Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Origin of the Name "Jehovah"

Claude Mariotti wrote a nice post on the origin of the name Jehovah from the original YHWH as the personal name of God in the OT. Devout Jews avoid saying YHWH (pronounced Yahweh) out of honor for God, replacing it with either Adonai (Lord) or Hashem (the name). In the Hebrew Bible, the vowels from Adonai are transposed onto the divine name YHWH to remind the reader to say Adonai instead of Yahweh. This results in the Hebrew spelling YeHoWaH, although it is never pronounced that way. Modern English Bibles normally translate YHWH with LORD, Adonai with Lord, and Elohim with God.

What Dr. Claude pointed out that I was not aware of was that Jehovah was not used as a transliteration of YHWH until 1278 in the work of a Spanish monk.

Of course, you all immediately saw the significance of that date: If Jehovah was not in use during the 11th century (the first Crusade), then there is a mistake in one of the final scenes of the otherwise inerrant and inspired Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. One of the clues to avoid the traps protecting the Holy Grail involved stepping on the letters in Jehovah to avoid falling to certain death. My faith in Steven Spielberg is now destroyed forever.


  1. Just killed that movie for me, I was impressed that he remembered that it was spelled with an "I". Now the whole thing is ruined. Its like when I found out WWF wasn't real...

  2. -continuing...

    The Encyclopaedia Judaica admits that "the avoidance of pronouncing the name YHWH . . . was caused by a misunderstanding of the Third Commandment."

    God's name began to be plucked out of the Sacred documents later because of this "misunderstanding."

    So to sum it up, I also completely agree and acknowledge that even though the modern pronunciation “Jehovah” might not be exactly the way it was pronounced originally, this in no way detracts from the importance of knowing and using the Divine name.

    The fact that we do not pronounce Jesus’ name, or the name of any other person, exactly as it was pronounced in the original language does not make us drop the name or abandon it. We simply say it as it is pronounced in our language.

    Here in Italy we pronounce it "Geova."


    Nick Batchelor

  3. I wonder why everyone is so critical of "Jehovah" which is a very acceptable way of pronouncing God's Name in ENGLISH.

    The pronunciation "Yahweh" is no more than a scholar's guess. "Yehowah" is probably the most closest way of pronouncing the Name since there was three syllables in the Name.

    As correctly pointed out it is only the consonants "YHWH" which are certain. Is it still important then which vowels are interpolated since no conclusive evidence that the name was ever pronounced Yahweh?

    Jehovah is a well-recognized and proper "English" rendering of Yahweh or Yehowah. It has wide, popular acceptance and is entirely appropriate.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia in 1913, Vol. VIII, page 329 admit: "Jehovah, the proper name of God in the Old Testament; hence the Jews called it the name by excellence, the great name, the only name."

    I hear all the time many state "WE KNOW that Jehovah is wrong because there was no J sound in Hebrew." They are right that there was no "J" sound in Hebrew. But is this really wrong to pronounce God's Name with a "J"?

    Throughout this website and in scriptural discussions I have been seeing "Jesus" with a "J." How would the Jews have pronounced it in the first-century in Hebrew? Probably "Yeshua" or something close to it right?

    How do you PRONOUNCE other names in the Bible like “Jeremiah,” Yirmeyahu or “Isaiah,” Yeshayahu? Most Catholics and Protestants I know use many Hebrew Bible names with a "J."
    What about all the theophoric names we find in the Bible like Jehoshaphat, Jehoiakim, Jehonadab? What do we do with these names?

    I think Claude Mariotti has exhibited great bias and may cause many to follow his inconsistent line of reasoning.

    We pronounce these “names” in our own language and do not usually try to imitate the original pronunciation. Even scholars who are aware of the issues of original pronunciation of these names usually use the modern pronunciation, not the ancient, when speaking about them.

    Besides, the Bible itself shows there is nothing wrong with translating a person’s name that often sounds nothing like the original language in spelling or pronunciation.

    “He led him to Jesus. When Jesus looked upon him he said: “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Ce′phas” (which is translated Peter). (John 1:42)

    I appreciate that Mr. Claude Mariotti would want to respect the Jews (which sounds nice on the surface), but it was an unauthorized man-made tradition that arose that prevents them from using it. There are just too many examples of faithful Jews knowing, using and pronouncing God's name.

    It goes without saying we must have deep reverence for God but where in Scripture are we authorized to pluck out God's name? We can't point to the traditions of the Jews because Jesus said they made the word of God "invalid" because of their man-made traditions. (Matthew 15:1-6)

    Jesus, on the other hand, came to make God's name known. (John 17:26) He knew the third commandment tells us not to use God's name "disrespectfully" but not to stop using it or uttering it.


  4. Hey Nick,

    You might be misreading both me and Claude Mariotti. It's not that we are "so critical" of the name Jehovah - just that Yahweh and Jehovah are _both_ scholarly reconstructions of YHWH, and we are presenting evidence that Yahweh is more likely to be correct. BTW, it's not three syllables, since the second vowel is a sheva, not a holam (o). The holam is imported from Adonai.

    Yes, English Bibles mangle almost all Jewish names! But there's nothing wrong with pointing out that Jacob was actually pronounced Yaacov, or that Josiah was pronounced Yoshiyahu - or that LORD/Jehovah was pronounced Yahweh.

    Another thought: be more cautious about how you use the word "bias." People often use this word for anyone who disagrees with them! But bias in scholarship actually refers to a prejudice towards or dismissal of evidence without good grounds. It also usually implies that you start with your conclusion, then cherry-pick the evidence that supports your conclusion.


  5. -continuing

    So the reason we use Jehovah is the very reason you and I and just about every other person who considers themselves Christian uses Jesus. There is no reason for anyone to come down hard on anyone who uses “Jehovah” instead of the Hebrew “Yahweh.”

