true God of heaven. There is no benefit nor sound reason to abandon using the word “God” to refer to our heavenly Father. It is just as acceptable to God for English-speaking people to use the word “God” as it is for Hebrew-speaking people to use the word Elohim, or Polish-speaking people to use the word Bóg, etc. It is the meaning of the word that is important, not the sound of the word, nor the origin of the word.
The English word Jesus is a transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which, in turn, was a transliteration of the Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua). In the recent past some, seeking for a pagan origin for the name “Jesus,” have claimed that Iesous was derived from the name of the Greek god Zeus. However, this assumption finds little support today. The word Zeus was used in the New Testament two times. (Acts 14:12, 13) In the King James Version it was translated Jupiter—the Roman equivalent of Zeus. The only similarity between Iesous and Zeus are the last two letters. The similarity ends there. The two words are completely unrelated.
Even though it is clear that the name Jesus did not originate from Zeus, COMP attempts to find a pagan source for it stating, “there is no resemblance or identifiability between our Saviour’s Name Yahushua [Yeshua] and the Greek substitute for it, Iesous Jesus.” (COMP, page 61) COMP claimed that the Saviour’s name was substituted and distorted because of “the strong anti-Judaism that prevailed amongst the Gentiles… The Gentiles wanted a saviour, but not a Jewish one.” (COMP, pages 61, 62) COMP claims that “‘Jesus’ is derived from Iesus, derived from Iesous (IHSOUS), obviously derived from the Greek goddess of healing, Ieso or Iaso.” (COMP, page 66)
The author seems to have overlooked a very important point. The Greek word Iesous was used over 200 times in the Septuagint as a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua (Joshua). In Old Testament times the name Yeshua was not considered to be a name for God nor for His Son. Yeshua (Joshua) was just a common name in the Old Testament. It was the name of several men in the Bible, including Moses’ successor, and it is the title of one of the books of the Old Testament. After transliterating many Hebrew names into Greek, the Jewish translators came to the name Yeshua, and transliterated it to Iesous. They used this transliteration more than 200 times. They were not influenced by Gentiles to use this transliteration to win the favor of pagans. The Jewish nation did not even desire to win the favor of pagans, for they claimed it was “an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation.” (Acts 10:28)
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Jesus in the
The Jewish scholars had no intention whatsoever of bringing honor to a pagan deity, or venerating Joshua by transliterating his name to Iesous. Yeshua was just a common name at that time. If they were trying to bring honor to a pagan deity by transliterating a name that would later be used for the Son of God, they would have had no way of knowing that they should do this to the common name Yeshua. At that time they had no idea that the Messiah would use this name. There is no possibility that these scholars were influenced by pagans to transliterate Yeshua into Iesous. By the time the New Testament was written, the transliteration of Yeshua into Iesous had already been established more than 300 years earlier.
Let’s examine the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek, and see if it could have been done any better. There is no Y sound in the Greek language, so the best they could do is use “IE,” yielding “Ieshua.” There is no SH sound in Greek, so they were forced to replace it with “S,” yielding “Iesua.” As a general rule, masculine Greek names cannot end with a vowel sound. If it does, an “S” is added. That is why the “S” was added to “Iesua,” making it “Iesus” or “Iesous.” This was all done hundreds of years before Jesus came to this earth, and it was done to a common name, Joshua, with no intention of bringing worship to the person Joshua. Iesous has nothing whatsoever to do with the worship of any pagan deity. It does not now, nor did it ever. There is no pagan in the world who addresses their god as Iesous, or Jesus. Jesus is not a pagan name. Any attempt to prove such a thing is vain, and lacks any concrete proof. There is no reason why we should not call the Son of God by the English word “Jesus.”
The Son of God has many names. The Bible says, “his name is called The Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13) It also says, “thou shalt call his name JESUS” (Matthew 1:21), and “they shall call his name Emmanuel.” (Matthew 1:23) There are many more names for the Son of God, none of which give a complete picture of His character or His mission, but together they give us a better understanding of the majestic Person and mission of the Son of God.
