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Is “Jehovah” in the Bible?

QUESTION:

How firmly grounded in reality is the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the ‘divine name’ (Jehovah) belongs in the New Testament?

 

RESPONSE

So this is an interesting question, with several possible ramifications.  At first I should explain that the divine name “Jehovah” doesn’t belong in *either* Testament, old or new, in the opinion of most critical scholars, outside the ranks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  That’s because Jehovah was not the divine name.

So here’s the deal.  In the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) God is given a number of different designations.  Sometimes he is called God (the Hebrew word is El, or more commonly – by far – the plural form of that word, ELOHIM); or The Almighty (SHADDAI), or God Almighty (EL SHADDAI), or Lord (ADONAI), or – well, or lots of other things.   But sometimes the God of Israel is actually given his personal name.   Like everyone else, he has a name.  And his name was יהוה (in English letters, that looks like YHWH).

Written Hebrew, as you probably know…

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    jhm  March 10, 2015

    Do you have any opinion on this idea of the origins of YHWH:

    “NARRATOR: The Shasu were a people who lived in the deserts of southern Canaan, now Jordan and northern Saudi Arabia, around the same time as the Israelites emerged.

    “Egyptian texts say one of the places where the Shasu lived is called “Y.H.W.,” probably pronounced Yahu, likely the name of their patron god. That name Yahu is strangely similar to Yahweh, the name of the Israelite god.

    “In the Bible, the place where the Shasu lived is referred to as Midian. It is here, before the Exodus, the Bible tells us, Moses first encounters Yahweh, in the form of a burning bush.”

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/bibles-buried-secrets.html

  2. Avatar
    Tom  March 10, 2015

    Topics like this are so very interesting, Dr. B.

    Thanks for including them.

  3. Avatar
    walstrom  March 10, 2015

    Thank you for covering this topic.
    I was a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses for twenty years and am conversant with all the arguments presented by the Watchtower organization bolstering their use of Jehovah in the New Testament.
    I’ll simply post three of these proffered arguments for your delectation in order to gauge your scholarly response.

    1. About the middle of the first century C.E., the disciple James said to the elders in Jerusalem: “Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) Does it sound logical to you that James would make such a statement if nobody in the first century knew or used God’s name?
    2. When copies of the Septuagint were discovered that used the divine name rather than Ky′ri·os (Lord), it became evident to the (NWT) translators that in Jesus’ day copies of the earlier Scriptures in Greek—and of course those in Hebrew—did contain the divine name.
    Apparently, the God-dishonoring tradition of removing the divine name from Greek manuscripts developed only later. What do you think? Would Jesus and his apostles have promoted such a tradition?—Matthew 15:6-9.
    3.The AnchorBible Dictionary makes this comment: “There is some evidence that the Tetragrammaton, the Divine Name, Yahweh, appeared in some or all of the O[ld] T[estament] quotations in the N[ew] T[estament] when the NT documents were first penned.” And scholar George Howard says: “Since the Tetragram was still written in the copies of the Greek Bible [the Septuagint] which made up the Scriptures of the early church, it is reasonable to believe that the N[ew] T[estament] writers, when quoting from Scripture, preserved the Tetragram within the biblical text.”
    ________________________
    Below are some examples of English translations that have used God’s name in the New Testament:
    A Literal Translation of the New Testament . . . From the Text of the VaticanManuscript, by Herman Heinfetter (1863)
    The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson (1864)
    The Epistles of Paul in Modern English, by George Barker Stevens (1898)
    St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, by W. G. Rutherford (1900)
    The Christian’s Bible—New Testament, by George N. LeFevre (1928)
    The New Testament Letters, by J.W.C. Wand, Bishop of London (1946)
    _________________

    Is this merely a fetish on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses to protect their ‘branding’?
    How arbitrary and out of step with the scholarly community is the Watchtower organization?

