Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jesus is Jehovah!: 1A. Why I use "Jehovah" instead of "Yahweh"

Continuing from Jesus is Jehovah!: Contents, with this part #2, "1A. Why I use `Jehovah' instead of `Yahweh,'" of my new

[Above (click to enlarge): The Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone: "The inscription was set up about 840 BC ... It bears what is generally thought to be the earliest extra-biblical Semitic reference to the name Yahweh (YHWH) ...." ("Mesha Stele," Wikipedia, 10 September 2011]

series, "Jesus is Jehovah!" by topic, which is based on my morning `quiet time' Bible reading.

This new series is the successor of my "Jesus is Jehovah in the New Testament" series, the last part of which (for the time being at least) was part #12, "Jesus is Jehovah in Ephesians!" See the Contents page for more details.

© Stephen E. Jones

Jesus is Jehovah!: Contents


A. Why I use the name "Jehovah" and not "Yahweh"
I use the name "Jehovah," instead of the probably more correct English translation "Yahweh," of the Hebrew YHWH, is because:

1. It is the translation of YHWH used by Jehovah's Witnesses. But if Jesus is Jehovah (which they deny), then they are not Jehovah's witnesses, and Christians, who are Jesus' witnesses (Acts 1:8) are the true Jehovah's witnesses!:

"God's witness One final link between Jesus and Yahweh may be noted. In the OT God commissions his people ` "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD' (Is. 43:10); yet in Acts 1:8 Jesus sends out his apostles with identical words `You will be my witnesses'." (Milne, B., 1982, "Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief," Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester UK, Fifth printing, 1988, pp.131-132. Emphasis original).

"True witnesses of Jehovah will honor the meaning of Jehovah's name, which is that he is the absolute sovereign Lord of all. They will not diminish his greatness by denying that he knows all things, denying that he transcends space and time, or denying that he was able to incarnate himself in Jesus Christ. True witnesses of Jehovah will follow the teaching of the `faithful and true witness,' Jesus Christ (Rev. 3:14), who taught his disciples to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). They will also accept the New Testament teaching that Jesus himself is Jehovah (Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:10-12; 1 Peter 2:3; 3:15). We conclude, then, that Jehovah's Witnesses are not truly on Jehovah's side (Exod. 32:26). Though they mouth his name, they distort his word, diminish his greatness, and deny his incarnation in the Lord Jesus Christ. No clearer proof could be given that Jehovah's Witnesses are unfaithful to God in their interpretation of the Bible." (Bowman, R.M., Jr., 1991, "Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses: Why They Read the Bible the Way They Do," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, p.122. Emphasis original).

"Among the last recorded words that God's Son spoke on earth to his disciples is the command: `You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant parts of the earth.' [Acts 1:8 NWT] By what right, then, do men who claim to be footstep followers of God's Son select a name which does not even bear witness to the Christ? How do they justify choosing a name that reaches back some 700 years before his appearance as the Messiah, back to words spoken to the Jewish people under the Law Covenant?" (Franz, R., 2007, "In Search of Christian Freedom," [1991], Commentary Press: Atlanta GA, Second edition, p.490. Emphasis original).

Note that the last quote was by Raymond Franz (1922-2010), a former member of the Watchtower Society's Governing Body!

2. The translation "Jehovah" has a centuries-long history in English-speaking Christianity, being in the 1611 King James Version of the Bible in seven places (Gn 22:14; Ex 6:3; 17:15; Jdg 6:24; Ps 83:18; Isa 12:2; 26:4), and having been sung for centuries by Christians in hymns like "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" (1771):

"Early modern translators disregarded the practice of reading Adonai (or its equivalents in Greek and Latin, Kurios and Dominus) in place of the Tetragrammaton and instead combined the four Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton with the vowel points that, except in synagogue scrolls, accompanied them, resulting in the form Jehovah. This form, which first took effect in works dated 1278 and 1303, was adopted in Tyndale's and some other Protestant translations of the Bible. In the 1611 King James Version, Jehovah occurred seven times. In the 1901 American Standard Version the form "Je-ho'vah" became the regular English rendering of the Hebrew YHWH all throughout, in preference to the previously dominant `the LORD', which is generally used in the King James Version. It is also used in Christian hymns such as the 1771 hymn, `Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah'" ("Jehovah: Pronunciation," Wikipedia, 8 October 2011. My transliteration. Footnotes omitted);

and "The God of Abraham praise" (c. 1775):

"The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and Heav’n confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed."

