“HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME”
---------WHAT NAM E ? ? ?
ARE YOU A RELIGIOUS PERSON ? Then doubtless, like many others, you believe in a Supreme Being. And likely you have great respect for the well —known prayer to that Being, taught by Jesus to his followers and known as the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father. The prayer begins like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. “ —Matthew 6:9, New International Version.
Have you, YES! YOU, ever wondered why Jesus put the hallowing, or the sanctifying, of God’s name first in this prayer? Afterward, he mentioned other things such as the coming of God’s Kingdom, God’s will being done on earth and our sins being forgiven. The fulfillment of these other requests will ultimately mean lasting peace on earth and everlasting life for mankind. Can you think of anything more important than that? Nevertheless, Jesus told us to pray first of all for the sanctification of God’s name.
It was not merely by chance that Jesus taught his followers to put God’s name first in their prayers. That name was clearly of crucial importance to him, since he mentioned it repeatedly in his own prayers. On one occasion when he was praying publicly to God, he was heard to say: “Father, glorify your name!” And God himself answered: “1 have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” —John 12:28, The Jerusalem Bible.
The evening before Jesus died, he was praying to God in the hearing of his loyal disciples, and once again they heard him highlight the importance of God’s name. He said: “I have made your name known to the men you took from the world to give me. Later, he repeated: “I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known.” —John 17:6, 26, JB.
Why do you suppose God’s name so important to Jesus? Why did he show that it is very important for us, too, by telling us to pray for its sanctification? To under stand this, we need to realize how names were viewed in Bible times.
NAMES IN BIBLE TIMES
Jehovah God evidently put in man a desire to name things. The first human had a name, Adam. In the story of creation, one of the first things Adam is reported as doing is naming the animals. When God gave Adam a wife, immediately Adam called her “Woman” (‘Jsh.shah’, in Hebrew). Later, he gave her the name Eve, meaning “Living One,” because “she had to become the mothe r of everyone living.” (Genesis 2:19, 23; 3:20) Even today we follow the custom of giving our names to people. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how we could manage without our names.
In Israelite times, however, names were not mere labels. They meant something. For example, the name of Isaac, “Laughter,” recalled the laughter of his aged parents when they first heard that they were to have a child. (Genesis 17:17, 19; 18:12) Esau’s name meant “Hairy,” describing a physical characteristic. His other name, Edom, “Red, ” or “Ruddy,” was a reminder that he sold his birthright for a dish of red stew. (Genesis 25:25, 30-34; 27:11; 36:1) Jacob, although he was only slightly younger than his twin brother, Esau, bought the birth-right from Esau and received the first-born’s blessing from his father. From birth, the meaning of Jacob’s name was “Taking Hold of the Heel” or “Supplanter.” (Genesis 27:36) Similarly the name of Solomon, during whose reign Israel enjoyed peace and prosperity, meant “Peaceable.” —1 Chronicles 22:9.
Thus, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Volume 1, page 572) states the following: “A study of the word “name “ in the Old Testament reveals how much it means in Hebrew. The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs.”
The fact that God views names as important is seen in that, through an angel, he instructed the future parents of John the Baptist and Jesus as to what their sons’ names should be. (Luke ‘1:13, 31 ) And at times he changed names, or he gave people additional names, to show the place they were to have in his purpose. For example, when God foretold that his servant Abram (“Father of Exaltation”) would become father to many nations He changed his name to Abraham (“Father of a Multitude”). And he changed the name of Abraham’s wife, Sarai (“Contentious”), to Sarah (“Princess”), since she would be the mother of Abraham’s seed.—Genesis 17:5, 15, 16; compare Genesis 32:28; 2 Samuel 12:24, 25.
Jesus, too, recognized the importance of names and he referred to Peter’s name in giving him a privilege of service. (Matthew 16:16-19) Even spirit creatures have names. Two mentioned in the Bible are Gabriel and Michael. (Luke 1:26; Jude 9) And when man gives names to inanimate things such as stars, planets, towns, and mountains and rivers, he is merely imitating his Creator . For example, the Bible tells us that God calls all the stars by name—Isaiah 40:26.
Yes, names are important in God’s eyes, and he put in man the desire to identify people and things by means of names. Thus angels, people, animals, as well as stars and other inanimate things, have names. Would it be consistent for the Creator of all these things to leave himself nameless? Of course not, especially in view of the psalmist’s words: “Let all flesh bless [God’sJ holy name to time indefinite, even forever.”—Psalm 145:21.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Volume 2, page 649) says: “One of the most fundamental and essential features of the biblical revelation is the fact that God is not without a name: he has a personal name, by which he can, and is to be, invoked. Jesus certainly had that name in mind when he taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” —Matthew 6:9.
In view of all of this, it is evidently important for us to know what God’s name is. Do you know God’s personal name?
WHAT IS GOD’S NAME?
Surprisingly, the majority of the hundreds of millions of members of the churches of Christendom would probably find it difficult to answer that question. Some would say that God’s name is Jesus Christ. Yet Jesus was praying to someone else when he said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world.” (John 17:6) He was praying to God in heaven, as a son speaking to his father. (John 17:1) It was his heavenly Father’s name that had to be “hallowed,” or “sanctified.”
