Jehovah in the New Testament?

One of the Jewish names for God was YHWH, referred to as the Tetragrammaton. The Old Testament contains YHWH over 6,000 times, yet the Tetragrammaton never appears in the New Testament. It has not been found in a single ancient Greek New Testament manuscript.

Inclusion of the word Jehovah in the New Testament of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is one of the most important errors in Watchtower theology, as it:

  • Changes the meaning of key Bible passages
  • Undermines the integrity of the Bible
  • Leads Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe than any person not using the word Jehovah cannot have a personal relationship with God
  • Is used by the Watchtower to justify people not using the word Jehovah cannot be saved
Key Point
The Watchtower reasons that the word Jehovah was originally in the New Testament, but removed without trace. This undermines the integrity of the entire Bible, as if such a significant word has been changed, what else is wrong?

Jehovah in the New Testament

Proclaimers p.99 claims:

“The conventioners were thrilled to learn that this new translation [NWT] restored the divine name Jehovah 237 times in the main text from Matthew to Revelation!”

The fundamental flaw of the NWT is this insertion of the word Jehovah 237 times into the New Testament. The Watchtower justifies the insertion by claiming all known New Testament manuscripts are inaccurate. This is vitally important because such a claim undermines the integrity of the Bible. If God was unable to prevent the removal of his own name from the New Testament without trace, what else was he unable to prevent being changed? On the other hand, if this Watchtower claim is wrong and the word Jehovah never appeared in the New Testament, this change makes Watchtower doctrine incorrect.

The New Testament is one of the most attested ancient works in existence. The Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 87 p.184 has listed 5,255 known New Testament Greek fragments. The Tetragrammaton does not appear in the New Testament either as YHWH or as the Greek transliterations PIPI, YAW and Iabe in a single one of these ancient New Testament manuscripts. This is despite “some papyrus fragments of the Christian Greek Scriptures that go back to the middle of the second century.” (w82 3/15 p.23).

When attempting to build faith in the Bible the Watchtower asserts the New Testament is complete without omissions – silent in regards to their belief that the most important word has disappeared without trace.

“No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or the New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines.” Reasoning from the Scriptures p. 64

“Not only are there thousands of manuscripts to compare but discoveries of older Bible manuscripts during the past few decades take the Greek text back as far as about the year 125 C.E., just a couple of decades short of the death of the apostle John about 100 C.E. These manuscript evidences provide strong assurance that we now have a dependable Greek text in refined form.” All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial p.319

The story changes when explaining why the Watchtower Society added the word Jehovah into the New Testament, alleging the removal of YHWH from the New Testament during the second century.

“Sometime during the second or third century C.E. the scribes removed the Tetragrammaton from both the Septuagint and the Christian Greek Scriptures and replaced it with Ky´ri·os, “Lord” or The·os´, “God.”” New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – With References p.1564 1D The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures

There is no proof whatsoever to support this claim. Several available manuscripts date back to this period. P47 dates prior to 300 A.D. and contains four uses of Kyrios from Revelation that the NWT translates as Jehovah. P66 dates from around 200 A.D. from John (written in 98 A.D) and contains five occurrences of Lord that appear in the NWT as Jehovah. Some manuscripts go back to within 25 years of John’s writings, yet none contains YHWH.

Watchtower paradox regarding Jehovah in the New Testament

With no proof of its inclusion, the Watchtower uses four hypotheses to justify the statement that the Tetragrammaton was removed from the New Testament.

  • Its inclusion in Hebrew J versions
  • Theory that Old Testament quotes would include YHWH
  • Theory of George Howard
  • Possibility of Matthew originally written in Hebrew

Hebrew J Versions

New World Translation translators used the J versions of the Bible as justification for inserting Jehovah in the New Testament. It is essential to understand that these have no connection whatsoever with the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament manuscripts. The J versions were not translated until well over one thousand years after Jesus death, from 1385 A.D. onwards.

These versions are numbered J1 to J27. Two versions commonly referred to in the New World Translation are J7 and J18. J7 was translated from the King James Greek text in 1599. J18 was translated in 1885 and printed by The Trinitarian Bible Society in London.

These versions cannot be used as proof of YHWH, as they are translated from Greek Manuscripts that we have access to today, documents that use Lord, not YHWH.

