Why Is YHWH Used Regularly In OT and NEVER in NT?

by minimus 43 Replies latest jw friends

  • steve2

    You're asking this question because JWs have been taught to look at Scripture through the lens of the Watchtower.

    David Jay your complete reply is an astonishingly well-informed rebuttal of JW thinking and shows how bereft they are of knowledge into the emergence of "the Scriptures". For a group that prides itself on elevating the Bible as "God's inerrant word" and focus on how well versed they are regarding its content, they are shockingly poorly educated about its background, including the fortuitous events that led to the canonization of the books of the NT (to say nothing of the OT).

    If minimus does not acknowledge your answer as perhaps the best on this thread, it perhaps reveals how intractably entrenched he remains in the JW mindset.

    Thank you for taking the time to reply!

  • Crazyguy

    I think many here are missing the reality of it. Iesous (Jesus) was a created god modeled originally after Serapis which he also was modeled after several gods ones of Greek and Egyptian origin. So who are you going to call his father. Who was the father of Osiris or Zeus or Helios? Yes the Jews may have written some of the old testaments and even some of the new so do we call the father of Iesous El, but that wouldn't go over to well with the Greeks or the Egyptians would it? And since the New Testament wasn't put together or in many cases the books of the New Testament were not even written until 300-400-500 years after the story of Jesus what do they call his father, Chronos, AmenRa? Or since this is a new religion trying to gain as many converts as possible in the Roman Empire maybe they need a new name? Or better yet maybe they don't mention his name and edit the old writings and take out any name of a god that would make it specific to one group of people?

  • slimboyfat

    While it's true God had various names in the Hebrew Bible, the name YHWH has a distinct claim. As Philo says, it was the name of God written on the headband of the high priest. The fact that it became set apart as the unpronounceable name of God among Jews shows that it was considered unique.

    The earliest copies of the LXX used various forms of YHWH or the Greek transliteration IAW. (There are about 7 such examples) None of the Jewish fragments that survive show KYRIOS instead of the divine name. The earliest Christian copies using KYRIOS date no earlier than late second century AD. The fragment of Genesis that leaves spaces for either YHWH or KYRIOS is quite late, from the third century, and probably Christian. It is probably indicative of the transition from using YHWH to KYRIOS in Christian practice.

  • eyeuse2badub

    Why would god go to soooo much trouble to preserve his word the bible from the dastardly satanic culprits who tried to destroy it but not take the same care to preserve his name and it's proper pronunciation?

    just asking!

  • David_Jay


    Forgive me, but the claim from the Watchtower that the earliest LXX copies used various forms of the Tetragrammaton is quite false. Second generation fragments have been discovered with it, but originally the LXX had nothing where the Divine Name occurs in the Hebrew.

    Papyrus Rylands 458 is the oldest fragment of the LXX. It does not use contain the Divine Name. Instead there are blank spaces, often with a dot. The second generation fragments appear to come next but the practice seems to have been discarded in favor of the substitution.

    While the Tetragrammaton is special, it us because we Jews don't see it as a "name" as such. In our culture it is viewed as an "anti-name" or the opposite of a SHEM, a "handle" for which to manage or control one. Some Jews utter "HaShem" when coming across the Four Letters, meaning "THE Name," with the emphasis on the "Ha" or "the," because it is a "name" unlike any other.

    The use of it in the LXX was experimental, as its sudden appearance after Pr458 demonstrates. The LXX composers were not sure how to handle it, even employing the very old, long unused Paleo-Hebrew for a while before abandoning it altogether.

    And it wasn't left unpronounced because it was "unique," but because it was "holy."

