The Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, contains the Divine Name “Jehovah” in 237 places in the Christian Scriptures. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have several reasons for choosing these renderings . But is it justifiable for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to do so? Does this practice present any problems for our confidence in the reliability of the manuscript tradition?
In considering these questions, it appears as though Jehovah’s Witnesses care more about their “theology” than the reliability of our currently possessed manuscripts . While Christians should fully endorse the use of some form of the Divine Name in our translations of the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. YHWH, Jehovah, Yahweh, etc.) , they should not endorse its use in the Christian Scriptures except for where it actually appears in our manuscripts (e.g. Revelation 19:1-4) .
Apparently, Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to alter history without a shred of historical evidence so long as long as their theology requires it. In other words, though we don’t have a single solitary manuscript of the Christian Greek Scriptures bearing the divine name (other than Revelation 19, etc.), we must maintain that it had to be in the originals. This turns textual criticism into silly putty.
It’s easy for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to get away with this. After all, they aren’t engaging the academia and they certainly aren’t debating the “Bart Ehrmans” of the world . If they were, these academics would latch on to this inconsistency and expose it.
The bottom line is this; if we can maintain that words can be removed from the manuscript tradition at least 237 times without a shadow of a trace, then what else could have been removed? This reasoning actually becomes very circular. Consider
- Our theology is determined by what our currently possessed manuscripts teach.
- The currently possessed manuscripts teach that certain words should appear in them (i.e. the Divine Name).
- These certain words (i.e. the Divine Name) do not appear in our currently possessed manuscripts.
- Therefore, we determine from our currently possessed manuscripts (which assumes their accuracy) what our currently possessed manuscripts should or should not say.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot have it both ways. The reliability of the manuscripts cannot be defended  while, at the same time, the unreliability of the manuscripts is being posited. It is both circular and defeating towards the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view.
While Christians should react with enthusiasm when new manuscript discoveries are made , we should base our theology on what the best and earliest manuscript present to us .
- One of which include the “J documents,” which are Hebrew translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures. These were translated many centuries after the original inspired writings.
- There are several Bibles in addition to The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures that do exactly that.
- “Hallelujah” literally means, “praise Jah.” It is noteworthy that the scribes who supposedly removed the name in at least 237 places somehow missed Revelation 19.
- The Jehovah’s Witnesses have long avoided public interaction with Christian and Secular academics.
- The Jehovah’s Witnesses do, in fact, defend the reliability of our manuscripts; except for when comes to the Divine Name.
- Even if these discoveries warrant a reevaluation of one’s theology.
- Philip Comfort’s work New Testament Text and Translation Commentary would serve as an excellent resource in this regard.
94 thoughts on “Is there anything wrong with including “Jehovah” in the Christian Scriptures?”
Is “Jehovah” the Name of God?
Jehovah isn’t God’s true name, so it can’t be ‘restored’ to the Bible text. Strong’s Concordance tells us this name (Jehovah) is made up.
The Catholic Encyclopedia and Judiaism 101 (on line) both agree that a German copiest was putting YHWH in his mms and then Adonai underneath the letters. He asked the Pope if he could place the vowels within the consonants to make a name.
The Pope said fine! Thus the invention of His new name. His self given name is found at Exodus 3:14, and is not Jehovah!(see the Hebrew translation). *Jehovah’s* Witnesses the name of an adventist Millerite spin off sect.
It’s the Catholic Pope who ‘invented’ the Jehovah name and the Watchtower should give him credit for it.
Danny Haszard FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com
I did a post on Tetragrammation and JW 8 days earlier than your post. Thank you so much for your apologia.
If LORD is an acceptable linguistic English equivalent of Jehovah, why is it then wrong to say Jehovah instead of LORD in any given place within the Bible, NT included? Would they not be synonymous with each other if your argument is correct?
Plus, is it not true that since YHWH is clearly found in the ancient manuscripts for the Hebrew scriptures, that it should therefore be, at the very least, included in the Hebrew scriptures of any viable translation? Would not those translations be guilty of removing something from God’s inspired words to the tune of nearly 7000 times? Would they also not be guilty of ADDING something (LORD) to the inspired words of God to the same tune of 7000 times?
No, “LORD” is not an acceptable linguistic english equivalent of Jehovah. I agree with the JW’s (as well as many Bible scholars) that the tetragrammaton should be retained in our english translations where it appears in the respective and relevant manuscripts. So yes, I agree the translations are guilty for removing the name in the OT in the same way that I believe the NWT is guilty of adding it in the NT.
Well good, I am very pleased to hear that.
So the question really becomes, if LORD is not an equivalent to Jehovah, Why do you believe that the inspired Christians writers of the 1st century substituted LORD for Jehovah when they quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures or from the LXX of their day?
