The 2001 Translation

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    The Divine Name in our New Testament

    יהוה (YHWH or JHVH) on stained glass in the Church of Saint-Philibert in Charlieu, France

    Jesus said: ‘I’ll also write the Name of my God upon them.’ –Revelation 3:12

    Our translation uses Jehovah (or Yahweh) 151 times in Matthew through Revelation. Since the Divine Name doesn’t appear in any manuscript of those books, why do we include it? It is for good reasons that most people have overlooked: it appears many times as a euphemism.

    Firstly, let’s quickly mention that the Divine Name appears in Greek manuscripts in its shortened form Jah in the word hallelujah (‘praise Jah’) 4 times in Revelation. Also, in the Aramaic manuscripts, haleluwya (‘praise Jah’) likewise appears 4 times. So while a literal translation would never use Jehovah/Yahweh, it would say Jah/Yah 4 times.

    What most people miss is the number of times the euphemism for the Divine Name appears. This page will explain.

    Did the early Christians know the Divine Name?

    Yes, they knew it. This fact is not in dispute because it appears in many sources from around the 1st and 2nd centuries CE:

    • Greek Septuagint fragment 4Q120 uses ΙΑΩ (in the Greek script), which was probably pronounced something like “ya-ho.”
    • Greek Septuagint fragment Papyrus Fouad 266 uses יהוה‎ (in the Hebrew script).
    • Greek Septuagint fragments 943, 3522, and 5101 have the name in the Paleo-Hebrew script.
    • Josephus described how the Name “is not lawful for me to say anymore”.
    • The 1st century CE Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria said that the names of God “may only be mentioned or heard by holy men having their ears and their tongues purified by wisdom, and by no one else at all in any place whatever”.
    • 2nd-century Christian writer, Clement of Alexandria, commented, “For human speech is by nature feeble, and incapable of uttering God. I do not say His name. For to name it is common, not to philosophers only, but also to poets.” He also said, “The mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the [Most Holy of the Temple] was accessible, is called Jave (Greek: Ιαουε), which is interpreted, ‘Who is and shall be.’ The name of God, too, among the Greeks contains four letters.”

    Also, there are conflicting Rabbinic traditions from the Middle Ages that describe how the Name could (and could not) be used back in the 1st century. Some state that it could only be spoken once a year by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, while others say that priests said it once per day in the daily sacrifices.

    Jesus himself mentioned that God has a personal name:

    ‘For though I’ve come in the Name of my Father; you haven’t welcomed me. Yet if someone else came in his own name, you would welcome him!’ —John 5:43

    ‘the things that I’m doing in my Father’s Name all testify about me’ –John 10:25

    ‘I’ll also write the Name of my God upon them’ —Revelation 3:12

    So people of that time knew the Name. However, the question is not whether they knew the Name; it’s whether they explicitly wrote it in the New Testament.

    Was it removed?

    One possibility is that early Christians wrote the Name in their books, but then unknown persons later removed it. If this happened, then it is strange that nobody has yet found any evidence of it; there are no early fragments containing the Name nor any external references to it being there or being removed.

    So if that’s what happened, then it must have happened extremely early in the Christian period. So early, in fact, that no manuscript evidence or historical reference to it remains.

    Therefore, it seems unlikely.

    Yet there is a second possibility that we cannot ignore.

    ‘Lord’ was a well-understood euphemism

    It’s quite possible that the early Christians wrote the name in plain sight of everyone as a euphemism. How so? Well, using ‘Lord’ as a euphemism for the Divine Name was a centuries-old existing practice.

    Most copies of the Greek Septuagint had used kyrios (‘Lord’) as a proper noun in place of Jehovah/Yahweh. Yes, the Septuagint didn’t say “the Lord,” but just “Lord” where it originally said YHWH in Hebrew, treating ‘Lord’ as if it’s a personal name.

    Normally this would be a weird grammar error, but in this case, it was a special signal to the reader. It told Greek-speaking Jews where the Divine Name was supposed to be. Some copies of the Septuagint just leave a blank space instead of writing YHWH. Some do have YHWH in Hebrew script (and one even transliterated it into Greek script), but most of the copies that survive to today use this trick of saying ‘Lord’ instead of ‘the Lord’ to show where the original Hebrew text says YHWH. When readers or listeners came across the ‘error,’ they knew what it really meant.

