Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that God’s name (YHWH in the ancient Hebrew manuscript copies of the Old Testament) is supposed to be pronounced “Jehovah.” So persuaded are they about this, they believe they are the only church (organization) who has God’s favor, because they are the only ones who consistently call God by this name. Yet, Jewish and Christian scholars, who are thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament Hebrew language and how to pronounce Hebrew words, make it clear that the Hebrew word YHWH is more accurately pronounced “Yahweh” (Yaw-Way) rather than “Jehovah”.
Richard Abanes, a nationally recognized authority on cults and religions, points out that:
The origin of the word Jehovah can be traced to the late Middle Ages (around the year 1500), when Jewish scribes began inserting the vowels from the Hebrew word adonai (“my Lord”) into the name YHWH. The insertion resulted in the hybrid term YaHoWaH. Scribes wanted this new word to remind readers that God’s name was too holy to pronounce, so they should substitute adonah for it when reading biblical passages aloud. Then, when the term YaHoWaH was Latinized, the “Y” and “W” were changed to “J” and “V”—resulting in Jehovah. In other words, Jehovah is a mistransliteration, compounded by the fact that, while “J” has a “Y” sound in Latin, it has a very different sound in English—as in the word jam. Jehovah appears in no literature earlier than about the thirteenth century, and it began to be popularized in the sixteenth century by well-meaning but mistaken Christians. (Richard Abanes, The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code, p. 19, 83)
Here is what other scholars say about the name or pronunciation “Jehovah”:
The Jewish Encyclopedia: “Jehovah” — a mispronunciation of the Hebrew YHWH the name of God. This pronunciation is grammatically impossible. The form ‘Jehovah’ is a philological impossibility.”
The New Jewish Encyclopedia: “It is clear that the word Jehovah is an artificial composite.”
Encyclopedia Judaica: “the true pronunciation of the tetragrammaton YHWH was never lost. The name was pronounced Yahweh. It was regularly pronounced this way at least until 586 B.C., as is clear from the Lachish Letters written shortly before this date.”
The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia: “JEHOVAH is an erroneous pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton a four lettered name of God, made up of the Hebrew letters Yod He Vav He. The word “JEHOVAH” therefore is a misreading for which there is no warrant and which makes no sense in Hebrew”
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “Jehovah” — “False reading of the Hebrew YAHWEH.”
Encyclopedia Americana: “Jehovah” — “erroneous form of the name of the God of Israel.”
A Dictionary of the Bible by William Smith: “Whatever, therefore, be the true pronunciation of the word, there can be little doubt that it is not Jehovah.”
Encyclopedia Britannica: “The pronunciation ‘Jehovah’ is an error resulting among Christians from combining the consonants YHWH with the vowels of ADHONAY….The Masoretes who from the 6th to the 10th century worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible replaced the vowels of the name YHWH with the vowel signs of Adonai or Elohim. Thus the artificial name Jehovah came into being.”
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: “Jehovah” — “Intended as a transliteration of Hebrew YAHWEH, the vowel points of Hebrew ADHONAY (my lord) being erroneously substituted for those of YAHWEH; from the fact that in some Hebrew manuscripts the vowel points of ADHONAY (used as a euphemism for YAHWEH) were written under the consonants YHWH of YAHWEH to indicate that ADHONAY was to be substituted in oral reading for YAHWEH. Jehovah is a Christian transliteration of the tetragrammaton long assumed by many Christians to be the authentic reproduction of the Hebrew sacred name for God but now recognized to be a late hybrid form never used by the Jews.”
New Catholic Encyclopedia: “Jehovah” — “false form of the divine name YAHWEH.”
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia: “Jehovah” — “is an erroneous form of the divine name of the covenant God Israel.”
The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: “Jehovah” — “is an artificial form.”
Encyclopedia International: “Jehovah” —”the vowels of one word with the consonants of the other were misread as ‘Jehovah.'”
Merits Students Encyclopedia: — “is an inaccurate reconstruction of the name of God in the Old Testament.”
Encyclopedia Judaica: “YHWH” — “When Christian scholars of Europe first began to study Hebrew, they did not understand what this really meant, and they introduced the hybrid name ‘Jehovah’…THE TRUE PRONUNCIATION OF THE NAME YHWH WAS NEVER LOST. Several early Greek writers of the Christian church testify that the name was pronounced ‘YAHWEH.’ This is confirmed, at least for the vowel of the first syllable of the name, by the shorter form Yah, which is sometimes used in poetry (e.g. Exodus 15:2)… The personal name of God of Israel is written in the Hebrew Bible with the four consonants YHWH and is referred to as the ‘Tetragrammaton.’ At least until the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. this name was regularly pronounced with its proper vowels, as is clear from the Lachish Letters, written shortly before that date.”
Nelson’s Bible Dictionary: “Jehovah” — “The divine name Yahweh is usually translated Lord in English versions of the Bible, because it became a practice in late Old Testament Judaism not to pronounce the sacred name YHWH, but to say instead “my Lord” (Adonai) – a practice still used today in the synagogue. When the vowels of Adonai were attached to the consonants YHWH in the medieval period, the word Jehovah resulted. Today, many Christians use the word Yahweh, the more original pronunciation, not hesitating to name the divine name since Jesus taught believers to speak in a familiar way to God.”
Ron Rhodes (Christian apologist and author ): “If the Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct that God must always be called by the name Jehovah, then Jesus was way out of line, for He never used this name when referring to the Father.” [Ron Rhodes, The Ten Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness, p. 36]
Ron goes on to explain that even though the Bible the Watchtower Society publishes (The New World Translation) puts the word “Jehovah” in Jesus’ mouth in their New Testament, the word “Jehovah” does not occur a single time in any legitimate manuscript copy of the New Testament.
CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
is the founder of the ABR Apologetics Ministry, a popular guest teacher at churches and conferences in the United States and internationally, and the author of several books and DVDs, some of which include:
• The Bible’s Scientific Accuracy and Foresight
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
• Evidence for God
• One Minute Answers to Skeptics
• Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
• Answering Atheists
• The Case for the Resurrection
• If God is Loving, Why is there Evil and Suffering?
• Homosexuality and the Bible: Answering Objections to the Biblical View
• Teaching and Preaching God’s Word
• Apologetics Quotes
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