The Name of God and the Septuagint, DSS


I know in the Greek Septuagint (and the New Testament) the word translated as “Lord” is “Kurios.” But, I’ve seen it alleged that the name YHWH is not the name of God but, of (allegedly) a pagan deity later adopted as the name of God and added to Biblical texts by the Masoretes. The fact that so many Hebrew and Aramaic names of the prophets and Christ, Himself, have the component “Yah” or “Yehu” in them which would indicate to me, at least, that the name YHWH was the Name that God revealed to Moses. However I’m trying to see if I can confirm this with any evidence but, I’m not sure where to start for some authoritative sources whether from any of the Church Fathers or modern-day scholars. I’m curious as to if there is any evidence that the name YHWH was in the original Paleo-Hebrew Biblical manuscripts that existed prior to the translation of the Septuagint? Also, what about the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Is anyone familiar with this subject? Sources, links, etc. would be appreciated.



Also, in regards to specific assertions by the anti-Yahwist position, it is argued that:

  • the Tetragrammaton - YHWH - was only added to the Jewish Tanakh (their version of the Old Testament) after the time of Christ. Today, in their Masoretic Text, it appears almost 7,000 times, but not once does it appear in the authentic Septuagint and that - allegedly - a few late retrofitted versions sought to incorporate it, however I’ve also seen other sources say that the earliest, pre-Christian manuscripts of the Septuagint apparently include YHWH either transliterated into Greek (as “IAO” or other variants) or inserted in archaic Paleo-Hebrew characters among the Greek words;

  • The term ever used in the New Testament;

  • YHWH is a name derived from pagan gods, a name that fittingly appears on Tarot cards and in the first syllable of the name of the Masonic god Jahbulon (a compound of three pagan deities, an anti-Trinity in fact). It was inserted into the revised Hebrew scriptures of the 1st century AD, presumably as a kind of magical counterweight to the name of Jesus;

  • the Church has never permitted this name, however vocalized, to be used in her sacred liturgy or her Bible translations (at least not formally and not until very recently, e.g. the frequent references to Yahweh in the Jerusalem Bible);

  • It is also asserted that according to modern ecclesial cant, the Church regards this name as so holy as to be unpronounceable. This was the position of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship earlier this in 2008 when it asked for all references to YHWH to be removed from the liturgy but, it is argued that it is only the Jews who claim that YHWH is unpronounceable, not the Catholic Church. The question is posed: if Jesus - the most holy name of God the Son - is so eminently pronounceable, why should the purported name of God the Father be treated in such a markedly different fashion?

  • It is asserted that if the Church has always rejected the name YHWH, even for the most private prayers, Catholics had better be very sure that they are not unwittingly offending and blaspheming God by utilizing it themselves and that they should recall that the Church has never claimed that the Hebrew Masoretic Text contains the pure, unadulterated Word of God - such is a Protestant belief.


I’d just like to point out to you the following.

Recently there were two tiny silver scrolls found in a tomb located in southwest Jerusalem. These two silver strips date from around 600 BC and contain the text of the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:23-27) as well as a protective formula, written in paleo-Hebrew (the original script used by the Israelites, before the Jews switched to the “square-script” alphabet used today); it’s likely that they were used as amulets. These scrolls are significant because they contain the oldest surviving texts from the Hebrew Bible. Guess what? The name Yhwh can be found in these silver scrolls.

In fact, the Name Yhwh can also be found in other artifacts that predate the 1st-2nd century AD, and not all of them are scriptural texts. There was a late 6th century BC inscription found at a place called Khirbet Beit Lei in the Judean lowlands which says: “I am Yhwh your God: I will accept the cities of Judah, and I will redeem Jerusalem.” This inscription I think proves the connection between Yhwh and Judah/Jerusalem.

