Is God’s Name Really a Name?

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

I will unquestionably be opening a can of worms with this post, so to all reading this (or watching the video) I ask that you please do not shout back at the monitor or bang your fist on the table shouting “NO! NO! NO!” until the end.

I think this will blow a lot of people’s minds. I know it did mine.

Let’s start with the simple question: What is a “name?”  When I searched on line for an answer, it said, “a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place, or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.”

In the ancient days, many names were more than just a means of identifying someone. Some of the names were almost prophetic in that they described who the person was. Jedidiah is someone beloved by God; Joshua is God’s salvation; Abraham is father of multitudes; Emmanuel means God is with us.  These names didn’t just identify the person but also indicated what we should expect from them during their lifetime.

What about God’s name? There are many names that are used to identify God: God (of course), El, Yah, Shadai, and the Holy Name that is called the Tetragrammaton (I will use the term ‘Tetra” in this discussion just to make it easier to type) which is Y-H-V-H, or also shown as Y-H-W-H.

Most people believe this is God’s Holy Name, the very one he told Moses to use when Moses asked to know what name to tell the people in Exodus 3:13-15. But they are wrong! This is what God told Moses:

Then Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also told Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.…  (Berean Study Bible) 

So God didn’t give a specific name, he gave a description of who he is when he told Moses to say “I am has sent me to you.”

I have looked in the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (one of the most respected interpretations of the Tanakh today), my Chumash (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs) edited by Dr. Hertz (Soncino Edition) and also my Tikkun.

NOTE: For those who may not be familiar with the Tikkun, it is a book of the Torah scroll with the Torah Hebrew (a very different font of Hebrew), the modern Hebrew with vowel points and the English translation with commentary of the scriptures. It is used for preparation of chanting the Torah when reading the weekly parashah.

In every one of these highly authentic Jewish volumes, the word used for God in this passage is Elohim (generally meaning is “God is judge”) and he doesn’t use the Y-H-V-H anywhere in this passage. What is used is: אה’ה אשר אה’ה, which means “I am who I am.”

So, nu?  What’s this mean? It means that the Tetra is not the name God gave to Moses to identify who he is to the children of Israel. So now we have to ask, “Where did the Tetra come from?”

It was first used in Genesis 2:4. The very first appearance of the Tetra in the Torah is right after God finished making the earth, in the second half of verse 2:4. The Hebrew says: ב’ומ עשות ‘הוה אלה’מ which in English is translated as ‘When the Lord God..”, which tells us the Tetra is translated from the Torah as “Lord.” The word we use for the Tetra in Judaism is “Adonai”, which means “Lord.”

The Tikkun explains what the Tetra means: it is really an acronym. Each of the letters represent a word, and those words are (I will transliterate): Hah-yah  Ho-veh  veh-yee-yeh, which means “He was, he is and he will be.”

So after all the hullabaloo about the correct spelling of God’s name and how it should be pronounced, we find out that what we have always thought to be God’s Holy Name isn’t really a name! It is an acronym for words that describe the eternal nature of God.

And that fits with God’s command to Moses in front of the burning bush that the name he gave to Moses is how he should be remembered in every generation.  God was not giving Moses a name we should use to call him but how we should remember and refer to him. Remember at the beginning the definition of a name can also mean how we refer to someone? God doesn’t want us to have a specific name for him, he wants us to refer to him for who and what he is. He is our eternal Lord. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And that is what he told Moses he wants us to call him.

People are given a name we can call them during their lifetime, but because God has no lifetime he is known only by his eternal nature.

He is and he was and he shall be: that is what the Tetra means. It is not a name as we define what a name is, it is a memorial to remind us that God is eternal.

And from the very first time we see the Tetra in the Torah it is interpreted as “Lord”, who are we to change it?

So where do we go from here? I suspect that those who absolutely must use the Tetra and pronounce it as they believe it should be pronounced will continue to do so. I hope at least some will reconsider their understanding and verify what I have said here. And there may be some who will start to use “Lord” or “Adonai” as we Jews have been doing forever.

Others may just wander around the house muttering to themselves, “What should I believe? What is right? Who can I trust?”

I can answer that last one: trust God and trust his word. Trust that the interpretation Jews have been using for thousands of years is more dependable (and probably more accurate) than the one many Gentile’s just now learning about God and Yeshua are using.

