This week our nation and the world mourned the passing of a great President. However, there is one who is far more deserving of our adoration and praise. Ronald Reagan served and gave his life for his country, an earthly kingdom, while Jesus Christ served and gave His life for a spiritual kingdom, which is His church. Let us never forget, that, while the nations of this earth will rise and fall, the church of Christ is an everlasting kingdom, whose ruler is an immortal being, whose throne lasts forever (Hebrews 1:9). Christ said,
"I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," (Matthew 16:18).
The second verse of Onward, Christian Soldiers in many song books illustrates this truth.
Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus
Constant will remain;
Gates of hell can never
'Gainst that Church prevail;
We have Christ's own promise,
And that cannot fail.
What an honor it would be to Christ if all of the people of this world would bestow the same amount of energy toward becoming Christians, living a faithful life, and worshipping the Lord "in spirit and in truth," (John 4:24), as they do in giving pomp and circumstance and paying respect to mankind. Let us have this thought in our minds whenever we "come boldly unto the throne of grace," (Hebrews 4:16), to offer our prayers to God.
As we reflect upon the life of Ronald Reagan, be careful not to sin. Do not follow in the footsteps of those who allow their zeal to cause them to worship people, places, things, and creatures as idols. We need to remember to keep things into perspective and always put God first in our lives. Jesus said,
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you," (Matthew 6:33).
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;...A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;...I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work...All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again, (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, 7, and 20).
So, why should Christians honor Christ by assembling together for worship on the first day of the week as well as honoring Him in our lives? First, Jesus gave His life so that we may live. John said that,
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, (John 3:16).The shedding of Christ's blood on Calvary's cross made it possible for all men to be saved from their sins. Thus, the blood of bulls and goats could never forgive sins. The Hebrew author said in Hebrews 9:11-12,
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
Second, He gave us a new covenant, one that can never be broken. Christ's death on the cross laid to rest the old covenant, thereby giving life to a new covenant.
In that he saith, "A new covenant," he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away, (Hebrews 8:13).
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth, (Hebrews 9:16-17).
And finally, Christ gave us the hope of eternal life. When He rose on the first day of the week, He claimed victory over death. If we, as Christians, live as God teaches until reaching the sunset of our life, we can say with confidence what Paul said:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing, (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
As we assemble to sing "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs," (Ephesians 5:19), pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17), study the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15), partake of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7), and give as we have been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:1), let us be sure that our worship to God not only is "in spirit and in truth," (John 4:24), but also brings honor and glory to His name. As we go forth from this place of worship in hopes to meet here once again, and if not, to meet in that land beyond the skies where there is no night, let us also make sure that what we say and do in our lives brings honor and glory to His name.
In our last edition we examined the way of pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the four-consonant name of God as expressed in the Old Testament, YHWH. We determined from all available evidence that the name was most probably pronounced Yahweh, and also examined the origins of "Jehovah" and that it is not the way the name was pronounced. Having thus examined how the name is pronounced, let us now examine its importance, for there are many in the denominational world, particularly in the sect known as the "Jehovah's Witnesses," that places great emphasis and importance on the name of God. Let us reason from the Scriptures to see how important YHWH as the name of God is.
The student of the Bible will understand that YHWH as the name of God is important because it is the unique, personal name of God. The Lord said as much to Moses in Exodus 3:15, and demonstrated to Moses that He did not reveal Himself before as YHWH in Exodus 6:2-3:
And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am YHWH: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name YHWH I was not known to them."
When we read the Scriptures, we see that the name YHWH is the only name that is unique to the true God. The other terms used are also used in other contexts: Elohim is used also to describe any other form of god(s), including the idols of the Canaanites (cf. 2 Kings 17:7); El, the singular form of Elohim sometimes used to refer to God, is also the name of the chief deity of the Canaanite pantheon; Adonai also is used to refer to earthly masters; and while Shaddai is not used of anyone save the Lord, it is most often used in addition with other names for God, and is most properly seen as a description (most often translated "Almighty"). YHWH is important, therefore, in the sense that it is the only name of God not used to describe other gods or persons; Lord and God are terms that may be used to describe others, but YHWH is definitely the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Having seen the importance of YHWH as the name of God, let us now examine the claims of many, particularly those of the so-called "Jehovah's Witnesses," that "Jehovah," or "Yahweh," as the name of God, has singular importance and that Christians must call upon the Lord by the name "YHWH." Truth or error to such persons is partly determined by how much value is placed upon YHWH as the name of God. Let us examine this claim first by analyzing an important issue: if YHWH as the name of God is important for Christians to express, there would be evidence of this in the Bible in its original and earliest translated languages. Let us examine this evidence.