    In Jewish theology, holy things are left untouched or at least used less than the mundane, everyday things of life . For instance, the Holy of Holies was rarely entered, and then by only one person each year. The Ten Commandments were hidden from sight in the Ark, and the Ark itself was hidden in the Holy of Holies. If you touched it, like Uzzah did, you would die. (2 Samuel 6:6, 7) The consecrated bread on display was not to be eaten until it had remained before the entrance to the Holy of Holies for a specific amount of time, and then when it could be eaten, only the priests could do so. That is why it was a big thing for David and his men to be offered and eat this bread when they were hungry. It was not for mundane use. (1 Samuel 21:5, 6) And it is the reason Eve adds the injunction not to "touch" the fruit of God's tree when God had only command that it not be eaten, since the Hebrew custom is that the holier something is, the less it is to be used or ever.--Compare Genesis 2:17 to 3:3.

    Since the Tetragrammaton is God's Self-Designation beyond the scope of common names, and because it is God's Name, it is like the fruit of the tree, the Ark, the Ten Commandments, the Holy of Holies. If something is to be "hallowed" in Jewish custom, it is not to be used. It can be there for all to see, like the fruit, the Temple that housed the Holy of Holies and the Ark, and even the eating of the presentation bread by the priests, but it is not for common use. That is something more than unique, like the appearance of the Super Moon we are witnessing in the night skies right now. What is unique is more mundane than what is holy.

    Pagans repeatedly uttered their divine names to show that these names were unique, special, and even holy to them. Jews did the opposite. The holier something was, the more purposefully far removed it was from use. This is something that might escape a Gentile audience since the culture of Hebrews is not well-understood outside our own people, and Christians are more often to side with their own scholars and teachers over our own Jewish history and experience (as one Christian once told me upon learning I was Jewish: "What do Jews know about the BIble anyway?"), but it is not the good use of critical thought to ignore it.

    And by the way, Papyrus Rylands 458 is not from the 3rd century or Christian, as you stated. It dates to the 2nd century BCE and is Jewish.

  • Crazyguy

    A second century BC historian can't remember his, wrote that the God of the Jews was Helios. Archeology shows that many things in the Bible were just plain made up stories or legends

    It has also been shown that the original god of the Israelites was the Canaanite God El then it changed to Baal Hadad with all the atributes of El being added to Baal including his wives Asherah and Anat. So again by the time you get to the New Testament it's anyone's guess who or what the yhwh represents.

  • cofty

    Interesting theory about the origin of the divine name Yah-weh.

    God is repeatedly linked with breath, wind, air in the OT. Breath in and out deeply through your mouth and you say Yah-weh with every breath.

  • David_Jay

    Judaism acknowledges some of the theories you are proposing, Crazyguy (making you not so "crazy" after all).

    One theory is that the Hebrews were introduced to YHWH via the people of Sinai, some of which may have been fellow slaves that escaped with them from Egypt during the Exodus. Jewish scholarship points to clues in the Torah itself as to this being possible.

    The critical theory centers on the Exodus narrative, where it is not until Moses flees to Midian, meets up with and marries the daughter of Jethro, "the priest of Midian," that Moses comes into contact with YHWH. ( Exodus 2:16; 3:1-6) Moses then returns to Egypt to gather his people to worship this God on the mount where, under Jethro's patronage, he meets God by Name.--Exodus 3:12.

    While most Orthodox Jews who read Scripture with a literal approach similar to the myopic view of JWs would disagree, anthropology and archeology (as well as some of the history of the Jews) suggests that the monotheistic God-concept might have been learned from the peoples that the Israelites joined with during this period. It later grew into the form later adopted (and adapted) by Christians and Muslims.

    But Jews also acknowledge that their monotheism does not originate from the Bible. That is a Christian misconception. The Tanakh did not play a central role in the development of Jewish monotheism, but instead it's oral tradition which became the Mishnah, not the Hebrew Scriptures.

    The Bible stories are liturgical narratives designed for reading in public worship, not a compendium of Jewish history or religious doctrine (like the Mishnah and Talmud). It was only after the Second Temple rose that the Bible took shape, and its use as the composite library we know today came only after the Temple's demise in 70 CE, far too late to be considered the basis for the theology that shaped its pages. So while there may truly be some merit in what you say, it is also impossible to attribute it to Scripture which came only far much later.