Just to give you an idea of the artifacts that do contain Yhwh, most of them referring to the Name in an arguably Israelite/Jewish context:

  • The Mesha Stele (Moabite, ca. 850 BC): “And Chemosh said to me, ‘Go take Nebo against Israel,’ and I went in the night and I fought against it from the break of day till noon, and I took it: and I killed in all seven thousand men, but I did not kill the women and maidens, for I devoted them to Ashtar-Chemosh; and I took from it the vessels of Yhwh, and offered them before Chemosh.
  • The Khirbet Beit Lei inscription (7th-late 6th century BC): “I am Yhwh your God: I will accept the cities of Judah, and I will redeem Jerusalem;” “Absolve us, O merciful God; absolve us, O Yhwh”
  • The Ketef Hinnom silver scrolls (ca. 600 BC): The Priestly Blessing (“May Yhwh bless you and keep you …”), invocation (“Yhwh is our restorer [and] rock;” “May he/she be blessed by Yhwh, the warrior/helper and the rebuker of evil”)
  • The Tel Arad ostracon (potsherd, before 6th century BC): “May Yhwh inquire after your well-being. …] He is staying in the house of Yhwh.”
  • The Lachish letters (c.588 BC): “May Yhwh cause my lord to hear tiding(s) of peace …”
  • The Elephantine Papyri (5th century BC, Aramaic): The form attested in the letters is Yhw (Yahu?) or Yhh
  • The Nash Papyrus (150-100 BC); Shema, Ten Commandments
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls

Add to that the obviously theophoric names that contain yah or yahu/yeho (Elijah, Adonijah, Joshua, Jehoiakim, Jehoshaphat, Adonijah, Ahaziah, Hezekiah, etc.) All in all, there’s really no hard support for this claim that Yhwh “was only added to the Jewish Tanakh (their version of the Old Testament) after the time of Christ” - the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nash Papyrus, and the two silver scrolls from Ketef Hinnom all debunk that. I think whoever is making this claim is making a big deal out of the Septuagint’s substitution of Yhwh with Kyrios.


Agreed. This sounds ludicrously fishy.

The LXX is a Greek translation. So why wouldn’t the name Lord appear in Greek? Because YHWH is a pagan god? Is that what the gist of the theory is?



I dealt extensively with a Greek Dead Sea Scroll of the minor prophets, and it place the tetragrammation in the place of kurios. Years ago I transcribed the manuscript and placed it side by side with the LXX and Aquila, Sammachus, and Theodotion, as well as the New Testament quotes of those passages in order to show the differences. The DSS manuscript is an obvious LXX version with the tetragrammation. Some say it was adjusted to be closer to the Masoretic text because of some variant readings, but all LXX manuscripts usually have lots of variant readings so I am not convinced that it was necessairly altered by a scribe other than the tetragrammation. Here is an old link to it.


The entire purpose of the Septuagint Greek translation was to make the Jewish Holy Books accessible to what are considered Gentile nations.

Gentile nations were regarded as unclean, and God is the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, therefore any personal intimacy that the Jewish nation had in a special position to God would be altered. The name being the most obvious one as it was considered a covenant between God and Israel alone…


That’s the thing. In Palestine the Greek text was often adjusted and corrected to make it conform more to the ancestor of the Masoretic Text (Proto-Masoretic) because that’s the text used there. In Qumran you do see a bit more variety of textual forms (a good deal of the manuscripts there are Proto-Masoretic, but there are also a few others which reflect other versions), but in other sites like Nahal Hever (where the minor prophets scroll was found) or Masada which were occupied by nationalist Jews you see the proto-Masoretic text - and a Greek version approximating said Hebrew text - represented exclusively. This wasn’t something new: pre-Christian (Jewish) LXX manuscripts had a tendency from time to time to be ‘corrected’ following the Hebrew; specifically, the proto-MT, which was increasingly becoming the ‘standard’ back then, at least in the Holy Land. Apparently from early on their users noticed that the Greek text does not match up exactly with the Hebrew text they were using. So Aquila, Theodotion and Symmachus (the three folks who made their own Greek ‘versions’ more closer to the proto-MT text post-AD 70) were not doing anything new.

You probably already know this, but the Septuagint (as in the version we now know it) most often renders most instances of Yhwh in the Hebrew as KYPIOC Kyrios ‘Lord’, without the definite article and treated as if it was a proper name. Jewish copyists sometimes showed a tendency to write Yhwh either in Hebrew (יהוה) or in paleo-Hebrew, or a Greek approximation of the Name (for example, ιαω Iaō), or a blank space in place of Kyrios for Greek manuscripts. (The Dead Sea scrolls also attest to this practice for Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts.) By contrast, the Christian practice was to abbreviate Kyrios using the practice known as nomina sacra (where you abbreviate a sacred word or name like ‘Lord’, ‘God’, ‘Jesus’ or Christ’ by taking two or three letters): KC, KY, etc.


