Do We Honor Yahweh by Referring to Him as "Our God"?
by Larry and June Acheson
Part I. Does the "Paganizing" of Yahweh’s Titles Give Us a License To Appropriate Already-Corrupt Titles to Him?
The Masking of Yahweh’s Name and the Masking of the Name "God"
If you’re like me, you began referring to our Heavenly Father by His name Yahweh only after diligently researching this issue on your own, or perhaps you were introduced to the belief by a friend, family member or acquaintance. At first June and I wanted to dismiss the concept of rejecting the name we had been taught ("God") in favor of "Yahweh" as somewhat cultic, but our familiarity with a verse in the book of I Thessalonians stirred in us a desire to at least check it out together, prayerfully and diligently. In I Thessalonians 5:21 we are told, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
We all have our own stories of how we checked and double-checked information, went to various libraries, etc., in our efforts to uncover the truth about Yahweh’s name. The result: Our minds were changed. Many of us were shocked to learn that "God" is not the Creator’s name at all, despite its common appearance in most English Bibles. Not only do Bibles insert "God" where our Creator’s TITLE (Elohim) appears, but they wrongly insert a TITLE (the LORD) where His NAME appears. If ever anything smelled of a conspiracy, this was indeed prime evidence for one! You see, I am one of the many who, while growing up, was taught that our Creator’s name is "God." In fact, over two years ago, I conducted a poll in the office where I work and discovered that nearly everyone there believes the Creator’s name is "God." Of the ten people surveyed, only one person listed a different name for the Creator, listing it as "Jesus." Thus, the fact that I was wrongly taught our Creator’s name as being "God" is not a singular, isolated incident. It is widespread.
Once I learned that His name is not and never was "God," other truths began to surface. I learned the truth regarding a Babylonian/Canaanite deity of fortune named "God," and of how this idol is mentioned in Scripture, but translators cleverly concealed its name. Isn’t it interesting that the name we are taught as belonging to the Creator of the universe turns out to be the name of a Babylonian deity worshipped by those who "forsake Yahweh" (Isaiah 65:11)? Not only this, but translators "hid" Yahweh’s name and replaced it with "the LORD," then "hid" the name of the Babylonian deity of fortune, apparently to justify inserting it as a "proper translation" of the Hebrew title "Elohim." Having thus effectively covered their tracks, the stage was set for what is perhaps one of the greatest deceptions of all time: The masking of Yahweh’s name. They had to hide Yahweh’s name, then present the name "God" in a positive light in order for it to become the accepted name and title that it is today. After all, who, upon discovering the truth about the name of the pagan deity of fortune, would desire to refer to the true Creator with that same name, only now as a "title"?
Yahweh is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33), but what translators have done to Yahweh’s name is enough to make most peoples’ heads spin! Think about it! They took out His name (Yahweh), replaced it with a title (the LORD), then took the name of a false idol (God) and inserted that name as a title for Yahweh, but most people in our society commonly regard that title as actually being His name, because they know the title that has been substituted for His name (the LORD) is clearly just that: a title! Is your head spinning yet? When most people read the words "the LORD God" in their Bibles, they perceive "the LORD" as being simply a title, not recognizing it as being a substitution of His name, and the word "God" to them represents His name, even though "God" is rendered as a translation of the Hebrew title "Elohim." To make their cover-up complete, the translators removed all evidence of there having been a heathen deity named "God." The result: Millions of people today sincerely, yet wrongly, believe our Creator’s name is "God." Confusion abounds!
The Separation Created by Rejecting the Name "God": Deliberate Separation or a Quest for Truth?
Having been raised in a household wherein our Creator’s name was taught as being "God," combined with the fact that my wife and I plainly recognized the unpleasant separation that would occur if we chose to abandon that concept, we did not readily embrace the new truth about His name when it was first revealed to us. Our previous experience with sharing the message about the truth of Yahweh’s Sabbath day (versus Sunday observance) taught us an important lesson about humanity: Many people are not open to new truths and are not interested in making lifestyle changes of this magnitude. Thus, as we began our study regarding Yahweh’s name, we knew in the back of our minds that, if the teaching regarding Yahweh’s name were indeed true, we would most likely go through a separation similar to the one we experienced when we discontinued worshipping on Sunday. We did not want to go through that again! Our decision to observe the Sabbath served to sever the fellowship of over 120 people in our home town, and led us to a city over 30 miles away, where we met with some fifteen individuals on a weekly basis. Were we about to be "on our own" by accepting the new teaching regarding Yahweh’s name? This was what weighed so heavily on our minds, for we did not and do not desire to worship alone on the Sabbath, especially if there is no valid justification for doing so! Despite our desire to fellowship with others on the Sabbath, you by now know the result: We were on our own.
