A few words of introduction
This letter was first written as part of correspondence with a teacher in the Sacred Name movement. Its present form represents some additions to and revisions of the initial letter.
That correspondence was a discussion of what the Bible shows to be various errors taught by this religious movement. At the time of this writing, it is the final letter in that discussion. After this letter was posted, no reply has been forth coming in almost two months.
The Sacred Name teacher had slowly spiraled down and down in the positions he took. When the truth that the New Testament was written in Greek was presented to him, he took the stance which occasioned this letter.
These words are excepted from his letter:
“You might be aware that there are about 5,000 existent Greek manuscripts today and no two are exactly alike. There are major differences in the wording of many chapters and verses. Some manuscripts of the Greek leave out whole chapters and verses that others include and there are multitudes of various changes from manuscript to manuscript. The differences in most all the various English versions is in the NT, whereas the O.T. is basically the same in all versions. If you are basing the foundation of your faith on the Greek NT I will have to say that is a very flimsy foundation.”
If you have any interest in the teachings of the Sacred Name movement, please read this letter. It is written in answer to one of the most grievous of all the sacred name movement's errors, the denial of the New Testament. Some other issues surrounding this denial are also addressed.
The fact that such a letter as this needed to be written at all, demonstrates the extent of the reproach the movement has brought upon itself in its seventy years of existence.
I beg your prayers for the young man to whom this letter is written. Pray, also, for every sincere person who is deceived by the seducing spirit working in the doctrine of the sacred name.
AS A MEMBER OF THE SACRED NAME MOVEMENT
YOU HAVE DENIED THE AUTHORITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
A letter to a friend
Our last few exchanges have brought about a focus on the underlying differences between us. The most recent exchange has pushed to the fore the most basic of these differences. I intend you no personal offense, but I believe you have now expressed the real difference between a bible believer and a sacred name believer.
When you express your rejection, albeit an ambivalent one, of the authority of the Greek New Testament, you are speaking the heart of all sacred name people. From the forthright words you use, it is obvious that the position you have taken is not a conclusion newly reached by you. Your words show that you have given this matter of the Greek NT a lot of thought and careful consideration.
Whatever your reasoning may be, whatever rational you may have used, whatever research you may have used to gain the required ends, a rejection of the NT is thrust upon you by the very nature of the doctrine. In other words, rejection of the NT is inherent in the doctrine of the Hebrew only sacred name.
If one receives not his words, one rejects Jesus also. Where will we base our faith, if the New Testament as we now have it is unworthy of our confidence? The New testament is the only book containing the words of Jesus. To reject the book containing his words is to reject his words. It is these very words that shall be our judge in the last day.
Frankly, it astonishes me that anyone claiming to be a believer in Jesus, by whatever name one calls him, should reject the only book by which that person learned of him and his message.
I think of you as an earnest and sincere person. I am sure you have written nothing but what you believe to be true based on the principals of your doctrines. While I may be astonished at your expression of these beliefs, I am not surprised. I expected that if you and I corresponded long enough, you would reach the very teaching you have come to.
Permit me to comment on some of your positions.
1. You disparage the New Testament.
Your statement is, “there are about 5000 existent Greek manuscripts today and no two are exactly alike. There are major differences in the wording of many chapters and verses.”
Your statement is at least partially true. There are more than five thousand New Testament mss. in Greek. Each of them was hand copied. Copying by hand was the manner of book publishing before the printing press and mistakes were not uncommon. Because of this, no two are exactly alike.
However, no two copies of any ancient work, the NT included, are exactly alike. Only a very few of these differences in the New Testament can be called major.
The information you advance is partially true. The use you make of it is altogether invalid. You are using this information to cast aspersions on the authority of the New Testament. You have concluded that because no two copies are exactly alike, the New Testament is untrustworthy; it is not a sound document; it is not a foundational spiritual source book. These conclusions being true, it cannot be God's word.
Because the word of God is alive, incorruptible, and abides forever, the opposite conclusion is the true one. It is the conclusion you should have reached. These very differences in the Greek New Testament show that no one or more reprobate groups have controlled the New Testament and thereby been enabled to falsify it.
A book of contradistinction for you to consider is the Latin Vulgate. It has been controlled, even owned, by one church for centuries. It has none of these differences major or minor you have found in Greek New Testament mss.
These peculiarities of NT manuscripts contradict the claim made by almost all sacred name teachers that the New Testament has been controlled and falsified. Because of this claim, they have produced numbers of sacred name bible revisions aimed at correcting some one or another of these imagined falsifications.
In light of the five thousand NT mss in Greek you have mentioned (In truth, the number is five thousand plus.) a question comes to mind. How many ancient mss of the New Testament in Hebrew can be found? Let me hasten to answer that there are exactly zero Hebrew New Testament mss. to which you can refer. The Hebrew New Testament mss in existence are like the Hebrew New Testament on my book shelf. They were all translated from Greek.
Were I a believer in an original Hebrew New Testament, knowing that I come up short in the mss. area, I would have done just as you and said nothing about any Hebrew New Testament mss.
