One of the regular subjects that the Watchtower Society writes about is of course the Name of Jehovah. The Watchtower, 1 August 2008, is a case in point when they specifically asked, “Should the Name Jehovah appear in the New Testament?” – pp.18-22. I want to comment on the main points they make within the article.
First, however, we should just mention that whatever appears in the New Testament it probably should not be Jehovah as that is not the transliteration of the Tetragrammaton – the 4 Hebrew consonants YHWH.
“When Christian scholars of Europe first began to study Hebrew, they did not understand what this really meant, and they introduced the hybrid name ‘Jehovah’…THE TRUE PRONUNCIATION OF THE NAME YHWH WAS NEVER LOST. Several early Greek writers of the Christian church testify that the name was pronounced ‘YAHWEH.’ This is confirmed, at least for the vowel of the first syllable of the name, by the shorter form Yah, which is sometimes used in poetry (e.g. Exodus 15:2)… The personal name of God of Israel is written in the Hebrew Bible with the four consonants YHWH and is referred to as the ‘Tetragrammaton.’ At least until the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. this name was regularly pronounced with its proper vowels, as is clear from the Lachish Letters, written shortly before that date.” – Encyclopedia Judiacia article on: “YHWH”
That said, the article begins by saying that there are translation problems and that the “translator must determine whether there is reasonable evidence…” What do they put forward as this reasonable evidence?
1. When Jesus quoted the Old Testament or read from it, he used the divine name.
The main stay of this argument is, “In the days of Jesus and his disciples the Tetragrammaton appeared in copies of the Hebrew text.” They then of course produce the clear proof for that statement, err, no. They have no proof that this was the case but even accepting this statement the question then comes, would it have been pronounced in the Synagogue in Jesus’ day?
Would the Scribes and the Pharisees allow Him to pronounce the name without a violent outburst? Luke 4:22 tells us they all began to give favourable witness. I do not believe that this calm, appreciative reaction followed the first time the tetragram had been pronounced in a synagogue for hundreds of years! The reaction only comes later when the Jewish leaders realise He is talking about God choosing Gentiles before Jews. Many articles could be quoted to show this was the case, here is a sample.
“It is well known that from some centuries Before the Common Era the religious Y’hudim have refrained from pronouncing the Holy Tetragrammaton – YHWH. This practice however did not extend to its non-use in written form, even in non-Hebrew copies of the Tanak and other religious literature. Frequently for example, the scribes who penned the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls would write the Sacred Name in old paleo-Hebrew script, although the scroll was otherwise written in Aramaic.” –
“The divine name Yahweh is usually translated Lord in English versions of the Bible, because it became a practice in late Old Testament Judaism not to pronounce the sacred name YHWH, but to say instead “my Lord” (Adonai) – a practice still used today in the synagogue. When the vowels of Adonai were attached to the consonants YHWH in the medieval period, the word Jehovah resulted. Today, many Christians use the word Yahweh, the more original pronunciation, not hesitating to name the divine name since Jesus taught believers to speak in a familiar way to God.” – Nelson’s Bible Dictionary article on “Jehovah”
Yes, it might have been written; they might have known how to pronounce it; but it had not been pronounced for quite a few years before Jesus came to this earth.
“It is interesting, in all the prayers Jesus prayed to God, he never addressed God by his formal name, the tetragrammaton, Jehovah. Instead he addressed God as his ‘father’. When with his disciples the final night before his death, both in talking to them and in a lengthy prayer, Jesus referred to God’s ‘name’ four times. (John 17:6, 11, 12, 26) Yet in that entire night, filled with counsel and exhortation to his disciples and in prayer, not a single occurrence is found of his employing the name ‘Jehovah’. Rather he consistently employed the designation ‘Father’, doing so some fifty times! When dying the next day, he did not cry out using the name ‘Jehovah’ but said, “My God, my God,” and in his final words said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” – (italics in the original)
This is a very interesting sidelight on the issue which leads us to the next piece of evidence the Society want to submit.
2. Jesus used God’s name and made it known to others
If the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to make known the name of God by pronouncing it, He failed. The NWT takes pains to show that Jesus used the divine name. However, apart from a dozen or so quotes from the Old Testament you can count on one hand the number of times the Society put ‘Jehovah’ in the mouth of Jesus. Jesus did not make the divine name known by pronouncing it.
We quote two biblical scholars about ‘Jehovah’ in connection with Jesus. It is worth noting that the first, Steve Byington, has translated a modern version of the Bible that the Society promotes.
