The Name Of Jehovah
By Gordon Mallory
Our texts are generally quoted from the King James or Authorized Version of the Bible. It will be noted, however, that where God’s Old Testament Name is involved, the verses are taken from the American Standard Version (ASV).
The American Standard Bible was published in 1901 by the American Revision Committee. Prior to the publishing of this translation, the American Committee collaborated with the English Revision Companies to produce the English Revised Version in 1885. Respecting differences which might arise between the two companies of scholars, it was agreed that the English scholars had the initiative in the English revision and their views should have the decisive vote.
To offset this, the American preferences were published in the form of an appendix in the English Revised Bible, and in the American Standard Bible was published the preface to the English Bible.
We now quote from the preface to the English Revised Version: “It has been thought advisable in regard to the word ‘JEHOVAH’ to follow the usage of the Authorized Version, and not to insert it uniformly in place of ‘LORD’ or ‘GOD,’ which when printed in small capitals, represents the words substituted by Jewish custom for the ineffable name… ”
From the preface to the American Standard Version we quote: “The change first recommended in the Appendix – that which substitutes “Jehovah” for ‘LORD’ or ‘GOD,’- is one which will be unwelcome to many, because of the frequency and familiarity of the terms displaced. But the American Revisers, after a careful consideration, 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, as it fortunately does not in the numerous versions made by modern missionaries.”
The information which we have taken from both the English and the American Companies reveals to us that they were unanimous in their conclusions that, for the reasons given, the proper rendition of the Hebrew ‘Yahweh’ is Jehovah. However, the English scholars failed to follow through for fear of adverse public reaction, while the American scholars chose to correctly translate the Name of Jehovah in the American Standard Version.
From Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under the word “God,” we quote:
(1) “The substitution of the word LORD is most unhappy for it in no way represents the meaning of the sacred name.”
(2) “The Jews abstained from pronouncing the name, for fear of its irreverent use.”
(3) “The name (Yahweh) is never applied to a false god.” From Young’s Analytical Concordance, under the word “Jehovah,” we quote: “Jehovah, the incommunicable name of the God of Israel. In the Common Version of the English Bible it is generally, though improperly, translated by ‘the LORD.'”
Authorities have tended to focus more attention upon the use of “LORD” than the word “GOD,” since Yahweh is rendered as “LORD” well over 6,000 times, and less than 300 times as “GOD” in the Authorized Version and in other Bibles that follow the same pattern.
Quoting again from Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under the word God, “The key to the meaning of the name is unquestionably given in God’s revelation of himself to Moses by the phrase “‘I AM THAT I AM, ‘Ex. 3:14; 6:3. ” Reducing this phrase to simple terms, Jehovah means “the Self-existent One,” or literally, “The Eternal.”
Typical of the treatment accorded God’s Name in other versions of the Bible is the story of the Revised Standard Version, published in its completed form in 1952.
We quote from the preface of the Revised Standard Version, p. v: “While it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh’, this pronunciation was not indicated when the Masoretes added vowel signs to the Hebrew text. To the four consonants YHWH of the Name, which had come to be regarded as too sacred to be pronounced, they attached vowel signs indicating than in its place should be read the Hebrew word Adonai meaning ‘Lord’ (or Elohim meaning ‘God’). The ancient Greek translators substituted the word Kyrios’ (Lord) for the Name…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 the Hebrew- and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from who 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.”
We fail to see the validity of their decision to return “to the more familiar usage of the King James Version” in the face of their own admissions: (1) that it is almost certain that the Name was originally declared Yahweh; (2) that the Hebrews for superstitious reasons feared to pronounce the Name; and (3) that the Hebrews therefore substituted the Hebrew Adonai, meaning “Lord,” or the Hebrew Elohim, meaning “God.”
The publisher’s final argument that they rejected any proper name for the One True God as “being highly inappropriate to the Christian faith” appears groundless and superficial indeed. It occurs to us that Jewish tradition is an entirely inappropriate basis for properly rendering the Name, and that the God of the Hebrews demands the final and deciding vote in the matter.
