Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cut & Paste, Part 5

The third topic I would like to address involves the very name of God; or more accurately, how that name is pronounced. This particular topic seemed too trivial to be pursued with all seriousness, but there seem to be sects within Christendom who want to make a divisive issue about the name of both Yahweh and Jesus, some going so far as to say that if you are not saying their names correctly you are following false gods and are deceived.

The first major problem with this doctrine is simple and profound: the utter absence of noting how translation changes the subject matter. This is equally true with the Bible as it is with any written material translated from its mother language to another; i.e. from Latin to Russian, or Greek to English, etc. The Names for God in the New Testament come from the Koine Greek language. The name “God” comes from the Greek word “Theos,” while the name “Lord” is taken from “Kyrios.” Mind you the Greek language for God’s names differs even from the original Hebrew language. God’s Hebrew names included Adonai, Elohim, and the four letters YHWH, never spoken aloud by pious Jews out of reverence for the living God they served.

YHWH delivers another problem. Without vowels there is no clear way to actually know how the name of God was meant to be spelt and pronounced. In English we use Yahweh or Jehovah, but Walter Martin in his excellent book “Kingdom of the Cults” delivers a strong argument showing that this name could easily be pronounced Jihivih or any other number of variations without doing violence to the rules of Hebrew grammar. In other words, Yahweh or Jehovah has become the orthodox name for the God of the Bible. To suggest that anyone is misusing God’s name by not pronouncing it in the mother tongue (in this case Hebrew since the OT is the oldest record of God’s name) assumes that this objector knows without doubt what that name is. The truth is we don’t know for certain.

The same is argued for the name of Jesus. The argument advanced poses that “Jesus” is not the name of the Hebrew Savior Messiah but Yeshua or Yeheshua, the Hebrew equivalent of our English Joshua. The Greek name for Jesus is “Iesous” and means in Hebrew (or Greek) “Yahweh saves.” Apparently the argument is upheld that this mistranslated version of our Lord’s name is not His true name, and therefore those who call on it are not really calling on the true God, since you must know who it is you’re calling to before you can call upon them, as was the case with Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9:5-6.

Let’s bring this argument into practical form. My name is a Scottish variation of John. In France my name would be Jean; in Russia my name would be Ivan. Different cultures have various languages. The name “Ivan” in Russia is the equivalent to my Scottish name, yet no one would say that my name (or Ivan’s) is not genuine because of the language variation; no, when one comes to another people with different language one would expect the translation to occur. My name in Scottish, or English, or Russian is no more or less apt to define the person so named than is God’s when His name is brought from country to country.

What this argument really seems to advance is an almost magical quality in God’s supposedly original name that devotees apprehend when they understand this; like Gnostic “Christianity” with its unholy emphasis on knowing right phrases and answers to liberate the “good” soul from the “evil” flesh. The name of Jesus or God are not incantations; naming Christ’s name in any language avails nothing unless you are one of His children by faith, 2nd Chronicles 7:14; John 16:24; Galatians 3:26. There is no power in the name of Jesus. There are many “gods” in this world who operate under the name of Jesus. Mormons have their own Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own, Muslims have their own, etc. But it is not the true Jesus of the Bible and if some of their prayers are answered it is not the God of the Bible answering them, but the enemy of their souls, to strengthen them in the delusion that their man-made religion is true. There is only power in the person of God, Psalm 62:11. So when you know the true God you have access to true spiritual power.

Just as my name can be Ian in Scotland, John in America, Jean in France and Ivan in Russia, so to with the various lands missionaries have conducted the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures, though translated many times in hundreds of different languages, speak and testify of the same merciful, powerful, redeeming God who became a man to die for the sins of the world. When Christ died on the cross that fateful day you and I were who He was dying for; He was paying the penalty our sins deserved; our natural wickedness, our propensity and capacity for evil, put our Lord on that cross. Here in the United States I know this redeeming and loving God as Jesus. Moreso, He knows me, and knows that my faith is in Him and what He has done to save me from my sins, and save me for Himself. Semantic arguments won’t shake my faith in Him for a moment. And I fear that is what this imbroglio is going to do: shake the faith of many who believe they are insulting God or being deceived by false gods for not knowing and speaking the “true” name of God.

Allow me to say one more thing. I do not agree with Arabic Bibles translating God’s name to Allah in their versions. Here is where we have a genuine problem. Allah is an Arabian god, one of many, and was a patron god of Muhammad’s tribe long before the birth of Islam’s founder; he was an idol worshiped in a temple as the moon god. His nature, history, and outlook on humanity differs so drastically from the God of the Bible that there can be no splitting hairs here to make them one and the same god. Furthermore, Muslims apparently know this, since presently in Iran a Christian pastor is going to be put to death for converting from Islam to faith in Christ. Clearly Muslims know that the Christian God, Jesus Christ, is not Allah. They know and admit this so well that they are willing to kill Muslims who forsake Allah for the living God.

This can also be said of the Mormon God who was once a man that worked his way to deity, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ God who is a singular being that created Jesus (in their theology, Michael the Archangel) while the Holy Spirit is reduced to an energy force. As Jesus said, “We know what we worship,” John 4:22. The God of the Bible is that God in English, Koine Greek, Hebrew, Latin or any other language, and His superficial name changes do not serve to alter His character, attributes, or intentions toward mankind. This fallacious argument does much violence for no good reason. Such quibbling can even fall under Paul’s condemnation when he writes: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself,” 1st Timothy 6:3-5. May we receive from the Lord wisdom from above to understand and teach His word in all honesty and integrity.

2 comments:

  1. Amen Ian.

    As you have seen, Even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob didn't know the name Yaweh, according to what God told Moses, yet they clearly knew and worshiped God.

    On the other hand,I think the emphasis of some on never saying or even writing the name God is a show rather than a sign of real respect. In most cultures, it is sign of disrespect to refuse to mention a person's name.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually know someone who won't write out God or Christ's names, and I often wondered why. I think such people have subtly gone off track somewhere, and just need to be reminded where to get back on.

    ReplyDelete

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