The Tetragram (YHWH)

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Sun Aug 10 1997 - 14:01:55 EDT

Otto Nordgreen wrote:

<There is no reason to assume that this NT practise was a Christian
<innovation (even if it very well could have been that); as we now know that
<Palestine Jews in the last centuries BCE were beginning to call YHWH (by
<the title) "the Lord" - cf. J. A. Fitzmyer: "Pauline Theology", in: NJBC,
<pp. 1382-1416, 1394.

<Why the NT authors chose to follow this practise, I just cannot say.
<Interesting to observe, however, is the effect of this practise -- e. g. in
<Rom 10:9 ; cf. v. 13 (...where Paul has _kyrios_) and Mal 1:2f (...where MT
<has YHWH). As the NT does not have any record of Jesus using the Name
<(YHWH), I guess we can assume that he did not use it. This might have been
<one reason for the NT authors not to use the Name.

Dear Ott,.

Those translating James 5:10 as does RSV "As an example of suffering and
patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord."
are faced with a strange situation: While being textually correct the
rendering is factually wrong. The prophets did not speak in the name of the
Lord but in the name of YHWH. This situation MAY have arisen because of a
tampering with the NT text.

There is strong reason to believe that the modern critical Greek text is
very close to the original, but regarding divine names we can almost with
certainty say that the text has been changed. In the Chester Beatty
Papyrii, P46, from the second century CE (against Kim/Thiede) we find
KURIOS and QEOS abbreviated as KS and TS with a horizontal bar above. These
abbreviations can hardly be original; thus they indicate a tampering with
the text, but not what the original text was (see also the convincing
arguments of a tampering with the NT text for doctrinal reasons in B D
Ehrman, 1993, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.)

You correctly observe that "LXX" fragments retain YHWH in some form, and
this is true for ALL LXX fragments before the second century CE, including
the youngest (of the Oxyrhybchus Papyrii) from the first century CE.
Interesting is the fact that in the LXX part of the Chester Beatty Papyrii
we also find the same nomina sacra in abbreviated form. When we know that
the LXX contained YHWH in some form and it was changed to KS, it is also
likely that the same was true for the NT. This is buttressed by two
philological lines:


There is evidence that YHWH was not pronounced by some groups but
pronounced by others down to and into NT times (IAW for instance signals
pronunciation). There is no evidence indicating that Jesus and his
followers did not pronounce it.

 (In our context this is philological rather than theological evidence)

2.1 Ex 3:15 says that the name should be used for ever.

2.2 There is no biblical passage indicating that pronunciation should
cease. The rabbis used Ex 3:15 as evidence that it should not be
pronounced. Their interpretation is fanciful (See komments to the passage
in Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation,1967, ed M M Kasher)

2.3 The reason why pronunciation ceased was the wish to protect it from
being used in magic spells and influence from the nameless gods around
(See "Nameless Gods" Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908).
Particularly Plato`s nameless god hEN played an important role. The
pharisees faught against this influence.

2.4 In view of Jesus being against traditions of men, always sticking to
the Holy Scriptures, and that a form of YHWH both was in the Hebrew and
Greek biblical text available, he most likely used and pronounced the name.
I can see no reason why he should not.

This short sketch shows that in spite the lack of YHWH in the NT
manuscripts available, there are strong arguments in favour of the name
being in the original NT manuscripts (See George Howard, 1977, The
Tetragram in the New Testament, Journal of Bibilical Literature 63-84).


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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