Putting the Sacred Names in Perspective
Dr. Stephen E. Jones
For the past twenty years or more many people have sent me written material on the importance of knowing and using the Sacred Names. Some of the material has been helpful, but most of it has been designed to prove that using such titles as Lord, God, or the name Jesus is blasphemous. I myself believe that we should study and know all the sacred names and titles, and I favor their use. I wish also that the Bible translations had retained the original Hebrew names and titles without translating them or substituting other words in their place. It is always my interest to set forth the proper Bible translations and expound the meaning of Scripture properly. However, I am not at all convinced that using the English titles such as Lord or God is in any way wrong, and certainly not blasphemous.
Baal and Lord
It is usually argued that Baal (the Canaanite deity) means Lord, and that therefore to refer to Yahweh by this title is actually the worship of Baal, or that it calls Yahweh by the name of Baal. Hence, the Sacred Name Bible avoids the term Lord unless the word clearly is referring to false gods. Of course, if the King James Version had used the term master as its choice of translation, no doubt the Sacred Name Bible would have vented their wrath upon that word instead of lord. The distinction between lord and master is purely arbitrary.
Strictly speaking, Baal means “an owner,” particularly a landowner or slave owner. Hence, it means “lord” or “master” in that sense, but certainly lord is not the only way—or even the most accurate way—to translate Baal. Nonetheless, because translators have nearly always used lord as a translation of both Baal and Yahweh, some defenders of the Sacred Name have turned lord into a “straw dog” to slay. Strangely enough, this same problem has always existed—even in Old Testament times— because both the prophets of Yahweh and the prophets of Baal often used the same titles in referring to one they worshipped.
For instance, the adherents of the false gods called their gods by the title of Baal or Adonai, testifying to all they were owned by Baal or Adonai. The Bible does not refer to Yahweh by the title of Baal, but it DOES use the term Adonai (and Adon) many times, even beginning in the book of Genesis. The terms mean roughly the same thing.
Adonai Yahweh is one of the prophet Ezekiel's favorite terms for Yahweh. He uses the term 214 times—for example, Ezekiel 2:4. It is translated “The Lord God” in the KJV. Personally, I would prefer NOT to translate the term at all, but simply leave it as it reads in the Hebrew: Adonai Yahweh. However, if men insist on translating it, the term could more accurately read, “Lord Yahweh.”
Yet it is well known that Adonai was the Phoenician deity and that the word is usually translated lord. The Greeks had a god called Adonis, the consort of Aphrodite. They are the same deity. So how can it be that the Hebrew prophet, Ezekiel, has no trouble referring to Yahweh by this title? Could it be that the title is NOT inherently evil, but that it is only wrong to call OTHER gods by the worshipful title lord?
The Sacred Name Bible violates its own principles in these cases by translating it “Master Yahweh” in order to hide the fact that the Bible does indeed use the titles of false gods in reference to Yahweh. I do not dispute their translation, “Master Yahweh,” since it is perhaps just as accurate as “Lord Yahweh.” To me, it makes little difference whether Yahweh is Lord or Master. I simply object to their underhanded way of maintaining their doctrinal position when they cannot help but know they are being inconsistent and a bit deceitful.
In Psalm 110:1 we read, “The Lord [Yahweh] said unto my lord [Adonai], Sit thou at My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Acts 2:36 and Hebrews 10:13 make it clear that the Adonai of Psalm 110 is Jesus Christ in the New Testament—not the Phoenician or the Greek gods that went by that name. Peter's sermon informs us in Acts 2:34-36,
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
In other words, Peter identifies Jesus Christ as the “Adonai” of David's psalm. Jesus' enemies will become His footstool. This is confirmed in Hebrews 10:12, 13.
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
Sacred Name extremists try to convince us that Adonai is an evil term, and because it means “lord,” that makes the English translation evil as well. This simply is not so. But as I said earlier, it is unfortunate that the ancient custodians of the Scriptures (the Sopherim) altered Yahweh to Adonai in their mistaken reverence for the Sacred Name. Not wanting to speak the Name with irreverence, they decided the best way would be to avoid speaking the Name at all. Nonetheless, the Sopherim did NOT alter Yahweh in every place, but only in 134 places, all of which were listed in the ancient Massorah.
Melek, Molech, and King
The Sacred Name Bible sets out to eliminate lord as a translation of Yahweh and assigning this English word only to Baal or other false gods. The logic is that the English word “lord” is inherently evil and should not be applied to Yahweh. On the other hand, in my way of thinking, Yahweh alone is worthy to be called Lord, Master, King, or any other title that conveys respect and worship.