That question is secondary. The primary question is, did they or did they not? What do the manuscripts tell us?
The answer to that question directly relates to what you are asking. IF the 1st century inspired writers wrote LORD where YHWH was originally, how can you possibly think that LORD was not considered an equivalent to Jehovah? IF that’s what they did, as you think, then they proved that it was an equivalent in their mind or they could not have used it.
Please understand I am arguing this from YOUR standpoint, not mine. If you honestly believe that they wrote LORD where YHWH used to be, the there is no other choice than to believe that they regarded it as an equivalent substitution.
Therefore, since they would have proven by that practice that YHWH is equivalent to LORD, putting YHWH back in there is nothing different than putting LORD, because they were equal in the eyes of the 1st century inspired writers, that is IF what you are saying is true.
In fact, some lexicons show the name “Jehovah” to be semantically equivalent to LORD. So how does this not then work both WAYS?
The early Church did not use the divine name YHWH. The Dead Sea Scrolls and Origen’s Hexalpa attest the use of YHWH in the OT and in some portions of the Septuagint. This does not prove that the original Septuagint used the name YHWH. However, there is no such evidences for the NT. Most probably, the apostles used the Septuagint without the divine name. The apostolic fathers new nothing about an importance of the use of the name YHWH as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. The early christians considered the greek “onoma” KURIOS as it were the Divine Name. This is a fact in all the early documents. If the name YHWH appeared in the original writings of the NT, it disappeared in the first copy. It clearly shows that neither God nor his christian followers took care of its use. We must understand that the name of Christ’s followers was given by holy spirit as “christians”, and not “Jehovah’s Witnesses”. Also, in the book of Revelation, the faithful ones are called “Jesus’ Witnesses”, and not “Jehovah’s Witnesses”.
I’m willing to grant that the Divine Name was used in early Christianity, even regularly. However, the strongest point is that it is nearly impossible that it appeared in the original NT writings. JW’s want to hold to the reliability of the manuscript tradition, but at the same time have no problem in attributing corruption on such a mass scale; something that would literally require a worldwide conspiracy. Not even Uthman could have accomplished this as he did with the Qu’ran. That required governmental involvement; something the early church did not have until the 300’s.
I would invite you and your readers to read the following article and discuss it with me at any time.
Aside from your speculative historical theory, your article was primarily theological in nature. I suppose that was your intention. What your article would inevitably conclude to almost any textual critic is that we have no idea what the original said. Apparently, hundreds of words can be removed from the manuscript tradition without a shadow of a trace. I wonder what else the scribes changed? I guess since we don’t have the originals, we’ll never know, right?
While your theory is interesting, it renders the reliability of the manuscript as indefensible. JW’s can get away with this because they stay out of the academia where their theory would be scrutinized in the journals and in public debate. This is why JW’s aren’t the ones in the front lines defending the reliability of the manuscripts and they never will.
To be honest, I think King James Onlyists hold more water in their arguments than this. At least they have *some* manuscripts to back up their claims. But there’s one thing you both have in common: your theology overrides history. Even if 100 first century manuscripts were discovered tomorrow with no divine name, it still wouldn’t matter. So really, your historical theory is unfalsifiable. For me, all it would take is one manuscript with the divine name and I would gladly accept it.
Actually, it is manuscript evidence that creates the question. We have a case where the Hebrew manuscripts clarify the usage of the Divine Name. It creates a natural question as to why it is not in the Greek manuscripts. The nomina sacra, which IS NT manuscript evidence also definitely raises the valid question. Plus the LXX Greek contained it in the 1st century. Any one would see that as odd and could wonder why then the shift.
Since we know that the LXX was corrupted during the very same time period it certainly creates a valid question as to why was its no longer there, especially in view of the nomina sacra that signals a substitution. The NT munscripts contain the sibstitutionarynomina sacra so it is manuscript evidence that declares a substitution, not someone’s theological view. How could the valid question of “what was substituted” not be based upon NT manuscript evidence where we see the nomina sacra? It doesn’t destroy manuscript reliability, it establishes it, it actually relies upon it, because the NT manuscripts bespeak the fact that SOMETHING was substituted where the nomina sacra appears. What else could have been substituted but the Divine Name when we are assured that is the what was in the original Hebrew?
Plus, I am willing to debate the issue at any time.
All you’ve done is establish that there are some interesting questions we can ask and speculate on as to why the name isnt in the NT manuscripts. What you’ve not done is prove that they were originally there and also maintain the integrity of the manuscript tradition.
Contrary to what you stated, it is not the manuscripts that bring you to this view. If it were, you’d have NT manuscripts to support it. Yet, you don’t. So it remains a theological claim with a speculative historical theory behind it.