    If someone chooses to use “Yahweh” by all means do. Many use it because it is academically popular and that is fine. But ask yourself if I should then be using “Yeshua” and beyond that begin using all other Bible names in their Hebrew form when talking about them.

    So for all those reading your informative blog I hope they can remember, “Yahweh” is obviously a transliteration, whereas “Jehovah” is a translation, and Bible names generally have been translated rather than transliterated.

    I will leave you with an insightful comment from Francis Denio who studied and taught Hebrew for over 40 years. He says:

    "Jehovah misrepresents Yahweh no more that Jeremiah misrepresents Yirmeyahu. The settled connotation of Isaiah and Jeremiah forbid questioning their right. Usage has given them the connotations proper for designating the personalities which these words represent. Much the same is true of Jehovah. It is not barbarism. It has already many of the connotations needed for the proper name of the covenant God of Israel. There is no other word which can faintly compare with it. For centuries it has been gathering these connotations. No other word approaches this name in fullness of associations required. The use of any other word falls so far short of the proper ideas that it is a serious blemish in a translation." On the Use of the Word Jehovah, JBL 46, 1927, 147-148


    Nick Batchelor

  6. Hi Gary,

    Good day to ya mate! I apologize if I offended you for using the word “bias.” Perhaps I should have chosen my words more wisely. It would have been better expressed if I just showed my concern in the inconsistent argument given for rejecting the use of Jehovah.

    I do have to disagree with you and Claude Mariottini (we actually both spelled his name wrong). Both of you were very critical about the use of “Jehovah.” You stated that saying Jehovah was “a mistake” as seen in a movie. Claude says in his website, “The name Jehovah is not the real name of God.”

    This is what I think everyone is misunderstanding. Jehovah was NOT used as a TRANSLITERATION of YHWH but as an English TRANSLATION. Also, one cannot say Jehovah is “not the real name of God,” and say that “Yahweh” is. No one is arguing that “Yahweh” is a more closer pronunciation in HEBREW. It is just as you acknowledge it is not certain.

    As one blogger correctly brought out on Claude’s website, “It’s just a conjecture like the rest, and a very tentative one, I think, made by German critical scholarship about a century or so back.”

    It would be good at this time to bring up the name “Jesus.” Since I do not know for certain how his name was pronounced in Hebrew in Biblical times would I consider his name to be “mangled” as we see it in English Bibles? His name was something like Yeshua (or perhaps Yehoshua). It certainly was not Jesus.

    When the accounts of his life were written in the Greek language, the inspired writers did not try to preserve that original Hebrew pronunciation. Rather, they rendered the name in Greek, Iesous.. Today, it is rendered differently according to the language of the reader of the Bible. Spanish Bible readers encounter Jesús (pronounced Hes•soos´). Here in Italy, where I have residence, Italians spell it Gesù (pronounced Djay•zoo´). And Germans spell it Jesus (pronounced Yay´soos).

    Must we stop using the name of Jesus because most of us, or even all of us, do not really know its original pronunciation? So far, no one is suggesting this. We like to use the name, for it identifies the beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gave his lifeblood for us.

    Jesus is the English way, derived from the Greek language. So, as we say “Jesus” in the English language, we also say “Jehovah,” both being correct and acceptable when speaking English.

    Here are some examples of forms of the divine name in different languages below, indicating international acceptance of the form Jehovah.

    Awabakal - Yehóa
    Bugotu - Jihova
    Cantonese - Yehwowah
    Danish - Jehova
    Dutch - Jehovah
    Efik - Jehovah
    English - Jehovah
    Fijian - Jiova
    Finnish - Jehova
    French - Jéhovah
    Futuna - Ihova
    German - Jehova
    Hungarian - Jehova
    Igbo - Jehova
    Italian - Geova
    Japanese - Ehoba
    Maori - Ihowa
    Motu - Iehova
    Mwala-Malu - Jihova
    Narrinyeri - Jehovah
    Nembe - Jihova
    Petats - Jihouva
    Polish - Jehowa
    Portuguese - Jeová
    Romanian - Iehova
    Samoan - Ieova
    Sotho - Jehova
    Spanish - Jehová
    Swahili - Yehova
    Swedish - Jehova
    Tahitian - Iehova
    Tagalog - Jehova
    Tongan - Jihova
    Venda - Yehova
    Xhosa - uYehova
    Yoruba - Jehofah
    Zulu – uJehova


  7. Hi Gary,

    I was thinking about what you recently said, “BTW, it's not three syllables, since the second vowel is a sheva, not a holam (o). The holam is imported from Adonai.”

    I was wondering if you would let me reply? I hope you will allow me to do this at this time.

    Many scholars would argue that a part of a word with vocal shewa does not constitute a syllable. Others would disagree. I know you prefer "Yahweh" and that is fine.

    Others take a different road. For example, Professor George Wesley Buchanan in his book Introduction to Intertextuality page 9 in a footnote says:

    "The correct pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is either Yahohwah or Yahuwah. This can be shown from the use of the name in poetry and from proper names that include the Tetragrammaton, such as Yaho-nathan or Eli-Yahu."

    He believes this because Hebrew Poetry supports the fact that the Divine Name of God was pronounced in Three Syllables. Wherever God's Name was used in Hebrew Poetry - the corresponding word that was used to "Rhyme" with it - always had 3 syllables.

    It is one of the reasons why he said, “"The original form of the divine name was almost certainly three syllables, NOT two. The accumulated data points heavily in the direction of a "three" syllable word." (George W. Buchanan, "Some Unfinished Business With the Dead Sea Scrolls," RevQ 13.49-52 (1988), 416.)

