Jehovah or Yehovah vs. Yahweh

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Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Jeremiah 10:10 is an interesting example. Hong probably doesn't reference it because on the standard reading it isn't an exemplar of the pairing "the LORD God". Grammatically, it certainly could be, as you suggest, though it could equally well not be. There is a similar phrase in 1 Kings 17:24, where the woman says to Elijah either "The word of the Lord in your mouth is truth" - in this case, most English translation opt for that choice, supporting your argument in Jer 10:10 - or "The word of the Lord is truly in your mouth". Both translations are possible, as they are in Jer 10:10. I'm not sure that John 14:6 helps as much as you think. If it is alluding to this verse (which it may well be), John 14:6 takes "living" from the second part and translates the adjective into a noun, "life". So it could equally easily be taking the adverb "truly" and turning it into the noun "truth". But I'm sympathetic to your reading, which is certainly how the Massoretes read it, as the earliest interpreters of the text.

I thought the central part of Hong's paper was the observation that the Chronicler never reproduces the form Adonai Yahweh from Samuel-Kings in any of its nine occurrences. The simplest explanation for changing that title on every occasion is that the Lord was already being read as Adonai, which makes it an odd combination. Instead, the Chronicler shows the same kind of variety that we find in the LXX, which suggests that it had not yet reached the settled convention of reading "Adonai Elohim" which we find from Aleppo onwards. Not a conclusive argument, to be sure, but an intriguing observation.
I would be inclined to look for a spiritual explanation in place of Hong's linguistic one. He considers this possibility rather perfunctorily on p. 483 but then dismisses it, asserting that his theory is the "only" possible one. He is really considering the seven instances in David's prayer. Scripture was given to be profitable, and Divine names were not used without reason. Perhaps meditation on the prayer in its two forms would furnish a better answer.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I just came across this interesting comment related to this subject:

It is agreed by all, that Jehovah is an essential name; and it will be easily allowed, that the Apostle John's is the best translation of it, "He who is, and was, and is to come;" the essential possessor and proprietor of being. Our translators have been very justly complained of for rendering this by the relative term, Lord, after the later Jews, whose superstition not permitting them to pronounce this name, always substitute Adoni, Lord, instead of it. But certainly they ought not to be followed by Christians.

Robert Riccaltoun, Essays on Several of the Doctrines of Revelation in The Works of the Late Reverend Mr Robert Riccaltoun, Minister of the Gospel at Hobkirk (3 vols, Edinburgh: A. Murray & J. Cochran, 1771-72), 1: 360.

In which case, I presume that Robert Riccaltoun would have been a champion of the old American Standard Version had he lived long enough to see it. :) I really like the ASV's use of Jehovah. Even if it is not technically as accurate as Yahweh, the latter does not sound as good in English - and that should count for something.
 
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Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
I just came across this interesting comment related to this subject:

It is agreed by all, that Jehovah is an essential name; and it will be easily allowed, that the Apostle John's is the best translation of it, "He who is, and was, and is to come;" the essential possessor and proprietor of being. Our translators have been very justly complained of for rendering this by the relative term, Lord, after the later Jews, whose superstition not permitting them to pronounce this name, always substitute Adoni, Lord, instead of it. But certainly they ought not to be followed by Christians.

Robert Riccaltoun, Essays on Several of the Doctrines of Revelation in The Works of the Late Reverend Mr Robert Riccaltoun, Minister of the Gospel at Hobkirk (3 vols, Edinburgh: A. Murray & J. Cochran, 1771-72), 1: 360.

