I was reading a pamphlet put out by the JW’s the other day, and it was about using the name of Yahweh. Seems that Catholics have it all wrong, by using Lord instead of Yahweh we are depriving the power of God to come.
Actually, as with a number of things, the JWs have shifted this a bit over time. Initially, they focused on the name ‘Jehovah", which is actually a kind of Anglicized notion of the name of God. Then, they fixed on "Yahweh’ which is a little closer to what the Hebrew use really was. Actually the “YHWH” (close) of the Hebrew, has no certain pronunciation because it’s all consonants; something very typical of ancient Hebrew lettering. In any event, the Hebrews forbade saying (or attempting to say) the name of God. Giving a god a name, they felt, implied human power over that god. So, believing in an all-powerful, ineffable God, they didn’t do it.
I think more recently, the JWs have come to understand that and have some kind of explanation for it, but I don’t remember what it is. But it’s not too important. If you research that sect, it has predicted a lot of things that didn’t come off, but, unbothered, just came up with something new.
Yes, this is a huge controversy! Here are some of my thoughts.
The Jews of Jesus’ day, and I understand also the Jews of today, do not pronounce the sacred name out of respect for it. So, following Jewish usage, and out of respect for them, we Christians should not pronounce the Name either. The pope has recognized this.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not understand this, or they deliberately misunderstand it, to be contentous. Either way, they make a big deal of it. I call it a “wedge issue,” that is, something to take issue with to show how everyone else is wrong, and the JW’s are the only ones who are right. They call the avoidance of pronouncing the divine name and saying “Lord” instead is a superstition of the Jews. But I doubt the Jews themselves would call it a superstition. Nor would Christians.
Usually the JW’s use the word “Jehovah” and not the word “Yahweh.”
I think there are internal contradictions in the Watchtower’s argumentation about the divine name, the tetragrammaton. Their booklet states that the pronunciation of the Name has been lost; that is, we do not know exactly how to exactly say it.
So, I ask, "Gee, if we do not how how to say it, how can we say it? You can see the contradiction already!
They reply, it doesn’t matter, as long as we use the English version of the Name. I say, what? The English version of the Name? There isn’t any such thing! The Name was revealed in Hebrew, not English! English didn’t come into being for thousands of years after. So, an English divine Name simply does not exist. Another contradiction for the JW’s.
The JW’s may say that Jehovah or Yahweh is the English translation of the Name. But I say, No it isn’t. Jehovah and Yahweh are really just crude attempts at transliterations, an entirely different thing. A transliteration is an attempt to spell a word of one language in the alphabet of another, guided by how the word is pronounced. But, admittedly, we don’t know how to pronounce the Divine Name! So, how can we possibly transliterate it? Another contradiction.
The way I see it, a name has three aspects to it. It’s pronounciation, its spelling, and its meaing.
Well, we do not know how to pronounce it. We do know its spelling, but in Hebrew! That does not do us who know only English any good.
That leaves the meaning. And we do know the meaning. Something like “I am that I am,” or just “I am.” So, if one were to translate the Name in scripture, “I am” would be put in.
Funny, Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses, but do not witness to the meaning of God’s name! A contradiction.
My own personal comments on the Divine Name is that it isn’t a name at all. It is a statment. An assertion. A sentence, not a label. We today think of names as just being labels attached to an object. But if the Divine Name is an assertion, a sentence, that means if we were to say the Name, we would be asserting that we were God! Not a good idea.
To my way of thinkig, no wonder the Jews do not pronounce the Name. No wonder they substitute “Lord” instead.
Also, calling both God and Jesus “Lord” lends support to the idea of Jesus’ deity, which the Watchtower does not like.
It may be noted that in ancient times, knowing the name of another was thought to give one power over that person. That’s why, for example, knowing the names of combatants in the Iliad is such a big thing, even though the combatants could not possibly know each other personally. Then as now, too, (though we don’t pay much attention to it) names were often descriptive of attributes. It was thought that “capturing one’s name” was an aid in capturing (and thus overcoming) the nature of the person.
The very core of paganism is “gaining power over the gods”. Pagan gods were powerful, but limited. Having an image was thought to “capture” a god, and that’s why you find, in ancient texts, conquerors hauling the images of the gods of a conquered people away. That’s really what the 'graven image" prohibition was all about. It wasn’t so much a matter of simply having an image, it was a matter of thinking one could gain power over the god. In Hebrew theology, God was all-powerful and one could not gain power over Him no matter what one did, and it was blasphemous to attempt it. If God had a name, it would be equivalent to Himself, and since He’s infinite and we’re not, we could not learn it in any event. One can think of the Old Testament thought that one could not be fully in the presence of God and live. It would be like trying to force the ocean into a child’s balloon, and the balloon could not survive the attempt. Saying “Lord” is simply using an attribute of God; His dominion over us. It is not an attempt to “define” God.
