Author: Ron Graham
The Name “Jehovah”
—The special name of God
God's name is very special. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name" (Matthew 6:9). The word "hallowed" means holy, consecrated, set apart for God’s use.
God makes the holiness of his name quite definite in this statement: "I am the Lord, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). The psalmist Asaph recognized that this special name belonged only to the Most High God: "You alone whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth" (Psalms 83:18).
The name translated "Lord above is said by some to be “Jehovah”. It is also sometimes rendered YHWH or Yahweh. Below are some notes on this name.
- The name some render as “YHWH”, “Jehovah”, or “Yahweh” was thought by some scholars to be related to, and possibly derived from, the verb to be in Hebrew. God used the verb to be (in the form "I AM") as his name when he was instructing Moses (Exodus 3:14).
- When Jesus said, "I tell you truly, before Abraham was, I am" the reaction was that "they picked up rocks to stone him" (John 8:54-59). It is suggested that they interpreted what he said as blasphemy (cf John 5:17-18, John 10:30-33) because "I AM" was tantamount to taking for himself the holy name of God.
- I am told that this special Hebrew word which some render as “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” was considered so hallowed, the Talmud required scribes to wipe their pen clean and dip it afresh before writing this name. Furthermore, when the scriptures were read aloud this name was not pronounced. In its place the reader would say, "Lord" because the actual name was considered too hallowed for mortal lips to utter lest they take God's name in vain (Exodus 20:7).
- The Hebrew letters look something like this: . The letters are, Yodh, Heth, Vav, Heth (Read the Hebrew from right to left). Scholars attempt to render the name somehow in English letters. One version is YHWH (Read the English from left to right). Sometimes in Scripture the name is contracted to the first two letters only (eg Isaiah 26:4, Psalms 68:4).
- Scholars cannot agree on how to pronounce this name, or how to render it in English: some previously suggested “Jehovah”, others nowadays lean more toward “Yahweh”. The vowels inserted are an educated guess, but a guess nevertheless.
- There is a simple way out of the difficulty for translators: they adopt the Jewish convention, and substitute the word Lord for the Hebrew name, but put it in capitals so that we will realise that it is God's special name being translated.
- Significantly, this is also how the New Testament translates the name. It renders it with the Greek word κυριος (kurios) which meant "Lord". So translators have this inspired precedent for rendering God’s special name as as "the Lord". Acts chapter two provides some examples: (Acts 2:20-21 Joel 2:31-32, Acts 2:34, Psalms 110:1).
- Accordingly, in scripture citations on simplybible.com we render God's special name as "Lord", and to use the term “Jehovah” in quotes to indicate that it is a doubtful form used by others.