Did Jesus preach the Divine Name?


#1

The Jehovah’s Witnesses often use John 17:6, 26 to argue that Jesus used God’s Name, which they say is “Jehovah”. The verse reads:

6 I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou hast given me out of the world. Thine they were, and to me thou gavest them; and they have kept thy word.

26 And I have made known thy name to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.

In their book Reasoning from the Scriptures they argue:

In harmony with Jesus’ own attitude regarding his Father’s name, Jesus’ disciples would have retained that name in those quotations [from the Old Testament]. — Compare John 17:6, 26.

…]

The emphasis that Jesus Christ put on the name of his Father indicates that he personally used it freely. (Matt. 6:9; John 17:6, 26)

Reasoning from the Scriptures, pp.194, 278

Thus, since these verses seem to suggest He did, the question is: Did Jesus preach or use the Divine Name when He talked about the Father?


#2

Yes, especially in John’s Gospel Jesus uses the Divine Name and He also applied it to Himself see Jn 4:25-26, Jn 6:32-35; 48-47, jn 8:12, Jn 8 24-25, Jn 10:36, Jn 14:6, Jn 18:3-6, and especially Jn 8:56-59:

*Truly, truly I say to you before Abraham was I AM (the Divine Name). So they took up stones to throw at Him *(the punishment for blasphemy).

The JW’s argument, thus, proves too much - it proves Christ is (or at least claimed to be) God.


#3

Oh, I’m sorry. I did not mean that. I meant “YHWH”, that is did He speak of the Father as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”, not apply the I AM to Himself. By the “Divine Name” I mean the Tetragrammaton.


#4

The Tetragrammaton is I AM. When Christ uses it He is using the Tetragammaton. From Exodus 13 (where God reveals the Divine Name to Moses):

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

Of course, Jesus wasn’t literally saying the English words “I” “Am”, that is just a translation of the Hebrew or Aramaic that Jesus was using. We can know He was using the Tetragrammaton by the reaction of His hearers, they picked up stones to throw at Him, which was the proper punishment for someone applying the Tetragrammaton to themselves.


#5

But I thought the pronunciation had been lost at the time, that’s why the word “Lord” was substituted for YHWH? Sorry if I’m being stupid :blush:


#6

It was considered impious and profane to use the Divine Name. It was only to be used by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, thus the scandal of Jesus using it and applying it to himself. Adonai (Lord) was typically used to avoid pronouncing the Divine Name.

On a side note, no serious scholar that I am aware of actually supports the “Jehovah” pronunciation used by JW’s which accords well with the rest of their unreliable translation of the Bible.


#7

OK, makes more sense. :slight_smile: Thanks. :slight_smile:


#8

Why, at certain verses in the same Bible version will there be “YHWH” or “I AM?”

I’m asking why these two terms are used interchangeably in translations of both the OT and the NT.

Just curious. :slight_smile:


#9

“I AM” is an English translation of “YHWH.” It’s like a Bible having Jesus say “Amen, amen I say to you” vs. having Him say “Truly, truly I say to you”, the second is translating “Amen” into English, the first is leaving the original Hebrew word in place.


#10

This is not what these verses mean.

Don’t forget that we need to approach the concept of a “name” from the understanding of the culture of Jesus’ day.

To make God’s name manifest or known is different from “pronouncing” the Divine Name. The word for name in Hebrew, “shem,” means “reputation,” “fame,” or the “renown” connected to the person who owns the name. Unlike the way we use names in the modern Western world, the Hebrew concept is one of descriptive character and not a nice-sounding title or handle used to identify a person (especially when given at birth as we do to infants today before they have accomplished anything). Of all the precious things to possess in the ancient Biblical world, one’s name or reputation was the most valued. “A good name is more desirable than great riches,” reads Proverbs 22:1, “and high esteem, than gold and silver.”

To earn a good name was one thing, but to actually give a name to another meant you had a higher station than the one to whom you were giving the name. For example, God gives Adam the privilege of naming the animals and his wife. (Genesis 2:18-23) God renames Abram and his wife. (Genesis 17:5-6; 15-16) The angel who wrestles with Jacob renames him Israel as a final sign to prove that Jacob hasn’t gotten the better of him (the angel also permanently injures him). (Genesis 32:29) Pharaoh of Egypt renames Joseph. (Genesis 41:45) Jesus renames Simon to Peter.–Matthew 16:18.

To speak the name of a heavenly being was equated to having authority over that being. This is why the angel that renames Jacob refuses to give his name after the wrestling match. (Genesis 32:30) And to this day this is why the Jews do not regularly pronounce the Divine Name out of recognition that they are not greater than God. It also has to do with how holy things are treated in Hebrew culture. Like the Holiest of Holies in the Temple which was almost never entered or seen, the Name of God is rarely pronounced by Jews to differentiate it from a mundane name that gets used repeatedly everyday.

It is likely that Jesus did the same thing in regard to the Divine Name that other Jews did, namely use it sparingly. By the time of the Second Temple it became common to use the word “Heaven” as a substitute for the Divine Name, even for the word “God.” This is why Jesus often refers to God’s Kingdom as “the Kingdom of Heaven,” such as at Matthew 10:7.

