In the lead article last month we noticed some alarming conclusions reached by many in the sacred-name movement, where they are willing to “modify [the New Testament] rendering as seemed appropriate.” (Introduction to The Scriptures, published by the Institute for Scripture Research) They feel free to “modify” the Greek New Testament (hereafter: NT) because they believe that the NT was not written in Greek, but in Hebrew or Aramaic. They think that whoever translated the NT into Greek made mistakes, and they are free to correct these mistakes. Yet, they have no Hebrew or Aramaic originals to examine to see if those who supposedly translated the NT into Greek produced a faithful translation. That is why they modified the NT as “seemed appropriate.” (Italics supplied) If errors needed to be corrected, the best they could do was just guess what should be fixed as seemed appropriate to them.
All of this liberty to modify the NT is based on the assumption that the NT was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. But this is only an assumption, because there is no proof that the NT was originally written in any other language but Greek. All of the over 5,000 fragments of NT manuscripts that exist today are written entirely in Greek. There is not a single fragment of a Hebrew or Aramaic NT manuscript anywhere. Scholars debate whether Matthew was originally written in Aramaic or Greek, or if Matthew wrote an Aramaic version as well as a Greek version of his gospel. Regardless of which view on this is correct, the only manuscripts of Matthew’s gospel in existence today are all written in Greek.
The NT consists of 27 documents… concerning matters of belief and practice in Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean world. Although some have argued that Aramaic originals lie behind some of these documents (especially the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistle to the Hebrews), all have been handed down in Greek, very likely the language in which they were composed. (Encarta Encyclopedia, article: “Bible”)
When Christ was here the Biblical Hebrew language was a dead language—it was not a spoken language.
The language in which most of the Old Testament was written dates, as a living language, from the 12th to the 2nd century BC, at the latest.… From about the 3rd century BC the Jews in Palestine came to use Aramaic in both speech and secular writings. Jews outside Palestine spoke in the language of the countries in which they had settled. (Encarta Encyclopedia, article: “Hebrew Language”)
By the time Christ walked this earth as a man, the Greek language had become so widespread that it was a common spoken language in public, as well as the language of literature and commerce throughout the Middle East, including Palestine, where Jesus ministered.
With the conquests of Alexander the Great and the extension of Macedonian rule in the 4th century BC, a shift of population from Greece proper to the Greek settlements in the Middle East occurred. In this period, known as the Hellenistic, the Attic dialect, spoken by the educated classes as well as by the merchants and many emigrants, became the language common to all the Middle East. As the Greeks mixed with other peoples, linguistic changes took place, Attic became the foundation of a new form of Greek, Koine, which spread throughout all areas of Greek influence. Koine was the language of the court and of literature and commerce throughout the Hellenistic empires. (Encarta Encyclopedia, article: “Greek Language”)
When Christ was here Koine Greek, the language of all NT manuscripts, was a the primary spoken language of the common people, as well as the written language of commerce and literature, even in Jerusalem. At that time, Greek was widely used, similar to how English is used today. English is quickly becoming a universal language, taught in schools throughout the world. English “is the official language of many nations in the Commonwealth of Nations and is widely understood and used in all of them. It is spoken in more parts of the world than any other language and by more people than any other tongue except Chinese.” (Encarta Encyclopedia, article: “English Language”) Throughout the Middle East the Greek language was used in a similar way. It was a language that allowed people of various mother tongues to communicate using a common language. To be successful in business it was necessary to know the Greek language.
Galilee of the Gentiles
Jesus was “a Galilaean” (Luke 23:6) who grew up in “Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:11) After Jesus began His ministry He spent much of His time ministering in Galilee, which was called, “Galilee of the Gentiles.” (Matthew 4:15) This was populated by a large number of Greek-speaking people, who did not know how to speak Hebrew or Aramaic. About three hundred years earlier the Greek language was becoming so widely used that the Jews translated the Scriptures into Greek (called the Septuagint or LXX). The Septuagint was used widely in synagogues throughout the Middle East. It was used in the synagogue in Nazareth, where Jesus had been raised.
