Archaeologists found the earliest mention of the Divine Name – outside of the Bible – in an inscription on an Egyptian temple. It may date from as early as the mid-14th century BCE, the period of Israelite Judges. It calls the Israelites, ‘the Nomads of Yehwah.’
Where did the Name originate? The Bible gives us the impression that The God chose it Himself. He first spoke it to Moses through an angel when telling him to to deliver IsraEl from Egypt (see Exodus 3:13-15). However, the Name may have been known earlier. Genesis 4:26 speaks of a pre-flood man named Enos, and says:
‘Elpisen epikaleisthai to onoma Kyriou tou Theou,’
‘He/believed to/call/upon the Name Lord [Jehovah] his God.’
This is similar to the words in the Hebrew text (‘then began to/call the/Name יהוה’).
We can be sure that the name Jehovah (which means, Causes to Be, or, The Creator, or possibly even The Life Giver) was originally in the Bible, because it’s documented in all ancient Hebrew texts. It’s even found in the most ancient sacred writings yet discovered, The Silver Scrolls, dated to the 7th century BCE. Further, it is likely the Bible used by Jesus and his Apostles contained the name. Most of their Bible quotations seem to have come from either the Greek Septuagint, or a now-lost Hebrew or Aramaic Bible that read much like the Septuagint. Hebrew Bibles, and a few Greek Septuagints, showed the Name in the four Hebrew characters יהוה (YHWH in English). This is known as the tetragrammaton or tetragram (which means ‘four letters’).
Then, why use the Name ‘Jehovah’ in our translation? Why not YHWH, Yahweh, or even ’The Creator,’ or something else?
After a lot of thought, we decided to use ‘Jehovah’ because it sounds like a name, which is what YHWH is supposed to be. Also, it’s the common English pronunciation provided by the 17th-century Authorized King James Version. It’s also similar to the form used in the very first English Bible. In 1530, William Tyndale published the first five books of the Bible in English – and included the Name spelled as ‘IEHOUAH’ in several verses.
The introduction to The Septuagint as Christian Scripture says:
‘All Greek biblical texts of Jewish origin found to date, whether from pre-Christian or Christian times, transmit the name יהוה (Eng. Jehovah) not in the form κύριος (Lord) encountered in all the LXX (Septuagint) manuscripts of Christian origin, but in some form of the Tetragrammaton.’ —Robert Hanhart, p.7, by Martin Hengel. ISBN 0-8010-2790-X
The Greek word translated as lord (Greek: kyrios) is found throughout the Bible as a term of respect for men, including kings, governors, and homeowners. It’s often translated as master. So whenever we see the term master in a Bible, it’s the same Greek word as lord. As translators, we can see how inappropriate it is to always call God ‘the Lord,’ because it’s commonly used for mortals.
This practice of substituting the words ‘the Lord’ for the Hebrew Name of God was started by later Jewish copyists that were superstitiously afraid to write the Name; And this same custom seems to have been followed by translators of English Bibles in the Fifteenth Century. Yet even then, those early Bible translators showed where God’s Name once appeared in the Hebrew text by capitalizing all the letters of the word LORD wherever the Divine Name was actually found in the Hebrew text. (See Exodus 6:1). And in the King James Bible, the Anglicized Name Jehovah still does appear in four texts. (See Exodus 6:3 as an example).
According to Bible historians, sometime around the First Century-BCE, the Jews had become so awed with God’s Name that scribes refused to write it or say it. So it isn’t surprising that God’s Name was omitted from many later OT texts.
And there is even textual evidence that the Name may have been totally gone from all existing Hebrew Bible manuscripts for a period of time, and that it later had to be re-inserted by Jewish scribes. Yet, the fact that God’s Name was once originally in those texts is well substantiated from the ancient Bible manuscripts that were found among the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls.’
Notice how (in the book of Isaiah, for example) God is often referred to in the Greek text as Kyrios ho Kyrios, or, Lord the Lord. And these are obvious examples of texts where God’s Name was omitted. For such sentences should clearly read the Lord Jehovah. Yet, some Bibles that refuse to use God’s Name gloss this error over by mistranslating the words as saying, ‘Lord God,’ or ‘Sovereign Lord.’
You can see evidence of this mistranslation if you examine the actual Hebrew words found in the interlinear translation of Isaiah 48:16. If you look at the linked Hebrew words there, you’ll find that the four letters (יהוה) are in the text when referring to God. However notice how these four letters have thereafter been mistranslated in other Bibles.
Although there are no remaining ancient Christian Era Scripture (New Testament) manuscripts that contain the full name of God; There are four reasons why we believe that the Name actually existed in the original texts back in the First Century.
