Are you afraid of truth—specifically biblical truth? Do you fear that if you do utilize a religious principle that truth must be the foundation of faith this may jeopardize what is most dear, sacred, personal, and even familial to you? Few today will admit that not only does the biblical message in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament exemplify a crystal clear declaration of absolute truth (Psalm 96:5; John 14:6–7), it also requires us to forsake all else for this truth. So, Abraham left his familial ties because of one truth, “וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ׃” (And Yahweh said to Abram: go from your land, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house unto the land that I will show you, Gen. 12:1). In the New Testament, the expectation is selfless pursuit of and commitment to the truth: Ὁ φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος· καὶ ὁ φιλῶν υἱὸν ἢ θυγατέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος. (He who loves father or mother over me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter over me is not worthy of me, Matt. 10:37). Also, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν (If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself . . . , Matt. 16:24). Otherwise, you continue to stand on a shaky foundation that will eventually collapse. Clearly, nothing is more valuable than the rewards of absolute biblical truth, unless you satisfy yourself with the absolute belief that there are no absolutes, which in both facets is absolutely wrong.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
The nagging fact about absolute truth is it necessarily implies one right, many wrong. Therefore, it must be humbly proved first, and we challenge you to do so. But, what exactly is meant by absolute biblical truth? Text-critical issues aside, the easiest way to begin answering this question is by noting that the biblical message itself is conveyed in a historical context, with a consistent stamp of authenticity being prophecy, which is both an inspired speaking and a declaration of what will occur before it actually happens (Isa 46:9–11). As history, it can be investigated and tested. What is described is a path, one path, ultimately leading to the Almighty himself in a kingdom, referred to in Dan. 7:14 by the Aramaic term מַלְכ֔וּ (malku), equivalent to the Hebrew מַלְכ֤וּת (malkut), and guidelines for getting there. Inspired knowledge of the Almighty (of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), this path (correct Israelite path), and its guidelines (commandments) retrieved uncensored from the biblical records constitutes biblical truth, which is absolute. Do not be afraid of it! Take the challenge and prove it! Be empowered! A natural outcome, then, of the establishment of this truth is continuity in the biblical records, even into the New Testament, which is always connected to the true path and goal, and deviations from this path break the continuity. For all intents and purposes, we can say the path began with Abram (Gen 15: 5, 18), although it actually began with Adam (Gen 3:15).
However, when you have defied the odds and finally committed yourself to the pursuit of this pure biblical truth you will quickly realize that this is frankly a difficult acquisition, but not unexpectedly so (Isa 10:20; Matt 7:14). What exactly makes it difficult? We can list five important obstacles:
- First of all, there is the problem that we have often been simply misinformed about specific aspects of the Bible by others both unintentionally and intentionally by some who could not accept what appeared truthful. This is not to be exaggerated nor is it to be underestimated.
- Also, there is an obvious linguistic barrier, as the texts have been handed down in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. This must be overcome if one intends to analyze the source texts themselves. But again, excellent biblical research tools (such as interlinear Bibles with each word linked to Strong’s definitions) overcome some of these challenges.
- Next, there is a quite wide historical gap between the ancient periods discussed in the texts and today, which necessitates us becoming familiar with the ancient geography, culture, customs, expressions, and so forth. The discipline of biblical archaeology has become a tremendous help in systematically unearthing much information about the ancient periods.
- There is also the fact that there are no original manuscripts of any one of the biblical texts, but our texts have all been copied and recopied many times. Our oldest Hebrew Bible texts trace from around 250 B.C.E. and the oldest New Testament text in Greek trace from about 150 C.E. (+/-), the manuscript 𝔓52 of John. Critical editions of the ancient texts (listing readings where different copies vary) help us understand the date a particular copy came from in comparison to when the text was originally written, establishing a gap.
- Our own preconceived ideas of what a text says before we view it are also an issue, which requires us not assuming we know what a text is saying before our careful investigation. This is in turn connected with the first point. A good habit is to read through the texts in a familiar language first, becoming acquainted with them, before studying them.
Today, you can, with some effort, overcome these obstacles. But, even if you do not completely, the most important thing is an awareness of what you know, what you do not, and what you need to understand before proceeding further at each step in your personal study. So an even greater obstacle than these five to the acquisition of biblical truth is fear. Do not fear the truth! The psychological process of purging error and acquiring truth will be difficult, but is expected to be. One may ask in dismay, “Could it really be that a few, a lot, or most of the core principles in the history of my religious beliefs are in error?” This incredulity often produces periods of doubt and skepticism, at the least, but also outright backlash at the most. However, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” This must be the expectation as you engage the biblical texts seeking truth, with the satisfying thought that you stand firmly on facts and the humility to acknowledge that you have been wrong. Truth defeats fear, so if there is still fear, there is still work to do. Most people fear disrupting the status quo, but if this is in error, there is no further question. Yet, the status quo predicament is precisely the inertia (resistance to change when needed) that was described as being challenged in first century Judaism in the New Testament, since the less-than-perfect (but now revered) embellishments upon the biblical texts were repeatedly being reprimanded as leading to sin (Matt 15:3, Mark 7:1).
ALWAYS TRUTH NEVER INERTIA (RESISTANCE TO CHANGE)
So, bold and fearless, but with a meek and gentle spirit, having overcome fear, you can now sincerely and carefully uncover the layers of biblical truth, proving and following that true path. But perhaps one more note of caution is necessary as you do begin to follow the path. Although knowing this true path is quite important, even more crucial is always remembering your purpose for the journey in the first place—truth—and never stop growing (Isa 28:9, 10; 1 Thess 5:21). We can remind you of Matt 5:13: Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ ⸂βληθὲν ἔξω⸃ καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων. (You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, with what will it be salted? It is useful for nothing but to be cast outside to be trampled upon by men.) So, know the path and the guidelines, but let not that problem of inertia set in. The overconfidence that you are on the path may blur intricate aspects of the guidelines, thereby producing dangerous deviations.
Again, inspired knowledge of the Almighty, this path, and its guidelines retrieved uncensored from the texts constitutes truth. What we will now do in these next three sections is introduce these three prime biblical teachings as clearly as possible, seeking to both highlight and define exactly what was expressed in the texts, thus establishing truth. The key is always consistency.
