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The Tetragrammaton is Essential to Your Faith

"We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty…"   (New World Translation, Revelation 11:17)

"We are giving thanks to you, Lord, the God, the Almighty…"  (Kingdom Interlinear Translation, Revelation 11:17)

"Ευχαριστομεν σοι, κυριε [Lord], ο θεος, ο  παντοκρατορ..."  (Kingdom Interlinear Translation, Revelation 11:17)

What importance does the presence of the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Greek Scriptures have for your faith?

     While discussing the significance of the Tetragrammaton with two Witnesses during a return visit, a householder was surprised by a statement one of them made during the conversation. The Witness said that even though he believed that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures used the Tetragrammaton in 237 specific instances, his faith was not dependent on that fact.

     Would you agree with his statement that the inspired writers' use of the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Greek Scriptures is inconsequential to your faith? For at least two reasons, you could not make that statement and be consistent with your faith as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

1. The New World Translation, by its own statement of purpose, maintains that the restoration of the divine name is the most distinctive feature of the translation:

"The foremost feature of this translation is the restoration of the divine name to its rightful place in the English text. It has been done, using the commonly accepted English form "Jehovah" 6,973 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures." (New World Translation Reference Edition, 1984, page 6.)

     The translators of the New World Translation were absolutely correct when they restored the divine name in the Hebrew Scriptures rather than using the traditional "LORD" found in most English Bibles. They are to be commended for their bold effort in restoring Jehovah's name in the Hebrew Scriptures. But what about the Christian Greek Scriptures? If the Tetragrammaton was not used in the original Greek manuscripts, then the foremost feature of the New World Translation in the Christian Scriptures would be based on a false premise.

     The second reason reveals why it is important to one of Jehovah's Witnesses that the Christian Greek Scriptures use the Tetragrammaton.

2. There are verses in the Christian Greek Scriptures which give the addressee the titles of "God" and "the Almighty." Needless to say, if Jesus is identified with the addressee as "God...the Almighty," all Witnesses would be confronted with a serious dilemma. If we compare the wording of the New World Translation and the Kingdom Interlinear Translation (both are published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society), we see this very problem. (The following quotations from the Kingdom Interlinear Translation come directly from the English interlinear portion. The word order is that of the true Greek sentence rather than an English translation.)

New World Translation   Kingdom Interlinear Translation
   "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says Jehovah God, "the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty."   [Revelation 1:8]      I am the Alpha and the Omega, is saying Lord, the God, The (one) being and the (one) was and the (one) coming, the Almighty.   [Revelation 1:8]
   "We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun ruling as king."   [Revelation 11:17]      We are giving thanks to you, Lord, the God, the Almighty, the (one) being and the (one) was, because you have taken the power of you the great and you reigned.   [Revelation 11:17]
   And [the four living creatures] have no rest day and night as they say: "Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is coming."   [Revelation 4:8]      and resting up not [the four living (creatures)] are having of day and of night [they] saying Holy, holy, holy Lord, the God, the Almighty, the (one) was and the (one) being and the (one) coming.   [Revelation 4:8]

     If the Apostle John used יהוה (the Tetragrammaton) when he wrote these verses, then it would be clear that Jehovah is being addressed as "God" and "the Almighty." Revelation 11:17 would have been written,

"Ευχαριστομεν σοι, יהוה, ο θεος, ο  παντοκρατορ..."
"We are giving thanks to you, Jehovah, the God, the Almighty…"

     On the other hand, if John used the Greek word Kyrios (κυριε),1 then the addressee of all of these verses is the one to whom the title Kyrios applies. Since John consistently used the title Kyrios to refer to Jesus throughout the book of Revelation, then it would be proper to understand that John is identifying the Lord (Jesus) as "God" and "the Almighty."

     According to the Kingdom Interlinear Translation (and all ancient Greek manuscript evidence), John wrote,

"Ευχαριστομεν σοι, κυριε [Lord], ο θεος, ο  παντοκρατορ..."  (Kingdom Interlinear Translation)
"We are giving thanks to you, Lord, the God, the Almighty…"   (Kingdom Interlinear Translation)

     Similar instances are found in the book of Revelation where the one being addressed as either "Lord" or "Jehovah" is identified as being "God." (See Revelation 4:11, 15:3, 16:7, 18:8, 19:6, 21:22 and 22:5-6.)

What evidence do we have today?

     Did the Apostle John write the divine name יהוה (the Tetragrammaton) in Revelation 1:8, 11:17, and 4:8, or did he write the Greek word Kyrios?

     The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society has carefully documented Hebrew versions which use the Tetragrammaton. Hebrew versions constitute the sole textual support 2 used by the Translation Committee for the 237 "Jehovah" references found in the New World Translation. (The best reference source for this material is the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. First, consult the introductory section EXPLANATION OF THE SYMBOLS USED. Finally, study each of the 237 "Jehovah" references in the text, carefully reading each footnote. Take particular note of the dates for both the Greek texts and the Hebrew versions to which the footnotes refer.)

