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God's Real Name

My Thoughts On: January 19th, 2004

An old message board rewritten to fit the fact that I've been getting search engine results for this page. This is one of my favorite harps about Christianity, that people don't know the name of their own god. I'm Atheist, but this article is intended to be serious, so be open minded when reading it, as it may provide you tips to research further.

Now, I'm Atheist, however this has grown to be a personal pet peeve, so I've decided to speak out on it fairly. Broad, general terms like "god" do not fit in place of proper names. The god of the Bible, in original Hebrew, had many different names, few of which really seem reflected by modern texts, names such as...

"YHWH"

"Yaheweh"

"Jehovah"

"I Am That I Am"

"Jealous"

"YHSWH"

"Elohim"

"Yod-Hey-Vov-Hey"

"AHYH ASR AHYH"

"Yahweh"

"I Will Be What I Will Be"

"HaShem"

"Yahshua"

"Adonai"

"God" is not a proper name, it is a word designating a "supreme supernatural being". And there are a lot of gods, nearly all of which have their own proper names like Allah, Ahura Mazda, Akal Purakh, Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, Shiva the Destroyer, friggen' Zeus, Odin, even Phoebus Apollo from whom I adopt my namesake. So why do Judeo-Christian worshippers of the modern age refer to their god as "God"?

Ask a modern American Christian on the street what the name of their god is. They'll shrug, maybe go "huh"... and if you're walking by an orthodox priesthood asking questions like this, be prepared for a stoning. All-in-all, the name of god is totally unknown to these masses who constitute most of the Judeo-Christian religious worshippers of the world. Does their god simply have no name?

Of course it has! And Good ol' PA is here to remind you of the name of "God", so you know to use it right. I might differ from Christians when it comes to general belief in gods, doctrines and disciplines... but I'll agree with them in the fundamental light that we all should not be half-assed in our beliefs. Not knowing basic things like the name of the very god you worship is the very definition of "half-assed".

First, though, let's cover why "God"'s real name isn't used, then we can try to figure out what name we should use in it's stead. Or rather, what name YOU should use, I'm Atheist after all. Getting to it, a let's theorize some reasons why the Judeo-Christian god isn't called by name today:

1. It might be that the Judeo-Christian god began being referred to as "Elohim" (Hebrew for "god") around 3 B.C. as a gesture to show the superiority of this "Elohim" over all "elohim". If you use the word "God" to refer to your god because you say he's "THE" god, then you're sticking by this same ancient tradition. However, the often vengeful god of the Old Testament would've never allowed himself to be referred to in such a way. "Elohim" appears in multiple places in the TaNaKh (the Hebrew translation of the Bible - predates the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible). Eventually "Elohim", and later "God", became the common vernacular for referring to the Judeo-Christian god, not only because of the above reason, but because of a trend of Jewish mysticism that stigmatized God's name as "too holy" to utter. (although I'm fairly sure if God didn't want you calling him by his name, he never would've told anybody it.)

2. It might be that there are just a lot of different names for the Judeo-Christian god in the Bible. After all, if you asked me what my name was and I replied "I Will Be What I Will Be", as the Judeo-Christian god did to Moses on the mount (Exodus 3:14, often mistranslated "I Am That I Am" for grammatical purposes, in Hebrew it is the letters AHYH ASR AHYH), you'd be confused too! The general reference to God in the TaNaKh is the four Hebrew consonants Hey-Vov-Hey-Yod (Hebrew is read right to left, so it'd be read Yod-Hey-Vov-Hey but written otherwise), translated to the letters YHWH. Referred to as the "Tetragrammaton", the "4-letter name of God" has multiple enunciations which no one can discern beyond speculation, although the English enunciation is most commonly agreed to be "Yahweh". But you say you've never seen the word "YHWH" in the Bible, and don't know what I'm talking about? That's because the problems in point #1 above forged Judiac law which outlawed the enunciation of God's name, and thereby pressured the texts to replace YHWH with the Hebrew word "Adonai" ("my Lord") through addition of "vowel points"; when the the Septuagint came around (the Greek translation of the Bible), "YHWH" and Adonai was entirely replaced with "Kyrios", which later translated to English as "LORD".

