In our curriculum, we teach that idolatry is the worship of any created thing in place of YHVH. In its purest sense, idolatry includes any deviation from worship commanded in Scripture. Therefore, we do not practice or promote overtly Satanic, Wiccan, or pagan festival days in this curriculum (Spring and Fall equinoxes, Winter and Summer Solstices, Christmas, Easter, Sunday, Halloween, etc.). We try to avoid images and religious icons which play a part in the worship of false gods.
However, especially in our history curriculum, we may mention these practices in the context of Scripture so that our children are aware of them. It is a fine line between teaching about idolatry and teaching idolatry.
The topic of idolatry is especially controversial when it comes to the use of the names of pagan idols in place of the name of our Creator. We would like to explain why we continue to use certain English names referring to YHVH in our curriculum.
First, let’s review. Here is our official doctrinal statement regarding the use of Sacred Names in this curriculum:
We uphold the Sacred Names by using the following:
- The name of “YHWH,” “YHVH,” or “יֽהֹוָה” rather than “the LORD.”
- The name of “Yeshua” rather than ”Jesus.”
- The title of “Messiah” rather than “Christ.”
We believe that we should pronounce His name as a command of Scripture; therefore, we do not substitute HaShem or Adonai for YHVH. In ancient times, YHVH’s people used His name in everyday greetings and blessings (e.g. Numbers 6:24, Ruth 2:4), and we are told that His name is to be a memorial for all generations (e.g. Exodus 3:15). The patriarchs called on YHVH’s name, and YHVH tells us that He wants us to glorify His name to the nations.
Written Hebrew vowels did not exist until the Middle Ages, and no one can prove for certain exactly how His name should be pronounced. Therefore, we agree to disagree in love on issues of spelling and pronunciation of the Sacred Names.
You will find that we often use the titles God, Lord (Adonai and Master), Holy Spirit, etc. as commonly used in the English language, while sometimes substituting Hebrew terms instead (with definitions for our children where possible). We believe that all languages are filled with words whose roots are ultimately from Babel, so no matter what English words we substitute, they will still have their roots in Babel. For this reason, we do not have a problem using English words in their proper contexts.
This last paragraph contains the most controversy, so let’s look at one title at a time.
In Scripture, the word God is used in English Bibles to refer to El or Elohim. These Hebrew words mean “mighty one” or “mighty ones.” It usually refers to our Creator, but it is a description, not a name.
“Who is like you, O YHVH, among the gods (among the “mighty ones”)? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11, ESV).
Each nation worshiped its own “mighty ones,” and this verse is saying that there are no “mighty ones” who can even compare in majesty and glorious deeds to YHVH, who had just redeemed His people from Egypt.
The nations ignorantly refer to their gods as “mighty ones” because they have been taught from childhood to fear their gods. In legends, heroes and and dragon slayers are referred to as “mighty ones.” We know that Nimrod and his wife Semiramis set themselves up as “mighty ones” to be worshiped because of the heroic deeds that the “mighty hunter” did.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (Douglas Harper, Historian. 27 Dec. 2013), god comes from an early German word (Goth), and it was the term used to invoke or call upon the gods. It also refers to pouring out an offering to the gods, probably to seek their favor.
Even though it should only be a title in Scripture, in common use, people often use “God” in place of YHVH’s name! How can we teach our children the proper use of this word? YHVH is our “mighty one,” and He is also the one upon whom we call. We pour out our offerings to Him alone.
We feel it is wise to teach our children that “God” means “Mighty One.” Some prefer to substitute the Hebrew word Elohim, which is fine as long as we teach our children what it means. We must never assume that our children know what a word means just because we might have read a book or heard a teaching about it. Their ears haven’t heard what ours have heard, and their eyes haven’t seen what ours have seen. We must pass knowledge on to the next generation.
In English Bibles, YHVH’s proper name is translated as “LORD,” and in our curriculum, we try to always change it to YHWH. However, sometimes English Bibles use the word “Lord.” This is an entirely different word in the Hebrew, Adonai, which means “master.” A good example of this is in Psalm 8.
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1, ESV)
In Hebrew, you can see that “LORD” is indeed YHVH. However, the second “Lord” is adon, or master. So this verse could be read,
“O YHVH, our master, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
The word “lord” or “master” has been commonly used throughout the history of English-speaking people. Think of the lord of a castle, or the entire feudal system. Because we want our children to understand the correct meaning of this word, we have left the word “Lord” as it is in the English Bibles.
It’s a little trickier in the New Testament, because the Greek uses kurios (“lord”) throughout. It often quotes the Greek Septuagint, which by that time was already using Kurios in substitution of the sacred name of YHVH. If a verse is obviously referring to YHVH, we have used YHVH or YHWH or יֽהֹוָה in our curriculum. If it is referring to Yeshua, as a “master” who has disciples or followers, we keep the word “Lord” or sometimes substitute the word “Master.”
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36, ESV).
In this verse, we can see all the words commonly used to refer to Yeshua. We see that He is our “Lord,” our master, and we follow Him as His disciples. We also see that He is the “Christ,” the anointed one or Messiah. (Be sure to teach your children what this word means!) And we see that the English-speaking people use the word “Jesus” to refer to Yeshua.
While we realize that many people want to stay away from the word “holy,” because it has lost its meaning as chodesh, or “set apart,” we use it in our curriculum because our children will hear it in everyday speech and will encounter it as they read. We want them to develop a healthy understanding of this word (“set apart” or “clean” in the biblical sense) rather than a pagan or Catholic understanding (“something to be worshiped”).
The word translated “Spirit” in English Bibles is Ruach in Hebrew, and it carries the idea of “breath” or “wind.” In English literature, the word Spirit can refer to God, but it can also refer to ghosts and demons. Be sure to teach your children what it means so that they can properly interpret this word as they read.
The bottom line is that we are using our English language many thousands of years after Babel. It still carries with it the ideas of a True God, but it has also been corrupted by paganism. All languages, including Hebrew, have this problem.
The book of Revelation tells us that people will praise Yeshua with all languages:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10, ESV)
Of course, on the other hand, we read,
“‘And in that day,’ declares YHVH, ‘you will call me “My Husband,” and no longer will you call me “My Baal.” For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.‘” (Hosea 2:16-17, ESV)
As those who have been grafted into the nation of Israel, we know that this verse is speaking about us. We realize the trickiness of the issue of Sacred Names. We do not want to further the cycle of paganism and lies that we inherited from our fathers. However, we also have the responsibility to teach our children what English and Hebrew words mean, including their etymology (origin, source, history). Our children need to be able to read secular and church literature with discernment. We know that even our best efforts to use our Creator’s name properly may still be incorrect, but we feel it is our duty to try to the best of our ability.
So this is our curriculum’s stance and the reason why we do what we do. We hope you will use the freedom and responsibility given to you as parents to guide your children according to Scripture, to the best of your ability, regardless of whether you agree with our views or not.
P.S. We only have permission from a few Bible publishers to use their translations in our curriculum. We copy-and-paste from digital versions of their Bibles, then we edit to substitute sacred names. Sometimes, when we’re tired and have been writing curriculum all day, we miss some! If you ever spot a place where we’ve forgotten to change one of these, please feel free to leave a comment on the website and let us know. Thank you!
- “the LORD” to “YHWH,” “YHVH,” or “יֽהֹוָה”
- “Jesus” to “Yeshua”
- “Christ” to “Messiah”