Jesus is LORD [Yeshua is Yehovah]

Yeshua is YehovahSo that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ [Yeshua the Messiah] is Lord [YHVH], to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:10-11

In previous postings on the Name of the sovereign God of the universe, YHVH [Yehovah], I talked about the importance of knowing and speaking His Name, as well as the sad history of the silencing of God’s Name for the past 2300 years. If you recall from those blogs, after the return from exile in Babylon, priests of the Second Temple era decided that God’s name was too holy to pronounce, and they banned the speaking of the Name among the common Jewish people (the priests still knew how to pronounce the Name).

In this blog, I continue this history up into the New Testament period and show how there was even further obfuscation of the Name leading up to the time of Yeshua’s first coming. The first translation of the Old Testament [Tanach] into Greek was the Septuagint, which was completed in 132 BCE. By this time, it was well established that the Name of YHVH was not to be written in any texts (even within Greco-Roman writings). Since the Jews had already been substituting Adonai (Lord) for YHVH, the Septuagint scribes continued the same tradition. When more modern English translators strove to come up with translations that were more faithful to the original Hebrew Tanach Scriptures, they reverted the references to God’s Name (as opposed to His holy title of Lord) back to “LORD”, leaving the other references as “Lord”. Thus, we have a clear way to distinguish God’s Name (YHVH) from his title (Lord) in the Old Testament Scriptures.

When the translators of the Greek New Testament translated the Greek into Latin and modern languages such as English, though, they could not distinguish between the references to the Name YHVH and Lord (as a title). Both words are written as Kurios in Greek. What we have in the New Testament, then, are many verses that are ambiguous as to which meaning is being expressed, God’s Name or His title. I want to focus here on the places in the New Testament where Yeshua is referred to as Lord. Many times this truly is a holy title given to our Messiah and Savior. However, there are quite a few places where Yeshua is being addressed by the Name of God Almighty, YHVH [Yehovah].

Some of the most obvious references to Yeshua as YHVH are quotes or paraphrases of Old Testament verses. The most vivid example of this is the Scripture quoted at the top of this blog, Philippians 2:10-11. Just before this passage (vv. 6-8), the author is saying that Yeshua did not take advantage of the fact that He was in His very nature part of the Godhead, but lowered Himself to be born as a human and then of His own will gave up His life to die on a cross. Then in Verse 9, Sha’ul says that Abba Father gave Him the Name that is above every name. Believers in Yeshua, having the English translations available to them for the New Testament, have always assumed that this Name above all names is Jesus [Yeshua]. However, remember that Yeshua was the name given to the Son of God when He was born on Earth as a human – this name represents His mission, since Yeshua means salvation or deliverance.

Here are a few other verses where it speaks of Yeshua as Lord (which should have been translated as LORD [YHVH]:

  • Rom 10:9-10: ..if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [YHVH] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
  • I Cor 12:3: and no one can say “Jesus is Lord [YHVH]” except in the Holy Spirit.
  • Matt 23:39: [Yeshua said to the people on “Palm Sunday”] – for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord [YHVH]!’

Some of these verses include quotes or paraphrases from the Old Testament:

  • Phil 2:10-11 was patterned after Isa 45:3: That to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess. They shall say, ‘Surely in the Lord [YHVH] I have righteousness and strength.
  • Matt 23:39 was a direct quote from Psalm 118:26 (with LORD in all caps): Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord [YHVH]!

You’re probably asking yourself at this stage – so what is the point of all this? Here’s the bottom line – Jesus [Yeshua] was the Messiah’s name when He was on the Earth fulfilling prophecy as our Savior, but His eternal name is the same as the Father’s – YHVH or Yehovah! He is one of the three persons of the Godhead. He existed from the beginning and was there directing the Creation of the universe along with Abba and the Holy Spirit (John 1:3). To know Yehovah the Father is to know Yehovah the Son and Yehovah the Ruach HaKodesh – they are one [echad] in Spirit but different in character and roles.

[We usually address people by using formal titles (Mr, Mrs, Doctor, and so forth) when we don’t know them well, of if they are entitled to a higher level of respect. Only when we have established some degree of intimacy, do we begin calling people by their given names.] For example, if we are Yeshua’s servants, we would call Him Master; but we are His friends so we call Him by His name, Yehovah. If you want to draw even closer to our Creator, Redeemer, Miracle-Worker, and Lord, call on His Name and you will be able to speak to any or all of the holy and awesome persons of the Godhead who created and love us!

