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God’s Title & Name
By Yahnis John Purvins
A number of sincere Sabbath keepers believe and are quite vocal about the idea that our heavenly Father has an exclusive name like a man, e.g. John Smith. With this type of a “name” approach they call themselves the “Sacred Name” believers.
About two years ago God’s Church in the Appleton, Wisconsin area was approached by some “Sacred Name” believers, and, as with all doctrines that come to our attention, we gave the matter a thorough investigation.
Our study produced most beneficial results. First, we were drawn closer to God by a better understanding of some concepts in the Hebrew language that were uncertain to us before. We also learned that the translation of the Hebrew word shem into the English word does not accurately convey the full Hebrew meaning of this word.
In every language there are words lacking identical counterparts in another language. Shem is one such Hebrew word. It does not have an identical substitute in English. In Modern English the word name is used mainly to identify a person or subject matter. In the Hebrew language the word shem is mainly used to represent the characteristics and nature of a person or subject. To make the reader aware that shem is not the complete equivalent to the word name, I have used the word shem untranslated in this article to emphasize it’s fuller meaning.
On the average, English Bibles translate the word shem about 776 times. It’s first appearance is in the book of Genesis: “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden and from thence it was parted and became into four heads. The name (shem) of the first is Pishon……” Pishon in Hebrew means “uncertain.” Very likely the name (shem) of the first river was “uncertain” because the location of it’s orgin was uncertain to man. There is no record that the river’s name (shem) was ever used as a label apart from it’s characteristics.
We find that in Genesis 2:20, “Adam gave names (shermot, the plural of shem) to all cattle and to all fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field….” Was Adam giving names to animals and birds in the same way we do in the English speaking world? Lassie to a dog and Polly to a bird? Not likely.
Also in Genesis 3:20 we read that “Adam called his wife’s name (shem) Eve because she was the mother of all living.” In Hebrew Eve means “life.”
Again, we see the name (shem) is used to signify or represent the characteristic of the first woman. The Scriptures do not quote Adam as ever using his wife’s name (shem) Eve in addressing her, as we use names, or the first woman her husband’s - Adam. (Adam in Hebrew means man) “Let us make man (adam) in our image….” (Genesis 1:26).
Did Christ ever address God with names like Yahvah, Yahweh, or Jehova? There is no record in the Bible that He did. Instead, He called on God mostly by His characteristics: “Our Father” (Pater in Greek) or “God” (Theos is Greek).
Christ spoke Hebrew and understood the meaning of the word shem (characteristics and identification). He had studies the Scriptures from His youth. Western civilization and specifically the English speaking world, has a different concept of the word name. Everything has to have a “name”: people, pet, cars, corporations, churches, etc.
In our study we found that for Moses the “name” issue was resolved at the burning bush. Here is Moses’ conversation with God concerning His name (shem): “But, said Moses to God, when I go t the Iseralites and tell them that the God of their fathers has sent me to them, and when they ask me, What is his name (shem)? What am I to say to them? God said to Moses, I Will - Be - What I Will - Be: tell them that I - Will _ Be has sent you to them. God also said to Moses, You must tell the Israelites that the Eternal, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob has sent you to them; tell them, this is my name (Shem) for all time, this is my title (Zeker) for all ages” (Moffatt 3:13-15).
In this revelation to Moses God tells His servant that His name (shem) (characteristic and identification) and His title (Zeker) (how He should be remembered) for all time will be I Will Be What I will Be.” In the orignial (Hebrew) language His name (shem) and title (Zeker) is: I Will Be What I will Be (Ehye Asher Ehyeh). These words can be translated also as: I Shall Be What I Shall Be. Where the King James and other translations have transliterated the four Hebrew letters, YHVH as Jehovah, Yehew, etc., Moffatt has correctly translated it’s proper meaning, The Eternal. Since only God is eternal this name describes his exclusive characteristic.
If Moses had the idea that God had a “sacred name” like all of the pagan gods around Him, it was dashed to pieces. The God of Abraham did not have a “sacred name.” His characteristic identification was I Will Be What I Will Be. No human can or may dare to put limitations uponupon the Eternal characteristics of Him.
Can the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob use pagan gods titles that also apply to Him and use them for His purposes? Of course He can, He is all powerful. For example, the Hebrew word for God (Elohim) is used over 200 times in the Old Testament to refer to false gods. (See Deuteronomy 18:10)
In the Gospels of Christ, the letters of Apostle Paul, and other books of the New Testament the writers have used the same Greek words for God’s title “theos” that was used for pagan gods. In English He was powerful enough to use the title "god”, previously used by pagan nations, as the God (Theos) of His beloved Son.
People, espically regilous people, want to put God in a box; a “sacred name box”. God, the Creator of our universe, may be laughing at the petty efforts of religious “boxists.” The Scriptures testify that the King of the universe has never appreciated the box mentality of His followers.
Our study here in Appleton, revealed that it is not wrong, if some of His followers think they draw closer to Him by using the original Hebrew names and words. If someone feels closer to the Son by calling Him Yeshua, it’s fine. It is a different story however, if one insists that the letter and sound arrangement in the Son’s name determine one’s relationship with Him or gives them spiritual superiority over their brothers.
After reviewing Moses experience with God’s Shem, it will be worthwhile to review Apostle Peter’s experience as recorded in the book of Acts.
Apostle Peter approached a lame man and said: “In the name of Jesus Christ (Iesous Kristos) of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” and the man responded. Did Peter use some kind of Hebrew sacred name to accomplish his miracle? Not at all. According to the inspired writings, he was acting in the name (shem) of Jesus christ (Iesous Kristos). Peter understood the meaning and concept of the name (shem) because he was a Jew and a trained diciple of the Messiah. Whether Greek or Hebrew pronunciation was used made no difference.
Has the reader witnessed a supernatural healing in our times? I would recommend Guy Bevington’s book “remarkable Mirackes.” In this book we learn about the miracles performed by a man who acted in the characteristics and identification of Christ.
At this point we have gained an insight about what Apostle Peter meant when he said “No other name under heaven is given….” It is not in the “name” of Christ but in His Shem (by his characteristics and identification with Him) that we are saved.
All Scriptures reveal we should be living and growing in the characteristics (nature) of Christ. Our identity with Christ does not depend on our calling Him either the Son, Messiah, Jesus or Yeshua. Our identity depends on our growing into His characteristics by a personal relationship.
For example, why do we keep the Sabbath day holy? Is this not one way of growing in the characteristics of God’s Kingdom.
It does not matter, if we call the Sabbath day a day of rest or the seventh day. What does matter is that we keep this day different that the other six. The characteristics how we keep the Sabbath determine one’s relationship with God, not the way we spell or pronounce it. Thus, we conclude it is our acknowledging and follow the percepts of the Eternal Creator that gains approval.