SHOULD THE NAME JEHOVAH BE USED IN SCRIPTURE TO REFER TO GOD? —16 Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Use of God’s Name in the NWT
1. Do you believe that Bibles that translate God’s name as “LORD” or “GOD” instead of “Jehovah” keep people from becoming close to God because they portray Him as “remote and impersonal”?
“IN YOUR copy of the bible, how is Psalm 83:18 translated? The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures renders this verse: ‘That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth.’ …many translations leave out the name Jehovah, replacing it with such titles as ‘Lord’ or ‘Eternal.’ What belongs in this verse? A title or the name Jehovah? …In the original Hebrew in which much of the bible was written, a unique personal name appears here. It is spelled יהוה YHWH) in Hebrew letters. …It appears in the original text of the Hebrew Scriptures nearly 7,000 times! …Ancient Hebrew was written without vowels. Therefore, no one today can say for sure exactly how people of Bible times pronounced YHWH. …In replacing God’s name with titles, Bible translators make a serious mistake. They make God seem remote and impersonal, whereas the Bible urges humans to cultivate ‘intimacy with Jehovah.’ (Psalm 25:14) Think of an intimate friend of yours. How close would you really be if you never learned your friend’s name? Similarly, when people are kept in ignorance about God’s name, Jehovah, how can they become truly close to God?” —WHAT DOES THE BIBLE Really TEACH?, 2005, pp. 195-196
2. Did you know that the name “Jehovah” was derived by inserting the vowels of the Hebrew word Adonai which means “Lord” into the YHWH consonants of God’s name, making YA-HO-WA or JA-HO-VA? Since the Hebrew vowels for “Lord” are part of the name “Jehovah” used by your translation, what’s the difference between my Bible’s use of the capital letters “LORD” to denote God’s name and your Bible’s rendering of “Jehovah,” derived from the Hebrew vowels for “Lord”?
“The time did come, however, when in reading the Hebrew Scriptures in the original language, the Jewish reader substituted either ’Adho-nai’ (Sovereign Lord)or ’Elo-him’ (God) rather than pronounce the divine name represented by the Tetragrammaton [YHWH]. …the Jewish copyists inserted the vowel points for either ’Adho-nai’or ’Elo-him’ into the Tetragrammaton, evidently to warn the reader to say those words in place of pronouncing the divine name. …In the second half of the first millennium C.E., Jewish scholars introduced a system of points to represent the missing vowels in the consonantal Hebrew text. When it came to God’s name, instead of inserting the proper vowel signs for it, they put other vowel signs to remind the reader that he should say ’Adho-nai’ (meaning ‘Sovereign Lord’) or ’Elo-him’ (meaning ‘God’).”—Insight on the Scriptures, 1988, vol. 2. pp. 6-7
3. Did you know that scholars agree that “Jehovah” is not the most correct translation for God’s name? Yet, the Watchtower Society chooses to use an erroneous name for God. Why?
“Hebrew scholars generally favor ‘Yahweh’ as the most likely pronunciation. …Since certainty of pronunciation is not now attainable, there seems to be no reason for abandoning in English the well-known form ‘Jehovah’ in favor of some other suggested pronunciation.”—Insight on the Scriptures,1988, vol. 2. p. 7
4. If “Jehovah,” a “well-known form” of God’s name in English, is to be preferred over a more accurate translation simply because we do not know the official “pronunciation” of God’s name, how is this argument any different from my Bible’s argument that the translators chose “LORD” for God’s name because of the ambiguity surrounding its pronunciation and the fact that “LORD” is the “well-known” rendering of God’s name used by the Jews for centuries?
“The normal word for Master is Lord, a rendering of Adonai. There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8). This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. Therefore, it was consistently pronounced and translated LORD. The only exception to this translation of YHWH is when it occurs in immediate proximity to the word Lord, that is, Adonai. In that case it is regularly translated GOD in order to avoid confusion.”— “Principles of Translation,” The New American Standard Bible
5. If it is so important that people know God’s name in order to have a relationship with Him, why did God chose NOT to make His name known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Since God was able to make a “covenant” with them and establish a close relationship WITHOUT revealing His name, why do people today have to read an incorrect pronunciation of God’s name in their Bibles in order to know God?
