DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this post is NOT to discourage the use of the name “Jehovah.” The purpose is to dispel the notion put forth by the Watchtower Society that it is the ONLY name we are to use when referring to God. There is nothing wrong with using “Jehovah,” nor is it the only name we can use. That said…
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS, OR WT for short) has spent years trumpeting that they alone use, quote, “The personal name of God.” But do they really?
Question–How many Jews, speaking Hebrew, about 4000 years ago, in the Middle East, used the sound we associate with the letter “J”?
Answer–“Yeah, I’d like to answer that. Uh, what?”
Now, I don’t claim to be a Hebrew scholar, but I have studied what many have had to say on this subject. That said, let’s take a look at the evolution of the name “JEHOVAH.”
For the sake of those of you who may be new to the Bible, whenever you see the word “LORD” in all capital letters in the Old Testament, that is how the translators render the Hebrew word יהוה (Reading right-to-left, the Hebrew characters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. Transliterated into our alphabet, literally, “YHVH”).
Now, keep in mind that the Hebrew alphabet has no vowels to speak of (any Hebrew scholars, feel free to correct me here). So the writer would insert dots (called “vowel points”) above, under, and/or inside the characters to indicate the proper pronunciation. And according to most Bible scholars who have studied biblical Hebrew, the correct pronunciation would be “YAW-vey.”
Next, we bring in the Hebrew word “Adonai,” which translates into “Lord.” Eventually, because of the dispersions the Jews suffered, the Hebrew language began to fade. Legend has it that about 200 years before christ, Hebrew scribes began adding the vowel points for “Adonai” to the Tetragrammaton, (Either out of reverence for God’s name, or out of superstition they would mispronounce it, depending on who you read), thus making it to read “YaHoVaH” when transliterated into English. English changes over the years, the “Y” becomes a “J”, the first “a” becomes an “e” and we now have “Jehovah.”
This is where things get tricky for the JW. According to OFFICIAL WTBTS MATERIAL [Emphasis mine],
“The first recorded use of this form dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book “Pugeo Fidei” of the year 1270.” (from Jehovah’s Witnesses own book “Aid to Bible Understanding” p.884)
In other words, the WTBTS considers the “personal name of God” to be a name erroneously invented by a 13th Century Catholic Monk. Their excuse? [Emphasis mine]
Today many Hebrew scholars prefer Yahweh as the true pronunciation.
However, consistency favors Jehovah. In what way? The pronunciation Jehovah has been accepted in English for centuries.
Those who object to using this pronunciation should also object to the use of the accepted pronunciation Jeremiah and even Jesus. Jeremiah would need to be changed to Yir·meyah’ or Yir·meya’hu, the original Hebrew pronunciations, and Jesus would become Ye·shu’a` (Hebrew) or I·e·sous’ (Greek). Hence, many Bible students, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, feel that consistency favors the use of the already well-known English-language “Jehovah” and its equivalent in other languages.
Stop! Ummmm, wait a sec. We have to pronounce it “Jehovah” in English–but it has, quote, “its equivalent in other languages.” So, if you pronounce THE EQUIVALENT in other languages, you don’t have to pronounce it “Jehovah.” But if you speak English, you have to say “Jehovah.” What about Jews? How are they supposed to pronounce it? I’m confused.
OK, so help me out here. The WTBTS is trying to tell us that the proper pronunciation of, quote, “The personal name of God” DEPENDS ON ITS ACCEPTANCE IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (Or its equivalent in other languages)??? So, basically, Moses, David, Solomon, Abraham–these men did not know how to properly pronounce this name because THEY DIDN’T SPEAK ENGLISH!!
Oh, then there’s this one, from the Watchtower magazine itself [Emphasis mine]:
“…down through the centuries, the correct pronunciation of the divine name in Hebrew has been lost. Hence, it is uncertain what vowels should be used to fill in the name.”(Watchtower, Feb.1, 1980).
There is also evidence from other sources that “YAW-vey” is closer to the true pronunciation. From Let Us Reason Ministries [Emphasis mine]:
THE UNIVERSAL JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA says “JEHOVAH is an erroneous pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, a four lettered name of God, made up of the Hebrew letters Yod He Vav He. The word “JEHOVAH” therefore is a misreading for which there is no warrant and which makes no sense in Hebrew. The Hebrew letters point to a Yod Y…the more correct pronunciation is Yahweh or some form deriving from the same consonants. For example Yah is used in its shorter form in Ex.15:2 and 17:15, Isa.12:2 and Ps.118:14 .
The WTBTS is not sure what vowels should be used. They believe that the English rendering of YHVH is to be trusted over the rendering given by those who speak the language the Old Testament was written in. They say that we non-JW’s don’t use the real, quote, “personal name of God” when they themselves don’t even know what it is.