As shown earlier, the Sacred Name extremists tell us that Baal means Lord—therefore, Lord is blasphemous to use it of Yahweh. The logic of this argument is obviously flawed, for these same people have no problem calling Yahweh by the title of King. The Hebrew word for King is melek, or melech. In the Ammonite dialect, this is the title of the Ammonite god (1 Kings 11:7), who was called Molech, or Moloch. In other words, if Molech is the title of the Ammonite god and means King, then by the same logic, it certainly would be just as blasphemous to use this title in reference to Yahweh. The logic is precisely the same as is used against the word Lord.
The Scriptures have no problem calling Yahweh by the title king, even if the Ammonites used it to describe their false god. Take note of Isaiah 6:5, “mine eyes have seen the King [melek] Yahweh of Hosts.” Furthermore, Daniel 2:37 shows us that the king of Babylon was known as “a king of kings,” because he had conquered other kings. Those kings were his vassals, and so Nebuchadnezzar was a king of kings. Yet this does not pollute the title itself, f or we read in Revelation 17:14 that the Lamb is called “ Lord of lords, and King of kings. ”
Kurios and Lord
The New Testament Greek word, kurios, is translated “Lord.” An example is found in Revelation 17:14 given above in “Lord of lords.” Based upon their assumption that lord is taboo, the Sacred Name extremists take it upon themselves to ALTER THE NEW TESTAMENT to suit their view. They first attempt to prove that the Greek version of the New Testament is not the original one written by the apostles, but is a translation of an earlier original. (This may be true, at least of some of the New Testament books, although it is by no means necessary that someone other than the apostles did the translation.) The assumption is then made that the Greek text is not the truly inspired text and is therefore in need of alteration.
The problem with this view is that if this is the case, then we do not currently possess an inspired text of the New Testament. This opens a Pandora's Box to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who happens to disagree with any statement made in the New Testament. The Sacred Name Version is one such attempt to reconstruct the New Testament according to their own personal viewpoint. It starts out by using Rotherham 's Emphasized Bible as its basic translation—and this is indeed a good translation. However, the Sacred Name people then make alterations according to their own traditions. Hence, for the most part, it is NOT a translation, but a reconstruction according to their own viewpoint.
Most of the early Church spoke Greek, especially after persecution immediately scattered most of the Christians from Palestine into the Greek-speaking world. Though many of the early Christians in Asia Minor were actually Judeans at first, it was not long before converted Greeks vastly outnumbered them. The Judeans themselves who were living in those regions certainly spoke Greek, since that was the commercial language of the world at that time and was thus the universal language of the day. Two or three centuries earlier there arose a great need for a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, because the children of Judeans living in Alexandria and other Greek-speaking cities began to learn Greek as their native tongue and Hebrew only as a second language. Hence, the Septuagint translation was begun as early as 280 BC. By the time of the apostles, one had to know Greek in order to live or do business abroad.
The point is that Greek was the logical language for the New Testament, either in its original writing or as a translation that was probably done immediately either by the apostles themselves or by another Christian under their supervision. No one in the early Church considered Hebrew to be the only language that God would speak with inspiration. The day of Pentecost had proven that God spoke all languages and could reveal Himself to all people in their own tongues. And so there is nothing inherently evil about having an inspired Greek text of the New Testament, as some would insist, whether it was the original or a translation of an original. The word kurios was used freely both in the Septuagint and in the New Testament, and I see no justification to alter the New Testament text to make it “more inspired.”
I find it a bit disconcerting to follow a religion that claims all inspired texts of the New Testament have disappeared, leaving us with the job of reconstructing one ourselves. It seems to me that if the early Church had no problem with the title kurios, why should I?
Elohim and God
The term God, god, or gods is generally a translation of the Hebrew term Elohim. We are told that we should simply use the Hebrew term, instead of translating it God, and we are told we should not use God it in reference to Yahweh. But this makes no sense either. In the Bible, the term Elohim is sometimes used of Yahweh, and at other times of false gods. For example, see Exodus 20:2, where the Ten Commandments are prefaced with the words, “ I am Yahweh thy Elohim. ” Yet the very next verse says, “ Thou shalt have no other Elohim before Me. ” This is obviously a reference to false gods.
So we see that the same term, Elohim, is used of either Yahweh or of false deities. The fact that the term is used of false deities does not make it blasphemy to use the term in reference to Yahweh. It is the same with the terms Lord and King. The context is the only way we can tell WHICH deity is being referenced. When a man uses the term in speaking to a false god, he is bowing toward the false god, calling him his lord and king. But when used of Yahweh, the man is bowing toward the true God, calling Him his lord and king. There is nothing inherently wrong with these titles. It is NOT blasphemy to apply the term lord to Yahweh. In fact, it would violate my conscience to call any other god lord.
