Where did the name “Jehovah”, which appears more than 7,000 times in the New World Translation, come from?
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the organization of the religion known as Jehovah’s Witnesses explains, “Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican order, first rendered the divine name as ‘Jehova’. This form appeared in his book Pugeo Fidei, published in 1270 C.E.—over 700 years ago.” — Watchtower, February 1, 1980, pg.11-13
At the Yankee Stadium, when giving his speech introducing the New World Translation, the Society’s president said: “But, while recognizing the merits of the pronunciation ‘Yah‧weh′’, the translation committee has used the form ‘Jehovah’ because of its familiarity and because it preserves the four original letters of the Hebrew name. In God’s own time when He reveals the correct pronunciation of his holy name, we will gladly make the accurate correction.”— Watchtower, September 15, 1950, page 317 ¶ 14.
However, the four letters of the Tetragrammaton are YHWH—not JHVH. J isn’t a Hebrew letter, and didn’t even exist until the 14th century! The four Canaanite-Hebrew letters Yodh, Heh, Waw, Heh are correctly transliterated in Roman/Latin letters as YHWH יהוה —and erroneously transliterated as JHVH.
Excerpt from Watchtower Oct. 11, 1950 Available on Watchtower Library DVDROM
An Open Letter to the Catholic Monsignor
THE DIVINE NAME
The last four paragraphs of your article are grouped under the heading “Jehovah Not Correct as God’s Name”. Here you open by saying: “Something of the shallow scholarship in the sect in adopting the word Jehovah as part of its title is shown by the Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia’s treatment of this word: . . . .” And your closing paragraph says: “We fear that all the other scholarship of the Witnesses, including what they have done in their translation of the New Testament, is on the same basis as their use of the word Jehovah.”
Thank you for this opportunity to present some facts to you and to the public. We do not say that “Jehovah” is the correct pronunciation of God’s name. For that matter, neither is “Jesus” the correct pronunciation of Christ’s name. But according to the Aramaic language which Christ and his apostles spoke, his name was pronounced “Yeshu′a” (the a representing a guttural ending). But “Jesus” is only our colloquial way of pronouncing his name, and we do not find fault with you for using it instead of Yeshu′a. However, if you call it shallow scholarship for the Committee to use the word Jehovah in the New World Translation, then you will have to admit that it is due to the shallow scholarship of the Roman Catholic clergy of the thirteenth century, for in that century the word historically appears among them.
Your quotation from the Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia says Jehovah was the incorrect pronunciation given to the Hebrew Tetragrammaton JHVH in the 14th century by Porchetus de Salvaticis (1303). But let us say: The origin of the word Jehovah used to be attributed to Petrus Galatinus, a Franciscan friar, the confessor of Pope Leo X, in his De Arcanis Catholicae Veritatis, published in 1518. But the latest scholarship has proved he was not the one to introduce the pronunciation Jehovah, and neither was your aforementioned Porchetus de Salvaticis. As shown by Joseph Voisin, the learned editor of the Pugio Fidei (The Poniard of Faith) by Raymundus Martini, Jehovah had been used long before Galatinus. Even a generation before Porchetus de Salvaticis wrote his Victoria contra Judaeos (1303), the Spanish Dominican friar Raymundus Martini wrote his Pugio, about 1278, and used the name Jehovah. In fact, Porchetus took the contents of his Victoria largely from Martini’s Pugio. And Scaliger proves that Galatinus took his De Arcanis bodily from Martini’s Pugio. Galatinus did not introduce the pronunciation Jehovah, but merely defended it against those who pronounced the Hebrew Tetragrammaton Jova.
In 1557 Jehovah became established in John Forster’s New Hebrew Dictionary, and Marcus Marinus admitted Jehova in his Lexicon Arca Noae of 1593. Sebastian Muenster uses the name Jehova in his text of his Latin translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (1534), and in his notes on Exodus 3:15 and 6:3 he uses the name as though it were well known. Also in 1557, in bringing out Pagninus’ Latin version of the Hebrew Scriptures, Robert Stephanus used Jehova uniformly for the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. In a note on Psalm 2:1 he remarked that substituting Adonai for it was to be rejected as a Jewish superstition.
Why, then, does the New World Translation use the name Jehovah 237 times in its main text? Is it due to “shallow scholarship”, as you insinuate? No. In the Foreword, from page 10 to page 25, the Translation Committee explains its basis for using this name so many times. In addition to the 19 Hebrew versions, it cites versions of the “New Testament” in 38 languages besides English and Hebrew where the translators use a vernacular form of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. But in its 2nd last paragraph the Translation Committee says: “While inclining to view the pronunciation ‘Yah‧weh′’ as the more correct way, we have retained the form ‘Jehovah’ because of people’s familiarity with it since the 14th century. Moreover, it preserves, equally with other forms, the four letters of the Tetragrammaton JHVH.” And in its footnote of page 36, on Matthew 1:20 where “Jehovah’s angel” appears, it says: “Jehovah’s, or, Yahweh’s.”
