by James Trimm

The Name of Yahweh in Paleo-Hebrew – Stone Inscription (Gottes wunderbarer Name | Teil 2 –

One major distinction between Nazarene Judaism and mainline Judaism of the first century was in regard to their usage of the name of יהוה. While mainline Judaism had limited and in some cases even banned the use of the name of יהוה, Nazarenes were at times persecuted for not participating in this ban.

Although the use of the Name of יהוה was clearly commonplace in Tanach times (Old Testament times), by the first century the Name was used only in the Temple. Even when reading the Scriptures, mainline Judaism used euphemisms or substitutions instead of pronouncing the name (j.Meg. 71d). According to the Talmud, after the time of Simon the Just (a contemporary of Alexander the Great) the priest stopped using the Name in the blessings (b.Yoma 49b). The ban on the name however, did not continue in this form. Later in the Second Temple era the name was used, but only in the Temple as the Mishnah states:

In the sanctuary, one says the Name as it is written, but in the provinces, with a euphemism.
(m.Sotah 7:6; b.Sotah 38b; m.Tamid 7:2)

In fact, the name was used in the Temple even in giving greetings, as the Mishnah states: [speaking of behaviour on the Temple grounds]

And they ordained that an individual should greet his fellow with [God’s] name, in accordance with what is said,
(m.Ber. 9:5)

Ruth 2:4 
4 “And see, Boʽaz had come from Bĕyth Leḥem, and said to the reapers, “יהוה be with you!” And they answered him, “יהוה bless you!” 
{TS Footnote: They had no problem calling יהוה by His Name! 

The first century Jewish historian Josephus mentions the ban on using the name of יהוה .
Josephus, writing on the events of Exodus 3, writes:

Whereupon God declared to him [Moses] his holy Name, which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say anymore.
(Josephus; Antiquities 2:12:4)

This ban on speaking the name of יהוה seems to have been almost universal by the first century.
Even the nonconformists of the Qumran community (generally held to be Essenes) held to the ban.
The Manual of Discipline states:

Anyone who speaks aloud the M[ost] Holy Name of God, [whether] in cursing or as a blurt in time of trial or for any other reason, or while he is reading a book or praying, is to be expelled, never again to return to the society of the Yahad.
 (1QS Col. 6 line 27b – Col. 7 line 2a)

After the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D., Pharisaic Judaism banned use of the Name of יהוה altogether.

The new halacha was that the name was “to be hidden” (b.Pes. 50a) and “to be kept secret” (b.Kidd. 71a).

That the practice of using euphemisms in place of the Name of יהוה began at a very early date, long before the first century, is made clear from three important sources: the Septuagint, the Psalms and the Book of Daniel.
The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Tanach which was made around 250 B.C.E.. There is much debate as to whether the Septuagint originally contained the name of יהוה or simply the euphemisms for the Name.
However the Septuagint translators paraphrased Leviticus 24:16 (vr.15 in Jewish copies) in such a way as to make it clear that the ban on the name existed by the time the Septuagint was translated.

The Hebrew text of Leviticus 24:16 reads (in English):

Leviticus 24:16 {From the Hebrew}
16 And whoever blasphemes the name of יהוה shall surely be put to death

However the Septuagint translators paraphrased the text to mean:

Leviticus 24:16 {LXX}
16 And he that names the name of the Lord, Let him die the death

This paraphrase makes it clear that the ban on the name existed at the time the Septuagint was translated.
Further evidence that the ban in the name was very early can be found by comparing Psalms 14 and 53. These two Psalms are almost identical except that יהוה in verses 2, 4, 6 and 7 of Psalm 14 has been changed to Elohim (God) in Psalm 53.

This is an important piece of evidence which tells us many things:

  1. The practice of using euphemisms in place of the name of יהוה predates the editing and redaction of the Book of Psalms.
  2. At the time that the Book of Psalms was edited the practice of substitution existed but was not universal, since the name is used in most of the Psalms including Psalm 53‘s twin Psalm 14.

Final evidence that the ban on the use of the name of יהוה is much older than the first century is found in the Aramaic sections of Daniel.
Although the name appears in the Hebrew portions of Daniel it is conspicuously missing from the larger, Aramaic portion of the book.
This tells us that by the time that Daniel was written it was the custom of at least some people, not to use the name in another language besides Hebrew.

Not only did mainline Judaism read substitutions such as “Elohim” and “Adonai” when they came to יהוה in reading the Tanach.
Ancient scribes of the Tanach actually substituted in many places “Adonai” for יהוה in the text itself. These in many translations are printed as ‘Lord’.

