Q. I have just received your Spanish Holy Name New Testaments. Why are Yahweh and Yahshua translated with the Y, but JUAN, JACOVO, JUDAS, and JERUSALEM are all translated with the J form?
A. One of our goals is to proclaim the true sacred Names of Yahweh and Yahshua and restore them to mankind as closely as possible to the way they were originally given. The Bible has many commands to proclaim Yahweh’s Name to His people. We understand this to mean that we are to proclaim His Name as He gave it to mankind and not disguise it, substitute another name, alter it, deface it or take away from it—all of which means we would be taking it in vain, which is against the Third Commandment.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines vain as, “Not yielding the desired outcome, fruitless, a vain attempt; lacking substance or worth; vain talk; to no avail; without success; irreverent or disrespectful manner.” The latest scholarly reference works show “Yahweh” as the best English transliteration of the Heavenly Father’s Name. Yahweh is also the preferred Spanish spelling. Germanic influence early on encouraged spelling His name as YahVah. However, in German the V has a U or W sound –“oo.”
We are told in Exodus 3:15:
“And Elohim said moreover unto Moses, Thus shall you say unto the children of Israel, Yahweh, Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, has sent me unto you: this [is] My Name for ever, and this [is] My Memorial unto all generations.” (Ex. 3:15)
We also read that we are not to call Him by titles used for other mighty ones. Note that Satan is called “god” in 2Corinthians 4:4.
Yahweh commanded, “And in all [things] that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other mighty ones, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” (Ex. 23:13)
These two verses alone should instill extreme reverence for Yahweh Name in all of us. There is nothing more holy or sacred in the entire Bible than Yahweh’s revered and awesome Name.
Yahshua, the Son’s Name, is also important to us, for the Apostle Peter himself said of Yahshua the Messiah, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Only one name whereby we have salvation. Those are Peter’s words to Israel and to us today. Three times the Savior told Peter, “Feed My Sheep.” Now, he boldly proclaims there is but one Name through which we obtain salvation. It is the Name of the Redeemer of Israel, Yahshua, Whose very name means, “The Salvation of Yah!”
You are very perceptive in raising the question of why we use John, Jacob, Judas, and Jerusalem instead of the more literal Hebrew transliterations of YAHCHANAN, YAQOV, YAHUDAH, AND YAHRUSHALAYIM. We refrain from doing so for several reasons.
There is nothing particularly sacred or holy about the name John, because it is the name of a mere man (albeit the Hebrew relates to Yahweh’s name, meaning “Yah is gracious.”) Jacob means “heel-grabber” or “supplanter.” Judas means “praise,” and Jerusalem means “city of peace.” If we were writing for a Hebrew audience, it would be advantageous to use the corrected spelling. Because the Hebrew alphabet differs from our Latin or Roman alphabet, equivalent letters are used to bring the sound across to another language.
An increasing number of scholars contend that the New Testament has a Hebrew original underlying the Greek. However, we have only the Greek of the New Testament extant today. There are no “originals” of the Hebrew (Old or New Testaments) available today. (See our mini-study, Was the New Testament Originally Greek?). Early New Testament translations from Greek into Latin employed the letter i instead of the letter j, and the i carried the sound of “ee,” i.e., Jacob was Iacob.
However, to spell the names that presently appear in our Bibles employing a y (or an i) instead of a j would only muddy the water unnecessarily. The average reader would not know what “Yahchanan” stood for in the King James and other English Bibles. With many names like this, the inexperienced Bible student would be confused and lost. At what point would the purist stop? Until he had changed ALL words to Hebrew—forcing the reader to first learn Hebrew before he could begin to teach him the truth in Yahweh’s word?
Furthermore, if one desired to look up the names Jacob or John in a concordance or bible dictionary, Yahchanan would not be found. Not every one could correlate the names and various spellings to a concordance. For a beginning Bible student, it would be disorder.
Rather than get lost in the maze of names, we have elected to call attention to the Sacred Names of Yahweh and Yahshua and present them to our readers, emphasizing their importance and allowing them the privilege of contending with other proper nouns.
Ideally, names do not change from language to language, but are transliterated (the sound is brought over to another tongue). The problem is, the bible was first written in Hebrew (or Aramaic), then translated into Greek, then to Latin, then to English, and other languages. Many names still retain the Greek suffix ending “s,” such as Judas, Isaias, and Elias, because they were lifted wholesale from the Greek text. This includes the Savior’s Name (erroneously rendered “Jesus”). His Name is the same as Joshua (Yahshua) the son of Nun. (See our ministudy, How the Savior’s Name Was Changed.)