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IS “JEHOVAH” UNBIBLICAL?

GEORGE

The name “Jehovah” never existed before, not in any language texture or rendering. In a simple word, it came out of transliteration, it didn’t develop as a word or name in any language just as most words we use today came to be. It was intentionally a transliteration of YHWH. The direct English translation of YHWH is not Jehovah but “I AM”. Jehovah is not found in the ancient Hebrew Bible, it is not found in the ancient Greek translation, neither was it found in the first and foremost Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. The usage of it was extremely very rare in the Authorized English Bible, otherwise known as “King James Bible”, it appeared only on seven occasions in the entire Bible. Many revisions of older bible versions has erased entirely “Jehovah” and replaced it with “Lord” or “YHWH”, it includes but not limited to: New King James Version, Revised Standard Version, Good News Bible (Today’s English Version), New American Standard Version and the rest. It will be recalled later in the article.

In one of the Roman Catholic Church’s website, the Church says “Jehovah” is a Roman Catholic invention. Thus they wrote

“In Hebrew the name of God is spelled YHWH. Since ancient Hebrew had no written vowels, it is uncertain how the name was pronounced originally, but there are records of the name in Greek, which did have written vowels. These records indicate that in all likelihood the name should be pronounced “Yahweh.”

Shortly before the first century A.D., it became common for Jews to avoid saying the divine name for fear of misusing it and breaking the second commandment (“You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain,” Dt 5:11). Whenever they read Scripture aloud and encountered the divine name, they substituted another Hebrew word, “Adonai” (which means “Lord” or “my Lord”), in its place.

Eventually Hebrew developed written vowels, which appeared as small marks called vowel points and were placed above and below the consonants of a word. In the sixth or seventh century some Jews began to place the vowel points for “Adonai” over the consonants for “Yahweh” to remind the reader of Scripture to say “Adonai” whenever he read “Yahweh.”

About the 13th century the term “Jehovah” appeared when Christian scholars took the consonants of “Yahweh” and pronounced it with the vowels of “Adonai.” This resulted in the sound “Yahowah,” which has a Latinized spelling of “Jehovah.” The first recorded use of this spelling was made by a Spanish Dominican monk, Raymundus Martini, in 1270.

Interestingly, this fact is admitted in much Jehovah’s Witness literature, such as their Aid to Bible Understanding (p. 885). This is surprising because Jehovah’s Witnesses loathe the Catholic Church and have done everything in their power to strip their church of traces of Catholicism. Despite this, their group’s very name contains a Catholic “invention,” the name “Jehovah.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses blast orthodox Christendom for “hiding the name of God” by replacing “Jehovah” with “the Lord” whenever “Jehovah” appears in Scripture. They charge this is a Jewish “superstition” that dishonors God (which it does not). Yet their own organization has a name that was invented as a result of the same thinking that produced use of “the Lord.”

 

Around August 2008, the Vatican banned the use of the Divine name of God “YHWH” or “Yahweh” in all Roman Catholic Liturgies, songs, prayers and all forms of worship. The Vatican has reiterated a directive that the name of God revealed in the tetragrammaton YHWH is not to be pronounced in Catholic liturgy or in music. Catholics at worship should neither sing nor pronounce the name of God as “Yahweh,” the Vatican has said, citing the authority of Jewish and Christian practice.

The Greek translation of the Bible substituted the word “Kyrios” which means Lord for YHWH often pronounced as “Yahweh”. Its Latin counterpart, Vulgate, used “Dominus” in place of “YHWH”, a name considered too sacred by the Jews to be pronounced. The name “Jehovah” came from a medieval origin, it is a combination of the consonants of the Divine Name and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes but belonging to an entirely different word. The sound of Y is represented by J and the sound of W by V, as in Latin. There are two reasons why Revised Standard Versions and many other English translations of the Bible have not used the form “Jehovah” as God in the translations.

  1. “Jehovah” does not accurately represent any form of the name ever used in Hebrew

  2. The use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the Universal Faith of the Christian Church.

It is worthy of note however, outside God, there is no other god that comes close and therefore makes no sense to come up with a meaningless form of replacement for “YHWH” just in a bid to differentiate God from other gods. No other God is Divine! At least, in Christianity and Judaism, there is only one God. When we say “God”, we mean the Almighty God.

I stand to be corrected in this section; the name “Jehovah” has no place in 95% of the liturgy, hymns, homilies, collects and other materials of the Church of England (English Christians). Prior to the medieval times, God has never been identified with “Jehovah”. If we should prove how unbiblical “Jehovah” is, we would go back to the original writings of the entire Bible. When I call God “Sweetheart”, it is meaningful even as it is not found in the Bible but the term “Jehovah” is a transliteration. One of the translations where “Jehovah” can be found is American Standard Version.

