Shouldn’t English-speaking Christians use the Hebrew names Yahweh (YHWH) for God and Yahshua for Jesus?
Some Christians believe that because the original words for God in the Bible were written in Hebrew, these words are sacred and should always be used in reference to deity. The English word God is based on the Anglo-Saxon term that most closely approximates the Hebrew words for Deity/the Creator/the Divine Being, but since it isn’t the original Hebrew term, some believe it shouldn’t be used.
In Hebrew, the name of God was originally represented by the tetragrammaton YHWH.1 However, during the third and second centuries before Christ, Jewish scholars themselves translated the entire Hebrew Bible into Greek, freely substituting Kyrios, the Greek word for Lord, for YHWH. This Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (called the Septuagint in reference to the 70 scholars who produced it) was preferred by the apostles and early Christians over the Hebrew Old Testament.2
Similarly, the Greek name Iesous (Jesus) is the equivalent of the Hebrew Yahshua, which means “YHWH is salvation.” Because of its meaning, the name Yahshua (Iesous) is related to YHWH. Since the inspired writers of the New Testament themselves used the Greek form of Jesus’ name, it is hard to imagine how anyone can justify insisting that the Hebrew form be used.
Scholars gain valuable insights by learning Hebrew, but it is wrong to think that the Old Testament is inspired only when it is written in Hebrew. To value the Hebrew language over Greek, English, or any other language is a form of Judaizing3 and a step towards “another gospel,” as it places a higher value on the keeping of Jewish customs than it does on the loving salvation God has provided for people of all races and nations.
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9 nkjv).
1. The Webster’s New World Dictionary explains that the term tetragrammaton (tetra = four, gramma = letter) refers to the four consonants of the Hebrew name for God that was too sacred to be pronounced aloud. When it was necessary to refer to God aloud, the term Adonai (Lord) was used.
2. The Septuagint was the version of the Old Testament used by the apostles and early church, and was the Old Testament quoted in the Gospels. In spite of its antiquity and impeccable Jewish origins, the Rabbinic Judaism that survived the Jewish-Roman Wars of ad 70 and 135 eventually abandoned its use, and came to view it as a “Christian Bible.”
3. Webster’s Dictionary gives these definitions of the word Judaize:
Judaize (verb) 1. to conform to the doctrines, observances, or methods of the Jews; to inculcate or impose Judaism 2. to impose Jewish observances or rites upon; to convert to Judaism