In which case, I presume that Robert Riccaltoun would have been a champion of the old American Standard Version had he lived long enough to see it. :) I really like the ASV's use of Jehovah. Even if it is not technically as accurate as Yahweh, the former does not sound as good in English - and that should count for something.
Do you mean the latter doesn’t sound as good in English?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I hate to throw a wrench into things, but it just occurred to me that one of the lessons from my graduate phonology course in college might be relevant to this discussion. One day we were working through a data set of Yemeni Arabic and Classical Arabic cognates that had been recorded and transcribed by one of the doctoral students and it kept arising that the rules we devised to account for the data couldn't account for medical-anatomical terms and religious terms in the Yemeni dialect (which according to traditional understandings of phonology shouldn't happen), and the professor remarked that it's a common phenomena across languages that words with superstitious religious or magical significance are exempt from regular sound changes because practitioners feel that the religious significance or magical power is lost if the pronunciation varies. I think there are two good lessons to take from this:
1) Phonological rules cannot be the primary basis for arguing the correct pronunciation of the divine name given this phenomena and the strong superstition of the Jews regarding it.
2) We should avoid exercising the same sort of superstition.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
I hate to throw a wrench into things, but it just occurred to me that one of the lessons from my graduate phonology course in college might be relevant to this discussion. One day we were working through a data set of Yemeni Arabic and Classical Arabic cognates that had been recorded and transcribed by one of the doctoral students and it kept arising that the rules we devised to account for the data couldn't account for medical-anatomical terms and religious terms in the Yemeni dialect (which according to traditional understandings of phonology shouldn't happen), and the professor remarked that it's a common phenomena across languages that words with superstitious religious or magical significance are exempt from regular sound changes because practitioners feel that the religious significance or magical power is lost if the pronunciation varies. I think there are two good lessons to take from this:
1) Phonological rules cannot be the primary basis for arguing the correct pronunciation of the divine name given this phenomena and the strong superstition of the Jews regarding it.
2) We should avoid exercising the same sort of superstition.
Fair enough, though I don't think anyone on this thread has argued on the primary basis of phonological rules.

On 2) (and the quote by Riccaltoun above) the claim that this is driven purely by Jewish superstition founders on the obstinate fact that this is the universal practice of the New Testament, which presumably reflects the practice they were taught by Jesus. If Jesus had rejected the practice of reading 'adonai for YHWH in the OT as mere superstition, then wouldn't the disciples have done the same? Yet even when quoting (presumably Jesus' own account of) his interaction with the devil, they quote him as saying "kurios." So this CANNOT be a mere Jewish superstition that we should avoid.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
On 2) (and the quote by Riccaltoun above) the claim that this is driven purely by Jewish superstition founders on the obstinate fact that this is the universal practice of the New Testament, which presumably reflects the practice they were taught by Jesus. If Jesus had rejected the practice of reading 'adonai for YHWH in the OT as mere superstition, then wouldn't the disciples have done the same? Yet even when quoting (presumably Jesus' own account of) his interaction with the devil, they quote him as saying "kurios." So this CANNOT be a mere Jewish superstition that we should avoid.
That wasn't my point.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
The problem is - and this is the discussion we had when updating the HCSB into the CSB - once you render the divine name as Yahweh/Jehovah anywhere in your translation, you are forced into indefensible inconsistencies that are inevitably confusing for the English reader.
Iain, when the Legacy Standard Bible comes out I would be interested in your comments about how it translates the Old Testament. I assume it will be very accurate. In terms of the discussion over Yahweh/Lord, here is their translation policy:
Preface - Legacy Standard Bible (lsbible.org)
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Iain, when the Legacy Standard Bible comes out I would be interested in your comments about how it translates the Old Testament. I assume it will be very accurate. In terms of the discussion over Yahweh/Lord, here is their translation policy:
Preface - Legacy Standard Bible (lsbible.org)
It's a well thought through defense of their (unusual) position, which we might call "Yahwistic maximalism" - rendering the divine name by Yahweh wherever possible. That is at least consistent - unlike the KJV/Geneva approach which has only a very few uses of Jehovah, or the HCSB with a relatively large number of Yahwehs, with no obvious rationale as to why the translation is made thus in these places and not others.