If there is a purpose to this lengthy introduction, it is to share with you the fact that my wife and I, though choosing to be alone rather than worship with those whom we feel dishonor our Creator by referring to Him with a name that is not and never was His, did all we could to prevent those separations. We at first tried to dismiss the truth about His name, saying, "If you want to speak Hebrew, then call Him Yahweh! I speak English, so I call Him God!" We later tried without success to actually prove that "God" is an acceptable name for our Creator. In the end, truth must prevail over continued associations with groups who reject that truth. We thus chose to sacrifice our association with an assembly that was not open to investigating the matter rather than sacrifice what we knew to be truth. Our continued presence in such an assembly could only have been construed as our acceptance of their position.
A New Teaching Emerges ... Or is it an Old One Resurfacing?
The separation created by the decision to reject the name "God" has been painful to many, and understandably so when one considers the fact that Yahweh created us to be social beings, needing the acceptance, approval and fellowship of others to make our lives more complete. Partly as a result of this desire to fellowship with more people, and largely due to the well-intentioned desire to bring more converts to the faith, a relatively new teaching has emerged that has been embraced by many in the Yahwist Movement. Perhaps more accurately, though, this teaching should be described as an old teaching that has resurfaced. Some individuals, while recognizing the Creator’s name as rightly being Yahweh, maintain that "God" is nevertheless an acceptable TITLE for Him. We believe the main reason for believing this way is the desire to not only attract more people into the Yahwist Movement, but also to retain others who might eventually become discouraged upon discovering how "separate" we become upon rejecting the name/title "God." As one individual wrote,
"I still say the whole [Yahwist] movement is far too hung up on this topic [rejecting ‘God’ as a proper title for Yahweh] and expending energy they could better use to tell a lost and dying world about a Saviour named Yahushua the Messiah. This kind of theorizing only leads us to run off otherwise sincere and seeking individuals." 1
We sincerely appreciate this man’s desire to bring people to the saving knowledge of our Heavenly Father and His Son. Certainly we do not support the promotion of any teachings that "run off otherwise sincere and seeking individuals" UNLESS those teachings represent TRUTH. We earnestly desire for ALL to come to the Messiah, but NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF TRUTH! Truth must prevail over bringing in numbers of converts to the faith; we must not compromise truth for the sake of numbers. The conclusion reached by the above individual is largely based on an article originally written in 1997 in which the authors themselves establish their concern that those who teach the rejection of the title "God" have "cost" the Yahwist Movement members:
"If we honestly evaluate -- without prejudice or bias -- the growth and development of the Sacred-Name Movement, we would have to admit our erroneous linguistic principles have cost the Movement dearly. Little has been gained by challenging Christianity for employing the terms god and lord. Instead, our most valiant efforts have only resulted in the fragmentation of our Movement and in the development of some very radical organizations."2
The admonition as stated above comes from a widely circulated article entitled "The Truth Regarding Inspired Titles." In this article we are also told, "We ought to be willing to admit that the Hebrew titles elohim and adonay can be translated into English as god and lord."3 Elsewhere the authors of the treatise write, "Therefore, if we truly wish to be honest with the facts, admitting that god and lord are perfectly acceptable English translations is a linguistic necessity."4 It is our purpose to demonstrate that if we truly wish to be honest with the facts, god is not a "perfectly acceptable English translation of the Hebrew word "Elohim." Furthermore, we maintain that those who refer to Yahweh with such a title dishonor Him, whether it be inadvertently or on purpose. 5 Please allow us to demonstrate why we believe as we do.
As alluded to earlier, in Isaiah 65:11 we are introduced to the heathen deity named "God." The King James Version translators erroneously rendered the Hebrew word pronounced "Gawd" in that verse as "that troop."6 The translators of other versions, at least recognizing "God" as the deity of fortune, simply rendered the Hebrew word as "Fortune," thus perpetrating the error of not transliterating the name of this idol. The name of this deity remains cloaked to most worshippers. Had the King James Version translators properly transliterated all proper names that appear in Isaiah 65:11, here is how that verse would read:
"But ye arethey that forsake Yahweh, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for God, and that furnish the drink offering unto Meni."
