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Jehovah’s Witnesses

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)


The Restoration of the Divine Name in the “New Testament”

Nash Papyrus, dated from the second or first century B.C.E., showing portions of Exodus and Deuteronomy. The divine name appears a number of times in the Hebrew text.

When Jesus and his apostles were on earth, the divine name, or Tetragrammaton, appeared in the Hebrew manuscripts of the “Old Testament.” (See Appendixes A4 and A5.) The divine name also appeared in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the “Old Testament” that was widely used in the first century C.E. At that time, the divine name was represented in the Septuagint by either the Hebrew characters (YHWH) or the Greek transliteration of those characters (IAO). Some portions of manuscripts of the Septuagint from the first century C.E. and earlier still exist today, and they prove this fact. So when the inspired writers of the “New Testament” quoted from the “Old Testament,” they must have seen the Tetragrammaton, whether they were quoting directly from the Hebrew text of the “Old Testament” or the Greek translation of that text, the Septuagint.

Today, however, no manuscripts of the “New Testament” from the first century C.E. are available for us to examine. So no one can check the original Greek manuscripts of the “New Testament” to see whether the Bible writers used the Tetragrammaton. The Greek manuscripts of the “New Testament” that would have a bearing on this issue are copies that were made from about 200 C.E. onward. The more complete manuscripts are from the fourth century C.E., long after the originals were composed. However, sometime during the second or early third century C.E., a practice had developed where those copying the manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with a title such as Lord or God or copied from manuscripts where this had already been done. *

That practice creates a special challenge for anyone who translates the “New Testament.” For example, when a translator examines an “Old Testament” quotation in the Greek text of the “New Testament,” he will not see the Tetragrammaton anywhere in the Greek text from which he is translating. However, he should be aware of two basic facts: (1) The original quotation from the “Old Testament” may contain the Tetragrammaton, and (2) the Greek text that he is using is based on manuscripts from a period of time when copyists regularly substituted titles for the divine name. Realizing this, he must make an important decision. Will he follow the Greek text that uses Kyʹri·os or The·osʹ instead of the Tetragrammaton, or will he endeavor to ascertain where the Tetragrammaton would have appeared in the original Greek manuscripts?

Both the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts used by the Christian Bible writers contained the Tetragrammaton.

The basic question that needs to be answered is this: Since the Tetragrammaton appeared in the original Hebrew text that was being quoted by the first-century Bible writers, did those writers deliberately substitute the word Kyʹri·os or The·osʹ for the Tetragrammaton each time they quoted from the “Old Testament”? Throughout the centuries, numerous Bible translators have concluded that such a substitution would not have taken place. Therefore, such translators have felt compelled to restore the divine name in their translations of the “New Testament.” The translators of the Christian Greek Scriptures of the New World Translation agree with that viewpoint. *


The following two sections of Appendix C list the verses where the name Jehovah occurs in the main text of the Christian Greek Scriptures of the New World Translation. * Appendix C2 lists verses that contain either direct quotations from or indirect references to scriptures that use the Tetragrammaton in the original Hebrew text of the “Old Testament.” Appendix C3 lists verses that do not contain a direct quotation from the “Old Testament” and provides reasons for restoring the divine name in those verses.

Appendix C4 provides a list of some of the translations of the “New Testament” that have restored the divine name in various verses. * (These are referred to in Appendix C3.) Not only have some of these translations restored the divine name in direct quotations from the “Old Testament” but they have also restored that name in other verses where the context or other factors give a valid reason for doing so. None of these translations have been produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. * Included in these are a number of translations that were made into Hebrew, as well as those made into many other languages. For ease of reference, these have been designated by the letter J followed by a number. For a list of over 120 languages and dialects in which the divine name can be found in the main text of the “New Testament,” or the Christian Greek Scriptures, see Appendix A5.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 3522, dated from the first century C.E., showing a portion of the book of Job. The Tetragrammaton appears in ancient Hebrew characters in this copy of the Septuagint.

^ par. 4 In most cases, they either replaced the divine name with the Greek word Kyʹri·os (Lord), The·osʹ (God), or an abbreviation of one of these words. Many standard dictionaries of ancient Greek state that these two Greek words have been used as equivalents of the divine name.—See A Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament, by J. Parkhurst, revised edition of 1845; The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, by J. H. Thayer, 1981; A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell and Scott, 1996; A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition, 2000.

^ par. 6 A number of scholars, however, strongly disagree with this viewpoint. One of these is Jason BeDuhn, who authored the book Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. Yet, even BeDuhn acknowledges: “It may be that some day a Greek manuscript of some portion of the New Testament will be found, let’s say a particularly early one, that has the Hebrew letters YHWH in some of the verses [of the “New Testament.”] When that happens, when evidence is at hand, biblical researchers will have to give due consideration to the views held by the NW [New World Translation] editors.”

^ par. 8 These lists cover only the Bible books published so far in the online Study Edition.

^ par. 9 Also included in the list is a reference work that indicates that the words Kyʹri·os and The·osʹ are used as equivalents of the Tetragrammaton.

^ par. 9 Although Jehovah’s Witnesses printed an edition of The Emphatic Diaglott (J21), the translation was made by Benjamin Wilson.