And always, always, ALWAYS go to the Jewish versions of the Torah and Tanakh (Old Covenant) to see what the Hebrew says. The Torah is absolutely dependable to be the exact same way it is today as it was when it was first written. If you knew all the different ways the Torah is verified when a new one is written you would be able to trust that it is absolutely dependable. The Hebrew, that is- the interpretations are subject to individual bios and predetermined understanding.

I have been reading and studying the bible for over 20 years and after all this time I just now learned that what I have always known to be the Holy Name of God isn’t a name at all. OY! I just love the exciting and new things we learn from God’s word when we really look at it.

Paul never converted

I really can’t stand it when I am reading Acts 9 and the paragraph title is something like this: Paul’s Conversion on the Road to Damascus”

First of all, his name wasn’t Paul- it was Shaul. and second of all, he NEVER converted.

Historically, there was only one other religion at that time for him to convert to in that area of the world, and that would be the pagan Roman religion. I think everyone can agree Shaul didn’t convert to that.

During the First Century C.E. in Israel there were Jews and Romans- that was it. Among the Jews some accepted Yeshua as the Messiah and followed Him as such, and others (the majority) did not. But they all followed Judaism. There were also some Romans who accepted Yeshua as a Messiah and they converted- to Judaism!

The name “Paul” was used for him when the written accounts (some becoming scripture) were translated into Greek.

Shaul never converted. He was a Pharisee, he was a real “Jew’s Jew”, and his entire life was spent practicing Judaism.

In Acts 18:18 Shaul proves his Judaism by taking a Nazarite vow and sponsoring others to do so. It is clear from the writings in Acts and from his own letters that Shaul never, ever, not-even-once said anything about not being Jewish. He never said to disobey or ignore the Torah, he never said he converted, he never said that Gentiles should not follow the Torah.

Throughout the book of Romans Shaul is writing an apologetic for Torah- he is saying that following Yeshua is not ignoring Torah. And that Torah is still valid- a very Jewish viewpoint.

In 1 Peter 4, the word “Christian” is used. I do not believe that the other two times, both in Acts, that the word “Christian” is what the original writing had. The people who followed Yeshua in the First and Second Century were the first Messianic Jews, and the word “Christian” was used (most likely) by scribes copying the written accounts down in Codex A and Codex B much later, when the term Christian was widely used. They just (naturally) used it when copying and condensing the texts. The word that was most likely used originally would have been “Christiano’s”, which in Greek has no real meaning. The scribes “knew” that these people were Christians because that is what they were called then, so they just wrote “Christians.”

There was no “church” in the First and Second Century, either- you can thank King James for using that term, despite being told it was incorrect. I guess when you are the King you can even re-write the bible any way you want to; like they say, “It’s nice to be the King!”

The use of the word “Christian” in 1 Peter was, in fact, used as a derogatory term. Shaul said he would accept it because he knew what following Yeshua really meant.

If you are Christian, or Jewish, or thinking about accepting Yeshua, please do not be fooled by the subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) anti-Jewish bias of most New Covenant interpretations. The people who followed Yeshua in the 1st and 2nd Century C.E. were Messianic Jews (composed of Jews and pagans who were in the process of converting to Judaism.)

Let’s look at Acts 15:19-21:

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

I purposely bold printed verse 21 because that sentence is proof that the only conversion that occurred was from Gentile to Jew. When James told the Council of Elders (all Jews, by the way) to have only those 4 restrictions, that wasn’t the end-all of it. That was just the beginning, because (as he said) they (the Gentiles converting to Judaism) will be learning the law of Moses every Shabbat. “…read in the synagogue on every Sabbath.” clearly indicates that the Jewish religion and the Jewish lifestyle is what was expected from the Gentiles who accepted Yeshua.

Shaul was never called “Paul”; Yeshua was never called “Jesus”; Jews and Romans who followed Yeshua were not called Christians until many years after He was resurrected, and only then as a derogatory term. It wasn’t until Constantine and the Council of Nicene that Christianity, as we know it today, began. Before then it was Jews, Jews and Gentiles who accepted Yeshua (Messianic Jews), and Pagans.

Shaul was, always remained, and still is a Jew.  Just like Yeshua.

What’s in a Name?

A rose. by any other name, would smell as sweet. So said Juliet in the play “Romeo and Juliet.” She was making a point: just because Romeo’s last name was that of the family’s enemy, Romeo, himself, was okay. His name was irrelevant.