Once we establish that "God" is indeed the name of a deity worshipped by those who "forsake Yahweh," we are ready to ask the question, "Is it proper to refer to our Creator with a title (such as "God") that matches the name of a heathen deity?" Does this honor Him? How does referring to Yahweh with a title that matches the name of a heathen deity honor Him?
Did Yahweh Refer to Himself as a "Baal"?
Some who are of the persuasion that "God" is an acceptable title for Yahweh answer that Yahweh was referred to as a baal in Scripture, and in fact refers to Himselfas a baal. Moreover, Yahweh also calls Himself a molech in Scripture. Since both baal and molech are also the names of heathen deities, coupled with the fact that Yahweh refers to Himself with titles such as these, this, in their opinion, "proves" that it is also acceptable and even honorable to refer to Yahweh as our "God." Is this true?
First of all, it is indeed true that Yahweh does refer to Himself as a baal and as a molech. Notice what Yahweh says in Jeremiah 31:31-32:
"Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
"Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband [Heb. baal] unto them, saith Yahweh."
Notice that the word translated "husband" is actually the Hebrew word "baal." Thus Yahweh identified Himself as having been a baalto the children of Israel. Yahweh is also referred to as a baal in Isaiah 54:5. Furthermore, in I Chronicles 12:5 a warrior by the name of Bealiah is mentioned. "Bealiah" is a Hebrew word meaning "Yahweh is my Baal."
With the understanding that Yahweh identified Himself as a baal, combined with the knowledge that there was indeed a pagan deity named baal, does this mean we can in similar fashion honorably refer to Yahweh as our god, since it might be construed that He is indifferent towards the titles we attribute to Him? Certainly, it would appear, upon conducting a cursory examination, that we can properly refer to Yahweh as our "God," even if God was the name of a heathen deity, for Yahweh referred to Himself as a "baal," even though there was a heathen deity named "Baal." Is there something missing here that needs to be explained? Yes.
What we need to consider is the possibility and likelihood that Yahweh was referred to as a baal (husband) long before apostate men began calling upon a deity named Baal. If this is true, the word baal was a perfectly legitimate title for Yahweh long before it was transformed into a proper noun. Since no one can go back to the beginning to listen to the words early believers employed in reference to Yahweh, no one can say for certain that anyone ever referred to Yahweh as baalprior to the emergence of the deity named Baal. Thus, if it is indeed true that the deity named Baal pre-dates anyone ever referring to Yahweh with the title Baal, then indeed a legitimate case can be made in favor of referring to Yahweh as God. However, it is prudent to note that baal was in ancient times a common Hebrew term meaning "husband" or "master," demonstrating that from its inception this is exactly what this word meant, notthat it was originally the name of a false deity. As early as Genesis 20:3, this term was used to represent a "husband." This is the account of Abraham’s telling Abimelech, King of Gerar, that Sarah was his sister:
"But the Almighty came to Abimelech in dream by night and said to him, Behold, you are about to die because of the woman you have taken, she beingmarried to a husband [baal]."7
As this verse demonstrates, the earliest usage of the Hebrew word baal implies that it simply meant "husband" or "master." There are no allusions to an original application to any heathen deity. Certainly, in the beginning, there were no false believers, no heathens who worshipped any mighty one other than Yahweh. From all appearances, baal was simply a generic word with no negative connotations or associations with heathen worship. With the commonly accepted meaning of "husband" or "master," it is understandable that Yahweh was from time to time referred to as baal by His people. Once men branched out after the Flood and began to repopulate the earth, though, corrupted worship began to take place. Perhaps innocently, certain individuals may have begun to refer to Yahweh as their baal on a much more exclusive basis than before. Gradually, they may have drifted into referring to Him more as baal than by His name. As worship became more and more corrupt, it is quite possible that they eventually lost Yahweh’s identity completely, ascribing His characteristics to Baal as their now completely separate religion emerged, with Baal as the name of the deity they worshipped. Is this possible? Indeed it is. Thus, all available evidence supports the common term baal evolving into a corrupted name for a heathen deity, not vice-versa.