The word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, which simply means “anointed.” Christos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah), which also means “anointed.” COMP attempts to trace the word Christ to paganism, but admits that the research is “less convincing of its absolute solar origin.” (COMP, page 68) Yet, as seems to be the common reasoning throughout COMP, the sounds-alike argument is used to attempt to show a pagan origin of the word Christ. COMP concludes, “to avoid confusion between Christos and Chrestos, we should abide by the word Messiah, or Anointed—remembering that Osiris the Sun-deity, amongst others was called Chrestos.” (COMP, page 71)
The word Christ is just a title meaning “anointed,” or “the anointed one.” It does not have a pagan origin. There was no plot to honor some pagan deity by introducing the word Christos into the New Testament writings. Just as we saw with the name Jesus, the translation of Messiah to Christos had already been done more than 300 years before the New Testament was written. The only time the English word Messiah is found in the KJV Bible is in Daniel 9:25, 26. The Septuagint renders the original Hebrew as Christos in verse 25, and Chrisma in verse 26. The use of Christos as a translation of the Hebrew Mashiach had been established long before Christ came.
As we saw earlier, just because some pagans use the word Christ, or something similar, it is not sufficient evidence to discard the word. God Himself referred to Himself using the word Elohim, a word that was commonly used by pagans for their deities.
The English word “amen” is, “Used at the end of a prayer or a statement to express assent or approval.” (The American Heritage® Dictionary) According to this same dictionary, the English word “amen” was taken from Latin, which was taken from Greek, which was taken from Hebrew. This word is found in almost every language, with very little variation in sound or meaning. The original Hebrew means, “so be it.”
COMP maintains that we should stop using this word because, as is the standard argument from this book, it sounds similar to the name of a pagan deity, namely Amon-Ra. COMP claims that Amon-Ra was actually called Amen-Ra. COMP envisions a plot to make a subtle change to the sound of the Hebrew, which COMP claims should be “Amein,” instead of “Amen.” COMP bases its claim for this difference on the vowel pointings of the Masoretes. COMP says, “with the vowel-pointing by the Masoretes the Scriptural word has been preserved for us as: AMEIN.” (COMP, page 36) Here, COMP places much stress upon the validity of the Masoretes vowel sounds given to us, but later in the book it says, “the vowel pointing of the Masoretes cannot always be relied on.” (COMP, page 53) According to COMP’s own testimony, the subtle difference between Amein and Amen is based on something that “cannot always be relied on.”
He claims that Amen is the correct pronunciation of the Egyptian god Amon-Ra, and if we use it, we are actually calling upon a pagan god. The American Heritage® Dictionary cites “Amon” as the correct pronunciation for the Egyptian deity, yet COMP has found some resource to back up its claim.
COMP says, “Yahushua calls Himself ‘the Amein’ in Rev. 3:14. Substituting a title or name of Yahushua with the name of the great hidden Sky-deity or the great Sun-deity of the Egyptians, Amen, is inconceivable! The difference is subtle, but it is there. By ending our prayers ‘Amen’ instead of ‘Amein’, one could very well ask: Have we been misled to invoke the name of the Egyptian Sun-deity at the end of our prayers?” (COMP, pages 36, 37)
I find this argument very interesting. A “subtle” difference in this case makes Amein acceptable while Amen is unacceptable. Yet, throughout the rest of the book all words with a “subtle” difference from the name of a pagan deity are unacceptable. For example COMP claims that we should not use the word “Christ” because the Greek equivalent is Christos, which is similar to Chrestos, a word which COMP claims is the name of a pagan deity. A subtle difference here is enough for COMP to conclude we should not use either word but, COMP claims, a subtle difference from Amein to Amen only makes one of the words unacceptable.