Thanks for all the very helpful responses so far. He’s another objection I’ve come across on this topic as well:

*"There is no evidence that the Savior’s Name was ‘Yahshua,’ ‘Yeshua,’ or ‘Yehoshua.’ Jesus was from Galilee, an area that had been entirely Hellenized by the 1st century. All of the Apostles came from areas that had been Hellenized and they all spoke Greek, wrote in Greek, and had Greek names. Jesus (Iesous) is a Greek name and was very popular among the dispersed Israelites.

In the Septuagint, the name Jacob is Jakob and the name Israel is Israël. Of almost every name in the Hebrew, there is an almost exact equivalent in the Septuagint, or at least a very close equivalent. However, some do not even sound alike, and are totally different. One of which is Joshua. In the Septuagint, the Hebrew Joshua was transliterated as Iesous or Jesus. If in the original Hebrew the name was Joshua, then it would be possible to transliterate this into Greek, and the Septuagint would today say Joshua and not Jesus. However, this is not the case and all the evidence points to the Hebrew having been corrupted by the Masoretic Jews and not the Septuagint.

The sad fact is that an large amount of corruption has taken place, most of it initiated by the Masoretic Jews. In fact, there does not exist a reliable Hebrew copy of the Old Testament and neither is there in any other language like Aramaic, Armenian, etc. that can be given any credence."*


Well, this is an old idea, and even something many scholars nowadays still believe too. But there’s really no hard support for it. I think they simply got it from the quote in Isaiah 9:1, which speaks of “Galilee of the nations/gentiles” (which, while something that may have been true in Isaiah’s time - when it was being overrun by the Assyrians - does not necessarily hold true for the time of Jesus centuries later), as well as the external appearances of cities like Tiberias or Sepphoris. But I believe the evidence points out to most of the Galilee being thoroughly Jewish at the time of Jesus, with the gentiles on the other hand being a small and relatively uninfluential minority. While many of the cities adjacent to the Galilee were predominantly gentile, there is little to no evidence of their presence in the Galilee itself in the 1st century; the area would only become increasingly non-Jewish after the time of Jesus. I recommend Mark A. Chancey’s The Myth of a Gentile Galilee here. (Also the book of the same name, if you can get your hands on it.)

It’s true that some of Jesus’ disciples had Greek names like Andrew or Philip. But the others had Jewish (albeit Greek-ified) names like John (= Yohanan = YehohananYah/Yeho is Gracious”), James (= Jacob), Simon/Simeon (“He (God) has heard;” though it could also be a Greek name meaning “flat-nosed”), Matthew (= Matityahu “Gift of Yahu”), or Judas (= Judah).

[INDENT]Jesus (Iesous) is a Greek name and was very popular among the dispersed Israelites. In the Septuagint, the name Jacob is Jakob and the name Israel is Israël. Of almost every name in the Hebrew, there is an almost exact equivalent in the Septuagint, or at least a very close equivalent. However, some do not even sound alike, and are totally different. One of which is Joshua. In the Septuagint, the Hebrew Joshua was transliterated as Iesous or Jesus. If in the original Hebrew the name was Joshua, then it would be possible to transliterate this into Greek, and the Septuagint would today say Joshua and not Jesus. However, this is not the case and all the evidence points to the Hebrew having been corrupted by the Masoretic Jews and not the Septuagint.

I think this is based on a flawed premise: for the name to be considered derived from another it’s gotta sound alike.



The best reason there is that Sacred Tradition is a must.



Yes, good stuff you wrote!


Thanks everyone for the responses so far. I find this an interesting subject, if anyone has any further insight or evidence for one position or the other, it would be greatly appreciated.



Thanks very much for this excellent post. Definitely one of the best in the entire thread. The person I’m debating about this subject called into question the authenticity of the Mesha Stele, assuming that due to the date it was discovered (c. 1870) that it’s discoverer(s) were influenced by British Israelism that therefore it can’t be trusted or that it was allegedly forged. I cited him the other examples of artifacts you mentioned but, he glossed over them and sent me this link in reference to the Mesha Stele:

How would you address this?


Also, another question I had was how does the Latin Vulgate tie into all of this? I know that as Catholics we trust the Septuagint and generally reject the Masoretic but, I’ve noticed in some areas the Vulgate translations agree more with the Masoretic texts. I know St. Jerome is reputed to have used both Greek and Hebrew texts … were these Hebrew texts pre-Masoretic or Masoretic?