Jesus (Iesous) and Yahshua
In the New Testament the issue centers around the name Jesus. We are told by Sacred Name extremists that it comes from Je-Zeus, as if to connect it with the Father of Greek gods named Zeus. That is their theory, but there is no real proof of this. The Greek name itself is spelled Iesous or Iesus and is translated into English as Jesus. Of course, the “J” in the English language did not come into usage until about 200 years ago, so prior to this time it was spelled with an “I”.
The “Jesus-Zeus” theory sounds somewhat plausible, because in English, we pronounce the “s” as a “Z” as though it were spelled Je-Zuz. But in the Greek it is spelled with the “s” (sigma), not with a “z” (zeta). The difference between sous and zeus is as great as the difference in English between soo and zoo. While they may rhyme, and be similar in sound, they are far from the same word.
The Hebrew word for “horse” is sus. Isaiah uses this term when he says in Isaiah 31:1, “Woe unto them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay [lean] on horses [sus], and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek Yahweh. ” In other words, the only true “Horse” is Yahweh, our Redeemer and Savior.
If we study the constellations, we learn that Yahweh named them to tell the story of Redemptive history. In the constellation Pegasus, the winged white horse, we see pictured the Savior of the world coming as mentioned in Revelation 19:11. Howard Rand's booklet, The Stars Declare God's Handiwork, states on page 10: “ Pegasus (The Winged Horse)—the names of the stars in this constellation declare its meaning. The brightest in the neck of the horse has an ancient Hebrew name, MARKAB, which means returning from afar... Thus in this constellation of the Winged Horse we have the emblem of Him who said, If I go away, I will come again.”
In E. Raymond Capt's book, The Glory of the Stars, we read on page 79, “... The figure is named ‘Pega' or ‘Pacha,' meaning ‘the chief'... Combining these characters with the letters Sus, meaning ‘horse,' produced the name ‘Pegasus'... The true Pegasus is Christ, who procured blessings for the redeemed by His Atonement, and is coming quickly to pour those blessings upon a famished world. ”
My point is to show that the name Jesus (Ie-sous) is really perfect Hebrew, derived from Yah-Sus, which really means Yahweh-Horse, the Savior of mankind, as pictured in the Star Gospel under the name of Pegasus. It has nothing to do with Zeus. I do not know how old the name Iesuos is, but I presume it was also a Greek name prior to the Septuagint translation. Those translators called Joshua by the name of Iesous. Many different men by this name appear in the history of Josephus, including two high priests deprived of the priesthood. (See Antiquities, vi, v, 3 and xv, iii, 1.) Others were actually given the high priesthood. Antiquities. XX, ix, 4 says,
“And now Jesus the son of Gamaliel became the successor of Jesus, the son of Damneus, in the high priesthood, which the king had taken from the other; on which account a sedition arose between the high priests, with regard to one another; for they got together bodies of the people, and frequently came, from reproaches, to throwing of stones at each other. ”
This sounds a lot like preachers today! But my point is that Josephus and other Greek-speaking historians thought nothing of translating men's Hebrew names into Greek. The same is done in Hebrews 4:8, where Joshua is referred to as Jesus (Iesous).
Sacred Name enthusiasts often argue that Hebrew is the only sacred language, and that God never sanctioned Greek. That is a tradition of men. We find no such ban on using Greek, or English, or Aramaic, or any other of men's languages. In fact, at Pentecost, every man heard the voice of God speaking in his own language. Surely Greek was one of those languages! There is nothing wrong with translating names into foreign tongues, so long as the meaning is conveyed accurately. I do not object if a Hispanic should call me Estevan, rather than Stephen. I do not see why God would object to foreign translations either.
The Scriptures say that we will know His name. If a person only knows the Hebrew name Yahweh, they are no better than the idolatrous priests in Jeremiah's day, who gave lip service to the name of Yahweh, but who did not know Him. Jeremiah 7:4 and 14:14 prove that those idolatrous priests knew and used the Sacred Name, but because they did not know God's character, they were said to be priests of Baal. The power is not in the Hebrew word or pronunciation, but in the One called by that name.
Of course, to treat this Sacred Name subject thoroughly would require a lengthy book. This short paper is not meant to deal with all of these issues. It is simply meant to point out the flaws in the main arguments raised up to supposedly prove we are guilty of blasphemy for continuing to use lord, God, and Jesus Christ. I think that if we study these few logical principles set forth ever so briefly, most of the other Sacred Name arguments will be seen to be far overblown and extreme. We should certainly study all of the names and titles of God to understand the character of the One we worship. But let us not go so far as to malign others for using the English translations of those Hebrew words or for “mispronouncing” the name.