To be certain not to say a word that sounds similar to Amon-Ra, some people have gone to the extreme of refusing to say amen, amein, or anything similar to it. To take this position they must overlook the fact that the Egyptian god Amon-Ra was worshiped during the time the Old Testament was written, where the word amen (or amein) was used 30 times by Bible writers. Obviously, God had no problem with men using the word amen, even though there was a pagan deity with a name very similar to it.
Where does it lead?
We only noted a few in the list of words that some are seeking to banish from our use, but these are the most significant and the reasons for banning the others follow similar lines. In a zeal to remove all supposed pagan words from our use, COMP included such common words as “her,” “the,” the letters “t” and “x,” “die,” “good,” “pan,” etc., as having a pagan origin. The author did not elaborate on these words, but mentioned them in passing. Omitting all of these words would be quite limiting in our conversations. Imagine reading a book in which the writer never uses the word “the,” or the letter “t.” If the same logic is applied to the entire English language, I am sure the list of banished words would grow to be very long. If I were to follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion I would have to refrain from saying any word in any language until I have done an etymological study on each word first, to trace its origin. I am sure God never intended us to come to such an extreme position.
A. T. Jones said it well, “the last step is involved in the first one.” (The National Sunday Law, page 89) He also said, “If the first step be taken, the last step is then as certainly taken; for the last step is in the first.” (The Two Republics, page 864) If you do not want to take the last step, then do not take the first one. We need to take time to think things through before we jump on a bandwagon. We need to analyze where this is going, and decide if we want to go there. If not, then we have no business taking the first step.
Pagan names in the Bible
When we consider the idea of rejecting all words that sound like the name of a pagan deity, we have to ask ourselves, “Why did God allow the names of pagan deities to be used in the Bible?” “Why did God allow some of His most loyal followers to have personal names of pagan deities?” Let us notice a few cases.
Apollos was a Jew who worked with Paul to spread the gospel. (Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:4-7, 16:13) In Greek mythology Apollo was “the god of prophecy, music, medicine, and poetry, sometimes identified with the sun.” (The American Heritage® Dictionary)
Hermas and Hermes are named among the brethren. (Romans 16:14) In Greek mythology Hermes was the Greek messenger of the gods, called Mercury by the Romans. He was a son of Zeus and Maia. Many of his exploits involve thievery or mischief.
Titus was a young minister who worked with Paul to spread the gospel. In Greek mythology Titus was the giant son of Zeus.
Dionysus, a convert of Paul (Acts 17:34), was also the name of the Greek god of wine, another son of Zeus.
Phoebe (or Phebe) was named by Paul as being a “servant of the church.” (Romans 16:1, 2) In Greek paganism, she was a Titaness, daughter of Uranus and Gaea. Her name was synonymous with the moon, and she had dominion over the moon.
Olympas was among the saints at Rome. (Romans 16:15) Mount Olympus was considered the abode of the Greek gods.
Esther was the Persian name given to the girl who became queen and delivered the Israelites from slaughter. Ishtar was the Babylonian fertility goddess called “the queen of heaven.”
There are more examples of this, but it is obvious that names of pagan deities were used quite often as personal names of individuals in the Bible. In all these examples of God’s people using pagan names, God never changed their names, even though He had done so with other people. It was not an issue with God. He evidently was not a promoter of sacred names as many people are today who claim to be His followers.
A pure language
Several times COMP refers to a prophecy in Zephaniah 3:9 as something that must happen soon. COMP says, “The prophecy of Zeph. 3:9 must be fulfilled, ‘For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call upon the Name of Yahuweh, to serve him with one accord.’” (COMP, page 60) Of course COMP assumes this language will be Hebrew and that it will happen before Christ returns. Yet, when we read the preceding verse we find the time of this prophecy is far into the future. The Bible says, “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language.” (Zephaniah 3:8, 9) The earth will not be devoured by fire until after the thousand years of Revelation 20. The pure language will be restored after Christ returns. Until then there will be many languages in the earth, and those languages will be used by God’s people to spread the gospel.