When using Jehovah, the New World Translation translators use the J versions as justification in preference to the ancient Greek. As an example, the New World Translation Reference Bible footnote to Matthew 1:24 cites;

24* Jehovah J1-4, 7-14, 16-18, 22-24; Lord AB

To the uninformed reader it would appear there are 18 sources supporting Jehovah and only 2 supporting Lord. In reality there are far more sources than just these two supporting Lord. More importantly, whilst the J versions are translations that only date back to the fourteenth century, B refers to the Vatican MS. No. 1209, dating back to the fourth century.

Why did the New World translators put more trust in the wording of Bible translations written one to two thousand years after the death of Jesus, in preference to the Ancient Greek manuscripts they were taken from? To support their own inaccurate agenda.

On the other hand, the Watchtower does not consistently follow the J versions. Some of the J versions were done by Trinitarians, and include YHWH to support that Jesus is Jehovah. For this reason the NWT does not include Jehovah in over 50 places that the J versions do. For instance J7 and J8 translate 1 Peter 3:15 as:

“Sanctify Jehovah God (who is Christ) in your hearts.”

Other verses in which the Tetragrammaton appears in the “J” versions but not as Jehovah in the New World Translation include;

1 Corinthians 12:3

(J-14) “…no one can say “Jesus is Lord Jehovah, except by the Holy Spirit.”

(NWT) “nobody can say: “Jesus is Lord!” except by holy spirit.

2 Timothy 1:18

(J-7,8,13,14,16,17,18,22,23,24) “The Lord Jehovah grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord Jehovah in that day…”

(NWT) “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from Jehovah in that day.”

Quoting the Old Testament

The Watchtower claims it rightfully restores Jehovah when Christian writers quoted from the Old Testament.
This is based purely on speculation, particularly with no evidence of such in the Ancient Greek manuscripts.

It is astonishing to compare the Watchtower translator’s claims with what they did in practice.

“When discussing “Restoring the Divine Name,” the New World Bible Translation Committee states:
“To know where the divine name was replaced by the Greek words Ky´ri·os and The·os´, we have determined where the inspired Christian writers have quoted verses, passages and expressions from the Hebrew Scriptures and then we have referred back to the Hebrew text to ascertain whether the divine name appears there. In this way we determined the identity to give Ky´ri·os and The·os´ and the personality with which to clothe them. … We have looked for agreement from the Hebrew versions to confirm our rendering.” Such agreement from Hebrew versions exists in all the 237 places that the New World Bible Translation Committee has rendered the divine name in the body of its translation.” Insight on the Scriptures – Volume 2 p.267

The 1985 Kingdom Interlinear Translation p.11, likewise claims the criteria for using the Divine Name in the New Testament was to replace the Greek words Kyrios and Theos with Jehovah whenever the Christian writers quoted from the Old Testament:

The reader is led to the conclusion that every inclusion of Jehovah in the New Testament has support from an Old Testament quote.
Yet an examination of the 237 inclusions reveals the following;

  • Only 76 times is Jehovah included based on a direct Hebrew quote
  • In 78 other instances the scriptures are not quotes, but reference Hebrew passages discussing Jehovah
  • 83 times the New World Translation has included Jehovah with no support from the Hebrew Scriptures

Over 80 times the NWT has used Jehovah with no Old Testament support. On the other hand, there are also times when the New World Translation has chosen not to use the word Jehovah when the Christian writers quoted the Old Testament, even when done so by the J versions. This lack of consistency is because to do so would contradict Watchtower doctrine. For instance Isaiah 45:22-24 says;

“Turn to me and be saved, all YOU [at the] ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no one else. By my own self I have sworn-out of my own mouth in righteousness the word has gone forth, so that it will not return-that to me every knee will bend down, every tongue will swear, saying, ‘Surely in Jehovah there are full righteousness and strength.

This is paraphrased at both Romans and Philippians. Whereas in Romans Jehovah is inserted in the NWT, in Philippians it is not, as to do so would result in equating Jesus with Jehovah.

Romans 14:11 “For it is written: “‘As I live,’ says Jehovah, ‘to me every knee shall bend down, and every tongue will make open acknowledgment to God.'””

Philippians 2:9-11 “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Also compare

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 with Psalm 47:5.
  • 1 Peter 2:3,4 with Psalm 34:8
  • Hebrews 1:10 with Psalms 102:25
  • Acts 1:11,12 with Zechariah 14:3-4

George Howard

In 1977 George Howard published a thesis showing that the Old Testament retained YHWH in certain versions of the Greek Septuagint. These manuscripts may have been ones that the Christian writers quoted from. He goes on to theorize that these Christian writers therefore may have used YHWH in the New Testament. His reasoning is promoted by the Watchtower Society as fact.

