A Reason to Shout

In the book A Prayer to our Father on the Hebrew origins of the Lord’s Prayer I shared about an experience I had in the Old City of Jerusalem with Nehemia Gordon. I was told Nehemia was a Hebrew expert trained as a Bible scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I wanted to see if he was legit so I bombarded him with questions throughout our tour. What struck me about Nehemia’s answers was that he wasn’t interested in opinions or theories. Time and again, he would sit down, read and translate directly from the Hebrew Bible. I decided that day that I needed to learn how to interact with my Bible in the original language in the same way. When I told Nehemia he was going to be my Hebrew teacher he responded matter-of-factly: “No, I’m not.” In the last eight years this is the only argument with Nehemia I have ever won.

After much convincing on my part, Nehemia created a rigorous biblical Hebrew curriculum course for me that included linguistic, grammatical and technical information for me to study. He also wrote a series of over 30 exegetical articles for me to read and interact with during our study together. Two of these studies were on the name of our Heavenly Father, which Nehemia wrote as a follow-up to a question I asked him in the Old City of Jerusalem. I have combined his information with my own inspiration and the result is my new book: His Hallowed Name Revealed Again. As you read His Hallowed Name Revealed Again you will also be learning as I did from my Hebrew teacher. When it comes to some of the information behind the inspiration, I am proud to introduce you to my source. I call him Q, but you should probably still call him Nehemia.

My new book answers the question that has been burning in my heart and mind for most of my spiritual journey; what is the name of “Our Father who art in heaven?” I encourage you take the time to interact with the information and inspiration in His Hallowed Name Revealed Again for the revelatory answer to this important question. I have decided to time the official launch of my new book to coincide with the week of the biblical festival of Yom Teruah. Although Jewish tradition calls the festival Rosh Hashanah (New Years), in Numbers 29:1 it is called Yom Teruah, the “Day of Trumpeting.” Some Bible scholars translate the name of this festival as “Day of Shouting” and explain it as a day when the Israelites would shout the name of the Father in prayer. This alone makes it an appropriate time to announce my new book on our heavenly Father’s name. However, there is a more personal connection to the holiday that stems from my own interaction with this hallowed name.

Back in 2002 I was sitting with Nehemia Gordon in the Old City of Jerusalem, across from the Western Wall, when I first asked him how to pronounce the name of our heavenly Father. Nehemia launched into a detailed explanation of ancient Hebrew names talking about grammar, vowels, consonants, and a host of other issues and then finally… he told me how the name is written in the earliest vocalized Hebrew manuscripts. Just at the moment, when Nehemia spoke the name, a Jewish man wrapped in a prayer shawl sounded two blasts of a shofar. Thankfully I recorded the entire conversation and when I played Nehemia the tape some time later, the dual blast of the ram’s horn was unmistakable. In honor of this event, when I heard the Father’s name for the first time, and the two blasts of the shofar, I have chosen Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpeting and Shouting to launch my new book. I invite you to read and download the entire first chapter of His Hallowed Name Revealed Again and send it to family and friends. I look forward to that day when all mankind will Teruah, shout the name of our heavenly Father in praise (Zechariah 14:9 and Psalms 100:1). If you are interested in uncovering truth behind tradition and translation, I encourage you to read my new book that evolved from eight years of study that now allows me to read directly from my most prized possession: the Hebrew Bible.Thanks again Nehemia!

Zulu Sing His Hallowed Name in Hebrew!

As Nehemia and I traveled around South Africa speaking and preaching on the message of our book, we had some amazing experiences. Early in our trip, Nehemia fell ill to a bout of the African equivalent of Montezuma’s revenge. He later called it “Shaka Zulu's revenge”. He really was quite sick and yet his sense of humor was still intact. As he lay in bed for the day, I took advantage of the opportunity to venture out to a beautiful place called the valley of a thousand hills where I encountered a Zulu tribe that changed my entire message for the remainder of our tour.