The problem (apart from breaking with the example of Jesus and the apostles in reading the OT, and offending everyone who thinks they should have adopted Jehovah) is twofold.
1) it messes with a lot of people's favorite Bible passages. It throws people to turn to Psalm 23 and read "Yahweh is my shepherd". It probably shouldn't, and some people find the change refreshing, but I guarantee they will take some flak for it. Especially since their audience is fairly traditional.
2) It drives apart NT quotations from the OT sources: the NT quotation will have "the Lord" while the OT source will have "Yahweh." They will have a footnote explaining the difference, but as we frequently reminded ourselves in translation committee, "Most people don't read footnotes". That will confuse some people and it makes it sound as if the NT is always doing its own translation rather than sometimes directly citing the Septuagint.

None of these objections is overwhelming, and to be honest, I prefer the all in approach to any kind of halfway house. But at the end of the day, I'm happy to stick with Jesus on this one.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
1) it messes with a lot of people's favorite Bible passages. It throws people to turn to Psalm 23 and read "Yahweh is my shepherd". It probably shouldn't, and some people find the change refreshing, but I guarantee they will take some flak for it. Especially since their audience is fairly traditional.
That's interesting. The Spanish bible has always read "Jehová es mi pastor" in Ps. 23. I'd never thought much about the difference.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Douglas / @Douglas Somerset ,

Thank you for presenting your views with respect to continuing the use of the divine name, Jehovah – it is greatly appreciated. For those who are not learned in Biblical Hebrew yet also love the name Jehovah, would you please summarize (you could certainly go at length, if you wish!) your arguments and thoughts on this.
 
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Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Fair enough, though I don't think anyone on this thread has argued on the primary basis of phonological rules.

On 2) (and the quote by Riccaltoun above) the claim that this is driven purely by Jewish superstition founders on the obstinate fact that this is the universal practice of the New Testament, which presumably reflects the practice they were taught by Jesus. If Jesus had rejected the practice of reading 'adonai for YHWH in the OT as mere superstition, then wouldn't the disciples have done the same? Yet even when quoting (presumably Jesus' own account of) his interaction with the devil, they quote him as saying "kurios." So this CANNOT be a mere Jewish superstition that we should avoid.
But the OT Jewish practice did not have the example of Christ at that stage. It was just superstition, refusing to use a name that God had revealed, while probably breaking his law in numerous other ways.

It is not clear: a) what Christ's practice was (we are viewing it through a Greek lens, and he may have done and said many things that are not recorded); b) what the Apostles' practice was. The assumption is that because YHWH is not recorded in the NT therefore it was never used at that time. But obviously this fact (of NT silence regarding YHWH) admits of other possible explanations, and these have to be ruled out before the assumption becomes a conclusive argument.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Great questions. I think the answer is that we don't lose any of that theology but read the OT names and titles of God in the light of the fuller NT revelation. I don't think we have to completely avoid using the divine name, and more than later OT writers refused to use El Shaddai. We can discuss what it means that God has revealed himself as Yahweh/Jehovah; I don't have a problem with singing "Before Jehovah's awful throne". The Psalms are particularly attracted to archaic titles of God, like El Elyon, so singing would seem to be an appropriate place to use the old name of God. Of course, we as Christians know more about the God of whom we are singing than the authors of the psalms. But I personally wouldn't normally use Jehovah/Yahweh when reading Scripture (I have good friends who would disagree, such as Ralph Davis). I'd follow the NT pattern of reading adonai (the Lord), which is what we do in our Hebrew classes. As I say, though, this is not a confessional issue: I'd happily serve alongside people who hold the opposite view on this.
The difference seems to be, then, that I regard YHWH as current whereas you regard it (I think) as provisional OT revelation (perhaps a bit like the Ark of the Covenant) which served its purpose but has now been fulfilled and superseded by the much more abundant revelation in Christ. And you would regard the name (again like the Ark of the Covenant) as "waxing old and ready to vanish away" even in OT times.

This obviously affects the argument regarding Chronicles. You would see the changes between Samuel and Chronicles as pointing to the "vanishing away" of the name YHWH whereas I would regard that as an impossible explanation and would want to look for something else.
 