Let me postulate here that no two copies of Old Testament manuscripts are exactly alike. Some have major differences. One Dead Sea Scroll mss has Goliath at a bit over six feet tall. Yet you seem not the least hampered by this fact. You fail even to take notice of it. Perhaps your research has not taken you far enough to have ascertained this fact.
You base your faith on only the Old Testament. Yet, the
same logic you use concerning the NT would warrant a like conclusion on your part that the Old Testament is a “flimsy foundation” of your faith?
Your statement is a forthright and blatant denial of the validity of the New Testament as a document having authority in spiritual matters.
Once, when friends, family, even fellow congregation members were converting, I gave earnest consideration to becoming a sacred name believer. Early in my investigation of the doctrine I was able to see that by accepting the doctrine of the sacred name, I was being induced to reject the authority of the New Testament.
Therefore, I decided that rather than casting off the New Testament, I would cast off the sacred name doctrine. I rejected it for what it is, a false teaching. This action has cost me a great deal. I have regretted neither the decision, the action stemming from it, nor the cost.
2. You reject the New Testament.
You have certainly qualified this rejection as specifically a degrading of the Greek NT by these words: “ If you are basing the foundation of your faith on the Greek NT I will have to say that is a very flimsy foundation.”
You believe that the only extant New Testament is “a very flimsy foundation” of faith. How can one take this as anything less than a repudiation of the book?
While you make claims for an original Hebrew New Testament, you cannot point to a single one. As Hebrew versions of the NT are translations from Greek, there is no real Hebrew New Testament. Therefore, you reject the only New Testament available to you.
It is interesting how you candidly discard the only document by which you have the knowledge of salvation? My studies of the sacred name doctrine and the Movement prohibit me from viewing this rejection of the NT as amazing. It is not even unusual. All sacred name people have done just as you or they have not thoroughly thought out their beliefs.
There is little common ground between us. Every New Testament scripture I refer to, you will disregard as from the Greek NT. The names, phrases, and other corrections you put in as being from the Hebrew, I reject as the speculative imaginations of men without authority.
How can we discuss the scriptures in any productive way? We do not regard the same writings as being sacred.
3. You still quote the New Testament.
In one breath, you reject the New Testament as a flimsy foundation of faith. In the next, you have the unmitigated audacity to quote a number of passages from it as a source of your beliefs. This seems to indicate that you believe it has some value as a foundation in matters of faith. At this point you seem to think of this “very flimsy” book as having some intrinsic spiritual significance. One is left wondering what you really think about the NT.
Were it not for the Greek NT you would have few, perhaps none, of the numerous beliefs you hold dear.
You say, “... I believe that what Yahshua spoke was far more important than what was recorded in Greek.” Are you truly unable to see that such a statement shows a gross inconsistency in the rudimentary teaching of sacred name teachers, you self included? Outside the Greek NT you know nothing Jesus spoke. You are denigrating, and in so doing, denying the only document by which you know anything about the gospel. You have placed your personal knowledge and wisdom in a place superior to the only New Testament you have.
4. You advance the theory, then offer proof, of an original Hebrew New Testament .
You have concluded the New Testament was written in Hebrew from the study of the works of scholars. You say, "There are many renowned Bible scholars who uphold an original Hebrew NT.”
You quote from two of the men you have studied.
To you Dr. E. W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible is authoritative about the matter of a Hebrew original NT . Yet the very quote you give, has Bullinger saying the language of the New Testament “is Greek.” He is of no help to you in your quest for a Hebrew NT original.
You call forth Dr. George Lamsa to sustain your position on an original Hebrew NT. His research and translation is of little value to anyone for any cause. Lamsa’s bible is little more than a reworked KJV. It is particularly worthless to you regarding what you are attempting to prove.
He attempts to prove one thing. You attempt to prove quite another.
First: Lamsa claims an original Aramaic New Testament. You claim a Hebrew one. You are making the common sacred name teacher ploy of conveniently confusing the Hebrew and Aramaic languages.
Remember, it was you who lectured me, very painstakingly explaining to me, that Hebrew is not Aramaic and Aramaic is not Hebrew. Jesus spoke Hebrew, you said. He did not speak Aramaic, you said.
Second: Despite Lamsa’s claims of this original Aramaic NT, he is forced to translate his bible from the Peshitta. This, of course, is a rendering of the NT into Aramaic from the Greek text. Let me quote the Encyclopedia Britannica on this. The Peshitta “...was based on the Greek text which was at that time in current use at Antioch.” [eleventh ed., handy volume issue, Vol. 3, pg. 882] The very book Lamsa translates was itself a translation of a Greek New Testament mss.
Third: Adding insult to injury, Lamsa fails to produce for us a single manuscript copy of an Aramaic NT written in the Aramaic in use during the time of Jesus. Those he shows in his introduction are every one in the Persian script. See photo copies on pages xvii and xviii of his introduction.
You might want to read J. E. Goodspeed about the position for an Aramaic New Testament, if you have opportunity.