    This practice was about 300 years old at the time of the Apostles, perhaps dating all the way back to when Jews began to speak Greek.

    Aramaic speakers also said Lord, but they didn’t use the same trick that the Greek speakers used. Instead, they would replace YHWH with the full spelling of the Aramaic word for ‘Lord’ (maryah or marya) and reserve shorter spellings of that word (e.g. mara) for lesser lords. This practice may have been 500 years old by the time of the Apostles, perhaps dating back to the time of the Babylonians when the Jewish exiles first had to learn Aramaic.

    So, 1st-century Jews and Christians had ways of knowing when Lord was a euphemism for YHWH. The Greek speakers had their grammar “error” of missing out “the”, and Aramaic speakers had the full spelling of Lord, maryah (or marya). You could tell when the scrolls really meant YHWH.

    (Interestingly, modern English speakers have a similar system in the King James Version; it sometimes says “LORD” in capitals instead of “Lord”. Not everyone knows this, but it’s a deliberate tactic used by the KJV translators to tell readers where the Hebrew source texts say YHWH.)

    Anyway, by the time of the Apostles, these little tricks were centuries-old customs. Writings from the time show that people knew of the Name, and people also knew the laws around saying it (and not saying it). Thus, audiences knew when ‘Lord’ was a euphemism for Jehovah/Yahweh. The name YHWH was not lost or forgotten; they just referred to it by euphemism. It was like saying, “[insert Divine Name here].”

    In other words, it’s quite possible that the Gospels and other Christian books never had YHWH written in them, but they didn’t need to write it because everyone knew when ‘Lord’ meant YHWH. In addition, there was also the context. After all, what do you look for when working out that something’s a euphemism? Probably the context.

    Readers knew the game, and they knew how to play it. So YHWH is indeed represented in the Christian books and has been all along, staring at us in the face. It was just written for an ancient audience of people who knew about such things; unfortunately, this is lost on modern audiences.

    An even older custom

    The custom of saying ‘Lord’ as a euphemism goes even further back than replacing YHWH. The Jews already used that method to avoid saying a pagan god’s name. This custom was a staggering 1,500 years old by the 1st century. The Law of Moses forbade saying the names of foreign gods:

    ‘...don’t mention the names of other gods or speak of them in any way.’ —Exodus 23:13

    So instead, people said ‘Baal,’ which is an ancient word meaning ‘Lord’ or ‘Master.’ There was no false god who had Baal as its proper name; it’s just a title (for more information, see our translator note for BaAl). So, at the time of the Apostles, this custom of using ‘Lord’ as a euphemism to replace the name of a god (real or otherwise) was 1,500 years old – stretching all the way back to the beginning of their nation!

    When they started using Lord as a euphemism for YHWH

    Since returning from exile in Babylon, the Jews did something new. Scholars tell us that the Jews likely felt so horribly ashamed of their captivity that they adopted the same method used with pagan gods to avoid saying the name of their own God.

    We hear their shame in Psalm 137:4, where the captives in Babylon said (and later made famous by a popular song):

    ‘But, how can we sing the songs of the Lord [or YHWH in Hebrew],
    There in an alien land?’

    Yet a few decades later, when back in Israel and speaking a different language called Aramaic, instead of replacing YHWH with ‘BaAl’ (which traditionally referred to pagan gods), they used maryah (‘Lord’ or ‘Highest Lord’). Later on still, when they began speaking Greek, they started using kyrios (‘Lord’) as if it were a proper noun, and used that to indicate YHWH.

    So while some Jews and early Christians may have said Yahweh discreetly on occasion (especially when explaining matters to non-Jews who understood none of this, one might assume), they could also use euphemisms that everyone in their community would understand.

    This method allowed you to ‘say’ YHWH and not break the law, nor risk your expensive scrolls and letters being confiscated and destroyed. By the time of Jesus, this custom was centuries old.

    Readers and listeners of the New Testament could put YHWH back into the text with their minds, as they already did every sabbath at the synagogue when hearing readings from the Hebrew scrolls, Aramaic Targums, or the Greek Septuagint. You see, every time someone read the Hebrew scrolls, they would see YHWH with the vowel points for a different word written above – a clever way of reminding you not to say the Name aloud!

    How to translate a euphemism?

    When we identify a particular use of ‘Lord’ as a euphemism for YHWH, how should it be translated? Translation is not a mere word-for-word transcription. A proper translation aims to convey the full meaning that the original writer intended and the meaning that the audience was meant to understand.