“And God went on to speak to Moses and to say to him: “I am Jehovah. And I used to appear to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty, but as respects my name Jehovah I did not make myself known to them.”—Exodus 6:2-3 **
6. How would you feel if your children started calling you by your first name instead of calling you ‘Dad’ (or ‘Mom’)? Wouldn’t you question why they were treating you so impersonal by calling you by your formal name? Since Christians are called ‘adopted’ children of God, can you see why it makes sense that Jesus would teach His followers to pray ‘Our Father’ instead of praying ‘Our Jehovah’?
“…God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under law, that he might release by purchase those under law, that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons. Now because YOU are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’” —Galatians 4:4-6
“YOU must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens…’”—Matthew 6:9
7. While it is true that God’s name appears throughout the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures, this says nothing of the New Testament Christian Greek Scriptures. If it is important for Christians today to use God’s name, why is there NO EVIDENCE for God’s name being used by the early Christian writers of the New Testament?
“With the Christian Greek Scriptures, the ‘New Testament,’ …no ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books from Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name in full. …There are thousands of copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures in existence today, but most of them were made during or after the fourth century of our Common Era. This suggests a possibility: Did something happen to the text of the Christian Greek Scriptures before the fourth century that resulted in the omission of God’s name? The facts prove that something did.” —The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, 1984, pp. 23-24
8. How can the Watchtower Society argue that something as important as God’s name disappeared from over 5,000 Greek manuscript copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures (New Testament), and yet quote a Greek scholar who confirmed that the New Testament text of our Bible has been thoroughly preserved with “no important omissions”? Did Jehovah God fail to keep His promise to preserve His Word?
“Of the Christian Greek Scriptures, there are some 5,000 in Greek, the oldest dating back to the beginning of the second century C.E. There are also many copies of early translations into other languages. …Sir Frederic Kenyon wrote: ‘The first and most important conclusion derived from the examination of them… is the satisfactory one that they confirm the essential soundness of the existing texts. …There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines.’ ” —Reasoning from the Scriptures,1989 ed., p. 64
“…as for the word of our God, it will last to time indefinite.” —Isaiah 40:8
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.” —Matthew 24:35
“ ‘…the saying of Jehovah endures forever.’ Well, this is the ‘saying,’ this which has been declared to YOU as good news.” —1 Peter 1:25
9. In spite of the evidence that we have for the accuracy of our New Testament Christian Greek manuscripts, what “facts” does the Watchtower Society appeal to in order to prove that God’s name was removed from these manuscripts?
“We can be sure that the apostle Matthew included God’s name in his Gospel. Why? Because he wrote it originally in Hebrew.” —The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, p. 24
10. Does the Watchtower appeal to a Hebrew manuscript copy of the New Testament Gospel of Matthew that does NOT contain the four letters of God’s name?
“Is the Tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters of God’s name) found in the Hebrew text of Matthew copied by the 14th-century Jewish physician Shem-Tob ben Isaac Ibn Shaprut? No, it does not. However, this text of Matthew does use hash-Shem’ (written out or abbreviated) 19 times… The Hebrew hash-Shem’ means ‘the Name,’ which certainly refers to the divine name.” —The Watchtower,August 15, 1997, p. 30
11. Since copies of Matthew’s manuscript do not contain God’s name, but only contain a Hebrew phrase that was used to substitute for God’s name, how is the Watchtower Society able to claim that Matthew did not use this same substitute phrase for God’s name in his original manuscript? Again, what “facts” can the Watchtower Society appeal to for support of its claim that God’s name was removed from the New Testament Christian Greek Scriptures?