    Thank you very much!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 11, 2015

      Short responses:
      1. “The name” is another way to say the name of God without saying the name of God. You just say, “the name” and you mean “God” or “Yahweh”
      2. Yes, there are Septuagint manuscripts that preserve the tetragrammaton. But most don’t.
      3. I don’t know of any evidence that NT authors actually used the Hebrew letters for the tetragrammaton in their quotations of the OT. Do these authors actually say what the evidence *is*? I’ve looked at probably all the earliest manuscripts of the NT Gospels and I can’t think of a single stitch of evidence for that claim. But maybe I’m wrong!

      • talitakum
        talitakum  March 12, 2015

        The AnchorBible Dictionary’s comment is a false statement. It’s a lie. There’s no such evidence, as dr. Ehrman knows better than any of us. It’s surprising to see how many unfounded statements like this you can find everywhere, from Wikipedia up to decent Commentaries, underpinned by so-and-so scholars. If dr. Ehrman, one day, would decide to open this can of worms he will have some fun – as he had with mythicists and christian conservatives/apologists. 🙂
        Regarding the evidence for the tetragrammaton in some LXX fragments, it doesn’t obviously imply any evidence of the Tetragrammaton on NT text !! Moreover, as dr Ehrman correctly pointed out, these LXX fragments are exceptions and such “hebraicized” exceptions already got a satisfactory explanation by scholars of the LXX.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 12, 2015

          Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a “lie” in the sense that it is an “intentional false statement meant to deceive.” My sense is that the author really believed it. Even though he was wrong.

      • Rick
        Rick  March 17, 2015

        Is not HaShem, meaning the name, used by some Jews in place of ADONAI,,, which was in place of the Tetragrammaton? I’ve heard the Shema in a reform Temple said with Adonai, but understand other Jews find that inappropriate..

        • Bart
          Bart  March 17, 2015

          Maybe someone can give a definitive answer to this. I thought HaShem was used to replace YHWH which itself was pronounced as Adonai. Does anyone else know for certain?

          • Avatar
            swede  May 9, 2015

            No one should really add to the Bakers bread, … =o), … but I heard something interesting from the Jewish Rabbi, Tovia Singer.

            The Hebrew word “Hashem” means “The Name” (as was mentioned about Gods name before). But the thing is that for an orthodox Jew (a Jew that knows his scripures) this Hebrew word also describes a word for God, he giving full attention using this word, with it´s special meaning expressing the most intimate relationship a man can have with his God.

            By calling on the Name of the Lord God, they are saying like a variant of “Abba Father” (meaning: “Dear Daddy!”). In this case, the word “Hashem” is like an equivalent word for the most sensitive love-relationship a man can have with his God.

            It´s such a big thing for a Jew, and so as he bows his neck before God (often in the very typical wavering back and forth), and in his prayer comes to “Hashem (The Name)”, he actually in that moment stands in a right up position, in full adoration, reverence and respect, and often in tears, because he is now so close to God in that name.

          • Lef
            Lef  September 30, 2015

            In normal prayer, we Jews address G-d as Adonai. But when we speak of G-d otherwise than in a prayer, or when we speak of G-d between us for any purpose, we always use Ha Shem (The Name) so as not NOT invoque His name in vain.
            For the same reason, many Jews including myself prefer to not write God in full and we prefer to add or substract to the word, ie.e G-d or G.d in English or D.ieu in French with the added dot.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  October 14, 2015

        1. As a Jew I can confirm this. When orthodox Jews are discussing God in ordinary conversation they don’t even say the word “God”. They instead refer to God as “haShem”, or, literally, “The Name” in Hebrew.

  4. Avatar
    nacord  March 10, 2015

    A JW (who was eagerly attempting to convert me) was saying that the book of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew and did in fact employ the divine name, though written using pre-biblical Hebrew characters. I think they say that Jerome mentions such a manuscript as still being in existence during his time. Have you ever hear of this argument? I tried to do some research but came up with very little (outside of the watchtower). Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 11, 2015

      Jerome mentions a Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew, but to my knowledge he doesn’t say anything about its transcription of the divine name. Maybe someone else knows off the top of their head?