Is that the same with Yeshua, mostly  known by the world as Jesus? Is there really a difference?

The etymology of Jesus is that Yeshua, the Hebrew name that means ‘God’s salvation’, could not be translated into Greek because culturally, religiously and in every other way the Greek’s had no such identity to refer to: think of trying to interpret the word “snow” into the language of the people living on Easter Island, who have never seen or had snow, ever, in their history. So what happened with Yeshua is that when translating into Greek they used a transliteration: a word that sounds like the name, which was “Jesu.”  When Latinized, Jesu became Jesus.

Christ comes from a similar evolution of words: Mashiach (Anointed One) also had no Greek counterpart so, using the bastardized Hebrew-Greek of the Septuagint, Maschiach got to be Cristos (the act of spreading oil on a shield, representing the anointment by oil) and that became Christ. So Yeshua ha Maschiach became Jesu Cristos, then (finally) Jesus Christ.

That brings us back to the original question: what’s in a name? For Juliet, Romeo’s name meant nothing, but is that true for God and for His Messiah?

We are told that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, so that begs the question: does it matter to God which name we use? If ‘Jesus’ is a non-name, but ‘Yeshua’ is known to people as ‘Jesus’, when we call on the name ‘Jesus’, or pray in the name of ‘Jesus’, does it have the same level of authority that His real name, ‘Yeshua’, has? Now that I think about it, is ‘Yeshua’ OK? Didn’t the angel tell Yosef to name the child ‘Immanuel’? That means “God with us”. To me, ‘God with Us’ and ‘God’s Salvation’ are much more powerful and authoritative than some translated transliteration. Right?

Aren’t we also told in Revelations , a well as in the writings of different prophets, that the Messiah will be given a new name? A name that only He knows? That seems to impart a lot of importance to which name we use.

Yitzhak (Isaac) was named that because Sarah laughed when the angel told Abraham he would have a son. And Yakov (usurper) was named that by means of his birth (grabbing Esau’s heel) and he lived up to that name, right? And didn’t God tell Nathan the Prophet to change the name of Solomon to Jedidiah (beloved of God) because God loved the child? And didn’t God tell Hosea what names to give his children so that they represented what God wanted the people to know? It seems that names are very important to God.

Jewish folklore (I just learned this) also puts great importance on the name. It is referred to as kishmo ken hu–“Like his name, so is he” (1 Samuel 25:25). Traditionally, at birth the Hebrew name given is something that the child will (hopefully) grow into and represent later in life; then, an English (or whatever language is appropriate) name with a similar meaning is also given.  My English name is Steven Robert (my mother liked Steven and Robert is after one of my fathers best friends) but the Hebrew is Shaul Baer. I doubt very much that my parents gave me a Hebrew name then the English, since they were not religious or knew the Lord, so my Hebrew name came from the translation of the English. Actually, there is some truth to my names: the Hebrew should have been first, then the English, but in my case it is backward, and I was a breech birth, so maybe….?

Where does all this bring us? It brings us here: if names are so important, does that mean all who have called on ‘Jesus’ are not saved? Does the name ‘Jesus” has no value to God? When we pray in the name of ‘Jesus” are those prayers ignored?

Of course, I can’t speak for God or Yeshua; personally, I think that using the name ‘Yeshua’ is important and shows the proper respect for the one who bears it.

We are told, over and over, that God knows the heart. I think, knowing God’s compassionate and understanding nature, if we are truly repentant and come before God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, as David did (Psalm 51), then the names or words we use are secondary to what our heart is “saying”, as far as God is concerned. Therefore, my answer to , “What’s in a name?”  is that the name is important and deserves to be honored, but so long as our heart is in the right place and our T’Shuvah before the Lord is genuine, names and even words are unimportant. Those that are mute from life, who can’t even speak in their minds, can communicate with God, can’t they? If there is someone who recognizes God as the only true God and knows, spiritually, that He exists but just has never heard the name or read the Bible, is God going to ignore that person just because he doesn’t know with which name to call upon Him?

Each of us has to choose for ourselves. Being Jewish I am much more comfortable with the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’ than with ‘Jesus’, which represents many bad things to Jewish people. And for that same reason I understand the vast majority of Gentiles are more comfortable with Jesus. I don’t think God cares that much which name we use, but I do think Yeshua appreciates being called upon with His real name. Just my opinion.

As for me and my house, we will call upon the name of Yeshua, because well, …that’s His name.