We will begin with the guidelines. Using the same method throughout, we will illustrate how you can easily arrive at what can only be truth. But, in seeking to uncover the layers of truth, you must begin by understanding the basic guidelines, historically, as presented in the Hebrew Bible, deviations from these, and also how they are understood in the New Testament. Certainly, this is one of the most misunderstood topics in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but is key to grasping the continuity in the biblical message. It is very important to be able to discern the sometimes fine line between truth and error, therefore you certainly need to begin with a very good understanding of these ancient guidelines, the very choice of life and death (Deut 30:15–19). The guidelines are the will of the Almighty expressed in the commandments given or the righteous life outlined in the biblical texts. We will identify a clear line, then, using two examples (i.e. physical cleansing and feast days), illustrate how traditions can lead to both adding to and taking away from this line.
The Law Through History—Magnified or Diminished?
Between Exo 20:1 and Deut 34:12 are core commandments for Israel, personally and nationally. This is the bulk of what really comprises Torah (תֹּורָה), Law. These regulations may be broadly categorized by: 1) the actual personal or national moral laws for what is and what is not acceptable (Sabbath, feast days, clean foods, etc.; Lev 23 and 11); 2) the penal laws or specific punishments for the violations of these first (fines, restitutions, death penalty; Exo 22, Lev 20); and 3) the sacrificial laws containing among other types of sacrifices the important expiatory sacrifices which were offered to atone for or pardon one who is guilty of some unintentional transgression (Lev 1:1–7:38, Num 15:1–31, Deu 12:11, etc.). Now, Deut 4:2 says:לֹא תֹסִפוּ עַל־הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם וְלֹא תִגְרְעוּ מִמֶּנּוּ לִשְׁמֹר אֶת־מִצְוֹת יהוה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם. (You shall not add to the word that I command you and you shall not remove from it, so as to keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim that I command you.) But, what is understood by “commandments” here is further made clear from 1 Sam 15:22–23 and especially by Jeremiah who stood before the Temple chiding the Temple worshippers in the name of Yahweh in Jer 7:22: כִּי לֹא־דִבַּרְתִּי אֶת־אֲבֹותֵיכֶם וְלֹא צִוִּיתִים בְּיֹום הֹוצִיא אֹותָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם עַל־דִּבְרֵי עֹולָה וָזָבַח כִּי אִמ־אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה צִוִּיתִי אֹותָם לֵאמֹר שִׁמְעוּ בְקֹולִי. (For I did not speak with your fathers and I did not command them in the day I brought them out from the land of Egypt concerning matters of burnt offering and sacrifice, but this thing I commanded them saying Listen to my voice.)
- Now, in Judaism today there is the well-known tradition of netillat yadaim (washing or raising [natal—lift, carry] of the hands), which can be found discussed often in the Mishna and Talmud, yet the exact tradition was noticed in New Testament. Matt 15:1–9 and Mark 7:1–13 describe the tradition as practiced in that time. Mark specifically says: οἱ γὰρ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἐὰν μὴ πυγμῇ νίψωνται τὰς χεῖρας οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν, κρατοῦντες τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων. (Because the Pharisees and all the Jews except to the fist they wash hands they do not eat, holding the traditions of the elders.) Please note the phrase πυγμῇ (to the fist). In the Mishna, one of the earliest strata of later Jewish writings (compiled c. 220 C.E.), Tractate M. Yadaim 2.3 reads: הידיים מיטמאות ומיטהרות, עד הפרק. כיצד: נטל את הראשונים עד הפרק, והשניים חוץ לפרק, וחזרו ליד–טהורה; נטל את הראשונים ואת השניים חוץ לפרק, וחזרו ליד–טמאה.. (The hands are defiled and cleansed up to the wrist [lit. joint]. How is this? One pours the first pouring of water up to the wrist but the second beyond the wrist and they flow back to the hand, it is pure. One pours the first pouring of water and the second pouring beyond the wrist, and they flow back to the hand, it is defiled). This discussion continues to specify how far up the hand and which pouring either fulfills or invalidates the halakah (law, rule, custom, practice). Yet, Mark’s term “πυγμῇ” appears more precisely to reflect a part of the authoritative tradition, or halakah. The closest to this tradition in the Hebrew Bible is from Lev 15:11 (Exo 30:18, priests in temple or at the altar; Deut 21:6, not in cleansing), which reads: וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִגַּע־בּוֹ הַזָּב וְיָדָיו לֹא־שָׁטַף בַּמָּיִם וְכִבֶּס בְּגָדָיו וְרָחַץ בַּמַּיִם וְטָמֵא עַד־הָעָרֶב. (And whomever he that has the issue touches without washing his hands with water shall wash his garments, and bath in water, and be unclean until the evening.) This is obviously different from netillat yadaim, so it clearly seems entirely new. Mark 7:6–7 continues to specify the error, Ὁ δὲ ˕ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ˕· καλῶς ἐπροφήτευσεν Ἠσαΐας περὶ ὑμῶν τῶν ὑποκριτῶν, ὡς γέγραπται ὅτι ̾οὗτος ὁ λαὸς ̾ τοῖς χείλεσίν με ˹τιμᾷ, ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ· μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με, διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ˕ ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων. (And he said to them Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you hypocrites, as it is written, This people with their lips honor me, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me, teaching teachings that are precepts of men.) The rabbinic traditions that were extrapolations from biblical texts were apparently more scrupulously observed than the Torah (Law) itself. Yet, M. Sanhedrin 11.3 expressly admits this: חומר בדברי סופרים מדברי תורה: האומר אין תפילין, לעבור דברי תורה–פטור; חמש טוטפות, להוסיף על דברי סופרים–חייב. (There is more importance in the words of the scribes than the words of Torah [Law]: One who says there are no tefillin so as to transgress the words of Torah is exempt; but, he who says there are five totaphoth so as to add to the words of the scribes is guilty.) This clearly contradicts Deut 4:2 (and confirms Isa 29:13, quoted in Mark 7), which specifically says do not add to the law, but keep the commandments.
