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Using the Tetragrammaton Apologetic with Jehovah's Witnesses

    I am occasionally contacted by individuals wanting to know how they can effectively talk with Jehovah's Witnesses. By no means do I have all the answers. Nonetheless, the Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Versions Apologetic lays an essential biblical foundation for understanding the Deity of Jesus.

    Ultimately, it is the Deity of Jesus which is the objective of our debate with Jehovah's Witnesses.

    The Divine Name "Jehovah" was introduced into the New World Translation Christian Scriptures 237 times to obscure the Christian Scripture writers' identification of Jesus with the attributes and prerogatives of the Hebrew Scripture God. Using the Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Versions Apologetic, we can appeal to "objective" manuscript and Hebrew version evidence to show that the Christian Scripture writers fully identified Jesus as the "Lord God Almighty."

Primary Comments and Links Secondary Comments and Links
1. Courtesy and respect is mandatory when we talk with Jehovah's Witnesses. 1a. Our purpose is not to "win arguments." Our objective is to kindly proclaim the Person of Jesus. Learn to listen courteously. Careful and discerning listening will bring to light many biblical subjects on which we agree. At times, we will discover that their point of view is more defensible than our own! (For myself, I would include their position regarding the Divine Name in the Old Testament and their denunciation of war as two of these. There are two more, but I am already in enough trouble, so I will leave it at that!)

1b. I personally feel that there is little merit in appealing to subjects such as the Watch Tower Society's United Nations membership, child abuse among their leadership, blood transfusion and the like. Courtesy and respect is not shown when we are attempting to embarrass a Witness. Let's endeavor to engage them in a conversation which will show them more about Jesus. (Child abuse is an important issue. But it is one that they must have the freedom to deal with internally without we as outsiders butting in.)
2. You must be spiritually prepared. Most importantly, you will need to have a carefully studied and biblical understanding of the Person of Jesus. Your understanding of personal redemption (salvation) will be a direct result of your view of Jesus. 2a. Never underestimate the one who, as a roaring lion, is seeking to devour you. He has "devoured" many who have enthusiastically and foolishly attempted risky ministry without making proper preparation for their spiritual well-being. Do not neglect your walk with God when you are preparing for an encounter with a Jehovah's Witness.

2b. The Protestant, Evangelical tradition in which I was raise prides itself on its "strong doctrine" regarding the Deity of Jesus. Yet, in fact, we are dangerously weak. We have a Jesus we claim is God. Yet, we have no difficulty understanding Him to be subservient to the Father. We can describe Him in our best statements of faith as being the "Eternal Son" or as being "eternally begotten of the Father." If we do not understand that God is Absolute by nature, we have missed the lesson of the Old Testament. If we do not understand that Jesus is Absolute and subservient to none other, then we have defined Him as less than God. 2c. The Deity of Jesus will be the foundation for any debate with a Jehovah's Witness. Our salvation is entirely dependent on having the holiness of God (Ephesians 1:4). It is Jesus' righteousness that we are given in salvation through grace (Romans 5:1-11). What kind of righteousness do we have? Is it the righteousness of a mere created being which then requires that we earn additional merit to qualify for Kingdom residence? Or have we been given the complete and perfect righteousness of God Himself? The righteousness Jesus has given to us in salvation is the righteousness of Absolute, Almighty God.

2d. On the other hand, the Spirit's revelation of Jesus to the believer is dependent on His schedule, not ours. Some will confront the truth of His Deity more forcefully before salvation—others later as they mature.
3. You must be intellectually prepared. Do a Personal Study of all the Christian Scripture "Lord" verses which are taken from the Hebrew Scriptures.) 3a. As you read each Hebrew Scripture citation in the Christian Scriptures, be mindful of what the Greek-speaking Jew reading the Septuagint understood that verse to be saying. Then be particularly mindful of how that same Greek-speaking Jew would apply it to the "Lord" Jesus when reading the Christian Scriptures.

3b. Use the Kingdom Interlinear Translation for your Christian Scripture reading during this study. Carefully evaluate each Kingdom Interlinear Translation footnote reference in the "Jehovah" passages. Pay particular attention to the dates given in the footnotes and to the manuscript (and version) evidence cited. Use a New American Standard Bible (New Testament) for confirmation of Hebrew Scripture quotations (Old Testament quotations in the NASB New Testament are identified with all capital letters). Finally, use both a New World Translation and the NASB for reading the Hebrew Scripture verses.

3c. Encourage the Witness you are talking with to do his or her own study of the same material using the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. Encourage him or her to carefully read the Kingdom Interlinear Translation English subscript translation (noting the Greek word for "Lord") along with the footnote material for each citation.
4. Develop accountability for your own protection and then observe Jehovah's Witnesses in their own Kingdom Halls. 4a. I strongly suggest that you establish an accountability relationship with someone with spiritual maturity who has the ability to keep in direct and constant contact with you. Listen carefully to their counsel.

4b. Assuming that you do not have a Jehovah's Witness background, take a deep breath and begin visiting Kingdom Hall meetings. You will find Jehovah's Witnesses to be friendly and pleasant people. Start with the Sunday meetings. (Do not neglect attendance at your own church. Most Halls have a Sunday afternoon meeting for one of their two or three congregations.) Men will probably want to dress "white-shirt-and-tie" and women always wear dresses. You will want to carry a New World Translation (get the Reference Bible) and a hymn book. The simplest way to obtain these is to go to the literature counter after the meeting and ask for them. Be prepared to put something into the "contribution box" for the material you are taking. How much? $5-10 for a Reference Bible, and $3-5 for a hymnal is merely my suggestion. Later, discontinue attending the Sunday meetings and attend the Service Meeting for a while. The combined Theocratic School and Service Meeting will be the most informative for you. At a later time, switch and attend a Book Study held at the Kingdom Hall.

