Abram, the original name of the patriarch of our faith, is a good example. Abram is a Chaldean name, which means “exalted father” see Strongs #87. In Genesis 17 we learn that our Heavenly Father establishes a covenant with Abram and changes his name to Abraham (verses 1-8) which means “father of many nations” (verse 5.) We see a similar event takes place with Jacob, which means, “to strive with El.” This grandson of Abraham is renamed by the Creator, Israel, meaning, “overcome with El” in Genesis 32:28.
Translate and Transliterate
To further understand the following teaching it will be helpful to understand some terms that we will use. The following definitions for those terms come from the American Heritage College dictionary, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA 2002.
Translate means: to render in another language
Translation means: the act or process of translating from one language into another and a translated version of a text
Transliterate means: to represent (letters or words) in the corresponding characters of another alphabet
Language continues to develop over time. This is true in both the English and Hebrew languages as well in many languages in use around the world. In the English language, words that were quite common and in use in 1200 AD may have changed in the last 800 years. Some are pronounced or spelled differently today and others are no longer in use at all. For example, the letter “J” is the last letter to be added to the English language around 1540 AD. Before that time, the letter “Y” was in use in both words and proper names. The letter “W” has seen some changes over time and not all scholars agree with how it developed. We pronounce the letter “W” as “double U” but we write it as a double V. Some current font faces still use the “double u” form of writing this letter, such as:
Did you know that Sweden just added the letter “w” to their alphabet in 2007? Surprisingly, in Sweden it is only used in words that they have borrowed from other languages. It isn’t used to spell the name of their country “Sweden” or the name of the language that they speak, Swedish. They pronounce the name of their country as “Sveeden” with the “w” having the “v” sound. Why, then, have we the English speaking countries continued to mispronounce it?
To me, this is ridiculous. The name of their country is a proper name. The English alphabet contains the letter “v.” It’s my personal belief that proper names should be pronounced and spelled as closely as possible to their sound in the native tongue. Perhaps, we should have been writing Sveden and pronouncing it as so. I don’t believe that proper names should be translated to another language. Instead, we should adopt their pronunciation. But how do we spell that name? Our language may not contain the same letters as the native language and all languages don’t have the same sounds. That, is where transliteration comes into use.
By using transliteration we can come as close as possible with the correct pronunciation as can be done with our given alphabet. Did you know that tofu is really a Chinese word? Did you know that the Chinese pronounce “T” like a “D”? When pronounced correctly it becomes dofu.
If a French businessman comes to America to visit for business or leisure, he should be called by his name, don’t you agree? An example: We have a French businessman whose name is Jacque Noire. Here in the States he should be introduced as such with his name pronounced: jshah-ck nwahr. It just so happens that the English translation of that name is Jack Black but if he isn’t from an English speaking country why would we introduce him as such? His name, which is deeply personal to him, should sound familiar to him. We should attempt to pronounce it in French. There are many, many names in America with origins from other countries such as; Chung, Burlikowski, McLaughlin, and the well known Russian ballet master Mikhail Baryshnikov, etc. Do we know and understand the meaning of these names, no but we use them anyway. Have they been translated into an English equivalent? No. Is it necessary for us to change a proper name into an English equivalent or to make it sound English? I think not.
There was a time in history when all foreign names were changed to sound more Anglican or American. However, this practice is no longer in use nor is it considered politically correct. Perhaps the proper names that we find in the Bible are not what they were originally. Perhaps they were changed years ago so that they would sound more Greek, or Latin, or English? Or worse, perhaps the enemy of YHWH inspired people to change them so that they might give glory to another deity besides the God of the Hebrews?
His Name Remembered
Ex 20:24 …In every place where I cause My Name to be remembered I shall come to you and bless you.
This verse tells us from the mouth of the Father, himself, that He wants to bless those who remember His name. He wants us to remember and use His memorial name.
In Numbers 6:22-27 we find the Priestly or Aaronic Blessing and the instruction from YHVH to put His name upon the people so that He can bless them.
YHWH bless you and keep you
YHWH make His face to shine upon you and show favor to you
YHWH lift up His countenance upon you, and give you shalom (peace)
Why did he want His name to be put upon the people? So that He, could bless them. This is a principle that the Lord is setting forth. That His name be upon the people and He will bless them. That His people will remember His name so that He will come to them and bless them.
What is His name? Is his name Lord or God?
Most people frequently use the above words when praying to or referring to the one true God of the Hebrews. Neither one of those words is a proper name and one is actually a title, like Mr. or Rev.