“Well, some very old fragments of the Septuagint Versionthat actually existed in Jesus’ day have survived down to our day, and it is noteworthy that the personal name of God appeared in them.” —The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, p. 24
12. What is the Septuagint? Does it contain any of the books of the New Testament Christian Greek Scriptures?
“…about 72 Jewish scholars were involved in that first written translation of the Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek. Later, the round figure 70 began to be used. Hence, the version was called the Septuagint, meaning “70,” and is designated LXX, the Roman numeral for 70. By the end of the second century B.C.E., all books of the Hebrew Scriptures could be read in Greek. Thus, the name Septuagint came to refer to the entire Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek.” —The Watchtower, September 15, 2002, p. 27
13. Since the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew OLD TESTAMENT Scriptures does not contain any of the books of the NEW TESTAMENT Christian Greek Scriptures, how can the Septuagint’s inclusion of God’s name prove that God’s name was in the original Greek manuscripts of the NEW TESTAMENT? If God’s name has been removed from the New Testament Greek Scriptures just as it has been removed from the Old Testament Septuagint, wouldn’t we expect to see evidence of these changes by finding variations of God’s name in the Greek New Testament manuscripts just as these variants are found in the Septuagint?
“God’s name remained in the Greek translations of the ‘Old Testament’ for a while longer. …The Removal of the Name… the name, although appearing in manuscripts, was used less and less. …Eventually, many readers did not even recognize what it was and Jerome reports that in his time ‘certain ignorant ones, because of the similarity of the characters, when they would find [the Tetragrammaton] in Greek books, were accustomed to read ΠΙΠΙ.’ ” —The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, pp. 24-25
14. Where do you look to find either the Hebrew characters יהוה or the Greek characters of ΠΙΠΙ substituted by “ignorant ones” for God’s name in the Greek manuscripts of the Christian New Testament? They are nowhere to be found! If God’s name has been removed, why is this evidence completely missing, not only from the 5,000 partial and complete Greek manuscripts we possess of the New Testament Christian Scriptures (14 dating as far back as the 2nd and 3rd century), but also from 36,000 quotations of the New Testament made by early church fathers? Was God’s name removed from their manuscripts as well? Note the following examples:
- When Irenaeus quoted Matthew 1:20, did he say: “Look, Jehovah’s angel appeared…” Or did he say: “Then again Matthew, when speaking of the angel, says, ‘The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in sleep…’ ”—The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 422?
- When Irenaeus quoted Peter’s quote of the Old Testament’s David’s words at Acts 2:25, did he say: “For David says respecting him, ‘I had Jehovah constantly before my eyes…’” Or did he say: “For David speaketh concerning him, ‘I forsaw the Lord always before my face…’ ”—The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 430?
- When Irenaeus quoted Paul’s account of the Old Testament Abraham at Galatians 3:6, did he say: “Just as Abraham ‘put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” Or did he say: “Even as Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.”—The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 492?
- When Irenaeus quoted Paul at Romans 11:34, did he say: “For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind…’ ” Or did he say: “For what other person ‘knew the mind of the Lord…’” —The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 526?
- When Irenaeus quoted Jesus’ statement in Matthew 4:10, did he say: “For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship…” Or did he quote: “…for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’ ”—The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 549?
15. At Matthew 6:9, Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” How could Jesus “sanctify” (set apart as holy) God’s name if He called God “Father” instead of using His personal name in His prayer?
“…we must keep in mind that names then had real meaning and were not just ‘labels’ to identify an individual as today.…Moses’ going to the Israelites in the ‘name’ of the One who sent him meant being the representative of that One, and the greatness of the authority with which Moses would speak would be determined by or be commensurate with that name and what it represented. …we see at once that to know Jehovah’s name is something very different from knowing the four letters of which it is composed. It is to know by experience that Jehovah really is what his name declares him to be.” —Insight on the Scriptures,vol. 2, p. 12
16. Since the Watchtower Society agrees that: “to know Jehovah’s name is something very different from knowing the four letters of which it is composed. It is to know by experience that Jehovah really is what his name declares him to be,” can you see why true Christians today “sanctify” God’s name, not by promoting “the four letters of which it is composed,” but by teaching people who God really is?
** All Scriptures are quoted from the New World Translation.