      • talmoore
        talmoore  October 14, 2015

        In Shem Tov’s Hebrew translation of Matthew in his book Touchstone (a Jewish polemic against Matthew), Shem Tov translates the instances of Lord in the Greek (Kyrios) into the typical Rabbinical abbrevation for the Tetragammaton, ה’ (i.e. hey followed by an apostrophe or two), instead of using the Hebrew word for Lord, Adonai. I’ve read somewhere that some scholars think this suggests that Shem Tov actually had a copy of the orginal Hebrew Matthew in front of him, but from my reading of Shem Tov’s Hebrew (I can read Hebrew) it’s pretty clear to me that Shem Tov’s Hebrew Matthew is pretty much a complete mess and is highly unlikely to be a direct copy of an original Hebrew manuscript.

    • Lef
      Lef  September 30, 2015

      I doubt that any Jew would be eager to convert anyone. We believe that if G-d had wanted you to be a Jew, you would have been born into a Jewish family. Besides, we believe that G-d has a purpose for each part of Humanity so it is not for us to change anyone’s beliefs.
      Real Jews NEVER EVER attempt to convert anyone, it is actually forbidden. Some Christian sects like “Jews for Jesus” for example definitely try to win converts but then they are definitely NOT real Jews, they just like the disguise because it enables them to claim that they are just what Jesus was. If he ever existed, I believe Jesus was born a Jew and died a Jew. The Romans put a sign on his head with the words “King of the Jews”.

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  June 25, 2016

        1. Another post in which you refer to “we Jews” as if you’re speaking for all Jews.
        2. You ignore the fact that there are Jewish converts. Are you saying God doesn’t consider them real Jews because “if G-d had wanted you to be a Jew, you would have been born into a Jewish family”? Being a convert doesn’t imply anyone tried to convert you.
        3. If anything is true about Jews it’s that the discussion among Jews of who is a “real Jew” is old and that it continues. How bad a Jew can you be and still be a Jew? Can you be a cultural, non-religious Jew? Are the Orthodox in Israel right that Reform Jews aren’t really Jews? These are unresolved questions. Please don’t talk (or write) as though it’s clear or settled who “real Jews” are.

  5. Avatar
    caseyjunior  March 10, 2015

    This question is only tangentially related to the current post, but I can’t resist asking it. After attending your lectures in Wichita several weeks ago, I read Misquoting Jesus and Reinterpreting Jesus. I was take by the statement that the day of the crucifiction is different in the synoptics from the day in John, so I checked it out in three translations of the New Testament that I have. The Revised Standard version and the translation by Richmond Lattimore both agreed that in John the crucifiction occurred on the day of preparation for the passover. However, the New International Version just said it was on the day of preparation, with a note at the bottom of the page stating this meant the day of preparation for the sabbath. Is this a case of modern “scribes” “correcting” a translation so the gospels don’t contradict each other, or is there some technicality I’m missing here? Thanks for the indulgence on being off topic.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 11, 2015

      Yes, the translators are changing what the text actually says because they know that what it says is a contradiction.

      • talitakum
        talitakum  March 12, 2015

        I am not sure I understand this right. I think all Gospels agree on the fact that Jesus was crucified on Friday (the day before Saturday/Sabbath). So what does it mean that “the day of the crucifiction is different in the synoptics from the day in John”?
        I believe that the discrepancy between John and synoptics is about that Saturday/Sabbath being also Passover day. But this would have nothing to deal with the day of Jesus’ crucifiction, all evangelists apparently agree on the fact that Jesus crucifiction (and burial) happened the day before Sabbath (Friday). Thank you.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 12, 2015

          Yes, the issue is not whether it was a Friday or not. The issue is whether that Friday was the Day before the Passover or whether it was the Passover — so was Jesus’ last meal a regular meal or a Passover meal.

          • Lef
            Lef  September 30, 2015

            All I can say is that it could not possibly be either on the eve of Pessach (Easter) or on the day of Pessach. At these times, Jews would not stand for the execution of anyone – even a non-Jew, let alone a Jewish Teacher which is what we are told Jesus was.