It is unlikely that this pure language will be Hebrew. Some claim that the Hebrew language is pure, untainted by paganism, but what they overlook is the fact that the Hebrew language did not originate with God’s people. Languages were confused and multiplied at the tower of Babel, shortly after the flood. Abraham lived in “Ur of the Chaldees,” and God called him out of that nation to serve God in the land of Canaan. He either brought with him the language of the Chaldees, or learned the language of the Canaanites, both of which were pagan nations.
Call upon the name of the Lord
There are many times in the Bible where we are told to call upon the name of the Lord. “It shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD [Yahweh] shall be delivered.” (Joel 2:32) Does God mean that we must pronounce a certain name in a certain way in order to be saved? Let us see what the Bible says about this. The Bible says, “Abram called on the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 13:4) It also says, Isaac “called upon the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 26:25) Here, the word of God tells us that Abraham and Isaac called upon the name of the LORD. Yet, later, God told Moses, “I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH [or Yahweh] was I not known to them.” (Exodus 6:3)
Abraham and Isaac called upon the name of the LORD, but the LORD said He was not known to them by His name Yahweh. Evidently, Abraham and Isaac called upon the name of the LORD without using His name Yahweh. There must be a way to call upon the name of the LORD without actually pronouncing God’s name. This would make sense, since for many years the Jewish people refused to say God’s name for fear of taking it in vain. During these years there must have been people who have called upon the name of the Lord and were saved, even though they did not know how to pronounce God’s name.
Joel’s prophecy that “whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD [Yahweh] shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32) was quoted at least twice in the New Testament. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord [Greek: Kurios] shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [Greek: Kurios] shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Both of these verses were written to Greek-speaking Gentiles in the Greek language. In both cases the word Kurios is used, with no mention of the Hebrew name of God, Yahweh. In fact, Peter says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name [other than Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) According to Peter, the name of Jesus Christ is the only name given whereby we must be saved.
When Jesus came to this earth, the Jewish refusal to use God’s name had been practiced for hundreds of years. By that time the exact pronunciation had already been lost. The closest reference I can find where Jesus referred to the text in Joel is Matthew 7:21. Here Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord [Greek: Kurios], Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” These people call upon Jesus for salvation, and address Him as Lord, but Jesus says that is not enough to be saved.
I understand from all of these verses that calling upon the name of the LORD can be done by calling upon God using whatever name or title necessary to make it clear to God who is being referred to. I am sure that many people have lived and died, faithful to God, who never knew that Yahweh is God’s name, nor that Yeshua is the Hebrew name of God’s Son. I am sure it could be said of them that they called upon the name of the Lord, even though they did not know how to pronounce His name.
The word “name” in the Bible often represents character or reputation. The name “Jacob” means “deceiver.” This was an appropriate name to describe Isaac’s son, until he gained the victory with the angel. At that time his name was changed to Israel, which means “a prevailer with God, or a prince of God.” The angel told Jacob, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)
There are many more examples of the word “name” representing character, but we will just notice one more for now. Jesus prayed to His Father, saying, “I have declared unto them [His disciples] thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26) Jesus came to declare His Father’s name, and the purpose for doing this was so that the love of the Father could be in us. If He had simply been referring to helping the disciples pronounce God’s literal name, it would be useless to accomplish the purpose He stated as the reason for making known His Father’s name. Knowing how to pronounce God’s name does not enable God’s love to be in us, but knowing God’s character, on the other hand, is the only way for God’s love to be in us. (See 1 John 4:7, 8.) It is obvious that Jesus was referring to making known God’s character, and not to the pronunciation of God’s literal name. “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true.” (1 John 5:20)
When Jesus came to this earth the proper pronunciation of God’s name had been lost. There is no record that Jesus ever corrected the Jews for refusing to use God’s name, even though he corrected them on many other points. Neither is there any record in the Bible that Jesus ever pronounced His Father’s name in Hebrew, nor that He explained to His disciples how to pronounce it. The only words we have recorded of Christ are in the Greek language, and He used the Septuagint Old Testament as the Scriptures from which He quoted. (We will see examples of this in the lead article next month.) The Hebrew name of God is not found anywhere in the Greek Septuagint.
