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The Divine Name and the Old Testament

When you are translating your Old Testament from the original Hebrew to English, it's perfectly acceptable to render the Divine Name as "Jehovah." Nobody who knows anything will give you any grief over this. All you have to do is translate the four-consonant tetragrammaton, and there it is, over 6000 times, in the original writings. You don't think if someone puts their name in a document 6000 times that they want it known?

Even translations that decline to render the name as a name do so for reasons philosophical, not technical. They simply don't want to do it. So they usually render the tetragrammaton as (the title, not name) LORD, in all caps to distinguish it from the actual word Lord. It can make for odd reading, such as at Ps 110:1.

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool?  RVS

Who is speaking to whom? Obviously, there's a difference in the two original language terms rendered Lord.

It's a bit clunky, too, when context indicates a name:

Let then know that thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth.    Ps 83:18

Hi, my name's "the LORD." Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? Or take those ancient Israelites in Charlton Heston's "The Ten Commandments." There they are whining and crying in the movie's first half: they don't even know their God's name. Even the Egyptians taunt them about this. Later on, they do know: it's "the LORD." Everybody's happy.

Translations that pull the name often do so without a trace, and you have to reason on Ps 110:1 (above) to show there is a difference in the original language. Other translations pull it in all but a few places. Thus, the King James Version leaves the name intact in four locations, Ps 83:18 being one of these. Still other translations pull it entirely, but explain why in their prefaces. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is one of these:

"For two reasons the [translation] Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version [rendering YHWH as LORD]: (1) the word "Jehovah" does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew; and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church."

Note the philosophical, not technical, basis. Neither argument holds water.

1. Okay, okay, so "Jehovah" is not the Hebrew pronunciation. Neither is Jesus, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, indeed, most names from the OT. We all know names change when we cross languages. In Ecuador, they call me "Tomas." You think I don't answer? If you want to be so picky, then render the name "Yahweh." We could live with that. But removing the name entirely in order to slap in a title betrays a callous attitude toward the Book's author.

2. It is? Inappropriate? What about 1 Cor. 8:5?

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.    (KJV)

We've all experienced cases of mistaken identity. We speak with someone of a name we both know, yet the attributes don't line up. We soon realize we're speaking of two different persons who share a common name. It's that way with "God." The God who would torture people forever and ever in hellfire is entirely different from our God [Jehovah] who would never dream of such a thing. (Jer 2:35)

You're safe, therefore, putting "Jehovah" in the Old Testament. You ought to do it, in fact, rather than presume to hide his name. Putting it in the New Testament is another matter. It's a move readily justified, yet it is bolder, not without controversy. A future post will deal with the subject.

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Tom Irregardless and Me         No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

matt

Hi Tom, an interesting point (to me) on the topic of using 'Lord' or 'LORD' to refer to God is that 'Baal' actually translates 'lord'. This is interesting because the Caananites worshipped a god they called 'lord' while the Israelites worshipped a God they called 'Yahweh' or 'Yehowah'.

Notice any parallels today?

tomsheepandgoats

yeah, I do. Thanks.

Brian

I would like to see one translation that uses not only "Yahweh," but also the correct Hebrew terms for all the names in the Bible.

I've talked to people about this point and they get really upset when I told them, "okay, if I'm going to call Jehovah 'Yahweh,' you're going to have to call Jesus 'Yeshua.'"

It's only fair, I think.

tom sheepandgoats

Thank you, Brian. As always, a discerning comment.

I wish you had your own blog. I'd gladly commment on it.

tom sheepandgoats

Wait a minute. Hmmmmm.

You're not THAT Brian, are you? (you'll understand if you are. if not, it'll go over your head)

Either way, glad to hear from you.

Brian

Yep, I'm THAT Brian. I've had a change of heart. Back apostates! Back I say!!!

tom sheepandgoats

Well, if that don't beat all. Hi, Brian.

James Spencer

The Emphatic Diaglott uses Jehovah 12 times in the Greek Scriptures. Benjamin Wilson was the translator, not connected with the Society but the Society eventually printed the Diaglott, Russell generally thought it was good and had renderings such as presence for Parousia, James

James Spencer

Googling the Emphatic Diaglott and/or Benjamin Wilson uncovers some interesting history. C T Russell had some gentle criticism but overall thought was a superior "New Testament" interlinear. Seems the Society printed 250,000 copies, Tetragrammaton used 12 times. Also Kolasin translated as cutting off, James

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