Opinions on the Divine name in the New Testament? + an interesting question

by Blotty 30 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • slimboyfat

    Thanks, Earnest, I wonder if Jehovah’s Witnesses in Israel pronounce the divine name when they are speaking Hebrew? I can’t imagine they would avoid it. At the same time you’d think it would get them in trouble. Would they say Yahweh? Does modern Hebrew even have an agreed pronunciation for the divine name? Seems like a bit of a dilemma, I wonder how they deal with it.

  • KalebOutWest

    I'm new around here. My family was made up of secular Jews who got interested for a while in the message of the Witnesses with the 1975 message. So I was around for a brief time, shortly up to and during the Live Forever and Evolution books era, but not long after that. I currently live in Las Vegas and was never technically a JW myself (thank goodness).

    The problem with attempting to place the Divine Name into the New Testament on the basis of its appearance in some LXX manuscripts is that one is basically saying the following:

    "The Septuagint is Canon."

    In other words: what appears in the LXX should appear in all copies of the Scriptures.

    That is problematic.

    But, let's say, in support of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, that we play along and just follow the rule that "if it appears in the LXX, it must belong in the Scriptures."

    Well, if that's good enough for the Divine Name, then it must also go for any of those so-called Apocryphal books (that Catholics call "Deuterocanonical") that appear there.

    For you see, the Septuagint is not a translation of the Hebrew Canon of Scripture.

    Didn't you know? There was no such thing as a Biblical canon when the Septuagint was written down in any of its versions, including the ones with the Divine Name in them. The LXX is just a collection of Jewish religious writings translated into Greek so that Greek-speaking Jews could have access to them in the Diaspora.

    The reason there happen to be so many copies that differ is that became popular due to the fact that there were so many Jews and Jewish converts and even non-Jews who wanted to read Jewish literature in the ancient world. So this collection was made again and again and again. That is the way you "printed" books back then. You made handwritten copies. These would often differ as time went on due to the need or feedback from the public.

    But a canon? No. (Not yet, at least.) There would not be such a thing as a canon until the 2nd century CE. And the first would be created by a Christian heretic, known as Marcion of Sinope. He was a bishop who adopted Gnostic teaching and believed that salvation could be acquired through the reading of sacred Christian texts that were free of Jewish influence. So he took a few of the apostle Paul's writings and edited down the gospel of Luke and made this the "rule" or in Greek, "canon," of what should be read for gnostic salvation. The Church, in response, excommunicated him and spent almost 300 years developing its own canon to counter the popular heresy started by Marcion.

    The Septuagint was never considered authoritative among the Jews. This was because it was a translation from Hebrew--and second, because the Septuagint became the basis for the official canon during the New Testament era, especially after the Marcion of Sinope incident (the collection of Old Testament books, however, would not be officially recognized until the Canon of Trent in 1546--another story).

    If whatever appears in the LXX is the original Biblical text--"canon"--and the Jehovah's Witnesses are just "restoring" what belongs there in the first place, why not restore the Apocrypha as the Catholics do to the Old Testament? Those books appear in the oldest copies of the LXX too?

    Alas, no copies of the NWT have any books of the Apocrypha in them.

    You see, Jehovah's Witnesses just picked the LXX as a point to say: "Here, the Divine Name is 'here.' Therefore it belongs 'there."

    But the LXX was never a canonical source.

    The Jews did not have a Hebrew canon until about the 10th century CE--not BCE, but 10th century CE, our modern era--when the Masoretes completed the Masoretic text. As everyone here knows the Masoretic text is the authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible (even the Jehovah's Witnesses agree). That canonical source didn't exist until our modern age.

    The LXX isn't an authoritative source. The Jews don't recognize it. The oldest copies of the LXX don't have the Divine Name. When the Jewish translators were making copies, they had yet to decide had to handle it. Since Jews did not speak the name, they left it blank and merely placed dots. Later they put the name in Hebrew. Later they tried other manners, but eventually, they replaced it with the Greek word for "Lord."

    It was an evolutionary process based on reader feedback. It was nothing else.

    You've all made some great points yourselves. I may be off in some of mine. I am using my memory the best I can. Excuse me where I may have erred. I belong to a Humanistic Jewish community, and I am trying to put together from memory a lot of points I learned over the years that are stuck in my 55-year-old brain.

  • Vanderhoven7

    Welcome to the Forum Kaleb!

  • Earnest

    slim, there are three Hebrew online bibles in the JW library. They are New World Translation of Scripture, Torah and Prophets Written in Contemporary Hebrew and the Traditional Bible. I think both the New World Translation of Scripture and Torah and Prophets Written in Contemporary Hebrew are JW publications and they render the tetragrammaton as (יְהֹוָה) which is pronounced Yehova so I imagine that is how they read it.

    Most Jews simply read adonai (Lord) whenever they come across the tetragrammaton. Perhaps Kaleb could tell us whether secular Jews pronounce it.

  • peacefulpete

    Regarding pronunciation. On the internet you will find countless attempts to assert the solution. The bottom line is the deity (or deities) that evolved into the first century Jewish God had been called lots of things in lots of ways.

    Language, culture and time are like that. That so much ink has been spilled on this topic betrays the oversized importance modern Christians place on it. Was it of such importance to the writers of the OT? Apparently not as they used a slew of variations and abbreviations and a number of theophoric titles rather than a name. Secular evidence has led to some scholars suggesting the name was once a longer phrase describing a southern storm god or a hypocoristicon (shortened affectionate name) of a theophoric of El the father of the Palestinian gods. Others postulate a deified human ancestor with a theophoric name at the root. All are possible though some seem less probable. It's also possible more than one possibility is true. A local deity overlapped/merged with an imported one.