Let me say a few things about the American Standard Version of the Bible and what it is today. The task of revising the first Authorized English Bible otherwise known as “King James Bible” started in 1870 and was undertaken by the authorities of the Church of England (Anglican Communion). In 1881-1885, the English Revised Version of the Bible was published; in 1901, the American Standard Version stood as its variant embodying the preferences of the American scholars associated in the work. Generally, both versions came from same body. In 1928, American Standard Version copyright was acquired by the International Council of Religion Education and thus passed the ownership to the Churches of the United States and Canada which were associated with the Council. The council raised a committee to consider if there was need to revision of the ASV. It was this thorough revision that gave birth to what we know today as the Revised Standard Version, it is meant to stay close to the Tyndale-King James tradition. It was authorized in 1957. The Revised Standard Version was published in 1974 with only New Testament. In 1951, by the vote of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A, the Old Testament and the New Testament was published.

In the Revised Standard Version, a major departure from the practice of the ASV is the rendering of the Divine Name, the “Tetragrammation”. The American Standard Version used the term “Jehovah”, the King James Version had employed it in four places, but everywhere else, except in three cases where it was employed as part of proper names, used the English word Lord or God (in some cases).

The intent of the use of “Jehovah” was to differentiate God from other deity which is not wise! God is not competing with any other god, He is the only God. There has been several translation of the Bible. The first ones were made into Greek and Latin. From the best of these one called the Septuagint, made at Alexandria, Egypt, about 220BC – 150 BC. A good student of the Bible must not think that the Book as he reads it is its original form. The men who wrote it did so with much labour, such labour that many men are not willing to take today.

ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA  defines “Yahweh” as;

the God of the Israelites, his name being revealed to Moses as four Hebrew CONSONANTS (YHWH) CALLED THE TETRAGRAMMATON. AFTER THE EXILE (6TH CENTURY BC), and especially from the 3rd century BC on, Jews ceased to use the name Yahweh for two reasons. As Judaism became a universal religion through its proselytizing in the Greco-Roman world, the more common noun elohim, meaning “god,” tended to replace Yahweh to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel’s God over all others. At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered; it was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai (“My Lord”), which was translated as Kyrios (“Lord”) in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament.

The Masoretes, who from about the 6th to the 10th century worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible, replaced the vowels of the name YHWH with the vowel signs of the Hebrew words Adonai (“Lord”, editor) or Elohim (“God”, editor). Thus, the artificial name Jehovah (YeHoWaH) (emphasis ours, ed.) came into being. Although Christian scholars after the Renaissance and Reformation periods used the term Jehovah for YHWH, in the 19th and 20th centuries biblical scholars again began to use the form Yahweh. Early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century, had used a form like Yahweh, and this pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton was never really lost. Other Greek transcriptions also indicated that YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh.

Early modern arguments

In the 16th and 17th centuries, various arguments were presented for and against the transcription of the form Jehovah.

Discourses rejecting Jehovah

Author Discourse Comments
John Drusius (Johannes Van den Driesche) (1550-1616) Tetragrammaton, sive de Nomine Die proprio, quod Tetragrammaton vocant (1604) Drusius stated “Galatinus first led us to this mistake … I know [of] nobody who read [it] thus earlier..”).
An editor of Drusius in 1698 knows of an earlier reading in Porchetus de Salvaticis however.
John Drusius wrote that neither יְהֹוָה nor יֱהֹוִה accurately represented God’s name.
Sixtinus Amama (1593–1659) De nomine tetragrammato (1628) Sixtinus Amama, was a Professor of Hebrew in the University of Franeker. A pupil of Drusius.
Louis Cappel (1585–1658) De nomine tetragrammato (1624) Lewis Cappel reached the conclusion that Hebrew vowel points were not part of the original Hebrew language. This view was strongly contested by John Buxtorff the elder and his son.
James Altingius (1618–1679) Exercitatio grammatica de punctis ac pronunciatione tetragrammati James Altingius was a learned German divine

 

Discourses defending Jehovah

Author Discourse Comments
Nicholas Fuller (1557–1626) Dissertatio de nomine יהוה Nicholas was a Hebraist and a theologian.
John Buxtorf (1564–1629) Disserto de nomine JHVH (1620); Tiberias, sive Commentarius Masoreticus (1664) John Buxtorf the elder opposed the views of Elia Levita regarding the late origin (invention by the Masoretes) of the Hebrew vowel points, a subject which gave rise to the controversy between Louis Cappel and his (e.g. John Buxtorf the elder’s) son, Johannes Buxtorf II the younger.
Johannes Buxtorf II (1599–1664) Tractatus de punctorum origine, antiquitate, et authoritate, oppositus Arcano puntationis revelato Ludovici Cappelli (1648) Continued his father’s arguments that the pronunciation and therefore the Hebrew vowel points resulting in the name Jehovah have divine inspiration.
Thomas Gataker (1574–1654) De Nomine Tetragrammato Dissertaio (1645) See Memoirs of the Puritans Thomas Gataker.
John Leusden (1624–1699) Dissertationes tres, de vera lectione nominis Jehova John Leusden wrote three discourses in defense of the name Jehovah.