5 thoughts on “Jesus is LORD [Yeshua is Yehovah]

  1. Well done! I would like to point out, however, that as late as 125 AD, Torah teachers were still pronouncing the Name (called “the Tetragrammaton”) during their lessons. (The Name was still being pronounced in Temple services in 70 AD at the time of the destruction of the Temple, according to the writings of the Talmud, etc..)

    In 125 AD, Emperor Hadrian passed laws forbidding the teaching of Torah and/or pronouncing aloud the Name of the “God of the Jews.”

    At least ten different Torah teachers were martyred for flouting Hadrian’s law. Haninah ben Teradion was one of those men – his story is heart-breaking but very revealing. “He was the rosh yeshivah [head of the school] and head of the beit din in Sichnin. R’ Chanina [Rabbi Haninah] was punished for pronouncing the Tetragrammaton in public, and his wife was punished for not preventing him for doing so.” (http://rabbishimon.com/tzadikim/showz.php?p=chaninaben.htm)

    It was in response to the martyrdom of these fine rabbis that the Jewish leaders instructed their people to obey Hadrian’s law and to completely refrain from pronouncing the Name – they expected Messiah to come momentarily, at which time they could resume using the Name in worship, and in the meantime, lives would be saved. Good intentions!

    Unfortunately, Messiah did not come (return!) as quickly as expected, and, according to the practice of minhaggim, the restriction on the Name passed into halakic ‘law.’ “A minhag is a custom that evolved for worthy religious reasons and has continued long enough to become a binding religious practice. …It is important to note that these “customs” are a binding part of halakhah, just like a mitzvah, a takkanah, or a gezeirah.” (Halakhah: Jewish Law, accessed 13 Aug 2014)

    As I’m sure you know, until the rabbis got involved and started ‘making fences’, the Name was proudly and reverently used among the common people on a daily basis. For example, when Boaz came into his fields, he and his workers greeting one another using the Name:

    And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, “YHVH be with you.” And they answered him, “YHVH bless thee.” (Ruth 2:4)

    Isaiah tells us that the day is coming (and perhaps is already here!) that the Name will be in common use again:

    Some will say, ‘I belong to YHVH’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘YHVH’s,’ and will take the name Israel. (Isaiah 44:5)

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    1. Good catch, Sue! I had read accounts from various Jewish historians that the sacred name (Yehovah) was no longer supposed to be spoken by the general population (as it was in Boaz’ time – thanks for mentioning that) after their return from captivity in Babylon. Since they had been judged because of their sin of following after other gods, their new directive was that there was one and only one God (YHVH/Yehovah Elohim) and that His name was too holy to be spoken by the masses. However, as you pointed out, it was still spoken by the Priests in the Temple up until 70 AD. It was spoken on 2 main occasions: daily when the priests would bless the people in the name of YHVH, and each year on Yom Kippur (10 times) during the prayers of repentance. And as you said, I am sure it was still known by many of the people up until that time (since they would have heard it spoken in the Temple every day during the blessings), even if they were banned from speaking the holy Name in public. Thanks for your great comments!

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  2. I should have mentioned, too, that Interestingly, there is considerable extra-scriptural evidence indicating that Y’shua was perfectly free to pronounce His Father’s Name during His ministry – thankfully so, since the Jews were watching for a Messiah who would come ‘in the Name of YHVH.’ (Ps 118:26) Had Y’shua not used the Name in His teaching, He would have been guilty of ‘adding to and taking from’ scripture, not to mention that He would not have been recognizable as Messiah. The Aramaic and Hebrew copies of the Gospels all indicate that He did indeed pronounce the Name during His teaching. Thanks so much for pointing out the importance of the Name!

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    1. Yes, I am sure you are right that Yeshua would have spoken the sacred name (YHVH/Yehovah) when He said that the people would not see Him again until they said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matt 23:39). One of my favorite passage about God’s holy Name is contained in Yeshua’s longest prayer to His Father in John 17, where He said: I made known to them your name [YHVH/Yehovah], and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26). Blessings to you and John in the name of Yehovah.

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