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Why The Word Jehovah Cannot Be God’s Personal Name

A heavily promoted booklet produced by the Watch Tower called What Does the Bible Really Teach? claims that its version of the Bible is “historically accurate and reliable.”[1] Yet the same book contradicts itself by also claiming that the personal name of God (supposedly “Jehovah”) was removed from the New Testament (NT) in ancient times.[2]

A foundational JW belief is that the personal and true name of God is Jehovah. For this reason, they call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses rather than Christians. They will use their NWT Bible and quote Old Testament (OT) verses (which were written for the Israelites) such as Exodus 3:15 to try and justify this to you.

So, are they correct? If the personal and true name of God is not Jehovah, then the JWs would lose one of their foundational beliefs. Consequently, they vigorously defend this belief.

The truth is that it is impossible for Jehovah to be God’s personal name. Why? The simple answer is this: “Jehovah” is a manmade term!

Let us explain.

The Old Testament contains four consonants for the name of God. This is known as the “Tetragrammaton.” The English equivalent is spelled “YHWH.” Today, scholars believe the correct Hebrew form is Yahweh, pronounced in the English as Jahveh.[3]

The most widely accepted meaning of the name is “the one who is, that is, the absolute and unchangeable one,”[4] or, “the one who brings things to pass, causes things to happen.”[5]

The Jews regarded the name of God as so holy that they were reluctant to pronounce it. Instead, they said “Adonai” (Lord) when reading the name of YHWH. This is seen in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures by Jewish scribes in the third to second centuries B.C., where the Greek word kurios, “lord,” was substituted for the name Yahweh.

According to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes:

sought not only to determine the exact text handed down to them but to pass it on to future generations without change. To protect against copyists’ errors and alterations, they filled the side margins with all sorts of data concerning how often and where various words and phrases appearing in a given line of the text could be found elsewhere. The special contribution of the Masoretes was to provide the text with vowels and accent marks.[6]

These scribes were extremely careful about how they determined the “exact text” of God’s Word, and they copied it “without change.”

Therefore, we have a clear understanding of how God’s name should not be pronounced, namely it should not be pronounced Jehovah. Following the Jewish custom of not pronouncing the divine name, most Bible versions use the term LORD (to distinguish this from the Hebrew noun Lord/lord), while some will use the name Yahweh.

In short, the term Jehovah is an anglicized version of the word Yehowah, which is a result of the Masoretes adding vowels of the word Adonai to the tetragrammaton,[7] forming the term Jehovah or Yahweh.[8]

Dr. Michael Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, writes about very important facts in regards to the name Jehovah. He notes the name is based on a mistaken reading of the biblical text by medieval Christian scholars. Although these scholars were educated in the Hebrew language, they were not aware of the Jewish tradition to write the vowels for the word Adonai with the consonants of the tetragrammaton. Jewish scribes did not indicate this in the manuscript margins since this was universally known to all literate Jews. As a result, they incorrectly read this hybrid word as Yehowah, or Jehovah in English.[9]

Numerous Old Testament and New Testament passages that refer to Jesus as Yahweh (Jehovah) have been altered in the Watch Tower’s corrupt New World Translation to avoid the obvious fact that Jesus is the incarnation of Yahweh. A few examples would be Romans 10:13 and Revelation 1:8.

Since the anonymous New World Translation committee took the liberty of inserting the name Jehovah in the New Testament instead of Lord, one would expect to find the word Jehovah in the more than five thousand five hundred fifty Greek New Testament manuscripts. However, the truth is that there is not one Greek manuscript that contains the term Jehovah.

To cover this up, JWs claim that superstitious scribes removed the name from the Bible. This is ironic because they also state that the Bible has been amazingly preserved throughout the centuries! There is no evidence to support the claim that the word Jehovah was EVER in a Greek manuscript. As well, the name Jehovah did not exist in Israel!

The fact is, biblically speaking, the most personal name for God revealed in the New Testament would be Jesus.

There’s no doubt that the Watch Tower is dishonest in its claims—and, as Christians, we must answer their arguments for the truth of Christ.

We’ve found it useful to ask the JWs why the Watch Tower would claim that Jehovah is God’s personal name when it is manmade. Most will be shocked by the question and not reply.

[1] Watch Tower and Tract Society of New York, Inc., What Does the Bible Really Teach? (Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 2005), 20.

[2] Ibid, 195-197.

[3] Michael L. Brown, “Is Jehovah God’s True Name,” accessed March 5, 2017 at https://askdrbrown.org/library/jehovah-gods-true-name

[4] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988; published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 2016).

[5] Brown.

[6] Elwell and Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia, 1,415.

[7] Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: Embracing Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology and Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Biography from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1908–1914; published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 2016), 116–117.

[8] Elwell and Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia, 2,046–2,047.

[9] Brown.

1 Comments

  1. Megan March 5, 2018

    I was recently asked by an JW did I know God’s Personal Name, in my response I gave him multiple names as he has many, I thank you for this article, because now I can be more prepared when addressed with this question again.

    Reply

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