    There are many other Scholars who seem to agree that there certainly was 3 syllables in the Divine name and it should be pronounced as such.

    "the Tetragrammaton became Ye-Ho-VaH and later on, in Western languages, Jehovah..." (B.9.2: The Biblical Background; Gilles C H Nullens)

    "The tetragrammaton, YHWH, is therefore read I-eH-U-A (Iehoua), the equivalent of "YeHoWaH" in Masoretic punctuation. This means that the name is to be pronounced as it is written, or according to its letters."- (Won W. Lee professor at the Calvin College) published in the Religious Studies Review/ Volume 29 Number 3 July 2003 page 285)


  8. -continuing

    "The great name YHWH is vocalized "Yehowah" in Hebrew and "Jehovah" in English .....Numerous linguists have postulated that...this name was pronounced Yehowah in the first century...Jewish translators always favored the name "Jehovah" in their translations of the Bible (into English) "-- Quoted From -- M. Gérard GERTOUX; a Hebrew scholar, specialist of the Tetragram; president of the Association Biblique de Recherche d'Anciens Manuscrits

    I asked my friend who lived in Israel and knows Hebrew about this and he wrote me this, “It is interesting that the first part of the tetragramaton is preserved in many Biblical names as "Yeho", which is two syllables and not one, it occurring in many, many still commonly used Hebrew names. As far as the last part – which is never pronounced "eh" but instead "ah" in its use in Hebrew names, that indicates that the most likely ancient pronunciation (which happens to be the one still used by native Hebrew speakers today) is Yeho-vah. When you pronounce the Divine name in Hebrew it is not pronounced Yaweh, but Yehovah. While the vowel points used are in fact borrowed from Adonai, the pronunciation as found in Hebrew names is not, but is the pronunciation used from ancient times, the names have continued to be pronounced all during the thousands of years that Jews avoided pronouncing the Divine name.”

    In view of this, I believe we should be careful to quickly dismiss or rule out the Divine Name having three syllables.

    Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible tells us, “Yehovah - pronounced {yeh-ho-vaw'} - is the correct Hebrew rendering.”

    Even though I tend to agree with this, I am not dogmatic about it because it is still “a scholarly guess.”

    When it is all said and done, I think what Steven T. Byington said is what really matters. He said:

    "God's Name...the spelling and the pronunciation are not highly important. What is highly important is to keep it clear that this is a personal name. There are several texts that cannot be properly understood if we translate this name by a common noun like ‘Lord’..." (Steven T. Byington,The Bible in Living English (p. 7)


    Nick Batchelor

  9. A few comments in response to the above:
    1) I'm fine with the fact that almost none of the names in our Bibles are accurate transliterations (including names like Jesus, Josiah, David, etc). In general, OT names recorded in the NT are hellenized versions of those names, so it's fine that we use anglicized versions in English Bibles. In fact, since the NT authors didn't care about proper transliteration, it's fair to say that proper transliteration is not terribly important.
    2) My point (again) is that if we do care about accurate transliterations, then I think the evidence indicates that Yahweh is more accurate than Jehovah, just as Yeshua is more accurate than Jesus and Dawid is more accurate than David.
    3) It's not really accurate to say that these names are translated rather than transliterated. The difference is that they are anglizized rather than transliterated. A translation of Yeshua would be "Salvation" and a translation of Dawid would be "Beloved."
    4) I think it is perfectly acceptable to use the divine name, since the OT does; in the academic world, we use Yahweh all the time.
    5) On the other hand, using the divine name is, in my opinion, not required or crucial. The OT authors felt comfortable alternating between YHWH, El, Elohim, and Adonai to refer to God (and yes, I am aware that technically only the first functions as a name). More significantly, the authors of the NT never recorded the divine name. Whenever they cited an OT verse that contained YHWH, they rendered it as kurios, lord.
    6) Smaller research point about the transliteration issue: you have cited a number of sources - but of course those are rather selective. In general, the most reputable Hebrew references favor Yahweh as the likely transliteration. For example, see the standard Hebrew lexicon BDB...
    7) which points out that the earliest recorded transliteration (4th century) of the divine name into Greek was Ἰαβέ (Iabe).

  10. Aloha Gary,

    I appreciate the 7 points you posted. Great expressions and I would like to add a few thoughts to them.

    1) I am glad you feel that way. Mr. Claude Mariottini is much more staunch and dogmatic. In his website he says, “Christians should avoid using the name Jehovah because it does not provide an accurate translation of the Hebrew name for God.” Employing the same reasoning you have towards using other Hebrew “transliterated,” names I called him on it. He told me, “If you want to use the name Jehovah, go ahead and do so. No one is saying you cannot use this name that does not exist.” I then asked him, “Does the name "Jesus," exist? What are you really saying? "Jesus," actually means "Jehovah is salvation," true?” I am still waiting for his response. It will be interesting what he comes up with.

    I want him to acknowledge that no name in the English Bible is pronounced exactly the way it is pronounced in Hebrew. As you correctly understand, as a rule, Christians do not reject the name Jesus simply because it is Yeshu, Yeshua or even Yehoshua in Hebrew, and we do not stop calling James "James" simply because in Hebrew it is Yacob instead. The bottom line is that English-speaking people speak English, not Hebrew. And there is nothing unusual about that and no reason “to avoid Jehovah,” as Mr. Claude Mariottini wants his readers to think.

    2) As for “Yahweh,” the fact remains that this is merely a scholarly guess. (Anchor Bible Dictionary). There is absolutely NO ancient Hebrew manuscript that gives us “Yahweh” as the pronunciation of the Divine Name. “Yahweh” MAY be a more correct Hebrew pronunciation than "Yehowah" or Jehovah, but Jehovah has been standardized IN ENGLISH just as the other names in the ENGLISH Bible.