Right after Jesus began His ministry, “he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down.” (Luke 4:16-20)
Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1, 2. He was reading from the Greek Septuagint. We know this because the phrase “recovering of sight to the blind” is not in the Hebrew Old Testament (hereafter: OT), but it is in the Greek Septuagint. Since Nazareth was in Galilee of the Gentiles, it is understandable why they would use the Greek Scriptures to allow the numerous Greek-speaking Jews to understand its reading. Jews who only spoke Greek were numerous in Galilee, but some even lived in Jerusalem. In the early days of the Christian church in Jerusalem, “there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” (Acts 6:1) A Grecian was “one who imitates the manners and customs or the worship of the Greeks, and uses the Greek tongue. Used in the NT of Jews born in foreign lands and speaking Greek.” (Thayer’s Greek- English Lexicon)
The disciples were called “men of Galilee.” (Acts 1:11) Many of them were fisherman who worked on the Sea of Galilee. (Matthew 4:18) They sold their fish in Galilee, and must have been able to speak Greek to communicate with their buyers. In the book of John we read, “And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.” (John 12:20-22) The disciples were able to communicate with these Greek believers who attended the feast.
Teach all nations
Just before Jesus left His disciples, He commissioned them, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) He also instructed them, saying, “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Jesus designed that the gospel would be preached in all nations. The Jews had mostly kept to themselves and rarely ministered unto those of other nations. The gospel of Christ was not to be thus constrained to the Hebrew people. It was to go to all nations, and the most widely used language of that area in those days was the Greek language. It would have been foolish to lock up the gospel writings in a dead language such as Hebrew, or a language with limited use, such as Aramaic. Jesus charged the disciples to go unto all nations, and we can be certain that they spoke to those nations in a language they could understand. In most places surrounding Israel, Greek was the language to use to reach them because it was the universal language of that time.
God called Paul to especially minister to Gentiles— most of whom did not know Hebrew or Aramaic. He was “the apostle of the Gentiles.” (Romans 11:13) Most of the places he visited on his missionary journeys were Greek- speaking nations. Greek was their mother tongue, and they did not know any other language. In most of these places, there were Jewish synagogues, attended by Greek-speaking Jews who did not know Hebrew or Aramaic. Jews by birth, as well as Greeks, attended these synagogues. Corinth was located in Greece and was a Greek-speaking city. When Paul was in Corinth “he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.” (Acts 18:4) The Bible records Paul’s experiences in converting the Jews and Greeks in a similar way in just about every area he visited. Greeks were a large part of his audience wherever he went. When he wrote letters to these people we can be certain that he wrote to them in a language they could understand, the Greek language. Much of the NT is made up of letters from Paul to the churches in Greek-speaking lands, some in Greece itself, such as Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica. It would have been unthinkable for Paul to have written his letters to Greece in a language they could not understand.
Paul spoke Greek
We know that Paul could speak Greek. After a mob had almost killed him and he was being led into a castle by Roman soldiers, “he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?” (Acts 21:37, 38) The chief captain was surprised that Paul could speak Greek because he mistook him for a particular Egyptian who did not know Greek. Paul continued to talk with the chief captain in Greek—he knew the language well.
After the chief captain gave Paul permission to speak to the people, “Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue [Aramaic], saying, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence:…” (Acts 21:40-22:2)
When Paul began to speak, the crowd was pleasantly surprised when he spoke Hebrew. This was not biblical Hebrew, for that had not been spoken for many years, but he spoke the language of the Hebrew people at that time, which was Aramaic. “They would have understood Paul’s Koiné Greek, but they much preferred the Aramaic.” (Robertson’s NT Word Pictures on Acts 22:2) This shows that Aramaic was not always spoken in public, even in Jerusalem where this took place. It also shows that the general population could speak and understand a language other than Aramaic, and this certainly was Greek.
One of Paul’s most faithful companions and co-laborers was a Greek. Paul wrote, “Titus, who was with me, being a Greek,…” (Galatians 2:3) Another man whom Paul worked closely with was “a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria,…” (Acts 18:24) Apollos was the name of a pagan Greek god. Alexandria was the chief city of Egypt, founded by Alexander the Great. Apollos had a Greek background, and he was one of the chief workers in the early NT church. Paul said, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) The Greek language was a big part of the ministry of the early church. If they had limited their writings to Hebrew or Aramaic they would have left much of the early church without the ability to understand them. There was no need for these early Christians to learn Hebrew or Aramaic, for they had had the Scriptures in their own language, Greek, for more than 300 years. Greek was the language used more than any other in that area at that time. It was used in literature, in courts, in commerce, and in virtually every other aspect of everyday life for hundreds of years prior to the NT writings.
