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The Tetragrammaton

The transliteration of God's personal name as revealed in the Bible, represented by the four Hebrew consonants יהוה known as the Tetragrammaton, and appearing nearly 7,000 times[1] in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). In English, the four letters of the Tetragrammaton are represented by the consonants YHWH. As was true of all written words in ancient Hebrew, the Tetragrammaton contained no vowels. When ancient Hebrew was in everyday use, readers easily provided the appropriate vowels. YHWH, JHVH, Yahweh, or Jehovah is by far the most frequently occurring name in the Holy Bible. While its inspired writers refer to God by many titles and descriptive terms, such as “Almighty,” “Most High,” and “Lord,” the Tetragrammaton is the only personal name they use to identify God.

Jehovah God himself directed Bible writers to use his name. For example, he inspired the prophet Joel to write: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Joel 2:32) And God caused one psalmist to write: “May people know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18) In fact, the divine name appears some 700 times in the book of Psalms alone—a book of poetic writings that were to be sung and recited by God’s people. Why, then, is God’s name missing from many Bible translations? What translations use the form “Jehovah”? And what does the divine name, Jehovah, mean?

Deuteronomy 12:32 (SLT): "Every word which I command you, ye shall watch to do it: thou shalt not add upon it, and thou shalt not take away from it."

Why is the name missing from many Bible translations?

The reasons vary. Some feel that Almighty God does not need a unique name to identify him. Others appear to have been influenced by the Jewish tradition of avoiding the use of the name altogether, perhaps out of fear of desecrating it based on what it says at Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11 to not take up God's name in vain. Still others believe that since no one can be sure of the exact pronunciation of God’s name, it is better just to use a title, such as “Lord” or “God.” Many feel these reasons lack merit for the following reasons:

  • Those who argue that Almighty God does not need a unique name ignore evidence that early copies of his Word, including those preserved from before the time of Jesus Christ, contain God’s personal name. As noted above, God directed that his name be included in his Word some 7,000 times.
  • Translators who remove the name out of deference to Jewish tradition (avoiding the use of the divine name altogether) fail to recognize a key fact. Exodus 3:15 says: "God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you." Yahweh instructed Moses to say His name. This removes any doubt of whether humans are permitted to "take up" Jehovah's name. They are to do so, not in a "vain", or worthless way, but in a respectful, honorable way. The very fact that the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) is found almost 7,000 times in the Hebrew Scriptures is a testament that Jehovah God wants his name known. While some Jewish scribes refused to pronounce the name, they did not remove it from their copies of the Bible. Ancient scrolls found in Qumran, an archaeological site in the West Bank managed by Israel's Qumran National Park near the Dead Sea, contain the name in many places. Some Bible translators hint that the divine name appeared in the original text by substituting the title “LORD” in capital letters. But the question remains, Why have these translators felt free to substitute or remove God’s name from the Bible when they acknowledge that it is found in the Bible text thousands of times? Who do they believe gave them authority to make such a change? Only they can say. Revelation 4:11 (NKJV) says: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” Is it not reasonable to conclude, then, if Jehovah is the divine author of the Bible, that his name be fully restored in all translations as he originally intended?
  • Those who say that the divine name should not be used because the exact pronounciation of it is not known will nevertheless freely use the name of Jesus. However, Jesus’ first-century disciples said his name quite differently from the way most Christians do today. To Jewish Christians, the name Jesus was probably pronounced Ye·shuʹa‛.[2] And the title “Christ” was Ma·shiʹach,[3] or “Messiah.” Greek-speaking Christians called him I·e·sousʹ Khri·stosʹ, and Latin-speaking Christians Ieʹsus Chriʹstus. Under inspiration, the Greek translation of his name was recorded in the Bible, showing that first-century Christians followed the sensible course of using the form of the name common in their language. Thus, the form “Jehovah,” even though its rendering is not exactly the way the divine name would have been pronounced in ancient Hebrew should be used.


Matthew 4:10 featuring the divine name, "JEHOVAH", in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English

While Bible scholars acknowledge that God’s personal name, as represented by the Tetragrammaton (יהוה), appears almost 7,000 times in the original text of the Hebrew Scriptures, many feel that it did not appear in the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures. For this reason, most modern English Bibles do not use the name Jehovah when translating the so-called New Testament. Even when translating quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures in which the Tetragrammaton appears, most translators use “Lord”[4] rather than God’s personal name.

There are few translations that do use the divine name. As an example, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures uses the name Jehovah a total of 237 times[5] in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In deciding to do this, the translators took into consideration two important factors: (1) The Greek manuscripts possessed today are not the originals. Of the thousands of copies in existence today, most were made at least two centuries after the originals were composed. (2) By that time, those copying the manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with Kyʹri·os,[6] the Greek word for “Lord,” or they copied from manuscripts where this had already been done.