Lord and God
These common terms have been used for thousands of years by many religions in the world to refer to their deities. Our study is specifically about the god of the Hebrew people of Yisrael. It is our Heavenly Father’s desire that we learn about and understand His character and nature. To do so we need to learn the Hebrew names, words, and what they mean in English.
Let’s begin with the name El. El is the root word of Elohim and is the singular form of the word. El means; mighty and powerful, full of strength. It is used more than 200 times in the TaNaK. El is often joined with other words to form compound names that are very descriptive of the Lord.
Elohim -The Hebrew word for god is Elohim and is first found in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God (Elohim.) This title is used over 2,500 times in scripture and is the most frequently used title for the Creator. Elohim means, supreme, exceedingly great, and sovereign. It also refers to The All Powerful One, the Creator of this word. “im” is a plural suffix and is add to the Hebrew name El causing it to be the plural form of the root word El. We know that we have but one God who is one and plural at the same time – which, Elohim expresses.
El Elyon, is a compound name that means Most High God, the Mighty One (Genesis 14:18) KJV translates this name as “Most High God.” Ps 18:13-17, Ps 21:7, Ps 57:2, Ps 78:35, Ps 82:6, Ps 91:1-9
El Shaddai, another compound name, means: the One who is More Than Enough, the Many Breasted One, the All Sufficient One, and God Almighty. Gen 17:1
Adonai is the Hebrew word for lord, which is used over 300 times in the TaNaK alone. It is both plural and possessive and means: master, lord, and owner. In most English translations, this title is typed in both upper and lowercase letters as, Lord. Ps 110:1, Prov. 9:10, Acts 2:36,
The Creator of the Universe has revealed various proper names to the patriarchs at different times. Each one reveals to them, and us, a new aspect of His character and nature. But does He have one particular name that is His alone?
The story of Moses being called to deliver Yisrael from the Egyptians is where Elohim reveals His memorial name.
Read: Ex 3:15. This is the Name above all names and it is to be remembered for all generations.
YHVH or YHWH (pronounced, Yahweh, Yahveh, or Yahuah) these four letters are the English equivalent of the Hebrew characters: yod, hay, vav, hay. Hebrew is read from right to left so the characters look like: hfhi with the yod as the first character on the right. We refer to these characters as the Tetragram or Tetragramaton (Greek word meaning four letters.) In most English translations this memorial name has been typed as LORD using smaller text and all capital letters to differentiate between His Name and the title Adonai, meaning lord. The name YHVH is found 6,823 times throughout the TaNaK alone!
Why don’t we know the correct pronunciation of His name today? It’s a long and convoluted story.
Yisrael was divided into two kingdoms after King Solomon died. The Northern Kingdom, which was comprised of ten of the tribes of Yisrael and some of the Levites and the Southern Kingdom, comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and some of the Levites. As prophesied by various prophets both kingdoms were conquered and taken away from their land by foreign empires. This was allowed to happen to them by YHWH, as a way to correct their wayward living and adoption of pagan worship and ways. The Lord did give a specified number of years for each “kingdom” to live in exile.
The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians (modern day Iran) and for the most part they never returned to Israel. They did intermarry with the peoples of that part of the world and eventually became assimilated into the peoples of the earth. Many refer to them as the “Lost Tribes of Yisrael.”
The Southern Kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians (modern day Iraq) and they lived in exile for 70 years, eventually returning during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Then to return again to the land of Israel in 1948 as the newly recognized nation of Israel. During the exile to Babylon, they were referred to as the Yahudim, which comes from the tribal name, Yahudah or Judah. The Babylonians and other people in the surrounding kingdoms developed the ethnic slur Yahoos, which later in history was changed and shortened to Jews. This name remains to this day in reference to the descendents of the people of the Southern Kingdom. It also refers to the people of greater Israel and thus to a very small few from the Northern Kingdom who maintained their Israelite identity throughout history but who are now identifying themselves as Jews.
It was during the time of the exile of the Southern Kingdom to Babylon that Orthodox Judaism began to take shape. The rabbis changed many many things and added to the Word of the Lord creating what is known today as the Oral Torah or rabbinical tradition. It started then but continued to develop over the years in various areas of the world. Some of this is very good and worth learning and applying. But there are a tremendous amount of excessive rules which make fulfilling them an arduous task. It also includes some pagan and mystical teaching woven throughout. These are the things that Jesus was coming against not the Word of Adonai (or His Torah instructions “law”.)