Josephus was a Jewish priest who was born in 37 or 38 AD and died sometime after 100 AD. He made it his life’s work to translate historical records of the Jewish people from Hebrew into Greek so they could be read by a much larger audience than if they were kept in the Hebrew language. Josephus wrote, “I intended to do no more than translate the Hebrew books into the Greek language, and promised them to explain those facts, without adding any thing to them of my own, or taking any thing away from there.” (The Antiquities of the Jews, by Flavius Josephus, Book 10, Chapter 10)
The works of Josephus were all composed in the Greek language, with the exception of his first draft of the “Jewish War,” which was in Aramaic. His principal purpose was to communicate to the Greco-Roman world the knowledge of the history of his people, whom he defends and glorifies in every possible way. (New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VI, page 235)
At the time of Josephus (which was also the time when the NT was written), writings in the Hebrew language were not suitable to reach the majority of people, especially if they were designed to reach people outside of the nation of Israel. The fact that Josephus saw the great need to rescue what he deemed precious works from a dead language and translate them into Greek so their influence could be prolonged and expanded proves that Greek was a much more common language than Hebrew at that time. The books of the NT were written during this same time, and it would have been foolish to write them in Hebrew or Aramaic when their intended purpose was to reach as many as possible with the gospel.
For those who claim there was an original Hebrew or Aramaic NT, the closest they can come is the Aramaic Peshitta. George Lamsa translated the Peshitta into English, and claims that the NT was originally written in Aramaic, and that the Peshitta is a copy of the original NT. This is the closest that anyone can come to having an original Hebrew or Aramaic NT, but it was actually translated from Greek, which we will see in a moment.
Let us take time to examine the NT itself to see if there is any internal evidence to reveal the original language in which it was written.
Matthew 1:23: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew quoted from Isaiah 7:14, where it says, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Notice that the phrase, “which being interpreted is, God with us,” is not found in Isaiah 7:14. Matthew saw it necessary to interpret the Hebrew name, Immanuel, because he knew that his readers would not understand what the word means. This would not have been necessary if his intended audience knew Hebrew. This proves that Matthew did not write in Hebrew. (It is possible that he wrote an Aramaic version in addition to the Greek version available to us today, as noted at the beginning of this article, even though there is not even a single fragment of such a document in existence today.)
The Aramaic Peshitta also includes the phrase, “which being interpreted is, God with us,” just like the Greek. Lamsa’s translation of it says, “Behold, a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is interpreted, Our God is with us.” Perhaps in the Aramaic version it was necessary to translate the Hebrew name Emmanuel into Aramaic, but it is unlikely because the languages are so similar. But the next verse leaves no doubt.
Mark 7:34—“And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.” The word “Ephphatha” is an Aramaic word. Mark saw it necessary to translate this word so his readers would understand it. If Mark had originally written in Aramaic, he would not have explained, “which means, Be opened.” This proves that Aramaic was not the language of Mark’s gospel. Lamsa’s translation of the Aramaic Peshitta says, “And he looked up to heaven and sighed, and he said to him, Ethpatakh, which means, Be opened.” The Aramaic Peshitta was translated from Greek manuscripts. The original NT was written in Greek, as we will see demonstrated over and over again in the NT.
Mark 15:22—“And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.” The word “Golgotha” is an Aramaic word. Again, Mark saw it necessary to translate an Aramaic word so his readers would understand it. If Mark had originally written in Aramaic, he would not have included the phrase, “a place which is interpreted The Skull,” his readers would have already known what this Aramaic word means, and it would be useless for Mark to have interpreted it for them. Lamsa’s translation of the Aramaic Peshitta says, “And they brought him to Golgotha, a place which is interpreted The Skull.” This proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Aramaic Peshitta was translated from the Greek manuscripts. We can be certain that Aramaic was not the original language of the NT.
Mark 15:34—“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Here is another Aramaic phrase which Mark translated for his readers to understand. Lamsa’s translation of the Peshitta says, “And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli, lemana, shabakthani! which means, My God, my God, for this I was spared!” All that was said of Mark 15:22 is equally true of this verse, confirming the fact that Mark wrote his gospel in Greek, not Aramaic. Here are a few more examples of evidence substantiating this fact.
Mark 5:41—“And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi [Aramaic]; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.”
Mark 7:11—“But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban [Aramaic], that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.”
John 1:38—“Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?” The Hebrew word “Rabbi” was a very common word among the Jews— even a small Jewish child would know the meaning of this word. Yet, John saw the necessity of translating this word into the language of his gospel, Greek, so that his readers would understand its meaning. He would not have translated such a common word if he was writing in Hebrew or Aramaic. John was writing in Greek.
John 1:41—“He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” John was expecting people to read his gospel who were not familiar with common Hebrew words, such as Messiah. John saw it necessary to translate common Hebrew words into the language of his gospel so his readers would understand it. He wrote in Greek so that he could be understood by the common people throughout the Middle East. Here are a few more verses to substantiate this fact:
John 1:42—“And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas [Aramaic], which is by interpretation, A stone.”
