Can we swear in the Name of YHVH?

Posted by on Dec 12, 2018

Question: Can we swear in the Name of YHVH?

Answer: First, we need to clarify what to swear mean, since the present author uses English to write this Q&A.

In English, the verb to swear is one of those words that have a dual meaning: (1) to make a solemn statement, to promise undertaking to do something or affirming that something is the case. Or, we may say: to take a solemn oath as to the truth of a statement. (2) to use offensive language, especially as an expression of anger.

But, since the English translations of the Bible use (1), rather than (2), so, we must paraphrase our question to “Can we take an oath in the Name of YHVH?”

The Torah of YHVH clearly allows us to vow in the Name, as we read thus,

And do not swear falsely by My Name and so profane the Name of your Elohim. I am Yehovah. (Lev 19:12)

Fear Yehovah your Elohim and serve Him, and swear by His Name. (Deu 6:13)

See also Num_30:2, Num_30:13, Deu_10:20, Deu_23:21.

From these verses, we understand that YHVH allows us to take an oath in His Set-apart Name, as long as we do it truthfully. (Read more). YHVH does not require us to take an oath in His Name, but if we do, He will require us to do according to what we have vowed. This is crystal clear and there is little room for ambiguity. This is the Word of YHVH: the Torah.

However, in the King James’ version of Mat 5:33-34 we read something that would raise the eyebrow. 

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all (Mat 5:33-34 KJV)

Here we see the Messiah is quoting from the Torah, but (notice “but” which introduces comparison, contrast, or contradiction) then He is changing the tone and is forbidding any oath or vow.

So, can we swear in the Name of YHVH, or we are forbidden? Because, in the Torah we are allowed to take an oath, but per the King James’ version of the Bible, we are absolutely forbidden. This also looks crystal clear.

Where is the truth?

The answer we find in the original text of Matthew, as it appears in Hebrew Gospel of Matthew by George Howard, Mercer University Press, 1995, page 21.

Again, you heard what was said to those of long ago, ‘You shall not swear by My Name falsely, but shall return to HaShem your oath. And I say to you not to swear in vain in any matter, neither by heaven, because it is throne of Elohim. (Mat 5:33-34)

(Note: the present author took the liberty to make Howard’s translation closer to Hebrew by replacing “but” with “and”, since this is the meaning of the Hebrew “vav”; “HaShem”, Heb. The Name, per the Jewish scribal tradition, is the substitute for the Name of the Creator Yehovah)

The reader should have noticed a few things here. First, the substantial difference between the two texts: in Greek, Jesus forbade us to swear at all, while in Hebrew, Yeshua forbids us to swear in vain (Heb. falsely) at all. Jesus changed the Law, while Yeshua is consistent and faithful to the Word of His Father. Also, the reader should have noticed the typical Hebraic expression in Hebrew Matthew versus the Greek thought in the Textus Receptus.

In other words, if the Greek text is correct, then the Messiah has changed the Torah (commonly known as “the Law”) of His Father, as this comes in no surprise to the main stream doctrine in the Christianity that the Christ abolished the Law.

But, if the Hebrew text is correct, then the Messiah has upheld the Torah and taught the others to do so. The difference is between day and night, is it not? (Read more) Evidently, for the translators this “insignificant” word falsely was not important and they decided to omit it.

Such small “adjustments” are not uncommon in the Greek translation of Matthew. We can even find blunders as misquoting a prophet in Mat 27:9; something the disciple could not have possibly done. In Mat 27:9, the Greek text wrongly attributes the prophecy to Jeremiah, while the Hebrew text correctly quotes Zechariah (Zec_11:12-13). 

So, when these small “adjustments” come up on the surface, and we compare diligently verse by verse the Greek and the Hebrew texts of Matthew, the reader will discover the original source of the Gospel of Matthew: Hebrew. But, what is disturbing, is that despite such a huge blunder in the Greek text, there are people who still support the Greek origin of Matthew and of the Apostolic Writings.

But, to be objective, the omitting of false could have been an honest copy-of-copy scribal mistake on the part of the translators, as we learn from Eusebius (circa 270-340) that the translators had difficulties to translate Hebrew to Greek doing their best. 

Papias (Eusebius, H.E. 3.39.16):

“Matthew collected the oracles (ta logia) in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could.”

See also Eusebius, H.E. 3.24.6, Early Church History, Vol. 5, Ch. 8, Early Church History, Vol. 6, Ch. 25: 4.

We should also note that Desiderius Erasmus’ (Dutch theologian, 1466-1536) the Textus Receptus was an edition of the Greek New Testament which became the foundation of such translations as Geneva Bible, KJV, and consequently all modern renditions.

Erasmus did this work because the Church did a poor job to preserve the Apostolic Writings. That made him compile all existing Greek texts into what we know today the Textus Receptus with variants from different sources of Greek.

Erasmus even had to do a reverse translation from Latin into Greek to compile Revelation, because the last book of the Bible was incomplete in Greek. (For more on the prophecy in the Book of Revelation read here) Had Erasmus not saved and compiled into one the existing Greek texts, we could not have had what we call today the Apostolic Writings.

At any rate, to conclude this important topic, can we swear in the Name of YHVH? Yes, we can but we need to remind ourselves that YHVH has given us the command not to add to nor to subtract from His Word (see Deu_4:2, Deu_12:32, Jer_26:2, Pro_30:6, Rev_22:18-19) to protect us from “small” oversights that brought  such a huge distortion to the Bible.