We don’t think too much about that nowadays, because we don’t have the same beliefs about the power of names or images as the ancients did. And besides, God applied a name to Himself in the person of Jesus. But that was a very special “self-naming”; something that would not have been possible if Jesus was not fully human as well as fully Divine. The human nature could be named. The divine nature could not.
So, in reality, the JW fixation on the “name of God” is not only unbiblical (though they change the bible to suit) it’s contrary to the whole theology of the Judeo-Christian God and, in my mind at least, has weak but real roots in paganism.
This is an excellent example of the need to understand the context of scripture and the historical environment it was written in. Those who try to understand scripture outside of context and history, such as the JW’s and other sola scriptura advocates, twist the scriptures to their own destruction
I don’t, and can’t speak for the Church. But I will say, first, that the Church did not absolutely forbid the use of the word as far as I know. i think the issue is whether it’s appropriate to use it in liturgical contexts or approved texts, given that the use of the spoken WORD “Yahweh” is not really biblical.
I’m kind of an old guy, and for most of my years, you didn’t hear the word used in liturgies or, for that matter, in almost any context. It’s a fairly recent thing. I don’t know why its use has recently become fairly common, but I would guess that it’s part of a sort of “sub-movement” in some sectors of the Church to return to roots, however remote and however ersatz. But if so, it’s misplaced, because pre-Christian Jews did not use the word as we now think of it. Indeed, neither they nor we even know how it’s supposed to be pronounced if, indeed, it’s supposed to be pronounced at all. The original Hebrew lettering is just “YHWH” with no known vowel sounds between the consonants.
So, I imagine it’s sort of like the early Christian use of the Greek letters, the equivalent of which are “Ichthys”, which is an acronym, not a word. But if we went around trying to pronounce Ichthys and using that in place of the name “Jesus”, we would be all wrong in doing so.
It is the long standing tradition of the Church, in accordance with our even earlier Jewish heritage, that the proper name of God not be pronounced in liturgical worship.
The Congregation for Divine Worship, in issuing this new directive, reminds bishops that in the Hebrew tradition, which the early Christians adopted, the faithful avoided pronouncing the Name of God. The Vatican directive explains that “as an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable.”
In place of the Name of God, pious Hebrews used the four-letter tetragammaton YHWH, or substituted the terms “Adonai” or “the Lord.” The first Christians continued this practice, the Vatican notes.
The Congregation for Divine Worship observes that the invocation of “the Lord” in Scriptural text follows this practice. Thus when St. Paul prays that “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” the Vatican letter says that his statement “corresponds exactly to a proclamation of [Christ’s] divinity.”. . . .
Yes I imagine you are correct about it being fairly recent. Perhaps the Catholic Church may not want to be aligned with JWs! The way I found out about the New Jerusalem Bible is throught the JW pamphlet!
. The New Jerusalem Bible claims to be the most widely used Bible outside of the United States by Catholics. It claims to be translated from original writings in Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew. It does use Yahweh frequently.
I just find this rather interesting, and can’t find much about it on the internet.
Yes, this is a JW canard that many Christians have bought into, unfortunately. Utilizing comparative Semitics and the linguistic development of Hebrew, we can come to pretty reasonable conclusions about how the name is pronounced.
Jehovah is a bastardization of the name of God, combining the vowel pointing of Adonai with the consonants of Yahweh. Whatever you may think about the name of God, it’s most certainly not pronounced “Jehovah.” But on the other hand, “Yahweh” is much more than a “crude attempt.”
Whatever we know about the name Yahweh as a word, there is most certainly no “I” in the name or meaning. The text of Ex 3:14 (which usually comes into play at this point) does not contain the Hebrew word Yahweh יהוה
Honestly,when I ever read JW material, I usually find errors,both theological and especially historical. I find their material more amusing than educational. Ask the JW’s where the Jews historically ever called Jehovah?
Wellllll, it’s kind of strange when you start getting into it. Like Jesus really being an angel; St. Michael, in fact. Like people dying truly dead, then being resurrected at the end of the world, then judged and either sent to heaven or hell. As to that last part, some apparently hold that the “bad” resurrected people just die again and never come back to life.
Their take on the 144,000 is peculiar. In the 19th Century when they thought the world was going to end right away, 144,000 was it. Nobody else was going to heaven. Period. Then, when WWI didn’t prove to be the end of the world, and there were far, far more than 144,000 JWs, they changed it so that 144,000 are the super-elect who will be at the throne of God, whereas the rest will be in an earthly paradise sort of like Eden.
More interestingly, the 144,000 are self-discernible today. Only they know who they are. At the JW service, only one of the 144,000 can go to communion, and nobody else can or does. Normally, then, nobody goes at all. Now and then somebody will decide that he or she is one of the 144,000 and will do so. But it’s kind of tough to maintain that status if people know you, because the elders are pretty intrusive into peoples’ lives and have a pretty keen eye for misconduct. So, for the most part (or so I’m told by a JW) the occasional (rare) communion-taker is someone who isn’t part of that community and just shows up, takes communion, then isn’t seen there again.
I’m not sure “kooky” is the word I would use, but let us say it’s more than passingly strange.