While in exile the heathen’s around them cursed their Elohim and used His memorial name in abominable ways. The rabbi’s and sages of Judah chose to “hide” YHWH’s name by saying Elohim or Adonai or Hashem (the Name – in Hebrew) in its place. They took the scripture in Ex 20:7 to the extreme and even changed the way the text was written in the sacred scrolls of the Lord.
They added the vowels of Adonai and/or Elohim to the Tetragramaton letters YHVH. This was a visual cue to those reading the text to replace the memorial name with either Adonai or Elohim, so as not to say the Name aloud. Over time the Waw or Uau (pronounced as best we can derive today as oo-ah) sound of the letter vav was replaced with the “V” sound. The Hebrew language does not contain the letter “J” that was a European addition an adaptation of the Greek letter “iota” which is the letter “I.”
When early bible translators came to the Hebrew rendering of the Name they did not understand the visual clues and therefore translated it as YeHoVaH. This evolved to become Jehovah when the last letter of our alphabet “J” came into use during the Middle Ages. Subsequently, all of the Y’s in the scriptures where changed to J’s and the true sound of the words and names was lost to millions of people around the world.
The letter “J”
The Norman invasion of 1066 introduced the letter “j” to England but the sound of the letter did not exist in the Old English language until the early 1200’s. Over the next 300 years the hard “J” sound started to replace male names that began with I or Y because it sounded so masculine. Names like Iames became “James,” Iakob became Jacob, and Yohan became “John.” During the time the letter J was starting to gain acceptance, John Wycliffe became the first person to translate the New Testament from Latin into English in 1384. He preserved the Latin spelling and pronunciation of IESUS but his translation was unread by the common man because only a few hand-written copies of his Bible were produced which were quickly banned by the Church. The KJV was legally the only “authorized” version allowed in England, and was produced to stamp out the Geneva translation (The Geneva “Bible” contained many footnotes, reference helps, and conveyed a high level of general information for people to learn).
When Gutenburg invented the printing press the Latin Vulgate “Bible” became the first book ever printed in 1455. The first printed bible in a foreign tongue was the German Mentel Bible of 1466 followed by the Martin Luther bible of 1522.
After William Tyndale was denied permission to print an English bible he went to visit Martin Luther and completed his translation of the New Testament in 1525. Tyndale had 18,000 copies printed at Worms and smuggled into England of which only two copies survive. After printing his revised edition of 1534 he was captured in Belgium, tried for heresy by order of the pope, and put to death in 1536 by strangulation after which his body was burned at the stake.
By the year 1611 the letter “J” was officially part of the English language and the King James Bible was printed along with pronunciation guides for all proper names like Jesus, Jew, Jeremiah, Jerusalem, Judah, and John. This is an excerpt from Lew White’s article on Transliteration.
Over the thousands of years, the true and exact sound of our Heavenly Father’s name was lost. His name, which makes up parts of many of the prophets of Israel’s names, was also lost to the Greek and English translations.
|Elijah = Eliyah = God is YahIsaiah = YeshaYAHu = salvation is of YHWHJeremiah = YirmeYAHu = YHWH establishes||Ezekiel = YAHezkel = YHWH God strengthensJoel = YAHel = YHWH is GodHallelujah = HalleluYAH = Praise YHWH|
The poetic contracted form of YHVH is Yah and we can see it transliterated properly in Psalms 68:4 “…by His Name Yah, and rejoice…” By the way, this psalm uses Elohim 26 times.
Deut 5:9 which includes three names in one verse, Yahweh, Elohim, and El.
In these last days, his memorial name is being restored and used among His believers as He intended. We may not pronounce it exactly but we are trying to do so to the best of our understanding. We believe that to say and acknowledge His name is the highest form of praise we can give to Him. In saying the Name, we give Him glory, honor, and reverence.
Unfortunately, there is some division and even some strong words against the use of some of the current pronunciations but most agree on the Hebrew letters yod, hay, vav, hay as written in ancient manuscripts. This issue as well as the correct pronunciation of the Savior, Jesus’, name is still a controversial subject among the Body of Y’shua. A few still believe that we should follow Jewish tradition and not attempt to pronounce His name. Still others believe that it is the time for His children to begin and with the right heart to use some form of pronunciation for His memorial name. This practice is seen as part of the restoration of all things which is prophesied about concerning the end of days in Act 3:21.
Additional Information from Lew Whites web site:
Further evidence of the original characters for the Name can be seen written on the famous “Los Lunas” stone in New Mexico, USA (below). The sea-level being higher in the 9th century BCE, this location in southern New Mexico along the Rio Grande could be reached by large Israelite ships. They left evidence of their presence by writing the Ten Words (Commandments) in ancient Hebrew as you can see in the photo below. One distinctive trait of the Samaritans was the way they wrote the letter yod.