Besides converting the “Y” to a “J”—a letter which did not even exist in Hebrew—the name was made by combining the Hebrew Tetragrammaton YHWH יהוה with the vowels of “Adonai” which means “lord, master” and usually is rendered “lord” in reference to Jesus.
JHVH + adonai = Jahovah
The Y was converted to J, and W was converted to V: JHVH is the equivalent in sound of YHWH יהוה.
Since “J” and “Y” sounded the same in pronunciation, the Jews converted the first vowel from “a” into “e” to change the sound of the name, in accordance with their tradition of the ineffable name.
Thus, the erroneous four letter Romanized/Latinized version of “JHVH” was later rendered as “J-E-H-O-V-A-H“.
So, basically, to come to the name “Jehovah”, you combine the Hebrew words meaning “God” and “Lord”, conceptually God and Jesus—and throw in a letter that doesn’t exist in Hebrew—to make up a new name. “Jehovah” is erroneous, grammatically impossible, and was never used by the Jews.
Reasoning From the Scriptures admits that “Many scholars favor the spelling ‘Yahweh,’ but it is uncertain and there is not agreement among them. On the other hand, ‘Jehovah’ is the form of the name that is most readily recognized, because it has been used in English for centuries…” (p. 195).
Meanwhile, the Jewish Encyclopedia (1906) notes, the name was “introduced by Christian theologians, but almost entirely disregarded by the Jews… this pronunciation is grammatically impossible.”
Why “Jehovah”? The Tradition of Men
Therefore, employing the name “Jehovah” amounts to following the tradition of men. Jesus warned, “It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.” (Matthew 15:9, NWT) The New Living Translation renders this scripture, “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:8, NIV)
Like the admonition of Paul who warned the first-century Christians that “They must stop listening to Jewish myths and the commands of people who have turned away from the truth” (Titus 1:14, NLT) we must also take heed: “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, NLT)
What does the name Jehovah mean?
The Watchtower tells us that the word Jehovah came about by the Roman Catholic clergy of the thirteenth century, but what does it mean literally?
But that would be “J+ha·wah” or if we replaced the “J” which we now know didn’t exist in Bible times with original “Y” of the Tetragrammaton then it would be “Y+ha·wah”.
But that’s not how you spell “Jehovah”…
God’s name “Yehowah” is based on the verb “hawah”, and means “He Causes to Become”.
We know that “Yah” or “Jah” means God or Lord, e.g. “Hallelujah“.
That’s “Yehowah”, but how do you spell J-e-h-o-v-a-h? What does it mean, literally?
The Hebrew Word “hovah”—It’s a real word!
Did you know that “hovah” is a Hebrew word used in the bible? What does “hovah” mean? The Hebrew word “hovah“ (see Isaiah 47:11, Ezekiel 7:26) means “a ruin, disaster; mischief”. The related words “havvah” (occurs 15 times: see concordance) means “desire, chasm, destruction”, and “hayyah” (see Job 6:2) means “destruction, calamity”.
Thus “Je + hovah” from the original Hebrew means literally “God + of a Ruin, Disaster or Mischief”. Jehovah is not a Hebrew word or name, although “hovah” is.
The Hebrew name of God is Yehowah.
Interestingly, the use of “hovah” in the bible is found in this description of the fall of Babylon, the empire of false religion:
“Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity [hovah] will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom; a catastrophe you cannot foresee will suddenly come upon you.” (Isaiah 47:11)
It is also found in Ezekiel’s account of judgment for Israel’s idolatry in the temple:
“Calamity [hovah] upon calamity [hovah] will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders.” (Ezekiel 7:26)
God’s words recorded in Amos prophecy are chilling:
“I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced. Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!” (Amos 4:12)
However, it does not stand to reason that our heavenly Father is The God of “Ruin, Disaster or Mischief” as he is a God of love and righteous judgment. (Hebrews 12:11)
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)
Hebrew Bible Names
Another point to be aware of when considering God’s personal name, Yehowah, is that many names in the scriptures honor God’s name, based on “Yah” or “Yehowah”. This practice is called theophory. Using the name “Jehovah” instead of Yehowah means that the connection between God’s name and those named in his honor is broken. [See tables of theophoric names in the scriptures.]
- Elisha, from Hebrew Elyesha, lit. “God is salvation,” from El “God” + yesha “salvation.”
- Hezekiah, from Heb. Hizqiyya, lit. “Yah has strengthened,” from hazaq “he was strong, he strengthened” + jah, short for Yehowah.
- Isaiah, from Heb. Yesha’yah, abbreviated form of Yesha’yahu, lit. “salvation of Yehowah,” from yesha, yeshua “salvation, deliverance.”
- Nehemiah, from Hebrew Nehemyah, lit. “Yah comforts.”