· The Name would have been found in many of the ancient Hebrew texts that are quoted by Jesus and his disciples.
· Jesus mentioned God having a Name in ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ and at John 5:43, 10:25, 12:13, 17:26.
· The Name still appears in the Revelation as part the word HalleluJah. For, Hallel means praise, u implies second person, and Jah is a shortened form of Jehovah. (You find this shortened form used in many Hebrew names of people, such as EliJah).
· The fact that Christians that lived in Jerusalem were still worshiping at the Temple of Jehovah late into Paul’s ministry proves that they still viewed Jehovah as their God.
(See Acts 21:20-26).
It appears as though God’s Name was originally removed from the OT texts by Jewish scribes either during or shortly after the First Century CE. Therefore, it’s not surprising that it was likely removed from the NT texts by later ‘Christian’ Jewish copyists.
Note for example, the words of 2 Timothy 1:18. For in this Bible we have translated the words as saying:
‘So may the Lord grant him mercy from Jehovah.’
Note that in the existing Greek texts, this reads:
‘δῴη αὐτῷ ὁ Κύριος εὑρεῖν ἔλεος παρὰ Κυρίου,’
‘May/grant to/him the Lord to/find mercy next/to Lord.’
As you can see, two ‘Lords’ are mentioned here. But if Paul was in fact speaking of Jesus in both places where the Greek word for ‘Lord’ is found in that text, he would have simply written:
‘May the Lord grant him mercy.’
When was this substitution of ‘Lord’ for God’s Name likely made?
It has been argued (and there is considerable textual evidence that this is true) that all of Paul’s writings were translated from his common language (Aramaic) into Greek in the early Second Century. And this appears to be the period in which this, as well as several other changes to the original texts, were made.
Understand that we are just Bible translators, so our conclusions on this are based strictly on our research, not on a desire to take a religious position. And because we can see that such changes were obviously made, this Bible is one that uses God’s Name in the Christian Era Scriptures.
However, unlike other Bibles that use the Divine Name there, you will see that we have avoided using it in places where the two Greek words ho Kyrios (the Lord) could actually be speaking of Jesus. For we own no franchise on the use of God’s Name.
Rather, you will notice that we have inserted the English spelling of the Divine Name (Jehovah) where the NT text is quoting OT texts that are clearly speaking of The God and were not prophecies about Jesus. (We will discuss more about that below).
Yet, whenever there is any question about which ‘Lord’ is being mentioned (and there are several questionable instances), we have simply left it translated it as ‘the Lord.’
Some have objected to putting the Name Jehovah in the Greek text, for they say that use of the Divine Name would have been offensive – and may have resulted in stoning – if Jesus and his disciples had actually spoken or written it, because of the supposed Jewish tradition against doing such a thing.
But God’s Name had to be used when the Apostles were preaching to the gentiles, otherwise, these people simply wouldn’t have known which ‘Lord’ the disciples were talking about (remember that the gentiles to whom they preached believed in other Gods). For to call God the Lord when most gods (and many men) were also called lord, would have been confusing to all those to whom Jesus’ disciples preached, both Jews and Gentiles.
So, it is because we know that the non-Jews to whom Jesus’ disciples spoke had to be told the True God’s Name to differentiate him from their pagan gods, that we seriously question whether the use of the Name was really as offensive as some claim it was prior to JeruSalem’s destruction by the Roman armies in 70-CE. Also, we find it hard to imagine Jesus ever being afraid to speak the Name of his Father!
Another common argument that we’ve heard against using The Name in the Christian Era Scriptures (NT) is that it was the time of Jesus, and all mention of the Lord referred to him. However, numerous texts prove that this argument isn’t valid… and again, it is hard for us to imagine Jesus pushing his own name over the Name of his Father.
But, recognize that there are still serious problems with trying to correctly insert the Divine Name in the Bible to replace it with the words that have been substituted by Jewish and Christian copyists, since the title ‘Lord’ appears to have been the correct choice in many places. For as we will discuss below, even the Masoretic copyists of the Hebrew text have clearly gotten it wrong in several instances!
The rule that other honest Bible translators have adopted for inserting God’s Name in their translations of the OT texts, is to simply use it wherever the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) appears in the oldest existing Hebrew texts (which aren’t that old).
However, as we will show, the current locations of the Tetragrammaton in the Hebrew texts don’t appear to be reliable!