Yet many modern Bibles do not contain the name, and it is rarely used in their churches. Hence, far from being “hallowed,” it has been lost to millions of Bible readers. As an example of the way Bible translators have treated God’s name, consider just one verse where it appears: Psalm 83:18. Here is how this scripture is rendered in four different Bibles:
“Let them know that thou alone, whose name is
the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth.”
(Revised Standard Version of 1952)
“To teach them that thou, 0 Eternal, thou art God
Most High o’er all the world.” (A New Translation
of the Bible, by James Mofibtt, of 1922)
“Let them know this: you alone bear the name
Yahweh, Most High over the whole world.” (Catholic
Jerusalem Bible of 1966)
“That men may know that thou, whose name alone is
JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.”
(Authorized, or King James, Version of 1611)
Why does God’s name look so different in these versions? Is his name LORD, the Eternal, Yahweh or Jehovah? Or are these all acceptable?
To answer this, we have to remember that the Bible was not originally written in English. The Bible writers were Hebrews, and they mostly wrote in the Hebrew and Greek languages of their day. Most of us do not speak those ancient languages. But the Bible has been translated into numerous modern tongues, and we can use these translations when we want to read God’s Word.
Christians have a deep respect for the Bible and rightly believe that “all Scripture is inspired of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Hence, translating the Bible is a very weighty responsibility. If someone deliberately changes or omits part of the contents of the Bible, he is tampering with the inspired Word. To such a one the Scriptural warning would apply: “If anyone makes an addition to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this scroll; and if anyone takes anything away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy, God will take his portion away from the trees of life.” —Revelation 22:18, 19 ; see also Deuteronomy 4:2.
Most Bible translators doubtless respect the Bible and sincerely want to make it understandable in this modern age. But translators are not inspired. Most of them have strong opinions, too, on religious matters and may be influenced by personal ideas and preferences. They can also make human errors or mistakes in judgment.
Hence, we have the right to ask some important questions: What is God’s real name? And why do different Bible translations have different names for God? Having established the answer to these questions, we can return to our original problem: Why is the sanctification of God’s name so .important?
ONE of the Bible writers asked: “Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of both hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in a mantle? Who has made all the ends of the earth to rise? What is his name and what the name of his son, in case you know?” (Proverbs 30:4) How can we find out what God’s name is? That is an important question. The creation is a powerful proof that God must exist, but it does not tell us his name. (Romans 1:20) In fact, we could never know God’s name unless the Creator himself told us. And he has done that in his own Book, the Holy Bible.
On one celebrated occasion, God pronounced his own name, repeating it in the hearing of Moses. Moses wrote an account of that event that has been preserved in the Bible down to our day . (Exodus 34:5) God even wrote his name with his own “finger.” When he had given Moses what we today call the Ten Commandments, God miraculously wrote them down. The record says: “Now as soon as IGod] had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai he proceeded to give Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone written on by God’s finger.” (Exodus 31:18) God’s name appears eight times in the original Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:1-17) Thus God himself has revealed his name to man both verbally and in writing. So, what is that name?
In the Hebrew language it is written mm.
These four letters, called the Thtragrammaton, are read from right to left in Hebrew and can be represented in many modern languages as YHWH or JHVH. God’s name, represented by these four consonants, appear s almost 7,000 times in the original “Old Testament,” or Hebrew Scriptures.
The name is a form of a Hebrew verb hawah’ , meaning “to become,” and actually signifies “He Causes to Become. Thus, God’s name identifies him as the One who progressively fulfills his promises and unfailingly realizes his purposes Only the true God could bear such a meaningful name.
Do you remember the different ways that God’s name appeared in Psalm 83:18, as set out in the previous pages? Two of those translations had mere titles (“the LORD,” the “Eternal”) as substitutes for God’s name. But in two of them, Yahweh and Jehovah, you can see the four letters of God’s name. However, the pronunciation is different. Why?
HOW IS GOD’S NAME PRONOUNCED?
The truth is, nobody knows for sur e how the name of God was once originally pronounced . Wh y not? Well, the first language used in writing the Bible was Hebrew, and when the Hebrew languag e was written down , the writers wrote only consonants — not vowels. Hence, when the inspired writers wrote God’s name, they naturally did the same thing and wrote only the
While ancient Hebrew was an everyday spoken language, this presented no problem. The pronunciation of the Name was familiar to the Israelites and when they saw it in writing they supplied the vowels without thinking (just as, for an English reader, the abbreviation “Ltd.” represents “Limited” and “bldg.” represents “building”).
Two things happened to change this situation. First, a superstitious idea arose among the Jews that it was wrong to say the very divine name out loud; so when they came to it in their Bible reading they uttered the Hebrew word ‘Adho-nai’ (“Sovereign Lord”). Further, as time went by, the ancient Hebrew language itself ceased to be spoken in everyday conversation, and in this way the original Hebrew pronunciation of God’s name was eventually forgotten.
In order to ensure that the pronunciation of the Hebrew language as a whole would not be lost, Jewish scholars of the second half of the first millennium G.E. invented a system of points to represent the missing vowels, and they placed these around the consonants in the Hebrew Bible. Thus, both vowels and consonants were then written down, and the pronunciation as it was at that time was preserved.
When it came to God’s name, instead of putting the proper vowel signs around it, in most cases they put other vowel signs to remind the reader that he should say ‘Adhonai’. From this came the spelling Iehouah, and, eventually, Jehovah became the accepted pronunciation of the divine name in English. This retains the very essential elements of God’s name from the Hebrew original.