    “Yahweh” has never really caught on among the general population. Scholars may prefer it, but the average person in English Christendom still reads the King James Bible, and in that Bible God's Name is Jehovah.

    So I have always agreed with you that Hebrew names more closely resemble Yeshua instead of Jesus. However, I disagreed when you called Jehovah “a mangled name,” and then not think other names like “Jesus” would be in that same category. It seems you are more accepting and that is refreshing to see.

    What I see a lot of these days is “inconsistency” when using or pronouncing God’s Name. For instance, in the New Jerusalem Bible we see this at 2 Kings 12:2, “All his life Jehoash did what Yahweh regards as right, having been instructed by Jehoiada the priest.” The translators are to be commended for using the Divine Name where it belongs but then they revert to “anglicizing” the other Hebrew names.

    Here are some other theophoric names:

    Jehoaddah (literally YEHOADDA)
    Jehoaddan (literally YEHOADDAN)
    Jehoahaz (literally YEHOAHAZ)
    Jehoash (literally YEHOAS)
    Jehohanan (literally YEHOHANAN)
    Jehoiachin (literally YEHOYAKIN)
    Jehoiada (literally YEHOYADA)
    Jehoiakim (literally YEHOYAQIM)
    Jehoiarib (literally YEHOYARIB)
    Jehonadab (literally YEHONADAB)
    Jehonathan (literally YEHONATAN)
    Jehoram (literally YEHORAM)
    Jehoshabeath (literally YEHOSABAT)
    Jehoshaphat (literally YEHOSAPAT)
    Jehosheba (literally YEHOSEBA)
    Jehoshua (literally YEHOSUA)
    Jehozabad (literally YEHOZABAD)
    Jehozadak (literally YEHOSADAQ)
    If one prefers to say “Yahweh,” why not prefer to say “Jehoash”?


  11. -continuing

    3) Yes, you are technically correct, but what you say is true of every name in the English language. We accept all names as they have come down to us in English, we do not translate them. Otherwise, we would have to call you "one who rules with a spear" instead of Gary. And I would be called "Victory of the people" instead of Nick.

    Language develops the way it develops; language works according to the rules of each language as you know more than me.

    Yes, it is more than okay to use the Divine Name Yahweh, Yehovah or Jehovah in the academic world. It has always been fitting and actually encouraged in Scripture and should be not only used but praised. "And in that day shall ye say, Give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name, declare his doings among the peoples, make mention that his name is exalted." (Isaiah 12:4; ASV)
    What I firmly believe is not okay is to purposely change the inspired scriptures; if we purposely remove an essentially important word almost 7000 times from the inspired Scriptures and add words and meanings not used nor intended in the original.

    We are not just interpreting and translating, but we are actually disobeying God's clear commandments concerning his Most Holy Name and disobeying his clear commandments concerning adding to and taking away from his inspired word! That is unjustifiable and this quote shows the reason: "Jehovah, the special and significant name (not merely an appellative title such as Lord) by which God revealed himself to the ancient Hebrews" (p. 330, Today's Dictionary of the Bible, Bethany House Publishers., 1982.)

    Funny how such people don't seem to mind the use of LORD or GOD for YHWH, when those words do not represent any Hebrew pronunciation at all.

    As you made known you are more than aware there are dozens of descriptive titles or epithets for God but only one name for God, Yahweh/Jehovah in the Bible. (Zechariah 14:9)
    Is it important to use the name? I do feel that the name of God brings one close to him, makes him accessible, and opens up communication and a real relationship with him as a friend.

    I can’t think of a good friend whose name I do not use. Actually, I would want my friend to use my name and I am sure they would want me to use theirs. The truth is God's name means much to him. He didn’t hide it, he revealed it!

    I appreciate this honest observation:

    `Jehovah' - The name most distinctive of God as the God of Israel is Jehovah.... The meaning may with some confidence be inferred ... to be that of the simple fut[ure], yahweh, `he will be.' It does not express causation, nor existence in a metaphysical sense, but the covenant promise of the Divine presence, both at the immediate time and in the Messianic age of the future.... It is the personal name of God.... Characteristic of the OT is its insistence on the possible knowledge of God as a person; and Jehovah is His name as a person. It is illogical, certainly, that the later Hebrews should have shrunk from its pronunciation, in view of the appropriateness of the name and of the OT insistence on the personality of God, who as a person has this name. [ASV] quite correctly adopts the transliteration `Jehovah' to emphasize its significance and purpose as a personal name of God revealed." (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 1266, Vol. 2, Eerdmans, 1984)


  12. -continuing

    Secondly, the Divine Name does appear in the NT in its’ abbreviated form in the Greek in Revelation several times as “Hallelujah,” which means “Praise Jah!” (Revelation 19:1-3)

    It also appears in theophoric names like “Jehoshaphat and Jehoram,” as I shared above. (Matthew 1:8) It looks like it was harder to remove Jehovah or Yahweh when the Divine name was incorporated in a name.

    Also, no one can say for sure that God's Name was not in the New Testament, because we do not have the original New Testament manuscripts, only copies from the 2nd century. Church tradition says that the Gospel of Matthew was written originally in Hebrew, and if so, it doubtlessly had the Tetragrammaton in it.

    If this is the case then it would be natural to conclude that when Matthew quoted passages from the OT in which the Tetragrammaton appeared in the Greek LXX or in the Hebrew OT, he would have surely have left YHWH in his gospel as no Jew ever dared to take away the Tetragrammaton from the Hebrew text of the Holy Scriptures. It can be debated if some superstitious Jews may not have pronounced it but he would not have REMOVED it.

