‘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), which is a Greek translation of the Jewish Era books which was 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 this evidence didn’t exist, we would still 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, it’s a euphemism 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 usually the same euphemism used in the Septuagint. In Aramaic, it’s represented by the word maryah, which may mean ‘Lord Jah.’
So the Divine Name is present thousands of times in the Bible source texts, both explicitly and as euphemisms.
- See also: The History of the Divine Name.
Why use the Divine Name in our translation at all?
Traditionally, the Name is replaced with Lord (or lord) throughout most English Bibles, except where 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 done 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?
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 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).
When people began saying Lord as a euphemism for the Divine 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 Christians were unfamiliar with the Jewish reverential avoidance of pronouncing the Name.
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 instead of Yahweh or something else?
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’s also well-known from the popular hymn, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.
To date, there is no mainstream or widely-used English translation or hymn that uses Yahweh. Indeed, for better or worse, Jehovah has always been known as the Personal 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 Yeshua in Hebrew or Ishoa in Aramaic. Futher, Jerusalem should be something like Yerushalayim, and Isaiah probably sounded like 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 – which is they really appreciate. So 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.
However, the use of Yahweh has increased in recent years. You’re now much more likely to see it in both scholarly works and those 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 as our default pronunciation.
Also, some feel that we should use a different pronunciation to avoid association with a particular ‘high-demand group.’ Some former members report that seeing the pronunciation Jehovah causes them emotional distress.
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.
However, as a compromise, if you scroll to the bottom of any Bible book on our website, you’ll see a ‘preferences’ section. There you can choose between the pronunciations ‘Jehovah’ and ‘Yahweh,’ and also between ‘Jesus’ and ‘Yeshua.’ There are additional options, too. Please take a look.