WHICH PRONUNCIATION WILL YOU USE?
Where, though, did pronunciations like Yahweh come from? These are forms that have been suggested by modern scholars trying to deduce the original pro-nunciation of God’s name. Some—though not all—feel that the Israelites before the time of Jesus probably pronounced God’s name Yahweh. But no one can be sure. Perhaps they pronounced it that way, perhaps not.
Nevertheless , many prefer the pronunciation Jehovah. Why? Because it has a currency and familiarity that Yahweh does not have. Would it not, though, be better to use the form that might be closer to the original pronunciation? Not really, for that is not the custom with Bible names.
To take the most prominent example, consider the name of Jesus. Do you know how Jesus’ family and friends addressed him in day-to-day conversation while he was growing up in Nazareth? The truth is, no human knows for certain, although it may have been something like Yeshua (or perhaps Yehoshua). It certainly was not Jesus.
However, when the accounts of his life were written in the Greek language, the inspired writers did not try to preserve that original Hebrew pronunciation. Rather, they rendered the name in Greek, Iesous’. Today, it is rendered differently according to the language of the reader of the Bible. Spanish Bible readers encounter Jesus (pronounced Hes.soos’). Italians spell it Geszi (pronounced Djay.zoo’). And Germans spell it Jesus (pronounced Yay’soos).
Must we stop using the name of Jesus because most of us, or even all of us, do not really know its original pronunciation? So far, no translator has suggested this. We like to use the name, for it identifies the beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gave his lifeblood for us. Would it be showing honor to Jesus to remove all mention of his name in the Bible and replace it with a mere title like “Teacher,” or “Mediator”? Of course not! We can relate to Jesus when we use his name the way it is commonly pronounced in our language.
Similar comments could be made regarding all the names we read in the Bible. We pronounce them in our own language and do not try to imitate the original pronun-ciation. Thus we say “Jeremiah,” not Yir-meya’hu. Similarly we say Isaiah, although in his own day this prophet likely was known as Yeshac.ya~hu. Even scholars who are aware of the original pronunciation of these names use the very modern pronunciation, not the ancient, when speaking about them.
And the same is true with the name Jehovah. Even though the modern pronunciation Jehovah might not be exactly the way it was pronounced originally, this in no way detracts from the importance of the name . It identifies the Creator, the living God, the Most High to whom Jesus said: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. “ —Matthew 6:9.
‘It Cannot Be Supplanted’
While many translators favor the pronunciation Yahweh, the New World Trans-lation and also a number of other translations continue the use of the form Jehovah because of people’s familiarity with it for centuries. Moreover, it preserves, equally with other forms, the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, YHWH or JHVH.
Earlier, the German professor Gustav Friedrich Oehler made a similar decision for much the same reason. He discussed various pronunciations and concluded: “From this point onward I use the word Jehovah, because, as a matter of fact, this name has now become more naturalized in our vocabulary, and cannot be supplanted.” —Theologie des A/ten Testaments (Theology of the Old Testament), second edition, published in 1882, page 143.
Similarly, in his Grammaire de l’hébreu bib/ique (Grammar of Biblical Hebrew) , 1923 edition, in a footnote on page 49, Jesuit scholar Paul Jouon states: “In our translations, instead of the (hypothetical) form Yahweh, we have used the form Jehovah . . . which is the conventional literary form used in French.” In many other languages Bible translators use a similar form, as indi-cated in the box on page 8.
Is it, then, wrong to use a form like Yahweh? No t at all . It is just that the form Jehovah is likely to meet with a quicker response from the reader because it is the form that has been “naturalized” into most languages. The important thing is that we use the name and declare it to others . “Give thanks to Jehovah, you people! Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings. Make mention that his name is put on high.” —Isaiah 12:4.
Let us see how God’s servants have acted in harmony with that command through the centuries.
JEHOVAH GOD WANTS MAN TO KNOW AND USE HIS NAME. This is evident from the fact that He revealed His name to the very first two persons on earth. We know that Adam and Eve were familiar with God’s name because after Eve gave birth to Cain, according to the original Hebrew text, she said: “I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah.” —Genesis 4:1.
Later we read that faithful men like Enoch and Noah “walked with the true God.” (Genesis 5:24; 6:9) They also, then, must have known God’s name. The name survived the great Flood with the righteous man Noah and his family. In spite of the great rebellion some time later at Babel, true servants of God kept on using his name. It appears hundreds of times in the laws that God gave to Israel. In the book of Deuteronomy alone, it appears 551 times.
In the days of the judges, the Israelites evidently did not shy away from using God’s name. They even used it in greeting one another. We read (in the original Hebrew) of Boaz greeting his harvesters: “Jehovah be with you. They returned his greeting by saying: “Jehovah bless you.” —Ruth 2:4.
Throughout the history of the Israelites right up until the time that they returned to Judah after their captivity in Babylon, Jehovah’s name continued in common usage. King David, a man agreeable to God’s own heart, used the divine name extensively —it appears hundreds of times in the psalms that he wrote . (Acts 13:22) God’s name was also incorporated in many Israelite personal names . Thus we read of Adonijah (“My Lord Is Jah”—”Jah” is a shortened form of Jehovah), Isaiah (“Salvation of Jehovah”) ,Jonathan (“Jehovah Has Given”), Micah (“Who is like Jab?”) and Joshua (“Jehovah Is Salvation”).
