THE NAME OF GOD
BY DAVID K. BERNARD
IN THE BIBLE, THE name of God reveals His character. It represents His power, authority, and manifested presence or glory. (See Exodus 9:16; 23:20-21; I Kings 8:27-29.) In the Old Testament (O’T), the unique name of the one true God is Yahweh. In the New Testament (NT), God revealed Himself supremely in the name of Jesus.
In the original Hebrew of the O’T, there were no written vowels, and God’s name was spelled YHWH or JHVH. The typical Hebrew pronunciation is Yahweh, while the traditional English pronunciation is Jehovah. This word comes from the third-person form of the Hebrew verb “to be,” meaning “He Is.” When God spoke of Himself in the first person, He said, “I Am,” using the same Hebrew verb (Exodus 3: 13-14). Thus, the name Yahweh is equivalent to I Am, and it signifies “the Eternal One, the Self-Existent One, the One Who Is and Will Be.” The patriarchs used the name Yahweh (Genesis 22: 14), but God did not reveal its full redemptive significance until He delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 6:2 8).
Since the Jews did not want to risk taking God’s name in vain in violation of the Ten Commandments, in ancient times they stopped pronouncing the divine name. Thus, no one knows the exact original pronunciation. When they read Scripture aloud, instead ofYHWH they used Adonai, the Hebrew word meaning “Lord” or “Master.” Following this practice, in most places where YHWH appears in Hebrew the King James Version (KN) translates it as “the LORD,” using large and small capitals to signify its uniqueness. Thus, we can translate Deuteronomy 6:4 as, “Hear, 0 Israel: YHWH our God is one YHWH,” or, “Hear, a Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one.”
Likewise, when quoting from the O’T, the NT writers used the Greek word Kyrios, meaning “Lord,” to translate YHWH. Many times, the NT calls Jesus “the Lord” in reference to the O’T name YHWH. For example, in quoting from the O’I, Peter applied the name YHWH directly to Jesus (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). In this way, the NT teaches that the God of the O’I’ has manifested Himself in flesh as Jesus.
A short form of YHWH is YH, usually pronounced Yah or Jah. (See Psalm 68:4.) The word hallelujah literally means “Praise Yah.” It appears in Hebrew in Psalm 150, which translates it as, “Praise ye the LORD.” The NT transliterates it into Greek as “Alleluia” (Revelation 19:3- 4). A short form of the divine name is often combined with another word when forming names of Bible characters.
The name Jesus includes a short form of the O’I’ divine name. It comes from the Hebrew name Yehoshua, shortened to Yeshua, and means “Yahweh Is Salvation” or “Yahweh Savior.” It is the supreme name by which God has revealed Himself today and the only name given for our salvation. (See Acts 4: 12; Philippians 2:9-II.) It encompasses everything that the O’I’ declares about God but adds to it the supreme revelation that God has come in the flesh to be our Savior. (See Matthew 1:21-23.)
God honors the use of His name in whatever language it is pronounced.
The name is effective by identifying the true God, expressing faith in Him, and directly invoking His aid, not by a certain pronunciation as if it were a magical formula. (See Acts 3:6, 16.) People can invoke the name correctly but have no results if they do not know Him personally or have faith in Him. (See Acts 19: 13-17.)
Since other people have borne the name Yeshua or Jesus as a form of praise to God, when the NT invokes the divine name formally it usually adds identifying titles such as Jesus of Nazareth, Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, or Lord Jesus Christ.
Some say we must invoke the divine name in Hebrew, rejecting the English names Jehovah and Jesus. Some also reject the use of Yahweh and hallelujah. This contention ignores the example of the apostles, however. When they and their associates wrote the NT in Greek, they did not transliterate the Hebrew name Yeshua into Greek, but they used the Greek version of the name, Iesous. When ministering in Greek, they prayed and baptized in the name ofIesous. The English translations of the Bible such as the KJV follow the same practice. They do not transliterate either Yeshua or Iesous into English but simply use the English name Jesus.
God accepts worship and answers prayer when we call on the name of Jesus in whatever language we speak. When we invoke the name of Jesus in faith, acknowledging that the historical Man from Nazareth is the Savior, Lord, and Christ (Messiah), then God is glorified and our prayers are effective. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, people receive healing, deliverance from demons, remission of sins in water baptism, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
For full discussion, see David K. Bernard, In the Name of Jesus (Word Aflame, 1992).