I would love to debate this with you, but time is still limited. But I think i’ll have some time off work during Christmas that might free up some time.
And just to let you know that if 100 first century manuscripts were discovered with no hint of the Divine Name, no nomina sacra or anything, I would certainly have to reconsider my view. It is manuscript evidence that actually establishes the valid question.
And this has nothing to do with the semantic equavalence argument that I presented.
Thanks for the admission, but why would that make you reconsider your view when its your theology that determines that it must be there?
Didn’t you read the post right before that one? It’s clearly based on manuscript evidence. Take another look, please.
I know you say its based off manuscript evidence, but its really not. If it were, you’d be able to provide NT manuscript evidence, but you cant. All you can show is that the name was in the OT and in earlier LXX but later removed. There’s no evidence that this happened for the NT. Its all speculation and results in an unreliable manuscript tradition.
You do realize that the NT manuscripts contain the nomina sacra where the Divine Name occured in the Hebrew, right?
Sure, but where are the NT manuscripts with the divine name? Nowhere to be found and apparently disappeared without a shadow of a trace.
You’re really not seeing the point, are you. If you admit that the nomina sacra is there in the NT, do you realize that nomina sacra signals a substitution?
It doesnt matter. The question is, what do the earliest and best manuscripts have? Kurios, Theos, or the Nomona Sacra?
Also, keep in mind that we have manuscripts containing the nomina sacra and the other titles. We still have zero of the divine name. So either way, you still have a problem.
It is clear that the gentile christians of the first century did not use the Tetragramaton, and even ignored it. We may read the First letter of Clement to church of Corinth, or the letter of Policarp to the Phillipians. There is no trace of the Divine Name in them. Justin, one of the earliest apologists, even ignored that the Father had a name. A few like Origen knew it because he read it by the Hebrew Bible and old coppies of the LXX.
The earliest Christian Greek manuscripts that we have available use the nomina sacra. That’s the point. So the real question is, what did that nomina sacra substitute?
The LXX shows clear evidence that during this very same time, the nomina sacra replaced YHWH.
I wouldnt say its a sustitute as that implies that Lord/God was original. Instead, i’d say the Nomina Sacra was original and is the equivalent to God/Lord in an abbreviated fashion.
Your LXX example is irrelevant because we actually have evidence that YHWH was original in the LXX.
Are you saying that the nomina sacra was the original? I don’t think anyone accepts that as accurate. The overwhelming concensus is that it was NOT the original. I have not read of anyone who believes that the nomina sacra was in the autographs, have you?
I dont know, i havent read what the majority thinks on this. But on this issue of the divine name in the NT especially, majority consensus isnt in your favor 🙂
But yes, I am saying that its original if thats what the earliest and best manuscripts tell us.
You better do some research on that, Mike. You might be on a theological island with that one. One thing for certain, the majority concensus is that the nomina sacra is a substitute abbreviation. Therefore, the question remains, what did it substitute?
If its original, then it didnt substitute anything. Its just an abbreviation and an equivalent to God/Lord.
Looks like Philip Comfort is one such scholar who thinks the NS might have originated in the originals. And he’s no small name in textual criticism. Im sure if thats Comfort’s view, there are likely to be others.
Thats an extremely big IF, MIke. No one that I see accepts that. Why then don’t the translations render the abbreviations if they are original? Isn’t that what God wanted if he inspired it that way?
Thats secondary to the main issue. Whatever the answer is to those questions, it doesnt help in answering what history tells us.
Nomina Sacra appear in old manuscripts of the New Testament (NT). However, this fact does not prove that those abbreviations were substituting the name YHWH in the Christian Greek Scriptures. If they did it in the Septuagint, it was not necessary the case when they were used in the NT. The Watchtower imposes that the NT writers had to quote from the Septuagint manuscripts containing the Divine Name for the sake of accuracy. This is of course an arbitrary assumption. The fact is that the early church fathers did not report that. Also, if YHWH God was concerned about the use of the Tetragramaton in the NT, why didn’t He preserved it?
Good point Octavio. God certainly preserved it in the Hebrew and LXX, but apparently He couldnt do it for the NT. I wonder why?
Could you direct me to where Mr. Comfort states the nomina sacra could have been original?
Sure, just read the whole chapter on the nomina sacra in his book “encountering the manuscripts.” He also shares his thoughts as to why the original authors would have done this.
Also, Dan Wallace doesn’t seem to be ruling out the possibility that it might be original. He says,
“Who invented the nomina sacra and when did he do so? One distinct possibility seems to be that one of the original authors of the New Testament began using them, and the scribes picked up on this and spread the habit across the board. For this reason, we would not necessarily say that an original manuscript would be without the nomina sacra; on the other hand, if a manuscript lacked them this would not necessarily argue for it being an original , although it would argue for it being very, very early.”