- The Jewish background of the New Testament is undeniable, and most don’t even try to deny it, with scholars describing the earliest movement (that which is described in the New Testament) by the phrase “Jewish-Christianity”; however, as is clear from point 1) above, this Jewish background was not based on any halakah or traditional Judaism, but apparently only on the Torah (Mosaic Law) itself. But how extensively so? Deut 16:16 says: שָׁלֹושׁ פְּעָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה יֵרָאֶה כָל־זְכוּרְךָ אֶת־פְּנֵי יהוה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בַּמָּקֹום אֲשֶׁר יִבְחָר בְּחַג הַמַּצֹּות וּבְחַג הַשָּׁבֻעֹות וּבְחַג הַסֻּכֹּות וְלֹא יֵרָאֶה אֶת־פְּנֵי יהוה רֵיקָם. (Three times in the year shall every male be present before Yahweh your Elohim in the place that he will choose: in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of Shavuoth [Pentecost, Weeks], and in the feast of Sukkoth [Tabernacles]; and let him not be present before Yahweh empty.) Now, Paul speaking to the Colossians at about 62 C.E. says in Col 2:8, 13–14, 16: Βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χ͞Ν . . . καὶ ὑμᾶς νεκροὺς ὄντας ἐν τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ˕ τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν, συνεζωοποίησεν ˹ὑμᾶς σὺν αὐτῷ, χαρισάμενος ˹͘ ἡμῖν πάντα τὰ παραπτώματα. ἐξαλείψας τὸ καθ’ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν, καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ. . . . Μὴ οὖν τις ὑμᾶς κρινέτω ἐν βρώσει καὶ ἐν πόσει ἢ ἐν μέρει ἑορτῆς ἢ νεομηνίας ἢ σαββάτων, ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ Χ͞Υ. (Watch out lest anyone of you will be led away through philosophy and vain deceit according to the traditions of men, according to the principles of the world, and not according to Messiah . . . and you being dead in transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he revived you together with him, having graciously pardoned us all transgressions; having erased what was against us, the certificate of debt through laws which opposed us, and he has taken it from the middle, nailing it to the post. . . . Therefore, let not anyone judge you in meat and in drink, or in manner of a feast, or a new moon, or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of impending things, but the body of the Messiah.) Was Paul saying do not let anyone tell you to keep the feasts in verse 16? Let us investigate by considering other instances where the feasts are mentioned. In 1 Cor 5:7–8 Paul, writing a few years earlier than in Colossians (c. 57 C.E.), instructs the Corinthians to actually keep a feast, specifically Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, while emphasizing beforehand: καὶ γὰρ τὸ πάσχα ἡμῶν ἐτύθη Χ͞C· (. . . because also our Passover has been sacrificed, Messiah). These need clarification. The last point Paul made in vs. 7 is directly associated with the theme of the Messiah being a sacrificial lamb and a sin-offering, as seen in Isa 53:7–8, 10. Isa 53:7 begins: נִגַּשׂ וְהוּא נַעֲנֶה וְלֹא יִפְתַּח־פִּיו כַּשֶּׂה לַטֶּבַח יוּבָל . . . (He was oppressed and he was afflicted and he did not open his mouth, as a lamb that is led to the slaughter . . . .), and vs. 10 says: . . . אִמ־תָּשִׂים אָשָׁם נַפְשֹׁו (. . . when you shall set his soul as a sin-offering). See also Heb 10:1–18. This point is important, as we have already seen how Jer 7:22 (et al) distinguishes sacrifices from the moral law or commandments. The Passover observance in Egypt (Exo 12:6) initially comprised killing an unblemished, year old, male sheep or goat at the beginning of the 14th day of Abib at evening, placing its blood on the door posts of the Israelites’ houses, and then eating it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. So, Paul then instructed in vs. 8: ὥστε ἑορτάζωμεν μὴ ἐν ζύμῃ παλαιᾷ ˹μηδὲ ἐν ζύμῃ κακίας καὶ ˹͘ πονηρίας, ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀζύμοις εἰλικρινείας καὶ ἀληθείας. (Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.) The Corinthians did keep the same observance at the same time as in the Torah (Abib 14), but without the sacrificial lamb of the law, which animal sacrifice is removed with the death of Messiah, as seen from Hebrew 9:11–10:18. Paul later mentions the cup with the blood of the vine and the bread of the body from the last supper in 1 Cor 10:16 and 11:23–24 (see Luke 22:17–19). As for “Easter” infamously found in the KJV in Acts 12:4, this term is an ideological introduction from paganism since the Greek text really reads: μετὰ τὸ πάσχα which is after the Passover. The term is of Saxon origin, being a pagan celebration observed about the same time as Passover. But, could the other commanded feast days also have remained intact with the death of Messiah or is this simply just one feast that maintained significance from the Torah? We can begin again with Paul. Besides regularly keeping the seventh-day Sabbath (the first feast, Lev 23:2–3) and apparently the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as we find in Acts 16:13, 17:2 and 20:6 (also 18:21, if the odd fifth century Codex Bezae [D] preserves a genuine reading), he also apparently diligently kept the second feast listed in Deut 16:16, the Feast of Shavuoth or Pentecost, where Acts 20:16 reads: κεκρίκει γὰρ ὁ Παῦλος παραπλεῦσαι τὴν Ἔφεσον, ὅπως μὴ γένηται αὐτῷ χρονοτριβῆσαι ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ, ἔσπευδεν γὰρ εἰ δυνατὸν εἴη αὐτῷ τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς γενέσθαι εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. (Because Paul had been thinking to sail past Ephesus, that he should not be prolonged in Asia, because he was hastening if perhaps he should be able by the day of Pentecost to be in Jerusalem.) Even in Gal 4:10, when he wrote: ἡμέρας ˹παρατηρεῖσθε καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἐνιαυτούς (days you observe and months and seasons and years), he is not referring to the biblical feasts, but to that of pagan origin because of the previous verse 8. But Paul is not the only feast-keeping Apostle. Already in Acts 2:1 we find the remaining apostles gathered together for this same feast when the Holy Spirit fell upon them after the death of Messiah: Καὶ ʿἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς ἦσαν ˹πάντες ˹͘ ὁμοῦ ʾ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. (And when the Pentecost day had arrived they were all together in it.) It seems the precedence had already been set by the Messiah himself who kept the feasts, including also the last feast of Sukkoth (tabernacles) in John 7:2, 37. In light of these examples for just one aspect of the Torah (i.e. the feasts) we can only but reread Matt 5:17–18 and then understand that the feast days were not harmed at all before and clearly even after the death of the Messiah, which makes a sound understanding of writings such as Galatians and Romans (that use the word νόμος [law] broadly) yet the more critical in clearly proving and standing on truth. We saw above that laws were: 1) moral, 2) penal, and 3) sacrificial, this last already shown criticized in Jer 7:22 as not commanded when they came from Egypt, and with which the blood of the covenant of circumcision appeared lumped together by Paul (Gal 5:3). An incomplete study of these would only produce inconsistencies between Paul and the other apostles (e.g. Jacob [James] 2:24), but which inconsistency did not exist (Gal 2:9; 2 Pet 3:16). But now, is there continuity between the New Testament assembly and us today? Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας· οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι. ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν· ἕως ἂν παρέλθῃ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ, ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου ˕, ἕως °ἂν πάντα γένηται. ˕ (Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy but to fulfill. Because truly I say to you: until heaven and earth should pass away one yoth or one tittle shall not pass away from the law, until all is accomplished, Matt 5:17–18.)