In a land filled with diversity of language and race, I must admit that it was a challenge to find ways to bring people together in unity. There are eleven official languages in South Africa and many different ethnic groups of people that are living in the same land as neighbors. Nehemia and I were intent upon demonstrating through our relationship and message that there can be unity in the midst of diversity. My Zulu brothers and sisters truly helped our cause!

After watching this tribe in their traditional dress, dancing and singing, there was a moment of silence when all the sudden something happened that seemed completely out of context. One of the Zulu men shouted out praise to the name of God… in Hebrew! After recovering from minor shock, I walked into the midst of the men and women and repeated what he said, and to my amazement, the entire group began singing three Hebrew words over and over that praised the name of our heavenly Father! The three Hebrew words that my Zulu brothers and sisters sang were "Amen" (truth), "Hallelu' (praise) and "Yah". That last one is the poetic form of His name, which Moses taught the Israelites in the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:2). At this point, I joined in and we had a good old fashioned singing and dancing celebration.

After my encounter, I then took what I learned from my Zulu brothers and sisters and closed every session on our tour in South Africa with their beautiful song that calls every language and people to unity in the Hebrew Name of our heavenly Father! No matter what language people spoke all over South Africa, they all sang this song using the same pronunciation. Even though we had people in our audiences who spoke a wide variety of dialects, they all praised the Name the same! No matter what tribal language I encountered, they agreed with the Zulu pronunciation of these three Hebrew words that translate the same across every tongue. I felt like I had struck spiritual gold worth more to me than all the ore in the East Rand Mines! It was really quite a site to see white Afrikaners sing and dance with black Africans in a Dutch Reform church. When you add a Jewish scholar and an African-American preacher to the mix, it really was quite a sight to see!

If you would like to learn more about the Hebrew name of our heavenly Father you might be interested in a study I completed just before our tour in South Africa. This study is a follow-up to our book "A Prayer to Our Father". The study focuses on the second clause of the Lord’s Prayer which is “hallowed be your name” or as it was originally taught by Yeshua to the Jewish multitudes on that windswept Galilean mountainside: “may your name be sanctified”. The title of the 180-page study is "His Hallowed Name Revealed Again" and it includes a CD that teaches 80 different Hebrew descriptions that you can learn to pray and even sing! If you are interested in taking an in-depth look at the topic of His name then you can go to my ministry's website to obtain the study by clicking on the cover below:

His Hallowed Name Revealed Again by Keith Johnson

In just a short time, we are over half way to our goal of getting this study to a limited number of dedicated people around the world willing to read and respond to it by giving suggestions, comments etc. As we receive responses from our study partners, the goal is to put the information in book form and make it available to all who are interested in learning about His holy Name! In the meantime, I will continue to teach and preach to every tribe and nation and invite them to sing and dance (if they are willing) to His holy powerful and precious name that is a strong tower that the righteous run into and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).

Hallelu Yah Amen!

Keith Johnson
Charlotte, NC

Dr. A.J. Moen’s Review

Review of A Prayer to Our Father by Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson (Hilkiah Press), 2009.

Gordon and Johnson provide a gentle walk through unfamiliar territory surrounding the Lord’s Prayer. The territory is unfamiliar because they explore the Hebrew version of this well-known passage of Scripture. The walk is gentle because they have included their personal experiences as they traveled the land of Israel in search of the Hebraic roots of these verses. In a combination of travelogue, history and linguistic detective work, this book guides the reader to insights that only appear in the Hebrew original. It is a journey worth taking.

Clearly written with the average reader in mind, A Prayer to Our Father does not overwhelm with etymological intricacies or theological arguments. Instead, it presents a journey of enlightenment, for the authors and for the reader, as it traverses the land of Israel, examining culture and history in an effort to peel back two thousand years of translation accumulation. The journey reaches its climax in an analysis of the Hebrew worldview connected to our Lord’s simple prayer. The insights – and corrections – discovered in this recovery are formidable and immediately applicable. This is a valuable contribution to any believer’s library.