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello Douglas / @Douglas Somerset ,

Thank you for presenting your views with respect to continuing the use of the divine name, Jehovah – it is greatly appreciated. For those who are not learned in Biblical Hebrew yet also love the name Jehovah, would you please summarize (you could certainly go at length, if you wish!) your arguments and thoughts on this.
I can't give a very strong argument, but basically it would be this.

1) That the adoption of "Jehovah" by the Church (pre-Reformation and Reformation) from the time of Raymond Martini (c. 1280 AD) onwards -- and possibly earlier -- strongly suggests that Hebrew MSS of that period were pointing YHWH as Yehowah. (This is in contrast with the Aleppo and Leningrad codices which seldom point YHWH as Yehowah).

2) That this pointing passed from Hebrew MSS to printed Hebrew Bibles, and continued to dominate until the twentieth century. So when Christians went to their Hebrew Bible they found "Jehovah".

3) From the early sixteenth century there have been those arguing that Jehovah is not the correct pronunciation. These people have strong arguments, but never quite convincing. Their theories don't quite match the data, and their confidence often seems excessive and somewhat suspicious to those have repeatedly observed "the assured results of human learning" toppling before new discoveries.

4) Meanwhile Christians (some of them at least) have quietly continued to benefit from contemplating the name "Jehovah", wondering what the future holds in store on the subject. They recognise that they seem unlearned, foolish, and stubborn to their critics but they remit that to the Lord.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I have taken some time to read through most of this thread. I have a few questions that I desire to gain some more simpler answers about. 1) What is the motivation for being so pin pointed about this issue. I know the importance of how one addresses another can be one. No one desires to address someone incorrectly. At the same time most of us accept some ambiguity. Superstition does play a part in this discussion. 2) When it comes to Deity, the names of God are more themed concerning some attribute concerning who he is. His names define him. Is it not more important to know and understand what the terminology is saying than how precisely it is spelled or pronounced? We say God instead of El. We say Jesus or Joshua instead of Jeshua. We say I Am instead of the Hebrew equivalent. Are my questions making sense? How can I clarify my thoughts if not? And yes, I believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thank you, Douglas! Your labors and views are much appreciated here.

-----

Hello Randy,

I suppose it comes down to this: I simply believe that Jehovah is the name of God given us in the Old Testament of His word. It was the name used by those who framed the Westminster Standards, as the use of the name in the WLC 101 appears to be an indication, and in the Canons of Dort as I mentioned in the OP. The Bible that I use – the King James – translates the Tetragrammaton with that name, when it does not adopt the convention LORD. The teachers I for the most part hearken to, those of the PRCA, use that name (though I note that once, in the four volumes of his Unfolding Covenant History, Homer C. Hoeksema used Yahweh, but many other times Jehovah). David J. Engelsma, who is continuing the series, uses Jehovah. There are many defenses supporting this usage (especially among the older writers), as well many defenses of either Yahweh or an admission of uncertainty. And there are many commentators I love who use Yahweh – we simply differ in that matter.

The hymnody of the church in earlier ages uses Jehovah, as do many of the metrical versions of the Psalms.

If I stand in the company of the Reformers and use Jehovah I will not only be in accord with them, but will be in good company.

In my personal communion with the LORD my God I usually use Father, or Lord Jesus, or Holy Spirit when addressing Him – or just LORD. Though I gladly sing, “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah” when that hymn comes up in worship.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Well Steve, Concerning the denominational peculiarities, I sing from a Psalter exclusively during Sabbath worship and think that is important. That is another argument not to be digested here mind you. I think I understand your argument but think it is a bit narrow when the importance through history should have been placed more in the knowing what is meant by the terminology. I have heard other arguments that Adonai and YHWH were pulsed together to form Jehovah. I solidly came to understand the significance of 'I Am' when I was fully converted after reading, "Before Abraham was, I AM." I just don't believe the Hebrew equivalent is Jehovah by original pronunciation or diction. If that is a hill you decide to stand upon that is okay with me. I just don't buy the argument as I don't buy others of Hoeksema's peculiarities either.