The official list given in the Massorah (107:15 Gingsburg edition) contain the 134 instances as follows

Genesis 18:3,27,30,32; 19:18; 20:4
Exodus 4:10,13; 5:22,; 15:17; 34:9,9
Numbers 14:17
Joshua 7:8
Judges 6:15; 13:8
1Kings 3:10,15; 22:6
2Kings 7:6; 19:23
Isaiah 3:17,18; 4:4; 6:1,8,11; 7:14,20; 8:7; 9:8,17; 10:12; 11:11; 21:6,8,16; 28:2; 29:13; 30:20; 37:24; 38:14,16; 49:14
Ezekiel 18:25,29; 21:13; 33:17,29
Amos 5:16; 7:7,8; 9:1
Zechariah 9:4
Micah 1:2
Malachi 1:12,14
Psalms 2.4; 16:2; 22:19,30; 30:8; 35:3,17,22; 37:12; 38:9,15,22; 39:7; 40:17; 44:23; 51:15; 54:4; 55:9; 57:9; 59:11; 62:12; 66:18; 68:11,17,19,22,26,32; 73:20; 77:2,7; 78:65; 79:12; 86:3,4,5,8,9,12,15; 89:49,50; 90:1,17; 110:5; 130:2,3,6
Daniel 1:2; 9:3,4,7,9,15,16,17,19,19,19
Lamentations 1:14,15,15; 2:1,2,5,7,18,19,20; 3:31,36,37,58
Ezra 10:3
Nehemiah 1:11; 4:14 Job 28:28.

(NOTE: Where verses are written twice or more, such as “Exodus 34:9, 9” means there it has been changed 2 times within the same verse.)

Some people who enacted the ban on the use of the name in mainline Judaism did so out of extreme, though misguided, reverence for the name.
The reasoning behind the ban was based on Exodus 20:7 which said in part <You shall not take the name of יהוה your God in vain>, And Leviticus 22:32 which says in part <and you shall not profane my holy name,>. These two commandments, when brought together with the tradition recorded in the Mishnah: ‘make a hedge about the Torah’ (m.Avot 1:1) resulted in a custom of not pronouncing the name at all. Thus eliminating any chance of profaning the name or taking it in vain.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
This seems to have been the case with the ban on the Name of יהוה .

In the Torah יהוה states:

Exodus 9:16
16  “And for this reason I have raised you up, in order to show you My power, and in order to declare My Name in all the earth. 

Thus the ban on use of the name conflicts directly with the Torah itself.
There is a direct contradiction between the Rabbinical precept that the name should be hidden’ and kept secret’ (b.Pes. 50a; b.Kidd. 71a) and the Torah precept that the name should be <declared in all the earth.>
The Tanach speaks of apostates

Jeremiah 23:27
27 who try to make My people forget My Name

The precept of keeping the name secret also conflicts with other Tanach passages:

Isaiah 52:6
6 My people shall know my name
Psalm 9:10
10  And those who know Your Name trust in You  
Psalm 91:14
14 “Because he cleaves to Me in love, Therefore I deliver him; I set him on high, Because he has known My Name. 
Malachi 3:16
16 a book of remembrance be written before Him, of those who fear יהוה, and those who think upon His Name.  
Psalm 99:3
3 They praise Your Name, great and awesome, It is set-apart. 
Psalm 145:21
21 My mouth speaks the praise of יהוה, And let all flesh bless His set-apart Name, Forever and ever.  
Psalm 148:13
13 Let them praise the name of יהוה

Plus, Rabbinic Judaism produced a tradition of reading euphemisms in place of יהוה when reading the Tanach (j.Meg. 71d) and even altered the text itself in places, changing יהוה to “Adonai” (Massorah (107:15 Gingsburg edition) contain the 134 instances listed previously).
This tradition also conflicts directly with the Torah itself which says:

Deuteronomy 4:2
2 Never add to the word I command you, nor take from it 
Deuteronomy 12:32
32“Do not add to the Word {the Torah} which I command you, and do not take away from it  

Could John 17:6, 26 mean that Yeshua actually pronounced the name?
The Toldot Yeshu, a hostile Rabbinic parody on the Gospel story records the following legend:

After King Jannaeus, his wife Helene ruled over all Israel. In the Temple was to be found the Foundation Stone on which were engraven the letters of God’s Ineffable Name.
Whoever learned the secret of the Name and its use would be able to do whatever he wished.
Therefore, the Sages took measures so that no one should gain this knowledge.
Lions of brass were bound to two iron pillars at the gate of the place of burnt offerings.
Should anyone enter and learn the Name, when he left the lions would roar at him and immediately the valuable secret would be forgotten.
Yeshu (Jesus) came and learned the letters of the Name; he wrote them upon the parchment which he placed in an open cut on his thigh and then drew the flesh over the parchment.
As he left, the lions roared and he forgot the secret.
But when he came to his house he reopened the cut in his flesh with a knife an lifted out the writing.
Then he remembered and obtained the use of the letters.
He gathered about himself 310 young men of Israel and accused those who spoke ill of his birth of being people who desired greatness and power for themselves.
Yeshu proclaimed, “I am the Messiah; and concerning me Isaiah prophesied and said, ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.'”
He quoted other messianic texts, insisting, “David my ancestor prophesied concerning me: ‘The Lord said to me, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.'”
The insurgents with him replied that if Yeshu was the Messiah he should give them a convincing sign. They therefore, brought to him a lame man, who had never walked.
Yeshu spoke over the man the letters of the Ineffable Name, and the leper was healed.
Thereupon, they worshipped him as the Messiah, Son of the Highest.