From what few works I consulted, I don’t really see the consensus that you speak of. I see a lot of questions, doubts, and speculations. But I don’t see a lot of scholars taking it as a given that the nomina sacra wasn’t originally there. What textual critics and works did you consult which show you that they all think that the Nomina Sacra wasn’t original? Again, I just don’t see why, from a purely historical perspective, it wouldn’t be original since our earliest and best manuscripts have it.
Hello Mike. Hurtado, considered an expert himself, regards it as a “copyist” practice, not original. Tuckett does as well. Most references on line refer to it as a copyist practice that started ealier but not original.
If it were original, do you think it proper that every translation today does not follow the same practice?
1. Where does Hurtado actually state that it was NOT original? I actually agree that it was a copyist practice, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it was original. Unless i’m reading Hurtado wrong, he only concludes that it is “very early” and includes copyist practices as well.
As far as how we should translate, that shouldn’t be our concern at this point. What matters is what is or isn’t original.
Regarding the LXX, you are arguing inductively without a solid basis. And here’s the difference. With the LXX, we have manuscripts actually showing the evolution. That is, you see the divine name there, and then it being substituted. We have actual manuscript evidence of this. But when we come to the New Testament, which has a far richer manuscript tradition, we don’t see this evolution. Instead, we see the earliest and best manuscripts showing the opposite of what you propose.
Hello Mike, you are missing the point. First, yes, there are those who think it might have been original, but none claim that as a certainty because they can’t. We simply don’t have the originals. Now your comparison with the LXX information does not serve you well at all. here’s why. The reason is because you say we see the evolution in the LXX but not in the Christian manuscripts. But you know as well as I do that by the time we even see a Christian manuscript, the practice of nomina sacra was well under way. So there is no way to even see an evolution if the earlier manuscripts don’t even exist or have not been found yet. Your comparison is invalid and extremely circular.
However, the comparison with the fact that the nomina sacra definitely replaced the Divine Name in the LXX during the same time period that all the nomina sacra appears, lends weight to the idea that it could have just as easily replaced the Divine Name in the Christian manuscripts, because we don’t even have the Christian manuscripts to view this so-called evolution you speak of.
Therefore, it is just as likely that the nomina sacra replaces the Divine Name in the Christian manuscripts as it is in the LXX.
The reason these scholars only allow for the “possibility” that it was original is because of what they see historically happened to the LXX. It is known that the LXX contained the Divine Name and it was later replaced with the nomina sacra. Of that there is no doubt. Since this practice was contemporary with the Christian manuscripts that also have the same nomina sacra, there is therefore ample reason to believe it was a substitution. So we can easily postulate that if the LXX substituted the Divine Name during the same time, it is entirely possible that the Christian manuscripts did too. Using the manuscript evidence that after the fact is circular because if it was substitute then the later copyists simply followed the substitution instead of the original.
To claim the name can’t be there based on manuscript evidence after the substitution would have taken place is therefore meaningless in claiming it shouldn’t be there.
Therefore, it is just as likely that the nomina sacra in the Christian manuscripts is a substitution for the Divine Name, just as it clearly was in the LXX during the very same time period that nomina sacra appeared. Nothing would prove otherwise.
Again, you are just theorizing or speculating. You’re only speaking about what is “possible” but not providing one shred of evidence. Of course the practice was already in place by the time the NT was written. But how does that prove that the NT didn’t have the Nomina Sacra originally? Sure, it’s theoretically possible, but so is the possibility that the NT originally said something completely different and there was a widespread conspiracy to destroy all the originals so that no one could know what Christianity was originally like.
But just because we don’t have the originals doesn’t mean we can’t claim with certainty what the originals said. Actually, I can claim with certainty that we have ALL the original words as contained in the manuscript tradition. It’s like having 6,000 pieces of a 5,500 piece puzzle. But when you make this claim about not having the originals, this is where you sacrifice the integrity of the manuscripts for your speculative theory. Yes, we don’t have the originals and we actually don’t need them. This is why i’m pretty convinced that when they eventually reveal the first century fragment of Mark that it won’t contain any new readings. It’ll contain the Nomina Sacra and it won’t contain the divine name. But since your theory is theologically driven, it doesn’t matter what first century manuscript finds will show us.
You’re mistaken. You have admitted we don’t have the originals and we don’t know whether the nomina sacra was original or not.