John 9:7—“And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam [Hebrew], (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”
Acts 1:19—“It was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.” Here again is an Aramaic word that was translated by Luke so that his readers could understand. James Murdock’s translation of the Peshitta says, “And this was known to all that dwelt at Jerusalem; so that the field was called, in the language of the country, Aceldama, which is interpreted Field of Blood.” It is certain that Luke did not write the book of Acts in Aramaic, or he would not have translated this Aramaic word for his readers. Luke wrote his gospel and the book of Acts in the Greek language so that they could be read by Theophilus, the Greek man whom he had specifically written them for. (See Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1.) Here are some more examples:
Acts 4:36—“And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas [Aramaic], (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus.”
Acts 9:36—“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha [Aramaic], which by interpretation is called Dorcas [Greek]: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.”
Revelation 9:11—“And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.”
We have noted a large amount of internal evidence in the NT that clearly demonstrates the fact that the intended audience included many who were unfamiliar with common Hebrew and Aramaic words. Therefore when the writers allowed some of these words to be used in their writings they interpreted them into Greek so their audience would understand them. Yet, there is more evidence, as we will see in a moment.
Not only did the writers of the NT see it necessary to translate common Hebrew or Aramaic words into the language of their audience, they also saw it necessary to explain certain Jewish practices that would not have been necessary if the intended audience had been limited to Aramaic-speaking Jews. Let us notice a few examples.
John 6:4—“And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.” To the Jews, the Passover was one of the most well-known events of the year. John expected that many of his readers would not know what the Passover is, so he saw it necessary to explain that the Passover is “a feast of the Jews.” This would be useless if he had written his gospel for Jewish people.
John 7:2—“Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.” If John were writing to primarily to Jews he would not have had to inform his audience that the feast of tabernacles was “the Jews’ feast.” He would have simply said, “the feast of tabernacles was at hand.”
Luke 23:51—“(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.” It is very unlikely for Luke to inform his readers that Arimathaea was “a city of the Jews” if he expected the majority of his readers to be Aramaic-speaking Jews, who would already be familiar with this fact.
Luke 22:1—“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.” Luke saw it necessary to explain to his readers that “the feast of unleavened bread” is also called “the Passover.” If he was intending his readers to be Aramaic-speaking Jews he would not have had to explain something that is common knowledge among the Jews.
John 19:40—“Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” Here, John saw it necessary to explain this burial practice that was peculiar to the Jews, something that would not have been done if his audience had been restricted to Aramaic-speaking Jews.
Mark 7:2, 3—“And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.” Mark wrote his gospel for people who would not know that the Jews have a tradition that prohibits them from eating unless they wash their hands often. It would not be necessary to explain this practice to Jewish people, for they would have been taught this since childhood. Mark was writing to Greek-speaking people.
John 2:6—“And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.” In John’s account of this event it was necessary to mention the six waterpots of stone that were setting there at the wedding feast. Realizing that his readers would not understand why these waterpots were there, John explained that they were there because of “the manner of the purifying of the Jews.” John knew that Jewish people would know why they were there, but since he was also expecting a large number of non-Jews to read his gospel, he saw the need for explaining this oddity to his audience.
Septuagint in the New Testament
About 300 years before Christ came to this earth, in response to the growing popularity of the Greek language and the increasing amount of Jews who could not read Hebrew, a group of Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew OT into Greek. This translation is commonly called the Septuagint, or LXX. It became very popular, and by the time Christ came here it was widely used, because it was written in a common language understood by many. When Christ was here he often quoted from the Septuagint as opposed to the Hebrew OT. (See Matthew 13:14, 15; 21:16; Luke 4:18, 19.) Many of the NT writers used the Septuagint when quoting OT Scriptures. R. Grant Jones did an extensive study on the usage of the Septuagint in the NT. He concluded, “The New Testament authors show a clear preference for the Septuagint over [Hebrew] Masoretic readings.” (www.geocities.com/ r_grant_jones/Rick/Septuagint/spexecsum.htm) Jones catalogued every time an OT text was quoted in the New, and listed 78 times where NT writers chose the Septuagint reading of a text when it differed from the Hebrew reading. (You can see this list at: www.geocities.com/r_grant_ jones/Rick/Septuagint/splist1.htm.) Jones only cited six places where the NT writers chose the Hebrew reading over the Septuagint rendering. (You can see this list at: www.geocities.com/r_grant_jones/Rick/Septuagint/spindex.htm.)