    If a word is supposed to be understood as a euphemism, then that meaning must be conveyed to modern readers. Sometimes you can just use an equivalent euphemism in English, and if one exists, then there is no problem.

    For example, in Hebrew, to ‘cover your feet’ was a euphemism for emptying your bowels. In English, this is no problem because translators can just replace it with an equivalent English euphemism (of which we have plenty!). Therefore, the full meaning of the original words is conveyed, and everyone knows what we’re talking about.

    So, wherever ancient readers of the New Testament understood Lord to be a euphemism for the Divine Name, that fact must be conveyed to modern readers. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent euphemism in English that means ‘insert Divine Name here.’ So instead, our translation just translates the euphemism to say what it means, Jehovah/Yahweh.

    The only way to translate it

    This is the standard way to translate euphemisms and idioms in Bible translation. It is the method taught in training courses for those producing Bible translations for minority languages and sign languages (although no such courses yet recognize Lord as a euphemism for YHWH). Translators are usually told to find an equivalent euphemism in their target language, and if one doesn’t exist, to just say what it means.

    Imagine what the Bible would look like if euphemisms and idioms were not translated into English equivalents or into words saying what they actually mean. Large parts of the Bible would be extremely hard to understand! Just look at the many literal word-for-word translations out there; are they easy reads?

    Even in modern English, speakers say things like “he’s well-built” or “big-boned” to mean overweight. Translators would never translate these expressions as “constructed with skill” or “has a large skeleton,” as that would be a mistranslation. No, they know to either use equivalent euphemisms or just say what it means and translate it as “overweight” (but somehow convey that it was said politely).

    After all, isn’t that what translation is supposed to be? Conveying the original meaning to a new audience?

    So what should we do with these euphemisms for the Divine Name? We must convey it to the modern reader. It is our duty. Otherwise, it would be a mistranslation or even censorship of the intended original meaning.

    Indeed, the tradition of using the word Lord as a euphemism (to avoid saying YHWH aloud) was so old and well-established among the Jews that Lord may have simply meant YHWH in certain contexts. Just like how “big boned” has nothing to do with bones but always means “fat,” it may be that among ancient Jewish Christians, ‘Lord’ often just meant YHWH.

    The only place where we should translate euphemisms literally is in poetry. After all, poems use words to convey feelings, not just facts. Elsewhere, though, translating euphemisms literally would cause misunderstandings and, therefore, would be mistranslations.

    Therefore, if Lord means the Divine Name in certain places, then the simplest translation is just to say what it means – Jehovah/Yahweh.

    Other options

    You might wonder, “Why not say ‘Lord’ but put (Jehovah/Yahweh) afterward in parentheses?” Yes, we could do that. However, to be consistent, we’d have to do the same thing with ALL the idioms and euphemisms throughout the entire Bible. It would be really long-winded and odd to read, which is probably why no other Bible has done this.

    So, to be consistent, when our editor decides that an instance of Lord in the Christian books is probably a euphemism for YHWH, this translation says Jehovah (or Yahweh if you have that option switched on in the text settings). Each instance is linked to a translator note which explains the reason(s) for it. We might not get every instance right, but we can try.

    Please understand that we’re not dogmatic about this issue. This theory could be wrong, but it certainly seems to add up. Further, we feel that the 2001 Translation is doing a public service by exploring this possibility. If it turns out to be wrong, then fine. We’ll just correct our Bible and move on.

    But a much more important question is this: What if the theory is right?

    Possible places

    Unfortunately, we don’t have a DeLorean, and can’t go back in time to ask a 1st-century Jew or Christian where Lord is a euphemism for YHWH. We can only guess. And we might get it wrong! So, where might it be a euphemism?

    We put verses into six different categories. Most verses fall into more than one category (see table below).

    Category A

    Lord with the Greek grammar ‘error’ is the Septuagint’s method for replacing YHWH. It treats it as a proper noun rather than a title. Learn more.

    Category B

    Where Lord or Highest Lord is written in Aramaic using the word maryah. Learn more.

    Category C

    Quote of an Old Testament book which we can today see contains YHWH. Learn more.

    Category D

    Where the passage describes the actions of YHWH in the Old Testament. Learn more.

    Category E

    Expressions from the Old Testament which contain YHWH. Learn more.

    Category F

    Where the context only refers to the Father, Almighty God. Learn more.