The same can be said for such titles as Elohim and Adonai. Many in the Yahwist Movement wouldn’t dreamof referring to Yahweh as their Baal, yet they refer to Him as their Elohimon a regular basis. Elohim is a title that was commonly used in reference to both Yahweh and false deities, but what many tend to overlook is the fact that Elohim was also the name of a heathen deity. According to The International Bible Commentary, "Elohim is clearly derived from El, the name given to the king of the gods by the Canaanites, with Eloah, surviving mainly in poetry, as the connecting link."8 In addition, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary provides the following information: "Baal was the son of El, the father of the gods and the head of the Canaanite pantheon, according to the tablets from Ugarit."9
With nothing else to go on but the above information, one would be left to believe that Elohim, in its original form, is corrupt. However, once again, we must pause and recognize that, in the beginning, there was no corrupted worship. Was Elohim a part of the pure worship that pre-dated the corrupt worship? All available evidence supports believing that it was. Otherwise, what became of that pure title originally used? How did a corrupted title come to completely replace an originally pure one? With no existing evidence to support substitution of Elohimfor an earlier title, we are left to believe that, indeed, Elohim was originally ascribed only to Yahweh as an honorable title. As time progressed and man became more and more corrupt, Elohim was later applied to heathen deities as well as to Yahweh, and a deity named El became known as the "father of the gods."
This same historical pattern is characteristic of the title molech. In I Samuel 12:12 we read,
"And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, ‘Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when Yahweh your Almighty was your king."
The spelling of the Hebrew word translated "king" in the above verse is identical to the spelling of the name of the Ammonites’ chief deity, Molech.10 The only notable difference between these two words lies in the vowel pointings, which weren’t added until the seventh century CE.11 Thus, if we were to transliterate the Hebrew word translated "king" in the above verse, it could read "...Yahweh your Almighty was your molech."
This pattern is also evident with regard to the title adonai. All available evidence supports these titles as having been originally ascribed to Yahweh before later becoming corrupted. Does the corruption of an originally-pure word or title make it unusable? No, it does not. Consider, for example, the very name of Yahweh. This name was brutally misappropriated and perverted by heathen men. According to French epigrapher Andre Lemaire in his article "Who or What was Yahweh’s Asherah?," published in the Nov.-Dec. 1984 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, an inscription found at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (dated between 850 and 750 BCE) states the following:
"I bless you through Yahweh of Samaria, and through his Asherah!"
Another inscription, found at ‘El Qom, from the same time period, reads:
"Uriyahu, the king, has written this. Blessed be Uriyahu through Yahweh, and his enemies have been conquered through Yahweh’s Asherah."
Asherah is the name of the Canaanite mother-goddess whose worship is expressly forbidden in such Biblical passages as Deuteronomy 16:21 (consistently rendered "grove" in the King James Version). Clearly, Yahweh’s name was misappropriated and corrupted by heathen worshippers. Thus mishandled, shall we now discontinue calling upon that name? Do we discard the name of the Creator simply because it becomes abused? No. If this were the answer, we would find ourselves constantly changing the Creator’s name in response to all the subsequent abuses each "clean" name would incur. Yahweh is still Yahweh, no matter how men attempt to make Him fit into their own image of what He should be. Yahweh is His name forever (Exodus 3:15), no matter what other plans man may have in mind. Similarly, any titles originally ascribed to Yahweh do not become "unclean" just because they are later conferred upon heathen idols. Just because apostate men "paganized" Yahweh’s Hebrew titles, naming deities after "elohim," "baal," "adonai," and even "molech," does not mean that man can now take any already pagan-to-the-core name or title and simply apply it to Yahweh as a "perfectly acceptable translation" of the original Hebrew title. Does the wrongful "paganizing" of the titles that Yahweh gave to Himself give mankind a license to apply "just any old pagan name or title" to the Creator? No, it does not. This is a classic case of the proverbial "Two wrongs don’t make a right" expression.
Once we establish the fact that any title originally ascribed to Yahweh cannot ever properly become disassociated from Him despite becoming tainted with heathen worship during the course of history, we are then poised to ask the pivotal question around which this article centers: Is it appropriate to take an already-corrupt name and apply it to the Creator as a title? The answer, again, is no. For example, what sincere truth seeker and servant of Yahweh would ever consider referring to Him as "our Zeus" or "our Apollos"? Each of the preceding two names represents the names of pagan deities, the worship of which is clearly outlawed by Yahweh. Yahweh commands His people to have "no other" deities before Him (Ex. 20:3). He later adds, "I am YAHWEH, and there is none else, there is no mighty one beside Me. I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am Yahweh, and there is NONE ELSE!" (Isaiah 45:5-6).