For example, there is the instance when AbraHam was talking to three ‘men’ (in Genesis the Eighteenth Chapter), one of whom he referred to as Jehovah (יהוה) in the current Hebrew text. Yet in this case, AbraHam was obviously not speaking to God! Rather, he was talking to a messenger from God, because as God told Moses:
‘No man can see God and live.’
So in such instances, we have left the term ‘Lord’ unchanged, because that is likely the same as the word that AbraHam actually used.
Also, in the writings of the Prophets, you will notice that they often say that they were being spoken to by one of God’s messengers, whom they respectfully referred to as the Lord (not Jehovah).
For example, consider the wording of Jeremiah 2:1:
‘Then the Word of the Lord came to me again and said,
Go and yell in JeruSalem’s ears…
Tell them that thus says Jehovah:’
As you can see in this case, ‘The Lord’ (messenger or angel) was bringing a message from Jehovah (third person). So in this Bible, you’ll see an interspersing of the term the Lord when the text appears to be referring to the angel messenger, and Jehovah when it appears to be referring to The God.
Yet, we have in fact found several verses where an angel was actually addressed as though he were The God. This is the case of the person to whom Moses was speaking at the burning bush. For at Exodus 3:2, we read:
‘And there, Jehovah’s messenger (gr. aggelos kyriou) appeared to him in a flame that was burning in a bush.’ However we read at Exodus 3:4 that יהוה (Jehovah) was speaking to him.
For we read in verse 6:
‘Then He said:
I am the God of your ancestors… the God of AbraHam, the God of IsaAc, and the God of Jacob.’
So although Moses recognized that the person that was speaking to him was just a messenger (angel), he also understood that the words were coming from The God.
That the person who was speaking to Moses was truly a messenger from God is confirmed by Stephen’s testimony before the Jewish High Court (Sanhedrin), where he testified (at Acts 7:30) that Moses was speaking to an angel.
Therefore, in the next verse (at Exodus 3:7), we have rendered the text as reading:
‘Then the Lord told Moses… ’
(Although the Masoretic Hebrew text says that יהוה told Moses). Why? Because you can clearly see that it wasn’t יהוה speaking, but just a messenger.
Is there any chance that Moses was just confused about who was speaking to him? That couldn’t be true, because he’s the one that wrote the previous verses, which said that the person speaking to him was an angel.
We also find this same type of text corruption in the Bible book of Judges. For example, the American Standard Version Bible renders Judges 6:18 as saying:
‘And Jehovah said unto him,
Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.’
Yet, look at who was really talking to him! In a previous verse (12); the same Bible says:
‘And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him, and said unto him,
Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.’
So it wasn’t really יהוה that was speaking, as the current Hebrew text says, it was a messenger (angel) of יהוה!
Then notice how the Septuagint (Greek) text of Judges 6:18 reads:
‘Kai eipen pros outon ho aggelous Kyriou Kyrios,
Estai meta sou, kai pataexeis ten Madiam osei andra hena,’
‘And said to him the messenger (angel) of the Lord Lord (Jehovah),
I/am with you, and you/shall/strike the Midianites as man one.’
So you can see that there is a difference between what is said in the Hebrew text and what is said in the Septuagint text… and the Septuagint got it right!
For the Hebrew text says that יהוה was speaking, but the Greek text shows (as the previous verse said) that it was His messenger that was speaking. Therefore, it appears as though something is wrong with the currently-available Hebrew text in this case!
The point? When we find the tetragrammaton in the currently-available Hebrew Bible text, it is questionable whether it should actually have been there!
Also, notice that the term, the Lord (ho kyrios) would have been used by Hebrew writers whenever they were speaking of God poetically and a previous or following verse used the name Jehovah. For the rules of Hebrew poetry require the following verse to be written as a simile (using not the same, but similar words).
However, look at how the current Hebrew poetic text renders Psalm 19:9 (which is WRONG!). A word-for-word translation in English reads:
‘The/fear of/Jehovah (יְהוָ֨ה) is/clean,
The/Judgments of/Jehovah (יְהוָ֨ה) are/true,
Notice here that both verses use the Divine Name. However, Hebrew poetry would dictate that a simile (‘the Lord’) should have been used in one of the verses.
You can see that the same type of error is found in the Septuagint, for it reads (as translated word-for-word into English):
‘The fear of/the/Lord (kyriou) is/pure,
Abiding into eons of/eons.
The Judgments of/the/Lord (kyriou) are/true,
Doing/justice to/the same.’
So, neither the Hebrew or the Greek follows the rules of Hebrew poetry! But notice that we have correctly rendered the verse as reading:
‘The fear of Jehovah is pure…
It lasts through the age and through ages of ages.
And the judgments of the Lord are all true,
For they bring equal justice to all.’