    IMO. We have good epigraphic reason to accept the OT's acknowledgement that he was worshipped in Edom and northern Arabia before imported to Israel/Judah likely by Kenite traders. If so the name is likely a translation of a verbal theophoric and probably beyond definitive etymology much less pronunciation. In the end we just do not have enough to be dogmatic about the murky past. If all you care is how the first century Jews pronounced the name then the answer is simple, they didn't and you are missing the forest for the trees.

  • KalebOutWest

    Thanks for the welcome, Venderhoeven7.

    Earnest, while all Jews, including those of us who are secular, will use the terms "Jehovah" and "Yahweh," etc, we all recognize that none of these mean anything to us. They are Christian inventions.

    "Adonai" is always read because there is no pronunciation of YHWH.

    Only when reading from a Torah scroll would a Jew actually come across the Tetragrammaton or the Shem Ha-M'forash. We sometimes see it like that in a siddur (a Jewish prayerbook), but other times it is printed as a double YUD instead of the Shem Ha-M'forash altogether. Some say that the double YUD is done out of reverence, but it also saves a lot of printing space since in Hebrew each letter is square and takes up relatively the exact same space, almost.

    There is no objection to using any of the current attempts of made-up YHWH names, even if you are a religious Jew. It is a cultural thing that the God of Abraham has a name that is ineffable--which is different from the claim that the name should not be used due to superstition as the Jehovah's Witnesses say.

  • KalebOutWest


    I am separating this from the previous answer as it goes off a little bit.

    The Jehovah's Witnesses making a New World Translation in Hebrew is the most stupid thing I ever heard of in my life. It is an entire Bible, not just New Testament--it contains the Hebrew canon--in modern Hebrew.

    The reason for modern Hebrew was to allow modern speakers a quick and easy avenue that most in the Diaspora do not have to learn the Torah and the rest of the Jewish Bible in the original tongue.

    In other words, if you live in Israel and are a religious Jew, reading the Bible in ancient Hebrew is far more simple than it is for people like me that live in an English-speaking world. That is why modern Hebrew was invented. It was to preserve, not pervert the ancient Bible--so no Jew would have to rely on a "modern" translation.

    And no Israeli Jew, religious or secular, has to.

    The New World Translation in Hebrew (at least its "Hebrew Scripture" section) is an idiotic misunderstanding.

    And it is a cultural insult.

    Again, we are dealing with idiots--people who have no academic background, who think only in two dimensions, according to one cultural standard that we must all adjust to.

    I now return this thread hijack to your regularly scheduled programming.

  • smiddy3

    I also would like to welcome Kaleb to the forum as he gives a Jewish perspective to topics that originate with the jewish people .

    Thank you Kaleb

  • Blotty

    Welcome Kaleb!

    Slimboy said "Does modern Hebrew even have an agreed pronunciation for the divine name?"

    I suppose another question is does Hebrew still omit vowels?

    I just realised how messy and convoluted this post is.. I do apologise

    Kaleb said "The oldest copies of the LXX don't have the Divine Name."
    Interesting (again from my very limited research, I'm in no position to debate this topic, hence the question)
    - I have seen online in multiple places that the name does appear in some versions of the LXX dated to the 2nd (or 3rd century)
    The rest I cannot debate you on as I haven't done enough research, someone more equipped can do that..
    tbh I am inclined to accept the JW evidence based on the name, but BOTH sides make good points - The most common reason, (thats not said, but quite obvious) is that if the divine name in not in the NT, it would make it far easier to establish the trinity..
    (Im neutral on this subject, even though that may come off as leaning towards the JW)

  • Wonderment

    KalebOutWest: The Jehovah's Witnesses making a New World Translation in Hebrew is the most stupid thing I ever heard of in my life. It is an entire Bible, not just New Testament--it contains the Hebrew canon--in modern Hebrew...The New World Translation in Hebrew (at least its "Hebrew Scripture" section) is an idiotic misunderstanding. And it is a cultural insult. Again, we are dealing with idiots--people who have no academic background, who think only in two dimensions, according to one cultural standard that we must all adjust to.

    Welcome Kaleb!

    I have to disagree with you on this one!

    First, JWs are not the only ones trying to produce a modern Hebrew Bible. There are others. Why? Because modern Jews are finding it more difficult to understand ancient Hebrew as the modern language is changing with the times. If it was "idiotic" to have a modern Hebrew Bible, why are others trying so hard to produce one?

    You wrote: "cultural insult? Again, we are dealing with idiots--people who have no academic background"

    Why don't you ask JWs over there in Israel if there is any problem for them to carry around a modern Hebrew Bible? Besides JWs, some Jews may welcome such noble effort.

    As to having no academic background, why don't you reveal for us the names of the translators (of the new committee) of the Revised NWT, and the names of the translators of the new Hebrew translation? I mean, if you are willing to put people down for their efforts, you must have something to offer which I don't have.

    Why don't you write to famed Hebrew professor emeritus Benjamin Kedar-Kopfstein what he thinks of the NWT? I would not be surprised if he disagrees with you also.

    And lastly, with all the criticisms the NW translators receive, we could humbly acknowledge they have accomplished what no one else has done on earth, produce a Bible translation in over 200 different languages. Other corporations with more money and more academic titles have not been able to keep-up with these "idiots." Why?

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