Our authority to speak of Jehovah as the English equivalent for Yahweh has been challenged by some on the grounds that the Name of Jehovah is of questionable origin. Shall we, on similar grounds, reject “God” as the English word for Elohim, or “Lord” as the English equivalent for Adonai? Are we talking about a transliteration or a translation of the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek languages?
To translate means to give the same sense in another language. Inasmuch as the Authorized Version, and other versions following the same pattern, have given Yahweh as Jehovah, as Lord, and as God (three words of dissimilar meaning), it is obvious that the rules of correct translation have been ignored in these various renderings.
Moffat, in his translation, has chosen to use the meaning of Yahweh, and has translated the Name as “the Eternal” throughout the Old Testament. The Jerusalem Bible gives us the Hebrew “Yahweh” throughout the same. In either case, the principles of correct translation have been observed. If our reader prefers to recognize the Hebrew form of the Name, he is at liberty to substitute Yahweh wherever Jehovah is spoken in these pages, and this will in no wise detract from the message of this book. However, we personally appreciate and choose to embrace the American Standard Version’s recognition of “Jehovah” as the English form of the sacred Name, and we shall do so throughout this study.
The importance of the Name of the One True God in Hebrew worship is seen in the use of ‘Hallelujah’ as an expression of praise. ‘Jah’, the last syllable of the word, is an abbreviation of Jehovah, used in poetry. ‘Hallelujah’ literally means, “Praise ye Jehovah” and is often thus expressed in the Psalms (See Psalms 104:35; 106:48; 111:1; 115:18). We note at least 23 verses in the Psalms containing the words, ‘Praise ye Jehovah’ (ASV), with the Hebrew ‘Hallelujah’ given in the margin. The word appears four times in Revelation, chapter 19. It is given as ‘Allelujah’ in the King James Bible and as ‘Hallelujah’ in other versions. This joyous expression of worship is retained when translated into other languages, and Christians everywhere use the Hebrew ‘Hallelujah’ to voice praise and adoration to the Lord Jesus, who is our great Jehovah.
Names vs. “The Name”
Many names or titles are contained in the Bible, each of which reveals something of the nature of God. These must not be confused with the Name of the One True God.
Grammarians teach that there are nine parts of speech, one of which is the noun, defined as a name word. Nouns are of two kinds – proper and common. A common noun applies to any individual or object of a class or persons or objects, while a proper noun is the name of a particular person or object.
We present the following chart, arranged in two columns to separate common from proper nouns, for the purpose of placing these names in their proper perspective:
el or elohim – theos – god
melek – basileus – king
adonai or adon – kurios –
lord or master
Baal – Jehovah – Jesus
Saul – Jehovah – Jesus
David – Jehovah – Jesus
We begin with the word “city,” only to serve as a pattern for the remainder of our chart. The word ‘city’ designates no particular place and is therefore a common noun or name. The proper name of the city is given as Jerusalem. To insure reaching its destination, the correct address of a postal letter would be “Jerusalem” rather than “city”.
The first of three names in our chart which may relate to the One True God is the word “god,” and since it is used to designate any object of worship, it is classed a common name.
The Hebrew equivalent for “god” is ‘elohim,’ or sometimes the shorter form of ‘et or ‘eloah’, and is correctly translated as god wherever found in Scripture. Elohim has often been treated and defined as a proper name for Jehovah. In fact, elohim is the Hebrew word for any person or thing to which man may give worship. Hence, it is a common name or noun.
To illustrate, we cite God’s law, “Thou shalt have no other gods (elohim) before me” (Exodus 20:3). Another commandment warns, ” Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God (Elohim) in vain” (Exodus 20:7, ASV). This is to say that there are many gods, or elohim, but Israel was instructed to worship and reverence the One True God, or Elohim, whose name was Jehovah.
