home     about us      doctrinal statement      seminars      products     contact us  


 

         

The term “Jehovah” and the Jehovah’s Witnesses

 


 

Here at DCD, we receive many questions regarding many issues. A few months ago, we received a question regarding the term “Jehovah” and the Jehovah Witnesses:

 

I have written you before, maybe about a year ago. My name is Tim. I have a question regarding the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ obsession with the name “Jehovah” and why our English translations do not contain the name Jehovah.

 

The JWs are taught that the term “Jehovah” is the *true* name of God.[1] Further, they assert that the term “Jehovah” was actually removed from the original Greek NT and thus faithfully restored by the NWT.[2] However, consider the following statements made by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (i.e., the organization of the JWs; hereafter WT):

 

 

The WT acknowledges that “Jehovah” is not the true pronunciation of God’s name.

 

While inclining to view the pronunciation “Yah.weh” as the more correct way, we have retained the form “Jehovah” because of people's familiarity with it since the 14th century. Moreover, it preserves, equally with other forms, the four letters of the tetragrammaton JHVH (NWT, 1950 ed., Foreword, p. 25 [note: This admission was removed from the 1961, 1970, 1984 editions of the NWT]).

 

 

 

The WT acknowledges that most Hebrew scholars prefer “Yahweh” as the true pronunciation:

 

Yes, many Bible scholars acknowledge that “Yahweh” more nearly represents the Hebrew pronunciation of the Divine Name (WT,[3] July 15, 1964, p. 423).

 

Hebrew scholars generally favor “Yahweh” as the most likely pronunciation (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, 885).

 

“Jehovah” is the best known English pronunciation of the Divine name, although “Yahweh” is favored by most Hebrew scholars (Insight on the Scriptures, 1988, vol. 2, p. 5).

 

 

 

The WT acknowledges that the exact pronunciation of God’s name is unknown:

 

Yet no one today actually can say with certainty how Moses, for example, pronounced the Divine name (WT, May 1, 1978, p. 12).

 

Due to religious disuse, the original pronunciation of the Hebrew has been lost . . . there is no way of knowing what pronunciation is correct (WT, December 1, 1983, p. 5).

 

 

 

The WT acknowledges that the pronunciation “Jehovah” was originally a “blunder”:

 

As to the Old Testament name of God, certainly the spelling and pronunciation “Jehovah” were originally a blunder (The Bible in Living English, 1972, p.7).

 

 

 

The WT acknowledges that the pronunciation “Jehovah” originated not until the thirteenth century A.D.:

 

The first recorded use of this form [Jehovah] dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish [Roman Catholic] monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270 C.E. (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, p. 884-5).

 

But "Jehovah" did not appear until Martine's 1381 ed.  In the earlier eds. he used Yohoua.  

 

 

The WT acknowledges that there is no NT Greek manuscript that contains “the divine name”:

 

One of the remarkable facts, not only about the extent manuscripts of the original Greek text, but

of many versions, ancient and modern, is the absence of the Divine name (NWT, 1950 ed., Foreword, p. 10; the same quote is found in the Awake magazine, 1957, January 8, 25).

 

no ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books from Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name in full (The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, 1984, p. 23).

 

 

 

The fact is, “Jehovah” is not and has never been God’s name. As seen above, the WT acknowledges this fact.

 

Ask the JW: Since your organization (i.e., the WT) admits that “Jehovah” is not the correct name for God (“a blunder”), how is continuously mispronouncing His name honoring to God?

 

 

 

Here’s the point: God was known by many names. In the OT, for example, God is called, “Yahweh” (YHWH, “LORD”, Deut. 6:4); “LORD God” (Gen. 1:4); “Lord (Adonai, Isa. 6:1); God” (Elohim, Gen. 1:1); “God of Abraham” (Gen. 26:24); “God of Daniel” (Dan. 6:26); “God of Israel” (Num. 16:9); “Glory of Israel” (1 Sam. 15:29); “God of heaven” (Dan. 2:44); “Creator” (Isa. 40:28); “Everlasting God” (Isa. 40:28); “I AM” (egō eimi in the LXX;[4] Deut. 32:39; 43:10); “First and the Last” (Isa. 44:6); “mighty God” (Isa. 10:21); “God of gods,” “Lord of lords” (Deut. 10:17); “Holy One” (Isa. 40:25); “Rock of Israel” (Isa. 30:29); and many other names and titles were used to refer to God in the OT.

 

And in the NT, God[5] is referred to as “Father” over 250 times. Jesus refers to Him as “Father” about 179 times. The apostle Paul (and other apostles) also refers to God as “Father” (Abba in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6). But not once did any NT author use the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (“YHWH”) to refer to God.