If Yahweh doesn’t even recognizeany deities other than Himself, then why would anyone professing to follow Him willfully choose to refer to Him with a title emanating from heathen worship, specifically from the NAME of a heathen idol? Would doing such a thing bring honorto Yahweh? Would we honor Yahweh if we referred to Him as "Yahweh our Zeus" or "Yahweh our Apollos"? We could expand this to include such idols as Nisroch, an Assyrian deity mentioned in II Kings 19:37. Should it be considered appropriate to refer to our Creator as "Yahweh our Nisroch"? And what about the deity mentioned in Isaiah 65:11 -- the deity whose name is "GOD"? Should it be considered appropriate to refer to our Creator as "Yahweh our God"? Remember, Yahweh Himself identifies this deity as one worshipped by those who FORSAKE Him. Shall we therefore take the name of a deity worshipped by those who forsake Yahweh and apply that name to Yahweh as a title for Him? Would doing such a thing convey honor to our Creator? The answer, again, is no. If our ultimate goal as truth seekers and servants is to live our lives striving to bring honor to Yahweh, then we should earnestly seek to refer to Him with titles that bring Him the most honor! Does "God" pass the test? No, it does not.
We would like to believe the information thus far presented serves to close the case in favor of notreferring to Yahweh as "our God." However, many individuals are not convinced of this, and they present various arguments in an attempt to defend their use of the title "God" in reference to Yahweh. In Part II we will examine seven arguments we have heard in support of referring to Yahweh as "our God," and determine if any of them have any substance.
Biographical sketch: June and I have been married for 22 years, fourteen of which have been spent within the Yahwist Movement. We reside in Plano, Texas with our two children, Colista (age 18) and Rusty (age 16). June and I have never claimed to be teachers, but whenever we come across teachings or beliefs that we strongly disagree with, we occasionally formulate a response in the form of either a booklet (or article), and in publishing these we refer to ourselves as "Truth Seekers." Our purpose in writing stems not from desiring a teaching ministry, but from desiring a "response ministry" to try and do our part to call peoples’ attention to what we feel are erroneous teachings. It is difficult to maintain our silence when we encounter teachings that violate Yahweh’s perfect law or that serve to otherwise dishonor our Heavenly Father. When someone sent us an article entitled "The Truth Regarding Inspired Titles" a few years ago, we more or less ignored it, thinking that no one would really believe the conclusion adopted by its authors. We were mistaken. Having witnessed the rapid spread and acceptance of the teaching that the word "God" is an "acceptable English translation" of the Hebrew title "elohim," June and I at length decided to work on a critique of the article. One thing led to another, and the following article was graciously published by Frank Brown in his January–February 2001 issue of Search the Scriptures newsletter, with part two scheduled for his next issue.
Bibliography (Part One)
1 We prefer not to release the name of the individual who wrote this comment, which was sent via e-mail on October 10, 2000 in response to the critique we presented on the article "The Truth Regarding Inspired Titles."
2 From the article "The Truth Regarding Inspired Titles," 1997, by Dale George and Silvio Soto, p. 46.
3 Ibid, p. 45.
4 Ibid, p. 45.
5 In the interest of conserving space, we are focusing our attention solely on the title godin this article. As for the title lord, we personally shun this title, not necessarily because of any questionable origin, but because this is the word that translators of most English versions of the Bible chose to substitute in place of Yahweh’s name. Out of protest for what they did, June and I personally avoid applying this title to our Heavenly Father.
6 Most Bible dictionaries and commentaries provide corroborating agreement that the name "God" (usually spelled out as Gad in English, but pronounced "Gawd" in Hebrew) was in the original Hebrew text of Isaiah 65:11. For example, note the following from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, by Merrill F. Unger, 1988, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, p. 488: "Gad. A Canaanite deity rendered ‘Fortune’ (Isa. 65:11, see marg.); the god of good fortune, supposed to be the glorified planet Jupiter. This star is called by the Arabs ‘the greater luck’ as the star of good fortune."
7 This rendering is taken from The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-Greek-English, Jay P. Green, Sr., General Editor and Translator, 1986, Hendrickson Publishers. All other versions leave out the original Hebrew word "husband" in their translations of this particular verse.
8 From The International Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce, General Editor, 1986, Marshall Pickering/Zondervan Publishers, page 57.
9 From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, by Merrill F. Unger, 1988, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, p. 485.
10 Compare the two Hebrew spellings for yourself, using a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. The Hebrew word for "king" is word #4428, and the name of the Ammonite deity, Molech, is word #4432. Both words contain the same, exact Hebrew spelling (mem, lamed, kaph).
11 This information comes from the New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., J. D. Douglas, Organizing Editor, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, article "Texts and Versions," p. 1,178, where we read, "It was not until about the 7th century of our era that the Massoretes introduced a complete system of vowel-signs."