  6. Avatar
    Hon Wai  March 10, 2015

    Did ancient Hebrew writers omit the vowels to save space, making it quicker to make copies of the manuscripts?
    Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the notion of the Holy Spirit being God. Can you post on whether this is supported by New Testament? A post on how the Holy Spirit “became God” is helpful.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 11, 2015

      They simply didn’t have vowels in their alphabet. I’ll think about posting on the Holy Spirit!

      • Avatar
        Diane  March 11, 2015

        I think the Holy Spirit deserves his/her/its own book. There is no weirder or more neglected topic in Christianity!

        • Bart
          Bart  March 12, 2015

          And much less to say about it, since the early Christians themselves did not say much!

  7. Avatar
    Hon Wai  March 10, 2015

    “When you add the vowels of ADONAI to the consonants of YHWH, it makes it very hard indeed to say”

    Presumably it would sound something like “Yahowaih” – doesn’t sound difficult to say to me??

    • Bart
      Bart  March 11, 2015

      Well, if nothing else it’s very weird and would have taken a while to figure out — and with that pause they would know what they should say instead.

      • Avatar
        Adam Beaven  March 11, 2015

        Dr ehrman
        Maybe this is a dumb question but is the consonantal skeleton for yhwh the same as adonai?

      • Avatar
        pampelius  May 5, 2015

        Hi Bart, and thank you for a very interesting post and blog!
        I was wondering how scholars come to the conclusion that the name was probably pronounced Yahweh?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 6, 2015

          Great question! I don’t know!

        • Avatar
          Kataryn  November 1, 2019

          @pampelius I seem to recall commentary in the Open English Bible (OEB), or the World English Bible (WEB) saying that the pronunciation of the tetragramaton ( YHWH יהוה ) was tri-syllabic. and that they were basing it on theophoric (names that incorporate parts of the divine name). eg. Yeho-shua.

          I could be wrong, but i **think** the argument for Yahweh rested on which hebrew root one supposed the name was based on.

          For comparison, the wiki article on the tetragramaton, gives a listing on the variety of vowel markers for each of the times the tetragramaton appears in the masoretic texts. -which would probably indicate how it was NOT to be pronounced.

      • Avatar
        Bretstone  April 16, 2016

        Bart,
        I was a Jehovah’s Witness for 20 yrs and left to focus on my own personal faith as a Bible Student and to take a look at Jesus, YHWH, and Christianity from a historic view as well.
        My one question is related to how many syllables there most likely were in the pronunciation of the name YHWH?
        The Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that many of the abreviated names in the bible that contain a part of the tetragramation contain 2 syllables of the devine name, indicating that YHWH possibly had 3 syllables much like Jehovah, and not 2 like Yahweh?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 18, 2016

          Ah, I’ll add that one to the weekly mailbag, since it’s an interesting issue with an unexpected answer!

          • Avatar
            Kataryn  November 1, 2019

            @bart I would be interested to hear feedback on criticisms on the research below.

            @Bretstone
            I was talking with my jw friend a few months back on this topic in the thread.

            you may be interested in some Thesis works
            http://www.areopage.net/howard.pdf

            https://www.academia.edu/22707254/English_Review_of_F._Shaw_The_Earliest_Non-Mystical_Jewish_Use_of_%CE%99%CE%B1%CF%89_2014_

            > The first is an examination of when the removal of Jehovah’s name occurred, and by who. It argues that it was the *christians,* not the jews during the 2nd century who censored the divine name. It was quoted in the Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 96, No. 1 (Mar., 1977), pp. 63–83, The Society of Biblical Literature.

            > The part i found most interesting is that the tetragramaton was often mistaken for “pipi” in the Greek, so translators resorted to writing the Tetragramaton in Aramaic or using the paleolithic Hebrew version instead. The second talks about the related use of HaShem (The Name). of interest is Caligula’s blasphemy using Jehovah’s name, and the confusion of mistaking Jehovah’s name with the worship of donkeys. This would be indicative that 1st century pagans knew of and even heard Jehovah’s name being spoken.

