Definition: The personal name of the only true God. His own self-designation. Jehovah is the Creator and, rightfully, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. “Jehovah” is translated from the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, יהוה, which means “He Causes to Become.” These four Hebrew letters are represented in many languages by the letters JHVH or YHWH.
Where is God’s name found in Bible translations that are commonly used today?
The New English Bible: The name Jehovah appears at Exodus 3:15; 6:3. See also Genesis 22:14; Exodus 17:15; Judges 6:24; Ezekiel 48:35. (But if this and other translations use “Jehovah” in several places, why not be consistent in using it at every place where the Tetragrammaton appears in the Hebrew text?)
Revised Standard Version: A footnote on Exodus 3:15 says: “The word LORD when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH.”
Today’s English Version: A footnote on Exodus 6:3 states: “THE LORD: . . . Where the Hebrew text has Yahweh, traditionally transliterated as Jehovah, this translation employs LORD with capital letters, following a usage which is widespread in English versions.”
American Standard Version: The name Jehovah is used consistently in the Hebrew Scriptures in this translation, beginning with Genesis 2:4.
Douay Version: A footnote on Exodus 6:3 says: “My name Adonai. The name, which is in the Hebrew text, is that most proper name of God, which signifieth his eternal, self-existing being, (Exod. 3, 14,) which the Jews out of reverence never pronounce; but, instead of it, whenever it occurs in the Bible, they read Adonai, which signifies the Lord; and, therefore, they put the points or vowels, which belong to the name Adonai, to the four letters of that other ineffable name, Jod, He, Vau, He. Hence some moderns have framed the name of Jehovah, unknown to all the ancients, whether Jews or Christians; for the true pronunciation of the name, which is in the Hebrew text, by long disuse is now quite lost.” (It is interesting that The Catholic Encyclopedia [1913, Vol. VIII, p. 329] states: “Jehovah, the proper name of God in the Old Testament; hence the Jews called it the name by excellence, the great name, the only name.”)
The New American Bible: A footnote on Exodus 3:14 favors the form “Yahweh,” but the name does not appear in the main text of the translation. In the Saint Joseph Edition, see also the appendix Bible Dictionary under “Lord” and “Yahweh.”
The Jerusalem Bible: The Tetragrammaton is translated Yahweh, starting with its first occurrence, at Genesis 2:4.
New World Translation: The name Jehovah is used in both the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures in this translation, appearing 7,210 times.
The Bible in Living English, S. T. Byington: The name Jehovah is used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
The ‘Holy Scriptures’ translated by J. N. Darby: The name Jehovah appears throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, also in many footnotes on Christian Greek Scripture texts, beginning with Matthew 1:20.
The Emphatic Diaglott, Benjamin Wilson: The name Jehovah is found at Matthew 21:9 and in 17 other places in this translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text—A New Translation, Jewish Publication Society of America, Max Margolis editor-in-chief: At Exodus 6:3 the Hebrew Tetragrammaton appears in the English text.
The Holy Bible translated by Robert Young: The name Jehovah is found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures in this literal translation.
Why do many Bible translations not use the personal name of God or use it only a few times?
The preface of the Revised Standard Version explains: “For two reasons the Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version: (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.” (Thus their own view of what is appropriate has been relied on as the basis for removing from the Holy Bible the personal name of its Divine Author, whose name appears in the original Hebrew more often than any other name or any title. They admittedly follow the example of the adherents of Judaism, of whom Jesus said: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.”—Matt. 15:6.)
Translators who have felt obligated to include the personal name of God at least once or perhaps a few times in the main text, though not doing so every time it appears in Hebrew, have evidently followed the example of William Tyndale, who included the divine name in his translation of the Pentateuch published in 1530, thus breaking with the practice of leaving the name out altogether.
Was the name Jehovah used by the inspired writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures?
Jerome, in the fourth century, wrote: “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 and characters for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed.” (De viris inlustribus, chap. III) This Gospel includes 11 direct quotations of portions of the Hebrew Scriptures where the Tetragrammaton is found. There is no reason to believe that Matthew did not quote the passages as they were written in the Hebrew text from which he quoted.
Other inspired writers who contributed to the contents of the Christian Greek Scriptures quoted hundreds of passages from the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Many of these passages included the Hebrew Tetragrammaton right in the Greek text of early copies of the Septuagint. In harmony with Jesus’ own attitude regarding his Father’s name, Jesus’ disciples would have retained that name in those quotations.—Compare John 17:6, 26.
In Journal of Biblical Literature, George Howard of the University of Georgia wrote: “We know for a fact that Greek-speaking Jews continued to write יהוה within their Greek Scriptures. Moreover, it is most unlikely that early conservative Greek-speaking Jewish Christians varied from this practice. Although in secondary references to God they probably used the words [God] and [Lord], it would have been extremely unusual for them to have dismissed the Tetragram from the biblical text itself. . . . Since the Tetragram was still written in the copies of the Greek Bible which made up the Scriptures of the early church, it is reasonable to believe that the N[ew] T[estament] writers, when quoting from Scripture, preserved the Tetragram within the biblical text. . . . But when it was removed from the Greek O[ld] T[estament], it was also removed from the quotations of the O[ld] T[estament] in the N[ew] T[estament]. Thus somewhere around the beginning of the second century the use of surrogates [substitutes] must have crowded out the Tetragram in both Testaments.”—Vol. 96, No. 1, March 1977, pp. 76, 77.