  • fulltimestudent

    Posted: The most obvious answer is that the diverse books of the Bible were written over an extremely long period of time and the focus of the earlier time period was different from that of later time periods.

    Agreed, but with a caveat.

    In the period between Alexander the Great's conquest of Cyrus's Iranian (Persian) Empire and the foundation of Christianity big changes took place in Jewish thought. Lot's of things were written (of course) but by Constantine's rule, when he legalised the church, there were long arguments over what to incorporate into the churches collection of authoritative spiritual documents, and they apparently saw no need to give their divinity a name.

  • David_Jay

    You are correct, Fulltimestudent, with an additional "caveat," as you put it.

    It is actually an act of naïveté that some non-Jews and especially Christians make in reference to Jewish religion and worship. Our religious practices and theology have never, ever been static. They not only changed under Hellenistic influence, as you mention, but in every era, with the winds of every political change.

    Jews acknowledge a fact that is often disturbingly unamusing to the likes of Jehovah's Witnesses, namely that there was never a truly "pure" form of Judaism. It has never been "one original thing" (even if you read through the Hebrew Bible, which many JWs never have). Christians especially like to think that Judaism only changed with the Second Temple era and mistakenly draw Jesus as a "restorer" of "true" Jewish practice and thought (in reality, he was as much a product of the times as were the Pharisees). Political intrigue and changes to the map of history have always influenced Jewish theology, and it has bent for all types or reasons (not merely survival) with each passing century up to and after Jesus.

    It is even a fundamental element to Jewish practice that Judaism never stays aloof and disconnected from the changing world around it. Except for small groups of fundamentalist Jews, the universal tenet of tikkun olam makes this impossible. The acknowledgement of this need for "staying in touch" and changing with the times does not come from many religious groups, like the JWs, who rely on a fictional retelling of Jewish history to make their house-of-card theology work.

    As for the Name, part of the reason that it is not used to the extent that God remains essentially "nameless" is that the Jewish concept of "God" is very unlike the Christian and Muslim concept (not to mention the Watchtower brand of "God"). It is actually closer to atheism than the Christian concept of theism.

    For Jews, all gods and all religions are false. There is no such thing as a god. Deities are fake. All of them are. The "God" of the Jews is what we recognize as the "Great Cause" and "Ultimate Purpose" of all. What or who is this, we don't know. Can it be truly understood or defined? No, not in Jewish thought.

    But since the universe is here, the concept is that we are thus witnessing an "effect." The universe and world we live in is the effect produced by a "cause." This "cause" is what the Abrahamic God is. It is not "god" in the pagan or heathen view. It does not require belief anymore than the "effect" we witness does. The Great Cause of everything is the only thing that can be "God" in the sense that humans can grasp. It also, according to Jews, remains a mystery, much like agnostics acknowledge.

    So it is very different from "God" taught in Sunday schools and Watchtower studies. YHWH is the "un-God," if you can grasp my meaning. That is why Jews can be atheist and still pray and worship. The two are not against one another in Judaism.

    This makes the Name ineffable. We don't even recognize the pronunciation "Yahweh" in Judaism because it is as invented as the Catholic "Jehovah." It doesn't sound anything like anything in Hebrew. There's nothing like it. We only use "Yahweh" in discussions like this with Christians or those exposed to Christian thought, but the sound and name mean nothing. We don't recognize it as being the same as the YOHD HE VAV HE of HaShem. So there was never anything for Christianity to inherit when it came to a name's pronunciation. "Names" are not the sounds they make in Jewish culture, they are the person and their attributes.

    But as one person said: "What do you Jews know about God or the Bible?" Until people listen and learn from the Jews about their God, they will never fully grasp the concepts so many of them hold dear (like Christianity). We Jews are always wrong, and the Gentile Christians and their "scholars" always know better. (Can I hear an "Amen!" from the Governing Body?) Sigh.

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