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The House of Yahweh (HOY) is a religious movement based in Clyde, Texas. Its founder and pastor is Yisrayl Hawkins (formerly "Buffalo" Bill Hawkins), a former member of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). The group has membership around the globe. The assembly has been controversial, and is referred to as a cult by at least one former member and by the cult-monitoring website Religioustolerance.org, which finds that the House of Yahweh meets ten of its ten signs of a dangerous and "high risk group."
Yisrayl Hawkins (also known as "Buffalo Bill" Hawkins) is HOY's founder.
In 1974, his brother, J. G. (Yaaqob) Hawkins, returned from a seven-year visit to Israel claiming he had "found proof of Yahweh's name". Shortly after, he formed the "first House of Yahweh" in Odessa, Texas. He preached distinct doctrines that his brother agreed with, such as the necessity of referring to the Creator as Yahweh and the Messiah as Yahshua, as well as following the Torah and the Jewish festivals.
In 1980, Bill legally changed his first name to Yisrayl, and began The House of Yahweh Abilene at his home. Hawkins says he and his brother were prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments as the Two Witnesses, sent by Yahweh to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Yahshua the Messiah.
Hawkins has written numerous books concerning Yahweh's Laws and Prophecies. Some are The Mark of the Beast Vol. 1 & 2, The Lost Faith of the Apostles and Prophets, Deception, Devil Worship: The Shocking Facts!, Unveiling Satan!, The End, In Search of a Savior, There Is Someone Out There, The Two Witnesses, and The Peaceful Solution. Hawkins was the primary editor of The Book of Yahweh: The Holy Scriptures, now in its 10th edition, which is the House of Yahweh's translation of the Bible. With its use of the name Yahweh throughout the New Testament, it fits into the category of Sacred name Bibles.
Among other things, Hawkins has promoted the building of the third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but in a location that would not damage or intrude upon the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam's holiest sites. Hawkins explained his view of Ezekiel's Temple Prophecies in a thirteen-page brochure, published in 1989, detailing the Temple's construction from measurements found in the Bible. In the brochure, Hawkins also briefly discusses a prophesied division of Jerusalem.
The House of Yahweh believes that it is the one true faith, as instituted by Yahweh, according to the Bible. Many of the assembly's teachings are similar to those of Herbert W. Armstrong, as the group split from Armstrong's WCG in 1980, similar to the Sabbatarian Churches of God.
HOY believes Yahweh is the name of the creator of the world, and that Yahshua is the name of the Son of Yahweh, and that he is their messiah. They teach that many other titles—such as God (El, Elohim), Lord (Ba'al, Adonai), Jehovah, Jesus and Christ—are names or titles of pagan beings or idols, or are mistakes, that have been falsely ascribed to Yahweh.
Its beliefs are also similar to those of Judaism, as the assembly follows the Torah, the 613 laws and rules found in the Pentateuch. They believe the observance of these laws promotes peace and love, and is an answer to many problems in the world.
Members regularly perform ritual ablutions, and are baptized when they join the assembly.
HOY instructs its members to tithe.
Like Judaism and Armstrongism, HOY keeps the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual feasts of the Old Testament including Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, The Feast of Trumpets, and The Feast of Tabernacles, as well as the fast-day called The Day of Atonement.
Once a year on the evening before Passover, members hold a solemn observance they call "Yahshua's Memorial" in memory of Jesus' crucifixion. The assembly shares unleavened bread and wine as symbols of the body and blood of Yahshua, and members wash one another's feet. The following evening, the assembly celebrates Passover.
Unlike Judaism and Armstrongism, HOY believes The House of Yahweh Sanctuary in Clyde, Texas is the only place on earth where celebratory feasts are to be observed, and three times a year they make a pilgrimage to Abilene to celebrate Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
Unlike Trinitarian Christianity, the House of Yahweh teaches that Yahshua was born a man, and became the son of Yahweh when he was baptized by John the Baptist. They believe that he was framed for insurrection, received an illegal trial, and was then flogged, tormented, nailed to a pole (not a cross) and executed by the civil authorities. Similar to Christianity, they teach that he died for the sins of man as an atonement offering or blood sacrifice, and in so doing he became a Passover Lamb. The House of Yahweh teaches that he was buried at sunset, and three days later, he was resurrected from the dead, subsequently ascending into Heaven 40 days later. They believe that he is waiting until the prophesied "end-time" to return to Earth, establishing Yahweh's Kingdom on Earth and preventing humankind from ultimately destroying themselves.
According to the assembly, Yahweh is the only one who deserves worship or adoration, and is the sovereign and only creator and ruler of the universe. Yahshua is not believed to be a divine being, and is not thought to preexist before his conception. They believe that the Holy Spirit is Yahweh's creative force, not a personal being.
Unlike either Judaism or Christianity, and similarly to Armstrongism, they make no distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament, claiming the New Testament is a continuation of the Old Testament, reaffirming and reestablishing it. In addition, the House of Yahweh rejects religious customs that conflict with their interpretation of the Torah.
In an attempt to purify their religion from pagan elements, all pagan names, words, and concepts are eschewed. They also publish an edition of the Bible (The Book of Yahweh), which removes any and all words or concepts which are thought to be pagan corruptions, including removal of God/Elohim in favor of "Yahweh", as well as changing names to remove these influences (e.g. Yliyah for Elijah, Yechetzqyah for Ezekiel, Riyyah for Ruth, and Yahchanan for John).
In October 2006, a former HOY member pleaded guilty to injury to a child by criminal negligence for performing surgery on her seven-year-old daughter, which led to her death, according to authorities.
On October 16, 2007, Yedidiyah Hawkins, an Elder at HOY and purported number two spiritual leader for the group, was arrested for sexual assault of his fourteen-year-old stepdaughter. During a forensic interview at the Abilene Police Department's Child Advocacy Center, the child disclosed that the abuse began when she was eight. Documents released by the Callahan County District Attorney's Office following the arrest allege that Hawkins was preparing to marry the unnamed stepdaughter. He was subsequently indicted by a Callahan County, Texas Grand Jury on December 12, 2007. On October 27, 2008, a jury for the 42nd District Court found him guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child. The judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. A motion for a new trial was rejected by a 42nd District Court judge on February 18, 2009. Several other charges are pending until all appeals have been exhausted.
On February 13, 2008, Yisrayl Hawkins was arrested and then moved to the Taylor County Jail on four counts of bigamy. His bail was set at $10 million, and later reduced to $100,000. On October 29, 2009, bigamy charges against him were dismissed after he pled no contest to child labor charges. Hawkins was given a fine and probation.
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