“If we need to argue the point of translating ‘the Lord’ where the Greek says ‘the Lord’, my argument would be that when Jesus and the apostles and their friends spoke an Old Testament text aloud, they said ‘the Lord’ for ‘Jehovah’ even in so careful a quotation as Mark 12:29 (the newly found manuscript of Isaiah may be cited as fresh evidence that the custom of saying ‘the Lord’ began before the time of Christ…), and we cannot presume that the apostles wrote otherwise than they spoke .” – S. T. Byington, The Christian Century, 9 May 1951, p.589.
Referring initially to the tetragram in the Aquila Fragments, H. H. Rowley wrote in the Expository Times soon after Vol. 2 of the NWT Old Testament was released in 1955:
“Actually this offers no evidence that it was pronounced by the reader, any more than it was pronounced by the Jew who read from the Hebrew, where also it was written… if our Lord had rejected the unwillingness to pronounce the Name… it might have been expected that His disciples would have noticed and followed Him in this. Such evidence as we have indicates that when He quoted Psalm 110 He used words which mean ‘The Lord said unto my Lord,’ and not ‘Yahweh said unto my Lord.’ Similarly, there is no evidence that in Romans 929, 15:9, or 2 Corinthians 6:17 Paul ever wrote anything other than Kyrios to represent the (tetragram).”
The third piece of evidence the Society proffer is:
3. The divine name appears in its abbreviated form in the Greek Scriptures
The point they make is that ‘Alleluia’ or the anglicised, “Hallelujah’ is found in Scripture at Revelation 19. But the Greek is allelouia and does not directly contain the divine name and so the evidence has little if any meaning.
We should also take note of what the Watchtower Society themselves said in 1946:
‘Jehovah’ does not occur in the Septuagint version, that name being represented by the Greek words for ‘the Lord’. – Equipped for every Good Work, Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1946, p. 53.
they say:
4. Early Jewish writings indicate that Jewish Christians used the divine name in their writings.
The evidence is at the best circumstantial but I would also question what direct bearing this has on the New Testament as this was not written by man but was ‘God-breathed’.
We will come back to this issue in a minute with the conclusion in the watchtower article but just to mention that the Society adds to their ‘evidence’ a few translations that use the divine name in the New Testament but of course this could be countered with the many reputable versions that do not use it.
The last two sections of the article on p.22 seek to bring to conclusion the issue. It starts with two compelling reasons why the New World Bible Translation Committee, after weighing all the evidence used it. They highlight some classic doubtful reasoning from the writers of the Watchtower.
First we read:
“The translators believed that since the Greek Christian Scriptures were an inspired addition to the sacred Hebrew Scriptures the sudden disappearance of Jehovah’s name from the text seemed inconsistent.”
I have read many Watchtower arguments but this one I had to read several times to actually believe they wrote it. It is so full of inconsistencies itself that it is like a colander.
1. If they are inspired then they must be true and complete, there can be nothing missing and we certainly cannot add anything.
2. They are not an ‘addition’ this is not an afterthought this is the outworking of God’s eternal plan concealed on the Old Testament and revealed in the New.
3.  What evidence is there that the name disappeared from the original texts – answer, none at all. And if they want to claim that this disappeared what else has gone? Can we then really rely on them at all?
So this first reason is not compelling at all in fact just the opposite but what about their second reason?
“When copies of the Septuagint were discovered that used the divine name rather than kyrios (Lord), it became evident to the translators that in Jesus’ day copies of the early Scriptures in Greek – and of course those in Hebrew – did contain the divine name.”
This is largely irrelevant to the issue of whether Jehovah should appear in the Septuagint was of course the Old Testament and those were the Scriptures Jesus was using. We have no question that the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures contained the Tetragram. What the Septuagint contained is not relevant to the argument of what we put in the New Testament. It is not what was in the copies of the Old Testament in Jesus’ day but what was in the earliest New Testament documents we have.
The Society themselves say:
But despite the variations peculiar to different manuscript families (and the variations within each group), the Scriptures have come down to us ESSENTLALLY THE SAME FORM AS THE ORIGINAL INSPIRED WRITINGS. The variations of reading are of no consequence as to Bible teachings in general. And scholastic collations have corrected ERRORS OF ANY IMPORTANCE, so that we enjoy an authentic and reliable text (INSIGHT, Vol.2, p.314).

There is no place for the wholesale removal of a word which indicates severe tampering with the Scriptures. But do the earliest New Testament documents have ‘Jehovah’ or do they have either ‘kyrios’ (Lord) or ‘theos’ (God)?
