God’s Name — What is it and What Does it Mean?

Published June 9th, 2016 by Dirk Waren

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In the Hebrew Scriptures God’s name is transliterated as YHWH. This is the Tetragrammaton (teh-truh-GRAM-uh-tawn), which is the actual name of God in the Bible. YHWH is typically rendered “LORD” in English versions of Holy Scripture (all capitals).

From the 2nd or 3rd century BC The Name was considered too holy to speak in Jewish culture and therefore substitute words for YHWH were used, like Adonai (ah-doh-NAHY) and Elohim (eh-LOH-him or EL-oh-HEEM). Adonai is a title of reverence for God and Elohim simply means “God.”

Since YHWH became ineffable, the actual pronunciation was lost over time, although YAH-way is the likely pronunciation (or YAH-hoo-way for devout Hebrews). “Jehovah” is merely the English form of the Tetragrammaton (JHVH) with the vowels of Adonai inserted.

Basically, when God told Moses “I AM WHO I AM,” he was giving the translation of what Yahweh means (Exodus 3:13-14). “I AM WHO I AM” is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh in Hebrew. He was saying in effect, “My name is the fact that I exist.”

Now, isn’t that a perfectly fitting name for the Almighty?

So What Name Do We Call On (Romans 10:13)?

In response to this fascinating information someone wrote me quoting Romans 10:13, which says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” She understandably asked:

So what name exactly? Since the one mentioned is too holy and we don’t really know the correct pronunciation (and probably for the best in light of the third commandment).

Let’s read this particular passage with the surrounding verses:

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:5-15

Paul was quoting the prophet Joel in verse 13 and the Hebrew word translated as “LORD” in that Old Testament passage is YHWH. Hence, we are to call upon the name of YHWH. But the very next verse—Romans 10:14—implies that Paul was talking about calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus and believing in Him. “Jesus” is the Greek rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua (or Joshua), which means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.”

Jesus Christ is the topic of this section of Scripture, as verified by verses 6, 7 and 9; and Jesus is even referred to as “Lord” in verse 9. This is the Greek word kurios (KOO-ree-os), which is the very same word used to translate the Hebrew YHWH from Joel 2:32 in verse 13!  In other words, the same Greek word for “Lord”—kurios—is used to translate the Hebrew YHWH and is also used as a reference to Jesus Christ in the same context. So, whether Yahweh or Yeshua it’s all good. Keep in mind what Jesus said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” and “I and the Father are ONE” (John 14:9 & John 10:30).

Responding to Jehovah’s False Witnesses

I suggest keeping this data in mind for the next time a Jehovah’s False Witness tries to scam you about the Father and the Son who, as you can plainly see, are both YHWH. Romans 10:5-15 above is strategic in proving this.

Speaking of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they make this big deal about referring to God by his proper name YaHWeH, which they pronounce as “Jehovah.” The problem with this is threefold:

  1. YHWH is actually pronounced Yahweh (YAH-way), not Jehovah, as explained above.
  2. The Tetragrammaton—YHWH—actually does not appear in the New Testament, at least not in any extant text. As noted above, the Greek word kurios is used to translation it (Joel 2:32 & Romans 10:13). Kurios, by the way, means “Lord, master, sir.”
  3. When Jesus Christ instructed us how to pray he said we are to address Yahweh as our “heavenly Father” or our “Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13). This corresponds to familial relation where we’re Yahweh’s children through spiritual rebirth (1 John 3:9, 1 Peter 1:23 & Titus 3:5). As such, we are to naturally refer to Yahweh as “abba Father” (Romans 8:15 ). The Aramaic abba is a term of tender endearment by a beloved child for his/her father; it’s an affectionate, dependent word akin to “Daddy” or “Papa.” Think about your relationship with your earthly father. Do you call him by his proper name or do you use a term of endearment, like “Daddy,” “Dad,” “Pa,” “Pops” or “Father”? This is why Christ said we are to address YHWH as “Father” when we commune, which isn’t to say we can’t refer to him as Yahweh (more on this in a moment).

The Pronunciation of YHWH and Why it Became Ineffable

As to the pronunciation of YHWH, as noted above YAHway (or YAH-hoo-way to devout Jews) is the accepted pronunciation, but proper pronunciation has nothing to do with the third Old Testament commandment—“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:7)—especially in light of varying dialects. For instance, people of northern and southern Israel pronounced Adonai and Elohim differently, with the accent on different syllables. The idea that the LORD would reject someone merely because he or she put the accent on a different syllable than someone else is silly. God looks to the heart not to whether or not they pronounce a word perfectly (1 Samuel 16:7).

As far as YHWH becoming ineffable, that didn’t happen until the Hellenistic period which coincided with the inter-testamental period (i.e. “between testaments”—approximately 400 BC to the time of Christ). And it’s actually unbiblical in light of David—“a man after God’s own heart”—utilizing YHWH frequently in his prayer time, as seen throughout the Psalms, which shows that God approves of people using YHWH in our communion with Him. To exclusively use substitute names and titles on the grounds that we might severely offend God by mispronouncing YHWH is unbiblical.

Taking the LORD’s name in vain refers to the wrongful use of The Name, not mispronunciation based on one’s dialect or whatever; unless, of course, someone were to intentionally mispronounce it in a mocking sense. Check out this article for better understanding of taking the Lord’s name in vain: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Answering Mocking Critics

An atheist wrote saying this:

Yours is a mythical being. Specifically, the conflation of two Canaanite deities: their pantheon father Elo and Yahweh, a storm god. That’s why you do such silly things as ascribe to the Divinity human traits like gender. And particularism, hatred, violence, folly, jealousy, capriciousness, remorse — all quite absurd. A primitive god, suitable for the unwashed Chalcolithic goatherds who made him up as a way of explaining lightning strikes and to justify murdering their neighbors.

Answer: ELO is the name of a British band from the 1970s.

I suppose you may mean El or Elyon, the Canaanite and Hebrew name for God. The name Yahweh or Jehovah has a different origin but is also the Hebrew name for God that could have originated among the Jews in Egypt. Baal, of course, was the Canaanite storm God, not Yahweh .

Sounds to me like you should do some research into the names of God and stop regurgitating the same boorish rhetoric from atheist sources, pretending to be smart. The history of the Canaanite pantheon, the names for God, are well known. Just Google it.


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