A Curious Fact
Here is a curious fact: The name “Jehovah” appears thousands of times in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka “The Old Testament”), but not once in the Christian Greek Scriptures (aka “The New Testament”).
Why, do you suppose, that is?
The Watchtower has its theory, and I have mine.
First, the Watchtower’s explanation:
One of the remarkable facts not only about the extant manuscripts of the original Greek text but of many versions, ancient and modern, is the absence of the divine name. In the ancient Hebrew Scriptures that name was represented thousands of times by four letters, generally called the Tetragrammaton and represented by the English letters JHVH (or, YHWH). The exact pronunciation of the name is not known today, but the most popular way of rendering it is “Jehovah.”
Since the Christian Greek Scriptures were an inspired addition and supplement to the sacred Hebrew Scriptures, this sudden disappearance of the divine name from the Greek text seems inconsistent…
Concerning the use of the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Greek Scriptures, George Howard of the University of Georgia, U.S.A., wrote in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 96, 1977, p. 63:
“Recent discoveries in Egypt and the Judean Desert allow us to see first hand the use of God’s name in pre-Christian times. These discoveries are significant for N[ew] T[estament] studies in that they form a literary analogy with the earliest Christian documents and may explain how NT authors used the divine name. In the following pages we will set forth a theory that the divine name, YHWH (and possibly abbreviations of it), was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the O[ld] T[estament] and that in the course of time it was replaced mainly with the surrogate Ky’ri·os, [“Lord”].”
We concur with the above, with this exception: We do not consider this view a “theory,” but, rather, a presentation of the facts of history as to the transmission of Bible manuscripts.int p. 1133 1A The Carry-Over of the Divine Name Into the Greek Scriptures
So, here is an example of the WT regarding a “theory” as a “fact.” [Too bad they can’t do that with the scientific theory of evolution, which they denigrate — erroneously — as “just a theory.”] However, in this case, we have no compelling evidence to back up the theory. The fact that non-inspired writers in pre-Christian times were using YHWH doesn’t have much of a bearing on whether inspired Christian writers used it.
If their god was so concerned about his name being known, why did he allow it to be replaced by “Lord”? Why would devout Christian copyists make this change?
Enter my explanation:
My explanation is that the name YHWH was not replaced; writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures (CGS) never used YHWH to refer to their god in the first place.
Why didn’t they? Because Jesus’ god — and hence the god of his followers: the Christians — was not Jehovah.
Jehovah was a war god of the ancient Israelites. He wasn’t their only god, though he was depicted as wanting their exclusive devotion (by the priests of Jehovah, who stood to gain from all of those meaty sacrifices).
The Israelites were also worshippers of the gods El, Baal, and Asherah. The latter was El’s consort at first, and later Jehovah’s consort. In Canaanite mythology, Jehovah was a son of the god El, and the Bible tells us that all of El’s sons were to die. (See Does God Exist?)
According to the CGS, Jesus depicts his god as a loving, merciful heavenly father who cares about each sparrow, and advocates pacifism. That is not at all how one could honestly describe Jehovah as depicted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jehovah did not show mercy to the first human couple when they didn’t yet know wrong from right. He instituted a system of massive ritual animal sacrifice to appease himself (and savor the smell of burning flesh), and he ordered his people to show no mercy to their enemies as they ran their swords through every last one of them and their animals.
“and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.”
— Deut. 7:2 (NIV)
“For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
— Joshua 11:20 (NIV)
“Whoever is found will be pierced through, And whoever is caught will fall by the sword. Their children will be dashed to pieces before their eyes, Their houses will be looted, And their wives will be raped. Here I am raising up against them the Medes, Who regard silver as nothing And who take no delight in gold. Their bows will shatter young men; They will show no pity on the fruit of the womb Nor mercy to children.”
—Isa:13:15-18 (NWT, 2013 ed.)
“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”
— Hosea 13:16 (NIV)
The god whom Jesus described as his “father” was nothing like the god Jehovah. Jesus warns against anyone harming a child; Jehovah arranges for children to be “dashed to pieces.” Jesus says to pray for and forgive our enemies; Jehovah “hardens their hearts” in order to “exterminate them without mercy.”
Jesus was promoting a new idea: a god as a loving heavenly father, full of the same kindness and forgiveness Jesus expected of his followers. That’s why he never called his god Jehovah, and that’s why the name Jehovah (YHWH) never appears in any of the writings of the CGS.
Given my explanation (which I think fits the facts better than the WT explanation), it follows that:
- The forcing of the name “Jehovah” into their New World Translation of the CGS is a case of “adding to the word,” and is erroneous.
- The designation “Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses” becomes an oxymoron.
- As self-professed Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses are worshipping the wrong god: a cruel, vindictive war-god who, characteristically, is expected to engage in the mass-murder of Armageddon “any day now”!