Usage in English Bible translations

The following versions of the Bible render the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah either exclusively or in selected verses:

  • William Tyndale, in his 1530 translation of the first five books of the English Bible, at Exodus 6:3 renders the divine name as Jehovah. In his foreword to this edition he wrote: “Jehovah is God’s name… Moreover, as oft as thou seeist LORD in great letters (except there be any error in the printing) it is in Hebrew Iehovah.”
  • The Great Bible (1539) renders Jehovah in Psalm 33:12 and Psalm 83:18.
  • The Geneva Bible (1560) translates the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah in Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Jeremiah 16:21, and Jeremiah 32:18, and two other times as place-names, Genesis 22:15 and Exodus 17:15.
  • In the Bishop’s Bible (1568), the word Jehovah occurs in Exodus 6:3 and Psalm 83:18.
  • The Authorized King James Version (1611) renders Jehovah in Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4, and three times in compound place names at Genesis 22:14, Exodus 17:15 and Judges 6:24.
  • Webster’s Bible Translation (1833) by Noah Webster, a revision of the King James Bible, contains the form Jehovah in all cases where it appears in the original King James Version, as well as another seven times in Isaiah 51:21, Jeremiah 16:21; 23:6; 32:18; 33:16, Amos 5:8, and Micah 4:13.
  • Young’s Literal Translation by Robert Young (1862, 1898) renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah 6,831 times.
  • In the Emphatic Diaglott (1864) a translation of the New Testament by Benjamin Wilson, the name Jehovah appears eighteen times.
  • The English Revised Version (1885) renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah where it appears in the King James Version, and another eight times in Exodus 6:2,6–8, Psalm 68:20, Isaiah 49:14, Jeremiah 16:21, and Habakkuk 3:19.
  • The Darby Bible (1890) by John Nelson Darby renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah 6,810 times.
  • The Five Pauline Epistles, A New Translation (1900) by William Gunion Rutherford uses the name Jehovah six times in the Book of Romans.
  • The American Standard Version (1901) renders the Tetragrammaton as Je-ho’vah in 6,823 places in the Old Testament.
  • The Modern Reader’s Bible (1914) by Richard Moulton uses Jehovah in Exodus 6:2–9, Exodus 22:14, Psalm 68:4, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4 and Jeremiah 16:20.
  • The Holy Scriptures (1936, 1951), Hebrew Publishing Company, revised by Alexander Harkavy, a Hebrew Bible translation in English, contains the form Jehovah in Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, and Isaiah 12:2.
  • The New English Bible (1970) published by Oxford University Press uses Jehovah in Exodus 3:15 and 6:3, and in four place names at Genesis 22:14, Exodus 17:15, Judges 6:24 and Ezekiel 48:35.
  • The Living Bible (1971) by Kenneth N. Taylor, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Illinois, uses Jehovah extensively, as in the 1901 American Standard Version, on which it is based.
  • In the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (1961, 1984, 2013) published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Jehovah appears 7,216 times, comprising 6,979 instances in the Old Testament, and 237 in the New Testament—including 70 of the 78 times where the New Testament quotes an Old Testament passage containing the Tetragrammaton, where the Tetragrammaton does not appear in any extant Greek manuscript.
  • The Bible in Living English (1972) by Steven T. Byington, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, renders the word Jehovah throughout the Old Testament over 6,800 times.
  • Green’s Literal Translation (1985) by Jay P. Green, Sr., renders the Tetragrammaton as “Jehovah” 6,866 times.
  • The American King James Version (1999) by Michael Engelbrite renders Jehovah in all the places where it appears in the original King James Version.
  • The Recovery Version (1999) renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah throughout the Old Testament 6,841 times.
  • The Original Aramaic Bible in Plain English (2010) by David Bauscher, a self-published English translation of the New Testament, from the Aramaic of The Peshitta New Testament with a translation of the ancient Aramaic Peshitta version of Psalms & Proverbs, contains the word “JEHOVAH” over 200 times in the New Testament, where the Peshitta itself does not.
  • The Divine Name King James Bible (2011), the Bible translators replaced the capitalized GOD and LORD with the English translation “Jehovah” in 6,972 places.