We must first recognize that the Jews of the time of Jesus' day-- and also a little earlier and down to the present day-- consider the name of God as extremely holy and do not consider it proper to express it by voice. We have seen in our last edition that when the Scriptures were read in the synagogues, the Jews would replace the Tetragrammaton with another name of God-- Adonai, Elohim, or ha-shem, "the Name." Persons within the "Jehovah's Witness" movement would consider this superstitious and false, and while we agree that the Jews did go too far, much farther than had originally been intended, it is evidence that the YHWH as the name of God, while holy and without blemish, need not be expressed by God's people to make them holy.
Regardless, if early Christians considered YHWH as the name of God as extremely important and necessary for Christians to use, we would expect them to transliterate YHWH in their writings and/or translations, and not translate the name. For those who perhaps do not know, transliteration is the process by which a word in one language is expressed in the characters of another language without translation (i.e. "baptism" in English is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo), while translation is the expression of an idea conveyed in one language is converted to another language (i.e. Greek baptizo is translated into English as "to immerse"). Therefore, in texts like the Greek New Testament or even the Greek Septuagint, we would expect to see "YHWH" if the authors/translators considered the specific name of God as important to convey. Transliteration does occur from Aramaic into Greek, as even in English at Matthew 27:46:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"
that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
We can see that Matthew has considered the exact words of Jesus as expressed in Aramaic to be of such importance that he both transliterates the Aramaic and provides (in the Greek text) a Greek translation. Surely if YHWH as the name of God was deemed important for Christians to say he would have done the same with it.
The evidence, however, demonstrates that the early Christians translated YHWH as the name of God, and did not transliterate it. God is referred to in the Greek Septuagint (LXX; the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha; approx. 3rd-2nd centuries BCE) and the New Testament (1st century CE) with the Greek word Kurios, "Lord," or the Greek word Theos, "God.". In fact, the only transliteration of any term referring to God is in Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6, where Jesus and Paul both refer to God by the Aramaic word Abba, which is the term of most intimate endearment in reference to a father! Similarly in the Latin Vulgate (4th century CE) God is referred to as Dominus, "Lord" or Deus, "God," and in the Syriac Peshitta (approx. 2nd-5th centuries CE) as marya', "Lord," and Alaha, "God." The only instance of transliteration I have found is in the Syriac Peshitta of Exodus 15:2, where the translator transliterates the divine particle yah but he also translates it with marya'. We can see, therefore, that YHWH as the name of God was not transliterated, as we would expect if it were deemed important for Christians to say, but was always translated with the general terms used for God.
The other difficulty with any idea that YHWH as the name of God is singularly important for Christians to use is a general lack of understanding of authority in a name. It is certainly true that in the ancient Near East many cultures considered the utterance of the name as expressing authority: from Egypt we have a myth regarding their gods that Isis, a fertility mother-goddess, was able to deceive Ra, the great sun god, to tell her his secret personal name; Isis therefore was able to gain power over Ra and be supreme since she knew his secret, personal name. This idea of authority in a name, however, is not expressed in the Bible. The power of a name in the Bible derives from the power inherent in the God behind the name. Let us use a human example to help us understand.
Most of us have checking accounts and write checks all the time, but have you ever stopped to think about the nature of the check and what makes it work? A check is a dated piece of paper authorizing a bank to take money out of one's account and to give it to the payee. The check has the payee listed with the precise amount to give-- and is authorized by a signature. The check is not good and cannot be authorized unless it is authorized with the written, signed name of the account holder. Is there any power inherent in your name? By no means! Your name on the check, however, is the authority that the bank needs to give out the money.
We can see the many truths about the name of God in the Scriptures in the same light. Let us read some of these Scriptures from Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:21, and Colossians 3:17:
And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying,
"All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
"And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Is God expressing to us that there is inherent authority in the word "Father," or "Son," or "Holy Spirit?" Or in "Lord?" By no means! The "name" here is like your name on the check: it is the appeal to the authority. The power in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the name of the Lord, is in the divine authority of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We can call Him Jehovah, Yahweh, Lord, God, Kurios, Theos, Marya', Alaha, Dominus, Deus, Dieu, Gott, etc., and the authority does not change. We all are still calling upon the name of the Lord!
We have seen, therefore, that the Tetragrammaton YHWH is best pronounced Yahweh, and we recognize that while YHWH is important because it is the unique personal name of God, it is not required for Christians to use in order to be pleasing to Him. We see this from the evidence in the authorship and translations of the Bible, for in Greek, Latin, and Syriac we have no evidence for the transliteration of the Tetragrammaton and in all places it is translated. We have also seen that such an idea-- that the name YHWH has inherent authority-- is not an idea expressed in the Scriptures, since the idea of "the name of" is an appeal to the authority of the one named, not some inherent power in the name itself. Let us remember these things when we speak with those who have been perhaps confused about the Tetragrammaton.
Ethan R. Longhenry
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