This was the intentional replacement of God's name, not an accurate translation of his name to another language, which (while sounding pretty evil) probably was to keep people from misusing the name of God (per the third commandment). Regardless the hebrew characters for YHWH appears everywhere in the TaNaKh. Worry not, you can still properly read your Bible with God's name where it should be - in proper translations of the Bible, any place where you read "LORD" in capital letters, that is where "YHWH" (or Yahweh) originally was.

NIV: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery...

Proper: I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery...

Jehovah's Witnesses use JHVH (in English, "Jehovah") as their Tetragrammaton, which is fine but entirely innaccurate - hell, for trivia's sake, there is not even a "J" in Hebrew! This translation, while definitely closer than "Lord", stems from the misinterpretation of vowel points surrounding "Adonai" - the interpretation came by adding Adonai vowels to the original word YHWH and ending up with this recombinated name of god. Anyways, you get the point - God has plenty of different names. More traditional Jews even refer to him as "HaShem", which literally translates to "The Name", so they can use a proper name for God without misusing his real name. God even once said his name was "Jealous" (Exodus 34:14)! Confusing, ain't it?

3. Quite literally, that wasn't enough. Now that the New Testament brought us the son of God, he has a name too, and it's all screwy. Jesus of Nazareth's appearance in the Bible has just as many translation issues as Yahweh's name. The Greek word "Ieosus" and that is where we get Jesus' name, but what we find out is that Jesus' name in Hebrew is the same word we use to make the Hebrew/English translation for "Joshua" - in fact, the original transcript of the KJV makes this mistake in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8, where it mentions "Jesus" when it is in fact talking about Joshua (son of Nun, successor to Moses) - go see for yourself (naturally later editions may have this simple textual conflict corrected)!

Ieosus stems from the original Hebrew name Yahshua (Sound this out - Jo-SH-UA and now Yah-SH-UA, then Je-SUS and Ieo-SUS - see how Hebrew/Greek/English translations function?) YHSWH, or enunciated, Yahshua (it might be spelt differently elsewhere, but this is how I spell it and have seen it spelt), is the Hebrew root of both the name Jesus and Joshua (not that people care who Joshua is). Thus we have two different modern names stemming from two different ancient words (Jesus from Ieosus and Joshua from Yahshua), one of which is just a derivative of the other.

Now, if you really want to see how Jesus's name was derived in the Bible, take in mind that it's root is Yahshua - or YHSWH - and that god's name is YHWH. YHSWH and YHWH are not similar by coincidence, folks, when the Bible says that Jesus came in the name of his father (John 5:43, 10:25, 17:6, 17:26-28) that could be said to be meant in a literal way. Still don't believe the Jesus/Ieosus/Joshua/Yahshua connection? Try these relevant sources: Encyclopedia Americana (Vol.16, p. 41); Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th ed., Vol. 10 p.149); Interpreter's Bible (Note on Matt. 1:21); Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion (p.1886); Catholic Encyclopaedia (Vol. 8, p. 374); or just do a search for the relevant comments of James Hastings, Martin R. Vincent, Barnes, Matthew Henry, among many others.

... So now that we've covered why God isn't called by his name, all we have left is to ask why no one uses at least one of these names, to refrain from using a otherwise improper term for a proper name. Why not? BECAUSE NO ONE KNOWS THE MATERIAL ABOVE. Simply put, no one in modern society cares to figure this out for themselves. It takes someone with no philosophical ties to the religion to notice it and point it out to others. Which shows a sorry state for those of you who investigated so little as to not know this.

So now that we've discussed the state of affairs, I can propose which names are best to use:

"I Will Be What I Will Be", and "Jealous" are all prime candidates because god says these names are his own, but Yahweh (spoken) and YHWH (written) seem to compromise the best reference to the Judeo-Christian god, since they are his holy name. As for Jesus, well, "Jesus" is so widespread that you always know who is being talked about when you say it, but remember that Jesus came in God's name, which was Yahshua (best in English as "Joshua") and YHSWH (written), so it may not be "correct" to call him just Jesus.

Either way, do me a favor, and just choose a name. It's not only the theologically correct thing to do to appease your god, it'll promote understanding and research of your religion, which is better than today's wholesale ignorance. Simply put, just because Yahweh said to Moses on the mount to not use his name in vain, didn't mean he didn't want anyone using his name at all! (I'm Atheist, so ultimately you could call him pink elephant man for all I care, I'm just trying to be nice by suggesting a proper viewpoint on the whole God's Name issue)

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