    Our totals

    The 2001 Translation says Jehovah 151 times across 147 verses in its New Testament.

    • All are linked to a translator note to explain the reason(s) for it.
    • We are not dogmatic about any particular occurrence. Some of these will likely change in the future.
    • No other English Bible is so transparent, detailed, and open to change in this matter.

    Each occurrence is listed below.

    Verse AGreek grammar BAramaic maryah CQuote with YHWH DActions of YHWH EExpression with YHWH FFather-only context
    Matthew 1:20
    Matthew 1:22
    Matthew 1:24
    Matthew 2:13
    Matthew 2:15
    Matthew 2:19
    Matthew 4:7
    Matthew 4:10
    Matthew 5:33
    Matthew 12:4
    Matthew 21:9
    Matthew 21:42
    Matthew 22:37
    Matthew 22:44
    Matthew 23:39
    Matthew 27:10
    Matthew 28:2
    Matthew totals: 11 18 6 3 8 0
    Mark 5:19
    Mark 11:9
    Mark 12:11
    Mark 12:29
    Mark 12:30
    Mark 12:36
    Mark 13:20
    Mark totals: 5 7 4 0 1 0
    Luke 1:6
    Luke 1:9
    Luke 1:11
    Luke 1:15
    Luke 1:16
    Luke 1:25
    Luke 1:28
    Luke 1:32
    Luke 1:38
    Luke 1:45
    Luke 1:46
    Luke 1:58
    Luke 1:66
    Luke 1:68
    Luke 1:76
    Luke 2:9
    Luke 2:22
    Luke 2:23
    Luke 2:26
    Luke 2:39
    Luke 4:8
    Luke 4:12
    Luke 4:18
    Luke 4:19
    Luke 5:17
    Luke 10:27
    Luke 13:35
    Luke 19:38
    Luke 20:37
    Luke 20:42
    Luke totals: 22 28 8 1 15 2
    John 12:13
    John 12:38
    John totals: 2 2 1 0 1 0
    Acts 1:24
    Acts 2:25
    Acts 2:34
    Acts 2:39
    Acts 3:19
    Acts 3:22
    Acts 4:26
    Acts 4:29
    Acts 5:9
    Acts 5:19
    Acts 7:30
    Acts 7:49
    Acts 8:26
    Acts 8:39
    Acts 11:21
    Acts 12:7
    Acts 12:11
    Acts 12:23
    Acts 13:11
    Acts 13:47
    Acts 15:17
    Acts totals: 14 18 5 0 7 2
    Romans 9:28
    Romans 9:29
    Romans 11:3
    Romans 11:34
    Romans 12:19
    Romans 14:11
    Romans 15:11
    Romans totals: 5 5 6 0 0 0
    1 Corinthians 1:31
    1 Corinthians 2:16
    1 Corinthians 3:20
    1 Corinthians 4:4
    1 Corinthians 4:17
    1 Corinthians 4:19
    1 Corinthians 7:17
    1 Corinthians 10:9
    1 Corinthians 12:3
    1 Corinthians 14:21
    1 Corinthians 15:58
    1 Cor. totals: 8 10 3 2 2 0
    2 Corinthians 2:12
    2 Corinthians 3:16
    2 Corinthians 3:17 (A)
    2 Corinthians 3:17 (B)
    2 Corinthians 3:18 (A)
    2 Corinthians 3:18 (B)
    2 Corinthians 6:17
    2 Corinthians 6:18
    2 Corinthians 10:17
    2 Cor. totals: 8 9 3 0 4 0
    Galatians totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Ephesians 2:21
    Ephesians 5:19
    Ephesians totals: 1 2 0 0 1 1
    Philippians totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Colossians 3:22
    Colossians 3:24
    Col. totals: 0 2 0 0 2 0
    1 Thess. totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    2 Thessalonians 3:3
    2 Thess. totals: 0 1 0 0 0 0
    1 Tim. totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    2 Timothy 2:19
    2 Tim. totals: 1 1 1 0 0 0
    Titus totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Philemon totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Hebrews 6:3
    Hebrews 7:21
    Hebrews 8:8
    Hebrews 8:9
    Hebrews 8:10
    Hebrews 8:11
    Hebrews 10:16
    Hebrews 10:30
    Hebrews 12:5
    Hebrews 12:6
    Hebrews 13:5
    Hebrews 13:6
    Hebrews totals: 9 11 10 0 0 0
    James 1:7
    James 4:6
    James 4:10
    James 4:15
    James 5:4
    James 5:10
    James 5:11 (A)
    James 5:11 (B)
    James totals: 5 7 1 2 2 2
    1 Peter 3:12 (A)
    1 Peter 3:12 (B)
    1 Peter totals: 2 2 2 0 0 0
    2 Peter 2:9
    2 Peter 2:11
    2 Peter 3:8
    2 Peter 3:9
    2 Peter totals: 3 4 0 0 0 1
    1 John totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    2 John totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    3 John totals: 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Jude 1:5
    Jude 1:9
    Jude 1:14
    Jude totals: 2 2 0 1 1 1
    Revelation 1:8
    Revelation 4:8
    Revelation 11:17
    Revelation 14:10
    Revelation 15:3
    Revelation 15:4
    Revelation 16:7
    Revelation 18:8
    Revelation 19:6
    Revelation 21:22
    Revelation 22:5
    Revelation 22:6
    Revelation totals: 4 10 0 0 1 9
    GRAND TOTALS Greek grammar Aramaic maryah Quote with YWHW Actions of YWHW Expression with YHWH Father-only context
    102 139 50 11 45 17