These may be multiplied, but the key is consistency and not assuming what the text is saying before checking the related texts and their background that all help to greatly clarify the text in question. You can choose another topic from the Torah and see similar results (e.g. Mishnaic milk/meat separation; NT weekly rest and worship—Shabbath or Sunday?). But, while many may still seek to justify the status quo, you must understand and accept that the status quo often fails to withstand the careful examination of truth. Do you desire to follow the true path?
Of course, the will of the Almighty is embedded in a historical account that also describes one specific path tied to a promise, transcending the physical. Again, in Gen 12:1–4 we read: וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגֹוי גָּדֹול וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו יהו֔ה וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתֹּו לֹוט וְאַבְרָם בֶּנ־חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה בְּצֵאתֹו מֵחָרָן. (And Yahweh said to Abram: go from your land, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house unto the land that I will show you; and I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and I will magnify your name and it will be a blessing; and those who bless you I will bless, but those who make light of you I will curse; and all the families of the land will be blessed in you. And Abram went as what Yahweh spoke to him and Lot went with him, and Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed Haran.) Although these instructions and consequent action may be said to be the beginning of the path, there was still no exact goal defined at the onset of this journey. By all means Abram stepped out in faith (Heb 11:8). However, what we find next are both two clearly defined goals and one (or two?) confirmation by the Almighty that he will definitely receive them. First of all, we read in Gen 15:5: וַיֹּוצֵא אֹתֹו הַחוּצָה וַיֹּאמֶר הַבֶּט־נָא הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וּסְפֹר הַכֹּוכָבִים אִמ־תּוּכַל לִסְפֹּר אֹתָם וַיֹּאמֶר לֹו כֹּה יִהְיֶה זַרְעֶךָ. (And he brought him outside and he said Look now towards heaven and number the stars if you are able to number them; and he said to him so will your seed be.) This first promise (believed without confirmation) is then followed with the second promise, which now contains a confirmation in vs. 18: בַּיֹּום הַהוּא כָּרַת יהוה אֶת־אַבְרָם בְּרִית לֵאמֹר לְזַרְעֲךָ נָתַתִּי אֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת מִנְּהַר מִצְרַיִם עַד־הַנָּהָר הַגָּדֹל נְהַר־פְּרָת. (In that day Yahweh made with Abram a covenant saying To your seed I have given this land from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the Euphrates.) However, the first promise of a great seed did not remain without an official confirmation but appears connected with the next covenant that we later find in Gen 17, that of circumcision, since we read in Gen 17:1–2: וַיְהִי אַבְרָם בֶּנ־תִּשְׁעִים שָׁנָה וְתֵשַׁע שָׁנִים וַיֵּרָא יהוה אֶל־אַבְרָם וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֲנִי־אֵל שַׁדַּי הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי וֶהְיֵה תָמִים וְאֶתְּנָה בְרִיתִי בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ וְאַרְבֶּה אֹותְךָ בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד (And it was when Abram was ninety-nine years old that Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him I am El Shaddai; walk before me and be perfect. And I will set my covenant between me and you and I will multiply you exceedingly.)
Thus, the true path is tied firmly to Abraham and his seed, and to their confirmed promise—the land (Gen 15:18). Yet, although not immediately evident, through an examination of the historical development of the chosen people it becomes clear that both promises of the great seed and the land for an inheritance transcended a mere physical understanding of them, so that John did speak well-informed when he said: καὶ μὴ δόξητε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς· πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ. λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θ͞C ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ. (And do not think to say within yourselves: We have Abraham for a father. Because I say to you that Elohim is able from these stones to raise children to Abraham, Matt 3:9.)
Seed of Abraham
The path is connected to the seed. Which? First of all, the selection of the seed of Abraham was always careful and almost never predictable, as we find in Gen 17:19: וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֲבָל שָׂרָה אִשְׁתְּךָ יֹלֶדֶת לְךָ בֵּן וְקָרָאתָ אֶת־שְׁמֹו יִצְחָק וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת־בְּרִיתִי אִתֹּו לִבְרִית עֹולָם לְזַרְעֹו אַחֲרָיו. (And Elohim said Rather, Sarah your wife will bear for you a son and you shall call his name Isaac and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and to his seed after him.) Then, we learn that neither was the selection only genetic, because although Ishmael was indeed born of Hagar (an Egyptian handmaid), a similar selection was also made of Jacob over Esau, twins, both children of Rebecca (Gen 25:23). See Mal 1:2–3. The Almighty made the selection. Now, we remember from Gen 12:3 what was said of the nations and repeated to Abraham in Gen 22:18: וְהִתְבָּרֲכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גֹּויֵי הָאָרֶץ עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלִי. (And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because that you listened to my voice.) How will they be so blessed? The answer rests on somewhat of a caveat, the guidelines, but we will return to this in the following section. For now, we can consider that although the children of Jacob did indeed become כְּכֹוכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לָרֹב (. . . as the stars of heaven for multitude, Deut 1:10), Moses could still admonish: הֵם קִנְאוּנִי בְלֹא־אֵל כִּעֲסוּנִי בְּהַבְלֵיהֶם וַאֲנִי אַקְנִיאֵם בְּלֹא־עָם בְּגֹוי נָבָל אַכְעִיסֵם (They made me jealous with what is not an El; they angered me with their vanities. I will make them jealous with what are not a people; with a foolish nation, I will anger them, Deut 32:21.) And, Isaiah the prophet too could declare in Isa 56:6–8: וּבְנֵי הַנֵּכָר הַנִּלְוִים עַל־יהוה לְשָׁרְתֹו וּלְאַהֲבָה אֶת־שֵׁם יהוה לִהְיֹות לֹו לַעֲבָדִים כָּל־שֹׁמֵר שַׁבָּת מֵחַלְּלֹו וּמַחֲזִיקִים בִּבְרִיתִי וַהֲבִיאֹותִים אֶל־הַר קָדְשִׁי וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי עֹולֹתֵיהֶם וְזִבְחֵיהֶם לְרָצֹון עַל־מִזְבְּחִי כִּי בֵיתִי בֵּית־תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל־הָעַמִּים נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יהוה מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עֹוד אֲקַבֵּץ עָלָיו לְנִקְבָּצָיו (As for the children of strangers that are joined to Yahweh to minister to him and to love the name of Yahweh to be his servants, all that keep the Sabbath from profaning it and who cling to my covenant, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them rejoice in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted upon my altar, because my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Says Adonai Yahweh who gathers the outcasts of Israel: I will even gather above them to those who are gathered of them.) Amos the prophet could also say: בַּיֹּום הַהוּא אָקִים אֶת־סֻכַּת דָּוִיד הַנֹּפֶלֶת וְגָדַרְתִּי אֶת־פִּרְצֵיהֶן וַהֲרִסֹתָיו אָקִים וּבְנִיתִיהָ כִּימֵי עֹולָם לְמַעַן יִירְשׁוּ אֶת־שְׁאֵרִית אֱדֹום וְכָל־הַגֹּויִם אֲשֶׁר־נִקְרָא שְׁמִי עֲלֵיהֶם נְאֻמ־יהוה עֹשֶׂה זֹּאת. (In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and I will repair its breaches; its ruins I will raise up and I will build it as in the days of old, in order that they should possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations upon whom my name is called says Yahweh that does this, Amos 9:11–12.) Then, in Mal 1:11 Malachi informs us: כִּי מִמִּזְרַח־שֶׁמֶשׁ וְעַד־מְבֹואֹו גָּדֹול שְׁמִי בַּגֹּויִם וּבְכָל־מָקֹום מֻקְטָר מֻגָּשׁ לִשְׁמִי וּמִנְחָה טְהֹורָה כִּי־גָדֹול שְׁמִי בַּגֹּויִם אָמַר יהוה צְבָאֹות. (For from the rising of the sun and until its going down great shall be my name in the nations and in every place where incense is brought near to be offered up to my name and a pure offering, because great shall be my name in the nations says Yahweh of hosts.)
The Land for an Inheritance—with a caveat?
At the end of the path is a promise. A promise? As indicated in the previous section, the apparent inclusion within the seed from outside Israel, although implied from Gen 12:3, is directly associated with the caveat to receiving the promised inheritance: violations of the guidelines given to the seed of Abraham may exclude that inheritance, although Paul rightly declares: εἰ γὰρ ˹ἐκ νόμου ἡ κληρονομία, οὐκέτι ἐξ ἐπαγγελίας· τῷ δὲ Ἀβραὰμ δι’ ἐπαγγελίας κεχάρισται ὁ Θ͞C. (Because if from law is the inheritance, it is no longer from promise; but Elohim has graciously bestowed it to Abraham through promise, Gal 3:18.) Abraham’s seed was promised the inheritance because of Abraham’s faith (Gen 15:6, 22:16–18) and faithfulness (Gen 26:5), but this could have always been curtailed as a result of unacceptable actions as with Ishmael (Gen 21:9) and even Simeon and Levi (Gen 49:7). When the new nation was then formed and entered into a covenant agreement after leaving Egypt, it was with the hope of possessing this land as the promised inheritance (Deut 1:21), but the caveat or necessary requirement was explicitly expressed in this new covenant, as seen in Deut 28:63: וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר־שָׂשׂ יהוה עֲלֵיכֶם לְהֵיטִיב אֶתְכֶם וּלְהַרְבֹּות אֶתְכֶם כֵּן יָשִׂישׂ יהוה עֲלֵיכֶם לְהַאֲבִיד אֶתְכֶם וּלְהַשְׁמִיד אֶתְכֶם וְנִסַּחְתֶּם מֵעַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּה בָא־שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ (And it will be as Yahweh delighted over you to do you good and to increase you, so Yahweh will have a desire against you to make you perish and to destroy you, and you shall be plucked up from upon the land that you enter there to inherit it.) See also Ezek 33:24–29. Therefore, a righteous life is tied to the inheritance, but Paul is by no means discredited. In Gal 3:18, Paul is actually referencing the expiatory or reconciliatory aspect in the law when making that statement, since he immediately follows with: Τί οὖν ὁ νόμοσ; τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη, ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ τὸ σπέρμα ᾧ ἐπήγγελται, διαταγεὶς δι’ ἀγγέλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου. (What, therefore, is the law? It was added because of transgressions until the seed should come to whom it had been promised, ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator, Gal 3:19.) The term παραβάσεων (transgressions) makes it necessary that there existed a prior moral code (Gen 26:5; see also 1 John 3:4) that was a subset of the Sinai covenant, to which were added further laws, such as the procedures for atonement through the blood of sacrificial offerings whenever violations occurred. But, these sacrifices could still not atone for cardinal transgressions (e.g. Lev 18 and 20) that required the death penalty, so those committing these would have still been “cut off” (Num 15:30–31). A more powerful blood atonement appeared necessary if perhaps there was a sincere request for justification from the grave sin. However, we will revisit this below. We can simply note that: יַצְדִּיק צַדִּיק עַבְדִּי לָרַבִּים וַעֲוֹנֹתָם הוּא יִסְבֹּל . . . . (. . . my righteous servant will justify many and their iniquities he will bear, Isa 53:11.) The seed can become righteous.