4c. Make it a point to listen to their terminology. When you can use their terminology without sounding affected, it will be less distracting for them to follow what you are saying. Just as we react, I expect that they are less prone to be defensive when they hear terminology they use with each other. Of course, you will never use it perfectly. But if you are not patronizing, you can show them that you place value on what they think is important.

4d. Be discerning in how you act and speak. I suggest that you be forthright in telling those who will ask that you are not a Witness, but that you want to attend in order to learn more about them as people. Initially, they will press you further (they honestly desire your best and want you to become a Witness) so in time you will need to explain that you attend another church and are not planning on becoming one of Jehovah's Witnesses. (You will need to develop uncompromising yet courteous answers to "How did you enjoy the study?" etc. Whereas you probably could not say, "I enjoyed it very much." you might respond, "I enjoyed listening to your discussion of..., I didn't know that Witnesses held that view." I would also suggest that you decline any offers for "Book Studies" in your home. (Though I would encourage you to obtain and read the books being used during the meetings you attend. You can always ask for them at the literature counter.) For your own protection, you will need to kindly and tactfully set a limit on your involvement. I would encourage you never to speak in the meetings. Use very careful judgment in "witnessing" while in the Kingdom Hall. (I suggest that you never do.) When I attended (for almost 3 years) I always followed the words in the hymn book, but I never sang. You will see why. Initially, many people greeted me and were quite friendly. Soon, however, without any hostility, they began to avoid talking with me simply because they did not know what to say. In time, there was a mutual freedom to talk with a number of individuals regarding their jobs, health and the like. (That came at my initiation by talking with a few fellow men about topics which were free of "religious" content; name, trade or profession, etc.) Of course, out of sight (and during meetings), I prayed frequently for many of them by name.

4e. In order to be effective, you must develop an objectivity which considers the merit of specific information rather than merely ascribing "truth" or "error" on the basis of group affiliation. In that process, you will need to develop the ability to compare everything you hear in the Kingdom Hall with the Bible. You will also need to begin comparing everything you have been taught in your own church from the Bible. To your surprise, you will find many things Witnesses are saying is biblical. To your chagrin, you will more than likely find areas in your present Bible view-point which are not well grounded. There is great risk in growth in these areas. Without taking that risk, however, your faith will never develop as your own.

4f. You will now be faced with the problem of developing a good "hermeneutic" (system of Bible interpretation). Witnesses seldom make statements regarding doctrine for which they do not have Bible proof. In your own church, however, you will hear a contradicting doctrine based on other Bible proof. Get some "heavy" books on Bible interpretation and develop your personal hermeneutic. You need a hermeneutic which will survive at both the Kingdom Hall and in your own church! Your pastor should be a good resource as you look for hermeneutic studies.

4g. But be prepared. By the time you finish this process—and I trust that you will allow God to lead you so that you correctly mature in your faith—your comfort and complacency with any one group having all the right answers will be shot to pieces!

4h. You need to develop the ability and habit of listening intently to all Bible teaching, always weighing it against a well-founded hermeneutic. You need to do this in both your own church as well as in a Kingdom Hall.

4i. What I am suggesting above is intended for only a very few. Make certain that your maturity in the Lord is adequate to the challenge you will be subjecting yourself to. In addition, develop an open and trusting relationship with a watchful believer to whom you are accountable. Discipline yourself to confide immediately with this individual at the first sign of difficulty. Should difficulty arise, stop attending meetings, reading books, or any other involvements with Jehovah's Witnesses until the conflict is resolved.
5. Develop A Strategy for Reaching Witnesses. 5a. You will want to develop an approach with Jehovah's Witness that is comfortable for you. This web site focuses entirely on what we call the "Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Versions Apologetic" (or simply, the "Tetragrammaton Apologetic"). My comments assume that this is the approach you intend to emphasize.

5b. Stick with your most effective argument. Don't get drawn into secondary issues. You want to discuss the word used in the original Christian Scripture Greek manuscripts. Was it "kurios" or יהוה? Avoid losing the impact of your argument by getting drawn into discussions of idiosyncrasies of current English translations, or other peripheral subjects.

5c. You will frequently be asked "Don't you agree?" or "What do you think of that?" It is particularly troublesome when you do not want to leave the false impression that you agree. A simple response like, "I don't necessarily agree, but let's keep talking about ...." will get you back on track.

5d. To date, the Watch Tower Society has developed little rebuttal for dealing with the "Tetragrammaton Apologetic." (In some ways, that will be an advantage for you.) As a result, you will be introducing a good deal of material that your Jehovah's Witness contact has not previously considered. Be patient and let him or her absorb the new information without applying unnecessary pressure.

5e. You will soon realize that most Witnesses assume that the majority—if not all—237 "Jehovah" references in the Christian Scriptures are quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures, whereas, their own apologist Greg Stafford says that only 93 of the 237 are true Hebrew Scripture citations. You will find that many assume that all Hebrew versions are ancient manuscripts. They will be surprised to learn that none are earlier than 1385 and most were done between 1800 and the present. So, too, you will find that it has never occurred to most that by allowing a speculated "Tetragrammaton" heresy to alter the New World Translation's wording, their translators have used another source besides Greek manuscripts as the highest biblical authority.

5f. In almost any initial contact, if a Witness hears little but will read a book, you have accomplished far more by way of "information input." You may ask them about their understanding of Hebrew versions, without trying to give much information yourself. This will often start continued discussions. Then, give them a copy of a book like A Field Service Encounter and ask them to tell you after they have finished reading it what they think of the information. Encourage them to come again. This is where you need to be genuine. If you are willing to carefully listen to them, they will be much more inclined to take the book. They will also be more apt to return later because they anticipate that you want to hear what they have to say. You could also use The Divine Name in the New World Translation with questions regarding the use of the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Scriptures. We also have a tract The Tetragrammaton is Essential to Your Faith that could be used. (You can download, print, and photocopy the tract because it is not copyright protected.)