3. A major English Bible translation, the American Standard Version of 1901, translated the Hebrew YHWH as "Jehovah" the nearly 7,000 times it occurs in the Old Testament, over a half-century before the Jehovah's Witnesses produced their own New World Translation of the Old Testament (1953-60):

"Notably, in the year 1901, the American Standard Version of the Bible (produced by scholars of Christendom) rectified the practice of substituting `LORD' or `GOD' for the Tetragrammaton in translating the Hebrew Scriptures, a practice typical of most previous English versions, including the most popular, the King James or Authorized Version. Whereas the Authorized Version rendered the Tetragrammaton by the name `Jehovah' only four times in the entire Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament, the American Standard Version restored it in its nearly 7,000 occurrences. Though the inaccuracy of rendering the Hebrew `YHWH' by `Jehovah' is acknowledged, this was nonetheless an improvement over the use of `GOD' and `LORD' employed to represent the Tetragrammaton in other English-language versions. Although the American Standard Version, with its rendering of the name `Jehovah' thousands of times, was available from 1901 onward, the Watch Tower magazine did not adopt that translation as its basic translation but continued to employ primarily the King James or Authorized Version with its use of `LORD' and `GOD' as substitutes for the Tetragrammaton. Even after the death of Russell in 1916 and during the presidency of Rutherford this continued to be the case. Following Rutherford's death, in 1944 the Watch Tower Society obtained rights for printing an edition of the American Standard Version on their own presses. Yet, although frequently quoting from this translation and numerous others, they continued to use the Authorized Version as their basic version in all their publications up until the year 1950 when they published their own New World Translation of the Bible. (See Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pages 215, 255.)" There is no question then that the Watch Tower Society did not `restore' the name `Jehovah,' because there was no need for any 'restoring' of it at the time that society came on the scene. It was a definitely established term, found in many Bible translations and religious writings long before the appearance of that society." (Franz, R., 2007, "In Search of Christian Freedom," pp.493-494. Emphasis original).

4. "There is evidence that Yahweh may not have been the original pronunciation because "the Tetragrammaton [YHWH] was likely tri-syllabic originally, and that modern forms should therefore also have three syllables" which would mean that "Jehovah is preferable to Yahweh":

"Some argue that Jehovah is preferable to Yahweh, based on their conclusion that the Tetragrammaton was likely tri-syllabic originally, and that modern forms should therefore also have three syllables." ("Jehovah: Pronunciation," Wikipedia, 29 September 2011).

5. The more correct translation of "Jesus" is Yeshua or Yehoshua but the New Testament writers used the Greek equivalent Iesous:

"`Jesus' is a transliteration, occurring in a number of languages and based on the Latin Iesus, of the Greek ... Iesoûs .., itself a Hellenisation of the Hebrew ... Yehošua` (Joshua) or Hebrew-Aramaic Yešûa` meaning `Yahweh delivers (or rescues)'." (Jesus: Etymology of name, Wikipedia, 29 September 2011).

Here are quotes by Christian theologians that support, or at least allow, the use of "Jehovah" rather than "Yahweh":

"The actual form of the name might have been Yahweh, but it might not have been; the original form is not known with certainty ... Jehovah is now the customary, conventional form in English ... and as such is the most easily recognizable form of the divine name":