So, Israel will certainly inherit the land, but the promise to the righteous seed is greater. Discussing Zion’s (Jerusalem’s) impending glory in Isa 60:21, Isaiah described: וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים לְעֹולָם יִירְשׁוּ אָרֶץ נֵצֶר מַטָּעֹו מַעֲשֵׂה יָדַי לְהִתְפָּאֵר (And your [Zion’s] people, all of them, will be righteous; they will inherit the earth forever, the branch that he [I] plants, the work of my hands, to be glorified.) Also, in Psa 37:29 we find: צַדִּיקִים יִירְשׁוּ־אָרֶץ וְיִשְׁכְּנוּ לָעַד עָלֶיהָ. (The righteous will inherit the earth and they will reside forever upon it.) See Matt 5:5. But that אָרֶץ (ʾāretz, earth) does not simply imply land seems clear from Psa 2:6–8, where it is said of the King in Zion in verse 8: שְׁאַל מִמֶּנִּי וְאֶתְּנָה גֹויִם נַחֲלָתֶךָ וַאֲחֻזָּתְךָ אַפְסֵי־אָרֶץ. (Request from me and I will give nations as your inheritance and your possession will be the ends of the earth.) This in turn aligns with Psa 82:8: קוּמָה אֱלֹהִים שָׁפְטָה הָאָרֶץ כִּי־אַתָּה תִנְחַל בְּכָל־הַגֹּויִם. (Rise up, Elohim, judge the earth, for you will inherit in all nations.) Therefore, along with the inheritance comes righteous dominion of all, which was already implicitly declared in Gen 22:17. See also Gen 27:29.
Reconciliation—Who can inherit?
We can now revisit Paul’s important point, as we have now understood that it is actually an earth dominion that is given to the seed of Abraham—but only the righteous seed. Please reread Gal 3:18–19. Now, in Ps 14:3 we do find the explicit statement that: הַכֹּל סָר יַחְדָּו נֶאֱלָחוּ אֵין עֹשֵׂה־טֹוב אֵין גַּמ־אֶחָד. (All have turned away; altogether they have become corrupt. There are none that do good; there is not even one.) Additionally, we just noted that the sacrificial system in the law could not save the life of one who committed a crime worthy of the death penalty. In this case unless there is Almighty intervention, there is no atonement from the grave sin. So, who can inherit that great promise?
Before answering, we must briefly understand sacrificial atonement. Firstly, atonement occurred through the shedding of the blood of a victim. Lev 17:11 actually states specifically the connection between blood and atonement: כִּי נֶפֶשׁ הַבָּשָׂר בַּדָּם הִוא וַאֲנִי נְתַתִּיו לָכֶם עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לְכַפֵּר עַל־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם כִּי־הַדָּם הוּא בַּנֶּפֶשׁ יְכַפֵּר (For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for yourselves; for it is the blood with the life that makes atonement.) However, as we just noted, the sin- and guilt-offerings were only for sins committed in error or unintentionally, בִשְׁגָגָה (bišgāgāh) (Lev 4:2–6:7; Num 15:27). These could not be relied upon for cardinal offenses, where those sinners were to be cut off (Num 15:30). They only reconciled the accidental sinner with the Almighty, whose will he had violated. But, remember what we quoted above from Jeremiah that these sacrifices were also said to be not “commanded when they were brought out from Egypt” (Jer 7:22). They were, therefore, somewhat of a tutor until a full means of atonement should arrive (Gal 3:24), which would then be able to preserve even the life of those worthy of death and reconcile them too with the Almighty. These were in type held in ward until either their sentence was carried out, or perhaps graciously pardoned by that full means of atonement, Gal 3:23. But, what (who?) is this means of atonement?
The answer is Mashiaḥ or the Messiah, who also alone can technically inherit the promise because he is indeed without blemish, as we find in Isaiah: עַל לֹא־חָמָס עָשָׂה וְלֹא מִרְמָה בְּפִיו . . . . (. . . although no violence he committed and no deceit was in his mouth, Isa 53:9.) Just as the death of the high priest provided freedom (Num 35:25) for one guilty of a cardinal offense—murder (although still unintentional), so justification can indeed come through him of whom it was said: יַצְדִּיק צַדִּיק עַבְדִּי לָרַבִּים וַעֲוֹנֹתָם הוּא יִסְבֹּל . . . (. . . my righteous servant will justify many and their iniquities he will bear, Isa 53:11), since: . . . תָּשִׂים אָשָׁם נַפְשֹׁו (. . . you shall set his soul as a sin-offering). This then is that full means of atonement. Also, this is precisely what Paul explained in Gal 3:15–29.
First, he said the inheritance is promised to Abraham and his seed, Gal 3:16. Then, he indicated the seed of Abraham (singular) is Mashiaḥ (Messiah), Gal 3:16. Since the promise was first (Gen 15:18), the inadequacy of the sacrificial system cannot disallow any from inheriting who repented of their sin, Gal 3:17. So, he explained the inheritance is through promise not through this Law (or incomplete justification from any sin through the blood of animals), Gal 3:18. Because all have at some point sinned—intentionally (as Scripture says, Psa 14:3)—and the Law had no system to atone for these sins, it pointed to the greater sacrificial atonement of Messiah through faith in his blood, which certainly can atone for all sin and even preserve the life of one condemned by Law to death, Gal 3:21–22. This justification then produces a righteous seed of Abraham worthy of the inheritance, Gal 3:29.
So a righteous people will still inherit with the King in his kingdom. The Almighty can justify the seed that sinned, but in so doing the door for others is opened as well. Now again, how can any person become united under Abraham’s covenant and partake in this inheritance? The answer again is through a pardon and Mashiaḥ (Messiah), as seen in Isa 42:1–4: הֵן עַבְדִּי אֶתְמָךְ־בֹּו בְּחִירִי רָצְתָה נַפְשִׁי נָתַתִּי רוּחִי עָלָיו מִשְׁפָּט לַגֹּויִם יֹוצִיא לֹא יִצְעַק וְלֹא יִשָּׂא וְלֹא־יַשְׁמִיעַ בַּחוּץ קֹולֹו קָנֶה רָצוּץ לֹא יִשְׁבֹּור וּפִשְׁתָּה כֵהָה לֹא יְכַבֶּנָּה לֶאֱמֶת יֹוצִיא מִשְׁפָּט לֹא יִכְהֶה וְלֹא יָרוּץ עַד־יָשִׂים בָּאָרֶץ מִשְׁפָּט וּלְתֹורָתֹו אִיִּים יְיַחֵילוּ. (Behold my servant whom I support, my chosen in whom my soul delighted, I have given my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out and be loud, nor will he cause his voice to be heard outside. A crushed reed he will not break and a flickering wick he will not quench; he will bring forth justice for truth. He will not become weak and he will not be crushed until he places justice in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his Law.)
Thus, to follow this true path is to set out on the journey that Abraham made to the Promised Land through faith and to become united under the covenant made with him and his righteous seed, using the guidelines to keep the focus on that goal. So, the guidelines are the personality, and the path is the purpose of your personal journey in the first place, with the goal the inheritance in the kingdom.