5g. But always remember. Witnesses want you to read their literature, but they usually refuse to take anything from you. So, 1) Take their literature and read it. Be prepared to comment on it when they come back. (Encourage them to come back. If you ask them to bring you a copy of their magazines each month, they will welcome the opportunity. Each month they are required to report both the number of magazines they place and the number of "return visits" they make. Bringing a magazine to you allows them to mark both categories. They look for opportunities to mark both on their Field Service report.) 2) Realize why they will not take your literature when there are two of them at your door. If one of them takes a book, he or she may be reported to the elders by the other. Its that simple. They don't want to be reported. 3) So, you might suggest that they take the book in order to show an elder what is being distributed "against Witnesses." Pray that it will be read before (and after) the elder receives it. 4) Let them clearly hear the web site address www.tetragrammaton.org. They are quite familiar with the word "Tetragrammaton" and will remember it.

5h. Be both wise and gracious. Do not put yourself in spiritual danger. At the same time, recognize that there is much you can learn from Jehovah's Witnesses. Find out how they feel about important Bible truth. What do they think about your church and why? If they will be honest with you, they can tell you of many extremely unkind remarks made by evangelical Christians when they knocked on their doors. They may also give you insight into their own uncertainty. Ask them about their feelings as they spend 10 hours each month fulfilling service requirements in order to satisfy Jehovah's demands for life in an earthly paradise.
6. Do not neglect your personal walk with Jesus as a part of your apologetic. 6a. If we debate theology with a Witness, we are equally matched as to the quantity of material we can present. For every argument or answer one side can raise, the other can counter. This does not mean that an apologetic based on theology is futile. The Holy Spirit can confound and convict. But there is a parity in style which denies us a clear advantage.

6b. There is a significant advantage in content in using the "Tetragrammaton Apologetic." We can say to a Witness, "I base my faith on the words of Scripture as verified by the best manuscript evidence." Whereas, if the Witness will be truly honest with the manuscript evidence for "Jehovah" in the Christian Scriptures, he or she must admit, "I base my faith on mere speculation as to what the Christian Scripture writers wrote. There is no manuscript evidence to support my faith." This is a strategic advantage to us. The Watch Tower Society will never be able to give evidence that the Tetragrammaton was widely* used in the original Christian Scripture writing.
*I purposely use the word "widely" rather than the restrictive word "ever." I do not want to imply that the entire "Tetragrammaton Apologetic" would be invalid if, perchance, a single New Testament manuscript containing the Tetragrammaton was someday discovered. I think it is very unlikely that such a manuscript will ever come to light. But should it be found, that manuscript would need to be evaluated as any other Greek New Testament manuscript for its approximate date of writing, geographic area of production, and most importantly, number and location of verses using the Tetragrammaton. It could then be given no more (or less) weight than any other variant manuscript.
6c. However, we potentially have a stronger argument than even the "Tetragrammaton Apologetic." Can you—without any hypocrisy—tell a Witness that you deeply love Jesus? (Read pages 4-5 of Chapter 15: What Kyrios Means to Me. I said earlier that our purpose in confronting Witnesses is not to "win and argument." What does compel us? Or, more to the point, what compels you? If it is not a deep love and trust in Jesus, why don't you temporarily set aside your apologetic with Witnesses. Take care of your own heart first.

6d. As I have read countless biographies of individuals like George Muller, J. Hudson Taylor, Ann Judson, Rees Howells, John "Praying" Hyde, Esther Ahn Kim, J.O. Fraser and others, I see Jesus working in their lives as One Who is much more than a theological notion. I need to honestly evaluate my own life and expect that the indwelling Jesus will have equal place in me. (Equal place, but not necessarily with the same results.) I should then be able to look down the pew on which I am sitting on Sunday morning and see others in whom Jesus has that same indwelling presence (?). But finally, I should be able to ask a Witness for evidence among those who are in the "truth" for the same kind of examples. Certainly, many Witnesses commendably stood for their faith in the Holocaust. But so did countless Jews, non-Witness Christians and homosexuals. Could I find individuals among the ranks of Jehovah's Witnesses who accomplished great things in Kingdom ministry by reliance on Jehovah alone as did George Muller, J. Hudson Taylor, and others?

6e. The human heart is strongly attracted to that which is real and meaningful. Historically, the church has grown most during intense persecution because the observing "world" could see faith that had substance. How I long for a God that is powerful in my life. I am not looking for "miracles." But I want a Presence and a Reality in my life which is beyond doubt. A Jesus for Whom I could give my life. The Witness has fully experienced organized religion. It is hollow. Do you have something different to offer?
7. If you are using the "Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Versions Apologetic," be prepared to acknowledge the deficiency of your own English Bible tradition with its use of "LORD" in the Old Testament. See LORD and Jehovah. 7a. You will need to study this issue and form your own opinion regarding the use of LORD in your Old Testament translation. You cannot, however, criticize the New World Translation for altering "Lord" to "Jehovah" 237 times in their Christian Scriptures without acknowledging that your own Bible has made a similar alteration almost 7,000 times in the Old Testament.

7b. Anticipate the Witness' objection to LORD, acknowledge that the New World Translation has done a better job of reproducing the Divine Name as "Jehovah" in the Hebrew Scriptures and then move on with the discussion.

7c. If it is truly your opinion, thank them for their personal effort in promoting the use of God's name and ask them to continue encouraging non-Witnesses to use it. I can truthfully make that comment to any Witness with no sense that I am endorsing other areas of their faulty theology.

7d. Do not get side tracked on a discussion of the preferred pronunciation of Jehovah. In reality, "Jehovah" is no more a corruption of יהוה than the English word "Jesus" is of the Greek Iesous. (Interestingly, the Christian Scripture writers themselves made the first major change. Jesus' Hebrew name was something like Yeshua and no one in the first century seemed to be upset that it was altered in Greek to Iesous.) The pronunciation "Jehovah" is perfectly acceptable, though in most non-Witness circles today we would favor Yahweh.

