We are embarking upon an in depth study of the original language of the New Testament. Was it Hebrew? Was it Aramaic? Was it Greek?
Each chapter is made from a different point of view and is written to be a stand alone study. Every section presents valid and substantial proof of the truth about this matter. Taken together, the ten chapters are overwhelmingly convincing.
In a large measure, the study is made directly from the scriptures. We shall cover the New Testament for any information pertaining to our subject. We study quotations from the Greek Old Testament. We do research concerning the manuscripts of the New Testament. We even discover the Dead Sea Scrolls are pertinent to this subject. Additionally, we shall check what scholars from various disciplines have to say about our subject.
This study is about the equivalent of a one hundred page book. It is not so long for a book. It is a bit long for a web presentation. It will probably take less than an hour to read.
You may read it in its entirety. For convenience, we have broken it into ten chapters, each of which is a study in and of itself. You may choose to browse the table of contents and read only the studies which interest you.
This book was written to be used in conjunction with a Bible study at a week end church retreat held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 1995.
Why is this study necessary? As a matter of fact, it is not a study everyone needs to make. Nearly every person who has studied the bible and its background already knows the thesis of this book is true.
The New Testament has been translated into hundreds of languages. Is it important whether it was written originally in Greek or some other language? It is important only in so far as the truth is important. Perhaps knowing what the original language was would be more important to us if we knew how many people are being misled because they do not think it is important.
In this study, we have refused to take the word of secular writers, historians, and bible scholars for the original language. If knowing the New Testament's original language is important, we can find out about it from the book itself. If it is something God wants us to know, he will have revealed it in the scriptures.
Are we able to find out what the original language was by simply studying the Bible? Indeed we are; and we shall. However, we shall also check into a bit of history and reference works at the end of our study. It will be interesting to see if scholars agree with the bible.
The Sacred Name Movement
Teachers within the Sacred Name Movement think of this subject as very important. They insist upon an original Hebrew New Testament. A Hebrew New Testament is not only important to their cardinal doctrine, it is essential. The fact that the New Testament was originally written in Greek shows the doctrine of the sacred name to be false.
This study lives up to its subtitle by refuting the original Hebrew New Testament claim, made by these Sacred Name Movement teachers. We reach out in love to the people involved in that error.
Perhaps you know next to nothing about the Sacred Name Movement. It is neither large nor well known. The primary doctrine of this movement advocates the use of the Lord's name only in Hebrew. Such a teaching may seem quite benign to most people.
However, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. When this false teaching infects the minister of a congregation, it becomes like a malignant disease. It eats away the good until an almost complete congregation can be brought into its cancerous grip at one time.
This movement began in the 1930's. Most of the men who started it were one time members of the Church of God (Seventh Day). It became their belief that God's people must call him only by his Old Testament name in Hebrew. This is most often pronounced, "Yahweh." They also came to believe Jesus cannot be called Jesus. He must be called by a Hebrew name, Yahshua. (Pronunciations of both names differ within the movement.)1
It is generally taught that salvation is dependent upon pronouncing these names properly and exactly. However, it is no easy matter to find two groups in the movement which pronounce the names the same way. (I have documented several.2 There are more.)
By this, we can see that the movement is very fractured. Most groups declare anathema upon any who do not agree with them about the pronunciation of the names.
Hebrew New Testament
However, their doctrine compels them to agree on at least one point, the New Testament and therefore the sacred names within it were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. They are forced to this conclusion to protect their teaching that the name of Jesus should not be in the scriptures. Jesus is the English letters for the Greek name IhsouV.
They do not sing, pray, preach, or speak using the name of Jesus, unless it is to denounce that name.
One of their number has concisely said that it is a sin to say the name Jesus and that the name of Jesus has been and is being used by the devil. Some of them refusing to say the name, refer to Jesus as the j- word. One goes so far as to proclaim the name of Jesus is the mark of the beast.
Because of this intense dislike for the name of Jesus, many groups within the movement have translated their own bibles. In these bibles the spellings of the sacred names preferred by the translators are included. Many groups and individuals use these sacred name bibles.
The idea that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic is patently false. There seems to be some confusion within the movement about these two languages. Apparently because they use the same alphabet, they are thought by some to be one language. Regardless of that, the New Testament was written in neither Hebrew nor Aramaic.
Of course, it can be easily seen that if the complete New Testament or any part of it were originally written in Greek, then the name of Jesus was written in Greek by inspired men. By this, both the New Testament writers and the Holy Spirit gave their approval to the name of IhsouV. This being true, the sacred Hebrew name doctrine falls of its own weight.
Prove all things
We once invited a Vanderbilt University professor of New Testament studies to speak at our church. We wanted the professor, who happens to be a Jewish lady, to prove to us the New Testament was indeed written in Greek.
She declined to speak on such a subject because it involved no controversy. It was obvious, she said, that the New Testament was written in Greek. It needs no proof.
Proving the New Testament is a Greek book is like proving the sky is blue. It is something obvious to everybody. If someone does not know it, all he or she needs to do is look at it. If anyone looks at it and still will not acknowledge it is blue, you might have trouble proving it to him.
I have little doubt the above sentiment is true. Still, I am compelled to present proof. I can only pray someone will be helped either to get out or to stay out of the pit of confusion.
The presentation of the subject matter in this study proceeds along three lines.
One: We will see that the New Testament was written by people who spoke Greek.
Two: We will see that the New Testament was written to people who spoke Greek.
Three: We will see that the New Testament was written to people who knew neither the Jewish customs nor the Hebrew language.
Whether you are concerned about the Sacred Name Movement or not, I believe you will find our subject interesting. My prayer is that each person who makes this study will gain not only knowledge, but spiritual understanding. My hope is that you will be able to use the information presented here to help someone out of the sacred name error. I also hope you will enjoy the study as much as I have.
While the Greek of the New Testament may not be a conflict for everyone, it is for me. The controversy of it has been thrust upon me in a very personal way. So, shall you and I look at the sky to see if it is blue? Shall we look at the New Testament to see if it is Greek?
Footnotes1. J. Gordon Melton, The Encyclopedia of American Religions (Wilmington, N. C., McGrath, 1978).
L. D. Snow, "A Brief History of the Name Movement in America". World Today Analyzed, September 1975, pp. 5-8. [back]
2. For Jesus, these names are used.
A. Yahshua, The Holy Name Bible.
B. Yahvahshua, Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible.
C. YeHOSHUA, John Charles Green, What is His Name, 1995
D. YESHUA, A Servant of Messiah, Who Was He? (R. D Bradshaw, 1982).
E. YHWSH (Pronounced Yashwa), Church of the Firstborn, White House, Tn., Bob C. Hardin, Tape, August, 1993.
F. YHWHOSHUA, Assembly of YHWHOSHUA, Boone, Colorado. [back]