Why don’t we use God’s real name?

SHARE

By BibleAsk Team


The question of why we don’t commonly use God’s real name is a complex issue that touches upon linguistic, historical, cultural, and theological factors. To explore this topic, we’ll delve into the origins of the name of God, its significance, historical shifts in its usage, and theological perspectives within Christianity.

The Name of God: Yahweh

In the original Hebrew, God’s real name transliterates to YHWH. This is known as the tetragrammaton (meaning “four letters”). Due to the lack of vowels, no one knows how the tetragrammaton YHWH was pronounced. And because of a fear of accidentally taking God’s name in vain (Leviticus 24:16), the Jews quit saying it out loud. The most likely word for how the tetragrammaton was pronounced is “YAH-way,” “YAH-weh,” or something similar. It is revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus when God speaks to him from the burning bush:

Exodus 3:14-15 (NKJV)

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’”

This passage underscores the significance of the name Yahweh as the personal and eternal name of God.

Reasons for Avoidance

Despite its prominence in the Hebrew Bible, the name Yahweh is not commonly used in contemporary worship and religious discourse. Several reasons contribute to this avoidance:

  1. Reverence and Respect: The name Yahweh is regarded as holy and sacred within Jewish tradition. Out of reverence for God, some religious communities refrain from pronouncing it out loud or even writing it in full.
  2. Historical Tradition: The avoidance of pronouncing the Tetragrammaton dates back to ancient Jewish practices. In the Second Temple period, the name Yahweh was gradually replaced with substitutes like “Adonai” (Lord) out of reverence for its sacredness.
  3. Fear of Misuse: There is a concern among some believers that using the name of God in a casual or irreverent manner could lead to its misuse or profanation (Exodus 20:7). Thus, some religious traditions prefer to use alternative titles or epithets to refer to God.
  4. Language and Cultural Shifts: As Christianity spread beyond its Jewish roots and encountered diverse linguistic and cultural contexts, the original Hebrew name Yahweh was translated into different languages, resulting in various renderings such as “Lord” or “God.”

Theological Perspectives

The avoidance of using God’s real name raises theological questions and prompts different perspectives within Christianity:

  1. Transcendence and Immanence: Some theologians emphasize the transcendence of God, His otherness, and incomprehensibility. Avoiding the use of God’s real name may reflect a recognition of His ineffability and majesty.
  2. Personal Relationship: On the other hand, Christianity also emphasizes the immanence of God, His presence and involvement in the world, and the idea of a personal relationship with Him. Using alternative names or titles such as “Father” or “Lord” may foster a sense of intimacy and familiarity in prayer and worship.
  3. Continuity and Change: The shift from using the name Yahweh to alternative titles like “Lord” or “God” reflects historical and cultural changes within Christian worship practices. While some maintain the traditional reverence for the Tetragrammaton, others see value in using a broader range of names and titles to refer to God.

Knowing God’s Name and Salvation

Salvation is not in merely knowing what God’s holy name is. To “know” the name of God means more than the literal word but an actual living submission to Him. When Adam “knew” Eve, that meant, he was tied to her in the bonds of marriage with all what that entails of duties, responsibilities and commitment.

The devils know the name of God (James 2:19) and they believe in His existence (Mark 3:11; 5:7). And they even shudder at the thought of their punishment in judgment (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4). Their belief may be intellectually right, but they remain demons nevertheless because they don’t surrender to Him.

Relationship with God – The Essence of Faith

The Jews who claimed to know the true name of God kept the letter of the word but did not apply the spirit of the Word. Jesus showed them that to keep the commandments meant more than what they were doing. The third commandment which states: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7, NKJV), also condemns empty ceremony and formality in worship (1 Timothy 3:5) and exalts worship in the true spirit of holiness (John 4:24). It shows that obedience to the letter of the law is not sufficient.

No one ever reverenced the name of God more strictly than the Pharisees and the religious leaders of Israel, who to this day will not utter it. But their extreme devotion and zeal did not prevent them from the tragic crime of crucifying God’s Son about 2,000 years ago. “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11, NKJV).

Biblical Precedents

While the name Yahweh is central in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament primarily uses Greek equivalents such as “Kyrios” (Lord) and “Theos” (God) to refer to God. This linguistic shift reflects the cultural and linguistic context of early Christianity, as well as the broader theological understanding of God’s nature and character.

Conclusion

The question of why we don’t commonly use God’s real name involves a complex interplay of historical, cultural, linguistic, and theological factors. While the name Yahweh holds profound significance within Jewish tradition and the Hebrew Bible, its avoidance in contemporary Christian worship reflects a combination of reverence for its sacredness, historical tradition, theological perspectives, and cultural sensitivity. Ultimately, whether one chooses to use the name Yahweh or alternative titles like “Lord” or “God” in worship and prayer depends on individual beliefs and religious traditions.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Categories God

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.