7e. Does this openness to self-criticism and the need for correcting "LORD" in your own Bible tradition bother you? Does it particularly gall you that it is coming from a Jehovah's Witness rather than from your own theological group? It is good that it does. It will be just a small indication to you of how the Witness feels when you point out error in the New World Translation.
8. We must define what we expect to accomplish. We risk shutting down the communication process by moving too quickly, or by focusing primarily on doctrinal topics.*

*Note: I am not discounting the value of doctrinal topics. I am merely saying that Witnesses regard the Bibles we use to develop that doctrine as being corrupted. And so, they conclude, if the Bible from which the doctrine is developed is corrupted, so therefore, is the doctrine itself corrupted.
8a. As much as the Deity of Jesus must be central to our understanding of His Person, we must patiently wait for a Witness to lay that same foundation in his or her own life.

8b. Recognize that a Witness is strongly (reiterate, strongly) biased against the "Trinity." I have heard the Trinity referred to as the "vomit" of Christendom.

8c. Also realize that the New World Translation was produced in order to remove the strongest Christian Scriptures' evidence for the Deity of Jesus; that is, the identification of Jesus as "Lord" as One having the prerogatives and attributes of the God of the Hebrew Scriptures.

8d. The New World Translation is the only Bible a Witness fully trusts. A new foundation must therefore be laid. They must see that the Tetragrammaton was not used in the original Christian Scripture writings (autographs). They must be shown—not only for their intellect, but for their emotions as well—that the Christian Scripture writers described Jesus using Hebrew Scripture passages reserved uniquely for the holy God of Israel.

8e. This process will take time. But it is the task to which I (we?) are committed.

8f. Therefore, patiently and consistently show the New World Translation reader that "Jehovah" was not used in the Christian Scriptures. This is not true because Christendom does not want the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Scriptures. It is true because the Christian Scripture writers themselves did not use it. Then, when the Christian Scripture writers are allowed to speak for themselves through the exact words they actually wrote, the Witness must recognize what they were intentionally saying about Jesus.

8g. Read Chapter 14: The Indistinct Meaning of Kyrios from the book The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures.
9. To effectively use the "Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Versions Apologetic," you will need to carefully read the material on this site. There are two primary issues:

1) The New World Translation is built on the presumption that the Tetragrammaton was used 237 times by the Christian Scripture writers. This assertion will stand or fall solely on ancient manuscript evidence.

2) The translators' confirmation for the 237 Tetragrammaton references in the New World Translation was taken from Hebrew versions. The validity of this evidence will stand or fall on the existence of the Tetragrammaton in the Greek manuscripts from which the Hebrew versions were translated.

3) A third—and less important issue—is the historic evidence for a presumed heresy in the 2nd and 3rd centuries during which, it is said, the Tetragrammaton was removed from the Christian Scripture manuscripts.
9a. For a brief introduction to the Tetragrammaton, see The Tetragrammaton heading under Topical Studies on the Home page. Particularly note IV. Use of the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Scriptures.

9b. For a brief introduction to Hebrew versions used in the New World Translation, see the Hebrew Versions heading under Topical Studies on the Home page.

9c. Read The Divine Name in the New World Translation. This book will give you the best summary of the "Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Version Apologetic."

9d. Also read The Tetragrammaton in Hebrew Versions which is a downloadable book on this web site. The printed book A Field Service Encounter is identical in its technical content but contains an additional story line for the Jehovah's Witness reader. You may wish to obtain a copy of the printed books, print out a copy of the downloadable books, or suggest that the individual with whom you are in discussion read them on this web site.

9e. In response to statement 2) in the left-hand column which says that, "The validity of this evidence will stand or fall on the existence of the Tetragrammaton in the Greek manuscripts from which the Hebrew versions were translated." see 10e below. Some Jehovah's Witness apologists are moving away from strong reliance on Hebrew version evidence. However, irrespective of the trend today, reliance on confirmation in Hebrew versions is a stated guideline given by the original New World Bible Translation committee.

9f. The most complete book on the subject is the 360 page book The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures.
10. There is a fundamental issue at stake in the "Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Version Apologetic." We must define the highest authority for our Bible translation. If it is not found in the best preserved Greek Christian Scripture manuscripts, then by definition, it is found in something else. If the word "Jehovah" can be added to the Christian Scriptures when the Greek text uses the word "Lord," then another higher authority has been invoked above the Greek manuscripts, irrespective of what that authority may be. 10a. Traditionally, almost all of Christianity has moved to the position that the highest authority for the content of the Christian Scriptures is the verifiable written text of the extant (preserved) Greek Christian Scripture manuscripts. There are now over 5,000 such partial or complete manuscripts. (There was a time among the Roman Catholic tradition when the Latin Vulgate was given higher authority than the Greek text.)

10b. The best Greek manuscripts are studied and compiled to form a Greek text. The manuscripts are ancient documents. The Greek text is the final compilation from which a translator works. The Westcott and Hort Greek text (which is reproduced in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation) is the Greek text from which the New World Translation was rendered.

10c. If the words used in the best reconstructed Greek text can be reduced to secondary importance, then whatever evidence superseded it, becomes a higher authority than the Greek text itself.

10d. Thus, if the change from "Lord" to "Jehovah" is justified by a presumed heresy in the 2nd or 3rd century which explains that the Tetragrammaton was removed and was replaced with "Lord," then the presumed heresy becomes the higher authority. If Hebrew versions are used to alter the words of the Greek text, then the Hebrew versions become the higher authority.

