On the Use of Hebrew or Aramaic Names,

 "Is it acceptable to call Ya(hu)shua, Jesus?"

Does God/Elohiym Require Us to Speak His Name in the Original Tongue?


This may seem like a silly question, almost everyone assumes that God would  understand and respond to all languages; but there are groups out there who say that it is unacceptable to call our Lord by the name "Jesus"  (or to call him "Lord" for that matter). These insist that we must call him by his "true" name; which, according to them, is Yashua (or Yahushuah, it varies).  Perhaps you have never encountered any such doctrine, but you ought to read this, whether it is to be forearmed, or if it is to reassure yourself, or if it is to learn a very simple truth about name and God. 

The opposition makes compelling arguments, which may be easily dismantled, but only by those who have exercised themselves in the scriptures.  This is the basic question:  When God tells us to "call on his name,"  is it acceptable to use versions of that name which significantly alter the pronunciation of that name from the original Hebrew or Aramaic pronunciation?


You may have noticed that I used some Hebrew and Aramaic in my earlier songs. For Jesus, I often used "Yeshua," the first album was titled, The Fear of Yahveh (1998), the original email address on the album was given as, "elohiym@hotmail.com" (I lost track of that one, don't try to contact me through that address). After 1999 I drastically reduced my usage of Hebrew and Aramaic names and terminology, especially names for God.  

When I began writing my first song, "The Song of Moses," in 1995, I had been a student of the bible through Dr. Arnold Murray and the Shepherd's Chapel for about two years.  That ministry had first introduced me to different Hebrew/Aramaic names of God. Though I have permanently, and completely renounced the teachings of Arnold Murray, I must say that I never felt obligated or pressured by that ministry to use the sacred names. It was more of a cultural thing.  That was how we talked.  It was as much a part of the Shepherd's Chapel culture as, "sharpen up for me,"  or calling the bible, "our heavenly Father's love letter to us."   As part of that culture, it was natural for me used the same terminology in my music.

The emphasis on Hebrew scholarship in that ministry also lead me to transliterate portions of Hebrew scripture in my songs; Isaiah 13, for example, had this phrase: "Heyaliyallu Kiy karobe yom Yahveh, keshode mish shaddai yabow."  (My apologies to real Hebrew scholars), which means, "Howl ye for the day of Yahveh is at hand, it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty."

I never gave this practice much thought until after my first album.  It started when some people asked if I was a "Jehovah's Witness."  Of course, that kind of remark reveals a certain level of disinterested ignorance; Jehovah's witnesses would have called the album, The Fear of Jehovah.  That was not enough to make me change the way I was using the names of Elohyim (God) in my songs, but it definitely made me wonder if I was not needlessly alienating people from my music by using Hebrew and Aramaic terminology.

What really changed my mind was when I found that there were ministries which say it is unacceptable to use the terms "Jesus" and "Ya(hu)shua" interchangeably. These ministries say that is is rude, at best, to mispronounce the name of Yahushua, or to use the English word God when referring to Elohiym. They also say that to substitute the title "Lord" for "Yahweh," is a violation of the third commandment.   I do not want to be associated with Jehovah's Witnesses, and I do not want to be associated with these groups either, that is why I stopped using Hebrew and Aramaic names so extensively.

I initially encountered these groups when I was trying to get my first album noticed.  I saw that they were using terminology similar to my terminology and I assumed that they would approve of my music based on that similarity.  But they rejected my music because I do not use the Hebrew and Aramaic names for God exclusively.  I was told that my occasional usage of the word "God," and "Jesus," was offensive.  These groups also tend towards legalism and the keeping of Jewish customs.

Exodus 3:13 "...they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?"

So That leads us to the central question, "Are they right?" 

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.  

There are many such passages in the bible, and so the name of God is not some small matter to be lightly brushed aside.  Is a name primarily an abstract construction, intended as a label for the actual individual whose character and reputation actually make the name meaningful. Or is the proper pronunciation of the name itself at the core of every reference to the name of God? Is the proper pronunciation of God's name a memorial which we may only defile at risk to our souls?

I use the term "memorial" because that is from the key passage and one which they often quote (and I now quote, in their terms)

Exodus 3:15 (KJV) And Elohim said moreover to Moses, Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, YAHWEH Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, hath sent me to you: this [is] my name for ever, and this [is] my memorial to all generations.

The presumption is that the term "YAHWEH" is this memorial and only the properly pronounced name is acceptable.  But this approach ignores the important verses which precede this verse. 