Three critical points must be made;

  1. Howard’s work did not examine the use of YHWH in the New Testament, but the use of YHWH in the Old Testament.
  2. Howard then concludes with a theory that YHWH may have appeared in the New Testament, which the Watchtower chooses to say is fact.
  3. Howard’s work contradicts the Watchtower concept that YHWH was not removed from the Septuagint as part of a conspiracy in the second century after Jesus.

Hebrew Version of Matthew

There is a tradition that Matthew wrote his gospel first in Hebrew and then re-wrote it in Greek, however this is open to debate. The earliest manuscript we have of a Hebrew Matthew is from the 1380’s and it is unknown who wrote the original Hebrew version this is based on. YHWH does not appear in it, but rather it uses the circumlocution “The Name”. The Watchtower theorizes that Matthew was the author and the original document used YHWH rather than “The Name”.

“Is the Tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters of God’s name) found in the Hebrew text of Matthew copied by the 14th-century Jewish physician Shem-Tob ben Isaac Ibn Shaprut? No, it is not. However, this text of Matthew does use hash·Shem’ (written out or abbreviated) 19 times, as pointed out on page 13 of The Watchtower of August 15, 1996. The Hebrew hash·Shem’ means “the Name,” which certainly refers to the divine name. … It is reasonable to conclude that when Matthew quoted a verse from the Hebrew Scriptures where the Tetragrammaton is found, he incorporated the divine name in his Gospel. As mentioned, Shem-Tob’s text of Matthew includes “the Name” where there is good reason to believe that Matthew actually used the Tetragrammaton.” Watchtower 1997 August 15 p.30

Shem-Tob’s document does not contain evidence of YHWH appearing in the New Testament. The Watchtower again extrapolates
that it is reasonable to add it. Even if YHWH had appeared in the Hebrew version of Matthew, since this was the only book of the
New Testament that may have been written in Hebrew, the same reasoning cannot be extended to the Greek books.

Evidence it did not Appear

There is much evidence that YHWH never appeared in the New Testament. Most obvious is the absence of YHWH in any of the 5,000 discovered Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Important evidence is also contained in the writings of the early Christians. These are referred to as the Apostolic Fathers and Ante Nicene Fathers who wrote from the times of the Apostles to the third century. This includes Polycarp, who studied with the Apostle John and Justin Martyr who lived from 110 to 165 A.D. Their extensive writings are a source of information on the early Church, including the formulation of the Trinity doctrine and the development of the Bible Canon. Yet in their writings there is no discussion
about the removal of God’s name from the Scriptures. If a global conspiracy existed to remove YHWH from the all New Testament manuscripts debate most certainly would have occurred between these writers.

Furthermore, their works do not contain YHWH when quoting from New Testament scriptures. For example in Against Heresies, Irenaeus quotes Matthew 1:20; 4:10 and Romans 11:34, each time using the word Lord instead of Jehovah. Clement, mentioned at Philippians 4:3, wrote the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians between 75 and 110 A.D. and used Kyrios when quoting from the Old Testament. (See 1 Clement 13:5 which quotes Ezekiel 33:11.)

Justin Martyr converted to Christianity around 150 A.D., a mere 50 years after the Bible was completed. He had access to early copies of the New Testament yet in The Second Apology, Chapter VI he wrote that Christians referred to the Father by appellations, but not a name such as Jehovah;

“But to the Father of all, who is unbegotten, there is no name given. For by whatever name He be called, He has as His elder the person who gives Him the name. But these words, Father, and God, and Creator, and Lord, and Master, are not names, but appellations derived from His good deeds and functions.”

That the Holy Name was not being uttered in Jesus day is attested to by first century historian Josephus:

“Whereupon God declared to him [Moses] his holy Name,
which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say anymore. ” (Josephus; Antiquities 2:12:4)

As we do not have the actual original copies that the Bible writers penned, it is always possible to say that YHWH may have appeared in the original copy. However the weight of evidence shows that YHWH was not in the original copies. If the Watchtower claims God allowed men to edit out his name “YHWH” and that no proof has been found to its existence to this day, how can a person have confidence in any of the New Testament?

Effect of adding to the Bible

When adding the word Jehovah to the New Testament the Watchtower makes an unsubstantiated assumption based on how they wish to interpret doctrine. This is a serious misrepresentation of Scripture. Doctrine should be formed by Scripture; Scripture should not be changed to support doctrine.

Inaccurately inserting the word Jehovah into the New Testament changes the meaning of Jesus message to his followers in a number of ways.