(A similar legend about Yeshua appears in b.Shab. 104b; b.San. 67a; t.Shab. 11:15; j.Shab. 13d)

Now Hugh Schonfield theorized in his book According to the Hebrews’ that Toldot Yeshu is a hostile parody on the Gospel according to the Hebrews.
So while this legend sounds fantastic there may be some truth at its root. 
Now another passage in Matthew might also lead us that direction.

Matthew 26:59-65:
59 And the chief priests, and the elders, and all the council were seeking false witness against יהושע {Yahshua} to put Him to death, 
60  but found none. Although many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward, 
61  and said, “This one said, ‘I am able to destroy the Dwelling Place of Elohim and to build it in three days.’ ” 
62  And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “Have You no answer to make? What do these witness against You?” 
63  But יהושע remained silent. So the high priest said to Him, “I put You to oath, by the living Elohim that You say to us if You are the Messiah, the Son of Elohim.” 
64  יהושע said to him, “You have said it. Besides I say to you, from now you shall see the Son of Aḏam sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of the heaven.” 
65  Then the high priest tore his garments, saying, “He has blasphemed! Why do we need any more witnesses? See, now you have heard His blasphemy! 

Note the phrase <TEMPLE OF GOD> in verse 61.
This phrase never appears in the Tanach which always has <TEMPLE OF יהוה >.
Also in verse 64 THE POWER is a common euphemism for YHWH which should appear based on the fact that this verse combines Psalm 110:1 with Daniel 7:13 where יהוה does appear in
Psalm 110:1.
Could Yeshua have been being accused of blasphemy for having used the phrase <Temple of יהוה > could he have aggravated and confirmed the charge by citing the Psalm 110:1/Dan. 7:13 phrase with the name יהוה pronounced?

The Mishnah sheds a great deal of light on the events of this trial.
The Mishnah states:

He who blasphemes is liable only when he has fully pronounced the Divine Name.

Said Rabbi Joshua ben Qorha,

on every day of the trial they examine the witnesses with a substitute name once the trial is over, they would not put him to death with the euphemism, but they put everyone out and ask the most important of the witnesses, saying to him, “Say, what exactly did you hear?” And he says what he heard. And the judges stand on their feet and tear their clothing
(m.San. 7:5)

Now from this passage of the Mishnah we learn many things about Yaeshua‘s trial.
It was normal for the witness to use a euphemism in his testimony of what Yeshua said.
We also know that a charge of blasphemy required that the offender had “fully pronounced the Divine Name.”
It is therefore clear that Yeshua had been pronouncing the name of יהוה .
Normally at the end of the trial the room would have been emptied and the witness asked to repeat the “blasphemy” without the euphemism.
However, in this case, Yeshua surprised everyone.
He wanted his statement heard by all so he repeated one of his “blasphemous” statements right there in the beit din.
We know that he used the actual name and not “the Power” here because it was called “blasphemy” and would not have been unless Yeshua had “fully pronounced the Divine Name.”
That Yeshua also spoke the name of יהוה as part of his “blasphemy” was clear from the phrase “the High Priest tore his clothes” which agrees exactly with the halachah of the Mishnah And the judges stand on their feet and tear their clothing.

Ya’akov HaTzadik (James the Just), the leader of the Nazarenes after Yeshua’s death also recited the exact phrase Yeshua had recited “hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Daniel 7:13/Psalm 110:1) and was killed for having made the statement (Hegesippus as quoted by Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 2:23).
Was he also killed for blaspheming the name of יהוה ?

On yet another occasion certain Jews (probably pharisees) “made insurrection with one accord against Paul” (Acts. 18:12) a ringleader of the Nazarenes (Acts).
They said that he

Acts 18:13
13 “persuaded men to worship God contrary to the law." 

Paul was later released with the Roman authorities saying

Acts 18:15
15 if it be a question of words and names and of your law, look you to it; for I will be no judge of such matters." 

It seems then that Paul was accused of persuading men to worship God using the word/name of יהוה in contradiction to the ban on the name practiced by other sects of Judaism at the time.

Jeremiah 16:21
21 they shall know my name is יהוה 
Isaiah 52:6
my people shall know my name 

There is also great prophetic significance to the fact that the name has been preserved, in part through archaeological digs, as the scriptures prophecy:

Isaiah 29:4
4 And you shall be brought down.
You shall speak out of the ground.
Your speech will rise from down in the dust. 
Psalm 85:11 
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth.

We are living in wonderful times, as Yeshua tells us:

Matthew 23:39 
39 for I say to you, from now on you shall by no means see Me, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who is coming in the Name of יהוה! 


Unless stated otherwise, Scripture is taken from The Scriptures,
Copyright by Institute for Scripture Research.
Used by permission.