10e. Jehovah's Witness apologists are beginning to take exception to this argument of "higher authority." (See Our Second Answer to Greg Stafford. There are also other unpublished apologetics that are forming along this line.) In summary, they will say something to the effect that, "It is not the heresy of the second century, nor is it the Hebrew versions which demand the use of the Divine Name in the Christian Scriptures. Rather, it is the Monotheistic teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures which requires it." On the surface, their statement sounds reasonable. Yet, they are still invoking a higher authority than the written Christian Scripture manuscript evidence. 1) It is a statement that the particular Hebrew Scripture theology held by a specific group is the higher authority. It entirely ignores that those who believe in the Deity of Jesus are not required to deny the Monotheistic teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures. 2) It is also a statement which limits God. It says that He can reveal nothing more about Himself to humanity in the Christian Scriptures than what He had revealed by the end of the Hebrew Scriptures. That is a presumptuous assertion of a higher authority. It says that the Hebrew Scriptures' revelation of the person of God, as defined by a particular interpretation, is a higher authority than the best manuscript evidence of the Christian Scriptures.

10f. Greg Stafford inadvertently appeals to even another level of authority when he argues that Jehovah should remain in 144 "Jehovah" passages, "But since the NWT translators have gone to great lengths to help their readers understand the basis for their use of the divine name in these 144 instances...then they cannot rightly be spoken of as having attempted to deceive anyone." He has appealed to the Translation Committee as a higher authority inasmuch as the Translation Committee's interpretation is preferred over the actual wording of the best Greek manuscript evidence.

10g. "Higher authority" is a powerful argument. Do not get side-tracked by the arguments of 10e above. Force the one discussing this topic with you to confront the issue that anything that replaces the words of the best Greek text assumes a "higher authority." Jehovah's Witnesses have great respect for the authority of Scripture. You must simply confront them with the need to be consistent in every area of that point of view. It is inconsistent for them to apply it to all other areas of Scripture, but selectively ignore it 237* times in the Christian Scriptures because it differs with their theology. ("Lord" is used 714 times in the Christian Scriptures.)
*This principle is equally ignored in the "[other]"s of Colossians 1, and the "worship" / "obeisance" references. For more information on this topic, see the material in the Truth in Translation review.
10h. Occasionally, a Bible translator must choose between alternate readings (textual variants) in the Bible text when different words appear in the same location in two or more ancient Greek manuscripts. There is a great difference, however, between making a choice between textual variants, and choosing between the text itself and something entirely outside of the text. For example, frequently, there will be a variant of God (Theos) and Lord (Kurios) represented in different Greek manuscripts recording the same verse. The textual critic will attempt to select the one which is the best reconstruction of the original Christian Scripture document. This process is not one of appealing to a higher authority than the text itself. It is an attempt to correctly determine the original wording of the text so that the text can become the highest authority.
11. You will want to press the "Tetragrammaton" argument. I will assume that you have read the material on this site and/or in the published or downloadable books.

The topic does not require any knowledge of the Greek language. However, you would do well to familiarize yourself with the subject of Textual Criticism under the Home page's Topical Studies. If possible, read the books:

The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption , and Restoration by Bruce Metzger,

Scribes, Scrolls, & Scripture: A Students Guide to New Testament Textual Criticism by J. Harold Greenlee,


Introduction to New Testament Criticism, by J. Harold Greenlee.

If these books are unavailable, find another scholarly text on the subject.
11a. There is a central, all important question which we must never forget. That is simply, "Where is the manuscript evidence for the Tetragrammaton?" It is interesting to me that this "Tetragrammaton Apologetic" has fared so well against even extremely competent apologists like Greg Stafford. (Stafford actually admits that "the argument…cannot be faulted" in 144 of the 237 "Jehovah" instances.) My often repeated question is , "Where is the manuscript evidence?" Their answer must always excuse why there is no evidence, and then shift to another line of argument.

11b. Why has the Watch Tower Society resorted to "Tetragrammaton proofs" like the great heresy in the 2nd or 3rd centuries; Hebrew versions which use the Tetragrammaton; the early Christians supposed hatred of the Divine Name, etc.? Simply because these hypothesized views of history help buttress the presence of the Tetragrammaton in the original manuscripts, notwithstanding a complete absence of real manuscript evidence.

11c. It will help you to identify that which is the primary argument, and those which are secondary arguments. From the perspective of those using the "Tetragrammaton Apologetic," manuscript evidence is the primary argument. We use manuscript evidence to define the content of Scripture. I accept or reject the statement that the Christian Scripture (New Testament) authors used יהוה on the presence (or absence) of יהוה in the manuscript evidence. On the other hand, those arguing that יהוה was used in the original Christian Scriptures cannot resort to manuscript evidence. Instead, they must appeal to secondary arguments. Therefore, you will encounter statements that Jesus spoke Hebrew, that Jesus and the Disciples read from the Hebrew language Hebrew Scriptures, that Jesus regularly used Jehovah's name, and the like. Logically, these statements must be true if יהוה had been used in the original Christian Scriptures.

11d. In themselves, these are interesting and, in many cases, plausible statements. Witnesses have probed areas regarding Jesus' use of language that the rest of us have usually overlooked. But do not get side-tracked by these secondary arguments. They have been introduced into the debate to justify that the Christian Scripture authors had to use יהוה when they wrote. I believe that today there is more evidence that Hebrew was a widely spoken language in Jesus' day.* Jesus would certainly have read from a Hebrew language scroll when He read the Isaiah passage in the synagogue.** Agree where you can and then immediately get back to the primary issue—the manuscript evidence for יהוה.
*During the excavations of Masada in the 1960s, Hebrew language inscriptions were found inside hidden areas of columns. The Hebrew letters and numbers were used to locate sections of the columns for assembly. Pottery jars were found in the store rooms with content descriptions in Hebrew. Stone masons and stewards would certainly have written their notes in a language they used in everyday speech. This would be even more true in constructing Herod's fortress at Masada because it was a secular palace and not a religious building. (From "Masada, Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand," Yigael Yadin, Sphere Books Limited, 1966. See photos on pages 69, and 97.)
**In the account at Luke 24:27, Luke is almost certainly referring to Hebrew language Scriptures when he writes, "And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets [Jesus] interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures." The book order used in the Septuagint is the predecessor to the order found today in all non-Jewish Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testaments). However, the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures contain three sections—the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. (Or sometimes simply called, the Law and the Prophets.) The statement "Moses and all the Prophets" is most likely a reference to a discourse from the Hebrew language Scriptures rather than the Greek Septuagint. Jesus makes another interesting comment at Luke 12:50-51 when he said, "So that the blood of all the prophets spilled from the foundation of the world may be required from this generation, from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zechariah, who was slain between the altar and the house." Zechariah's death is recorded at 2 Chronicles 24:20 which is certainly not the last account of a prophet being killed in the Septuagint order of the Hebrew Scriptures. However, the Hebrew language Scriptures end with a single book called Chronicles (which includes both 1 & 2 Chronicles in the Septuagint order). Jesus' comment would have been meaningful only to listeners who were familiar with a Hebrew Scripture in the Hebrew language.
11e. Relentlessly keep their attention on the lack of manuscript evidence for the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Scriptures. Jehovah's Witnesses want to have a logical and consistent faith. To the degree that they have thought about it, they honestly believe that their Bible must be based on accurate manuscript evidence. In this one area, however, they must confront the reality that they are required to deny manuscript evidence to preserve a theological bias. They have probably never faced that before. Keep emphasizing that to them.