We are an English speaking people. Our dialect and speaking patterns differ so greatly from other foreign languages. When I consider the difficulty for middle eastern or any foreigner to pronounce things transliterated or spelled this argument gets stuck in a mire. It is more important to focus on the meaning then what I consider a very minor point. Yes, minor points lead to major points but the trees tend to get too dense in the forest sometimes.

Just my opinion. And I agree with you Steve concerning the Reformers line of textual criticism. i.e. John Owen for example.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Americans speak ENGLISH? That is news to me. Do you agree @Reformed Covenanter ? :stirpot:
I had to remind a British friend recently that the name of the English language comes from the Angles that originally spoke it, and not our tea-drinking island dwelling friends across the pond. Of course there's inherently nothing wrong with putting leaves, grass clippings, or any other such thing in hot water and treating it as a commodity.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Junior
I'm curious: regardless of how one feels about this, it seems it would be correct to say that the pronunciation of "Jehovah" with a hard "j" sound is more of a mispronunciation of its Englished form, and it originally would have been pronounced with a "y" sound (e.g., as in Hallelu-jah). Is that the general consensus?
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm curious: regardless of how one feels about this, it seems it would be correct to say that the pronunciation of "Jehovah" with a hard "j" sound is more of a mispronunciation of its Englished form, and it originally would have been pronounced with a "y" sound (e.g., as in Hallelu-jah). Is that the general consensus?
I have read that the “J” sound is a fairly recent innovation, originating in French before migrating to English just a few centuries ago.
 

PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm curious: regardless of how one feels about this, it seems it would be correct to say that the pronunciation of "Jehovah" with a hard "j" sound is more of a mispronunciation of its Englished form, and it originally would have been pronounced with a "y" sound (e.g., as in Hallelu-jah). Is that the general consensus?
Those who still promote Jehovah (such as Karaite Jew Nehemia Gordon) use the Y - Ye-ho-VAH. “J” is rather late in English and often has the “Y” sounds (e.g. hallelujah). Hebrew has no hard J sound, as many languages don’t. In fact, the only ones I know that use Jehovah with a J sounds are English, French, and Italian. Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Russian, German, and the vast majority of others use the Y sounds, even if they use the J letter.

Do I think we should stop using Jehovah? In used to say yes, but now I say no. Jehovah is as much English as Jesus (vs. Yeshua), Isaiah (vs. Yeshayahu), or Paul (vs. Pavlos). I use Yahweh also but don’t have a problem with Jehovah.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Those who still promote Jehovah (such as Karaite Jew Nehemia Gordon) use the Y - Ye-ho-VAH. “J” is rather late in English and often has the “Y” sounds (e.g. hallelujah). Hebrew has no hard J sound, as many languages don’t. In fact, the only ones I know that use Jehovah with a J sounds are English, French, and Italian. Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Russian, German, and the vast majority of others use the Y sounds, even if they use the J letter.

Do I think we should stop using Jehovah? In used to say yes, but now I say no. Jehovah is as much English as Jesus (vs. Yeshua), Isaiah (vs. Yeshayahu), or Paul (vs. Pavlos). I use Yahweh also but don’t have a problem with Jehovah.
Just to reinforce Johnathan's point, the "J" in Jehovah is the same as the J in every other place or person name in the Old Testament (or New Testament). So if you are going to scruple over that, you should also stop calling it Jerusalem, Jericho, or Jezreel, and rename Jesus, Jonathan and Jeremiah - and as for the Book of James (Iacobos)!!!. You should probably also never say you are flying (internationally) to Moscow, Geneva, or Prague, since all of those are anglicized versions of names in other languages. Most languages do that in some form or other.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Junior
That’s what I was sort of hinting at: it seems strange to me to scruple at “Jehovah” (with a hard j sound) being confessional and the revealed name of God, and yet be fine with pronouncing it differently than it was originally in Hebrew or even in English.
 
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