“Yahweh” or “Jehovah”?

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“Your
Word Is Truth”

“Yahweh”
or “Jehovah”?


NAMES are important. Harvard
University researchers found that not only were people influenced by the
first names others had but the names that parents gave their children
affected them either favorably or unfavorably.


A study of the Bible shows that its Author appreciated the value of his
name. Among his many titles are “the true God,” “the Most High,”
“Sovereign Lord,” “Grand Creator” and “King of eternity.”

In addition to these titles he has a distinctive name, sometimes
referred to as the Tetragrammaton.
It is so designated because of
its four Hebrew letters that correspond to the English letters YHWH, or
JHVH, the consonants forming the basis of the name “Jehovah.”—Gen. 5:22;
Ps. 83:18; 69:6; Eccl. 12:1; 1 Tim. 1:17.


But how shall this Tetragrammaton
be pronounced? The exact Hebrew pronunciation of it has been lost, since
in ancient times Hebrew contained no written vowels and the
pronunciation was handed down by word of mouth. By and large, there are
two forms in use:
“Yahweh,” with
the accent on the second syllable, and
“Jehovah.”
Concerning the form “Jehovah,”
a Jesuit writer
says: “It is disconcerting to see the divine name written as Jehovah, a 16th-century . . .
error for Jahweh.”—America,
Nov. 27, 1971, p. 460.
In the same vein the New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “JEHOVAH, false
form of the divine name Yahweh.
The name Jehovah first
appeared in manuscripts in the 13th century A.D., but had probably been
in use for some time.” (Vol. 7, p. 863) Likewise the Revised Standard
Version translators objected to the form “Jehovah,” stating that “the word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form
of the Name ever used in Hebrew,” and that “it is almost if not quite
certain that the Name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh.’” (P. vi.) Also, the modern Roman
Catholic version known as The Jerusalem Bible uses the form “Yahweh,” even as does
Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible.


In
view of these opinions, why do the witnesses of Jehovah prefer to use
“Jehovah” rather than “Yahweh”?
For one thing, no one can be certain just what the
original pronunciation was, even as admitted by those who prefer
“Yahweh.” And further, the form
“Jehovah” has a
currency and familiarity that “Yahweh” does not have. “Yahweh” is
obviously a transliteration, whereas “Jehovah” is a translation, and Bible names generally have
been translated rather than transliterated. A transliteration usually
sounds strange to the ears of those speaking the tongue into which the
proper name has been transliterated.


That there are valid reasons for
using the form “Jehovah” can
be seen from the fact that, while in both the Protestant Revised
Standard Version and the Roman Catholic New American Bible the name
“Jehovah” does not appear, the translators of the New English Bible have
not shrunk back altogether from using it. Thus their translation at
Exodus 3:15, 16 and 6:3 reads:


“You
must tell the Israelites this, that it is JEHOVAH the God of their
forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, who
has sent you to them. . . . Go and assemble the elders of Israel and
tell them that JEHOVAH the God of their forefathers, the God of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to you.” “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob as God Almighty. But I did not let myself be known to them by
my name JEHOVAH.” Interestingly, the translators in a footnote make the
following observation: “The Hebrew consonants are YHWH, probably
pronounced Yahweh, but traditionally read Jehovah.”


Even more to the point is what
the noted English Bible scholar J. B. Rotherham has to say on this
subject. Especially is this of interest in view of the fact that he
might be said to have been one of the pioneers in using the form
“Yahweh” in transliterating the Tetragrammaton. His Emphasised Bible was
published in 1897, whereas his Studies in the Psalms were not published
until 1911, after he had died. In this latter work Rotherham returned
to the use of “Jehovah,” which
is all the more remarkable in view of how strongly he objected to the
form “Jehovah” in the
introduction to his Emphasised Bible. In explanation of his reasons for
returning to the form “Jehovah,” he says in the introduction to his
Studies:


“Jehovah—The employment of this English form
of the Memorial name [Exo. 3:18] in the present version of the Psalter
does not arise from any misgiving as to the more correct pronunciation,
as being Yahweh; but solely from practical evidence personally selected
of the desirability of keeping in touch with the public ear and eye in a
matter of this kind, in which the principal thing is the easy
recognition of the Divine name intended. . . . As the chief evidence of
the significance of the name consists not nearly so much in its
pronunciation as in the completeness with which it meets all
requirements—especially as explaining how the Memorial name was fitted
to become such, and to be the preeminent covenant name that it
confessedly is, it has been thought desirable to fall back on the form
of the name more familiar (while perfectly acceptable) to the general
Bible-reading public.”


Rotherham realized that what was
important was not the more accurate pronunciation but the “easy
recognition of the Divine name intended,” thereby keeping better in
touch with the “general Bible-reading public” by means of a name that is
“perfectly acceptable” and “meets all requirements” of its uniqueness.
In a similar vein S. T. Byington in his Preface to The Bible in Living
English notes that “the spelling and the pronunciation are not highly
important. What is highly important is to keep it clear that this is a
personal name. There are several texts that cannot be properly
understood if we translate this name by a common noun like ‘Lord.’”


Those who object to the use of “Jehovah” might be said to
“strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel!” (Matt. 23:24) How so? In
that they make much of the correct pronunciation of God’s name, and yet
they seldom if ever use it but prefer to call him “God” or “Lord,” which
are mere titles, there being many called “lords” and “gods.”—1 Cor.
8:5, 6.


How greatly the Author of the Bible set store by his unique
name is apparent from the fact that his Word uses it to refer to himself
more often than all other designations put together, for a total of
6,961 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. His concern is also seen in the
fact that the expression “they shall know that I am Jehovah” occurs
upward of seventy-five times in those writings.


The
name “Jehovah” was chosen by Him with great purpose, for it literally
means “He Causes to Become.” Jehovah’s distinctive name shows him to be a
God of purpose. Whatever he purposes comes to pass.—Isa. 55:11.

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