11f. Do not lose sight of the significance of this argument. The Deity of Jesus stands with the absence of the Tetragrammaton in the original Christian Scriptures.

11g. I believe 11f is true because it was the way the Christian Scripture writers chose to present the Deity of Jesus to the Jewish mind-set of their day. Today we rely on systematic theology to establish Jesus' Deity. The Christian Scripture writers accomplish this by identifying Jesus with the prerogatives and attributes of יהוה in the Hebrew Scriptures.

11h. The Kingdom Interlinear Translation Greek text is a powerful tool. One only needs to look at any of the 237 "Jehovah" references to see that the Tetragrammaton is not used in what the Watch Tower Society considers to be its best Greek text.

11i. A Witness may argue that his or her faith would not change were the Tetragrammaton not in the Christian Scriptures. Challenge them during their own meetings to silently read "Lord" every time they hear "Jehovah" read from the New World Translation Christian Scriptures. (There would be exceptions allowed when, for example, "Jehovah" is clearly being addressed during Mary's prayer, etc.) They will quickly realize that their faith has everything to do with the presumed presence of the Tetragrammaton.

11j. For all of the difficulties the presumed removal of the Tetragrammaton presents to the student of textual criticism, its complete disappearance with no trace is the most inexplicable. Not only have none of the more than 5,000 surviving Greek manuscripts shown any indication of the Tetragrammaton, they have shown no evidence of any variants that could be explained by the Tetragrammaton. What is more, there is no variant in any of the 237 "Jehovah" verses for a Greek look-alike or transliteration such as PIPI or IAO. See Chapter 10: Removal of the Tetragrammaton From Early Greek Manuscripts from the book The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures.

11k. On the other hand, with a much smaller number of extant texts, the Septuagint from the same era has preserved the Tetragrammaton. One might ask, "Why did the Tetragrammaton in the Septuagint survive when it did not survive in the Christian Scripture manuscripts which have significantly more extant copies from the same time period?"
12a. The Watch Tower Society's argument that the Tetragrammaton was removed from the Christian Scriptures opens a terrible quandary for them. 12a. In order to introduce "Jehovah" into the Christian Scriptures, the foundation claim of the New World Bible Translation Committee is the sudden and complete removal of the Tetragrammaton 237 times from the earliest Greek manuscripts. They readily admit that there is no manuscript evidence today that the Tetragrammaton was in the original writings.*
*For reference see Aid to Bible Understanding, pages 886-888.
12b. An important term used in textual criticism is the word "variant." A variant defines an alternate word used in other (usually less reliable) Greek manuscripts. For example, say that a majority of the best Greek manuscripts use the word Kurios (Lord) in a particular verse. However, a few manuscripts may use the word Theos (God). If the best (usually, but not always, the most numerous and oldest) manuscript evidence favors the word Kurios (Lord), then the word Theos (God) is classified as a variant. We see this in Acts 12:24. The preferred reading (meaning that it has the best Greek manuscript evidence) reads,
But the word of the Lord continued to grow and be multiplied. (NASB)
whereas the variant reading says,
But the word of God grew and multiplied. (KJV)
12c. Whenever Greek manuscripts differ in wording, the variants are always listed in the reference catalogs which explain the Greek text. This is vitally important. In this way, we know exactly where there is a difference in wording between ancient Greek manuscripts. We also know which wording is probably the best because the word (or phrase) used in the most reliable manuscripts is compared with the word (or phrase) used in the least reliable. If no variants are listed, then we know that the words (or phrases) without variants are identical in all ancient Greek manuscripts.

12d. I checked each of the 237 "Jehovah" references against Bruce Metzger's A Textual Commentary on The Greek New Testament. I was looking for Kurios as found in the critical text against Theos as a variant in the Textuse Receptus (King James Greek text). There are four such cases: Acts 12:24, Acts 15:40, Romans 14:4, and James 3:9. However, in none of the 237 "Jehovah" references is there a variant for the Tetragrammaton or even for a Greek transcription of the Tetragrammaton. In other words, the entire collection of ancient Greek manuscripts concur that the Tetragrammaton was never used.

12e. Textual critics developed a system for notifying the student of the probability of a reading.

By means of the letters A, B, C, and D, enclosed within "braces" { } at the beginning of each set of textual variants, the Committee has sought to indicate the relative degree of certainty...for the reading adopted as the text. The letter A signifies that the text is virtually certain, while B indicates that there is some degree of doubt. The letter C means that there is a considerable degree of doubt...while D shows that there is a very high degree of doubt. (The Greek New Testament United Bible Societies, 1983, pages xii-xiii)
12f. None of the 237 "Jehovah" references list any Tetragrammaton variants. In only four instances is the variant between "Lord" and "God" listed. Therefore, the remaining "Jehovah" references are on the level of words and phrases which have the highest certainty of Greek manuscript reliability. That is, there is no doubt that the original writings used the Greek word indicated (which is usually Kurios).