Have you known the Almighty? Clearly, you have already had your initial encounter with the Almighty of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob himself who is described as creator of all (Isa 42:5; Eph 3:9), but what you may not have had is a close encounter with his name, although to know him is to know his name, as says Psa 79:6: שְׁפֹךְ חֲמָתְךָ אֶל־הַגֹּויִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדָעוּךָ וְעַל מַמְלָכֹות אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ לֹא קָרָאוּ. (Pour out your wrath on the nations that have not known you and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your name.) Yet, this request is not an exaggeration of the importance held by the name within the biblical texts. It clearly consists of a specific intention to distinguish the Almighty of Israel from those of the polytheistic nations around, who both spoke closely related (Phoenician, Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, and Aramaic) and more distant languages (Egyptian/Demotic), with the powerful declaration that only one is truly Almighty, Psa 96:5. That importance then carries with it an implicit personal closeness or expected affiliation with caller and called, but which affiliation may see unexpected deviations by caller. But, what is this name?
Ineffability after Revelation
The biblical texts are our source of truth, but now the nature of our study requires us going one step further and using the archaeological and linguistic data from the very time when these texts were originally written to clearly illuminate the truth of this important name. This is because of an amazing known phenomenon of the removal of the vocalization of the original name in Judaism as the biblical manuscripts were communicated in languages other than Hebrew beginning before 200 B.C.E. Yet, alas even in Hebrew also in the later period this phenomenon clearly manifested itself, as seen popularly in our texts preserved by the Masoretic Hebrew scholars. We can begin in Exodus. An important account of the name is found in Exo 3:13–15: וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִים הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָא אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתִּי לָהֶם אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹותֵיכֶם שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם וְאָמְרוּ־ לִי מַה־שְּׁמֹו מָה אֹמַר אֲלֵהֶם וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל־מֹשֶׁה אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה וַיֹּאמֶר כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶהְיֶה שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם וַיֹּאמֶר עֹוד אֱלֹהִים אֶל־מֹשֶׁה כֹּה־תֹאמַר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵיכֶם אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם זֶה־שְּׁמִי לְעֹלָם וְזֶה זִכְרִי לְדֹר דֹּר. (And Moses said to Elohim: Behold I come to the children of Israel and I will say to them The Elohim of your fathers sent me to you and they will say to me, What is his name? What will I say to them? And Elohim said to Moses I will be [ʿehyeh] what I will be [ʿehyeh], and he said thus you shall say to the children of Israel: I will be [ʿehyeh] sent me to you. And Elohim said further to Moses thus you shall say to the children of Israel YAHWEH the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob sent me to you. This is my name forever and this is my memorial for generation to generation.) In our text above (which is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia [BHS]), you can note that we have left out the traditional vowel points one finds added to the consonants יהוה (YHWH), which are יְהוָה. These are not the original vowels of this name but actually belong to the important descriptive title אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), which was substituted in the reading of the texts wherever יהוה was found. This phenomenon has been called ineffability, et al, meaning the name was considered too sacred and, therefore, ineffable and is derived from an interpretation of Exo 20:7 and Lev 24:16. But, this tradition in the current form only developed at the beginning of the Hellenistic period at about the fourth century B.C.E. Yet, the recovery of the form Yahweh must be considered one of the most important scholarly accomplishments of the modern era, but is inseparable from ancient Hebrew onomastic studies (particularly personal names with the abbreviated form of Yahweh). In the text above אֶהְיֶה (ʿehyeh) is a 1st person, masculine, singular simple imperfect verbal form, expressing I will be or I am. The correct and original vocalization of יהוה, then, if we were to use the late system of vowel pointing would be יַהְוֶה (yahweh), a similar verbal form, but conjugated as 3rd, masculine, singular causative imperfect form of הוה > היה, expressing he will cause to be or he will create. This uncensored form is arrived at from this same verbal form in other words in the biblical text, such as יַעֲשֶׂה and יַחֲזִיק from Isa 56:2, this last exhibiting the typical later vowel lengthening in the second syllable, but is also uncovered from a historical/linguistic study of the abbreviated form compounded in personal names, which too, uncensored, reveals his salvation. However, before the tradition the use of the name continued within Israel in common speech, although this fact did not take away from that importance of this name that was observed outside the biblical texts, such as in the Arad ostraca, et al, just as especially seen within the texts themselves.
Calling upon the Name—in TRUTH
Premier in considering the specific emphasis of this name in the biblical texts is the solemn importance of not misusing it, explicitly shown from the inclusion in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), where Exo 20:7 reads: לֹא תִשָּׂא אֶת־שֵׁמ־יהוה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַשָּׁוא כִּי לֹא יְנַקֶּה יהוה אֵת אֲשֶׁר־יִשָּׂא אֶת־שְׁמֹו לַשָּׁוְא. (You shall not bear the name of Yahweh your Elohim in a worthless manner, for Yahweh will not acquit whoever bears his name in a worthless manner.) If Yahweh will not acquit for this action, does that make it a cardinal offense? An event recorded in Lev 24:10–16 may assist in answering this, where vs 10 reads: וַיִּקֹּב בֶּנ־הָאִשָּׁה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית אֶת־הַשֵּׁם וַיְקַלֵּל וַיָּבִיאוּ אֹתֹו אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְשֵׁם אִמֹּו שְׁלֹמִית בַּת־דִּבְרִי לְמַטֵּה־דָן. (And the son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the name and made light; and they brought him to Moses and the name of his mother was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan.) This action of trivializing of the name was then addressed in verses 14–16, with the death penalty being handed down upon the violator, Lev 24:16. It was indeed a grave offense. Yet, in contrast, throughout the biblical texts there is the repeated emphasis placed on calling upon this name, encountered in the admonition to utilize and uplift this name alone, as in Psa 148:13: יְהַלְלוּ אֶת־שֵׁם יהוה כִּי־נִשְׂגָּב שְׁמֹו לְבַדֹּו הֹודֹו עַל־אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם. (Let them praise the name of Yahweh, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is upon earth and heaven.) Similar sentiments is expressed in victory from the enemy (Exo 15:2–3; Psa 20:7), in awe of the creative power (Psa 8:1), in trouble and sorrows (Psa 116:3–4), and many others. But, the admonition was even accompanied by the demand to not call upon the name of false mighty ones, as in Exo 23:13: וּבְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־אָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם תִּשָּׁמֵרוּ וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ לֹא יִשָּׁמַע עַל־פִּיךָ (And in all that I have said to you, you shall observe and the name of other elohim you shall not mention; let it not be heard upon your mouth), so that the seed of Abraham exclusively worships only the true Almighty, Isa 42:8: אֲנִי יהוה הוּא שְׁמִי וּכְבֹודִי לְאַחֵר לֹא־אֶתֵּן וּתְהִלָּתִי לַפְּסִילִים. (I am Yahweh; that is my name; and my glory I will not give to another, neither my praise to carved images.) Jeremiah the prophet himself specifically highlights this important distinction in Jer 23:27: הַחֹשְׁבִים לְהַשְׁכִּיחַ אֶת־עַמִּי שְׁמִי בַּחֲלֹומֹתָם אֲשֶׁר יְסַפְּרוּ אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁכְחוּ אֲבֹותָם אֶת־שְׁמִי בַּבָּעַל. (That plot to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams that they recount a man to his neighbor, just as their fathers forgot my name for the Baal.) But alas, you are that closer to truly knowing Him, Psa 91:14–16: כִּי בִי חָשַׁק וַאֲפַלְּטֵהוּ אֲשַׂגְּבֵהוּ כִּי־יָדַע שְׁמִי יִקְרָאֵנִי וְאֶעֱנֵהוּ עִמֹּו־אָנֹכִי בְצָרָה אֲחַלְּצֵהוּ וַאֲכַבְּדֵהוּ אֹרֶךְ יָמִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵהוּ וְאַרְאֵהוּ בִּישׁוּעָתִי. (For he has delighted in me and I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He will call on me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and I will honor him. With length of days I will satisfy him, and I will show him my salvation.)