Which form of the divine name is correct—Jehovah or Yahweh?
No human today can be certain how it was originally pronounced in Hebrew. Why not? Biblical Hebrew was originally written with only consonants, no vowels. When the language was in everyday use, readers easily provided the proper vowels. In time, however, the Jews came to have the superstitious idea that it was wrong to say God’s personal name out loud, so they used substitute expressions. Centuries later, Jewish scholars developed a system of points by which to indicate which vowels to use when reading ancient Hebrew, but they put the vowels for the substitute expressions around the four consonants representing the divine name. Thus the original pronunciation of the divine name was lost.
Many scholars favor the spelling “Yahweh,” but it is uncertain and there is not agreement among them. On the other hand, “Jehovah” is the form of the name that is most readily recognized, because it has been used in English for centuries and preserves, equally with other forms, the four consonants of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton.
J. B. Rotherham, in The Emphasised Bible, used the form Yahweh throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. However, later in his Studies in the Psalms he used the form “Jehovah.” He explained: “JEHOVAH—The employment of this English form of the Memorial name . . . 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.”—(London, 1911), p. 29.
After discussing various pronunciations, German professor Gustav Friedrich Oehler 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 Alten Testaments, second edition (Stuttgart, 1882), p. 143.
Jesuit scholar Paul Joüon states: “In our translations, instead of the (hypothetical) form Yahweh, we have used the form Jéhovah . . . which is the conventional literary form used in French.”—Grammaire de l’hébreu biblique (Rome, 1923), footnote on p. 49.
Most names change to some extent when transferred from one language to another. Jesus was born a Jew, and his name in Hebrew was perhaps pronounced Ye·shuʹa‛, but the inspired writers of the Christian Scriptures did not hesitate to use the Greek form of the name, I·e·sousʹ. In most other languages the pronunciation is slightly different, but we freely use the form that is common in our tongue. The same is true of other Bible names. How, then, can we show proper respect for the One to whom the most important name of all belongs? Would it be by never speaking or writing his name because we do not know exactly how it was originally pronounced? Or, rather, would it be by using the pronunciation and spelling that are common in our language, while speaking well of its Owner and conducting ourselves as his worshipers in a manner that honors him?
Why is it important to know and use God’s personal name?
Do you have a close relationship with anyone whose personal name you do not know? For people to whom God is nameless he is often merely an impersonal force, not a real person, not someone that they know and love and to whom they can speak from the heart in prayer. If they do pray, their prayers are merely a ritual, a formalistic repetition of memorized expressions.
True Christians have a commission from Jesus Christ to make disciples of people of all nations. When teaching these people, how would it be possible to identify the true God as different from the false gods of the nations? Only by using His personal name, as the Bible itself does.—Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 8:5, 6.
Ex. 3:15: “God said . . . to Moses: ‘This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, “Jehovah the God of your forefathers . . . has sent me to you.” This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.’”
Isa. 12:4: “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.”
Ezek. 38:17, 23: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘ . . . And I shall certainly magnify myself and sanctify myself and make myself known before the eyes of many nations; and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.’”
Mal. 3:16: “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.”
John 17:26: “[Jesus prayed to his Father:] I have made your name known to them [his followers] and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.”
Acts 15:14: “Symeon 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.”
Is Jehovah in the “Old Testament” Jesus Christ in the “New Testament”?
Matt. 4:10: “Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written, “It is Jehovah [“the Lord,” KJ and others] your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”’” (Jesus was obviously not saying that he himself was to be worshiped.)
John 8:54: “Jesus answered [the Jews]: ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifies me, he who you say is your God.’” (The Hebrew Scriptures clearly identify Jehovah as the God that the Jews professed to worship. Jesus said, not that he himself was Jehovah, but that Jehovah was his Father. Jesus here made it very clear that he and his Father were distinct individuals.)
Ps. 110:1: “The utterance of Jehovah to my [David’s] Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’” (At Matthew 22:41-45, Jesus explained that he himself was David’s “Lord,” referred to in this psalm. So Jesus is not Jehovah but is the one to whom Jehovah’s words were here directed.)
Phil. 2:9-11: “For this very reason also God exalted him [Jesus Christ] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. [Dy reads: “ . . . every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.” Kx and CC read similarly, but a footnote in Kx acknowledges: “ . . . the Greek is perhaps more naturally rendered ‘to the glory,’” and NAB and JB render it that way.]” (Notice that Jesus Christ is here shown to be different from God the Father and subject to Him.)
How can a person love Jehovah if he is also to fear Him?
The Bible tells us that we should both love Jehovah (Luke 10:27) and fear him. (1 Pet. 2:17; Prov. 1:7; 2:1-5; 16:6) Wholesome fear of God will make us very careful to avoid incurring his displeasure. Our love for Jehovah will move us to want to do the things that are pleasing to him, to express our appreciation for the countless expressions of his love and undeserved kindness.
Illustrations: A son properly fears to displease his father, but appreciation for all that his father does for him should also move the son to express genuine love for his father. A scuba diver may say that he loves the sea, but a wholesome fear of it causes him to realize that there are certain things that he should avoid doing. Similarly, our love for God should be coupled with a wholesome fear of doing anything that will incur his displeasure.