Another important place where it appears as though the term the Lord should be used instead of the Name Jehovah, is where people do something in His Name, as in James 5:10. For it talks about ‘Prophets that spoke in the name of the Lord.’ However, since Jehovah is God’s Name (in English), they would not be speaking in the Name of Jehovah (which is His Name), but in the Name of the Lord (Jehovah).
Yes, this could be an arguable point, but where there is some question and the understanding of the verse isn’t changed, we believe it is better to take a cautious approach, since we have found too many errors in uses of God’s Name.
So, how did such corruptions get into the Hebrew texts?
Notice that most removals of the Name happened during the latter half of the 1st Century. So by the time of the Masoretic scribes in the 5th Century (who are largely responsible for our modern ‘ancient’ Hebrew texts); It appears as though the Divine Name had already been removed from their scrolls, and that at some later date, these scribes simply inserted the Tetragramaton (the four sacred letters) wherever they thought it should have originally been..., and they made some mistakes. This becomes obvious when you take into consideration all the points mentioned above.
We have received several letters complaining about our using the term the Lord rather than the Name Jehovah in several other places, such as at Joel 2:32 (and Paul’s reference to that same scripture at Romans 10:13). Notice how we have rendered that scripture:
‘Then, all that call on the name of the Lord (heb. יהוה) will be saved, said Jehovah (יהוה).
For, to Mount Zion and JeruSalem,
Will come a person that saves,
Announcing good news to all those,
That have been called by Jehovah (יהוה).’
You can see that this is a clear example of how the Jewish translators (the Masoretes?) have added the Tetragrammaton to replace a reference to someone that would be sent by Jehovah to rescue and announce good news, or, the Messiah. For God did not say, ‘that have called on MY NAME,’ but rather, the text shows that He was speaking of calling on the name of a third party… likely ‘the Lord’ Jesus.
Recognize that one of the problems with the corrupted Masoretic (Hebrew) text is that there are many evidences (such as this) of tampering to remove Messianic prophecies, which other Bible translators have simply overlooked. For if you read the context surrounding Romans 10:13 (where Paul was quoting the scripture in Joel), you will see that he was definitely speaking of people calling on the name of Jesus, not יהוה.
Another such corruption of a Messianic prophecy can be found in Isaiah chapters 50 and 51, which are a bit confusing, because God is clearly spoken of in the third person there. But then, sometime later, it seems as though He speaks in the first person. In fact, this Messianic prophecy continues with a shifting of tenses all the way to the end of Chapter fifty-three!
To what can this be attributed? To the fact that the speaker in all cases is the same… ‘the Word of God,’ His spokesman. However, the wrong personal pronouns were later inserted by copyists who didn’t understand that these were references not to The God, but to a coming Messiah.
Probably the most striking and confusing reference to the Lord is found at Hebrews 1:10-12, which says:
‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth, and [you] made the heavens with your hands.
But they’ll pass away while you still remain;
For, like clothes, they will grow old.
Then, as [you would do to] a robe, you will wrap them up and repair them.
Yes, you’re the one and your years will never expire.’
As you can see, the reference to the Lord here appears to be speaking of The God (Jehovah). And if you go back to the scripture Paul was quoting (Psalm 102:24-27), you’ll find that the Hebrew text of verse 24 doesn’t say ‘Lord’ (gr. kyrie), but, ‘my God’ (heb. Eli).
Thus the conclusion most have reached is that Paul was talking about The God at Hebrews 1:10.
Yet, notice that the entire First Chapter of Hebrews is discussing Jesus and his special position before God! And the reason why Paul quoted Psalm 102:24-27 was to make the point that Jesus made the heavens and the earth, that he will remain through the ages, and that he will eventually rebuild (repair) them after they grow old.
So, which do you believe?
· Did Paul misapply this scripture?
· Or has the Hebrew version of Psalm 102 been badly corrupted?
· We trust Paul.
That is why in this instance (in Psalm 102 and Hebrews 1) – as well as in and in many other OT scriptures; We have deviated from our rule of capitalizing the first letter of the words You and Your, which we do in reference to God, and from inserting the Name Jehovah wherever it appears as though the scripture is talking about a messenger from God or about the Messiah.
However, this opens another can of worms. For it brings into question the use of the Tetragrammaton rule altogether!
Of course, there have been attempts to find a compromise between the differences in these verses, so that the accuracy of the Hebrew text can’t be questioned. And in doing so, some have suggested that since Jesus ‘shines with the same glory, is the exact image of His (God’s) being and is responsible for everything that’s said through His power’ (as we were told at Hebrews 1:3); Anything that is said about God also applies to Jesus… perhaps.