OUTSIDE THE BIBLE
There is also evidence from sources outside the Bible of the extensive use of the divine name in ancient times . In 1961 an ancient burial cave was uncovered a short distance to the southwest of Jerusalem, according to a report in the Israel Exploration Journal - (Volume 13, No. 2). On its walls were Hebrew inscriptions that appear to date from the second half of the eighth century B.C.E. The inscriptions contain statements such as “Jehovah is the God of the whole earth.”
In 1966 a report was published in the Israel Exploration Journal (Volume 16, No. 1) about pottery fragments with Hebrew writing on them that were found in Arad, in southern Israel. These were written in the second half of the seventh century B.C.E. One of them was a private letter to a man named Eliashib. The letter begins: “To my lord Eliashib: May Jehovah ask for your peace.” And it ends: “He dwells in the house of Jehovah.” In 1975 and 1976, archaeologists working in the Negeb uncovered a collection of Hebrew and Phoemcxan inscriptions on plaster walls, large storage jars and stone vessels. The inscriptions included the Hebrew word for God, as well as God’s name, YHWH, in Hebrew letters. In Jerusalem itself, there was recently discovered a small, rolled-up strip of silver, apparently dating from before the Babylonian exile . Researchers say that when it was unrolled, the name of Jehovah in Hebrew was found to be written on it— Biblical Archaeology Review , March/April 1983, page 18.
Another example of the use of God’s name is found in the so-called Lachish Letters. These letters, written on potsherds, were found between the years 1935 and 1938 in the ruins of Lachish, a fortified city that figured prominently in Israel’s history. They appear to have been written by an officer at a Judean outpost to his superior, named Yaosh, at Lachish, apparently during the war between Israel and Babylon toward the end of the seventh century B.C.E.
Of the eight legible shards, seven begin their message with a salutation such as:” May Jehovah cause my lord to see this season in good health!” Altogether, God’s name appears 11 times in the seven messages, clearly indicating that the name of Jehovah enjoyed everyday usage toward the end of the seventh century B.C.E.
Even pagan rulers knew and used the divine name when referring to the God of the Israelites. Thus, on the Moabite Stone, King Mesha of Moab boasts of his military exploits against Israel and, among other things, states: “Chemosh said to me , ‘Go, take Nebo from Israel!’ So I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, taking it and slaying all . . . And I took from there the [vessels] of Jehovah, dragging them before Chemosh.”
In reference to these non-Biblical uses of the name of God, the Theologisches Wbrterbuch zum Alten Testament (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament), in Volume 3, column 538, says : “Thus some 19 documentary evidences of the Tetragrammaton in the form jhwh testify in this regard to the reliability of the M [asoretic] T [text]; more can be expected, above all from the Arad-Archives.” —Translated from German.
GOD’S NAME NOT FORGOTTEN
This familiarity with and use of God’s name continued right up to the days of Malachi, who lived about 400 years before Jesus’ time . In the Bible book bearing his name, Malachi gives great prominence to the divine name, using it altogether 48 times.
As time went on, many Jews came to live far from the land of Israel, and some could no longer read the Bible in the Hebrew language. Hence, in the third century B.C.E., a start was made in translating the part of the Bible that existed then (the “Old Testament”) into Greek, the new international language . But the name of God was not neglected . The translators retained it, writing it in its Hebrew form. Ancient copies of the Greek Septuagint that have been preserved to our day testify to that. What, though, was the situation when Jesus walked the earth? How can we know whether he and his apostles used God’s name?
In succeeding centuries, Bible translators went in one of two directions. Some avoided any use of God’s name, while others used it extensively in the Hebrew Scriptures, either in the form Jehovah or in the form Yahweh. Let us consider two translations that avoided the name and see why, according to their translators, this was done.
WHY THEY LEFT IT OUT
When J. M. Powis Smith and Edgar J. Goodspeed produced a modern trans-lation of the Bible in 1935, readers found that LORD and GOD had been used in most places as a substitution fo r God’s name. The reason was explained in a preface: “In this translation we have followed the orthodox Jewish tradition and substituted ‘the Lord’ for the name ‘Yahweh’ and the phrase ‘the Lord God’ for the phrase ‘the Lord Yahweh.’ In all cases where ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ represents an original ‘Yahweh’ small capitals are employed.”
Then, in an unusual reversal of the tradition of the Jews who read YHWH but pronounced it “Lord,” the preface says: “Anyone, therefore, who desires to retain the flavor of the original text has but to read ‘Yahweh’ wherever he sees LORD or GOD”!
On reading this, the question immediately comes to mind: If reading “Yahweh” instead of “LORD” retains the “flavor of the original text,” why did the translators not use “Yahweh” in their translation? Why did they, in their own word, just ‘substitute’ the word “LORD” for God’s name and thus mask the flavor of the original text?
The translators say that they were following orthodox Jewish tradition. Yet is that wise for a Christian? Remember, it was the Pharisees, the preservers of orthodox Jewish tradition, who rejected Jesus and were told by him: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6) Such substitution truly weakens the Word of God.
In 1952 the Revised Standard Version of the Hebrew Scriptures was finally
published in English, and this Bible, too, used substitutions for God’s name. This was noteworthy because the original American Standard Version, of which this was a revision, used the name Jehovah all through the Hebrew Scriptures. Hence, the omission of the name was an outstanding departure. Why was it done?