Now, if it was original then you certainly have an argument. However, if it was not original and it was a substitution as it is in the contemporary LXX, then you’re argument has no weight. You claim it is speculation to claim it was not original. I hope you see that to claim it was original is just as much a speculation. No scholar would go so far as to swear it was original. You know that.
So, based on the evidence, IF it is a substitute, (which is just as valid a view as it was original) and we don’t have any Christian manuscripts prior to the usage of nomina sacra, then there is no evidence against it being a substitute for the Divine Name. You can’t use later manuscript evidence, AFTER the nomina sacra was introduced because that is completely anachronistic evidence.
Nothing is sacrificed as far as the integrity of the manuscripts. One could say it is a toss-up as to whether the Divine Name was in the originals or not based upon the manuscripts. There are a lot of toss-ups in the manuscripts here and there and I am sure you don’t claim they are worthless becauyse of those, do you? Your “evolution” argument is moot because we can’t even view any Christian manuscripts prior to nomina sacra.
So we have as much right to include the Divine Name as you do to not include based solely on manuscript evidence. However,as I mentioned in my article and you have alluded to, there is strong theological evicence, scriptural evidence that would tell us God would not remove his own name from his sacred words. You seem to think that scriptural, theological evidence is somehow inferior.
“We don’t have the originals” is not a valid objection and goes just as much against your own position. But again, you apparently don’t see the it as a problem that your position destroys the reliability of the manuscript tradition. Not having the original autographs simply doesn’t matter. Due to the incredible tenacity of the manuscript tradition, we can be extremely confident that we have all the original words. In your scenario, we’re missing pieces of the puzzle. In mine, we have too many. But only in my position do you have confidence in the manuscripts. In yours, it’s destroyed. Scribes could have changed any number of things and the originals disappear without a shadow of a trace. You have absolutely no reason to deny this. My position absolutely precludes this.
Your arguments before are again, just speculations. My position is not based on speculation because the same arguments I use for the reliability of the manuscript tradition is the same argument by which I deny the original usage of the divine name in the NT.
“Now, if it was original then you certainly have an argument. However, if it was not original and it was a substitution as it is in the contemporary LXX, then you’re argument has no weight. You claim it is speculation to claim it was not original. I hope you see that to claim it was original is just as much a speculation. No scholar would go so far as to swear it was original. You know that.”
If my claim is “just as much speculation,” then why are you so certain that the divine name was there? And who cares about which scholar “swears” anything? Most scholars simply speak in terms of probabilities and likeliness, so that’s usually what we have to work with since they’re just trying to be careful in their scholarship. But I don’t know why you’d appeal to them anyway. The vast majority of them would completely disagree that the divine name would be original. In fact, i’m not even sure if it’s even discussed much unless one is addressing George Howard.
“So, based on the evidence, IF it is a substitute, (which is just as valid a view as it was original) and we don’t have any Christian manuscripts prior to the usage of nomina sacra, then there is no evidence against it being a substitute for the Divine Name. You can’t use later manuscript evidence, AFTER the nomina sacra was introduced because that is completely anachronistic evidence.”
This is just one big hypothetical and doesn’t get us anywhere. Again, what matters is what the earliest and best manuscripts tell us. No matter what manuscript comes our way, no matter how early, you can always propose this hypthetical. This is why I think your theory is non-falsifiable unless we found the originals.
“Nothing is sacrificed as far as the integrity of the manuscripts. One could say it is a toss-up as to whether the Divine Name was in the originals or not based upon the manuscripts. There are a lot of toss-ups in the manuscripts here and there and I am sure you don’t claim they are worthless becauyse of those, do you? Your “evolution” argument is moot because we can’t even view any Christian manuscripts prior to nomina sacra.
So we have as much right to include the Divine Name as you do to not include based solely on manuscript evidence. However,as I mentioned in my article and you have alluded to, there is strong theological evicence, scriptural evidence that would tell us God would not remove his own name from his sacred words. You seem to think that scriptural, theological evidence is somehow inferior.”
I disagree that your position is based on the manuscripts at all. It’s not. It’s based on the LXX, which is not the same manuscript tradition as the NT. Sure, there are toss ups on a few passages because of poor manuscript support. But in each and every one of these cases, the issue is NOT that we don’t have the original wording. The problem is that we have too many wordings and we don’t know which reading is the right one. Such is not comparable to the divine name issue, as it’s not like we have some manuscripts with the name and some without. Instead, we have zero manuscripts with the name and 100% without. So it’s not even remotely close to the various “toss ups” we have on some difficult textual readings.
I’m not sure why you keep missing this soI am going to try and break it down. First, this question and this question only.
Based on the concensus of scholars, is it just as likely that the nomina sacra was original as it was a later substitution?
JUST as likely? I don’t know, I haven’t read what every textual critic has said on this, have you?