If Jesus had wanted us to know how to pronounce His Father’s name in Hebrew, He would have told us, and we would have a record of it. He said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) Christ’s words have not passed away, and they were recorded for us in the Greek language. Nowhere did He instruct us to use a particular Hebrew name for Himself or for His Father. Instead, He said when we pray we should say, “Our Father…” This is the name Jesus told us to use.
A great danger
The tendency to reject all words that have pagan origins, or that sound like the names of pagan deities has a great danger that few realize when they first begin down that road. It often results in the rejection of the Greek New Testament. Let me explain.
The reasoning begins with the idea that we must stop using all supposed pagan words because it displeases God. A large number of these supposed pagan words are in the Greek language. Then, once a person accepts this, they are faced with the fact that these words were often used in the Greek New Testament, such as Theos (God—1,343 times), Kurios (Lord—748 times), Iesous (Jesus—975 times), and Christos (Christ—569 times). If these words are pagan, and God is displeased when we use them, then He must have been displeased when they were used in the Greek New Testament. Therefore, some conclude, God could not have inspired men to write these words in the Greek New Testament. This casts doubt on the validity of the Greek New Testament.
Some have concluded that God must have inspired men to write the Greek New Testament, but that they originally used Hebrew or Aramaic [A language similar to Hebrew that was spoken by many Jews and was used, along with Greek, during the time of Christ.] words in place of any pagan words, so that the original was primarily written in Greek but contained a fairly large amount of Hebrew or Aramaic words throughout the text. Others have come to a somewhat more logical conclusion and claim that the entire New Testament was written in Hebrew or Aramaic. This is only somewhat more logical, because much of the New Testament was written to Greek people who did not know Hebrew, and therefore would not have been written in a language they did not understand. For example, the gospel of Luke, and the book of Acts were both written to Theophilus (A Greek name of a man who was most likely a Greek or a Roman). (See Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1.)
Both of these assumptions have serious problems. All of the over 5,000 fragments of New Testament manuscripts that exist today are written entirely in Greek. There is not a single fragment of a Hebrew New Testament Manuscript anywhere, and there is no record that any has ever existed. Nobody alive today has ever seen an original Hebrew New Testament, or even a fragment of it. That is because it does not exist. The only Hebrew New Testaments in existence have been translated from Greek. The same is true of Aramaic. (We will elaborate on this point in the lead article next month.) A recent sacred-name translation of the Bible, entitled, The Scriptures, published by the Institute for Scripture Research, has a revealing note in the introduction. It says,
“We extend an ongoing invitation to any who can give input that will improve future editions of The Scriptures, especially in regard to the matter of Semitic [Hebrew or Aramaic] originals.” They continue, “Since the originals are no longer extant [in existence], there was no alternative but to make use of the existing Greek manuscripts.… We cannot therefore claim that our text represents a translation of any particular underlying text. As a modus operandi then, we have started out using the Textus Receptus, modifying our rendering as seemed appropriate…” Did you catch that? The prominent sacred-name movement leaders do not have what they consider an original New Testament. All they have is Greek, which they distrust, and feel it necessary to “modify [its] rendering as seemed appropriate.”
There you have it, the last step is in the first. If a man takes the first step of rejecting Greek words for God, Lord, Jesus, and Christ, they may as well take the last step of throwing out the entire Greek New Testament, because the last step is in the first. This leaves the adherents of this doctrine without a New Testament, and they feel free to “modify” the Greek text as “seems appropriate.”
I would encourage you to be very careful in any pursuit of this sacred name movement. There are some serious dangers there. I know of some people who have started on that path, and ended up rejecting the Messiah and the New Testament completely. If you do not want to take the last step do not take the first!
(This study will be concluded next month with a study on the original language of the New Testament. Editor)