    What is also worth considering is that the Divine name, YHWH, appeared in the Greek Septuagint or LXX which was in use in Jesus’ day. Mr. Claude Mariottini does not believe the Greek Septuagint contained the Tetragrammaton (YHWH). It did.
    I wrote him this below because of it:

    "I would like to clarify something you said that did not accurately bring out the full information about the Divine Name, YHWH, in the Greek Septuagint (LXX).

    The Divine name, YHWH, was in the Greek Septuagint. As time went by we start to see the replacement of the name in the LXX manuscripts. A pattern can definitely be seen.

    Actually, the LXX copies the NT Bible writers used did include the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) It continues to be hotly debated whether or not they would have used it in their writings, the original autographs which we no longer possess.

    What we do know for a certainty is the Divine Name (YHWH) was used in every century from the First Century B.C.E to the Fifth Century CE.

    The manuscript evidence reveals that the Tetragrammaton was used in the LXX during the first century. There is no evidence of the Tetragrammaton being completely substituted during this period.


  13. -continuing

    Here is a list of LXX versions that I am presently aware of that contain the Tetragrammaton:

    • 4Q LXX Levb.
    • Ambrosiano O 39 sup.
    • Aq Burkitt.
    • Aq Taylor.
    • LXX IEJ 12.
    • LXX P. Fouad Inv. 266.
    • LXX P. Oxy. VII.1007.
    • LXX VTS 10a.
    • LXX VTS 10b.
    • Sym. P. Vindob. G. 39777.

    The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Volume 2, page 512) says: "Recent textual discoveries cast doubt on the idea that the compilers of the LXX [Septuagint] translated the tetragrammaton YHWH by kyrios. The oldest LXX MSS (fragments) now available to us have the tetragrammaton written in Heb[rew] characters in the G[ree]k text. This custom was retained by later Jewish translators of the O[ld] T[estament] in the first centuries A.D."

    In view of this, I hope you (Mr. Claude Mariottini) will think it is appropriate to make the correction in your website article showing there indeed is evidence for God's Name in the LXX."

    6) The quotes I given you were not extensive or exhaustive but to demonstrate that there is a growing consensus that the Divine Name is tri-syllabic. It is not “crucial” to me but should be noted in view of the reasons I submitted.

    7) I believe many writings of the “church fathers,” contained several references to the Tetragrammaton in both Greek or Latin. It is interesting to me that first-century Greek historian Diodorus Siculus also wrote it Ἰαῶ (Iao). Even though we do not have the original autographs it appears that at the time of even Jerome he must have manuscripts with YHWH right in front of him. He made an inescapable admission.

    From the Bible Encyclopedia "Insight on the Scriptures Volume 2 pp. 9-10: “As late as the fourth century C.E., Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, says in his prologue to the books of Samuel and Kings: "And we find the name of God, the Tetragrammaton [i.e., יהוה], in certain Greek volumes even to this day expressed in ancient letters." In a letter written at Rome, 384 C.E., Jerome states: "The ninth [name of God] is the Tetragrammaton, which they considered [a•nek•pho´ne•ton], that is, unspeakable, and it is written with these letters, Iod, He, Vau, He. Certain ignorant ones, because of the similarity of the characters, when they would find it in Greek books, were accustomed to read ΠΙΠΙ [Greek letters corresponding to the Roman letters PIPI]."—Papyrus Grecs Bibliques, by F. Dunand, Cairo, 1966, p. 47, ftn. 4.”

    Thanks for your comments Gary and thanks for listening,

    Nick Batchelor

  14. Hi Nick,

    Good stuff. Funny - I just told a few of my students that Nick's next post would bring up the use of YHWH in the LXX and some NT manuscripts! Yes, I am aware that some mss of the LXX kept the untransliterated YHWH in some or all instances. However, it is unlikely that these mss dominated in the first century, since the NT routinely quotes the LXX without using the tetragrammaton. We have no early mss of the NT that use the tetragrammaton. This means that it was the NT authors, not later scribes, who chose to use kurios in place of YHWH, most likely following the LXX mss that most were familiar with.

    Regarding an original Hebrew Matthew: this is a very interesting field of study, but there are so many problems and difficulties that it is difficult to base much on it. Just a few: 1) In Papias' description of Matt as a Hebrew gospel, it isn't clear whether he means "in Hebrew" "in Aramaic" or "in the Hebrew style". 2) Those who are familiar with Greek translations from Hebrew (including me) find it unlikely that the Greek Matthew we now have is a translation from Hebrew. 3) Some of those traditions of the fathers concerning the writing of the gospels are contradictory or difficult to verify.

    More later...

  15. Continued...

    -A few terms related to the discussion are important to clarify. You mention that "a growing consensus" believe that YHWH has three syllables. But "consensus" implies something like a majority - and if you do any significant reading in OT scholarship, you know that the use of Yahweh is very common, and the use of Jehovah is almost unheard of. So "consensus" is certainly inaccurate.

    -Likewise, "hotly debated" is inaccurate related to your suggestion about the use of YHWH in the original New Testament manuscripts. Since none of the ancient Greek mss of the NT have YHWH in them, there is no debate among NT scholars. It is pointless to speculate that something might have been in the original manuscripts which is not in any of the earliest and best manuscripts.

    -Again, both Yahweh and Jehovah are scholarly guesses about the transliteration. My point is that Yahweh is a better guess - and that it doesn't matter that much, since almost all Hebrew names are anglicized in English Bibles. Neither word is a translation. My point is not that we ought to translate names, but that it is not accurate to identify Jehovah as a translation.