            @bart related to this thread, the WBTS occasionally publishes manuscripts that contain the divine name.
            On one of their online articles, they describe what I think is the Foud manuscript of the Septuagint. They describe it as “from Jesus’ time” As a rule, they never publish citations, nor attributions. In this case, I believe, it’s to misrepresent that this fragment is from the 1st century BCE, not during “jesus’ time” 1st century CE.

            -am i being overly pedantic?

            do you recognize this fragment, Is it from the Foud collection, or is it from a newer manuscript?
            https://assetsnffrgf-a.akamaihd.net/assets/m/2017210/univ/art/2017210_univ_cnt_2_xl.jpg
            https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/watchtower-no6-2017-november/bible-versions-translations/

            They elsewhere feature the Fouad in this video: https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/VODBibleTranslations/docid-502018464_1_VIDEO My friend said there’s another video, where one of their “Governing Body,” bro. Jackson, made the point about it being the ‘Christian’ churches that took out the divine name, not the jews, in
            one of the monthly broadcasts. -he couldn’t remember where.

            He did relate that “The Fouad papari are shown in the orignal 1969 edition of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, reproduced on page 14. Page 15 mentions the Pi Pi thing, as does Insight on the Scriptures. The reproduction of the Fouad fragments is a little clearer in the 1985 edition of the Interlinear (page 1136).”

            all typos are my own.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 1, 2019

            Sorry — lots of questions here and it’s kinda long. Could you summarize the issue briefly and ask the question again?

    • talmoore
      talmoore  October 14, 2015

      I can say, as a Jew who reads the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew, when I come across the Tetragammaton with the Adonai Nikkudot in it it definitely looks very, very weird. Dr. Ehrman is correct in that.

  8. Avatar
    PersephoneK  March 11, 2015

    That was really interesting! I must confess, I never really thought about the origins of ‘Jehovah’ before, but had generally known about Yahweh, Adonai, El Shaddai, etc.

  9. Avatar
    Jason  March 11, 2015

    It was hard to read this post without imagining you getting rocks thrown at you like John Cleese.

  10. Avatar
    MikeyS  March 11, 2015

    That’s brilliant Bart, thank you.

    One wonders if we are all descended from Adam and Eve or latterly from Noah or his family, then how come the world uses all these different languages? Different dialects certainly. New Yorkers speak so fast, its difficult to keep up.

    One question though?

    Yahweh was supposed to be read from right to left, why didn’t the sound start with an H, rather than the letter Y? Or maybe I have misunderstood it?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 11, 2015

      When we write “YHWH” or “Yahweh” we are reversing the order of the letters because we are putting it in English, writing from left to right. In Hebrew the letters go the other direction.

  11. Avatar
    Philbert  March 11, 2015

    Amazing- I always wondered about that. Thank you.

  12. Avatar
    Mhamed Errifi  March 11, 2015

    hello Bart

    Are you aware that Arabic language it too can be written without vowels . We are told according to tradition, the first to commission a system of harakat or vowels was Muawiyah I of the Umayyad dynasty, when he ordered Ziad Ibn Abih, his wālī in Basra (governed 664–673), since you know the history of Hebrew so when were vowels introduced in Hebrew , is it before 673 AD or after ? just to know who copied the idea from the other Arabs from Jews or jews from Arabs

    thank you

    • Bart
      Bart  March 12, 2015

      The Masorete scribes who added the vowel points to the Hebrew Bible started their work about the year 500 CE.

      • Avatar
        Mhamed Errifi  March 13, 2015

        hello Bart

        Since I am familiar with writing and reading written language without vowels , but I could not understand when you this

        What were Jewish readers supposed to do when they were reading a text that had the unpronounceable name יהוה
        YHWH in it?
        My question is how did the first person I dont who he was maybe Moses wrote that in OT for the first time if יהוה was unpronounceable. As arabic speaker I can read and write arabic while somebody is dictating me without vowels but I cant write a single word until I heard its prounciation just like in any language , so how did the first person write יהוה for the time in OT

        THANK YOU

        • Bart
          Bart  March 13, 2015

          It was not originally unpronouceable.