In the preface to the Revised Standard Version, we read: “For two reasons the Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version [that is, omitting the name of God]: (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.”
Are these sound arguments? Well, as discussed earlier, the name Jesus does not accurately represen t the original form of the name of God’s Son used by hi s followers. Yet this did not persuade the Committee to avoid using that name and to use instead a title such as “Mediator” or “Christ.” True, these titles are used, but in addition to the name Jesus, not instead of it.
As to the argument that there are no other gods from whom the true God had to be differentiated, that is simply not true. There are millions of gods worshiped by mankind. The apostle Paul noted: “There are many ‘gods.’” (1 Corinthians 8:5; Philippians 3:19) Of course, there is only one true God, as Paul goes on to say. Hence, one great advantage of using the name of the true God is that it keeps him separate from all the false gods. Besides, if using the name of God is “entirely inappropriate,” why does it appear almost 7,000 times in the original Hebrew Scriptures?
The truth is, many translators have not felt that the name, with its modern pronunciation, is out of place in the Bible. They have included it in their versions, and the result has always been a translation that gives more honor to the Bible’s Author and hews more faithfully to the original text. Some widely used versions that include the name are the Valera translation (Spanish, published in 1602), the Almeida version (Portuguese, published in 1681), the original Elberfelder version (German, published in 1871), as well as the American Standard Version (English, published in 1901). Some translations, notably The Jerusalem Bible, also consistently use God’s name but with the spelling Yahweh.
Read now the comments of some translators who included the name in their translations and compare their reasoning with that of those who omitted the name.
WHY OTHERS INCLUDE THE NAME
Here is the comment of the translators of the American Standard Version of 1901: “ [The translators] were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament .. .. .. This Memorial Name, explained in Ex. iii. 14, 15, and emphasized as such over and over in the original text of the Old Testament, designates God as the personal God, as the covenant God, the God of revelation, the Deliverer, the Friend of his people . . . This personal name, with its wealth of sacred associations, is now restored to the place in the sacred text to which it has an unquestionable claim.”
Similarly, in the preface to the original German Elberfelder Bibel we read:
“Jehova. We have retained this name of the Covenan t God of Israel because the reader has been accustomed to it for years.”
Steven T. Byington, translator of The Bible in Living English , explains why he uses God’s name: “The spelling and the pronunciation are not highly important. What is highly important is to keep it clear that this is a personal name. There are several texts that cannot be properly understood if we translate this name by a very common noun like ‘Lord,’ or, much worse, by a substantivized adjective [for example, the Eternal ].”
The case of another translation, by J. B. Rotherham, is interesting. He used God’s name in his translation but preferred the form Yahweh. However, in a later work, Studies in the Psalms, published in 1911, he returned to the form Jehovah. Why ? He explains: “JEHOVAH.—The employment of this English form of the Memorial name (Exo. 3:13) in the present version of the Psalter does not arise from any misgiving as to the more correct pronunciation, as being Yahwéh; but solely from practical evidence personally selected of the desirability of keeping in touch with the public ear and eye in a matter of this kind, in which the principal thing is the easy recognition of the Divine name Intended.”
In Psalm 34:3 worshipers of Jehovah are exhorted: “0 magnify Jehovah with me, you people, and let us exalt his name together.” How can readers of Bible translations that omit God’s name respond fully to that exhortation? Christians are happy that at least some translators have had the courage to include God’s name in their renderings of the Hebrew Scriptures, and thus preserve what Smith and Goodspeed call the “flavor of the original text.”
However, most translations, even when they include God’s name in the Hebrew Scriptures, omit it from the Christian Greek Scriptures, the “New Testament.” What is the reason for this? Is there any justification for including God’s name in this last portion of the Bible?
GOD’S NAME and the “NEW TESTAMENT”
THE position of God’s name is unshakable in the Hebrew Scriptures, the “Old Testament.” Although the Jews eventually stopped pronouncing it, their religious beliefs prevented them from removing the name when they made copies of older manuscripts of the Bible . Hence, the Hebrew Scriptures contain God’s name more often than any other name.
With the Christian Greek Scriptures , the “New Testament,” the situation is quite different. Manuscripts of the book of Revelation (the last book of the Bible) have God’s name in its abbreviated form, “Jab,” (in the word “Hallelujah”). But apart from that , no ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books from Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name in full. Does that mean that the name should not be there? That would be surprising in view of the fact that Jesus’ followers recognized the importance of God’s name, and Jesus taught us to pray for God’s name to be sanctified. So what happened?
(The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures quite properly uses God’s name 237 times.)
To understand this, remember that the manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures that we possess today are not the originals. The actual books written by Matthew, Luke and the other Bible writers were well used and quickly wore out. Hence, copies were made, and when those wore out, further copies were made of those copies. This is what we would expect, since the copies were usually made to be used, not preserved.
There are thousands of copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures in existence today, but most of them were made during, or after the fourth century of our Common Era. This suggests a possibility: Did something happen to the text of the Christian Greek Scriptures before the fourth century that resulted in the total omission of God’s name? The facts prove that something did.