Exodus 3:13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Why does God initially resist giving any sort of proper name?  Why does he initially tell Moses to use an idea for God in the place of a proper name for God? This is the difference between those who let the bible teach them, and those who use the bible to forward ideas which were formed without taking everything the bible says into account.  This the the PRIMARY passage which all believers should use in order to understand how we ought to understand names in regard to God.

Initially, God does not give a name, even though Moses specifically asks for one.  "The God of your fathers," is apparently insufficient for Moses.  But God does not give him a proper name, God distinguishes himself by, and responds with an IDEA about who he is. "I AM THAT I AM." BECAUSE this is the primary way we must understand who God is, and how we call on him.  We might say the name "correctly,"  but if we do not understand him to be as he truly is, then we might as well be talking to an idol who happens to share an identical sequence of syllables with the true God. In other words, just because we have the name correct does not mean we have the God correct. 

And I'm sure that many who insist on proper pronunciation would agree with that last part, but what they fail to see is that if the idea is the primary concern having to do with the name of God; then their concern about pronunciation becomes a competitor for primacy.   If pronunciation must be precise, then it does not matter if I have the right idea about who God is, because he will be insulted by my calling him "Jesus."  And the same goes for every promise that is given in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Some of them (such as eliyah.com), while writing many pages of text talking about how important it is to say his name properly; and after they suggest that when we call him, "the Lord" or "Jesus" it  is a violation of the third commandment (taking the name of God in vain). They then go on to say that proper pronunciation is not required for salvation. Which is totally mystifying.  If it is not required for salvation, then it cannot be sin, and if it is not sin, then why is it so important to them? How can they go around making such a fuss over the proper pronunciation, if proper pronunciation is going to have no impact on our salvation?  This is just an example of a  self-serving compromise which, when taken seriously, makes all their talk about the importance of the proper name pointless vanity.

The name of God is based first on an idea, and not on the sounds of the mouth, all terms that refer back to the idea accurately are acceptable unless otherwise forbidden.  So long as I have the proper idea of who Yehushua is, and so long as my references to him are made in reverence and in good faith, it does not matter that the proper name I apply to these ideas is the traditional English name, Jesus, by which he first made himself known to me.

Psalm 139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

Before I even utter the word, "Jesus"  God knows who I am talking to.  Whether it be the false Jesus of my own construction and conditioning, or of the Christ who was truly crucified for us. God knows what is in my mind   And they object to the use of the word "God" also, but God is the Elohim who knows who I am talking to before I open my mouth.

God declares himself by many names.

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Those are not proper names, but they are his names because they accurately describe who Christ is, and he is indeed wonderful. We should not then look up the Aramaic word for "Wonderful," and say, "His name is not "Wonderful," his name is "Palah.""  That is absurd. 

If I attempt to pray to God in this manner, "Oh Wonderful One," or "O God, whom the heathen call Jesus Christ!"  Will God turn his back on my prayer?  If he does it will not be for my use of the English terms.  I live in the 21st century, God declares himself to me in my own tongue, by the same name though which my English forefathers worshipped him.

Precision pronunciation can become a form of idolatry.  Not that it is wrong to call on God by his Hebrew names, God forbid.  But if one thinks that by uttering specific syllables with their mouth that  they have a better chance of connecting with God or come closer to the truth of who God is, it is no different than a graven image. 

Deuteronomy 4:15 Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: 16 Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

A name is not much different than a figure or an image.  It is an abstraction.  A name attempts to reduce the entirety of who God it to a few syllables which may be communicated instantly between speaking beings.  God cannot be reduced to a stone image or to a spoken name, that is why in Exodus 3:13 God first resists naming himself.  That is also why men crave names, and images, because we want to touch God with our senses. But it is not the syllables themselves that carry any power, a mute can call on God.  The power comes from God's willingness to bear our ignorance of who he really is, we try to be in tune with who God really is, but a proper name will not magically remove our ignorance.

God is not named in the sounds of the consonants and vowels used to label him with, even if God Himself used those sounds, he first used an IDEA and that is the more important consideration.  Yahweh can be just another Idol if I harbor mistaken ideas about who this "Yahweh" is.  I believe that is why God did not give Moses a proper name but rather the idea, "I AM THAT I AM."  Sounds and syllables are not much different than the stone and metal used to make graven images.

Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

The term, "unknown God," is actually a better name by which any of us might call on God, because none of us truly know him as we ought, none of us call on his name as we ought.

Are you not being judgmental towards people who exclusively call on God by his Hebrew name?

Whether someone chooses to call on God exclusively by Hebrew or Aramaic names is a matter of conscience. We ought not be contentious, but we are to contend for the faith. Determining when to do what and when to forbear doing what, is not something I take lightly.

