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2001 Translation

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    Why we use the Divine Name

    YHWH/JHVH
    Adoration of the Name of God by Goya by Francisco Goya, 1772.

    Jehovah (Hebrew: יהוה) – that has been My Name through the ages, and it’s how I shall be remembered from generation to generation.’ –Exodus 3:15

    Our Bible uses the Divine Name Jehovah over 5,500 times. The page explains why.

    In our source texts for the books of the Jewish Era (the Old Testament), the name is indicated at least 5,360 times. These source texts are the Greek Septuagint (for many reasons), a Greek translation of the Jewish Era books made several centuries before Jesus. Most copies don’t contain the Divine Name, instead saying Lord.

    However, all copies of Jewish origin include the name in Hebrew letters (יהוה) amongst the Greek text. At least one copy transliterates the name into the Greek letters ΙΑΩ. Even if it didn’t, we would understand that Lord is a euphemism, because the Hebrew manuscripts use יהוה in the same places.

    So we usually know when copies of the Greek Septuagint have replaced יהוה with the euphemism Lord. To be exact, Lord is only a euphemism when it appears without ‘the’ beforehand, which would normally be expected in Greek. In other words, when Lord is used as if it’s someone’s name instead of a title.

    As for the New Testament, the Divine Name may appear as a euphemism about 150 times in our Greek and Aramaic source texts. In Greek, it’s the usually same euphemism used in the Septuagint, and in Aramaic, it might be represented by the word maryah.

    So the Divine Name is present thousands of times in the Bible source texts, both explicitly and as euphemisms.

    Why use the Divine Name in our translation at all?

    Traditionally, the Name is replaced with Lord (or LORD) throughout most English Bibles, except when it would cause problems in the text (e.g. Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2 and Isaiah 26:4). This isn’t necessarily out of some malice or desire for censorship on the part of the past translators. As we mentioned, replacing the Name with the euphemism Lord was the established custom in the Greek Septuagint. The later translators just continued the same custom.

    Most Early Christians were familiar with the Greek Septuagint’s use of the Lord euphemism. Then, directed by the Vatican, Jerome created his Latin Vulgate translation and continued the same custom. Finally, when translators produced the first Bibles in English, they did the same.

    So should we continue the same tradition today, with our translation?

    No.

    Our translation charter states:

    • Our Bible will aim to restore the original Bible text.
    • Our Bible will not censor, change, or remove any authentic word, sentence, verse, chapter, or passage because of some custom or tradition.
    • Our Bible will aim to identify all euphemisms and translate them in order to be clearly understood by modern readers.

    Imagine if our charter did not say the above. Imagine if our charter said this:

    • Our Bible will not try to restore the original Bible text.
    • Our Bible will happily censor, change, or remove any authentic word, sentence, verse, chapter, or passage because of some custom or tradition.
    • Our Bible will not identify all euphemisms and translate them in order to be obscure the meaning for modern readers.

    Would that be acceptable? I think not.

    So, yes, we should use the Divine Name, because that’s what the original writings used (sometimes called the original autographs).

    Later, when people began saying Lord as a euphemism for the Name, it didn’t matter so much, because people were familiar with the custom and knew what was really being said. However, by the early Medieval period, most people had forgotten this custom, and the Jewish superstitions around pronouncing the Name were unknown to most Christians.

    So we see no reason to continue using the Lord euphemism. Tradition or custom is not an argument, that is a preference. As our charter says, we will try to restore the text, reject censorship and traditions, and make euphemisms clearly understood. If a reader doesn’t like this, well, there are over 450 other English translations available.

    Why use the Divine Name in the books of the Christian Era?

    The Early Christians used the same euphemisms for the Divine Name that the Jews used, and we translate euphemisms into equivalent English euphemisms. However, if there isn’t an equivalent euphemism in English, we just translate them to say what they mean. Therefore, euphemisms for YHWH in the Christian Era books are translated to simply say ‘Jehovah.’

    Please see our page on the Divine Name in the New Testament.

    Why use the pronunciation Jehovah?

    We chose Jehovah because it is familiar to hundreds of millions of English readers from the King James Version (and other popular translations) at Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2 and Isaiah 26:4. It is also well-known from the popular hymn, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.

    To date, there is no mainstream or widespread English translation or hymn that uses Yahweh. Indeed, for better or worse, Jehovah has always been known as the Name of God in modern English.

    While it’s nothing like the original pronunciation, neither is Jesus or Jerusalem. If we changed it to Yahweh, then people will naturally ask: why not update every Bible name? Even the names of the Bible books are inaccurate. Jesus was possibly like Yeshuah, Jerusalem should be Yerushalayim, and Isaiah was probably Yeshayahu.

    Some Bibles, called Sacred Name Bibles, actually do that, and some people enjoy such Bibles. They feel that using the more accurate names brings them closer to the real events. Should our translation do the same? Well, we haven’t done so because changing the familiar names of every single person, place, and book in the entire Bible would likely discourage some readers. Some people would find it more difficult to read the Bible, and that’s not what we want.

    In the future, however, we could create a second optional version of our Bible text, in which all of the pronunciations are more accurate. If anyone would like to volunteer to help with this, please get in touch.

    Arguments in favor of a different pronunciation

    Some say that the other names are less important, and Jehovah should be changed to a more accurate pronunciation because it’s the most special name of all. Indeed it is, so this may be a good argument.

    Also, you may have noticed that the use of Yahweh has increased in recent years. You’re more likely to see it in both scholarly works and in material for the general public. If this trend continues, Yahweh may eventually become better-known than Jehovah. If that happens, then we’d have to seriously consider switching to Yahweh.

    Some feel that we should use a different pronunciation simply to avoid association with a particular ‘high-demand group.’ Some former members report suffering such severe psychological damage from that organization, that just seeing the name Jehovah can cause emotional distress. So again, this may be a good reason to consider changing it, or a reason to provide an alternative version for download that uses Yahweh.

    After taking all of these arguments into consideration, our editor has decided that we will use the traditional name in English, Jehovah, at least for the time being.

    For now, readers who feel strongly about the matter are welcome to download our Bible as a Word document and do a search/replace on Jehovah to replace it with Yahweh, or whatever spelling they prefer. However, if someone wishes to replace the Divine Name of Almighty God with Lord, they ought to keep in mind Revelation 20:19:

    ...if anyone removes any of the words of this scroll of prophecy, God will remove his share from the Tree of life...