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What Is God's First Name or Full Name?by Nathaniel Burson
(This is the answer to a question submitted to BibleStudy.org, and reprinted here by permission.)
Does God require we use His special name in our prayers?
First of all, let's solve one simple argument. It's pretty much a given that God is pretty smart. And therefore, God probably knows most of the languages on Earth. Ok, so He probably knows all of them. So we can assume that God speaks Swahili. He probably even speaks Quechua and Apache. So then we know that if someone who speaks Spanish says "Dios, socorro!!!" (God, help me!), that God will understand him.
Granted, God may be offended that He didn't use the proper name, but we know for a fact that God will understand Him. So then, the only argument that remains is whether God PREFERS that you use the right name, whether He REQUIRES you to use the right name, or whether He DOESN'T CARE. Those are the only options.
So which is it? And which is the "right name"?
Right up front we have to say that no one knows the proper name. Most believe it is YHVH, or YHWH, or just YH... but nobody can pronounce it. You see, the Jews were so terrified of speaking the name of God, oops, I mean, YHVW, that they forgot how. Hebrew doesn't have vowels, per se. So the written language doesn't tell us how a word was originally pronounced in most cases. Imagine if even a word as short as "God" was written without vowels, like "Gd". Now further imagine that as few as one hundred years go by without it being spoken aloud. Now finally, picture yourself, a native German speaker, let's say, trying to pronounce that word then. Why, it could be Gad, God, Gid, Gud, or Ged – not to mention if there were two vowels, like Goad, or Giud, or Gead.
And there you have the problem with the perfect name.
Only, it's been a few thousand years and Hebrew bears less similarity to English than English does to German. Not only that, but YHVW most likely has three or more vowels in it. That means there are dozens of possible ways it could be pronounced. So no matter what you do, at best you MAY be able to spell it, you cannot ever PRONOUNCE the "perfect name" without divine revelation.
But the question of the hour is, does God want you to try anyway?
Well, let's find out by asking the age-old question – what would Jesus do? What would Jesus do? Jesus referred to God most often simply as "the Father", which was recorded in the Greek Gospels with the word "Pater" (from which the Spanish get Padre). And He not only used Pater, or Father, but He directed us to start our prayers with "Our father, which art in heaven..." (Luke 11:2)
So then, we could gather that this was the name He wanted us to use. But if only it was that simple! Paul confuses the issue by saying that Christ's spirit in us cries out "Abba", which is Aramaic for Father. So then, instead of Pater, we use Abba! Right? Umm.. well, not exactly. Granted, Christ Himself prays using Abba... "And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. " (Mark 14:36)
Mind you, it included Abba because that was the actual word He used. So maybe that IS the one He wanted us to use. But before you go out and start changing your prayer address to Abba, keep reading... "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. " (Matthew 27:46-47)
So when Christ was dying, in one of the most distressed prayers He ever made, with His last ounces of life, He prayed using a derivative of the Hebrew word for God – no, not YHVH, but "Eli". The people around Him watching Him die thought He was saying "Elias", so they evidently didn't understand Eli as a common word for God. So He abandoned His most commonly-used Greek Pater, then the Aramaic Abba, and now He is using the Hebrew Eli. But a little while later, He is back to using Pater again!
"And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father (Pater), into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." (Luke 23:46)
And during all of this time, He is nowhere recorded as having uttered YHVH ONCE!
And yet His prayers were answered – even when given using the name of God in at least three different languages – and He was "saved" in spite of not using the Sacred Name! Which is a shame, because He, of all people, might have actually known HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PRONOUNCED!!
But... there is a lot more. We know Abraham to be the Father of the faithful – which is to say, the father of the covenant of Faith. Because Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted to Him for RIGHTEOUSNESS – which is the new covenant. But I'm digressing. The point is, from Hebrews 11 we know that Abraham WILL be saved. Therefore, if using the Sacred Name – whichever one is THE Sacred Name – is necessary to be saved – then Abraham MUST have used it.
That is simple logic, isn't it? Of course it is.
But wait a moment – if YHVH – Jehovah – most commonly translated as LORD in the Old Testament – is THE Sacred Name... then... how was Abraham saved?
"And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD (YHVH): And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH (YHVH) WAS I NOT KNOWN TO THEM." (Exodus 6:2-3)
God said I AM YHVH. And He said that He had appeared to Abraham, and the fathers, by the name of GOD ALMIGHTY... Which in Hebrew would look something like "El Shaddai". And God said that He gave the Father of the Faithful, His FRIEND, the name El Shaddai – but by His "Sacred Name", YHVH, THEY DID NOT KNOW HIM! God said that Abraham NEVER SPOKE THE NAME YHVH! So he COULD NOT HAVE BEEN SAVED, according to their reasoning – and yet we know for a fact that he WAS saved! How can that be??
Can it be that "the name" is not as important as we've been told? That it is something else that determines whether God is happy with us, or hears our prayers? It is certainly beginning to look that way, isn't it? But we haven't exhausted our study yet. Let's take scriptures that everyone should be familiar with – the Pentecost of Acts 2.
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. ... And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. ... Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. " (Acts 2:1-6)
Notice that the apostles weren't SPEAKING all those other languages – but these men all HEARD them speak in their own language, in their mother tongue.
"And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. " (Acts 2:7-11)
There are 17 languages mentioned there. And in all of those languages, those men heard them speak of the wonderful works of GOD. For this, the author of Acts used the Greek word Theos – since Acts was written in Greek. But before I wrap up this point, let's read one of those wonderful works of God that was mentioned here...
"And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord [Kurios] shall be saved. " (Acts 2:21)
This time, the Greek word "Kurios", which roughly translates as Supreme One was used to refer to God. And so, every man there – be they Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Jews, you name it – heard the Apostle Peter say that WHOEVER would call on the name of the Lord would be saved! That means that a Greek HEARD Peter say that whoever would call on the name of KURIOS would be saved! So he would repent and say "Kurios, forgive me!". Or perhaps he would spice it up a bit and say "Theos, have mercy on me, a sinner!" All of this, being said in Greek, would make little sense to the Roman standing next to him, who would of course have heard Peter say "whoever calls on the name of Deus will be saved"! So the Latin prays saying "Deus, I repent!" And likewise the Egyptian and the Persian and the Jew and the Cretans would all have heard Peter say the name of God, or the words "Supreme One" in their own language.
And I find it a terrible shame – not to mention a colossal fraud on the part of the holy Spirit, who was doing the talking – to tell all these people to call on the name of God to be saved, AND THEN TELLING THEM THE WRONG NAME TO USE! Don't you think?
But this isn't the first time the holy spirit made this mistake. No, it did the same thing to the Israelites. See, Moses was trying to talk his way out of going to the Israelites, and trying to stall God, and so he asked God WHO he should tell the Israelites had sent him. He demanded THE SACRED NAME OF GOD!
"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel,and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, WHAT IS HIS NAME? what shall I say unto them? " (Exodus 3:13)
God, evidently not realizing that they needed to use His Sacred Name to be delivered, (forgetful of Him, wasn't it?), GAVE THEM THE WRONG NAME!
"And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. " (Exodus 3:14)
Can you believe that? God didn't even give them the right name to use! Shocking, isn't it?
He gave them the name "I AM", which comes from the Hebrew Hayah – which is basically the Hebrew verb "To Be", which certainly isn't sacred. But God goes on to give Moses 4 more names to use!
"And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD [YHVH] God [Elohim] of your fathers, the God [Elohim] of Abraham, the God [Elohim] of Isaac, and the God [Elohim] of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. " (Exodus 3:15)
So God told Moses that the Hebrews could call him the "Hayah", or YHVH, or the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, or the Elohim of Jacob – so it seems to me that God answers to a lot of names! A single one of them could hardly be said to be the most Sacred! But it is easy to find the most Grandiose. The most Grandiose name for God used in the Bible is easily...
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isaiah 57:15)
The High And Lofty One That Inhabiteth Eternity (THALOTIE) is a bit wordy, but you must admit it is catchy! And his NAME is HOLY! But which name? The one He used – I'll use the acronym "THALOTIE"? Is THALOTIE the Holy Name? Is it the ONLY Holy Name? Isn't YHVH HOLY? Isn't I AM a holy name, when applied to God? Aren't THEOS, or DEUS, or DIOS, or JEHOVAH, or IEHOVAH (Latin spelling!) or JESUCRISTO, or DOMINI, or LORD, or GOD, or ALMIGHTY, all holy names, when applied to the REAL God, and unholy ones when applied to a counterfeit God?
And will the use of any one of these names recommend you to God over someone who uses any other name? I think the Bible has irrefutably shown that it doesn't.
As that last scripture said – God dwells with those who are of a broken and contrite spirit. Men who tremble before His word. Just like Christ did.
"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; " (Hebrews 5:7)
Jesus Christ was heard by God, not because He used Abba or Pater or Eli, but BECAUSE HE FEARED! Because He OBEYED God, and TREMBLED BEFORE GOD'S WORDS, God HEARD HIM!
So do YOU tremble before the word of God? Does the Bible carry AUTHORITY, and WEIGHT with you? If so, you must acknowledge that Abraham DID NOT KNOW this "special name" that makes you so special! You must also admit that Christ is NEVER ONCE recorded as using YHVH! But that Christ WAS HEARD, in EVERY PRAYER HE EVER UTTERED, and IN EVERY LANGUAGE HE EVER PHRASED IT! So then – if you're Spanish, use Dios, or Jesus (pronounced Hay-seus), if you're English you can use God, Lord, The Eternal One, God Almighty, Jehovah, or just call him the "I AM". Because whatever name you use for Him... they all go to the same place. And they're all heard and understood by the same being. And using one over the other has no bearing whatsoever on whether your prayer is heard or not.
Only your obedience and through it, your faith, can affect that.