12g. What if we could allow that an entirely different word was used 237 times in the text for which there is supposedly the highest certainty? And what if we needed to admit that there was neither manuscript evidence or historical support for that word? The result of that assertion would relegate the entire contents of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) to mere fable and tradition. None of the words in the entire Christian Scriptures would have any better certainty than the presumed Tetragrammaton which has no manuscript evidence of any kind. The Watch Tower Society's argument—if true—would reduce the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) to nothing more than fable or myth.
13. The Hebrew version portion of the apologetic is simple to communicate. It is based on three premises:

1) "Jehovah" in the NWT Christian Scriptures has Hebrew Scripture backing in less than half of the 237 occurrences.

2) Hebrew versions are not ancient documents.

3) Hebrew versions are translations of a known Greek text which does not use the Tetragrammaton.
13a. While attending Kingdom Hall meetings for almost 3 years, I heard occasional references to Hebrew versions. My experience is that most Witnesses assume that all (or at least a majority) of the 237 "Jehovah" references are based on Tetragrammaton citations from Hebrew Scripture verses. In their statements, at least, they convey that whatever exceptions there may be, they are insignificant enough that they need not be mentioned. Of course, that may change as they increasingly encounter the "Tetragrammaton and Hebrew Version Apologetic."

13b. Greg Stafford put the number of Hebrew Scripture citations in the Christian Scriptures at 93. I have more liberally placed the number at 112 because I used the additional resource of the NASB's capitalized Old Testament Quotations.

13c. In developing this apologetic with a Witness, be certain to show him or her that the Hebrew Scripture citations which support the 237 "Jehovah" references are in a minority. In most instances, I would think that they would generally be surprised that they had been lead to believe otherwise.

13d. Conversations regarding the Hebrew versions which I heard in the Kingdom Halls also indicated to me that Witnesses take for granted that Hebrew versions are ancient documents. Some may understand the recent dates of their publication, but it is not noticeably acknowledged in their descriptions of them. Thus, as a group, they use Hebrew versions to authenticate the Tetragrammaton from antiquity.

13e. Use the Kingdom Interlinear Translation's list of Hebrew versions to show the Witness their publication dates. Contrast their late dates with the early dates of the Greek manuscripts in the same section. Finally, show him or her footnote examples from the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. Show the date differences between the "proof" for the Tetragrammaton as against the verification of the word "Lord."

13f. And finally, though I expect most Witnesses know the definition of "version," they refer to Hebrew versions without apparent awareness that it is a translation from another language text.

13g. This final explanation may result in the most startling realization for a Witness. Hebrew versions were translated from Greek texts. In the large majority of cases, the Textus Receptus Greek text was used. This is the same Greek text which was used for the King James Version. It is also the same Greek text they dispute because it does not use the Tetragrammaton!
14. The Greek title Kurios can be used for both Jehovah and Jesus in the Christian Scriptures. Therefore, we must determine which of the two is being addressed for a particular verse.


There is a distinction between The Lord God and The Lord God Almighty.
14a. On the surface, it would seem that the book of Revelation would be an ideal place to study the word Kurios from the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. Twelve verses use Jehovah in the New World Translation, yet use Kurios in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation Greek text (1:8, 4:8 and 11,11:17, 15:3-4, 16:7, 18:8, 19:6, 21:22, and 22:5-6). If Kurios is to be translated as "Lord" in reference to Jesus*, then Revelation is making a clear statement that Jesus is Almighty God.
*We understand that the context determines usage. The word kurios is also used in the Christian Scriptures for "master," as an address to an individual of higher rank, or merely as the formal address "Sir."
14b. To counter the argument that Jesus is represented as Almighty God in Revelation, the New World Translation claims that these verses were originally written using the Tetragrammaton. Our task would then be to show that Kurios was the word used by John when he wrote the book.

14c. However, the one you are talking with may side-step the manuscript issue and explain that the word Kurios was used for both Jehovah and Jesus as the Lord. They will correctly remind you that the same word was also used for "master," "Sir," etc. From this, they will state that the context will determine whether Kurios should be translated as Jehovah or as Lord in reference to Jesus.

14d. Notice what they have done. They have indicated that they will use whichever of two conflicting arguments will allow them to avoid the deity of Jesus. If claiming that the modern Greek text is in error and that יהוה was used in the original text will suffice, they will use that claim as evidence. On the other hand, if that claim is not allowable, then they will argue that Kurios can mean Jehovah when a translator wants it to.

14e. However, they are making a more serious error than merely selecting one of two conflicting arguments. It is easily demonstrated in the whole of the Christian Scriptures that the writers could have firmly established the deity of Jesus by identifying him with Jehovah. This they could have done by "blurring" the distinction of the two by using the single word Kurios. The inspired authors did not use the two words יהוה and κύριος. They used only one word Kurios for both.*
*The reader should be discerning. For example, Luke 5:17, Matthew 1:22-23a, Luke 1:38, and many other verses are clearly talking about Jehovah, not the Lord Jesus. At the same time, the discerning reader will realize that the original authors are saying something very important by their avoidance of two distinctly different words. The Bible translator incorrectly assumes the role of interpreter when—in this case—he forces a distinction that the original writers did not. John knew Greek well enough to know the ambiguity he introduced into the phrase "Lord (Kurios) God Almighty." Unless it could be shown that John used the Tetragrammaton in this verse, we must concede that he used the ambiguity intentionally for the reader of his day. John wanted to convey a meaning that was inherent in the ambiguity which was not present had he selected one or the other of the two words. Equally, the translator today must not remove that same ambiguity for the modern reader.
14f. We have addressed this important issue elsewhere and so will not develop it further. The question is simply, "Is God free to reveal more about Himself in the Christian Scriptures than He did in the Hebrew Scriptures? If so, must the Bible translator let the Christian Scripture writers speak for themselves or may he interpret what the original writers said in order to accommodate a particular theological position?"