One important affect is that the Watchtower attempts to use the word Jehovah to prove that only Jehovah’s Witnesses will be saved. The book Reasoning from the Scriptures claims use of God’s name is one of the 10 things that identify true worshippers. Watchtower publications quote Romans 10:13 to show that use of the word Jehovah is a requirement for 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.-Romans 10:13.” Watchtower 1997 Dec 15 p.21

Yet an examination of the Emphatic Diaglott, published by the Watchtower Society shows that the word used in this passage is not YHWH but Kupiov or Kurios – Lord.

Emphatic Diaglott Romans 10:13 Lord

 Immediately preceding this verse, Romans 10:9 states “Jesus is Lord (Kurios)” and so it follows that Romans 10:13 refers to Jesus and identifying Jesus is the requirement for salvation.

Another important effect of inserting the Tetragrammaton into the New Testament is regarding understanding the Nature of God. Jesus name in Hebrew is Yahoshua, meaning Yah is Salvation, and a number of scriptures that referred to YHWH in the Old Testament were quoted in reference to Jesus in the New Testament, such as when Romans 10:13 applies Joel 2:30 to Jesus. These scriptures, when translated accurately are important indicators of the oneness of the Father and the Son. This is difficult to detect in the NWT of the Bible. When a person reads the Scriptures as originally written it can be understood what prompted the understanding of the Trinity and the great importance we need to put on our relationship with Jesus.

As their name implies, Jehovah’s Witnesses predominant focus is on preaching about Jehovah, whilst the message of the New Testament was to be witnesses of Jesus. Watchtower emphasis on the name Jehovah detracts from the constant New Testament message of the Christ. Even when quoting scriptures such as Acts 4 the Watchtower manages to deflect attention from Jesus to Jehovah.

“Yes, “there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved”; and that applies both to salvation from impending destruction and salvation to eternal life.-Acts 4:12. Today many are delaying to dedicate themselves to Jehovah God and to symbolize that dedication by water immersion.” Watchtower 1959 October 1 pp.582-583

Falsely inserting Jehovah into the New Testament is an important manipulation. Jehovah’s Witnesses are led to believe that this proves they are the only true religion and the only ones that will be saved, due to being the only ones that consistently call on the name Jehovah. However, a reading of the New Testament as it was originally written results in a different understanding of this doctrine. If the early Christians did not use the divine name it cannot be a prerequisite for salvation.

Why not included?

It is significant that YHWH appeared over 6,000 times in the Old Testament but never in the New Testament. The Bible does not explain the omission, however, there are several possible reasons.

From a practical viewpoint, the reason YHWH does not appear in the New Testament is that it was not commonly used in the first century A.D. It appears YHWH was no longer in regular use by the time of the Babylonian invasion over 500 years prior to Jesus, at least in languages other then Hebrew.

As early as 250 B.C.E the Septuagint Greek translation of the Tenach replaced YHWH with ‘Kyrios’ (Lord). For example the Hebrew text of Leviticus 24:16 was changed from: “And whoever blasphemes the name of YHWH shall surely be put to death
” to “And he that names the name of the Lord, Let him die the death.” Jesus never mentioned or criticised the removal of the Tetragrammaton, indicating that Jesus did not feel this was an important omission.

Jesus regularly quoted or paraphrased passages from the Old Testament. From the words Jesus used when quoting, or more regularly summarising Scriptures from the Old Testament, it appears Jesus used several different sources including the proto-Masoretic text, the Aramaic Targum and predominantly the Greek Septuagint (LXX), which replaced YHWH with the word for Lord. As YHWH does not appear in most copies of the Greek Septuagint it follows that it was not being used by Jesus and his apostles.

Consider what would have happened if Jesus did utter this sacred term. Jesus would have been in direct conflict with sacred tradition and the law and been accused of blasphemy by the Pharisees. Just as the Pharisees attempted to have Jesus arrested for blasphemy for calling himself the Son of God, they would have had him likewise arrested for illegally using the divine name.

By not using it Jesus, avoided offending Jewish seekers of truth and avoided stumbling Gentiles who would have identified YHWH as a Jewish word, making Christianity appear to be a Jewish religion. This could have inhibited the growth of Christianity throughout the inhabited world.

Jesus repeatedly instructed his followers to address God as our Lord or our Heavenly Father (Mt 6:8-18, 7:21, Mk 14:36) and this is the way Jesus followers refer to God if they wish to follow Jesus example. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus said to pray “Our Father in the heavens”. Jesus said he glorified the Father’s name, yet not once did he use the term “the Father’s Name, Jehovah”.