Of course, the easy answer to why Paul quoted Psalm 102 in reference to Jesus is because Jesus is actually Jehovah, as many theologians claim.
But this is proven untrue by the other words in the same First Chapter of Hebrews.
For, notice what these other verses say:
· Hebrews 1:3:
‘He sat down at the right hand of the Great One in the highest places.’
· Hebrews 1:4:
‘He has become so much greater than the [other] messengers [of God] and so different, that he has inherited a [special] name among them.’
· Hebrews 1:5:
‘For example; to which of His [other] messengers did He ever say,
You’re my son. Today I’ve become your Father.
I will become his Father and he will become My son.’
· Hebrews 1:9:
‘You loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
That’s why God (your God) anointed you with the oil of great joy among those that are your partners.’
· Hebrews 1:13:
‘And to which one of His messengers did He ever say,
Sit here on My right until I set your enemies as a stool for your feet?’
(For more information on this subject, please see the linked document, ‘Who Was Jesus?’)
Forgetting God’s Name is a practice that has a long history with the Jews; For apparently, they were trying to do this during the time of the Prophet JeremiAh (sometime in the early Seventh Century BCE). Notice that we read at Jeremiah 23:27:
‘They’ve come up with ways to forget My Name;
Then they use their dreams to describe to their neighbors
How their fathers were the ones who’ve forgotten My Name
And turned to the service of BaAl.’
And what about the deletion of God’s Name in the Christian Era Scriptures?
Recognize that most early Christian Congregations (and especially those in Judea) were predominantly made up of Jews, and their traditions seemed to have had a strong negative effect on Christian conduct and doctrine throughout the rest of the world.
For example, almost all of Paul’s letters (Romans through Hebrews) contain strong references to Judaizers in the congregations, and this influence likely led to substituting Lord for God’s Name in Christian writings after the deaths of the Apostles.
Perhaps Christians would more deeply appreciate the need to use the name Jehovah rather than the title ‘Lord,’ when referring to The God, if they understood that the term ‘the Lord’ in the language of the Canaanites was ‘BaAl’ or ‘BeEl.’
It is interesting that we get the Name of God spelled and pronounced with a ‘J’ (Jehovah) from 15th and 16th Century England, which came about as the result of the Protestant Reformation, the start of the Church of England, and the creation of the first Bibles in English, the Tyndale Bible, and later the King James (or Authorized) Translation. For apparently, with the new freedom of religious thought that came with the new religions and Bibles, people actually became excited to learn that God has a Name, and they started using it in their daily expressions.
The common British expression, ‘By Jove,’ is actually a corruption of the words, ‘By Jehovah.’
So although the Tyndale Bible spelled God’s Name more closely to the actual Hebrew pronunciation (Iehovah), the English started pronouncing and spelling the name with a ‘J,’ as they did with many other Hebrew and Greek Bible words such as Jerusalem, Jesus, Joshua, Jonah, etc.
Then, what of those that prefer a more exact Hebrew pronunciation of the Name, which can be Yahweh (Yah-Wĕh), Yahwah (Yah-Wah), or Yehwah (Yĕh-Wah)?
That is commendable if their reasons are consistent. For if their concern is to properly pronounce Bible names (not a hatred for God’s Name as it is pronounced in English), they will also be found promoting the proper Hebrew pronunciation of His son’s name, Ieshuah (Ye-Shuah), or Iehoshuah (Yĕ-h’-shuah)… At least use the proper pronunciation of his name in Greek, Iesous (Yay-sous). But then they would also have to start changing hundreds of other Bible names containing a J (such as John, Jeremiah, Jonah, Jerusalem, etc.), and they would find that almost every other Bible name is currently mispronounced in the English language.
This is why we find a certain pretentiousness in those that go out of their way to properly pronounce the Name of The God, but continue to mispronounce all other Bible names, including the name of His son.
And actually, how important is it to pronounce God’s Name in the same way as did the ancient Hebrews? Well, consider the fact that First-Century Christians seemed to easily change the name of God’s son between its Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek spellings and pronunciations, depending on the language that they were speaking. So clearly, the correct pronunciation of names wasn’t all that important to them.
What do we learn from this? That arguing over the exact pronunciation of God’s Name is a wasteful diversion from more serious matters.
The Bible text and translator notes are public domain. Everything else is either copyright to their respected owners (all rights reserved), or available under a Creative Commons license. Our Bible text, translator notes, and commentaries use CamelCase for Biblical names. Our official websites are 2001.bible, 2001translation.org, and 2001translation.com.