    -I still think the use of the name is good and valuable, but not as essential as you are claiming. If it was so essential, surely the NT authors would have used it in their writings. It is inconsistent to claim that they did, since no manuscript includes it. I note that the New World Translation normally renders kurios as Lord, not Jehovah, in the New Testament (aside from OT citations and a few other places - btw, I don't see the pattern in non-citations).

  16. Hello Gary,

    Checking in on your blog and see you made some recent statements. First of all, I stand corrected. I should not have said, “a growing concensus,”(which does imply a majority) but “a growing number” of scholars would have been more accurate. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I do think the evidence is outstanding that God's Name was three syllables, not two. I stated the reasons previously, how do you feel about them?

    Regarding the Divine Name in the NT, I have had this conversation many times with others before. One can argue points from the absence of evidence forever. It can not be proved, at this point in time, that the divine Name was or was not in the original New Testament manuscripts, because those manuscripts are absent. No one has the original New Testament manuscripts. So an argument that the Name was not there is no more solid than that it was there, if concrete evidence is demanded.

    But an argument for inclusion of the Name in the New Testament can be made on the "preponderance of evidence" solidly presented by the "Old Testament." In the Hebrew, God's unique Name appears nearly 7,000 times. The God of the Old Testament is the same God Who is found in the New Testament, and He did not suddenly become nameless between the two Testaments. If He is YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) in the Old Testament, He is still YHWH in the New.

    It is also a fact that Septuagint manuscripts of the first Christian centuries did have the Name in Old Hebrew letters. It can be conjectured that the New Testament writers did not have copies of such manuscripts with the Name in them, but it cannot be proved that they did not.

    It is also just a matter of conjecture that "Yahweh" is a better guess than "Jehovah." Yahweh is found in NO ancient Hebrew manuscript, and is really based on Greek transliterations of what early Greek church fathers said that they heard. (Iaoue, IaBe, etc.) Greek transliterations of Hebrew names in the Septuagint often do not accurately represent the same sounds of the names in Hebrew.

    But this is a major point: For those who argue that "Yahweh" is more accurate, why don't they then use "Yahweh" in their Bible translations, instead of just "Lord"? Why don't they "put their money where their mouth is"?

    Also, for all those who object to using the divine Name in the New Testament, where they claim it does not exist in the Greek, why do they remove God's Name from their translations of the Old Testament, where it clearly does exist?

    In other words, they hypocritically cry and moan about the "addition" of God's Name to the New Testament, but gleefully and unlawfully keep silent about its removal in their translations from where God Himself put it, in the Old Testament.

    Such double-speaking hypocrisy is unworthy of true scholars.



  17. Hi Nick,

    With regard to "absence of evidence," here's the big problem. This is essentially a text-critical problem, since it is an attempt to figure out the most likely original reading. Textual criticism is always based on actual evidence, not on its absence. That is, we decide on the original reading based on a careful comparison of the best ancient manuscripts. This is why we can exclude such readings as the Johannine comma (the very late scribal addition about the trinity in John 5:7-8, now included only in the KJV). A KJV-only person would say that the comma was originally included by John, but then eliminated by later scribes. But there is no text-critical reason to believe that claim - just as there is no text-critical reason to believe your claim.

    Here's the other reason that argument doesn't work. There isn't an absence of evidence at all - there's an abundance! For round numbers, there are 250 places where NWT translators decided that the original must have been YHWH. There are 1000 NT manuscripts that are the most important for text-critical purposes (another 4000 are carefully cataloged, but are less important). None of them have YHWH. That means, on the low side, 250,000 pieces of data that indicate that the NT did not have YHWH in it, and no data that it did. What are the odds that a few scribes were able to eliminate YHWH from every single manuscript tradition?

    Here's the final reason to avoid such arguments. Claiming that the original manuscripts agree with you, but were all changed, is unverifiable - and it's a nice trick that anyone can use to make the Bible say whatever they want. We can only make claims about what the authors said on the basis of existing manuscripts. It's fine to say that (for example) many of the added titles for Jesus found in the KJV are scribal additions, because there is adequate manuscript evidence for such a claim. But we can't just change whatever we want to fit our preconceived ideas of what the apostles would have written.

  18. Hello Gary,

    I’m grateful for your fine comments. As you know, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the best conclusion is that "Jehovah" has been eliminated from the existing copies of the NT manuscripts exactly as it has been removed from existing copies of the Septuagint OT MSS. And exactly as "Christian" translators have most often removed that name from the OT in English Bible translations. For example, in the NASB, NIV, ESV.

    The restoring of this most-important name to the NT in the NWT (New World Translation) should cause rejoicing. Instead it is one of the most criticized (often angrily, with hateful attacks) features of the NWT. The very same spirit which has prompted Christendom (illogically) to actually remove that only personal name of the only true God from the original Greek manuscripts of the Old Testament AND from even the most "literal" of translations of the original Hebrew manuscripts of the OT (NASB, NIV, ESV among others) still motivates and influences most of Christendom today.

    However, you CORRECTLY point out that none of the still existing MSS of the NT use the Divine name. But would it be a terrible dishonest act to replace that name where it should have been in NT quotes from the OT which originally used it?

    But, if we know it belongs there. And if we know the MSS we have today were copies of copies, etc., written many years after the originals, and therefore may well have been changed when the name became a hated "Jewish" name to "Christians" (around 135 A.D.). Why is it considered so terribly wrong to restore, for the sake of clarity if nothing else, the name we know belongs there?

    Does the fact that the name is not in the text used today mean that it should not be used in the places where the term "Lord" now is, even if that term produces confusion? "Lord" as you know can be used for God, Jesus, and men. "Jehovah" can be used only for God!