          • Avatar
            SteveWalach  March 18, 2015

            I suppose any grouping of letters could — with enough effort — generate a vocalization, but given that the writers of the Torah were inclined to make puns, employ irony and use figurative language, isn’t an unpronounceable name for their supreme, incomprehensible deity the perfect metaphor?

  13. Avatar
    Eric  March 11, 2015

    Wow,

    This is fascinating and absolutely new ground for me (read a lot of critical commentary — trade books — on biblical matters). I have never heard any of this. I always assumed that “Jehovah” was some kind of Hellenization or Latinization of Yahweh directly — it did seem a little oddly adjusted, but then Yeshua – Jesus looks like an odd transition to an English speaker, too. (or alternatively, Yeshua-Joshua).

  14. Avatar
    walstrom  March 11, 2015

    Concerning Matthew having been written in Hebrew, Dr. George Howard says:
    ____
    “Papias, a reputed pupil of Apostle John, around 90 A.D. explained: “Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.” (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.39, quoting Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord, which in turn quotes Papias.) The latter remark has been interpreted to mean it was translated as best as could be done.
    Irenaeus likewise says: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome, and founding the church there.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter I, quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter VIII, quoted in Sabine Baring-Gould, The Lost and Hostile Gospels (Williams and Norgate, 1874) at 119..) This means GATHM was circulating by at least 54-58 A.D.”
    (The above taken from http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/books/406-history-of-hebrew-version-of-matthew.html)
    __________________

    If you’ll indulge me (I don’t know in what other contexts I should ask this question) I’d like to ask about Jehovah’s Witnesses peculiar and singular unwillingness to use CROSS (stauros), instead preferring ‘Torture stake.”
    To wit:
    “But what did stau·ros´ mean in the first century when the Greek Scriptures were written? An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, says: “Stauros . . . denotes, primarily, an upright pale or stake. On such malefactors were nailed for execution. Both the noun [stau·ros´] and the verb stauro?, to fasten to a stake or pale, are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed cross. The shape of the latter had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt.” Vine goes on to say: “By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ.” The Companion Bible, under the heading “The Cross and Crucifixion,” notes: “Our English word ‘cross’ is the translation of the Latin crux; but the Greek stauros no more means a crux than the word ‘stick’ means a ‘crutch.’ Homer uses the word stauros of an ordinary pole or stake, or a single piece of timber. And this is the meaning and usage of the word throughout the Greek classics. It never means two pieces of timber placed across one another. . . . There is nothing in the Greek of the N[ew] T[estament] even to imply two pieces of timber.” Watchtower 1989 May 1 pp.23-24
    _______________

    This radical assertion seems totally at odds with traditional Christianity, certainly–but does it have scholarly merit of any weight?

    Thank you!!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 12, 2015

      Yes, the tradition going back to Papias is that Matthew produced a Gospel in Hebrew. Later Christians thought he meant the Gospel of Matthew that has come down to us. There are very good reasons for thinking that he meant a different book, however, since the two things he says about Matthew are not true of our Matthew. Ours is not simply a collection of Jesus’ sayings (Logia) and it was certainly not originally written in Hebrew, as is almost universally recognized on very solid grounds (e.g., it copied stories from the *Greek* Gospel of Mark)

  15. Avatar
    nichael  March 11, 2015

    My personal favorite “pointing” (i.e. adding of vowels) to YHWH is Larry Gonick’s “YaHoo WaHoo!”

  16. Avatar
    GokuEn  March 11, 2015

    I have an idea for what could be a very interesting series of posts, although they are somewhat on the scholarly side… I have been reading different authors on Historical Jesus research and the one thing they all seem to disagree is on the question of the Son of Man. For instance, Vermes believes that “Son of Man” was an aramaic manner of speech, Dale Allison hinted that it could refer to some kind of corporate entity in reference to Dan 9, others believe that Jesus really called himself the apocalyptic Son of Man (usually a more conservative view) and then some say that Jesus preached about the coming of a supernatural entity other than himself (I believe that is your view).

    Could you perhaps give us a sense of what are the “camps” in this dispute and what are the arguments they employ? What is the most common view? Why do adhere to your interpretation of the Son of Man sayings?

    I know this is a very complex subject that might be a bit too much on the scholarly side… But I’ve been really going nuts over this question. Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 12, 2015

      Yes, it’s an unbelievably convoluted subject! I’ll add it to my very long list of things to post about.

      • Avatar
        GokuEn  March 12, 2015

        On the meantime, could you perhaps indulge me by recommending a paper/book that could summarize the “Son of Man debate” up until now? Thanks in advance!

        • Bart
          Bart  March 13, 2015

          I haven’t read it, but you might try “Who Is This Son of Man?” by Larry Hurtado and Paul Owen.

          • Avatar
            GokuEn  March 13, 2015

            Thanks a lot!

  17. Avatar
    Laszlo  March 13, 2015

    I have always wanted to ask you this, but I think this is the first time the approtiate topic came up. Do you feel it would be more accurate Or even better if scholars translated the tetragrammaton to Yahweh or even just left the four letters as in the original text Instead of replacing it with lord which is not in the text? How do you deal with text like Acts 15:14 ” …God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” What does that mean if not Yahweh? Also what about the abbreviated forms in the NT like “Hallelujah? Or of names derived from the divine name? Like Jesus which means Yahweh is salvation. Sorry for all the question, but I deal with this a lot and it would be helpfull for some info or even a book you could recommend.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2015

      Good question — I’ve never really thought about it. I guess I’d be comfortable with translating it as YHWH or Yahweh — but it would certainly offend many Jewish sensitivities to do it that way.

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    dragonfly  March 14, 2015

    “Sometimes he is called God (the Hebrew word is El, or more commonly – by far – the plural form of that word, ELOHIM)”
    Does this imply, in some instances the text may have actually been something like, “in the beginning THE GODS created the heavens and the earth”?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 14, 2015

      No, the verb is in the singular, so it is a plural noun being construed as singular.

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    JimBG  March 17, 2015

    It’s seems a little strange to me why there is such resistance by modern translators to using Jehovah in English to render the tetragrammaton because its not how the Hebrews actually pronounced it (as it is unknown). Yet all use the name Jesus, and that is not how the Jews pronounced his name (Yehoshua?) nor Greeks. Similarly there are numerous names that are translated into English like Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehonadab, Jehoshaphat, etc. that incorporate the divine name, which again are not how they were actually pronounced in Hebrew. Since we speak English, not Hebrew, and Jehovah has been in use in English for a long time it seems puzzling. Any thoughts?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2015

      I think the differences is that Jesus is the English of the Greek IHSOUS. Jehovah is not the equivalent of any ancient word.

      • Avatar
        Peter Adetayo  July 17, 2016

        But is it not a fact that the name Jesus in its original language was derived or prefix from the name Jehovah? More so it is said that the name Jesus is a trans-substantiation of the name Isaiah.

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    Alethinon61  May 5, 2015

    Hi Bart,

    Sorry for offering another overly log reply, but I think that a few clarifications are in order. Your article gives the impression that Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that “Jehovah” is how the divine name was pronounced, but that’s not actually the case. Notice what is said on page 7 of volume two of “Insight On the Scriptures”, published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, under the heading “What is the proper pronunciation of God’s name?”:

    “Hebrew scholars generally favor ‘Yahweh’ as the most likely pronunciation. They point out that the abbreviated form of the name is Yah (Jah in the Latinized form), as at Psalm 89:8 and in the expression [Halelu-Yah’] (meaning ‘Praise Jah, you people!’). (Ps 104:35; 150:1, 6) Also, the forms Yehoh’, Yoh, Yah, and Ya’hu, found in the Hebrew spelling of the names Jehoshaphat, Joshaphat, Shephatiah, and others, can all be derived from Yahweh. Greek transliterations of the name by early Christian writers point in a somewhat similar direction with spellings such as [Iabe’ and Iaoue’], which as pronounced in Greek, resemble Yahweh. Still, there is no unanimity among scholars on the subject, some favoring yet other pronunciations, such as ‘Yahuwa,’ ‘Yahuah,’or ‘Yehuah.’ Since certainty of pronunciation is not now attainable, there seems to be no reason for abandoning in English the well-known form ‘Jehovah’ in favor of some other suggested pronunciation.”

    As the publishers of that volume also point out, if we are going to insist on “Yahweh” for God’s name, then, to be consistent, we’d have to change the common spelling of a host of other names. So the Watchtower Society doesn’t argue that “Jehovah” is the correct pronunciation.

    However, interestingly, an article by George Wesley Buchanan entitled “How God’s Name Was Pronounced” appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review (March/April 1995, Vol. 21, No. 2), and he does a good job, I think, in highlighting data that calls into question the pronunciation “Yahweh”. For example, “Yahweh” lacks the middle vowel that is present in Clement of Alexandria’s spellings (represented in English by Buchanan as Ya-oo-ai, Ya-oo-eh, and Ya-oh), in 4QLXX Lev — again, Ya-oh — which was a transliteration of the first part of the name in Hebrew. Buchanan also suggests that reading Hebrew poetry can help:

    “There is still one other clue to the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton–Hebrew poetry. For example, from the poem of Exodus 15, read aloud verses 1, 3, 6, 11, 17 and 18, first pronouncing the Tetragrammaton as ‘Yehweh’ and then read it again, pronouncing the same word as ‘Yahowah.’ Notice the rhyme and poetic beat of the two. In this way the reader can judge which one is the more likely pronunciation used in antiquity.” (ibid, p. 31)

    Buchanan concludes:

    “When the Tetragrammaton was pronounced in one syllable it was ‘Yah’ or ‘Yo.’ When it was pronounced in three syllables it would have been ‘Yahowah’ or Yahoowah.’ If it was ever abbreviated to two syllables it would have been ‘Yaho,’ but even this spelling may have been pronounced with three syllables, including the final aspirant, because Hebrew had no vowel points in Biblical times.”

    As for the question of whether the divine name was written in original NT writings, I think it’s plausible that it was, at least in some of them. All pre-Christian LXX documents that have been found have some form of the divine name, and it seems plausible that the early Christian writers would have been familiar with these. True, Albert Pietersma has argued that KURIOS was used in the original LXX, but Emanuel Tov favors Skehan’s view that ΙΑΩ “reflects the earliest attested stage in the history of the LXX translation.” (see http://www.emanueltov.info/docs/papers/23.Greek.2008.pdf).

    In light of what’s stated in the Tosefta about cutting out the divine names from what may have been Christian writings, I think it’s reasonable to postulate that the name very well may have appeared in some of them. After all, why invent rules about cutting out instances of the divine name from Christian documents if the divine name didn’t appear in any? I can’t help but wonder whether the early Christians themselves replaced original occurrences of the divine name (perhaps in the form ΙΑΩ) with KURIOS specifically to preserve their writings against those who would destroy them, such as those who cut the names out and burned them. Many Jews, like Paul himself before his conversion, felt that at least some Christian teachings were so offensive that they sought to kill Christians. Certainly such individuals would have been highly offended to find the sacred name used in such “blasphemous” writings!

    ~Sean

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  June 25, 2016

      What is the evidence for your claim that “Many Jews, like Paul himself before his conversion, felt that at least some Christian teachings were so offensive that they sought to kill Christians”?

    • Avatar
      Peter Adetayo  July 17, 2016

      Sincerely, I think the Dr. should give this comment a deserved response.

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