14g. You will also encounter the distinction between The Lord God and The Lord God Almighty. (Or, between God Almighty referring solely to Jehovah and mighty God which is also permissible for Jesus.) It is a distinction often made by ones of Jehovah's Witnesses. However, at Revelation 1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 19:6, and 21:22, Kurios is the one who is described as the God who is Almighty.* Any attempt to explain these passages as referring to Jehovah rather than the Lord (Jesus) requires an interpretation of the passage which is outside of the meaning of the original language manuscript. The only way to credibly bring "Jehovah" into these passages is to have a textual justification for doing so. Their textual justification would be, of course, the claim that the Tetragrammaton was used in John's original Greek manuscript.
*There are 10 citations of "Almighty" from the Christian Scriptures in the Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. When compared with the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, each reference uses the Greek word pantokrator. Of these, eight use pantokrator of Kurios (2 Corinthians 6:18, Revelation 1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 19:6, and 21:22) and two use pantokrator of theos (Revelation 16:14 and 19:15).
14.h A recent rebuttal has been added to counter the statement that Revelation 1:8 is saying "Lord God Almighty" rather than "Jehovah God Almighty." (See the article Who is Speaking in Revelation 1:8?.) We must frequently study the context of a passage to determine its meaning. But context is never a stronger evidence than the words used in the text itself. The Greek text of Revelation 1:8—which is clearly seen in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation—says "Lord God Almighty." It is impossible to argue that context makes this a statement of Jehovah when the text itself attributes it to the Lord.
15. The Tetragrammaton Apologetic is gaining momentum on a world-wide scale.

15a. In the near future, the Tetragrammaton Apologetic will become an important part of the debate between Witnesses and outside apologists. Debate will shift from issues involving the Watch Tower Society's leadership and theology to a discussion of manuscript evidence supporting the Tetragrammaton in the New Testament autographs.

15b. Chat room's are already debating the use of the Tetragrammaton in the autographs. This same material is appearing on web sites around the world. Ten books on the subject have already been published in non-English languages, and more are being planned. Russian language books have been widely distributed among both Witnesses and evangelical pastors in former Soviet Block countries. Awareness of the subject is rapidly growing in the non-English world.

15c. Apologists arguing against the New World Translation will increasingly evaluate the manuscript evidence for the Tetragrammaton in the New Testament autographs. Side issues used in the past by apologists favorable to the New World Translation will no longer suffice. (These side issues included discussions of Hebrew versions, translation problems in the King James and other versions, use of "Jehovah" in missionary versions, and the like.) The Watch Tower Society will be held increasingly accountable for translation faithfulness to the Greek text. Because the topic will become so widespread among New World Translation opponents, the Watch Tower Society will be forced to speak to the controversy even though they have no textual support for their argument.*

*For reference see Aid to Bible Understanding, pages 886-888.
15d. The debate will become increasingly common because it cannot be directly defended by the New World Translation apologist. By their own admission, the Watch Tower Society states that there are no extant Greek manuscripts which contain the Tetragrammaton. Yet, the Deity of Jesus is easily established when all of the appropriate* "Kurios" verses are translated with the single word "Lord." All the arguments regarding the rightful place of God's name in the New Testament become moot if it can be established that the author's did not insert the Tetragrammaton.**
*The Greek word "kurios" is also used in the sense of "master," and "lords."
**In no way does this argue against the proper use of His name in the Old Testament, nor its use among Christians today.
15e. This debate will focus on at least four issues:
  1. Verifiable manuscript evidence. The fact that the Tetragrammaton is not used in any of the more than 5,000 extant Greek manuscripts will come under close scrutiny.

  2. The limit of authority. The best Greek manuscript evidence has traditionally been used as the highest authority for Christian Scripture (New Testament) content. In the past, there have been numerous debates regarding the selection of words based on acceptance of one or another Greek manuscript. Higher criticism has debated the reliability of the text itself. But prior to the publication of the New World Translation, there has never been an attempt on this scale to replace the known words of the Greek text with a word foreign to Greek manuscript evidence.* Will the assumed use of the Tetragrammaton—notwithstanding the absence of textual evidence—be the first exception to this long-standing practice?
    *The English Bible, however, has long used transliteration in place of translation to mask the literal meaning of certain Greek words.
  3. The functionality of textual criticism. Of necessity, this debate must examine the subject of textual criticism in greater detail. When debating the Tetragrammaton issue, proponents of the New World Translation will often argue that textual criticism is rife with inadequacies. However, they overlook the reality that the remainder of their Christian Scriptures (New Testament) is wholly dependent on this science (art) for accuracy. They also fail to acknowledge that textual criticism's provision of variant readings for many texts is the very tool which it uses to establish why one reading has superiority over another. (Listing the number of variants as errors is ludicrous.) Cataloging variants does not increase the probability of error; it decreases it!

  4. Criteria for presuming the Tetragrammaton. Equal to the problem of presuming the Tetragrammaton's presence in any of the 237 "Jehovah" citations in the New World Translation's Christian Scriptures, is the problem of why it would be found in these verses but not others. If the New World Bible Translation Committee's criteria allows reinstatement of "Jehovah" 237 times in the Christian Scriptures, then the same criteria must allow the use of "Jehovah" in similar instances where Hebrew versions use the Tetragrammaton.
15f. It is also my hope that in this same debate, God will cause non-Witnesses to realize that their Bible publishers have committed an equal error in removing the name of God from the Old Testament by using "LORD."

15g. Another area of discussion introduced primarily by Witnesses is that of bias in Bible translation. This, too, is profitable for all of us inasmuch as New Testaments in the Protestant tradition have inserted bias. Better attention to this detail should result in more faithful Bible translations for all Bible readers. See the review of Jason BeDuhn's Truth in Translaton. Note in this review, however, that the New World Translation has also resorted to bias to defend a theological position.