"Jehovah or Yahweh? ... 1. The actual form of the name might have been Yahweh, but it might not have been; the original form is not known with certainty. The reason for this uncertainty is that the original Hebrew alphabet had no vowels; thus, the divine name was spelled YHWH (in English this could be Anglicized to JHWH or JHVH). Medieval Jewish scribes added marks called vowel points next to the consonants to aid pronunciation. However, since for centuries Jews had avoided pronouncing the divine name and had instead said Adonay whenever they came to YHWH in the Hebrew text, the Jewish scribes added the vowel points for Adonay (a-o-a) to YHWH, resulting in Yahowah or Jehovah. Although scholars are fairly certain that Yahweh was the original form, this does not appear to be proved beyond dispute. On the other hand, as the above history proves, and as the Witnesses admit, it is absolutely certain that Jehovah was not the original form.[The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, WB&TS, 1984, p.8] 2. All names vary somewhat from language to language; for example, Jesus in Hebrew might have been pronounced either Yeshua or Yehoshua, and in modern languages it varies in form as well .An even more striking example is the fact that James in English Bibles translates the Greek Iakobos, that is, Jacob. 3. Jehovah is now the customary, conventional form in English (and with minor variations in many other languages as well), and as such is the most easily recognizable form of the divine name. Although this is much less true today than it was a century ago, it cannot be denied that the form Jehovah is still widely used outside Jehovah's Witness circles. For these reasons I do not criticize Jehovah's Witnesses for using the form Jehovah rather than Yahweh. And I would add a fourth, more theological, reason: God does not care about the exact form of the divine name or he would have ensured its preservation. In the rest of this article I shall use the form Jehovah; those who prefer may read this as Yahweh or YHWH. (Bowman, R.M., Jr., 1991, "Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses," pp.110-111).

"Though there is no biblical justification for the term Jehovah ... scholars are not precisely clear as to the correct way to pronounce the Hebrew word YHWH. ... some legitimate Bible translations (in the Old Testament) use the term Jehovah as well":

"The Origin of the `Divine Name' ... I am sometimes asked where the name Jehovah came from. Many Bible students realize this name is not found in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts from which English translations of the Bible are derived. (The Old Testament contains the name `Yahweh'-or, more literally, YHWH [the original Hebrew had only consonants].) This being so, then, where did the name Jehovah come from? To answer this question, we must recognize that the ancient Jews had a superstitious dread of pronouncing the name YHWH. They felt that if they uttered this name, they might violate the Third Commandment, which deals with taking God's name in vain (Exodus 20:7). So, to avoid the possibility of breaking this commandment, the Jews for centuries substituted the name `Adonai' (Lord) or some other name in its place whenever they came across it in public readings of Scripture. Eventually, the fearful Hebrew scribes decided to insert the vowels from Adonai (a-o-a) within the consonants YHWH. The result was Yahowah, or Jehovah. Hence, the word Jehovah is derived from a consonant-vowel combination from the words YHWH and Adonai. Watchtower literature acknowledges this fact. [Reasoning from the Scriptures, Watchtower Bible & Tract Society: Brooklyn NY, 1989, p.195] ... There are other Bible translations besides the New World Translation ... that have used the name Jehovah-either consistently, as in the American Standard Version (1901), or in isolated instances. An example of a version that uses Jehovah only in isolated instances (just four [actually seven] times) is the King James Version (see Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4 [also Gn 22:14; Ex 17:15; Jdg 6:24]). The New English Bible also uses Jehovah in Exodus 3:15 and 6:3. ... Though there is no biblical justification for the term Jehovah, it is important to recognize that scholars are not precisely clear as to the correct way to pronounce the Hebrew word YHWH. Though most modern scholars believe Yahweh is the correct rendering (as I do), we really cannot criticize the Jehovah's Witnesses for using the term Jehovah where the Hebrew consonants YHWH appear in the Old Testament (though they can be criticized and proven wrong regarding the insertion of this name in the New Testament). After all, some evangelical Christians and some legitimate Bible translations (in the Old Testament) use the term Jehovah as well." (Rhodes, R., 1993, "Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses," Harvest House: Eugene OR, Reprinted, 2006, pp.51-52. Emphasis original).

