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The Sacred Name Movement (SNM) is a movement in Christianity that seeks to conform Christianity to its Hebrew Roots in practice, belief and worship. The best known distinction of the SNM is its belief in the use of a proper name for the God of Israel (YHVH/Yahweh) based upon the Tetragrammaton and the use of the Hebrew name of Jesus (Yahshua). SNM believers also generally keep many of the Old Testament laws and ceremonies such as the Torah festivals and keeping kosher food laws. However, not every 'Sacred Name' Group adheres to Old Testament festivals, dietary laws and other mitzvot.
The term "sacred name" is not exclusive to this movement but is a general theological term in Christianity - a translation of the Latin nomen sacrum - as well as being paralleled by concepts in many religions such as the Māori concept of a tapu name for a person or god.
The Sacred Name Movement arose in the early 20th century out of the Adventist| movement. C. O. Dodd, a member of the Church of God, began keeping the Jewish festivals (including Passover) in 1928 and adopted sacred name doctrines in the late 1930s. Dodd also came into contact with Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, who accepted many of Dodd's teachings.
Dodd began publishing The Faith| magazine starting in 1937 to promote his views. It is currently freely distributed by the Assembly of Yahweh, the oldest of any still existing Sacred Name Assembly. Renowned scholar of American religions J. Gordon Melton wrote of the magazine,
|“||No single force in spreading the Sacred Name movement was as important as The Faith magazine.||”|
Angelo Traina, a disciple of Dodd, undertook the writing of a Sacred Name edition of the Bible, publishing the Holy Name New Testament in 1950 (see Tetragrammaton in the New Testament) and the Holy Name Bible in 1962, both based upon the King James Version but replacing "God" with "Elohim", "LORD" with "Yahweh" and "Jesus" with "Yahshua".
Sacred Name Family Tree
The Movement started with the formation of the yahshua Assembly of Yahweh in Holt, Michigan, USA in the early 1930s. The leaders of this group claim that a founding member was visited by two angels who explained that The Messiah's Name is properly Yahshua. This occurred around the time that interest in the subject was keen.
The Assemblies of Yahweh, Bethel, PA, was begun by Jacob O. Meyer, after ordination by members of the Assembly of Yahweh. Over time, The Bethel organization became independent of the Michigan group, and expanded their national outreach.
It can be argued that all the above groups are a "Sacred Name group", as they all have ties to the original "Assembly of Yahweh" and have almost identical doctrines. Because there is no formal enrollment to be a "Sacred Name group," the term is loosely defined. Many people include groups that use variations of "Yahweh" and "Yahshua", but teach very different doctrines than the above groups, to be "in the movement".
There are countless groups with no established ties to the Assembly of Yahweh, Holt Michigan. One of the better-known includes The Assembly of Yahweh 7th Day in Cisco, TX, which developed their liturgy under their own leadership. They have extensive dealings with the mainstream Sacred Name groups listed above, exemplified by the fact that they host the Unity Conference every year(including 2009,www.yaim.com). Their doctrines differ from mainstream Sacred Name doctrines such as using the vernal equinox to calculate their calendar, rejecting the pre-existence of Yahshua (commonly called Jesus) and differing views on the application of Sabbath rest.
The Assemblies of Yahweh, Bethel, PA, and the House of Yahweh each maintain an exclusive flavor to their fellowship patterns, and have distanced themselves from the mainstream of the movement. It is rare for a member of either of these two organizations to personally have dealings with Sacred Namers on the outside. The Assemblies of Yahweh (Bethel) still has many beliefs and practices in common with the Movement, while the House of Yahweh has evolved a liturgy and a doctrinal system that is considered unorthodox.
Names of God and Christ
Sacred Name-Yahusha believers teach that "God" and "Lord" are mere titles that cannot properly carry the meaning of His name, and that many titles ascribed to God are tainted by pagan ancestry. They believe that it is necessary to salvation that one use the correct name of God, which in the Hebrew Bible is the tetragrammaton (usually rendered as Yahuah or Yahuwah, but some variants used by SNM groups include 'Yahveh, Yahvah, Yaohu-Ul, Yahovah and the older transliteration Jehovah, although there is no "j" in Hebrew.
The SNM accepts the New Testament and Jesus as the Messiah. However, the name spelled "Jesus" is seen as either a badly corrupted transliteration of the Messiah's true name or as a pagan-influenced name. SNM groups refer to him most often as Yahusha, but sometimes as Yeshua, Yahushua, Yahoshua, Yaohushua, Y'shua or Yahshuah. The title Christ was originally thought to be pagan. Even though few believe that today, the word "Christ" is usually replaced with "the Messiah" in deference to the Hebrew Roots of The Faith.