There is an abundance of papyrus fragments and manuscripts of the New Testament that date from around 125 A.D. None – NOT ONE – contains the tetragram. Beyond this there is also absolutely no evidence or even a mention of the Society’s claims about the corruption of the Biblical texts in which the scared name was replaced.
In the works of the Ante-Nicene Fathers we can gather a general understanding of the beliefs of the early church and none mention the removal of the divine name. We do read about Marcion and his corruption of the New Testament but no mention of the removal of the divine name.
What is also very interesting is that over half of the ‘Jehovah insertions’ made by the Watchtower Society can be found in the Scripture quoted by these Early Church Fathers and NOT ONE contain God’s name.
The Society sums up their findings in the article with this:
“Apparently, the God-dishonouring tradition of removing the divine name from Greek manuscripts developed later.”
This is the Watchtower equivalent of the theory of evolution – no evidence exists but if we keep saying it the theory will become accepted.
I would say that it is more God-dishonouring to accuse the Lord of not watching over His word and claiming that the words that are described as God-breathed are inconsistent.
Just to round off the article I will give a brief description and example of the way the Watchtower put ‘Jehovah’ back into the New Testament; as you will see this is truly inconsistent.
The Watchtower Society use  ‘J references’ (indicated in the following text by J1, J2 etc) as part of their ‘insertion scholarship’. These are the translations cited by the Society as giving them authority to ‘replace’ the name of ‘Jehovah’ in the Greek Scriptures. But do these translations really give such authority?
J2, which was written ‘AGAINST Christianity’ was revised as ‘J3’ and later as ‘J4’. J7 was revised as ‘J8’’and later, in part, as ‘J10’. The London Jewish Society1 published J11, J13 and J16, while translators who helped prepare these publications also prepared J14 and J15. This demonstrates a degree of commonality between J11, J13, J14, J15 and J16. The extent of the Society’s ‘support’ is reduced even further when it is recognized that only 9 of the 19 Hebrew translations relate to the whole of the Greek Scriptures; included in these 9 are J7 and J8 which are related, and also J11, J13, J14 and J16, which are also related (Doug Mason, Witnessing the Name, 1981, p.31).
This shows the weakness of the ‘J’ evidence, and it becomes further diluted when you discover that the oldest translation is 1385, the next 1537 and from there on up to 1981! Most are by Jewish authors who have a reason for putting the name back in.
The authority of these ‘J’ references is accepted above that of some of the oldest New Testament manuscripts. We will look at this in more detail presently, but first what do the WBTS say about these manuscripts?
Biblical papyri of GREAT IMPORTANCE were among papyrus codices found in Egypt about 1930… three contain portions of fifteen books of the Christian Greek Scriptures… The international designation for Biblical papyri is a capital ‘P’ followed by a small number… Quite noteworthy is P46 (INSIGHT, Vol. 2, pp. 315-6).
Here though we discover the Society’s deception. They will praise these manuscripts, of ‘great importance,’ but they will reject them over 250 times for insignificant works of biased men when replacing the name of Jehovah in the New Testament
Very significant is 1 Corinthians 7:17 where all manuscripts are rejected in favour of no ‘J’s’ (in 1950 they said it was supported by J7 and J8 but not today). If they had not made the change then the Lord Jesus would be equated with God.
There are times in the New Testament where it would be inappropriate, as far as the WBTS are concerned, to put ‘Jehovah’. Here, all of a sudden, they accept the original manuscripts over their ‘J’ translations. This has nothing to do with scholarship but the desire of the Society to put over their biased views. The following are some of the most notable that are worth pointing out to the Witnesses.
Romans 10:9
J12-14, 16-18, 22 a
ll contain the Hebrew phrase ha’adhon which the NWT, p.1568, tells us is limited “exclusively to Jehovah God.” But we find the translators prefer the manuscripts because they have Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Three times here there is a change, so that Jesus’ coming is not seen as Jehovah’s coming. In verse 16 and the first instance in verse 17 J7, 8, (13, 14) have Jehovah, and in the second instance of verse 17 J7, 8, 13, 14, 24 have Jehovah. This evidence was widely accepted before but now they prefer the manuscripts.
1 Peter 3:15
Probably this is the classic deliberate mistranslation, firstly it is an Old Testament quotation and therefore should be translated Jehovah. Secondly, J7, 8, 11-14, 16, 17,24 all say Jehovah and according to the Society’s ‘rules of translation’ should have been chosen instead of the manuscripts. We would then read, “But sanctify Jehovah as Lord in your hearts…”
The above shows that the Society’s scholarship cannot be trusted and there is no scholarship that allows the name of ‘Jehovah’ to be put back into the New Testament.