"Actually, there is a problem with the pronunciation `Yahweh.' It is a strange combination of old and late elements. ... if the word were spelled with four letters in Moses' day, we would expect it to have had more than two syllables":

"... YHWH (yhwh) Yahweh ... The Tetragrammaton YHWH, the LORD, or Yahweh, the personal name of God and his most frequent designation in Scripture, occurring 5321 times (TDNT, III, p. 1067) in the OT (KJV and ASV, the LORD, or, in those contexts where the actual title `Lord' also occurs, GOD, except KJV, Jehovah, in seven passages where the name is particularly stressed (Ex 6:3; Ps 83:18 [H 19]; Isa 12:2; 26:4] or combined with other elements, such as Jehovah Jireh [Gen 22:14; cf. Ex 17:15; Jud 6:24; ASV, consistently Jehovah]). ... The tetragrammaton YHWH is not ordinarily written with its appropriate Hebrew vowels. But that the original pronunciation was YaHWeH seems probable, both from the corresponding verbal form, the imperfect of hawa, anciently yahweh, and from later representation of YHWH in Greek iaoue or iabe. ... Actually, there is a problem with the pronunciation `Yahweh.' It is a strange combination of old and late elements. The first extra-Biblical occurrence of the name is in the Moabite Stone of about 850 B.C. At that time vowel letters were just beginning to be used in Hebrew. If YHWH represents a spelling earlier than 900 B.C. (as would seem likely), the final `h' should have been pronounced. ... So the `w' of Yahweh represents a pre-mosaic pronunciation but the final `eh' represents probably a post-davidic form. ... However, if the word were spelled with four letters in Moses' day, we would expect it to have had more than two syllables, for at that period there were no vowel letters. All the letters were sounded. ... In the post-biblical period, reverence for the ineffable name `Yahweh' caused it to be supplanted in synagogue reading (but not in writing) with the noun 'adonay, `my master,' or Lord. Next, when medieval Jewish scholars began to insert vowels to accompany the consonantal OT text, they added to YHWH the Masoretic vowel points for 'adonay; and the actual writing became ... YaHoWaH, the ASV `Jehovah.'" (Payne, J.B., "Yahweh," in Harris, R.L., Archer, G.L. & Waltke, B.K., eds, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament," Moody Press: Chicago IL, 1980, Twelfth printing, 1992, Vol. I, pp.210-211. My transliterations).

"The true pronunciation of this name, by which God was known to the Hebrews, has been entirely lost, the Jews ... continued to write Yhwh, but read Adonai. ... When the vowel points were added to the Hebrew text ... they attached to Yhwh the points of 'adonay; hence the form Yehowah":

"Jeho'vah ... Heb. YHWH LXX usually ho Kurios, the name of God most frequently used in the Hebrew Scriptures; but commonly represented-we cannot say rendered-in the A.V. by `Lord.' 1. Pronunciation. The true pronunciation of this name, by which God was known to the Hebrews, has been entirely lost, the Jews themselves scrupulously avoiding every mention of it, and substituting in its stead one or other of the words with whose proper vowel points it may happen to be written, usually the name Adonai. They continued to write Yhwh, but read Adonai. Where God is called `My Lord Jehovah' (Heb. Adonai Yhwh), to avoid the double Adonai, Elohim was substituted. When the vowel points were added to the Hebrew text the rule, in the case of words written but not read, was to attach to these words the vowels belonging to the words read in place of them. Thus they attached to Yhwh the points of 'adonay; hence the form Yehowah and the name Yeh'v'h. The strong probability is that the name Jehovah was anciently pronounced Yahweh, like the Iabe of the Samaritans. This custom, which had its origin in reverence, and has almost degenerated into a superstition, was founded upon an erroneous rendering of Lev. 24:16, from which it was inferred that the mere utterance of the name constituted a capital offense. According to Jewish tradition, it was pronounced but once a year by the high priest on the Day of Atonement when he entered the Holy of Holies; but on this point there is some doubt. ..." (Unger, M.F., 1966, "Unger's Bible Dictionary," [1957], Moody Press: Chicago IL, Third edition, Fifteenth printing, 1969, pp.564-565. Emphasis original).

The next post, part #3, of this series is "1B. What I mean by `Jesus is Jehovah'".

Stephen E. Jones, B.Sc., Grad. Dip. Ed.
My other blogs: CreationEvolutionDesign & The Shroud of Turin

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