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Sacred Names—Obeying Jesus Christ, or Following "Traditions of Men"?

The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connect...The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connected forms in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible; vowel points are shown in red. For further information, see article Q're perpetuum and diagram Image:Qre-perpetuum.png . A resizable (zoomable) vector PDF version of this diagram is available on request. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wyatt Ciesielka from The Living Church of God - (Not affiliated with The Plain Truth)

Many people sincerely believe that, to honor God, they must pronounce His name in a certain way. But is that what Scripture really teaches? To answer this question, it is helpful to ask another question: Do we obey Jesus Christ, or do we follow the traditions of men? 

Jesus Christ warned of false teachers who taught men’s traditions in place of God’s commandments (Mark 7:7). He warned that false teachers would come, claiming to represent Him—and deceiving many (Matthew 24:5). He warned that many would deny God’s law (Matthew 7:21–23), and that sin would abound (Matthew 24:12)! But He never warned about people needing to know exactly how to pronounce the Tetragrammaton or any “Sacred Name”? Why? Because that knowledge is unnecessary!

Honoring God in all our ways is vital—and that includes keeping all His commandments (Psalm 119:1721 John 5:2–3). “Sacred names” proponents who claim that one should utter someone’s opinion of what His names should sound like are confusing traditions of men with the real teachings of Scripture.

So, why is there such confusion over the Tetragrammaton (YHVH or YHWH)?

Shortly before the time of Christ, devout Jews began to avoid speaking the Tetragrammaton because they feared breaking the Third Commandment. When reading God’s name, they began to substitute the Hebrew word Adonai—meaning “Lord.” A contributing reason is that old Hebrew contained no written vowels. Beginning around the late sixth century ad, written Hebrew “vowel points” were placed within the substituted Hebrew word Adonai—the word that, hundreds of years earlier, had been inserted to replace the Tetragrammaton (YHVH).

Later, by the twelfth century ad, vowels from the Hebrew Adonai were inserted into the Latinized Tetragrammaton, yielding variations such as JehovahYahweh and Yehowah. In 1270, the Dominican monk Raymundus Martini became the first recorded person to use the name “Jehovah”—the product of Roman Catholic scholars adding vowels from Adonai to the consonants YHWH. Their pronunciation was possibly “Yah-o-wah”—the Latinized Jehovah… but was this the “original” pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton? Hundreds of years had passed since the Jews had ceased speaking the Tetragrammaton, so it was impossible for them to know. The certain precise pronunciation of YHVH had simply been lost.

Imitating Raymundus Martini—or any other supposed authority, today—is simply guessing at what the earliest pronunciations of the Tetragrammaton could have been.

Most honest scholars will admit that, with the passing of the centuries, the certain knowledge of the name’s pronunciation has been lost, and God has not seen fit to restore that knowledge to His Church. In any case, even if He did, the majority of His people, not worshiping in Hebrew, would still have no cause and no requirement to use that exact Hebrew pronunciation!

But does the opinion of some 13th century Catholic monk even matter? Must we worry about pronouncing a certain name of God in a certain way? No and no!

The Bible reveals both the Father and the Son by numerous names in both the Old and New Testaments! God is called “El” 235 times in the Old Testament (Genesis 28:3, etc.) and “Elohim” more than 2,600 times (Genesis 1:1Isaiah 40:1)! King David calls God Adonay YHVH (2 Samuel 1:18).

In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter calls Jesus Christ by the Greek, Iesous Christos (Acts 4:10–12). And Jesus—“who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22)—taught the Apostles to pray to God as “Father”—Patēr (Matthew 6:9). Jesus called God Abba (Mark 14:36), and on the stake called out to the Father in Aramaic, translated into Greek as Eloi (Mark 15:34)!

Throughout Scripture, as today, God’s people have worshiped Him in their own language, not with an imagined “Sacred Name” unsupported by Bible or history. We must follow Christ and the Bible—not traditions of men! It is biblically incorrect to conclude that a Christian is either required to, or is somehow more righteous by, worshiping God with some Hebrew syllables. For more on how God wants us to really honor Him and His name, please order our free booklet, The Ten Commandments, and read our reprint article, “The Truth About Sacred Names.”

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