THE NAME WAS THERE
We can be sure that the apostle Matthew included God’s name in his Gospel. Why? Because he wrote it originally in Hebrew. In the fourth century, Jerome, who translated the Latin Vulgate, reported: “Matthew, who is also Levi, and who from a publican came to be an apostle, first of all composed a Gospel of Christ in Judaea in the Hebrew language .. ... . Who translated it after that in Greek is not sufficiently ascertained. Moreover, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea.”
Since Matthew wrote in Hebrew, it is inconceivable that he did not use God’s name , especially when quoting from parts of the “Old Testament” that contained the name . However, other writers of the second part of the Bible wrote for a world-wide audience in the international language of that time, Greek. Hence, they did not quote from the original Hebrew writings but from the Septuagint Greek version. And even Matthew’s Gospel was eventually translated into Greek.
Would God’s name have appeared in these Greek writings?
Well, some very old fragments of the Septuagint Version that actually existed in Jesus’ day have survived down to our day , and it is real noteworthy that the personal name of God appeared in them
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Volume 2, page 512) says: “Recent textual discoveries cast doubt on the idea that the compilers of the LXX [Septuagint ] translated the tetragrammaton YHWH by kyrios. The oldest LXX MSS (fragments) now available to us have the tetragrammaton written in Heb[rew] characters in the G[ree]k text. This custom was retained by later Jewish translators of the O[ld] T[estament] in the first centuries A.D.” Therefore, whether Jesus and his disciples read the Scriptures in Hebrew or Greek, they would come across the divine name.
Thus, Professor George Howard, of the University of Georgia, U.S.A., made this comment: “When the Septuagint which the New Testament church used and quoted contained the Hebrew form of the divine name, the New Testament writers no doubt included the Tetragrammaton in their quotations.” (Biblical Archaeology Review, March 1978, page 14) What authority would they have had to do otherwise?
God’s name remained in Greek translations of the “Old Testament” for a while longer. In the first half of the second century C.E., the Jewish proselyte Aquila made a new translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, and in this he represented God’s name by the Tetragrarnmaton in ancient Hebrew characters . In the third century, Origen wrote: “And in the most accurate manuscripts THE
NAME occurs in Hebrew characters, yet not in today’s Hebrew Lcharactersl, but in the most ancient ones.
Even in the fourth century, Jerome writes in his prologue to the books of Samuel
and Kings: “And we find the name of God, the Tetragrammaton [mini, in certain
Greek volumes even
to this day expressed in the ancient letters.
THE REMOVAL OF THE NAME
By this time, however, the apostasy foretold by Jesus had taken shape, and the name, although appearing in manuscripts, was used less and less. (Matthew 13:24 -30; Acts 20:29, 30) Eventually, many readers did not even recognize what it was and Jerome reports that in his time “certain ignorant ones, because of the similarity of the characters, when they would find [the Tetragrammatonl in Greek books, were accustomed to read IIIIII.
In later copies of the Septuagint, God’s name was removed and words like “God” (The-os’) and “Lord” (Ky’ri.-s) were substituted. We know that this happened because we have early fragments of the Septuagint where God’s name was included and later copies of those same parts of the Septuagint where God’s name has been removed.
The same thing occurred in the “New Testament,” or Christian Greek Scriptures. Professor George Howard goes on to say: “When the Hebrew form for the divine name was eliminated in favor of Greek substitutes in the Septuagint, it was also eliminated from the New Testament quotations of the Septuagint. . . Before long the divine name was lost to the Gentile church except insofar as it was reflected in the contracted surrogates or remembered by scholars.”
Hence, while Jews refused to pronounce God’s name, the apostate Christian church managed to remove it completely from Greek language manuscripts of both parts of the Bible, as well as from other language versions.
THE NEED FOR THE NAME
Eventually, as we saw earlier, the name was restored to many translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. But what about the Greek Scriptures? Well, Bible translators and students came to realize that without God’s name, some parts of the Christian Greek Scriptures are very difficult to understand properly. Restoring the name is a big help in increasing the clarity and comprehensibility of this portion of the holy inspired Bible.
For example, consider the words of Paul to the Romans, as they appear in the Authorized Version: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Whose name do we have to call on to be saved? Since Jesus is often spoken of as “Lord,” and one scripture even says: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” should we conclude that Paul was here speaking about Jesus? —Acts 16:31, Authorized Version.
No, we should not! . A marginal reference to Romans 10:13 in the Authorized Version points us to Joel 2:32 in the Hebrew Scriptures. If you check that reference, you will find that Paul was actually quoting the words of Joel in his letter to the Romans; and what Joel said in the original Hebrew was: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.” (New World Translation)
Yes, Paul meant here that we should call on the name of Jehovah . Hence, while we have to believe in Jesus, our salvation is closely linked with a proper appreciation of God’s name.
This example demonstrates how the removal of the name of God from the Greek Scriptures contributed to confusing Jesus and Jehovah in the minds of many. Undoubtedly, it contributed greatly to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity!
SHOULD THE NAME BE RESTORED?
Would a translator have an y right to restore the name, in view of the fact that existing manuscripts do not have it? Yes, he would have that right. Most Greek lexicons recognize that often the word “Lord” in the Bible refers to Jehovah. For example, in its section under the Greek word Ky’ri.os (“Lord”), Robinson’s A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament (printed in 1859) says that it means “God as the Supreme Lord and sovereign of the universe, usually in Sept [uagint] for Hebrew Jehovah.” Hence, in places where the Christian Gree k Scripture writers quote the earlier Hebrew Scriptures, the translator has the right to render the word Ky’ri.os as “Jehovah” wherever the divine name appeared in the Hebrew original.