From William Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under “God,” we quote, “Elohim is the plural of Eloah … The plural form of Elohim has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred
to the ‘trinity of persons’ in the Godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars.” We would add that the use of elohim in Scripture to designate any or all objects of worship, whether heathen gods or the Jehovah of the Hebrews, clearly demonstrates that the word elohim presents no logical basis for support of the concept of the trinity.
The Greek equivalent for god (or elohim) is theos, consistently translated as “god” in the New Testament, and used to mean an object of worship, true or false.
We have chosen “Baal” as the proper name of a well-known god. We recall that the prophet Elijah confronted King Ahab to prove to the worshippers of Baal that Jehovah was the One True God. Elijah spoke forth the challenge, “How long go ye limping between the two sides? if Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kings 18:2 1, ASV). The response of the heathen prophets was to call on the name of Baal, but to no avail.
After drenching his altar and offering with water, Elijah called on the Name of Jehovah, who answered by fire which consumed the offering, the altar, and the water. “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God” (I Kings 18:39, ASV).
The name of Jehovah is followed by the Name of Jesus. The Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New Testament, who came as “God manifest in the flesh,” and whose Name “is above every name” that is named. Next, we cite the common name “king,” followed by the proper name of Saul, Israel’s first king.
The proper name of the Divine King of Israel was Jehovah, although Israel rejected Him when they called for a man to rule their nation. But in Psalm 10: 16 (ASV) we read, “Jehovah is King for ever and ever;” and in Isaiah 3 3:22 (ASV), “For Jehovah is our judge, Jehovah is our lawgiver, Jehovah is our King.�
Again we place the Name of Jesus on the right side of our chart. Against the wishes of the mob who crucified Him, Pilate ordered the inscription placed on the cross: “The King of the Jews.” At the birth of Jesus the wise men inquired, ” Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” The prophet (Zechariah 9:9) had foretold, “Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion … behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.. ”
The last noun or name word in the chart is “lord” or “master,” classed as a common name. Lord or master relates to man or to Deity, and speaks of one who has oversight or authority over others.
The Hebrew equivalent for lord is ‘adonai,’ or the shorter form ‘adon,’ which is properly translated lord or master in Scripture, and is in no way related to “the LORD” commonly substituted for Jehovah. The Hebrew word translated lord or master is most often ” adon’ when used of man, while ‘Adonai,’ or ‘Adon,’ is always given as Lord when spoken of Jehovah, but may be translated as lord or master when used of men.
The Greek equivalent for lord or master is ‘kurios,’ which is correctly translated as lord or master throughout the New Testament and is used of man or of Jesus. The choice of either lord or master rests with the translators. Kurios’ is usually translated Lord when speaking of Jesus, and more often as master when used of man. ‘Kurios’ should not be confused with other Greek words not of the same meaning which are also translated lord or master.
For the proper name of a man addressed as lord we recall David, the shepherd boy, who became a great king of Israel. Abigail addressed David thus: “Let not my lord (adon), I pray thee, regard this worthless fellow, even Nabal… that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord (adonai) … And when Jehovah shall have dealt well with my lord (adon), then remember thy handmaid’ (I Samuel 25:25, 31 ASV). The prophet Nathan said to Bathsheba, “…Hast thou not heard that Adonijah … doth reign, and David our lord (adon) knoweth it not?” (I Kings 1: I 1). David acknowledged Jehovah as Lord, saying, “O my soul, thou hast said unto Jehovah, Thou art my Lord (Adonai)” (Psalm 16:2, ASV). Also David proclaimed, “O Jehovah, our Lord (Adon), How excellent is thy name in all the earth” (Psalm 8: 1, ASV).
We conclude with Jesus as the proper Name of the One whom Thomas proclaimed as “…My Lord (Kurios) and my God ” (John 20:28). In Revelation 17:14 and 19:16, Jesus is acclaimed, “King of kings and Lord (Kurios) of lords (kurios).”
The Above Material Was Published By Reach Publications Inc., 1996, Pages 36-47. This Material Is Copyrighted And May Be Used For Study & Research Purposes Only.