Non-usage

The Douay Version of 1609 renders the phrase in Exodus 6:3 as “and my name Adonai”, and in its footnote says: “Adonai is not the name here vttered to Moyses but is redde in place of the vnknowen name”. The Challoner revision (1750) uses ADONAI with a note stating, “some moderns have framed the name Jehovah, unknown to all the ancients, whether Jews or Christians.”

Most modern translations exclusively use Lord or LORD, generally indicating that the corresponding Hebrew is Yahweh or YHWH (not JHVH), and in some cases saying that this name is “traditionally” transliterated as Jehovah:

  • The Revised Standard Version (1952), an authorized revision of the American Standard Version of 1901, replaced all 6,823 usages of Jehovah in the 1901 text with “LORD” or “GOD”, depending on whether the Hebrew of the verse in question is read “Adonai” or “Elohim” in Jewish practice. A footnote on Exodus 3:15 says: “The word LORD when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH.” The preface states: “The word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the name ever used in Hebrew”.
  • The New American Bible (1970, revised 1986, 1991). Its footnote to Genesis 4:25-26 says: “… men began to call God by his personal name, Yahweh, rendered as “the LORD” in this version of the Bible.
  • The New American Standard Bible (1971, updated 1995), another revision of the 1901 American Standard Version, followed the example of the Revised Standard Version. Its footnotes to Exodus 3:14 and 6:3 state: “Related to the name of God, YHWH, rendered LORD, which is derived from the verb HAYAH, to be”; “Heb YHWH, usually rendered LORD”. In its preface it says: “It is known that for many years YHWH has been transliterated as Yahweh, however no complete certainty attaches to this pronunciation.
  • The Bible in Today’s English (Good News Bible), published by the American Bible Society (1976). Its preface states: “the distinctive Hebrew name for God (usually transliterated Jehovah or Yahweh) is in this translation represented by ‘The Lord’.” A footnote to Exodus 3:14 states: “I am sounds like the Hebrew name Yahweh traditionally transliterated as Jehovah.”
  • The New International Version (1978, revised 2011). Footnote to Exodus 3:15, “The Hebrew for LORD sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for I AM in verse 14.”
  • The New King James Version (1982), though based on the King James Version, replaces JEHOVAH in Exodus 6:3 with “LORD”, and adds a note: “Hebrew YHWH, traditionally Jehovah.”
  • The God’s Word Translation (1985).
  • The New Century Version (1987, revised 1991).
  • The New International Reader’s Version (1995).
  • The English Standard Version (2001). Footnote to Exodus 3:15, “The word LORD, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, ‘to be’.”

Some translations use both Yahweh and LORD:

  • The Amplified Bible (1965, revised 1987) generally uses Lord, but translates Exodus 6:3 as: “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty [El-Shaddai], but by My name the Lord [Yahweh—the redemptive name of God] I did not make Myself known to them [in acts and great miracles].”
  • The New Living Translation (1996), produced by Tyndale House Publishers as a successor to the Living Bible, generally uses LORD, but uses Yahweh in Exodus 3:15 and 6:3.
  • The Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004, revised 2008) mainly uses LORD, but in its second edition increased the number of times it uses Yahweh from 78 to 495 (in 451 verses).

Some translate the Tetragrammaton exclusively as Yahweh:

Just as the Hilson publishers of KJV rightly said

“Good theological doctrine tells us that it is only the Hebrew and Greek autographs, the original which are inspired of God (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21) – not the copies, nor the translations. We believe, however, that God so preserved the manuscripts from the ancient world that we do indeed have the entire Bibles and that we have it accurately. That is what is here presented to us with sincere prayers to God and reliance on His promises that His sacred and holy Word will accomplish the change in hearts by the new birth, and the edifying and Blessings of the Saints for which He alone provided”

 

“Jehovah” is a transliteration of “YHWH” which was done out of fear so as not to make mistakes in pronouncing God’s divine name. Truth is, if that is the case, it makes no sense to continue using “Jehovah” (my personal conviction). If revisions of the English Bible did indeed discontinued using that form, it would be great and more doctrinally sound if the entire Christendom can go back to the original name of God “YHWH”. Does it mean that those using “JEHOVAH” to address God is sinning? No! That is because God looks at the heart! Most people today who use the form really have another meaning for it in their hearts, to them it may mean exactly what “YHWH” means or what “Adonai” mean.

Whereas, many also adopted Jehovah just to distinguish between God and other gods, it is not wise to do. In my personal opinion, God is God! He loves us and that is why He made His love and name known to us! His name is I AM!

There is one interesting thing!

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Act 4:12

 

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

I remain your Brother and Friend,

George O.N

#GracefulGeorge

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