This script is often erroneously referred to as “Phoenician”, because secular scholars mistake the “primacy” of this letter form. They have taught that the Israelites learned this form from the Phoenicians, but this is not correct. The “Phoenicians” were in fact Israelites, Samaritans, who traveled the seas between the 10th to the 8th centuries BCE. It was the Greek historian Herodotus that coined the Greek term, phoinikeia (Phoenicia), meaning “date palm”. The Greeks saw the palm-tree as the symbol of the “Phoenicians”, and the Israelites minted coins with a date palm tree on them, possibly a way of honoring Asherah (a pagan goddess.) The Samaritans (northern 10 tribes of Israel in Samaria) had become apostate and worshipped the deities of the Tyrians and Sidonians, Baal and Asherah. Both Sidonians and Israelites coined money with date palms, possibly contributing to the Greeks’ referring to them all as phoinikeia – “Phoenicians”.
See the photo above that includes a section of the Los Lunas stone. In this section you can clearly see the ancient Hebrew writing for YHVH circled in red.
For more about other names for YHVH follow the link at the bottom of this article entitled, Hebrew Names of God which is an article written by John Parsons.
What about the Son?
Our English bibles say his name is Jesus, is that the English transliteration of His Hebrew name? The answer to the question is no. The writers of the Apostolic Scriptures (NT) were Hebrews and they spoke and wrote Hebrew. However, during that period of history the Greek and Roman languages were spoken throughout the vast lands that comprised their various kingdoms. The writers of the New Testament would have written in Hebrew and then specific letters to be sent to the Jewish and Gentile believers in the Diaspora would have been translated into Greek or Latin.
The name, Jesus, that we find in the KJV of the bible for our Savior has an interesting history. Jesus rendered in Greek as Iesous . Let’s break it down into its Greek parts. The Greek language doesn’t have a letter or sound for “Y.” This sound was replaced with the Greek “Ie” and it has the sound “eh” which is designated by the letter “I” or iota. It is also used as a hail. As in “Hail to Caesar.” This was used for the beginning of the name which we know as “Je.”
The ending “sus” is one of several variations seus, and sous are all phonetic pronunciations for Zeus. The Greeks had a long history of attaching these endings of “sus”, to names and geographical areas as a means to give honor to their supreme deity, Zeus. When translating the Bible into Greek they changed the names of many of the prophets as mentioned above but there are still more changes as you can see: EliYahu (meaning in Hebrew, my mighty one is Yah) was changed to Eliseus, which in Greek means my mighty one is Zeus. The city of Tarsus means sweat of Zeus. And today we have the Spanish pronunciation of Jesus, which sounds like Hey-Zeus. The Greeks also add an “s” to the end of names to designate them as a proper name.
Matt 1:20-21 is the story of a messenger of YHWH appearing to Yoseph in a dream before the birth of the Savior. The Lord told Yoseph to name the child DCYUW (yod, hay, vav, shin, ayin) for he shall “save” His people from their sins. In Hebrew the word save is “shua” which is derived from the Hebrew word teshua (salvation.) This same word in Greek is “soter” and in Latin is “salvare.” As you can see Jesus is neither the translation of Yah saves in Greek or Latin.
The Savior’s name in Hebrew means Yah saves. Jesus said that He would come in His Father’s name. Perhaps “Yah” is part of the Son’s name.
As with the writing and pronunciation of YHVH we find the same variations with the name of our savior. Some spell it in English as Yeshua, Yahshua, Yahushua, Yahusha and the contraction Y’shua. We are still learning and grace needs to be shed to each other in regards to the use of these names. The Hebrew spelling ohfsi as represented by the English letters “YHVSHA” may be helpful. There is much more we can learn about the palaeo-Hebrew and how to pronounce words and names in the ancient tongue. I wish we had not lost the original pronunciation but we have. How wonderful it will be when Yahshua teaches us from Yerushalayim! Then we can finally get it right. For now, we just need to continue to learn and to pray and get comfortable using the pronunciation for these memorial names that we are led to use at this time.
For additional teaching and information about Names of God written by John Parsons of Hebrew 4 Christians.
Prepare For The Coming Of Messiah, Perry Ennis, pgs 10-11
Holy to Yahveh, Terrye Goldblum Seedman, pgs 24-36 www.yahveh.com
Fossilized Customs, Lew White, pgs 15-21 www.fossilizedcustoms.com
Hebrew 4 Christians, John Parsons http://www.hebrew4christians.com
Ahavah & Shalom,
Avi & Posey