    I agree that most of the physical evidence found in existing NT manuscripts does not support "Jehovah" in the NT, and, ordinarily that would be enough for me. But what makes such a difference to me is the belief that BOTH "Testaments" are the Word of God and must not contradict each other in important areas of knowledge.

    We can accept both "Testaments" as the inspired word of God and still see understandable differences occurring between the two, but not basic contradictory differences. For example, we know how and why animal sacrifices to God have been done away with. It has been carefully, logically explained in the NT and, therefore, does not contradict the OT teachings where such sacrifices were required (essential).

    But where is the careful, logical explanation that shows that the necessary knowledge and use of God's name (as clearly acknowledged by word and example throughout the OT) was done away with in the NT?


  19. -continuing

    It's not there! How can it be that God reveals his personal name and commands that it be publicly acknowledged and used forever by his servants (and they respectfully do so for over a thousand years) and then, for no scriptural reason, His worshipers suddenly begin refusing to use that name and even hide it?

    That just makes no sense to me. It also makes no sense that many Bible translators such as the NASB, ESV, NIV NEVER used the Divine name EVER and instead pluck it completely out. I wonder why no one is coming down hard on them? Why isn’t anyone equally or just as critically forcefully criticizing their own violators of Scripture? 6,973 times God’s name is removed!

    If Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong 237 times, this would make the NWT right 93% over most of the Bible translations you have been including in your discussions with me.

    Some our critics point out that in our own “Kingdom Greek Interlinear” it shows “Lord” in the Greek. Of course it does because “Lord” is in the original Greek. No one is arguing that isn’t. Many critics of the NWT do not consult the appendix or bring out in the New World Translation Reference Bible every time Jehovah is used in the footnote it informs the reader that “Lord” is what appears in the Greek.

    The truth is that are many Trinitarian translators of Christendom that have used the Divine Name in the NT to aid the reader in determining which "Lord" was meant. There are many, at least 43 NT scholarly translators who have thought it theologically correct to use the name ‘Jehovah.’

    A few translators have used the name in too free a manner, even bordering on the irresponsible. Some have only used it once, but this has demonstrated that in principle it is right to use the name in the NT or Christian Greek Scriptures. Where just a few references have been included, they have generally been connected with quotations from the OT or Hebrew Scriptures.

    Consider also other respected Bibles if they are being accused of terrible crimes against God, misuse of God's inspired word, deliberate mistranslation, etc. if they added a personal name to their translation for clarity or to make some other point, when it wasn't actually in the NT text to begin with?


  20. -continuing

    We see the same thing, probably just to make it clear to the readers what was probably intended, at Mark 1:41, 45.

    Mark 1:41 says in the Greek text: "And being moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him". But look what these respected Trinitarian Bibles write here instead:

    “Jesus , moved with compassion, put forth his hand..” (KJV)

    “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand.. (NIV)

    So, have these respected Trinitarian translations been accused of terrible crimes against God, misuse of God's inspired word, deliberate mistranslation, done something “inappropriate,” etc. because they have INSERTED a personal name to their translation which was not in the original Greek text?

    Let's do one more that's nearby, Mark 1:45 (and there are plenty more). The Greek says: "… the man started to proclaim it … so that he was not able to enter openly into the city".

    “to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city.” (NASB)

    “until Jesus could no longer show himself in any town,” (NEB)

    Was anything terrible, dishonest, or fraudulent done here? Should these translators be criticized for the sake of clarity inserting a name that was NOT in the actual Greek text?

    I believe the NWT Bible Committee was not only correct to include the name Jehovah in their Hebrew Scriptures, but wise to also use it conservatively in the NT or Christian Greek Scriptures. It clearly identifies Jehovah as the same God, and removes any ambiguity about which ‘Lord’ is intended, one of the first aims of Bible translators.

    The NWT translators were fully justified from a scholarly viewpoint in honoring God’s Name and in clarifying to the reader where YHWH definitely was. They show no bias in so doing, but only seek to follow the evidence in the Bible itself concerning the sanctification of Jehovah’s great name.

    “Jehovah, …this is my name forever.” (Psalms 135:13 ASV)

    Before I leave off, could you please comment on the undeniable removal of God’s personal name by “Christian” translator from thousands of places in the OT where the inspired Bible writers originally placed it?

    Honestly, isn't this a terrible misuse of his Memorial Name? Isn't this "Christian" tradition inexcusable? How can it be supported by any Christian? How could it even be quietly condoned? Doesn't it illustrate a basic error that the vast majority of Christendom has embraced for many centuries?

    The complete elimination of the name of the "Hebrew" God has been a goal of the majority of Christendom for so long that its beginning is all but lost in the shrouded mist of time. But for Christendom to claim that this was the case from the very beginning of Christianity is a terrible thing to do.



  21. Quick response: you are asserting that it is justified to insert Jehovah because "we know" it was there originally. But we don't know that! It's just an assertion with no manuscript evidence.

    I'm not saying that the NT authors rejected the use of the divine name - just that all the manuscript evidence indicates that they didn't use it in the NT.

  22. Hi Gary,

    This sounds like a 'straw man' argument. I have not seen any assertions that "we know" YHWH was in the NT originally, only that there is evidence to indicate that it was so. To be sure, it would have been a disconnect with the OT if it were not there.

    Nor is it correct to say that there is "no manuscript evidence" for YHWH. Since you are a person who is seeking accuracy, you should have said that there is no "current" or extant manuscript evidence. We cannot speak absolutely about the original autographs because no one has them.

    However, there is a long and persistent Christian tradition that says Matthew wrote his Gospel originally in Hebrew. The "church fathers" mentioned this, and one even mentioned seeing such a copy. (Although you do make the point we must be cautious about accepting everything these men said.)

    If that is the case, it is unlikely that, as a first-century Jew and disciple of Jesus, Matthew would have written "Lord" instead of YHWH.

