Re: The Tetragram (YHWH)

Date: Tue Aug 12 1997 - 10:27:44 EDT

Dear Otto,

I read your response to Rolf's arguments with interest. I considered your
reasons against what Rolf actually said and I have a few comments for you to
reflect upon as I tried to separate fact from opinion.

Otto wrote:
many thanks for your interesting remarks! I do, however, feel that your
remarks are in need of some comments themselves...

Rolf wrote:
>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.

Otto wrote:
First of all: I feel very comfortable with your emphasize on the MAY-part;
in my opinion your suggestion that the original epistle written by "James"
(the brother of the Lord) had the tetragram and that the original Greek (or
Hebrew [?] in case of the tetragram) rendering has been altered seems to be
highly (!) speculative. Donīt you feel that what you are doing is "special
pleading" and thus begging the question -- just a little bit -- ??

Otto, I would like to draw your attention to what Rolf actually wrote.
He does not say what you say he said, does he? Are we in agreement that
the prophets did not speak in the name of KYRIOS? You are citing one
conclusion to which this line of reasoning may lead and reject the fact
based upon the conclusion. Is this not backwards?

Otto wrote:
As a "working hypothesis" I find your arguments OK; but I feel that the
evidence from the NT mss clearely points towards a different conclusion,
viz. that the tetragram never was in the NT. And how can you say that the
rendering in RSV is wrong; it is only wrong insofar as James himself was
wrong in his rendering. The RSV is a honest translation of the actual NT
mss available. If James considered his rendering OK, why shouldn't we? When
you (and others??) argue that James originally wrote the tetragram, I feel
that you have to carry the actual burden of evidence? Don't you feel that
the ca. 5000 NT mss carry some weight?

Once again Otto, you are tearing down an argument that Rolf never
presented. Did not Rolf state that the rendering was "textually
correct?" He said (I refer you to the above) "While being textually
correct the rendering is factually wrong." Is it not backwards to reject
a thought because we do not care about one _possible_ conclusion to
which it leads?

Rolf wrote:
>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.)

Otto wrote:
If the tetragram originally was in
the NT, I find it somewhat amazing that it is not to be found in any single
NT manuscript (...and there are about 5000 [!] of them...)!

This is really outside Rolf's point since our 5000 [!] NT copies are all
dated _after_ the replacement of divine names took place with the LXX
manuscripts. What we need to do is to consider the manuscript evidence
in the light of the LXX 2CE textual tampering and _possible_ NT
tampering and reach plausible conclusions.

Otto continued:
 I am not saying
that the so-called NT has not been changed - perhaps for what you call
doctrinal reasons (...along with the selections of the canonical
scriptures...), but that does not prove that the tetragram originally was
in the NT; if correct, it only proves that the NT we have today in many
respects can be different from the original one. This, again, could mean
that the tetragram might have been in the NT and that it was later removed;
just as other elements in the "original" NT might have been removed or
changed. But do you really find it likely that the whole Church would
accept this; why do we not have any mss with the tetragram? Or: why do we
not have documents referring to any discussion about this alteration?
Surely it would be noticed! I doubt anyone would
ever come up with such an idea regarding other historical material having
the evidence already existing pointing in quite another direction!

Once again, your question is what we are trying to determine, is it not?
The problem I have with rejecting a plausible argument like Rolf and others
suggest as a possibility is that we have heard this exact argument
before and the answer came in favor of the Tetragrammaton. Specifically,
we heard for centuries that the LXX never contained the Name because
there was "no manuscript evidence." Some German and English Translators
chose to use the Name in their versions because it was in the Hebrew
Scriptures and they suspected LXX manuscript tampering. They received
the same argumentation as above. But they were later proven right. We
now have early LXX manuscripts with the Name. Therefore, I remain
cautious to reject a plausible option based on this kind of
argumentation. Otherwise, what will you do if a NT manuscript is found
with the Name?

Rolf said:
>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:

Otto responded:
What we have is a situation where different traditions meet; the one using
the teragram others not using the Holy Name in the OT versions. I feel that
the actual evidence of NT mss support the main thesis advocated today, viz.
that the first Christians (including Jesus Himself) chose not to use the

This is true as it stands without regard to the textual tampering of the LXX
and _possible_ parallel tampering with the NT manuscripts. However, if you
are to try to convince others of your hypothesis, I personally would expect
more evidence than "I feel.".

<snip middle for sake of brevity>

Rolf wrote:
>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).

Otto wrote:
Finally a 'theological PS'! If the pronunciation - and, indeed, the use-
of the tetragram was that important, why has YHWH God allowed the
tetragram to be removed completely from all the early NT mss? Only one early
testimony, one single ms, would have been enough to provide some real
support for the theory once presented by Howards and, now, advocated by

Perhaps the same reason he allowed the scribes to remove the Name from
LXX copies from 2CE onward? If I understand Rolf's research with an open
mind, I see he has not been dogmatic, and he has addressed the concern
about manuscripts. What is of import is not _number_ of manuscripts, it
is _early_ manuscripts, before the textual tampering of the Name
occurred in the LXX.

This issue is not as easy as it is portrayed, as illustrated by one Bible
Translator who opted to translate the Name, John W. Davis, a missionary in
China during the 19th century. He explained why he translated the Name:
"If the Holy Ghost says Jehovah in any given
place in the Hebrew, why does the translator not say Jehovah in English
or Chinese? What right has he to say, I will use Jehovah in this place
and a substitute for it in that? . . . If any one should say that there
are cases in which the use of Jehovah would be wrong, let him show the
reason why; the onus probandi [burden of proof] rests upon him. He will
find the task a hard one, for he must answer this simple question,-If in
any given case it is wrong to use Jehovah in the translation then why
did the inspired writer use it in the original?"-The Chinese Recorder
and Missionary Journal, Volume VII, Shanghai, 1876.

Mitchell Andrews

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:25 EDT