There is compelling evidence that the Tetragrammaton did appear in the original Greek manuscripts based on the following:

  • Copies of the Hebrew Scriptures used in the days of Jesus and his apostles contained the Tetragrammaton throughout the text. In the past, few people disputed that conclusion, but now that copies of the Hebrew Scriptures dating back to the first century have been discovered near Qumran [7](an archaeological site in the West Bank managed by Israel's Qumran National Park), the point has been proved beyond any doubt.
  • In the days of Jesus and his apostles, the Tetragrammaton also appeared in Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. For centuries, scholars thought that the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) was absent from manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Then, in the mid-20th century, some very old fragments of the Greek-Septuagint version that existed in Jesus’ day were brought to scholars. Those fragments contain the personal name of God, written in Hebrew characters.[8] So in Jesus’ day, copies of the Scriptures in the Greek language did contain the divine name.
  • The Christian Greek Scriptures themselves report that Jesus often referred to God’s name and made it known to others. (John 17:6, 11, 12, 26) Jesus plainly stated: “I have come in the name of my Father.” He also stressed that his works were done in his “Father’s name.”—John 5:43; 10:25.
  • The divine name appears in its abbreviated form in the Christian Greek Scriptures. At Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6, the divine name is embedded in the word “Hallelujah.” This comes from a Hebrew expression that literally means “Praise Jah.” “Jah” is a contraction of the name Jehovah. Many names used in the Christian Greek Scriptures were derived from the divine name. In fact, reference works explain that Jesus’ own name means “Jehovah Is Salvation.”
  • Some Bible scholars acknowledge that it seems likely that the divine name appeared in Hebrew Scripture quotations found in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Under the heading “Tetragrammaton in the New Testament,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary states: “There is some evidence that the Tetragrammaton, the Divine Name, Yahweh, appeared in some or all of the O[ld] T[estament] quotations in the N[ew] T[estament] when the NT documents were first penned.” Scholar George Howard says: “Since the Tetragram was still written in the copies of the Greek Bible [the Septuagint] which made up the Scriptures of the early church, it is reasonable to believe that the N[ew] T[estament] writers, when quoting from Scripture, preserved the Tetragram within the biblical text.” [9]
  • God’s name at Acts 2:34 in The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson (1864)
    Recognized Bible translators have used God’s name in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Some of these translators did this long before the New World Translation was produced. These translators and their works include: A Literal Translation of the New Testament . . . From the Text of the Vatican Manuscript, by Herman Heinfetter (1863); The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson (1864); The Epistles of Paul in Modern English, by George Barker Stevens (1898); St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, by W. G. Rutherford (1900); The New Testament Letters, by J.W.C. Wand, Bishop of London (1946). In addition, in a Spanish translation in the early 20th century, translator Pablo Besson used “Jehová” at Luke 2:15 and Jude 14, and over 100 times [10] in his translation footnotes, he suggested the divine name as a likely rendering. Long before those translations, Hebrew versions of the Christian Greek Scriptures from the 16th century onward used the Tetragrammaton in many passages. In the German language alone, at least 11 versions use “Jehovah” (or the transliteration of the Hebrew “Yahweh”) in the Christian Greek Scriptures, [11] while four translators add the name in parentheses after “Lord.” More than 70 German translations use the divine name in footnotes or commentaries.
  • God’s name at Mark 12:29, 30 in a Hawaiian-language translation
    Bible translations in over one hundred different languages contain the divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Many African, Native American, Asian, European, and Pacific-island languages use the divine name liberally. The translators of these editions decided to use the divine name for reasons similar to those stated above. Some of these translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures have appeared recently, such as the Rotuman Bible (1999), which uses “Jihova” 51 times in 48 verses, and the Batak (Toba) version (1989) from Indonesia, which uses “Jahowa” 110 times. [12]
The divine name featured in Greek Septuagint Fragments

Upon these findings there seems to be a clear basis for restoring the divine name, Jehovah, in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

The name "Jehovah" is used predominantly by Jehovah's Witnesses, based on their deep respect for the divine name and a healthy fear of removing anything that appeared in the original text of God's written Word.—Revelation 22:18, 19. When settlers of different religions arrived to settle lands in North America, the name Jehovah was widely used. [13] It is still used by several regions by other denominations.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "The NLT's use of "the LORD" for YHWH – Tyndale Bibles". Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  2. "Yeshua Hamashiach: Who is Yeshua? | Jewish Voice". www.jewishvoice.org. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  3. "Mashiach | Texts & Source Sheets from Torah, Talmud and Sefaria's library of Jewish sources". www.sefaria.org. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  4. "The NLT's use of "the LORD" for YHWH – Tyndale Bibles". Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  5. "The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures | NWT Study Bible". JW.ORG. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  6. "The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures | NWT Study Bible". JW.ORG. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  7. www.imj.org.il https://www.imj.org.il/en/wings/shrine-book/dead-sea-scrolls. Retrieved 2024-02-16. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. Noah (2021-03-01). "Tetragrammaton Found in Earliest Copies of the Septuagint". EliYah Ministries. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  9. "BGreek: YHWH in LXX Papyrii". www.ibiblio.org. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  10. "Manuel Boyet Enicola". The World News Media. 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  11. Daniels, Elijah (2016-10-21). "Defending The New World Translation: The "New World Translation"—Scholarly and Honest". Defending The New World Translation. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  12. "Toba-Batak - English definition, grammar, pronunciation, synonyms and examples | Glosbe". glosbe.com. Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  13. "Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY". wol.jw.org. Retrieved 2024-02-16.