The Name of God

tetragrammaton

The tetragrammaton in Hebrew.

Jehovah’s Witnesses stress the importance of using God’s proper name, Jehovah, when referring to the Heavenly Father. The name ‘Jehovah’ is actually one of the transliterations used when referring to the Hebrew word used for God, YHWH. The other commonly used transliteration is the name ‘Yahweh.’ Jews often used the word Adonai (translated ‘Lord’) in place of YHWH (also referred to as the tetragrammaton) out of fear and reverence to God. Most English translations of the Bible use the word ‘LORD’ (all caps) in place of YHWH. Although, some versions (such as the King James Version) use the name ‘Jehovah’ in select passages. An example of this is found in the book of Psalms:

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

–Psalm 83:18

Since Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that Jehovah is the proper name of God and that it is important for those who are in the truth to use God’s proper name when speaking of him, it is reasonable to analyze this doctrine in light of Scripture. When studying this topic, the following question should be asked: How did Jesus and the apostles refer to God? With this question in mind, I introduce the following Old Testament verse:

The LORD (Jehovah) said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

–Psalm 110:1

In this verse, The LORD (Jehovah) speaks to the Messiah in a prophetic manner. The meaning is clear when read in conjunction with Matthew 22:41-46. Jesus quotes the Old Testament verse and identifies himself as the second ‘Lord’ in that verse. It is interesting to note that Jesus does not use any variation of the tetragrammaton. Instead, he uses the Greek work kyrios, which translates to ‘Lord’ in English. When quoting the Old Testament verse, Jesus actually uses the word kyrios twice. Jesus substitutes kyrios for Jehovah and Lord.

So is this just an isolated instance? Does Jesus ever use any variation of the tetragrammaton when referring to God? After reviewing several New Testament passages, it is clear that the use of kyrios (translated ‘Lord’) when referring to Jehovah is the norm when people in the New Testament quote Old Testament verses.

Jesus did this when he was tempted by Satan:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
–Matthew 4:7 (quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16)

Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.
–Matthew 4:10 (Deuteronomy 6:13)

And Paul does this numerous times in his epistles:

Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.
–Romans 4:8 (Psalm 32:2)

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
–Romans 10:13 (Joel 2:32)

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
–Romans 11:34 (Isaiah 40:13)

So what does this all mean for us? If God was overly concerned about us using the name ‘Jehovah’ when referring to him, I’m confident that Jesus and Paul would have used the word at some point in their recorded conversations–and most certainly would have used it when directly quoting sacred Old Testament passages. Since Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the apostles found the word ‘Lord’ acceptable when referring to Jehovah, it stands to reason that Christians today should feel comfortable using ‘Lord’ when referring to God–whether in worship, prayer, or Scripture.

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2 Comments

  1. steve

     /  May 9, 2012

    I do not agree. First off the Jews removed the name because they thought it was too scared to say. Second of all, Jesus and the apostles did use the name Jehovah. The problem is that most translations remove the name Jehovah out of it. it would make sense that God would have a name. Each apostle had a name. They were called by their name. So why would God not be called by his name.

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