Yahweh or Jesus: What is God's Name?
In the OT God declared that His name was YHWH (Exodus 6:3; 20:7; see also 3:14). Scholars believe that "YHWH," or "Yahweh" is the third person singular form of the ancient Hebrew verb, "haya," meaning "to be." The basic thrust of this verb describes the state of existence. As the third person form of haya, Yahweh literally means "He is," or "He exists." It is a description of who God is. He is the self-existing one.
To understand the import of this we must understand the nature of Hebrew names. Hebrew names are not simply nominal devices used to identify one person from another as they are in the English language; they are actually sentences in themselves. It is similar to how the Indians named their children "rising sun" or "running bear." These were not quite complete sentences, but they were descriptions (partial sentences). God's name, YHWH, is a full sentence. It just so happens to be the shortest sentence in any language--"I am."1
Has YHWH always been God's name? While it is possible, it is unlikely. God existed long before the Hebrew language, so it would seem unlikely that God has always had a Hebrew name. It must be remembered that God did not reveal a name to the Hebrew people that they were unfamiliar with; God revealed Himself to the Hebrew people using existing Hebrew vocabulary (haya) to express to His chosen people who "He is" (pun intended). It was a word/sentence they were familiar with because it already existed in their language before God declared it to be His name.
I am persuaded that God said His name was YHWH only because He was speaking to Hebrew people. If God would have revealed Himself to English speaking people He would not have said His name was "YHWH," but rather "I am,"2 because the Hebrew "YHWH" and the English "I am" are the same verb. The difference is not in the meaning, but in the language through which the meaning ("I am") is conveyed. The name YHWH does not "tag" God for identity purposes (for God does not need a name), but rather describes to us who God is. God was not eternally called "YHWH." He was simply Himself, the self-existing one.
I am further persuaded that the name God revealed to the Hebrews was for the sake of revealing something about Himself and His nature to man. He is the "I am," the "existing one." It is for this reason that it is in vain when people make a big ordeal over the manner in which we should pronounce God's name. Some go so far as to say that if you do not pronounce God's name correctly you cannot be saved. While this is not to say that God's name is unimportant, it is to say that His name describes who He is, and discovering who God is takes precedent over the exact pronunciation of the words used to describe Him. When God communicated His name to the Hebrews it was not so they could know what to call Him, or how to pronounce His name properly, but to reveal something about Himself to them.
Jesus vs. Yahweh?
Many Oneness believers will contend that God's name is not YHWH, but Jesus. While I do not disagree that Jesus is God's name, the problem with such a statement is rooted in the fact that it sets up a false dichotomy between "YHWH" and "Jesus," forcing us to decide between the two. No choice needs to be made because in actuality they are both the same name, but with one of the names being an expanded form of the other, describing what God does. It could be said that God's name is Jesus only because His name is YHWH. While that may sound contradictory at first, let me explain.
In Hebrew Jesus' name is spelled as "Yeshua." The "Ye" in Yeshua is the abbreviated form of YHWH. "Shua" is from the Hebrew word for salvation, yasha. Jesus' name literally means "YHWH is salvation." The name "Jesus," then, actually contains the name "YHWH" in abbreviated form. While YHWH simply describes who God is, when it is combined with a verb it describes what God does. The name "Jesus" describes the fact that YHWH has become salvation. Who is Christ? He is YHWH, saving His people from their sins. If YHWH is not God's name, then Jesus' name becomes meaningless. To deny that God's name is YHWH is to ultimately deny the name of Jesus.
We should pick up on the fact that God is never referred to as "Yeshua" (Jesus) in the OT. He is always referred to as YHWH. If God's name has always been Jesus (as some claim) it would seem strange that He never referred to Himself as such, nor was He ever called that until the NT. It might be counter-argued that while God was called YHWH in the OT, He is never called by such in the NT. But is God called YHWH in the NT? Yes, in its expanded form as "Jesus," meaning "YHWH is salvation." The name "Jesus," found exclusively in the NT, is a continuation of the revealed name of God found throughout the OT. "Jesus" is not a new name. The name of Jesus encompasses the fullness of God's revelation of Himself to man--as Savior. The name "Jesus" is so important to us because it is an expanded form of the same divine name revealed in the OT. It is not a different name. It is only greater in that it more fully expresses who God is to us--Savior. Truly God's name is Jesus, because God's name is YHWH. We confess that God's name is YHWH every time we confess Him as Jesus.
God's Name Was Not Secret
Is the Name of the Messiah "Yeshua?"
Yahweh, Jehovah, or Jesus?
1. When God told Moses "I am that I am," that is the first person singular form of haya, "ehyeh." It may be said that from God's perspective He is "I am," but from our perspective "He is."
2. Technically it would be "He is" because that is the English equivalent to "YHWH," but as noted in the previous foot "I am" is the first person form of the same Hebrew word. Since I am specifically discussing what God would say His name is, I used the first person form "I am" rather than the third person form "He is."
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