For example, one of these would be the “extra” Cainan in Genesis 11:12 and Luke 3:36 in addition to the “extra” Elishah or Elisa found in the Septuagint translation of Genesis 10 which lists Elishah not only as the son of Javan, but also among the sons of Japheth. In these regards, the Vulgate agrees with the Masoretic rather than the Septuagint.

What’s the explanation for this?


Also, patrick457, could you provide me with some more information or sources regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls and the use of YHWH within them, their connection with the Septuagint, and their general credibility? I know they’re authentic and very credible but, I need some sources to provide evidence of that.



Strictly speaking, the ‘Masoretic text’ refers to the Hebrew text which has vowel markings or niqqud (remember that Hebrew was originally - and still is, to an extent - is an abjad, a writing system that only represented consonants) and concise marginal notes, added to the text. These ‘additions’, which was fixed from the 6th to the 10th centuries, are collectively known as masorah (the “transmission” of a tradition), and the Rabbis who developed these are known as the Masoretes. When we identify a text as ‘proto-Masoretic’ it really means that text is nearly identical to the consonantal text - i.e. the letters only, without the vowels or the marginalia - found in the MT and which could well be the ancestor of the MT’s consonantal text. Though admittedly the term is somewhat confusing so some scholars choose to call the pre-Masoretic texts ‘proto-rabbinic’ instead.

Well, St. Jerome, smart guy that he is, was (in)famous for being a Hebrew lover; he believed in the idea of hebraica veritas, the ‘truth of the Hebrew’. Back when most Christians preferred to use the Septuagint as their text (to the extent that they even used it as their source text for translations) and even viewed as the inspired text, Jerome argued that no, the Hebrew - proto-Masoretic - text is better and more authentic. Which got him into hot water with some people, St. Augustine being one of them.

Guess what? Many of the OT books in the Latin Vulgate - most of the protocanonical books and at least a couple of the deutero’s - are actually translations from the Hebrew and Aramaic. Originally they were just pet projects by Jerome that he addressed to various friends of his. In fact, he so loved the Hebrew that once he decided to translate it, he dropped what he had been doing beforehand: revising a pre-existing Latin OT translation (of the Septuagint) according to the version found in Origen’s Hexapla.

If you’ll ask me, the idea of “[trusting] the Septuagint and generally [rejecting] the Masoretic” is going overboard, as is the idea of trusting the Masoretic only to the exclusion of other versions. I think no one version is better than the other; as the Dead Sea Scrolls show, all these versions derive from texts of pretty much equal antiquity.


A few pictures.

A drawing of one of the two silver amulets found in Ketef Hinnom. Notice that Yhwh (boxed in red) appears for a total of three or four times.

Yhw[h] … Grea[t who keeps] the covenant and [m]ercy to those who love [him] and who keep [his commandments …] Eternity??? ] blessing, from every [sna]re and from evil, indeed in him (is) redeption, indeed Yhwh (is) your [re]storer [and] rock. May Yhwh bless you [and k]eep you, may Yhwh shine [his] fa[ce …]”

Inscriptions A and B from Khirbet Beit Lei.

“I am Yhwh your God: I will accept the cities of Judah, and I will redeem Jerusalem.”
“Absolve (us) O merciful God! Absolve (us) O Yhwh!”
One of the potsherds from Arad.

“To my lord Eliashib. May Yhwh ask after your welfare. And now, give to Shemariah a measure of flour and to the Kerosite you shall give a measure of flour. And as regards the matter about which you gave me orders, that is in order. In the house of Yhwh he remains.”
Potsherd from Lachish.

“To my lord Yaosh. May Yhwh let my lord hear tidings of peace, right now, right now! Who is your servant - a dog, that my lord remembers his [se]rvant? May Yhwh make my l[or]d remember a matter which you do not know (any more).”

I recommend you read this: Writings from Ancient Israel: A Handbook of Historical and Religious Documents. Try searching for “Yhwh” in the search box: it will pop up quite often.