This distinctive emphasis on sacred names has led to the production of several different Sacred name Bible translations that use Hebrew-based names. These include Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible, Angelo Traina's Holy Name Bible, Sacred Name King James Bible , Sacred Scriptures, Family of Yah Edition , The Word of Yahuah, The Scriptures, etc. While most of the translations employ the form "Yahweh", varying forms of both The Father's and Son's Names are found in these Bibles, as the rendering of these names is naturally influenced by the scholarship of the translators. Some translations have used used Hebrew or Paleo-Hebrew letters for writing these names. Sacred Namers accustomed to one English spelling have no difficulty reading a Bible with an alternate spelling using Roman letters.
Many sacred name groups extend distinctive Adventist doctrines. Though not all, many sacred name groups tend to be binitarian, Arian, or unitarian instead of trinitarian. Binitarian, or ditheist theology was popular with many non-Ellen White adventist groups, the best known of which was Herbert W. Armstrong's "Radio Church of God". A. N. Dugger and Dodd, two of the co-founders of Sacred Name, had been close associates of a young Herbert Armstrong in the Salem, West Virginia, 7th Day Church of God.
Another distinctive of non-Ellen White adventism was the Wednesday crucifixion theory, an idea claimed as original by Herbert Armstrong but traceable to 19th-century Church of God Adventism. Sacred name theology emphasizes the usual Church of God adventist ideas like the seventh-day Sabbath, the new moons, the High Sabbaths, the pagan status of Christmas, Easter, and birthdays, Levitical dietary laws and the study of the Hebrew language. Another unique practice is the annual Passover service, to parallel the Jewish passover. Its annual celebration is analogous to the mainstream Christian celebration of communion daily, weekly, or monthly. (see the section on Passover below.)
Other teachings mirror those of evangelical Christianity:
- a patriarchal view of the family, with an emphasis on the husband's duty
- a critique of evolution
- rejection of liberal politics
- rejection of historical-critical approaches to Bible scholarship, or any other approaches that deny the supremacy of Scripture
Similarities between Sacred name doctrines and those taught by Herbert W. Armstrong give the appearance that the more unusual tenets of Armstrongism are upheld by Sacred Namers. But in fact, doctrines such as the rejection of medical treatment, Anglo-Israel theory, and old-earth creationism, receive virtually no play-time; either in their literature, or in their sermons. Individual beliefs in these matters varies widely.
Daily Bible study and prayer are considered normal. However, a Sacred Namer will typically allocate a larger percentage of time to the study of the Old Testament than the average Christian. Some individual Sacred Namers have established regular prayer times in the morning and evening, to follow the pattern of daily Sacrifices found in the Old Testament Law.
Classical Sacred Name theology does not teach the belief in an everlasting, burning hell for the wicked or for those who never heard the Glad Tidings. Most Sacred Namers believe that everyone, past or future, will have at least one bona fide chance to hear the Glad Tidings and to respond to them. For those who missed out in this life, some process of universal judgment for all is expected to play-out in the time of the Second Resurrection.
Though the Second Resurrection is never referred to as such in The Scriptures, mention made of the "First Resurrection" in Revelation 20:5-6, coupled with the judgment described briefly in Revelation 20:12, is interpreted to point to such a "Second Resurrection" process. Upon acceptance of salvation, the sacrifice of Yahshua is applied to all who accept it at that time, and they are given a period of time to manifest the good works by which they are judged.
It is believed that many incorrigible and wicked people will not choose eternal life, even under these ideal circumstances. The concepts of Universal reconciliation and hellfire for innocent babies who never heard the Glad Tidings are equally repugnant to Sacred Name theology.
Any analysis of devotional practices within the movement must be approached from three perspectives. First, there are the standards which the various, independent organizations teach and enforce. Second, the practices of the individual members, which often differ from the official position of their congregational leaders. Third, there are independent types who will fellowship with groups on a guest basis, but who have carved out a lifestyle that is often more strict and reserved compared to the formal organizations.
This variety of faithful expression is quite similar to that in mainstream Christianity. The distinguishing factor for Sacred Namers is that their system of beliefs carries with it a grave responsibility for studying and proving all things. Individuals in the movement often develop an entire belief system on their own, and when they meet up with others, often for the first time, they are surprised to find that they have reached similar conclusions on the overall thrust of Biblical doctrine, yet differ on personal matters such as strictness, conformity to social norms and holiness.
The following narrative will describe the overall contours of the Sacred Name lifestyle, while illustrating areas where differences of opinion are common.
Sabbaths, new moons and feast days
In an attempt to emulate the practices of the earliest Christian congregations, Sacred Namers follow a schedule of devotional practices that operate on the basis of daily, weekly, monthly and annual cycles.
Times of religious observance are fulfilled in a cycle similar to Jewish Practices. These are the only "appointments" documented in Scripture, and so Sacred Namers do their best to observe them.
Being seventh-day Sabbatarians, they consider preparation for and observance of the weekly Sabbath as the high point of the week. The time is spent in rest, prayer, Bible study and Congregational worship. A limited amount of charitable deeds may be exercised, especially in response to emergencies, but in practice it has been found that a large level of activity in this area leaves one unrested for the work of the coming week. Most organizations simply require regular attendance at services on Sabbath for those within driving distance. Post-meeting fellowship meals are the norm at such gatherings.
It is rare for Sacred Namers to prepare a full meal from scratch on Sabbath, but the heating of food prepared the previous day is commonly allowed by most Assemblies. Some individuals harbor a conviction to not even warm up meals on Sabbath, in deference to the commands in Exodus 16:23. Whether they are guests or regular members, they are treated as equals when they bring a covered dish of room-temperature food prepared the previous day.
Because so many Sacred Namers are geographically scattered, they will seek connection with others on Sabbath, by telephone, audio tape sermons or even internet-broadcast religious services. Yet there is a growing interest in the movement to find creative ways to cease all connection to public utilities such as electricity and telephone service. This is done to experience Sabbath more fully, as it was done through most of history, and to put some distance between themselves and the world.
Sabbath services are conducted much like the services in any Christian church. Traditionally, the service opens with singing and a prayer. Then there is ministering in The Word including Scripture Reading and Sermons. Through the 1980s and 1990s the sermons had the feel of apologetics, sometimes being very technical in nature. In the last several years, members have asked for, and have received, a wider range of sermon topics, which are practical and provide greater insight into how to apply the Scriptures in this age.
On monthly intervals, many Sacred Namers watch for the New Moon, which is defined by them as the confirmed visibility of the early, thin crescent. This is based on an extrapolation of Deuteronomy 16:1, which is interpreted by many to mean, "Watch for the New Moon of Abib." Since the month of "Abib", which occurs in the springtime, is the first month of the liturgical year, this sighting is considered critical. The other critical New Moon is the one which begins the seventh liturgical month.
In both cases, important religious observances are derived from the establishment of these dates. This follows the determination of Jewish Holy Days as done in Apostolic times. (Modern Rabbinic Jews fix these dates by calculation, while Karaite Jews still perform direct observation, and their calendars often differ by a couple of days as a result.) Establishment of the New Moons is so critical that New Moon sightings through the rest of the year are done as practice in anticipation of helping to sight the critical ones.
The New Moon of the seventh month is a Holy day in itself. On the night when that new moon is expected, it is common to find Sacred Namers on the telephone and internet throughout the night, exchanging reports and sightings of this critical New Moon. The diligence and preparation which goes into that night is similar to the practices of the ancient Jewish Sanhedrin, and modern Muslims as they attempt to establish their holy days.
A small number of individuals and organizations within the Sacred Name movement commemorate every New Moon with a special service at night or with some other observance in the daytime. This is done in light of Isaiah 66:23 and Amos 8:5, which suggest some devotional obligation on that day, perhaps as strong as Sabbath.
Though regional New Moon Observation is widely practiced, some individuals and organizations, such as the Assembly of Yahweh (Eaton Rapids), calculate the New Moon based on what is most likely visible in Israel on the appropriate days. Still others declare a New Moon based on the calculated conjunction of the Moon and Sun as the first day of each Scriptural month.
Annual Feast Days
There are seven annual Feast Days observed by Sacred Namers, with many of them celebrated in the context of week-long festivals. For scheduling these feasts, the Jewish day is used, which begins at sundown rather than midnight.
The Spring time Festivals include:
- Passover (Nisan 14), one day.
- The First and Last Days of Unleavened Bread, which are both High Sabbaths. These two days are the endpoints of a week-long celebration.
- Pentecost, in late Spring, is just one day, and is a High Sabbath.
The Autumn Festivals include:
- The Feast of Trumpets, which is a High Sabbath.
- The Fast of Atonement, which is a High Sabbath.
- The First Day of Tabernacles, which is a High Sabbath. This is followed by six additional days called "The Feast of Tabernacles".
- The Last Great Day, which is a High Sabbath. This comes immediately after the Feast of Tabernacles. It is commonly grouped with this feast, but is actually a separate Sabbath.
Three of the above feasts are pilgrimage feasts which are outlined in The Bible: The Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Tabernacles. In Biblical times, Jews were expected to leave their homes and travel to Shiloh, and later to Jerusalem, for these feasts. In modern times, Sacred Name members will usually do a pilgrimage for just Tabernacles.
They will usually travel a considerable distance and share the week with others of like faith, meeting at some agreed upon place. Often this is a facility owned by one of the major Sacred Name groups. If time and opportunity allows, pilgrimage might be done for The Days of Unleavened Bread. It is rare for members to do a pilgrimage for Pentecost. Details about the observance of the days among Sacred Name members appears below.
The annual day of greatest spiritual significance is the Passover. While many Christians celebrate the Christian Communion once a week, Sacred Namers take Communion only once a year, on the evening of Passover. This is done in fulfillment of Luke 22:19, "This do in remembrance of me." The standard interpretation is that The Messiah was celebrating Passover, and that His followers are thus compelled to do likewise.
Under New Covenant interpretation, the said Passover can only include a cup, containing either grape juice or wine, and unleavened bread, often called Matzo. At the corporate level, most assemblies use grape juice, and hold a rigid doctrine against any other beverage in the cup. Certain individuals and families might use wine. A few assemblies have both wine and grape juice available on that night, to accommodate the convictions of both sides. Also, some households view the Passover as a family event, and hold the rite privately in their homes with their families.
The Passover observance in Sacred Name tradition consists of readings from both the Old and New Testament, weaving the Exodus story into the New Covenant writings so that the symbolism of the Exodus event speaks to the spiritual realities of New Testament Salvation. Groups vary in how the evening unfolds but generally there is a reading of a wide variety of Scriptures, climaxed with the taking of the emblems. Gatherings will vary as to when the foot washing is performed. Many groups will not allow men and women to perform foot washing on each other unless they are related.
It is significant that Sacred Namers will usually not allow a guest to take the cup and the bread unless they have been re-baptized into some Hebrew form of the Messiah's Name. Sometimes a congregation will prepare a full Seder, similar to Jewish tradition, and build their Passover evening around such an event. The event will often include a Passover Haggadah borrowed from the Messianic Jewish tradition. This is considered a special occasion, and is meant to convey the mood and flavor of the Last Supper. It is rare for any assembly to do this on an annual basis.
Calculation of the date for Passover has been a long-standing area of inquiry for Sacred Namers. Most groups will hold the Passover on the beginning of the 14th day of the month of Abib at sundown, which commences the beginning of the Biblical day. But some groups and individuals believe that it should be observed on the beginning of the 15th. It is very common for individuals and families to observe Passover independently, as noted above, and then to rejoin the local assembly for the remaining times of celebration for the Days of Unleavened Bread, a Biblical festival, which is a week-long follow-up to Passover.
Days of Unleavened Bread
The Days of Unleavened Bread consist of seven days during which no yeast or leavening agents may be eaten. During this season, leavening is deemed symbolic of sin, pride, and false doctrine. By extension, it is often applied to other concepts which speak to bad character and the need for personal reform. Prior to this week, members eliminate all forms of leavening from their home. During this week members are circumspect about what they eat, often studying food labels and ingredient lists to insure that no leavening agents are consumed. It is rare for this week-long observance to go by without the discovery of some leavening in the house, or otherwise in the locus of control of the typical member. Typically, the average member interprets such an experience as a reminder for self-examination, which is the central meaning of the season.
The dates for celebrating the The Days of Unleavened Bread are established by first identifying the First New Moon of the Biblical New Year, and thus the first month, which is called Abib. Typically, that first New Moon in the Spring occurs in Late March or early April. The first day of Unleavened Bread is then the 15th day from that first New Moon. Some groups combine the Day of Passover with the First Day of Unleavened Bread, based on certain wording and ambiguities in the pertinent Biblical texts.
All members agree that yeast bread, commonly available at grocery stores, is forbidden. But leavening can be created using baking soda and baking powder, which can manifest a leavening-like action. Thus many members, though not all, will also avoid food items prepared with baking soda and baking powder. Many go so far as to also avoid beer and wine, even though these are not food items.
The first and last days are deemed as High-Day Sabbaths. On these days, avoidance of occupational work is required. If a member is within driving distance of an assembly, attendance for services is required. Sermons during this festival will usually touch upon the spiritual application of this Feast.
A great deal of creativity is applied to find, use and bake foods that are free of leavening agents. Some products from major Jewish food manufacturers employ baking powder and are avoided, even though they are labeled, "Kosher for Passover". When members gather for fellowship meals, they are often required to exercise patience, caution and deference in the face of differing interpretations of the Biblical dietary rules for this season.
As noted above, some groups have expanded their fellowship patterns during this time, to sustain a full week of services, outings and fellowship. The attendance at some of these gatherings has rivaled that of Tabernacles. When members agree to meet at a particular location the dietary rules governing what is acceptable and not acceptable are established by the hosting organization.
Most Sacred Name groups begin the count to Pentecost during this week of Unleavened Bread. Typically, the count begins from that weekly Sabbath which occurs during this week. The following Sunday is commonly understood to be the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering, when the ancient High Priest would present the first sheaf of barley for the Spring Harvest. Theologically, Sacred Namers find spiritual fulfillment of this ritual in the events surrounding the Resurrection of Yahshua the Messiah.
The Messiah's Resurrection is traditionally interpreted to have occurred on a Saturday evening, exactly three days after a Wednesday execution. It is believed that He presented Himself to Yahweh the following morning. This is believed to have occurred somewhere between the time when he forbade one of the women to touch him, and the time when another lady grasped his feet.
Not all groups align the historical events with the Feast days. Some will start the count to Pentecost after the first Day of Unleavened Bread itself, rather than after a weekly Sabbath occurring during the Feast.
Even though the dates for these Feast Days are determined by simple observation and counting, newcomers are often daunted by the need to participate in all this, despite the fact that the calculation for Easter is far more complicated. See Calculating the date of Easter.
The observance of this one-day event by Sacred Namers has theological content nearly identical to that of mainstream Christianity. One key difference is that Sacred Namers consider Pentecost to be a Biblically-mandated day of rest, whereas American Christians will take special note of Pentecost, but with the exception of Sunday services, will treat it as any other Sunday. Still, Pentecost observance around the world has been traditionally strong, until recent times (see the Wikipedia article on Pentecost).
Among the Feast Days observed by Sacred Namers, Pentecost enjoys the strongest support from extra-Biblical church history. While observance of Pentecost around the world is waning at this time, the Roman Catholic Church still enjoins its members to observe it as a day of religious obligation.
Many Sacred Name teachers have noted that, based on a certain exegesis of the Exodus story, it appears that Yahweh delivered the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai on Pentecost Day. This view is largely upheld in Rabbinic Judaism as well. In as much as many rabbis teach that the Decalogue was shouted from Sinai in all the languages of man, the New Testament report in Acts Chapter Two takes on deeper meaning, as it was on this day that men of all languages first heard the Gospel. Topics like this are often explored in Pentecost sermons among Sacred Namers.
Other teaching suitable for Pentecost might cover two additional topics: Fruits of the Holy Spirit, as an exemplified in the development of Messianic Character and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, as exemplified in the proper execution of Heavenly-Ordained roles in the Assemblies.
Most Sacred Name organizations are neither Pentecostal nor Charismatic in their style of worship, placing less emphasis on the expression of Spiritual Gifts in services. Yet substantive developments in the History of the Sacred Name Movement, or even selected events in the Protestant Reformation, are deemed a continuation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as celebrated on this day. While Mainstream Sacred Name theology does not emphasize the Gifts of the Spirit (much less Tongues), numerous Pentecostal Groups have made friendly contacts with the movement, while maintaining their independence.
The calculation of the day on which to celebrate Pentecost has two different approaches. With few exceptions, all ministries consider the calculation a forty-nine-day count, beginning on the day of the Wave Sheaf offering. The date of the Wave Sheaf offering (noted above in the discussion on the Feast of Unleavened Bread), has two interpretations. One places the Wave Sheaf offering one day after weekly Sabbath during the days of Unleavened Bread.
The other view places the Wave Sheaf Offering on that day immediately following the First High Day during Unleavened Bread. The first approach guarantees that Pentecost will always land on a Sunday, while the second approach allows Pentecost to occur any day of the week. It is interesting to note that the count actually begins from Sabbath before the Wave Sheaf, thus making it a count of fifty days, thus the expression "pente-cost" (fifty-count). A few members with roots in the older tradition of the Worldwide Church of God still practice a count that always places Pentecost on a Monday.
Although Pentecost is a pilgrimage Feast, there is not as much effort expended to travel great distances for gathering on this day, as there is for The Feast of Tabernacles. Members who have access to a local congregation will simply make preparations for one extra Sabbath day when Pentecost comes around. Those for whom the count is always on a Sunday must prepare for a double Sabbath.
One other practice that is common is to make special preparations to travel to a congregation perhaps several hours away, just for this one occasion. This will require rising early and preparing for a long drive. The effort required to visit a larger congregation, 100's of miles away, for just a one or two day meeting makes for a difficult decision. Yet interest in observing this as a broad-based pilgrimage (a trip requiring up to four days away) started growing early in the New Millennium.
One additional challenge often faces certain Observants of Pentecost around the world. There is a statistical likelihood that Pentecost will sometimes land near a national holidy in the spring. In the USA, for example, that could be Father's Day or perhaps Memorial Day, making him unavailable for social events surrounding those weekends. If a Sacred Namer has an unbelieving family, the coincidence of these days will aggravate any existing tensions over the Sacred Namer's devotional life.
Feast of Trumpets
The Feast of Trumpets is another name for the feast referred to by Jews as Rosh Hashanah. While Jews deem this the beginning of the year, Sacred Namers frame their observance of this day almost exclusively in eschatological terms. The New Year, from a Biblical standpoint, is recorded as the First New Moon of Springtime, the first day of Abib (see Exodus 12:1-4). Because it is not a pilgrimage feast, Sacred Namers will spend the day with a local congregation, if one is within driving distance, or in personal study at home.
The Jewish Name for this One-Day Feast (Rosh Hashanah) literally means "Head of the Year". Sacred Namers like to point out that the Biblical Name is Yom Teruah, Meaning "Day of Acclamation" and by extension "Day of Trumpets," thus placing the "Jewish New Year" connotation far from discussion. Sacred Namers will interpret the New Moon that establishes this day as the beginning of the seventh biblical month.
Seasonally, this High Day occurs nine days before The Day of Atonement, a time for self-examination and repentance. Thus, the alarm is a reminder to enter into these nine days with a sense of reverence, and even alarm, over one's personal condition before Heaven. Much is also made of the Seven Trumpets in Revelation, and the "Last Trump" mentioned by Paul. The recurring theme of trumpet calls before entering battle is used as a kind of wake-up for believers who must enter into battle with the world and even their own flesh on a daily basis.
A nice overview of all the concepts that relate to this Feast are found in the Wikipedia article on The Feast Of Trumpets. Virtually every point there is shared with Sacred Namers.
What is unique to Sacred Namers is their expectation that, at the end of the age, the victory promised over evil will reveal a lively vindication of the beliefs and practices of The Sacred Name Movement. This is best illustrated from the Sacred Namers' belief that a final trumpet will accompany the return of Yahshua at the end of this age. While this is not unique to Christian belief, Sacred Namers place particular emphasis on Revelation 14:1, "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his (Name and His) Father's name written in their foreheads."
The words in parentheses are missing in the King James Bible, but do appear in virtually every other modern translation. These three words not withstanding, the passage still places Yahweh's Name on the forehead of The Lamb's people.
There is one aspect of Trumpets observance that is unique to Sacred Namers: The diligent watching for the New Moon which ushers in this day. While New Moons in general and the New Moon of Abib have already been covered in this article, there is a subtle difference between the tone of the communication surrounding the observance of this New Moon and that of Abib 1.
In the case of Abib 1, the first month, there is about a two-week delay between the confirmation of that New Moon and the first day in which any devotional practices must commence. Specifically, Abib 1 will occur 13 days before Passover, giving the worshiper nearly two weeks to get ready.
In contrast, Trumpets places enormous pressure on the fellowship to determine whether the seventh month New Moon has occurred, as it commences a High Holy Day immediately upon its confirmation. About once every three years the New Moon for "Trumpets" turns out to be critical, that is, it is uncertain whether it will even be visible on the particular night when it is expected to first appear.
Sacred Namers have developed an unusual level of skill in estimating the likelihood of New Moon visibility. The ability to spot that thin crescent is affected by a number of natural factors, including: the weather, the time between the Conjunction and the Sunset (i.e., the age of the New Moon), the time between the sunset and the moonset; and the Declination of the Moon. Other seasonal factors and local factors, such as pollution and city illumination, also affect visibility.
Statistically, there is always a greater likelihood of visibility in the Southwestern part of the USA for Sacred Namers who live there. Thus Sacred Namers in the USA will often make contact with each other days in advance of a critical New Moon, and encourage each other to watch for the thin crescent shortly after sundown on the anticipated night. And if sightings are unconfirmed through the night, a lot of attention is focused on the seasoned moon-watchers in the Southwestern part of the USA.
Usually by the following morning, a decision is made by the ministry in each of the organizations, as to whether or not a New Moon has been seen. The break point comes when two reliable witnesses have seen the New Moon, at a time and a place in the sky where it is expected.
Also, the overall orientation of the moon's crescent must match the scientifically derived expectations. If two credible witnesses see such a moon, then that day is immediately declared to be a Holy Day, and the count to the remaining Feast Days begins. If two credible witnesses are not identified, then the following day is declared to be the High Day.
For those seventh month New Moons that have a high likelihood of visibility, most brethren will commence observation of High-Day Sabbath immediately at sundown. For nights when the sighting is largely tentative some brethren will observe that night as Sabbath, while others wait until a confirmation.
With an observation-based calendar, the exact date of Trumpets cannot be known with certainty. Many Sacred Namers believe that the Second Coming of the Messiah will occur on this day. The timing of the Second Coming is also shrouded in uncertainty, and daily diligence and watchfulness must be practiced by the Saints. Thus any calendar schemes, which place the Feast of Trumpets on a known, calculable day (such as the Jewish Calendar), are considered by some to be inauthentic, and are believed to deplete the day of its full meaning.
On the other hand, a calendar scheme based on observation will create some confusion, owing to its uncertainties. Since Yahweh is not seen as 'the author of confusion', some rely on calculated calendars, some even adopting the Jewish calendar, owing to its stability and predictability.
Day of Atonement
In ancient times, the High Priest of Israel would offer a special sacrifice on behalf of all Israel, which had the effect of broad covering for all the sins of the nation. On the very same day, all of Israel was to be absorbed in a day of self-affliction, self-examination and repentance. With this level of national focus at play, the gravity of sin and the importance of reconciliation was underscored.
While Atonement is considered the holiest day in the Sacred Calendar, its relationship to New Testament events is not at first obvious. Teaching ministers in the movement will all declare the sacrifice of Yahshua as a fulfillment of the Atonement Sacrifice, basing their theology on the extended development found in Hebrews Chapters 6 through 10. While different teaching ministers will exhibit some variety in their theology of this day, there seems to be a consensus on the following points, and it actually brings the Passover Sacrifice into the picture.
- Technically speaking, the nation of Israel was not saved on Passover, but only the First Born, because they were the only ones in any danger on that night. Similarly, Yahshua's personal Passover sacrifice was done for those of us who are the firstborn of the New Covenant Assembly. This is based on Hebrews 12:23, where its readers are said to have joined "... the general assembly and congregation of the firstborn ...".
- Thus, the Messianic sacrifice is for us, in this age, who accept His Glad Tidings, a type of "firstborn" assembly.
- The General Day of Atonement applies to us, as well, with the High Priest, Yahshua, having executed priestly duties on Atonement, by entering the Holy of Holies, to share the Throne with Yahweh, and employing His Sacrifice made "once for all" (Hebrews 10:10).
- While the first Passover Sacrifice saved only the First Born of Israel that night, it did lead to the Exodus story and the deliverance of all of Israel.
- Therefore, it is likewise believed that the Day of Atonement now points to a day when all of mankind has the blood of the Messiah applied for the covering of their sins as well.
Except for the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of Investigative Judgment, it is not made clear in the theology of any New Testament religion exactly which "Day of Atonement" in history was the one on which Yahshua entered the Most Holy Place in Heaven. Most assume that it occurred at some point long in the past, most likely the year of his Ascension.
Most Sacred Namers spend the Day of Atonement in fasting, prayer and self-examination. Interestingly, some consider this their favorite day, as it affords uninterrupted time for devotional expression. If a congregation is within driving distance, a member will attend such a gathering because it is a commanded "Holy Convocation" (Leviticus 23:27). However, the restrictions placed on this day might cause the definition of "driving distance" to be a bit shorter than for regular Sabbath meetings.
Sermons delivered on this day will connect the sacrifice of Yahshua to remembrance of Atonement, while looking forward to the coming of the Kingdom. Readings from Hebrews chapters 6-10 are common. Expository sermons about Leviticus 16 abound. Most members enjoy a detailed recollection of the Priestly duties carried out in past times on this day. The "scapegoat" is often compared to Satan, who is put far away and forgotten, (while the innocent goat is slaughtered). Sometimes, a connection is made between the scapegoat and Barabbas, who was released and forgotten, while Yahshua was seized for execution.
At the conclusion of Atonement, just five days from The Feast of Tabernacles, the Sacred Namer prepares for the Fall Feast.
Feast of Tabernacles
Commonly called Sukkot in Judaism, this feast has become a climactic event in the liturgical calendar of Sacred Namers. It has been said that emphasis on this pilgrimage feast is due to the fact that there are numerous prophetic expectations surrounding this festival, which are still unfulfilled. This stands in contrast to Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost, where historical events recorded in the New Testament provide a satisfactory fulfillment of prophetic expectations. Thus Sacred Namers make exceptional effort to attend this pilgrimage feast.
The first High Day occurs on the 15th day of the seventh month, placing it 5 days after The Day of Atonement. The feast then continues for a total of seven days. The eighth day is also a High-Day Sabbath, and it is commonly called “The Last Great Day”, in reference to John7:37.
On occasion, some of the exegesis about these feasts will make a distinction between The Feast of Tabernacles (which is technically only 7 days) and the Last Great Day, which follows (Leviticus 23:36). But practitioners of this movement tend to call the combined eight-day festival simply “The Feast”.
“Tabernacle” is a late-English word, pointing to a small, temporary dwelling. The Hebrew word, “Sukka” (Heb plural “Sukkot”) actually points to a small temporary dwelling made by intertwining branches. During this Feast, attendees will live in temporary quarters, whether it be a tent, a trailer or even lodging near the feast site. There is growing interest in living in tents during this festival, to more fully experience the feast as celebrated by the ancients. Some have even tried, with varying success, to make sukkas from locally available branches. (Feast sites held at rented facilities will only allow the pickup of fallen branches).
Exegetically, Tabernacles is a commemoration of the forty-years wilderness experience, when the Israelites had to dwell in booths (Leviticus 23:42-43), But liturgically, Tabernacles is seen as a reminder of our temporary existence and a foretaste of the Kingdom to come. The temporary nature of human existence is underscored by the ephemeral nature of the setup at the feast: camp must inevitably be broken at the end of the gathering. But the Kingdom is exemplified in how everyone pulls together to enjoy some good, clean fun for a week.
The setting for this Feast varies widely from group to group. Some will gather in an outdoor setting, perhaps renting a portion of a national park for that period. Other groups have land holdings, sufficient to allow a campground atmosphere to be created at once. Still others will rent retreat centers owned by others. It is increasingly common to have dozens of Sacred Namers appear ad hoc at various outdoor settings for a particular year at Tabernacles, only to have them regroup and reorganize with a different mix of people the following year.
A look at Feast schedules published by the established groups indicate a mix of formal meetings, Bible studies, group activities and free time to get ready for Sabbath days during the feast.
Formal meetings will be structured much like Sabbath meetings. Photographic archives of various Tabernacles gatherings will reveal a musical, celebratory atmosphere at play. Group activities for any particular feast site may be family-oriented, sports-centered, or youth-centered. Evening campfires, often including kosher hot dogs and kosher marshmallows are a popular favorite after a full day. While the consumption of alcohol at The Feast is explicitly allowed in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 14:26), it is increasingly common to have open drinking of adult beverages discouraged, as a sign of moderation.