 

Note: the manuscript evidence indicates that the NT was written in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic—thus, the Hebrew Tetragrammaton is not found in any NT manuscript. When citing passages from the OT, the NT authors used kurios (“Lord”) to translate YHWH. As well, the LXX used kurios to translate the Tetragrammaton.

 

To recall:

 

1. The term “Jehovah” was the invention of a Catholic monk (Raymundus Martini) in A.D. 1202.

 

2. “Jehovah” is a mispronunciation and an incorrect transliteration of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (YHWH) to which virtually all biblical scholars concur.

 

3. God was referred to by many names and titles: There is no passage in the OT or NT that commands the people of God to call Him by a specific name—and definitely not “Jehovah.” In fact, Jesus normally used “Father” and sometimes kurios (“Lord”; e.g., Luke 10:21) to refer to God (His Father).

 

4. When citing passages from the OT, the NT authors used kurios (“Lord”) to translate YHWH (e.g., Rom. 10:13). Note: most of the OT quotations in the NT were from the Greek LXX where kurios, not YHWH was used.

 

5. As seen, even the WT agrees with point 1 and 2 above.

 

Since the JWs believe that the “true name” of God (“Jehovah” as they assume) is essential in honoring Him, then, why would they mispronounce and mistransliterate (as the WT admits) the Tetragrammaton—YHWH?

 

 

*Witnessing Tip*

 

Romans 10:13 reads (Paul here quoting from Joel 2:32): “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved(NWT). Ask the JW: “If “Jehovah” is not the true and correct name (as agreed by the WT), how can a JW be saved since he or she calls on the wrong name?[6]

Contrary to the JW’s false and fixed notion regarding the term “Jehovah,” Jesus Christ instructed His followers

 

“After this manner therefore pray ye: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. . . .’” (Matt. 6:9; KJV).

 

Remember, it is not merely the mispronunciation of YHWH that condemns JWs (for many Christians use the term “Jehovah”), but rather it is their denial that Jesus IS YHWH that condemns them before God (cf. John 8:24).

 


NOTES


[1] The term “LORD” in the English OT is translated from YHWH (viz. Tetragrammaton, lit., “word with four letters”). Original Hebrew had only consonants—no vowels, though, vowels were verbally pronounced (thus, “Yahweh” as most scholars coincide). Vowels were added to the written text by the Masoretes (cf. Masoretic Text) around the ninth century A.D.

 

[2] The WT’s New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is the translation that the JWs use. Prior to the NWT (1950), the WT distributed and utilized the Kings James Version. However, in order to stay coherent to WT doctrines, the NWT departed from the translational norm of the KJV. The brunt of the translational deviations reflect the theological distinctives of the WT (e.g., Matt. 25:46: “everlasting cutting-off”; John 1:1: “a god”; Col. 1:16-17: the insertion of “other” four times in order to teach that Christ was not the Creator of ALL THINGS as the original Greek [grammar/context] indicates (but in John 1:3, the NWT did not add “other”); Col. 2:9: “divine quality” and, of course, the NWT inserted “Jehovah” (in the NT)—some 237 times).

 

[3] I.e., The Watchtower magazine.

 

[4] LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning “seventy,” i.e., the traditional number of scholars that translated the OT Heb. into Greek). Jesus Christ and the NT authors utilized the LXX. The LXX was used exclusively in the book of Hebrews.

 

[5] I.e., God the Father.

 

[6] Note on Rom. 10:13: The phrase “Jesus as Lord” in Romans 10:9 is clearly the antecedent to the occurrences of the pronoun “Him” and “Lord” following up to verse 13:

9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of  all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

13 For “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD [YHWH] WILL BE SAVED” (emphasis added).

 

“Jesus as Lord” is the object of salvation from verse 9-13. Throughout these passages, it is the same “Him” and same “Lord” beginning in verse 9. To say that the “Lord” in verse 9 is a different “Lord” than in verse 13 completely breaks the flow of the passages. The Lord that one confesses (v. 9) is the same Lord that one calls upon for salvation (v. 13). In verse 13, Paul cites Joel 2:32: “whoever calls on the name of the Lord [Heb. YHWH] will be delivered.” Just as he does in Philippians 2:10-11, Paul cites a passage referring to YHWH and applies it to Jesus. Thus, whoever confessing and calls upon Jesus as Lord, that is, Jesus as YHWH will be saved.

In fact, there are many places where the NT authors cite OT passages referring to YHWH and apply them to Jesus Christ. This is a great way to share the truth about Jesus to JWs. For example, compare Psalms 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isaiah 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:23 with Philippians 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13. The most productive way to use this witnessing tactic is to first take the JW to the OT passage first, then have him read the NT passage where the author cites the OT passage and applies it to Jesus.

 

 

Back to the Top