Many transiators have done this.
Starting at least from the 14th century, numerous Hebrew translations were made of the Christian Greek Scriptures. What did the translators do when they came to quotations from the “Old Testament” where God’s name appeared? Often, they felt forced to restore God’s name to the text. Many translations of parts or all of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew contain God’s name.
Translations into modern languages, particularly those used by missionaries, have followed this example. Thus many African, Asian, American and Pacific -island language versions of the Greek Scriptures use the name Jehovah liberally, so that readers can clearly see the difference between the true God and the false ones. The name has appeared, too, in versions in European languages.
One translation that boldly restores God’s name with good authority is the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. This version, currently available in 11 modern languages, including English, has restored God’s name every time that a portion of the Hebrew Scriptures containing it is quoted in the Greek Scriptures. Altogether, the name appears with a sound basis 237 times in that translation of the Gree k Scriptures.
OPPOSITION TO THE NAME
In spite of the efforts of many translators to restore God’ s name in the Bible, there has always been religious pressure to eliminate it. The Jews, while leaving it in their Bibles, refused to pronounce it . Apostate Christians of the second and third centuries removed it when they made copies of Greek Bible manuscripts and left it out when the made translations of the Bible. Translators in modern times have removed it, even when they based their translations on the original Hebrew, where it appears almost 7,000 times. (It appears 6,973 times in the Hebrew text of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 1984 edition.)
How does Jehovah view those who remove his name from the Bible? If you were an author, how would you feel about someone who went to great lengths to remove your name from the book you authored? Translators who object to the name, doing so on account of problems of pronunciation or because of Jewish tradition, might be compared to those who Jesus said “strain out the gnat hut gulp down the camel! ” (Matthew 23:24) They stumble over these smaller problems but end up creating a major problem—by removing the name of the greatest personage in the universe from the book that he inspired.
The psalmist wrote: “How long, 0 God, will the adversary keep reproaching? Will the enemy keep treating your name with disrespect forever?” —Psalm 74:10.
“EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF JEHOVAH WILL BE SAVED.” (Romans 10:13) With these words the apostle Paul stressed how vital it is for us to know God’s name . His statement brings us back to our original question: Why did Jesus put the ‘hallowing,’ or ‘sanctifying,’ of God’s name at the very beginning of his Model Prayer, ahead of so many other important matters? To understand this, we need to grasp a little better the meanings of two key words.
First, what does the word ‘hallow,’ or ‘sanctify,’ really mean? Literally it means: “to make holy.” But is not God’s name already holy? Of course it is. When we sanctify God’s name, we do not make it more holy than it is. Rather we recognize it as holy, set it apart, hold it in the highest esteem. When we pray for God’s name to be sanctified, we are looking forward to the time when all creation will respect it as holy.
Second, exactly what is the implication of the word “name”? We have seen that God has a name, Jehovah, and that his name appears thousands of times in the Bible. We have discussed, too, the importance of restoring that name to its rightful place in the Bible text . If the name is not there, how can the psalmist’s words be fulfilled: “Those knowing your name will trust in you, for you will certainly not leave those looking for you, 0 Jehovah.” —Psalm 9:10.
But does ‘knowing God’s name..involve merely an intellectual knowledge that God’s name in Hebrew is YHWH, or in English, Jehovah? No, it means more than that. When Moses was in Moun t Sinai , “Jehovah proceeded to come down in the cloud and station himself with [Moses there and declare the name of Jehovah. “What did this declaring of the name of Jehovah entail? A description of his many qualities: “Jehovah , Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:5, 6 ) Again, shortly before his death , Moses said to the Israelites: “1 shall declare the name of Jehovah.” What followed? Mention of some of His grand attributes, and then a review of what God had accomplished toward Israel for the sake of His name. (Deuteronomy 32:3-43) Hence, knowing God’s name means learning what that name represents and worshiping the God who possesses it.
Since Jehovah has linked his name with his qualities, purposes and acts, we can see why the Bible says that God’s name is holy . (Leviticus 22:32) It is majestic, great, fear-inspiring and unreachably high . (Psalm 8:1; 99:3; 148:13) Yes, God’s name is more than a mere label, it represents him as a person . It was not merely a temporary name to be used for a time and then to be superseded by a title such as “Lord.” Jehovah himself said to Moses: “‘Jehovah... ...‘ This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of inc to generation after generation.”—Exodus 3:15.
Try as he will, man will never eliminate God’s name from the earth. “‘From the sun’s rising even to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place sacrificial smoke will be made, a presentation will be made to my name, even a clean gift; because my name will be great among the nations,’ Jehovah of armies has said. “—Malachi 1:11; Exodus 9:16 ; Ezekiel 36:23.
Hence, the sanctification of God’s name is far more important than any other issue. All of God’s purposes are linked to his name . Mankind’s problems began when Satan first profaned Jehovah’s name by calling Him, in effect, a liar and unfit to rule the human race . (Genesis 3:1-6; John 8:44 ) Only when God’s name is properly vindicated will mankind enjoy complete relief from the disastrous effects of Satan’s lie. That is why Christians pray so fervently for the sanctification of God’s name. But there are things that they can do, also, to sanctify it.