Because the attendees often have no other outlet for fellowship, Tabernacles is an occasion for the ministry to re-establish basic doctrines and to encourage the members to press on. In as much as independent study is encouraged by Sacred Name ministers, it is common to have visitors come to a feast site with lots of questions, or else come with a doctrinal agenda that they want to advance. Established groups will typically publish warnings about controversy in their feast programs. Such visitors are encouraged to come directly to the ministry with their questions. Informal groups rely on openness and group unity to handle these situations.
Without exception, all Sacred Namers observe the clean food laws. They only differ in terms of strictness and the amount of effort expended in verification. The Scriptural laws governing the certification of Kosher foods do not literally require the blessing or supervision of a rabbi. Thus, rabbinic certification of Kosher foods is considered to exceed the requirements of Sacred Namers. They will freely eat foods thus labeled, but will not likely go out of their way to order strictly Kosher foods. Kosher labeled foods will be the purchase of choice if they are available on the food shelf and within the range of affordability.
Sacred Namers typically do a lot of label-reading, and freely exchange breaking information on what to avoid, in observance of the biblical food Laws. For example, when it was learned several years ago that cochineal was used to dye soft drinks red, news of its origins spread quickly through many branches of the movement, and members stopped buying beverages thus labeled. Even though it is a "natural coloring," cochineal, also known as carmine is ritualistically objectionable, as it is derived from ground-up (non-clean) insects.
Sacred Namers have grown leery of ambiguous food labels, which often hide the true origin of the ingredients. In addition, an increasing number of members have taken an interest in natural foods and organic foods. This serves two purposes. 1) Natural, clearly-labeled foods will likely be Kosher, and 2) It is commonly believed that the closer one is to a diet provided by Yahweh, the better-off he will be.
The issue of modern food technologies, the emergence of more choices and the tendency of some food manufacturers to disguise their ingredients cause Sacred Namers to exchange information with other people of like mind, even though they are not Sacred-Namers. Members of the movement typically will have warm friendships with Adventists, and also with members of various Sabbatarian churches, who share this common interest. After a member has been in the movement for a while, certain brands of food become established as historically clean and are purchased regularly.
The most important rule of Kosher is the avoidance of blood. While most Sacred Namers consider the slaughtering and bleeding of animals processed through modern slaughterhouses to be acceptable, some members buy only Kosher Certified meats.
Differences from Messianic Judaism
Messianic Judaism began as a movement for and by ethnic Jews, while the Sacred Name movement emerged among Christians. Messianic Judaism is therefore more likely to accept the views of traditional Judaism, such as not pronouncing the Tetragrammaton and keeping the Hillel II calculated calendar instead of sighting the New Moon. The Messianic Jewish mainstream sees nothing wrong with the existence of Christianity that does not keep Torah, whereas the Sacred Name Movement keeps Torah to their understanding of it.
Sacred Name groups
There are many sacred name groups. Most are in the United States but many are also found in various parts of the world. Some of the more important include the following:
- Assemblies of Yahweh
Assemblies of Yahweh in Messiah
- Assembly of Yahweh
- Yahweh's Restoration Ministry
- Assembly of Yahweh 7th Day
- Congregación de Yahweh (Puerto Rico)
- Congregation of Yahweh (USA)
- Congregation of YHWH
- House of Yahweh
With very few exceptions, (such as Victory Community and the Assemblies of Yahweh), the movement has no charismatic leaders, thus making cult status a moot issue for mainstream members of the movement.
One way to identify mainstream Sacred Namers is whether or not they support the annual Unity Conference, or whether they have friends across organizational boundaries. In many ways the movement is a network of contacts and long-standing friendships.
Membership in mainstream organizations is usually informal and made evident by regular Sabbath attendance, and/or regular financial support (usually in the form of tithes). Attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles is considered a sign of support from regular members.
- ↑ Melton, J. Gordon (1992), Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America, New York: wikipedia:Garland Publishing, p. 83, ISBN 9780815311409, OCLC 246783309, http://books.google.com/books?id=KRTGzgpDvL4C&printsec=frontcover#PPA83,M1
- ↑ Renehan, Bruce, Daughter Of Babylon, The True History of The Worldwide Church of God, The Painful Truth web site, http://www.hwarmstrong.com/daughter-of-bablylon-14.htm, retrieved 2009-01-07 , archived by [[wikipedia:WebCite|]] here
- ↑ Hughey, Sam, A History of the True Church, The Reformed Reader web site, http://www.reformedreader.org/history/dugger/authors.htm, retrieved 2009-01-07 , archived by [[wikipedia:WebCite|]] here.
- ↑ Melton, J. Gordon (1978), [[wikipedia:The Encyclopedia of American Religions|]], [[wikipedia:Wilmington, North Carolina|]]: [[wikipedia:McGrath Publishing Company|]], p. 476, ISBN 0787663841, OCLC 4854827
- ↑ http://www.sacrednamebible.com/
- ↑ http://www.wordofyah.org/scriptures/
- ↑ Lowe, 1953
- ↑ Melton
- ↑ Armstrong 1934