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YHWH, the Hebrew name for God, is known as the tetragrammaton, which is Greek for "the four letters" or "the four characters." Some believe this is the only correct name for the Creator God, and the only name we should use in referring to Him. But before we accept this argument, or the idea that salvation is only possible through the correct use of this one name, we need to review the biblical evidence to the contrary.
There are many names and titles of God in the Bible. When God confused the languages at Babel (Genesis 11:9) He could have seen to it that the correct pronunciation and usage of the name YHWH remained the same in all the languages, but He did not choose to do this.
God first revealed Himself as YHWH to Moses, but told him He was not known by that name to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but by the name El Shaddai or El Shaddee (Exodus 6:3). The people of that time knew God not only as El Shaddai, but also by the name Elohim, as is proven by Exodus 3:15. When we look at this verse in Hebrew, the name for God is Elohim throughout.
In the later books of the Old Testament (such as Ezra and Nehemiah), God is not referred to by the name YHWH at all. By this time the language of the Israelites was Aramaic, and the Aramaic names Elah, Eloah or Elaw are used for Elohim or YHWH. Someone who verbalized the name YHWH at this time would have been arrested, tried and perhaps stoned by order of the Sanhedrin (backed up and supported by the Romans).
The Jews in Jeremiah's time understood the pronunciation of YHWH, but their false teachers misled them into believing YHWH should not be pronounced, as it was too holy a word to be uttered, and with time its true pronunciation was lost. The Old Testament text was preserved for centuries with only consonants, with the exact pronunciation of the words, with their vowels, passed down from one generation to the next only orally.
The vowel sounds were not written down until around the sixth or seventh centuries. At that time, the Jewish scholars, known as Masoretes, created symbols to represent the vowels they were using by oral tradition. Unfortunately, the tetragrammaton YHWH, the name of the Creator, considered too sacred to be uttered, ceased to be pronounced by the Jews long before this time. Whenever the Jews recited the text of the Hebrew Old Testament orally, they substituted the word Adonai ("Lord" in English) for the word YHWH.
Most Hebrew scholars today admit the exact vowel sounds and pronunciation of YHWH are not certain. Even the consonants are uncertain. YHVH or JHVH could be possible, but most feel Yah-weh is a close approximation of the way the word was probably pronounced. However, some scholars disagree and feel it is pronounced Yaho, Yahwo or Yahu.
No Hebrew names for God are to be found in the New Testament. The Greek terms Theos (God) and Kurios (Lord) are used. When passages from the Old Testament are quoted in the New Testament, the word Kurios is substituted for what would have been YHWH in the Old Testament. An example would be Matthew 3:3, quoted from Isaiah 40:3.
In Matthew 1:21 an angel appears to Joseph to tell him to take Mary as his wife, when she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit telling him, "... she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus..." God here chooses His Son’s name, and Acts 4:12 emphasises just how unique and special this name Jesus Christ is: "... for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
It is likely the most common language of the Roman Empire in Jesus and Paul's day was Greek. In John 1:41 we find the Greek-speaking audience was not familiar with the meaning of the Hebrew word Meshiach, meaning "the anointed," so John translates the word into the Greek word Christos, which means "the anointed one." Although the Apostle Paul spoke Hebrew, he didn't use the Hebrew YHWH in any of his 14 letters, and Peter uses the Greek form Yesous Christos for Jesus Christ in Acts 4:10. The Hebrew word Yehoshua or Yahshua is not used here at all.
Unfortunately, there are some who argue the New Testament is corrupted and the Old Testament Hebrew name of God (YHWH) has been removed from all 5,500 or more manuscripts of the Greek New Testament (not to mention more than 8,000 manuscripts of the New Testament in Latin). However, it would not have been possible for editors to have gathered manuscripts from all over the world and carefully remove all traces of the Hebrew tetragrammaton, substituting the Greek Kurios or Theos, without leaving evidence of edits having been made.
Perhaps the strongest evidence against the sacred name theory in the New Testament is that on the Day of Pentecost, when Peter spoke and used the name of God, everyone heard it in his own language. So, before we accept the theories that only the Hebrew word YHWH should be used for the name of God, or that salvation is only possible through the correct use of this one name, we need to recognize the overwhelming evidence in the Bible to the contrary.