     The figure below summarizes the information given in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation footnotes. (Also see the chart given on page 309 of "All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial.") Dates are not given in the figure. However, the earliest "J" Hebrew version is J2, dated from 1385 C.E. The most frequently cited Hebrew version is J7, dated from 1599. The most recent is J22, published in 1979. On the other hand, according to the Kingdom Interlinear Translation footnotes, the earliest Greek manuscript which confirms the use of the Greek word Kyrios (κυριος) is dated about 200 C.E. (approximately 106 years after John wrote Revelation). There are a few Greek manuscripts dated as early as 201 to 300 C.E. (third century) which use Kyrios. The remainder of the 237 "Jehovah" references are verified within Greek manuscripts which substantiate the Greek word Kyrios (κυριος) no later than the fourth century, or 301 to 400 C.E.

     The first discovery which we make is that the information from the Kingdom Interlinear Translation tells us that the earliest date substantiating the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Greek Scriptures is some 1300 years after the Greek Scriptures were written. On the other hand, the earliest Greek manuscripts substantiating the Greek word Kyrios (κυριος) referring to the "Lord" were copied slightly over 100 years after John wrote Revelation.

     But the dates are not the most unsettling discovery we make from the Kingdom Interlinear Translation footnotes. As shown in the figure above, we discover that the textual source for most 3 of the Hebrew versions is the Greek text prepared by Erasmus, a Dutch theologian (1466-1536). This is the text from which the King James Bible was translated. Erasmus' Greek text is well known today. The Tetragrammaton never appears in Erasmus' Greek text of the Christian Greek Scriptures.

     The New World Translation restores "Jehovah" to the Christian Greek Scriptures because the Tetragrammaton appears in a number of Hebrew versions which were translated from a known Greek text which did not contain the Tetragrammaton. The only supporting textual evidence which can be given for the Tetragrammaton comes from these Hebrew versions. We can look at the Greek text from which these Hebrew versions were translated and can readily verify that the Tetragrammaton was never used.

     The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society uses 26 Hebrew translations from the Greek Christian Scriptures which do not contain the Tetragrammaton as proof that the Tetragrammaton was used in the original Greek Scriptures!

     All Hebrew Christian versions are mere translations of the Greek text. The entire "J" footnote evidence in the New World Translation is based upon the very Greek text which the translators are disputing.

     Any one of Jehovah's Witnesses may easily verify this information by finding each of the 237 Jehovah references in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. The first step is to look at the Greek text to determine whether or not the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) was used. The second step is to consult the footnote material to determine the dates supporting the Greek word in comparison with the dates of the Hebrew versions. (This information is available in table form, Comparison of 237 "Jehovah" References.)

1 Unlike English, the Greek noun has a suffix (final letters) to identify its function (subject, object, possessive, singular, plural, etc.) in a sentence. A noun such as Kyrios is always identified in its κύριος (subject) form. However, κύριοι, κύριε, κυρίω, κυρίοις, κύριον, κυρίου, and κυρίων are all forms of the same noun. For more information, see Table 8.     return
2 The New World Bible Translation Committee used a formally stated translation apparatus consisting of: 1) Instances where the inspired Christian writers have quoted verses, passages and expressions from the Hebrew Scriptures, referring back to the Hebrew text to ascertain whether the divine name appeared there. 2) After carefully considering the Hebrew Scriptures as a background, the translators looked for agreement from the Hebrew versions to confirm their rendering. (See the information quoted from the New World Translation, Reference Edition, Appendix 1D.) 3) Unstated in their formal apparatus, was also the conviction that history supported a heresy in the second and third centuries in which the Tetragrammaton was removed. Finally, 4) J20 is appealed to as a confirmation of Hebrew Scripture quotations in the Christian Scriptures. However, the Hebrew versions in "2)" above represent the only textual support appealed to in the apparatus. (Agreement with other parts of Scripture is called "internal evidence," whereas "textual support" refers to manuscript evidence.) Recently, there has been a growing debate regarding the apparatus used by the Translation Committee. Clearly, today there is a great need for a more adequately defined apparatus. However, as much as that need is presently felt, the original Translation Committee gave scant description of their apparatus beyond that stated in Appendix 1D.     return
3 There is a possible exception to this statement. Recent study on the the Shem-Tob Matthew by George Howard (The Gospel of Matthew According to a Primitive Hebrew Text, Mercer University Press, 1987) indicates that it is an early recension of a Hebrew text rather than a translation from Greek. If so, then the Shem-Tob Matthew (J2) and two later revisions of J2 (J3 and J4) are exceptions to this statement because they are not translations. However, as indicated by Howard, J2 does not use יהוה, but uses a circumlocution (a substitute word) in order to avoid using the divine name. See Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew for more information on Howard's interesting study.    return