Based on what the consensus of scholars say, is it just as likely that the divine name was original as it was a later substitution?
I don’t see why we need to be concerned too much with scholarly consensus. I think a JW like yourself should know that better than anyone.
Let’s put it his way, Mike. Do you agree that the nomina sacra, based on the view of the scholars that you have read, could be a substitution?
No, they seem to indicate that it was likely original.
Can you answer my question? Based on the consensus of scholars, was the divine name likely original or a substitution?
Of course they would say the Divine Name was a substitute. I guess I will have to gather for you what many scholars say about the nomina sacra. I’ll post that later and then ask you again.
Keep in mind that by “substitute,” this assumes that the nomina sacra was not original. But you could also say that the nomina sacra was both original and a substitution. After all, everyone knows that the nomina sacra stands for as an abbreviation. Or you could take it, as Comfort does, that the Nomina Sacra was not a substitute, but had a theological purpose in distinguishing God/Lord from other gods/lords.
Also, keep in mind that I really don’t care what the consensus of scholars say.
Hi Mike, Up above, I noticed you didnt really answer the question asked. I asked if it “could be a substitution”, in other words, not original. You answered that they state it was “likely” original. You realize that by the use of “likely” they allow room for it not being original right?
Of course. If they said it were impossible, then this means that not even 10,000 first century manuscripts would convince them. When it comes to historical matters, any good historian has to leave some room for falsifiability. You’ll also find these same historians refer to Jesus’ resurrections as plausible and the alternative theories as implausible. This is just how a lot of historians speak.
So you contend that the only reason they say it is “likely” is because they can’t say it’s impossible? That’s what you think?
Rotherham, that’s not all I said.
What else are you saying then, I don’t catch it.
“Of course. If they said it were impossible, then this means that not even 10,000 first century manuscripts would convince them. When it comes to historical matters, any good historian has to leave some room for falsifiability. You’ll also find these same historians refer to Jesus’ resurrections as plausible and the alternative theories as implausible. This is just how a lot of historians speak.”
In other words, historians rely on terms of likely, unlikely, plausible, unplausible, etc. and they typically aren’t saying “impossible” unless it really is. So if you’re going to ask me what historians think, why wouldn’t I respond as they would with an answer such as “likely”?
OK, I’ll get some information for you to look at about the nomina sacra. Believe me, they aren’t saying it’s likely because they don’t see another alternative.
Of course, there’s always an alternative. The question is, to them, which is more likely?
But again, it really doesn’t matter to me as to what conclusion a scholar does or doesn’t come to. What matters is their reasons for doing so and whether they are being consistent.
You should probably take a look at Christopher Tuckett’s online article. His reasons for not believing they are original is based upon manuscript evidence, in particular, P52. He mentions a number of other scholars and their views.
Click to access Tuckett%20Nom%20Sacra%20in%20p52.pdf
While Tuckett’s theory is interesting, i’d have to spend some time studying his evidence and seeing how it stands up to scrutiny. But let’s say he’s correct and P52 shows that the Nomina Sacra was indeed not original. Great! Now we’d have clear hard evidence of it’s evolution.
So this then raises the question. Is there the same level of evidence for the use of the Tetragrammaton in the original NT writings? In other words, do we see any real evidence of it’s evolution in the NT manuscripts?
Since P52 does not contain any relevance to the Divine Name or titles, it would be uselss to determine any evolution.
Did you happen to see Hurtado’s response to Tuckett?
Click to access TynBull_2003_54_1_01_Hurtado_P52Rylands.pdf
If nomina sacra did not appear in the original manuscripts it does not prove that divine name appeared in the originals. We simply don’t know the originals, and what we do have is that the apostolic fathers did not use it. They used KURIOS, QEOS, SOTEROS, IESOUS, etc. . It is clear that God was desinterested in propagating his Hebrew name in the NT. Rotherham likes to create large discussions using weak assumptions so as to confuse his opponent. Historicaly, in the first century, only the high priest used publicly the Tetragramaton once a year.
This simply underscores the fact that scholars have not come to a concensus on the origination of the nomina sacra. Which goes back to my point. It could just as easily be non-original as original. If non-original it indicates a non-original substitution. The substitution could have easily been for the Divine name because Christian scribes, during the same time period were changing the Divine Name to the same nomina sacra in the LXX.
Rotherham, since when do scholars come to a consensus about, well, anything? And where do you get the idea that the scholars who agree with me would agree with you in saying that it could “just as easily” be non-original? Last I checked, a lot of them seem to think that it’s likely that the Nomina Sacra is original.
