Solving the Mystery of the Missing Name
WHEN the Israelite leader Moses began to write mankind’s history some 3,500 years ago, he naturally used his native Hebrew tongue. That history consists of the first 5 books of the 39 that form the Hebrew Scriptures, also popularly known as the Old Testament. Those Scriptures include God’s distinctive name nearly 7,000 times. And what is that name?
The Name is so sacred that the Creator gave a commandment to Israel regarding its use, as follows: “You shall not utter the name of Yahweh [Hebrew: יהוה] your God to misuse it.” (Exodus 20:7, The Jerusalem Bible) “You shall not use the name of Jehovah your God irreverently.” (The Living Bible) Do you recognize that name “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”? Or does it sound unfamiliar to you?
Please note that commandment. Did God prohibit the use or utterance of his name? No. He clearly prohibited its misuse.
Why not check that scripture—Exodus 20:7—in your own copy of the Bible. It might surprise you. In most translations it reads more or less as follows: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” (Authorized Version, 1611; Jewish Publication Society, 1917) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”—Revised Standard Version, 1952; Catholic Edition, 1957.
Do you notice anything strange? Yes, in many versions of the Bible the Divine Name has been omitted! The most important name in the universe has been deleted from millions of copies of Christendom’s and Judaism’s most popular translations. How extraordinary!
Could this be due to a misunderstanding? Or is it a deliberate attempt to downgrade the Sovereign Lord Jehovah? If the latter, it is a fraud of a most serious kind, one that affects a person’s relationship with his Creator.
Was the Name Used in Ancient Times?
God’s name has been in use since the very beginning of man’s history. How can we be sure of that? Because the Bible’s historical record tells us: “Now Adam had intercourse with Eve his wife and she became pregnant. In time she gave birth to Cain and said: ‘I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah.’” In The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament this appears as follows:
אֶת־ קַיִן וַתֹּאמֶר קָנִיתִי
I-brought-forth and-she-said Cain ***
אִישׁ אֶת־ יְהוָה ׃ וַתֹּסֶף
and-she-continued (2) Yahweh with man
Here God’s distinctive name stands out clearly as “Yahweh.”—Genesis 4:1.
What does this indicate? That the earth’s very first human inhabitants knew their Creator’s personal name. This name continued to be identified with the one true God during the writing of all the Hebrew Scriptures—a period of over a thousand years. That being so, the question is: How and when did the practice of hiding the name “Jehovah,” or “Yahweh,” begin?
Has Jewish Tradition Affected Your Bible?
It is difficult to fix a date for the decline in the use of God’s name. However, there is some evidence that before the year 70 C.E. a superstition had developed among the tradition-bound Jews that caused them to avoid pronouncing God’s personal name. After the Divine Name had been in use for centuries, apparently the Jewish religious authorities decided that it was too sacred to be pronounced and that the only way to avoid its misuse was to ban totally its being uttered. Why, the logic of that is equivalent to banning marriage in order to prevent adultery!
Has that Jewish tradition influenced Christendom’s Bible translators? Have they glorified God’s name, or have they perpetuated the Jewish error and suppressed it? Is your Bible deficient in this respect? A brief look at a few modern translations will serve to answer those questions.
The editor of An American Translation (1923, by Smith-Goodspeed) wrote: “In this translation we have followed the orthodox Jewish tradition and substituted ‘the Lord’ for the name ‘Yahweh.’” (Italics ours) The preface to The New International Version (1978) states: “In regard to the divine name YHWH . . . the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as ‘LORD’.”
The Revised Standard Version (1952), rejecting the good example of its predecessor, the American Standard Version (1901), which used Jehovah consistently, explains: “The present revision returns to the procedure of the King James Version , which follows the precedent of the ancient Greek and Latin translators and the long established practice in the reading of the Hebrew scriptures in the synagogue.”—Italics ours.
Without a doubt Jewish tradition has contributed to the worldwide ignorance regarding the most important name in the universe. And most of Christendom’s translators have gladly gone along with it. But why? Why should they not want you to find the name Jehovah, or Yahweh, in your Bible?
What Has Been the Motive?
David Clines, a lecturer in the department of Biblical Studies at England’s Sheffield University, supplies us with an unintended clue to the translators’ motives. In the magazine Theology he writes: “One result of the absence of Yahweh from Christian consciousness has been the tendency to focus on the person of Christ as the exclusive manifestation of deity . . . In hymns like . . . ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ . . . we find in practice what would be hotly denied in theory, a unitarianism of the second person of the Trinity.” Professor Clines goes on to conclude: “What has tended to happen in practice is that trinitarian theology has given a central place to the person and work of Christ. The roles of Father [Jehovah] and Spirit, whether in theology or in liturgy, have regularly been subordinated to that of the Son.”
What is the end result of all of this? For the Jews the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has improperly become a nameless abstraction—“the Deity.” For many Protestants he has been merged into Christ and has been relegated to second place in their triune Godhead. In Catholic religious practice Jehovah has been displaced not only by Jesus Christ but also by Jesus’ mother, Mary. Why so? Because Mary, by reason of the Trinitarian concept, is also viewed as the “Mother of God.” This has ousted Jehovah from the affections of the average Catholic.
So who is Jehovah to you? Will you get to know him intimately? Your personal decision will vitally affect your future because Jehovah has said: “‘I shall certainly sanctify my great name, which was being profaned among the nations, . . . and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘when I am sanctified among you before their eyes.’”—Ezekiel 36:23.
Happily for mankind, Jehovah has raised up his witnesses who, in this 20th century, fearlessly proclaim his name and purpose. If you wish to know the true and living God, Jehovah, contact Jehovah’s Witnesses in your neighborhood or the publishers of this magazine. Without cost or obligation they will gladly help you to know the heavenly Father, Jehovah.—Isaiah 43:10; Matthew 6:9.
[Blurb on page 5]
God’s exclusive name appears nearly 7,000 times in the Bible’s Hebrew text. Is it in your Bible?