On the Use of Pagan Words and Titles

It has been argued within the Sacred Name movement that Pagan titles and substitutions for the Almighty is unacceptable. We read in Exodus 29:13,

"Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other deities, nor let them be heard from your mouth." (Exodus 23:13, emphasis added)
So it is clear that there IS a prohibition against speaking the names of other deities or idols which should be forgotten. Further we read in Isaiah,

"I am [Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh], that is My name; I will not give My honor to another, nor My praise to graven images." (Isaiah 42:8, emphasis added)
Here the Almighty basically tells us that we are to honor Him only. Putting two and two together, we can see then that calling the Almighty by a name (or title) that is of pagan origin could be a means of breaking the commandment from Exodus as well as going against the words of the Almighty as spoken through the prophet Isaiah.

While the efforts to address the Almighty in a true kadosh or set-apart way is certainly a very noble cause, we have to be realistic here. First, words are phoenetic sounds, not magical formulas. The sound itself isn't the issue, but rather, the meaning behind the sound. Gad may have at one point been the name of a Canaanite deity of fortune, but 99% of the English speaking population does not know that, nor do they care. If you say Gad/G-d to them, what that will mean to their ears is an all powerful deity who created heaven and earth. As a result of this fact, most English translations of the Scriptures will put "G-d" when we find the Hebrew word El-him in a context that refers to the Almighty (El or El-him can also refer to human judges, mighty things in nature, "angels", etc.). Despite a historical meaning of the same sound, this is actually an accurate translation because the objective when translating Hebrew to another language is to convey the proper meaning of the words and phrases while sacrificing as little Hebraic thought as possible. I used to prefer to say and use the term El-him in an English sentence, not because of it's sound or origin in comparison to other titles that have been used in translations, but because of my understanding of the word and it's Hebraic context. However, as my hebrew continues to get better I tend to just use English terms and then save the Hebrew for when I'm reading Hebrew. But I used to do it, I did on the basis of it to me feeling more Kadosh or Set-Apart. But this was my personal halacha at the time, and I never used the term when speaking to someone who would of had no idea what I was talking about.

Now, there are several problems with condmening the use of G-d in place of El-him or other such title translations because they are of pagan origin. The first thing is that it assumes that El-him has never been used to describe pagan deities, which we know is not true. False deities or "mighty ones" in Hebrew are also called elohim. We also know that back in Abraham's day there was a Canaanite deity of light by the name of El, the short form of El-ah/El-him. So unless we want to take a similar position to the cult lead by Yisrael Hawkins down in Texas where all other titles and names besides the Tetragrammaton are taken out of our Scriptures and not used, we face a contradiction by maintaining the classic sacred name position.

The third issue is the use of Aramaic. Andrew Gabriel Roth, who I love to death for the work he has done on the AENT, makes an argument against the Greek version of the Netzarim Writings because the Greek uses the title "Theos" for El-him, and Theos is a title reserved for Zeus. Based on Exodus 23:13 and Isiaah 42:8, Roth concludes that this is unacceptable and therefore the Greek cannot be the truly inspired version of the Scriptures. In contrast to that, Roth makes the case for the Aramaic Scriptures being the set apart and inspired version due to it's Semetic nature. Now I definitely agree that the Aramaic does a better job at conveying Semetic ideas and thought patterns (and thus is superior to the Greek), but there is a problem when we try to make a case for the Semetic terms against Greek or English terms. I will explain why...

In Aramaic, the title El-him is "Elah". This applies not only to the Aramaic manuscripts of the Netzarim writings, but in the Tanach / Hebrew Scriptures as well (there are portions of Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra and several small passages in others books that are written in Aramaic). Below is a link for the Strong's entry for Elah,

Strong's H426 'elahh (Aramaic)

Outline of Biblical Usage
1) god, G-d
a) god, heathen deity
b) G-d (of Israel)
You can see that, while Elahh was not necessarily a title for Zeus, it was still what Bablyonian sun-worshippers called their heathen deities. After all, Aramaic was the language of Babylon, right? Now in the Tanach there are 16 verses where "elah" refers to pagan deities, and 79 other times in which it refers to our Creator.

So based on this, we have a serious question to ask ourselves in the Sacred Name Movement. If it is not acceptable to use pagan words to describe our Heavenly Father, then why did He inspire the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel to use one in the Tanach? This is plain, solid, Scriptural proof that it is not a sin to use words that are used for pagan deities to refer to our Father in heaven. Really, when we look at the Aramaic here, it can't get any clearer than this, and if we are going to say that it is sinful to use these other titles, then we are speaking against the very Divinly inspired words of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Further, if we want to be Scriptural in our speech by following the example of the prophets Daniel and Jeremiah, we'd also consider using the appropriate word for "El-him" in whatever language we're speaking. In English, this would mean G-D! That being said however, I certainly don't believe it is sinful to use "El-him" when speaking in a language other than Hebrew - but it isn't the Scriptural example that the Almighty's prophets set. And at the very least, we need to recognize that it is certainly permissible to use titles such as G-d for our Creator. While I have in the past used El-him extensively in my personal study and worship, as well as on this website (again, because of my understanding of it's meaning), I want to make it clear that I do not have a problem with the use of English titles. These linguistic arguments are nothing more than what Paul called "contests of the Scribes" which he then labeled as unprofitable and worthless in Titus 3:9 (this is the original Aramaic reading). What matters though is the idea and thoughts behind the Word of our Creator, not the phoenetic sound of the words that describe them. How you speak and what language you use is going to depend on your audience. The key is to spread the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven and reach as many souls as you can. The only way in which you can effectively do that is to speak to people in a language and speech that means something to them, where they can then understand the thoughts and ideas we wish to convey to them about our Creator and His Mashiyach. At the time of the Apostles, that was Greek going west and Aramaic going East. Today the most poplar language is English. While Hebrew is a beautiful language that is full of metaphors and imagry that can help us grow in our understanding of the Scriptures, learning it is something to take our walk to the next level. It is not by any means a pre-requisite for entering the Kingdom.

For more information on Hebrew titles, names, and the pronunciation of Yeshua and the Father's name, I highly reccomend the lecture "The Name of the Messiah" found on the following webpage,

What does YAHshua actually mean in English?

Many thanks to Bryce Henderson for exposing me to such a wonderful resource.

"...let G-d be found true, though every man be found a liar..." (Romans 3:4b)"