Why God’s Name Should Appear in the Whole Bible
PERHAPS in your Bible reading you have come across God’s name in the so-called “Old Testament.” For example, you may have read in the King James Version: “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.”—Ps. 83:18; Isa. 12:2.
However, in your reading of the “New Testament” or Christian Greek Scriptures you may never have come across God’s name. Most translators have left it out when translating that part of the Bible. Why? One reason is that so far no ancient manuscript copies of the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures have been found containing the divine name in its full form.
But, on the other hand, God’s name does occur in its abbreviated form in both the old Greek manuscripts and the translations of them. In your Bible reading have you observed at Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6, the expression “Alleluia” or “Hallelujah”? According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary “Hallelujah” means: “Praise ye Yah (Jehovah).”
This appearance of God’s name in abbreviated form reveals that use of the name was not obsolete among early Christians. Why, then, does God’s name in its full form not appear in any existing manuscript copy of the Greek Bible text? Does this absence of God’s name in these old manuscripts indicate that Jesus and his disciples did not use the name Jehovah?
EXPLANATION THAT IS NO LONGER VALID
It was long believed that the reason God’s name in its full form is not found in any known manuscript copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures is that early Christians used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and that they simply followed its practice of omitting the divine name. This Greek Septuagint version had been prepared for Greek-speaking Jews beginning about 280 B.C.E., and is the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that early disciples of Jesus Christ are thought to have used.
The consensus of opinion used to be that, because of a Jewish superstition regarding God’s name, the Greek Septuagint translators had substituted in their version the Greek titles Kyʹrios (Lord) or ho The·osʹ (the God) for the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters (יהוה) that represent God’s name Jehovah. But comparatively recent discoveries have shown that the oldest fragments of the Greek Septuagint actually do contain God’s name in its Hebrew form!
Commenting on this fact, Dr. Paul E. Kahle says: “We now know that the Greek Bible text [the Septuagint] as far as it was written by Jews for Jews did not translate the Divine name by kyʹrios [Lord], but the Tetragrammaton written with Hebrew or Greek letters was retained in such MSS [manuscripts].”
Who, then, replaced the divine name in copies of the Greek Septuagint with the titles “Lord” or “God”? Dr. Kahle goes on to answer: “It was the Christians who replaced the Tetragrammaton by kyʹrios [Lord], when the divine name written in Hebrew letters was not understood any more.”—The Cairo Geniza, pp. 222, 224.
But when did “Christians” in their Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures replace God’s name in its Tetragrammaton form by the titles Kyʹrios (Lord) and ho The·osʹ (the God)? If we can determine this, it will shed light upon whether the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures actually used God’s name in their inspired writings, and whether the earliest copies of their original writings contained the divine name.
WHEN THE DIVINE NAME WAS REPLACED
The replacing of God’s name in Tetragrammaton form in the Christian Greek Scriptures evidently occurred in the centuries following the death of Jesus and his apostles. This is apparent because in Greek translations of the “Old Testament” or Hebrew Scriptures made in the first centuries of the Common Era by professed Christians the divine name is found. For example, in Aquila’s Greek version, dating from about the year 128 C.E., the Tetragrammaton still appeared in Hebrew characters.
Also, around 245 C.E., the noted scholar Origen produced his Hexapla, a six-column reproduction of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. On the evidence of the fragmentary copies now known, Professor W. G. Waddell says: “In Origen’s Hexapla . . . the Greek Versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and LXX [Septuagint] all represented JHWH by ΠΙΠΙ; in the second column of the Hexapla the Tetragrammaton was written in Hebrew characters.”a Others believe the original text of Origen’s Hexapla used Hebrew characters for the Tetragrammaton in all its columns. Origen himself stated that “in the most faithful manuscripts THE NAME is written in Hebrew characters, that is, not in modern, but in archaic Hebrew.”
As late as the fourth century, Jerome, the translator who produced the Latin Vulgate, says in his Prologus Galeatus prefacing the books of Samuel and Malachi: “We find the four-lettered name of God (i.e., יהוה) in certain Greek volumes even to this day expressed in the ancient letters.”
What does such information indicate? It makes clear that the so-called “Christians” who “replaced the Tetragrammaton by kyʹrios” in the Septuagint copies were not the early disciples of Jesus. They were persons of later centuries, when the foretold apostasy was well developed and had corrupted the purity of Christian teachings.—2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1.
USED BY JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES
There is irrefutable evidence, then, that God’s name was found in copies of the Scriptures used in the time of Jesus and his disciples, both in Hebrew manuscripts and in Greek manuscript translations. Surely these men used the divine name as they read and taught people from such copies of the Scriptures. Also, when writing the Christian Greek Scriptures, the disciples of Jesus without question would follow the God-approved practice of using the divine name in their writings. Their master Jesus Christ certainly set them the example as he magnified his Father’s name.
Consider the very name “Jesus.” This was the name that the heavenly angel directed Mary to give the child that was to be born to her. (Luke 1:30, 31) And that name “Jesus” gives prominence to God’s name, for in Hebrew it means: “Salvation of Jah [Jehovah].”
What is more, Jesus repeatedly held the name of his Father before the people in his ministry. For example, he taught his disciples to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matt. 6:9) His works, he said, were done “in the name of my Father.” (John 10:25) And in prayer on the night of his death, he said that he had ‘made his Father’s name manifest’ to his disciples.—John 17:6, 26.
In view of all this, when Jesus quoted the Hebrew Scriptures or read from them he certainly used the divine name, Jehovah. For example, he would do so when he quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures at Deuteronomy 8:3, and said: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’” (Matt. 4:4; also compare Matthew 22:37 with Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:44 with Psalm 110:1; and Luke 4:16-21 with Isaiah 61:1, 2.) Logically, those disciples of Jesus who were inspired to write the Christian Greek Scriptures would follow their Master’s example of using the divine name, thus incorporating it into their Bible writings.
Why, then, is the name absent from the ancient manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures or so-called “New Testament” we now have? Evidently because by the time those ancient copies were made, which was from the third century C.E. onward, the original text of the writings of the apostles and disciples had been altered. The divine name (possibly in Tetragrammaton form) was undoubtedly replaced with Kyʹrios and ho The·osʹ by later copyists, precisely what the facts show was done in later copies of the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Recognizing that this must have been the case, some translators have included the name “Jehovah” in their renderings of the Christian Greek Scriptures. There is sound basis for this. Yes, God’s name does belong in the whole Bible.
a The Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. XLV, July-October, 1944, pp. 158, 159.