But, have you seen his salvation? The name of the Messiah of the New Testament while he lived on earth was only יַהְוְשֻׁעַ (Yahwshua‘)—not יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēshua‘), nor יוֺשֻׁעַ (Yôshua‘, Joshua), nor יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yehôshua‘), and certainly not יָהוּשֻׁעַ (Yāhushua‘); יָהשֻׁעַ (Yahshua‘) omits the ו (w). The closest to truth is יָהשֻׁעַ, but closeness implies a variation. The Hebrew Bible always renders יהושׁע, never יהשׁע. All these other forms of the abbreviated name without the /a/ (/ā/) vowel in the first syllable were actually contrived through tradition, and none reflects an abbreviation of Yahweh. Therefore, this truth affects JESUS, which was actually IESUS in the original KJV (1611 C.E.) translation (and others). IESUS is Latin from Jerome’s Vulgate Bible (c. 405 C.E.) and is his representation in Latin letters of the Greek Ἰησοῦς. This then merely reflects the first incorrect form above, יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēshua). Now, Jewish traditions removed the vocalization of the name Yahweh from the Hebrew Bible, but at the same time it also affected the abbreviated form yahw which was thought “too close” to the name Yahweh. Please understand, apart from the vocalizations and some consonantal forms preserved in the Hebrew Bible, יַהְוְשֻׁעַ (Yahwshua) was original. (Archaeological data before the exile clearly show the extensive use of this form with three letters—yhw—in personal names, where you find: yahwḥanan, yahwnatan, yahw’el; yirmyahw, zecharyahw, ḥizkyahw, etc.) All we will add is the High Priest who returned from captivity with Zerubbabel was יַהְוְשֻׁעַ (Yahwshua), Hag 1:1–14 and Zech 3–9, not יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēshua) as in Ezra/Nehemiah.
Are all these incredible or unbelievable to have been done? Yes they are! And also know that the selection of this specific name for the Messiah of Israel was done at the time of the climax of all these misguided acts of avoidance of the name for the sake of upholding tradition. But, this name Yahwshua was a name unique before New Testament times for yet another reason. When the variation common to the Hellenistic period began to dominate beginning from about the end of the fourth century B.C.E., such as in the names: Yoḥanan, Yonatan, and Yoel (now with Yo [Jo] and no longer Yahw), the name Yahwshua did not become Yoshua, but Yēshua. (Remember, there is no “J” sound in Hebrew, neither was there that sound in English before the sixteenth century.) In other words the Yahw was not changed to Yo like the others, but Yē. Regardless of the reason, neither abbreviates Yahweh and so cannot mean “Yahweh is salvation” (shua‘ = salvation). Remember Acts 4:12: καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἄλλῳ οὐδενὶ ἡ σωτηρία, οὐδὲ γὰρ ὄνομά ἐστιν ἕτερον ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανὸν τὸ δεδομένον ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἐν ᾧ δεῖ σωθῆναι ἡμᾶς. (And neither is there salvation in another, because neither is there another name under heaven that is given among men in which it is possible that we be saved.) Yet, the name embodied the promised deliverance, as typified in Isa 56:1: כֹּה אָמַר יַהְוֶה שִׁמְרוּ מִשְׁפָּט וַעֲשׂוּ צְדָקָה כִּי־קְרֹובָה יְשׁוּעָתִי לָבֹוא וְצִדְקָתִי לְהִגָּלֹות (Thus says Yahweh: keep justice and do righteousness, for near is my salvation to come and my righteousness to be revealed.)
WHY DID YOU FEAR TRUTH?
Now, you are bold and even more fearless than before. Now, you are zealous for truth. Now, you know truth is undeniable! You have obviously realized that we have not endeavored here to lay out every scriptural truth since we cannot, but to simply illustrate that truth originates not with us but with a greater cause that has a specific plan with a consistent message, one that can be unraveled no matter what obstacles are placed before it by misguided men. We have illustrated the three pivotal themes that the entire plan of salvation is based upon, with obvious secrets that were, in fact, hidden by Elohim, but amazingly have bloomed in these last days. Clearly, He receives the glory, always, Pro 25:2 and Dan 2:30. So then, most importantly, you are EMPOWERED! But again, remember Matt 5:13: Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ ⸂βληθὲν ἔξω⸃ καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων. (You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, with what will it be salted? It is useful for nothing but to be cast outside to be trampled upon by men.) Who places faith in your heart and gives you answers concerning the eternal message? The answer is He that is empowering you. But keep growing and imbibing of scriptural knowledge, so that you can help others have the wonderful joy of knowing truth and becoming empowered. Shake off inertia! Explode with overwhelming love for Yahweh and Yahwshua!