Here’s one of the Elephantine papyri. This is a letter sent by Jews living in Yeb (modern Elephantine in Egypt) to the governor of Yehud (Judah), Bagohi, asking for the reconstruction of a temple dedicated to Yhwh (called Yhw / Yahu in the letter) in Elephantine, complaining that similar appeals made to the high priest and other priests in Jerusalem had gone unanswered. I’ll quote the letter in full.

To our lord, Bagohi, governor of Yehud [Judah], (from) your servants: Yedaniah and his associates, the priests who are in the fortress of Yeb [Elephantine].

May the God of the Heavens perpetually pursue the welfare of our lord greatly and grant you favors before Darius the king and the “sons of the palace” a thousand times more than now. May you be joyful and healthy at all times.

Now your servant Yedaniah and his associates testify as follows:

In the month of Tammuz, in the fourteenth year of King Darius [410 BC], when Arsames departed and went to the king, the priests of the god Khnub, who is in the fortress of Yeb, conspired with Vidranga, who was administrator here, to destroy the temple of Yahu (Yhw) in the fortress of Yeb. So that villain Vidranga sent this order to his son Nefayan, who was in command of the garrison of the fortress at Sawn [Aswan]: “The temple of the god Yahu in the fortress of Yeb shall be destroyed.” Nefayan consequently led the Egyptians with other troops. Arriving with their weapons at the fortress of Yeb, they entered the temple and burned it to the ground. They smashed the stone pillars that were there. They demolished five great gateways constructed of hewn blocks of stone which were in the temple; but their doors (are still standing), and the hinges of those doors are made of bronze. And the roof of cedar in its entirety, with the … and whatever else was there, were all burned with fire. As for the basins of gold and silver and other articles that were in the temple, they carried all of them off and took them as personal possessions.

"Now, our ancestors built this temple in the fortress of Yeb in the days of the kingdom of Egypt; and when Cambyses came to Egypt [525 BC] he found it (already) constructed. They (the Persians) knocked down all the temples of the Egyptian gods; but no one damaged this temple. But when this happened, we and our wives and our children wore sackcloth, and fasted, and prayed to Yahu, the Lord of Heaven, who has let us “see to” Vidranga. The axes removed the anklet from his feet (?) and any property he had acquired was lost. And all those who have sought to do evil to this temple—all of them—have all been killed, and we have “seen to” them.

We have (previously) sent letters to our lord when this catastrophe happened to us; and to the high priest Yehochannan and his associates, the priests in Jerusalem; and to Ostan, the kinsman of Anani; and the Judahite elites. They have never sent us a letter. Furthermore, from the month of Tammuz, the fourteenth year of Darius the king, until today, we have been wearing sackcloth and fasting, making our wives as widows, not anointing ourselves with oil or drinking wine. Furthermore, from then until now, in the seventeenth year of Darius the king, no grain-offering, incense, or burnt-offering has been sacrificed in this temple.

Now your servants Yedaniah, and his associates, and the Judahites, all inhabitants of Yeb, state: If it seems good to our lord, remember this temple to reconstruct it, since they do not let us reconstruct it. Look to your clients and friends here in Egypt. Let a letter be sent from you to them concerning the temple of the god Yahu to construct it in the fortress of Yeb as it was before. And the grain-offering, incense, and burnt-offering will be offered in your name, and we will pray for you continuously—we, our wives, and our children, and the Judahites who are here, all of them—if you do this so that this temple is reconstructed. And you shall have honor before Yahu, the God of the Heavens, more than a man who offers him burnt-offerings and sacrifices worth a thousand talents of silver and gold. Because of this, we have written to inform you. We have also set forth the whole matter in a letter in our name to Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat (cf. Nehemiah 2:10; 3:33-4:7; 6:1-14; 13:28), the governor of Samaria. Furthermore, Arsames (the Persian satrap) knew nothing of all that was perpetrated on us.

On the twentieth of Marcheshwan, the seventeenth year of King Darius [407 BC].


Excellent! Thanks very much for the help. I greatly appreciate it. I just need some specific examples from the DSS themselves of the usage of the Name YHWH as well as general authentications of the DSS as authentic, credible, and reliable Biblical sources for those who would question their authenticity. Do you happen to have any sources / references for that so I can demonstrate that they are, indeed, reliable?


Did those making the allegations provide primary source evidence substantiating such a claim? It would have to be of the antiquity and quality of those cited by Patrick above. If not, why should we even give such an outrageous, unauthenticated contention a second thought?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit