The Sacred Name Movement is a religious movement that seeks to restore the use of the original Hebrew names of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in Christianity. Adherents believe that these names have been replaced over time by titles like “Lord” and “God” and that using the original Hebrew names is important for proper worship and spiritual power.
The movement emerged in the early 20th century out of the Church of God (Seventh Day) and is especially associated with Clarence Orvil Dodd, who began teaching about the sacred names in the 1930s. Dodd claimed that the true names had been lost over time and corrupted in translation but could be reconstructed through study of the Hebrew scriptures.
The most prominent sacred names used in the movement are:
- Yahweh – The personal name of God in Hebrew, revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Yahweh is held to be the one true name of the Creator.
- Yahshua – A proposed original Hebrew name for Jesus, derived from Yeshua combined with the theophoric element yah, short for Yahweh.
- Yah – A shortened form of Yahweh, used in many Biblical names like Elijah.
Adherents to sacred names believe there is power in these Hebrew names that has been lost by replacing them with titles or Greek and Latin versions. They point to verses like Acts 4:12, which states that salvation is found in no other name than the name of Jesus Christ. Sacred namers take this to mean his Hebrew name specifically must be invoked.
The sacred name Yahweh is drawn from Exodus 3:14, where God reveals himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM” – in Hebrew, “ehyeh asher ehyeh.” Later in Exodus, this name is shortened to YHWH, commonly pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah. Yeshua becomes Yahshua by adding the first three letters of Yahweh’s name.
Adherents follow a few key practices based on these sacred names:
- Using the names Yahweh and Yahshua in prayer and worship services
- Observing the seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday
- Following Jewish feast days and festivals like Passover
- Rejecting Trinitarian doctrine, baptizing only in the name of Yahshua
Different sacred name groups pronounce the names in different ways. Some use Yahweh, others Jehovah or Yahuah. Yahshua, Yashua, and Yahushua are all variations for the name of Jesus. But the core belief is that these Hebrew forms are the ones revealed by God and preserved in the original manuscripts, as opposed to English or Greek substitutes.
Sacred name believers point to verses like Psalm 68:4 where the name of God is presented in Hebrew as evidence that the original names have importance. They also refer to the Third Commandment prohibition on taking the Lord’s name in vain as proof that using a substitute name is improper.
However, there is considerable disagreement among sacred name adherents about the exact pronunciation and spelling of the Hebrew names. Some of the difficulties include:
- The ancient Hebrew language did not include vowels, so the original pronunciation of YHWH is uncertain.
- There are various Hebrew linguistic rules for converting names into different grammatical forms, making the precise spelling used in any given verse debatable.
- The New Testament manuscripts use Greek translations of Yeshua like Iesous, not a Hebrew form.
Opponents of the sacred name movement argue that God’s nature and salvific power are not confined to Hebrew letters and sounds. They also point to verses like Romans 10:13 which say that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” without specifying language.
The movement emerged within Christianity, yet is often viewed today as departing from traditional Christian doctrine and practice over issues like observing Jewish holy days versus Christian ones. Adherents routinely have disagreements over the one true pronunciation and spelling of the divine names.
Nevertheless, the Sacred Name Movement has persisted as a distinct religious tradition emphasizing restoration of the Hebrew names of God. Various churches, ministries and publications continue to advocate for the importance of the sacred names in the faith and worship practice of modern believers.
The Sacred Name Movement began in Christianity but has since influenced other new religious movements with roots in Christianity. Various assemblies and organizations around the world promote some form of sacred name belief, while estimating total adherents is difficult due to their controversial status in mainstream Christianity.
Though a minority movement, the Sacred Name Movement has contributed unique teachings about the power and pronunciation of the Hebrew divine names to the larger messianic tradition. Their goal of restoring the use of these names, in contrast with widespread Christian practice, continues to inspire fierce theological debates.
The Sacred Name Movement arises from the belief that the personal names of God – in Hebrew identified as Yahweh and Yeshua – bear unique power and authority that has been lost through their replacement with titles like Lord or God. The origins of this movement date back to early 20th century America, drawing particular inspiration from Exodus 3:14
In Exodus, when Moses asks what name he should call God by, the response given is: “I AM WHO I AM.” In Hebrew, this phrase translates approximately to “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.” Later in Exodus, God reveals his name to be YHWH, commonly pronounced as Yahweh or Jehovah.
This passage became integral to the Sacred Name Movement and its insistence on recovering knowledge of the Hebrew names of God. Pioneer Clarence Dodd taught that restoring these names would allow believers to access greater spiritual power in their worship and align more closely with scriptural truths.
Dodd began teaching his doctrines based on the sacred names in the 1930s, drawing mainly from Exodus and Psalm 83:18’s declaration that people should know that “you, whose name is the LORD” in the original Hebrew is “you, whose name is Yahweh.” He connected proper knowledge and use of the Hebrew names with true salvation.