- Obadiah, from Hebrew Obhadyah, lit. “servant of Yehowah,” from abhadh “he served, worshipped”
- Zechariah from Heb. Zekharyahu, lit. “Yehowah has remembered”
- Yehoshua (Joshua) means lit. “Yehowah is salvation.”
Most importantly, God gave his Son his name—Yehoshua (and the abbreviated form Yeshua or Y’shua) means literally “Yehowah is salvation.” (Hebrews 1:4, Philippians 2:9, Acts 4:12) The Latin form of the name, Jesus, is from the Greek Iesous, which is an attempt to render into Greek the Aramaic proper name Yeshua from a common Jewish personal name, the later form of Yehoshua. This is to say that Yeshua (Jesus) is the same name as Yehoshua (Joshua), just a shortened form, and the Hebrew name Yehoshua, becomes Yeshua in Aramaic, which became the Greek name Iesous, which became the Latin name Jesus. The main point is that this is all in translation of the same name, and that that name was given to him by his Father and is based on his Father’s name, Yehowah.
Paying Attention to Misleading Inspired Utterances
Jehovah is not an English or Latin translation of Yehowah—it’s simply a error. Or is it…?
The Bible gives Satan the Devil the title “Serpent,” which came to signify “deceiver”; he also became “the Tempter” (Matthew 4:3) and a liar, “the father of the lie.”—John 8:44; Revelation 12:9. We should make note that his title “Devil,” meaning “Slanderer,” is a title he deserved for having slandered our heavenly Father in the garden of Eden.
A “slanderer” makes false statements which injures a person’s reputation. We’ve already seen that “Jehovah” literally translates to God of “Mischief”, “Ruin” or “Destruction”. Certainly this is slanderous.
What does “YHWH” יהוה or “Yehowah” translate into? It is the “proper name, of deity Yehowah, the proper name of the God of Israel“, occurring over 6,000 times in the Bible. YHWH יהוה is the uncontested name of God, transliterated “Yehowah”. It is from the root hawah, which means causes to become.
Is it possible that Satan the Devil, the deceiver, slanderer and father of the lie is still at it today, slandering God’s good name or reputation? Wouldn’t it be sad if 7 million people were deceived into preaching, worshipping and calling on the name of the “God of Ruin, Destruction and Mischief”?
“Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.” — 1 Timothy 4:1, NLT
As noted by the Watchtower, “according to the Aramaic language which Christ and his apostles spoke, his name was pronounced “Yeshu′a””. Jesus’ name means “YHWH Is Salvation”. Thus, his name was to say “Yehowah is Salvation”. How appropriate, for regarding his name we know, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Regarding the last days, Jesus warned his followers that “false Christs [Greek pseudochristos: “false anointed ones”] and false prophets will arise”. (Matt 24:24)
He said, “Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying ‘The due time has approached.’” (Luke 21:8)
God’s chosen people were warned: “any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’ If his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that God did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.” (Deut. 18:20-22)
Meanwhile, in the book “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” under the heading “How to Identify the True Religion“, the Watchtower teaches today:
Those who practice the true religion worship only Jehovah and make his name known. Jesus declared: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matthew 4:10) Thus, God’s servants worship no one other than Jehovah. This worship includes letting people know what the name of the true God is and what he is like. Psalm 83:18 states: “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” Jesus set the pattern in helping others to get to know God, as he said in prayer: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world.” (John 17:6) Similarly, true worshipers today teach others about God’s name, his purposes, and his qualities.
However, God’s name isn’t Jehovah. His purpose was to send his Son as the means of salvation for the world, and it is his name by which man is saved. Incidentally, at least a 100 years before Jesus was born, God’s name was no longer in use.
Lastly, God’s qualities are not those implied by the name of the God, Jehovah, proclaimed by The Watchtower. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
Why “Jehovah’s” Witnesses?
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 17:3)
“Furthermore, 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.” (Acts 4:12)
Jesus very last words on earth were to his disciples, “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth. And after he had said these things, while they were looking on, he was lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision.” (Acts 1:8, John 14:7)
Regarding the name “Jehovah”, see also:
- Jehovah in An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences: Comprising the Whole Range of Arts, Sciences and Literature as Connected with the Institution (1874) by Albert Gallatin Mackey, pg 370-381
- From Jewish Magic to Gnosticism (2005) by Attilio Mastrocinque
- The Gnostics and their Remains: Ancient and Mediaeval (1887) by C.W. King, pg. 313-319
- The “Horned Hunter” on a Lost Gnostic Gem by Roy Kotansky and Jeffrey Spier (1995), published in the Harvard Theological Review, Volume 88, Issue 03, July 1995 pp 315-337
- Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt (Studies in Antiquity & Christianity) (2004) by Birger A. Pearson
- Jehovah: The Horned Hunter on a Lost Gnostic Gem
- In fame only : a historical record of the divine name, by Gérard Gertoux
- The Name of God YeHoWaH. Its Story by Gérard Gertoux
- Yehowah יְהוָה and Theophoric Names