A. J. Moen, D. Phil.
Academic Dean
Master’s International Divinity School
Evansville, Indiana

Preaching the Hebrew Prayer in Prison

It was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there!

Last December I spoke in a Florida state prison on the Hebrew origins of the Lord’s Prayer. I had never been inside a prison before so I was quite nervous. Mike Harrell, who runs a prison-motorcycle ministry called “Born Again to Ride”, invited me to do this event with him. Mike goes into prisons all over Florida with a large assortment of Harleys and other loud motorcycles and then puts on a rock concert. The idea of “Born Again to Ride” is that inmates who would never otherwise be interested in God are drawn to the motorcycles and the music. When Mike first suggested I do a prison event with him, I warned him that I don’t know how to operate a motorcycle and don’t play any musical instruments.

Born Again to Ride

He assured me that my prison event would not involve any motorcycles or Christian rock bands. Instead I would be speaking at a weekly Bible study. The prisoners who participate in this sort of Bible study have already “cleaned up their act” and dedicated their lives to God. I would be there to teach on the Hebrew background of the New Testament to give them a deeper knowledge of the faith they already embraced. I jumped at the challenge and asked Mike to arrange it.

Weeks later when we finally pulled up to the prison compound I started to think I had made a mistake. The prison looked like an Israeli border fortification, surrounded by a high chain-link fence with plenty of razor-wire and watch towers at regular intervals. We had to go through several layers of gates and steel doors to get to the main entrance area where a guard searched our bags and our bodies for any contraband. We were then led down a series of hallways each of which ended in a steel door opened by an unseen guard in a control room somewhere. After about 10 minutes of this we finally arrived in the prison chapel where I set up my laptop and projector. The prisoners arrived about half an hour later. There were 30 inmates who came to the Bible study and a guard followed them in to do a head count before locking us into the chapel and leaving. One prisoner in the front row saw my computer and asked excitedly if it was really a “laptop”. He explained he’d “been inside” for 20 years and had never seen a laptop computer except in the movies.

As I introduced myself and the subject I realized I was locked in with Mike, the prison chaplain, and 30 convicted inmates; there was no guard anywhere to be seen! Despite my apprehensions, I was very pleased with how my message was received and later said to Mike that I especially enjoyed having a “captive audience”. As I presented the information, the inmates would often interrupt me with questions. I usually ask my audiences to leave their questions to the end. But I realized these men probably have few opportunities to express themselves so I decided to answer their questions as they came. Instead of just spitting back answers, I opened a dialogue with them. As they would ask questions I would respond – in a Jewish way – by asking questions of my own, in order to challenge them to think. As I interacted with the inmates, I was extremely impressed by their knowledge of Scripture and Hebrew. Mike later explained that prisoners have lots of time on their hands; those that dedicate their lives to God spend much of this time studying. One example that really stood out for me was when I asked them, in response to one of their questions, if they knew the Hebrew meaning of the name “Jesus”. The prisoner in the front row who had asked me about my laptop blurted out: “It means ‘Yahweh saves’”. I was surprised that a convicted criminal who had never seen a laptop before knew something that most Christians do not know. I asked him how he knew this and he told me he studies for hours on end with his Bible, a Strong’s Concordance and a Hebrew dictionary. This reminded me of a letter written by William Tyndale, one of the first people to translate the Bible into English. At the time, translating the Bible was a crime and Tyndale was eventually burned at the stake for his efforts. As Tyndale sat in the dungeon of Vilvoorde Castle awaiting execution, he wrote to his jailers asking for:

“a warmer cap… permission to have a candle in the evening, for it is wearisome to sit alone in the dark… But above all, I entreat and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the Procurer that he may kindly permit me to have my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Grammar, and Hebrew Dictionary, that I may spend my time with that study.”

I went into that Florida state prison fearing for my life but went out genuinely inspired by the dedication of these men to search out the truth and acquire knowledge even under the most difficult of human circumstances.