This teaching expanded on the Adventist movement Dodd belonged to, which observed Saturday Sabbath and Jewish festivals. By focusing on the Hebrew names as well, sacred name believers came to differ substantially from mainstream Christian theology and practice.
Yeshua later became Yahshua in the movement by combining Yeshua with the first three letters of Yahweh’s name: yod-heh-waw. This innovation, based on the idea that the Messiah bore some form of God’s name, created a second sacred name fundamental to the movement.
Most sacred name groups continue to emphasize use of Hebrew forms like Yahweh and Yahshua in prayer and worship services. They may also follow Jewish holidays rather than Christian ones and adhere to a unitarian belief in God rather than the doctrine of the Trinity.
However, there is significant disagreement within the movement about the exact spelling and pronunciation of the sacred names in Hebrew. Different groups argue for names like Yahuah, Yahvah, Yahuwah and so on. The lack of vowels in ancient Hebrew makes the original pronunciation uncertain.
This has led to charged debates over which Hebrew forms are the one true sacred names versus erroneous or misleading corruptions. Despite such disputes, the core belief that God possesses revealed, authoritative Hebrew names continues to define this movement.
While small, the Sacred Name Movement has survived as a unique religious tradition for nearly a century based on this central emphasis on restoring the Hebrew names of God to Christian practice. The hundreds of assemblies globally demonstrate ongoing commitment to this exceptional doctrine within Christianity.
The Sacred Name Movement emerged within a Christian context but came to differ substantially from mainstream Christianity over its teachings about the Hebrew names Yahweh and Yahshua holding special status and power.
This history traces back to the early 20th century work of Clarence Dodd, who taught the sacred names doctrine based on his reading of Exodus 3:14 and other passages. The Hebrew name YHWH he linked to the “I AM WHO I AM” name of God revealed to Moses.
Dodd came from the Church of God Seventh Day, an Adventist group keeping the Saturday Sabbath and Jewish festivals. By further emphasizing the Hebrew names, sacred name believers distinguished their practices more from mainstream Christianity.
Yeshua was also given a Hebrew makeover to Yahshua, bearing the yah element of Yahweh’s name. This dual focus on the names Yahweh and Yahshua became the hallmark of the emerging Sacred Name Movement.
Adherents generally share practices like observing the seventh-day Sabbath, following Jewish feasts, rejecting the Trinity, and baptizing only in Yahshua’s name. Different groups pronounce the names variously as Yahweh, Yahuah, Yahvah based on differing linguistic rules.
Despite internal debates over the pronunciation and spelling of the Hebrew names, sacred name believers are unified by a conviction that these names uniquely convey God’s power and identity. This still small but persistent movement represents an ongoing effort to restore these names abandoned by mainstream Christianity.
The Sacred Name Movement is defined by its emphasis on restoring the original Hebrew names of God – Yahweh and Yahshua in particular – to Christian practice and worship. This movement emerged within a Christian context but came to differ from mainstream doctrine.
In the 1930s, Clarence Dodd began teaching the sacred names doctrine based on his reading of Exodus 3:14, where God reveals his name to Moses as YHWH, typically pronounced Yahweh. This name in Hebrew meaning “I AM WHO I AM” became integral to the movement.
Yeshua was likewise transformed into Yahshua by adding the first part of Yahweh’s name, to convey the idea of God’s name in the Messiah. Adherents now commonly use Hebrew forms like Yahweh and Yahshua in their services and prayers.
However, disagreements persist within the movement over the one true spelling and pronunciation of the names in Hebrew. This stems largely from uncertainties over Hebrew linguistics and the lack of written vowels in ancient manuscripts.
Despite such debates, shared core beliefs unite this movement: that God’s Hebrew names convey special power and authority, and that Christianity has erred by substituting titles like Lord for these names. This drove the movement’s effort to restore what they see as the lost sacred names.
Though a minority tradition, the Sacred Name Movement has preserved a devoted following committed to the Hebrew names they associate closely with the worship and identity of the divine. Their insistence on this teaching has fueled their separation from mainstream Christian theology and practice.
In summary, the Sacred Name Movement places great emphasis on recovering the original Hebrew names of God for use in worship services, prayer, and Bible study. This small but dedicated movement believes these sacred names – especially Yahweh and Yahshua – have unique power and authority that has been lost as Christianity adopted substitute Greek and Latin names over time. The origins of this movement date back to the early 20th century work of Clarence Dodd, who promoted the Hebrew names based on his reading of Exodus 3:14 and other passages. Since those early beginnings, believers have promoted use of the sacred names even as they continue to debate specifics of spelling and pronunciation. Though controversial and diverging from mainstream Christianity in key areas, the Sacred Name Movement persists globally today in calling Christians back to the Hebrew roots of their faith.