    Note: In the 2001 Translation, the Name also appears in Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:13, and Luke 1:31 as translator notes; they are not part of the original text and are not listed above.


    Why use ‘Jehovah’ and not ‘Yahweh’ or some other spelling?

    You can use the preferences section (at the bottom of each Bible book webpage) to change it to say ‘Yahweh’ if you want. As for why ‘Jehovah’ is our default spelling, we chose it (rightly or wrongly) because it’s the most well-known English spelling of the Name due to its appearance in the King James Version.

    See Why use the Divine Name in our translation? for more information.

    Why not just say Lord (or LORD), as it says in the source texts, and then link it to a note explaining that it could be a euphemism for YHWH?

    We could do that, but it would be inconsistent with how our Bible (and all non-literal translations) treat euphemisms. To be consistent, we’d have to display every single euphemism in the entire Bible text literally. That would probably be too convoluted for us and horribly confusing for the reader, too. It’s probably why no Bible translation has done it apart from literal translations.

    How does this compare to the New World Translation (NWT) published by Jehovah’s Witnesses?

    The NWT uses Jehovah 237 times in its New Testament, whereas ours says it 151 times. Also, our reasons for including the Name are very different.

    The NWT includes the Name because the official doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses states that the Name was once present in the text but was removed very early in the Christian era. Thus, the NWT is looking for places where the Name may have been censored and is trying to restore it. While this could be true (after all, we have very few New Testament fragments from the 1st and 2nd centuries), as of 2024, no manuscript or historical evidence has yet emerged.

    In contrast, we say that it is far more likely the Name has always been present but only ever as a series of respectful euphemisms that had been in customary use for centuries (see above on this page). These were not used because of any Jewish superstitions about the Name but rather out of caution, deep respect, and shame over the reproach that their ancestors had previously brought upon God’s Name.

    Also, we put a lot of faith in the appearance of the Aramaic euphemism for the Name, maryah. However, the NWT does not appeal to the Aramaic text much since it contradicts their religion’s core doctrines of Jesus’ “invisible presence” and the “generation that will not pass away”. It also undermines several key verses used by their leadership to justify their organizational structure. Further, our translation of the Old Testament uses older manuscripts that contradict their chronology.

    Therefore, despite both the 2001 and NWT using ‘Jehovah’ in their New Testaments, the two translations are, in many ways, entirely at odds on many issues.

    Does maryah support the Trinity Doctrine?

    People ask this question because a small number of uses of maryah clearly apply to Jesus, not his Father. Therefore, they say, this is evidence that Jesus and Jehovah/Yahweh are united in the Trinity. However, we feel that Trinitarians have good reason to reject this idea.

    For example, if we always translated maryah as YHWH, Acts 2:36 would say:

    ‘So let the entire House of IsraEl know for sure that God appointed this Jesus whom you impaled to be the YHWH (maryah) and His Anointed One!’

    In Trinitarian doctrine, the Son is supposed to be co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, so to say that the Son was ‘appointed’ to be YHWH would be heresy.

    In addition, we cannot see any use of maryah being used as a proper noun when applied to Jesus. Please see our discussion of every use of maryah for Jesus.