Fourth: Lamsa says Jesus spoke Aramaic. You say he spoke Hebrew. Lamsa thinks the name of the Savior in Aramaic would have been pronounced as “Eshoo.” See page xix of his introduction. You are certain his name was pronounced Yahshua.
Dr. Lamsa does not sustain your position. Quite the contrary is true; Lamsa destroys your position.
Fifth, you inform me that “all learned Jews spoke Hebrew.” Then you claim the disciples Peter and John were not learned and offer this as proof that at least these men could only have written their New Testament writings in Hebrew. I hope you will not mind me saying this kind of reasoning is a bit hard to follow.
It is worth noting that Peter and John were not educated in the rabbinical schools of Jerusalem. They had been, however, commercial fishermen doing business in a mixed cultural area. Generally, intelligent men who are employed in multilingual areas and make any effort in that direction, acquire at least a working knowledge of the second language.
You can impugn their abilities because the priests in Jerusalem saw them as ignorant men if you like. I do not. You may use the priests’ opinion to impose on them a lack of knowledge of the Greek language. I do not. The priests also saw them, among other things, as trouble makers. I do not. To use the rebellious priests' opinion to ascribe such lack of knowledge to these two great men is to reach an unwarranted, an unnecessary, and surely an unworthy conclusion about them.
Why must the supposed ignorance of Peter and John come up in every discussion with a sacred name person about the language of the New Testament? Was Paul ignorant, was Luke, even according to the judgment of the priests in Jerusalem?
5. You believe one and perhaps more New Testament books were written in Greek.
In the face of all this, you still are willing to say, “...I think it seems likely that some of the NT books were originally written in Greek...” In consideration of this belief, how can you say the Greek New Testament is a "flimsy foundation"? Do you not believe that at least these books were inspired by God and therefore authoritative?
On this point you have once again put yourself at odds with yourself. By believing even a single New Testament book could have been written in Greek, you necessitate the conclusion upon yourself that the writer put the Savior's name into that book in a language other than Hebrew. Do you perhaps believe that the original writers transliterated the Savior's name into Greek. This is, of course, exactly what did happen. The New Testament writers, every one transliterated the name as IhsouV - Jesus.
The obvious action resulting from such a conclusion is that since God saw fit to put the Savior's name in the New Testament in a language other than Hebrew, we can write and speak that name in our own language, also not Hebrew.
One way for you to extricate yourself from this dilemma is to take the position some others take. That is, that the NT in its original was not an inspired document. Some sacred name people take the position that all of Paul's writings were never in line with what God intended. Surely you do not take this position?
This solution is found to be convenient for a number of sacred name teachers. The Greek New Testament is a heavy weight of evidence against the use of a Hebrew sacred name, either the tetragrammaton or the Savior's name. Therefore, its denial is essential to the sacred name doctrine. Some teachers who agree with your position, deny the NT as a whole, some simply deny all of Paul's writings which to them were obviously written in Greek.
6. You put a new twist on the transliteration of the Savior's name into Greek.
You say, “The Hebrew Name Yahshua can be directly transliterated in Greek as Iasua, and it is in various Greek manuscripts and documents.”
As I doubt the veracity of your comments, will you point me to some of the various Greek documents in which the Savior's name is transliterated iota, alpha, sigma, upsilon, alpha - Iasua?
I know you will be able to quote other sacred name writers who have stated this supposed transliteration as a fact. However, my reading of these men leads me to conclude that they have no documentation for such a statement. At least, I have yet to see one give such documentation. I hope you are more able and/or willing to produce this evidence.
The evidence I have been able to uncover in my own research has been contrary to your statement. I will advance a few points from this research.
First: The Jewish rabbis, who translated the Septuagint were consistent in their transliteration of the name of that hero of Israel, Joshua, as IhsouV - Jesus.
Second: The Jewish translator of the apocryphal book originally written in Hebrew and commonly known as Ecclesiasticus transliterated his grandfather's name into Greek as Iesous.
Third: In a letter written c. A. D. 132 by/for a Jewish lady named Babatha concerning the care and welfare of her son, Jesus. The name is transliterated iota, eta, sigma, omicron, upsilon, sigma - IhsouV. This document contains the letter, written in Greek, an Aramaic translation, and a Greek summary of the letter. [Document: 5/6 HevBa]
It is worth noting here that the first language of this document is Greek. This is in spite of the fact that this letter was written by or for a Jewish lady. Not everyone in Judea spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. All business in the Jerusalem area was not done in Hebrew or Aramaic.
Fourth: When the NT writers set about to transliterate the Savior's name into Greek one should not be surprised that they used the commonly accepted transliteration of the name. Quite frankly, this transliteration by the inspired NT writers is the only that matters. It was always IhsouV - Jesus.
Of course there are three renderings of the Hebrew name of Joshua in the O.T. It could not be thought unusual for there to be more than one transliteration of this name into Greek. While remembering there is only one such transliteration in the New Testament, I will await your documentation on this point.
You, like the Bereans of old, are noble to search the scriptures. I hope you will continue to do so. I can only pray that you will come to acknowledge that we have scriptures the Bereans did not have.