As the word YHWH was not being uttered out loud in the first century, what would a Jew have understood by Jesus saying that he glorified the Father’s name? They did not understand this to be that he was literally speaking of the word YHWH, but that Jesus was glorifying God’s reputation. Jesus made known the Father’s qualities. He highlighted a loving God, rather than focus on the more legalistic and destructive qualities so readily identifiable in the Old Testament Yahweh.

More intimate than referring to God Almighty or using the word Jehovah is the loving expression Father. To be able to refer to God as our Father is a wonderful privilege. Does a child normally refer to their father by their first name? No, the father-child relationship is far more loving and intimate than that. Once Jesus had revealed the truth about Jehovah, Christians could enter a relationship with God based on a real depth of understanding and intimacy, and hence refer to him as their Father.

Conclusion

Watchtower Paradox
Jehovah has not been found in the New Testament because it has been tampered with, but the Bible has been inspired and accurately preserved by Jehovah.

“Thus modern scholarship gives reason for complete confidence that the Bible has come down to us today essentially unaltered.” Awake! 1972 Jun 22 p.8

“Why, then, is the name absent from the extant manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures or so-called New Testament? Evidently because by the time those extant copies were made (from the third century C.E. onward) the original text of the writings of the apostles and disciples had been altered.” Insight on the Scriptures Volume 2 p.10

Jesus words show that God is to be addressed as Lord or Father. As Jehovah was not used in the New Testament, use of the word Jehovah cannot be a necessary requirement for salvation. Rather, the New Testament shows that Jesus is the name through which salvation comes.

By falsely including Jehovah, an inaccurate rendition of the divine name, in the New Testament where it does not belong, the Watchtower Society has taken liberties with God’s Word. An assumption has been made in order to give weight to Watchtower doctrine. The effect is an inaccurate understanding of what Jesus taught. It affects a Jehovah’s Witness ability to reason correctly on subjects such as the Trinity and to understand what the Bible says as to Jesus role in salvation.

2 thoughts on “Jehovah in the New Testament?

  1. StandFirm writes: There was none in the Bible, i.e. there is no Biblical prceedent. There is also no mention in the Bible of medicinal transfusion of donor blood. So is banning that practice likewise unscriptural? You seem to be selective about how you go about applying the label of unscriptural . StandFirm writes: Do elected officials know every person in their municipality, congressional district, and so forth? Need a network be maintained? We are not talking about representation of an at-large public. Watchtower is a private religious association that is consensual to members and the association. Otherwise: Representative governments such a republic elect representatives based on a constitution under which every individual member that wants its voice heard as part of that consensus can put him or herself on an actual list to have their voice heard accordingly. This list is commonly known as a voter’s registration list. Watchtower has no such list of “anointed ones” from which consensus is constructed. StandFirm writes: They do know whom they are representing. People vote for a certain official because they agree with how he will represent them. Likewise, anointed are Jehovah’s Witnesses because they agree with how the Governing Body represents them – why else did they become Witnesses? Individuals who choose to become members of the Witness community do so for a variety of reasons that are important to them at the time. Some of these reasons are misconceptions. Moreover, because Watchtower changes it teachings from time to time a given individual who at one time embraced the Witness community may now find themselves questioning whether they should remain and if so why. Based on what you write above, what does it mean when anointed ones leave association with the Witness community? This has happened, and on occasion it has happened in drovesMarvin Shilmer

  2. StandFirm writes: In the 1st cerutny the Apostles did not maintain a global network of all the anointed to get their input. The same is true today. The Watchtower article you quote from June 15, 2009 points that out. The early biblical governing body is depicted as making decisions under direct inspiration of holy spirit. Presumably the holy spirit did know each and every one of the anointed at that time in the case that the early governing body had to represent the views of that body of folks. The June 15, 2009 Watchtower article leaves this out. StandFirm writes: They have not made that global network of anointed because it is unscriptural and unnecessary; but the network of printeries to print Bible-based printed sermons is necessary to fulfill Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20 to the best extent possible, as the publications can ‘preach’ even after we have left.Please inform readers what precisely is unscriptural about Watchtower forming a network of anointed ones in the earth. They selectively make such a record. They also have local elders keep such a record. So why not use the data they already have had collected to form a network of these anointed ones ? What is unscriptural about doing so? Please explain to readers why it is unnecessary for a representative to know precisely who it is he or she is representing.Marvin Shilmer

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