HOW CAN WE SANCTIFY GOD’S NAME?
ONE WAY IS TO TALK TO OTHERS ABOUT JEHOVAH AND POINT TO HIS KINGDOM BY CHRIST JESUS AS MANKIND’S ONLY HOPE. (Revelation 12:10) Many are doing this, in a modern fulfillment of these words of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In that day you will certainly say : ‘Give thanks to Jehovah, you people! Call upon his name . Make known among the peoples his dealings . Make mennon that his name is put on high. Make melody to Jehovah, For he has done surpassingly . This is made known in all the earth.’ “—Isaiah 12:4, 5.
Another way is to obey God’s laws and commands . Jehovah told the nation of Israel: “You must keep my commandments and do them. I am Jehovah. And you must not profane my holy name, and I must be sanctified in the midst of the sons of Israel. I am Jehovah who is sanctifying you. —Leviticus 22: 31, 32.
How did the Israelites’ keeping of Jehovah’s Law sanctify his name? The Law was given to the Israelites on the basis of his name. (Exodus 20:2-17) Hence, when they kept the Law, they were showing proper honor and esteem for that name. Furthermore, Jehovah’s name was on the Israelites as a nation. (Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14) When they acted properly, this brought praise to him, just as a child who acts in a proper manner brings honor to his father.
On the other hand, when the Israelites failed to keep God’s Law, they profaned his name. Thus, sins such as sacrificing to idols, swearing to a lie, oppressing the poor and committing fornication are described in the Bible as ‘profaning God’s name.’ —Leviticus 18:21; 19:12; Jererniah 34:16; Ezekiel 43:7.
Similarly, Christians have been given commands in God’s name. (John 8:28) And they too, are associated with ‘a people for Jehovah’s name.’ (Acts 15:14) Hence, a Christian who sincerely prays, “Hallowed be your name” will sanctify that name in his own life by obeying all of God’s commands. (1 John 5:3) This would also include obeying the commands given by God’s Son, Jesus, who always glorified his Father. —John 13:31, 34; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
The night before his execution, Jesus highlighted the importance of God’s name to Christians . After saying to his Father: “I have made your name known to them and will make it Known, he goes on to explain, “in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.” (John 17:26) The disciples’ learning the name of God involved their personally coming to know the love of God. Jesus had made it possible for them to become acquainted with God as their loving Father —John 17:3.
HOW IT AFFECTS YOU
At a first-century meeting of the Christian apostles and older men in Jerusalem, the disciple James said: “Someone has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” Could you be identified with those whom God takes out to be a “people for his name” if you fail to use or bear that name? —Acts 15:14.
Although many are reluctant to use the name Jehovah, and many Bible translators leave it out of their translations, millions of people around the world have gladly accepted the privilege of bearing God’s name, of using it not only in worship but in everyday speech, and of declaring it to others . If somebody spoke to you about the God of the Bible and used the name Jehovah, with which religious group would you associate him? There is but one group in the world that uses God’s name regularly in their worship, just as his worshipers of ancient times did. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Bible-based name Jehovah’s Witnesses identifies these Christians as a ‘people for God’s name.’ They are proud to bear that name, for it is one that Jehovah God himself gave to true worshipers. At Isaiah 43:10, we read: “‘You are my witnesses ,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen.’” Who was God discussing here? Consider some of the preceding verses.
In verses 5 to 7 of the same chapter, Isaiah says: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. From the sunrising I shall bring your seed, and from the sunset I shall collect you together . I shall say to the north, ‘Give up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep back. Bring my Sons from far off, and my daughters from the extremity of the earth, everyone that is called by my name and that I have created for my own glory, that I have formed, yes, that I have made.’” In our day, those verses refer to God’s own people that he has collected from all nations to praise him and to be his witnesses. Thus God’s name not only identifies him but also helps to identify his true servants on earth today.
THE BLESSINGS FROM KNOWING GOD’S NAME
Jehovah protects those who love his name. The psalmist said: “Because on me he has set his affection, I shall also provide him with escape. I shall protect him because he has come to know my name.” (Psalm 91:14) He also remembers them : “At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name. “ —Malachi 3:16.
Thus, the benefits from knowing and loving God’s name are not limited to this life only . To obedient mankind Jehovah has promised everlasting life in happiness on a Paradise earth. David was inspired to write: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those boping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. —Psalm 37:9, 11.
How will this be possible? Jesus gave the answer . In the same Model Prayer where he taught us to pray, “Let your name be sanctified,” he added: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:9, 10 ) Yes, God’s Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ will sanctify God’s name and also bring good conditions to this earth . It will eliminate wickedness and take away war, crime, famine, sickness and death .—Psalm 46:8, 9 ; Isaiah 11:9; 25:6; 33:24 ; Revelation 21:3,4.
You can enjoy everlasting life under that Kingdom . How? By coming to know God. “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Jehovah’s Witnesses will be delighted to help you take in that life-giving knowledge. —Acts 8:29-31.
Jt is hoped that the information in this brochure has convinced you that the Creator has a personal name that is very precious to him. It should be very precious to you too . May you realize the importance of knowing and using that name, especially in worship.
And may you be determined to say as the prophet Micah boldly said many centuries ago: “All the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever” —Micah 4:5.
Return to the main menu..
Church of the Science of God
La Jolla, California 92038-3131
© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993