Well you know as well as I that there are those who do not see them as original. Paap, Tuckett. I’m finding others as well. That’s the point, they are undecided. Whatever the reason. And since they are undecided, the substitution could just as easily be the Divine Name, just like they were doing in the LXX at the very same time.
In Hebrews 1:10 the Father calls the Son as “Oh Lord” (the vocative KURIE appeared in the Septuagint). If Witnesses insist in their weak argument why don’t they say that Jesus is just called YHWH by his Father in Hebrews 1:10?
I used to hold that view on Hebrew 1:10, but a closer look at the Hebrew indicates that “Lord/Adoni” wasn’t there, but was inserted in the LXX. What’s interesting is that in the LXX, it’s not the Psalmist speaking to God, but God speaking to another called “Lord.” But the fact that the Father calls the Son Lord at all is rather interesting.
However, it would be pretty interesting if we found a copy of Psalm 102 in the LXX that had the divine name there.
I’m sorry, but just because you find a few scholars who disagree doesn’t mean that the matter is “uncertain.” If that were the case, then you shoul see the divine name in the NT as quite unlikely.
Sure it does. If scholars are split in their conclusions about a matter, and there is no conclusive evidence either way, it is indeed uncertain.
Great. So then we can be uncertain or certain as to whether the NT originally had the divine name? Also, does that make your Christology and just about every doctrine you hold to as uncertain?
Here’s a couple more.
Anchor Bible Dictionary, where it is stated: “There is some evidence that the Tetragrammaton, the Divine Name, Yahweh, appeared in some or all of the OT quotations in the NT when the NT documents were first penned.” Freedman, D. N. 1996, c1992. “Tetragrammaton in the New Testament”. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Doubleday: New York. 6:392.
And of course professor George Howard, of the University of Georgia (U.S.A.) who observes: “When the Septuagint Version that the New Testament Church used and quoted, contained the Divine Name in Hebrew characters, the writers of the New Testament included without doubt the Tetragrammaton in their quotations”. Biblical Archeology Review, March 1978, p.14.
Actually, what it demonstrates is, that manuscript-wise, there is as much evidence that the Divine Name was there as Kyrios. That, plus the scriptural reasons presented that God would not remove his own name, and the semantic equivalance argument, no one should complain about the Divine Name being in the NT.
As far as most other doctrines, Biblical precedent can establish those as certain, that is if you adhere to Biblical precedent, as one should.
Goodnight Ralph, see ya tomorrow.
It looks like we’re back where we started because it looks like it’s your theology, not the manuscripts, which determine what history shows.
I find it completely absurd that there is “just as much” evidence that the divine name was there when you’ve shown absolutely no NT evidence when I have over 5,500 manuscripts worth of evidence.
I really could care less what two scholars conclude on this matter. Seems that as long as you can find one or two scholars that say something, the matter then becomes “uncertain.” If that’s the case, then pretty much anything and everything is historically uncertain.
Well, there were actually four. Paap, Tuckett, Freedman and Howard. I’m sure there are more. You have no evidence that YHWH was not there, considering the nomina sacra as a non-original substitute. Your manuscripts don’t decide that. Later.
Rotherham, I have 5,500 manuscripts worth of evidence showing that it was not there, just as I have the same evidence showing that the Johannine Comma was not there (which actually has more textual support than the divine name). And I don’t buy that the nomina sacra was a non-original substitute. That has yet to be demonstrated. But even if it could be demonstrated, it wouldn’t prove anything about the divine name since there is zero NT manuscript support for it.
Rotherham, Howard clearly says in his letter that the Watchtower has made “too much” out of his arguments and that he does not support their theories.
You need to look at that agian. All he says is that it is a theory and one shouldn’t base their belief on a theory. Our belief that the Divine was there is based on more than Howard’s theory, as I have demonstrated in my article.
Howard was misquoted by the Watchtower Society. He sent a letter to the Society in which he disagrees with Watchtower’s use of his hyppothesis.
Octavio, please share!
This was quoted by Raymond Franz in his Second Book (In the Search of the Christian Freedom). Raymond dedicated a chapter about the divine name. Today I can’t show it, but may be tomorrow.
I have that book and really need to read it! I’ll look through it.