This evidence makes it clear that the main source book for OT texts used by NT writers was the Greek Septuagint. This would be very unlikely if they had written the NT in Hebrew or Aramaic. They were writing to Greek people in the Greek language, and it was much easier for them, when quoting from the OT, to use the Greek version rather than the Hebrew. This way they did not have to translate the Hebrew verses every time they wanted to quote the OT. This also demonstrates that the Greek Septuagint was a widely used version of the OT in the days of Christ and His apostles.
No Hebrew manuscripts
Today there is not a single fragment of a NT Hebrew manuscript, while there are over 5,000 fragments of Greek NT manuscripts. Some scholars claim that there were several NT fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (all dating before 70 AD). All of these fragments were written in Greek. (For more information on this point, please read the book, The Original Language of the New Testament Was Greek, by Gary Mink, online at: www.sacrednamemovement.com/NTisGreekContents.htm.) There are several Hebrew and Aramaic portions of the NT that date back to the early Christian church, but they have all been translated from Greek, as we noted earlier regarding the Peshitta. Most of the above-mentioned peculiar Greek text evidence is found in the Aramaic NT, because the Peshitta was translated from Greek.
The authors of a prominent sacred-name Bible, The Scriptures, are forced to acknowledge that no Hebrew or Aramaic original manuscripts exist today. They state:
“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 leaders of the sacred-name movement do not have what they consider an original NT. All they have is Greek, which they distrust, and they feel it necessary to “modify [its] rendering as seemed appropriate.” (Preface to The Scriptures, page xvi)
The fact that no Hebrew or Aramaic NT manuscripts exist today, while over 5,000 Greek NT manuscripts exist, is compelling evidence that there never was an original Hebrew or Aramaic NT. The NT was written in Greek.
“My words shall not pass away”
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” (Luke 21:33) If the words of Jesus were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic and no Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts exist today, then Christ’s words have passed away. But Jesus said this will not happen. Today, the only original record of Christ’s words are in Greek. Those who maintain that the NT was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic feel free to “modify [its] rendering as seemed appropriate.” This is a serious problem, friends. When a man comes to the point that he feels free to modify the only record of Christ’s words in existence, he has a real problem. Jesus said, “I am Alpha and Omega [Greek letters],… If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:13, 18, 19)
There are clearly some serious dangers in the sacred- name movement of today, most notably in the rejection of the only NT we have, the Greek NT. It is completely contrary to the Bible and historical facts, to insist on using a particular name for God or His Son, to the exclusion of every other name or title, such as God, Lord, Christ, etc. A sad tendency among those who take such extreme positions is that they refuse to fellowship with those who do not use the name of God the same way as they do. This is understandable. If a person believes that when someone uses words such as God, Lord, Christ, Jesus, etc., a pagan deity is being worshiped, it makes sense to avoid fellowship with those whom they think are worshiping false gods. Yet, as we have clearly seen in last month’s article, this claim is completely unfounded, with absolutely no valid proof for this assertion. Too often people hear or read something that seems to make sense and they jump on the bandwagon without checking out all the facts first. Then many others follow their example, until a doctrine without Biblical or factual foundation gains quite a large following of people blindly following others and unwilling to examine the evidence for themselves to see if it is true. This has been done, to a large extent, in the sacred-name movement.
Another danger is that it can turn a person’s religion into making the right sounds with his lips. They say you must call Jesus, Yeshua, or something similar. This makes it very difficult for many people in the world who do not have a SH sound in their language. For us it is no problem because SH is such a common sound in English, but this is not the case in all languages. Remember the Ephraimites could not say Shibboleth; instead, they said Sibboleth because they could not pronounce the SH sound. “Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.” (Judges 12:6) God is not so particular that He would destroy us if we do not pronounce His name correctly.
The Bible does not prohibit us from using the personal name of God (unless we do it in vain), however that name may be pronounced. The Bible is quite clear that the primary, personal name of God is Yahweh or one of its variants. This name, along with the many other names and titles of God given in the Bible, can be used to address Him. Yet, the Bible does not teach that there is some magical blessing in speaking God’s name, nor in pronouncing it in a certain way. God is not so particular to demand that you must pronounce a particular word in order to be saved. That does not concern Him. He is concerned about the condition of your heart.
I pray that this will not be the case with you, dear reader. Please take the time to study things out for yourself and let the Bible speak to you just as it is written. Take time to pray and seek God for wisdom, for without that we will all be led astray. Get to know God on a very personal level. Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17)
Keep looking up, for your redemption draweth nigh.