Matters of conscience are certainly things that people should be left to decide for themselves, they are not for debate, they are not supposed to be allowed to cause divisions and debate in our midst that is why they are matters of conscience. Each of us is to be left to decide for themselves. But those who insist on calling on God by these names do not believe that this is a matter of conscience, they believe that it is a matter of commandment. 

We should be tolerant of those that are weak in the faith, but tolerance only goes so far.

"Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth." (from memory) This is about a matter of conscience and I take it as a general principle. The weak are not to judge, and the strong are not to despise.

If someone feels it is better to use the Hebrew names of God, I am not supposed to despise or look down on them for that. I have knowledge, that who God is, is based on an idea, not based on the way I make noise with my mouth, but I'm not supposed to batter my brother with my knowledge.

On the other hand, if I think its ok to use the English equivalents, they are not supposed to judge me either. When they start doing that, we have to speak up. If we tolerate intolerant people, they will soon overwhelm us. That is the world we now live in, total division, total strife, some of the meanest people I meet online are one brand of Christian or another. I don't exactly have a stellar reputation myself, but I'm contending for the faith (by underlining "I'm," I'm being sarcastic here, because the others think they are contending for the faith too).  But my faith does not include stuff like that, I refuse to pollute my faith with legalistic corruption such as this.

Persuading the weak in faith to forbear judging others based on what their conscience teaches them, is no easy task.  The weak in faith are generally the ones who tend to stray towards legalism, that is the nature of weak faith, they would rather trust in their ability to fulfill regulations and commandments than to walk according to the righteous spirit which God has given us. They that are weak in faith invariably turn to the Old Testament and find all kinds of legal requirements to fulfill.

Peace between the weak and strong is VERY delicate (where it actually exists, I have only seen it in the bible and in individuals, never in organized groups), because people who tend towards such legalism are not often content with keeping their legalism to themselves, they often start trying to make it an important point of doctrine for all of us and to make it a sin for anyone to do otherwise.

Also, the weak don't like to think of themselves as being weak in faith, no, they see themselves as uncovering critical rules which we who walk by faith have overlooked and must be taught to follow. That cannot be tolerated. You receive them that are weak in the faith, but not to doubtful disputation. That's biblical (Romans 14:1). The assumption is that the weak are supposed to come around eventually to greater faith in Christ and less faith in their works, they are to be amicably tolerated, not despised or looked down on. But now, they /have already overrun us. It is why denominations exist. For the weak in the faith are strong for making rules and by-laws and formal statements of faith. We want unity? Recognize the effects of weak faith and stop putting up with those who promote disunity. We are already one in the spirit, we cannot unify ourselves by legalism.

It is important to me, because they do not just take it as a matter of conscience, they teach the heresy that you must call God by particular sounds or he will not hear you, invalidating the Christianity of 99% of Christians. It is wrong to make our personal preferences in matters of conscience into matters of righteousness and the faith, and that is something we need to guard against. The idea that we are not to make matters of conscience into matters of law is not a matter of conscience.

When God first met with Moses he did not say "I am Yahweh, that is my name, and make sure people in the future who speak with other tongues always pronounce it exactly so, you must make those precise sounds with your lips when you refer to me or I will be insulted and may ignore you." No, God told Moses who he was, based first on an IDEA (I AM THAT I AM, tell them, "I AM" hath sent me) Because God knew that a written name itself could be a lesser form of Idolatry. An image graven in stone to which me would look for security. That is very significant, our faith is based on the idea of Jesus Christ, not based on how his name is pronounced, and while I doubt they would say that they BASE their faith on the pronunciation of his name, it is inconsistent because they insist that unless you use the proper Hebrew names you are not referring to the proper idea of who God is.

God first revealed himself verbally as an IDEA, not as a proper name made up of particular consonant and vowel sounds, and that is my point about the name of God, it is not about the sounds, but about the idea. I'm going to make that page about the ideas and not the sounds too. God is not defined by pronouncing the correct magical syllables, but by the correct idea of nature and work. I hope you can see what a critical deviation from the truth such teachings represent. They do not say it in such terms, but by insisting that the proper sounds of the lips are the critical factor in communicating with God, they have actually departed from a proper understanding of who God is and what he demands of us.

This is an insidious movement that gives people false confidence in false righteousness.  And it is bigger than just this one website. It is a growing movement based on all the outward aspects of who the apostles were and Christ was. How they dressed, and talked, and ate, and etc. That is not the Gospel. We don't become like Christ by growing a beard, putting on phylacteries, and eating only kosher foods, though I do not object to anyone who feels they need to practice that, what I object to is anyone who creates a division between themselves and other believers because of that or any other thing that is not of faith.

- Paul Stringini