By making God’s name known Jesus was using language similar to what is found in Exodus 6:3. In that verse God says that the patriarchs did not “know” his Name. Does this mean that Abraham and Issac and Jacob never worshiped God by the name Yahweh? No. It means that they did not know the “reputation” or “fame” connected with that Name, not as Moses and his generation would. After all, that is what a “name” means in Hebrew culture, not a certain noise that comes out of one’s mouth.

Jesus’ saying that he made God’s name known doesn’t mean he made the pronunciation of it more famous. If that is what he meant, then surely the exact pronunciation of the Divine Name would not be considered lost. John 17:6, 26 not only says that Jesus would make God’s name known but ensure that God’s name wouldn’t be forgotten to future generations. If this was about pronouncing or writing God’s name then there would be no arguments about this issue since both the way to say the name and its use in Scripture and in the writings of the Early Church Fathers and secular history would have seen it preserved.

But Jesus obviously wasn’t speaking about a pronunciation or spelling. He was talking about God’s fame. So true were Jesus’ words at John 17 that the God of Abraham, once worshipped by a minority nation, is now the only real God anyone of any nation takes into consideration. All the other gods of all those other nations of yore have faded away and are forgotten while the God of Abraham’s fame is so great that nobody even has to mention or pronounce an actual name to know Who we are talking about.

As to that name being written in the New Testament by those who composed it, there are no extant manuscripts or examples of such things in Scripture quotes of the Church Fathers that prove this. Being that Jesus is as powerful as He is would have prevented the Name from being removed from the original language texts and would have preserved the Divine Name’s pronunciation as well, especially if we are to apply these verses from John 17 the way the JWs do. Not only is this not the case, Jesus also never instructed his disciples to call God by the Divine Name in prayer, but instead to use “Father” as in the directive of Matthew 6:9. Interestingly, this prayer in Matthew is considered some of the rare but direct liturgical instruction from Jesus regarding worship. Surely if it was understood this way by the early Church, it would have included a directive to preserve the precise use of the Divine Name.


#11

Thank you for your patience and wisdom. It’s just…irritating sometimes when I read that lack of consistency in the same translation.


#12

I personally can’t stand reading it, but the New Jerusalem Bible consistently translated the Divine Name as “Yahweh” throughout the entire Old Testament.


#13

Hermeneutics for the win!!! :smiley:


#14

Funny you should say that: this morning I was looking for a St. Joseph Bible. We started with four in the house while I was growing up: Jerusalem, St. James, and St. Joseph and maybe you can help me here but it was a softcover red cover with stick figure illustrations that was nothing but a giant paraphrase. Before I started real study, that red Bible was my best friend just for its dumbed-down tone. Do you know what that Bible version was? I’ve been trying to find it for years (…and then the Internet came along…).


#15

No doubt they will have some quote from some scholar on hand to say “Look, this guy supports us” :shrug:


#16

Actually the “I AM” statements by Jesus are not English translations of YHWH. They are a play on words in Hebrew culture translated into the Greek of John’s Gospel.

The words translated “I AM” at John 8:58 can also mean “I have been” as they are written in Greek. But recall that Jesus was likely speaking the Aramaic/Hebrew of the Second Temple of his day. What he said and what those listening to him heard is a bit different, but didn’t include the actual pronunciation of YHWH.

Jesus likely used the Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent of the expression for I AM as found in Exodus 3:14 in this instance, where God says his name is “I AM.” It is quite clear that Jesus’ use on the one hand meant “I have been” but, being that he was speaking in a religious setting, was sure to bring a connection to the Exodus proclamation in those around him. You can also bet that the way it was said also contained some sort of inflection that made his point come across. This seems to be a common convention in the language of the day, to say something indirectly, expecting a listener to “read between the lines” to get the answer.–Compare Matthew’s obviously Jewish saying of Jesus at Matthew 26:63-64 with the Greek of Mark 14:61-62 where the Jewish way of saying things is dropped for the Gentile reader.

Thus the Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot use this to prove that Jesus was literally uttering the Divine Name.


#17

That’s called “argument from authority,” which in apologetics is known as a logical fallacy.

To point to a scholar’s words to “end an argument” or as “proof” is not proving a point at all. An expert can still utter an untruth and an uneducated person can still speak the truth. Being an expert or a scholar or some other authority does not guarantee that your words are always right. What proves a conclusion to be right is to be prove the conclusion by demonstration.

This explains why the Witnesses are not believed by anyone in academia. One cannot make an argument from authority. It doesn’t prove anything. A person who is evil and is a habitual liar is still right when they say there is only one God, and a learned scholar with all the titles in the world is still wrong when they say there is no God.

So just remember that next time you hear a JW quote a scholar to prove a point. Authorities and experts don’t make truths, they can only attempt to understand them.


#18

I regularly download their publications and read up on some topics, just to keep up with their “New Light” and how they attack Christian doctrine. A friend of mine is a JW, so I like to be prepared.


#19

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