Jehovah’s Witnesses pride themselves as being the only religion using the name of Almighty God, Jehovah. Addressing God by the word Jehovah is considered a requirement of salvation, singling out Jehovah’s Witnesses alone as worthy of salvation.
“We stand now at the brink of the greatest tribulation of all, when Jehovah’s storm wind will sweep wickedness from the face of this earth, clearing the way for a paradise of eternal peace. Will you be one who “calls on the name of Jehovah” in faithfulness? If so, rejoice! You have God’s own promise that you will be saved.” Watchtower 1997 Dec 15 p.21
Is this accurate and justified?
Almighty God is referred to by numerous names and titles in the Bible. The seven considered most holy are YHWH, El (“God”), Eloah (“God”), Elohim (“Gods”), Shaddai (“Almighty”), Ehyeh (“I Will Be”), and Tzevaot (“[of] Hosts”). The most common of these in the Old Testament is YHWH (Yod-Heh-Waw-Heh).
Is YHWH Jehovah or Yahweh?
Whilst YHWH is sometimes translated as Jehovah, this is a poor, inaccurate rendering, and Yahweh is commonly accepted as accurate.
“Of the names of God in the Old Testament, that which occurs most frequently (6,823 times) is the so-called Tetragrammaton, Yhwh ( ), the distinctive personal name of the God of Israel. This name is commonly represented in modern translations by the form “Jehovah,” which, however, is a philological impossibility.” jewishencyclopedia.com (as of 25/06/2018)
As written Hebrew contained no vowels, it is unknown exactly how ancient Jews pronounced YHWH, though scholarly consensus is Yahweh.
“There is almost universal consensus among scholars today that the sacred Tetragrammaton (YHWH) is to be vocalized and pronounced Yahweh. Probably the name means literally “He is.”” New International Version: The Making of a Contemporary Translation CHAPTER 9: YHWH Sabaoth: “The Lord Almighty” Kenneth L. Barker
Jews recognise the divine name to be Yahweh, and The Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls uses Yahweh when translated into English.
J did not exist in the Hebrew language, and was represented as Y.
“The form of J was unknown in any alphabet until the 14th century. Either symbol (J,I) used initially generally had the consonantal sound of Y as in year.” Encyclopedia Americana
The shorten form of YHWH is Yah, commonly used as an abbreviation for God’s name and is included in the a number of Biblical names. The New World Translation Reference Bible states;
“Yah is the first half of the Tetragrammaton, YHWH. It occurs 49 times in M distinguished by a point (mappik) in its second letter and once, in Ca 8:6, without the mappik.” New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures Footnote to Psalm 68:4
The word Hallelujah, meaning ‘Praise Yah,” is pronounced as Yah, not Jeh.
YHWH was represented by the form Yahweh in numerous ancient languages;
- Egyptian – Budge’s An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, p.15 shows the shortened form of YHWH was transliterated as “IA” or “YA”, supporting God’s name begins with the sound Yah.
- Assyrian – Halley’s Bible Handbook (1898) A.H.Sayce p.62 discusses three clay Assyrian cuneiform tablets dating from the time of Hammurabi which contain written vowels identifying the name Yahweh.
- Jewish – Josephus indicates the sacred name was pronounced Yahweh when identifying four vowels. “… the sacred name: it consists of four vowels.” Jewish Wars, chapter V, Josephus. Yahweh contains four ‘vowels’, pronounced as ee-ah-oo-eh, whereas Jehovah only contains three.
- Greek – Ee-ah-oo-eh aligns with the Greek transliteration of the divine name in Jesus’ time, which was written as was Iaoue. The second century Clement of Alexandria wrote: “The mystic name which is called the Tetragrammaton, by which alone they who had access to the Holy of Holies were protected, is pronounced Iaoue, which means ‘who is, and who shall be.'”
- Latin – written as Iabe.
The word Jehovah
The historical derivation of the word Jehovah shows why it is incorrect. During the 9th century A.D. Masoretes created a system for introducing vowels into the Hebrew language. When it came to YHWH, rather than putting the correct vowel signs, they put vowel signs for Adonai (Lord) or Elohim (God), in order to remind the reader to use the word Lord or God instead of the name of God. Adonai (Lord) was predominantly used, however, in passages where Adonai and YHWH appeared together, Elohim was used instead, to avoid repetition of the word Lord.
“The form Jehovah is of late medieval origin; it is a combination of the consonants of the Divine Name and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes but belonging to an entirely different word. The sound of Y is represented by J and the sound of W by V, as in Latin. The word “Jehovah” does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew.” Revised Standard Version pp.6-7
“The Masoretes, Jewish biblical scholars of the Middle Ages, replaced the vowel signs that had appeared above or beneath the consonants of YHWH with the vowel signs of Adonai or of Elohim. Thus, the artificial name Jehovah (YeHoWaH) came into being.” Encyclopedia Britannica (Micropedia, vol. 10)
Mixing the vowels for Lord and God with the consonants YHWH led to the manufacture of the hybrid word Jehovah. jewishencyclopedia.com (25/9/2005) labels pronunciation of the word Jehovah “grammatically impossible”.
YHWH was never intended by to be read as Jehovah and it is unfortunate that YHWH was translated into German and ultimately English as Jehovah, Jehovah is a conflate form, interlacing or superimposing the vowels of Adonai with the consonants of Yahweh. The illogical fusion of the sacred Name with the vowel points of another name is neither accurate or respectful:
“To give the name JHVH the vowels of the word for Lord [Heb. Adonai], is about as hybrid a combination as it would be to spell the name Germany with the vowels in the name Portugal – viz., Gormuna. The monstrous combination Jehovah is not older than about 1520 A.D.” The J.B. Rotherham Emphasized Bible preface
Watchtower argues that Jehovah is acceptable, as a translation does not need to adhere accurately to the original word.
“”Yahweh” is obviously a transliteration, whereas “Jehovah” is a translation, and Bible names generally have been translated rather than transliterated.” Awake! 1973 Mar 22 p.27
Watchtower argues it does not matter whether the word is accurate or not, what is important is for God to be distinguished by a personal name.
“Thus it is evident that the original pronunciation of God’s name is no longer known. Nor is it really important. If it were, then God Himself would have made sure that it was preserved for us to use. The important thing is to use God’s name according to its conventional pronunciation in our own language.” The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever p.7
This is precarious reasoning. The Divine name never appeared in the New Testament, Jesus is not recorded as as using God’s name and the pronunciation has not been preserved. It therefore follows that use of the word Jehovah is not important for Christians.
For more detailed information see jwfacts.com