    The point is, those who assert that YHWH was not in the NT on the basis of extant Greek manuscripts cannot make an absolute case. They can only make a case on the basis of what now exists, not on the basis of what may have existed anciently.

    Besides, again, Hallelu-Yah is there in the Greek text of Revelation, which again points to the knowledge of and use of God's name. Otherwise, Hallelu-Yah would have been a useless inclusion in the Greek NT.

    People who protest so much about the use of God's Name merely demonstrate their lack of appreciation of it, or in some cases, their hatred of it. It's their choice.

    I wanted to share a reference of a compilation listing of Hebrew versions of the NT that have the Tetragrammaton. It may not be complete:


  23. -continuing

    1385, Gospel of Matthew, Shem-Tob ben Issac Ibn Shaprut
    1533, Psalms and Matthew, Anton Margaritha, Leipzig
    1537 and 1557, Matthew and Hebrews, S. Munster, Basel
    1537, Gospels, F. Petri, Wittemberg
    1551, Gospel of Matthew, J. Quinquarboreus, Paris
    1555, Gospel of Matthew, J. du Tillet, Paris
    1576, Gospels, J. Claius, Leipzig
    1599, New Testament, E. Hutter, Norimberga
    1661, New Testament, W. Robertson, London
    1668, Gospels, G. B. Jona, Rome
    1796, New Testament, Dominik von Brentano, Vienna and Prague
    1798-1805, NT, R. Caddick, London
    1817, New Testament, T. Fry, London
    1831, New Testament, W. Greenfield, London
    1838, New Testament, A. McCaul and others, London
    1846, New Testament, J. C. Reichardt, London
    1855, Luke, Acts, Romans and Hebrews, J. H. R. Biesenthal, Berlin
    1863, New Testament, H. Heinfetter, London
    1866, New Testament, J. C. Reichardt and J. H. R. Biesenthal, London
    1891, New Testament, I. Salkinson and C. D. Ginsburg, London
    1900, Romans, W. G. Rutherford, London
    1957, Gospel of John, M. I. Ben Maeir, Denver
    1963, A Concordance to the Greek New Testament, Moulton and Geden
    1975, New Testament, J. Bauchet and D. Kinnereth, Rome
    1979, New Testament, United Bibles Societies, Jerusalem
    1981, New Testament, F. Delitzsch, London
    1986, New Testament, Bible Society, Jerusalem

    These Hebrew version translators of the NT realized that the Jew may not have uttered the Divine Name but they would have NEVER dare taken it out or remove it. They restore the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, to where they believe is its rightful place. It also is a big help in increasing the clarity and comprehensibility by avoiding the confusion that later syncretism caused concerning "the Lord God, YHWH" and the "Lord Christ."

    There is more substantial proof that could be supplied and Jehovah's Witnesses do not stand alone in our insistence of keeping the Divine Name where it belongs, based on the original text it directly quoted from. I do believe that Jehovah's name is finally being elevated in these latter days.

    Micah 4:1,5, "But in the latter days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the
    mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow unto it.... For all the peoples walk every one in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of Jehovah our God for ever and ever." (ASV)

    Enjoy the weekend,


  24. Hi Nick (and other commenters)

    Sorry I didn't post earlier - got busy with traveling and end of the semester stuff.

    Nick, I think I agree with you that it would be better to translate the OT with the divine name (although I prefer Yahweh over Jehovah). I note that in addition to the NWT, the JB and HCSB use the divine name in the OT. To be fair to other translation committees, they make it clear where the divine name is by use of the all-caps LORD and note it in their introductory notes. I recall learning that LORD represented YHWH when I was about 12 or 13. Furthermore, their translation practice is based on a tradition of at least 1800 years - almost all translations, including most LXX, rendered YHWH as Lord (in Greek or Coptic or Latin or Syriac or whatever). But I welcome the HCSB's practice, and I wish that the NIV would do the same with their update that is coming out in a few years.

    However, I still do not see any legitimate text-critical evidence for including the divine name in the NT. The idea that scribes wiped out the divine name in countless manuscripts is mere specualation if there is no manuscript evidence. Hebrew translations from the 14th century and later provide little or no evidence about the Greek originals - otherwise we should accept the evidence of Latin translations from the 5th century in other text critical matters, as in the case of the Johannine comma.

  25. Hello Gary,

    I read about your big move. Sure you want to move away from Hawaii? :)

    Appreciate your expressions. I do believe we see a pattern in the LXX of the disappearing of God's Name from the text and something strikingly similar seems to have happened to the translation from the original Greek autographs but okay.

    Do you know why the translators of the "New International Version" failed to use the name of God where we know it appears about 7,000 times in ancient Bible manuscripts?

    In response to a person who inquired about this, Edwin H. Palmer, Th.D., Executive Secretary for the NIV's committee wrote:

    "Here is why we did not: You are right that Jehovah is a distinctive name for God and ideally we should have used it. But we put 2 1/4 million dollars into this translation and a sure way of throwing that down the drain is to translate, for example, Psalm 23 as, 'Yahweh is my shepherd.' Immediately, we would have translated for nothing. Nobody would have used it. Oh, maybe you and a handful [of] others. But a Christian has to be also wise and practical. We are the victims of 350 years of the King James tradition. It is far better to get two million to read it—that is how many have bought it to date—and to follow the King James, than to have two thousand buy it and have the correct translation of Yahweh. . . . It was a hard decision, and many of our translators agree with you."

    Should profit be a motivating reason in Bible translation, especially when it comes to using or hiding God's Name?

    Let's hope they rethink their position on the removal of God's Name, but personally, I highly doubt it.

    Take care and best wishes,



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