Hi Mike, you can find it in Chapter 14 – “A People of His Name”. Regards, Octavio
Hi Mike, I remember that Raymond mentioned about Howard. Read the chapter 14 of his book so as to confirm it. But may be Howard did not send a letter to the Society as I said. However, I have found what he said in a letter:
The University of Georgia
January 9, 1990
Portland, ME 04104
Dear Mr. Butt:
Thank you for your letter of 3 January 1990. I have been distressed for sometime about the use the Jehovah’s Witnesses are making of my publications. My research does not support their denial of the deity of Christ. What I tried to show was that there is evidence that the Septuagint Bibles used by the writers of the New Testament contained the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. I argued that it is reasonable to assume that the NT writers, when quoting from the Septuagint, retained the Tetragrammaton in the quotations. This does not support the JW’s insertion of “Jehovah” in every place they want. To do this is to remove the NT from its original “theological climate.” My opinion of the New World Translation (based on limited exposure) is that it is odd. I suspect that it is a Translation designed to support JW theology. Finally, my theory about the Tetragrammaton is just that, a theory. Some of my colleagues disagree with me (for example Albert Pietersma). Theories like mine are important to be set forth so that others can investigate their probability and implications. Until they are proven (and mine has not been proven) they should not be used as a surety for belief.
As you see, Howard was clear: “my theory …..is just that, a theory….and mine has not been proven”.
You don’t seem to realize that appealing to manuscript support, even if it were 10,000, AFTER the use of nomina sacra, is circular reasoning, as those copyists would have simply been repeating the earlier tradition. If the nomina sacra is a non-original substitute as some reputable scholars believe, then all of them together don’t establish anything in regard to whether or not the Divine Name was originally there. They are ALL after the fact.
As mentioned there is more to it as well, then just manuscript evidence. The OT clearly establishes, as I have presented, that God would not remove his own name from his sacred words. It would be the height the of contradiction on his part, something we do not believe that God would do by any means. Again, you seem to think scriptural, theological evidence is inferior. Why is that?
Plus, you can not overturn the semantic equivalent argument that I presented. No one has any right to say the Divine Name should not be used in OT quotations on the Greek, all things considered. Harping about 5,000 plus manuscripts is not getting at the issue.
It’s not more circular than appealing to the manuscripts to establish *any* reading. Your argument is virtually the same as Bart Ehrman’s, except he uses it to destroy any certainty we might have that the manuscripts accurately reflect the originals. This is why I keep telling you that you sacrifice the integrity of the manuscripts with these arguments you’re making. Apparently, that doesn’t bother you.
In addition, you could use that same argument no matter how early the manuscripts are or how plentiful. That is, you could say the same thing if I brought you 100 manuscripts that date the originals by 10 years. It’s never enough because the copyists would always be “repeating the earlier tradition.” Thus, without having the actual originals, your position is not falsifiable.
Appealing to your theology to establish the history of the manuscripts is actually circular, as I noted in this very article.
No, that’s not how it would go, Mike. if you were to present numerous first century manuscripts that have the nomina sacra, and no exceptions, we would have to accept that, despite what you think. You want it to be unfalsifiable so you can discount it, but it’s certainly not. As it is, P52 could very well be an example of our earliest known manuscript WITHOUT the nomina sacra, lending support to the fact that it would not be an original. Hurtado did nothing to prove that idea wrong, simply raised some questions as to whether the observation of P52 was undeniable
Thank you for the admission, which appears to invalidate your standard. That is, “You don’t seem to realize that appealing to manuscript support, even if it were 10,000, AFTER the use of nomina sacra, is circular reasoning, as those copyists would have simply been repeating the earlier tradition.”
So if that’s the case, then why would 100 manuscripts written around 80 AD change your perspective? After all, you could just dismiss those as having been written *after* the nomina sacra. Same thing for the divine name, which is why that first century fragment of Mark is not going to sway you on this issue.
My view, on the other hand, is actually consistent. We don’t need to find any more early manuscripts in order to find new readings. Why? Because we have *all* of the original readings in the manuscript tradition. Dan Wallace, Philip Comfort, and pretty much any conservative textual critic is going to affirm this. I’d really like to see you have a debate with a skeptic on the issue of reliability. You’d have to argue completely inconsistently to defend the manuscripts integrity.
I think this has gone as far as it can go. Thanks for the discussion and i’ll let you have the last word.
Well, since that would be so close to the original it would certainly affect my view of things anyway. Although I am sure some could give the argument that you supply, for me, I don’t think I would personally be that comfortable with it. Anyway, I guess when it comes to the originality of the nomina sacra, it is somewhat obscure.
The thing is, the earlier you go into the manuscript history, the less nomina sacra there is. When we get to P52, its quite possible that it does not occur at all, certainly far less nomina sacra than what is found in P46. So I would think that the trend is that as time went on, the nominsa sacra increased, which is clear evidence that at least MOST of the nomina sacra exhibit the pattern of being non-original substitutes.
If you believe that the nomina sacra was original, I seriously wonder why you then think it was OK for the translators to expand the nomina sacra into a full word. Is this not a violatation of the manuscript tradition? And if it is OK to do the expansion, then why would not be OK to expand JAH in Revelation to Jehovah, and then there you have it again, the Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures.