According to many, the Holy Name of God is “ineffable,” unutterable, and should never be pronounced. Thus, they replace the holy name with other words, such as Adonai, Kurios (Lord), El, Elohim, Theos (God), Dunamis (Power), etc. Their claim is that by doing this they are not pronouncing the most holy name because of its sacredness. But what are they actually doing? Do they actually not pronounce the holy name, or do they not in reality change the holy name and pronounce it as though it should be changed to that which it is not? Let us read from Isaiah 42:8 from the King James Version of the Bible: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” When they read this verse, they do not refuse to pronounce the holy name, but what they actually do is pronounce it as “the Lord,” thus changing the most Holy Name in the universe to “the Lord,” and pronouncing “the Lord” as being that most holy name. In other words, if they actually were refusing to pronounce the holy name, they would not change it to “the Lord,” as though Jehovah said that his Holy Name is “the Lord,” but rather it would have be read as: “I am …, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another.”
Consequently, to actually not pronounce the name, one would have to skip it entirely, not change it to “the Lord.” However, by substituting “the Lord” in Isaiah 42:8, they are actually changing the most Holy Name into “the Lord,” and are actually pronouncing — definitely mispronouncing — that most Holy Name as “the Lord.”
Likewise, in Exodus 3:15, the King James Version reads: “The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” The King James Version would make the eternal memorial name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob appear to be “The LORD.” I don’t know of anyone who actually skips over the most Holy Name when reading the King James Version so as not to pronounce that most Holy Name, but rather they will indeed pronounce it as “the Lord,” thus making “the Lord” out to be the eternal memorial name. In other words, despite their claims of not pronouncing the Holy Name, they actually end up changing the most holy name into “the Lord,” and then prounounce the most holy name as “the Lord.”
Is the Holy Name Too Holy to Prounounce?
One of the ideas being presented, based on Jewish tradition, is that God’s holy name is too holy to utter, thus it is often referred to as the “ineffable name.” Many Jews today replace the holy name with “HaShem,” meaning “The Name.” However, when we they read Isaiah 42:8 as “I am HaShem, that is My name,” what are they actually doing? In effect, they would have our Creator declare that His name is “HaShem,” thus changing the most holy name in the universe to “HaShem.” Of course, this is silly. The Creator’s name is not HaShem (The Name). Such a substitution, however, is meaningless and conveys nothing regarding the holy name of the Creator.
Regarding the Jewish tradition of not pronouncing the holy name, William Smith wrote:
At a time too early to be traced, the Jews abstained from pronouncing the name, for fear of its irreverent use. The custom is said to have been founded on a strained interpretation of (Leviticus 24:16) and the phrase there used, “THE NAME” (Shema), is substituted by the rabbis for the unutterable word. In reading the Scriptures they substituted for it the word ADONAI (Lord), from the translation of which by Kurios in the LXX., followed by the Vulgate, which uses Dominus, we have the Lord of our version. The substitution of the word Lord is most unhappy, for it in no way represents the meaning of the sacred name.
–Smith’s Bible Dictionary, by William Smith 1991 edition, pages 240,241, under the entry “God.”
Leviticus 24:16, however, says nothing about the holy name being too sacred to pronounce. The World English Version renders it this way:
He who blasphemes the name of Yahweh, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the sojourner, as the home-born, when he blasphemes the name of Yahweh, shall be put to death.
Green’s Literal translation renders it this way:
And he who blasphemes the name of Jehovah dying shall die. All the congregation shall certainly cast stones at him. As to the alien, so to a native, when he blasphemes the Name, he shall die.
Indeed, there is no scripture in the Bible that says that the holy name is not be uttered. This is a teaching of man, and, we believe, is a doctrine inspired by Satan in an effort to diminish the worship of Jehovah (Yahweh), and to divert that worship to himself under the name of the “the Lord.” We need to remember that there is another word in the Hebrew that also means “Lord,” that is, “Baal.” (Bel, Baalim, Beel) The word itself is not bad, if simply used as a title, and not a name. As a name, it represents the false deity that was worshiped by the Phoenicians and others in the Old Testament times. It is this “god” that the Israelites could seem to resist, and thus they forgot the name of Yahweh (Jehovah) for Baal. (Jeremiah 23:27) If one were to go through the Old Testament and replace “the Lord” where they see forms of Baal, this would become clearer. For instance, in Judges 2:13: “They forsook Jehovah, and served ‘the Lord’ and the Ashtaroth.” And 2 Kings 17:16: “They forsook all the commandments of Jehovah their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah, and worshiped all the host of the sky, and served ‘the Lord.'”
In the New Testament, the Pharisees identified “Baal” as “Beelzebul, the prince of the demons.” (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15) Jesus verified Beelzedbub as being Satan, “prince of the demons”, saying: “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself..” (Matthew 12:26; Mark 3:23; Luke 11:18) Thus, in effect, the changing of the Holy Name to “the Lord” does appear to be the effort of Satan to divert worship from the Creator to himself.
We need to interject here that this does not mean that all the thousands of Christians who call upon “the Lord” as the name of God are false Christians, although many are indeed tares, false Christians. However, each true servant of Jesus will be treated according to his own responsibility and knowledge that he has. It is not for us to say to another Christian: “You are not a servant of Jesus because you substitute the Holy Name.” (Luke 12:47,48; Romans 14:10,13; 1 Corinthians 4:5; James 4:17) For a Christian who has a tradition of using “the Lord” to change from this tradition takes great courage and determination. It is not an easy thing to do. By habit, Christians will say: “Praise the Lord,” and speak of “what the Lord has done for me,” without any thought concerning the Holy Name being substituted in these expressions. And yet it should be in the heart of the Christian to have a will to change from such substitutions, so that it may be clear who his God is.
On the other hand, the servants of Jesus should do all they can to inform themselves concerning the Holy Name, and how, by tradition, that name has been changed to “the Lord,” and other designations.
Originally published October 13, 2012; updated and republished February 27, 2015Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 Jesus and His God