Re: The Tetragram (YHWH)

From: Otto Nordgreen (
Date: Wed Aug 13 1997 - 17:49:08 EDT

Dear Rolf,

>Will and Wes have given nice comments to several of your points, and I
>don`t think we should pursue this thread much further because it may not be
>so central to b-greek. I would just like to give a sketch of pros and cons,
>strong and week (Pronunciation of T by Jesus/followers indicate its place
>in the NT or not, vice versa).

How "nice" the comments were, is a matter of opiniom, I think. I will try
to address them later. Now, I would like to pay some attention to your "pro
et contra" List (which I actually find rather interesting):

>(important: (1))

>(1) No example of T in any NT manuscript
>(2) Substituted by `el (= God) by the Qumran community

Ad (2):

...and Hebr. _adon_ ("the Lord") in e.g. Ps 114:7; cf. Ps 151 in 11QPs a 28:7-8.

...and Aram. _mareh_ in 11 QtgJob 24:6-7.

>(3) Substituted by `alaha (= God) in Job targum from c 100 BC
>(4) Substituted by different words in a MSS of Ecclesiasticus from c 100BC
>(5) Mischna says T was substituted by another word in the provinces
>(6) Josephus wrote in second part of 1 cent CE, not pronounced
>(7) Filo indicate the same as Josephus about the same time
>(8) Lev 24:16 LXX (manuscripts after 150 CE), prohibited "to mention T"
>(9) Possible circumlocutions for T in the NT

(10) that the special form of YHWH in _hallelu'ya_ has not been removed. If
anyone had the interest in removing the name, why did they not remove the
hallelu'ya as well?

(11) There is absolutely no record of any "tampering" with the (supposed)
original rendering YHWH in the NT. Surely, some Christians would have
rejected this "practise"; if it did not originate from the NT writers
themselves, that is. Not many would question James, Paul, or Peter!

>(important (1),(2),(3),(7),(8),(9),(10)

>(1) T in all manuscripts of LXX until 50 CE

True, and therefore it is quite remarkable that there is no trace of the
tetragram in any of the old NT mss. And some of them are quite old... If we
accept that the old Lxx mss with the Holy Name prove that the tetragram
originally was in the Lxx, I think we should say that the remarkable lack
of any NT mss with the tetragram would prove that it never was there in the
first place.

>(2) T changed into KS in LXX manuscripts younger than 150 CE

My question: Was YHWH directly changed into KS, or, rather, via KYROS?

>(3) NT manuscripts younger than 150 CE have KS where Hebrew text quoted has T

Ad (2) and (3): How can you prove that? Is KS really short for YHWH, or,
perhaps, for KYROS? In my opinion, _KS_ should rather be considered an
abriviation for KYROS. Thus indicating that KYROS was the original (KS <
KYROS). Whether someone before that has changed YHWH into KYROS (*YHWH >
Kyros) is another question, but I just cannot see that the KS as such is an
index for the alteration: KS < *YHWH.

>(4) T found in 30 manuscripts from Qumran, some imported

...this proves only that the written form of the Holy Name, YHWH, was still
in use among the Jews. I think all of us would agree on that.

>(5) Mischna says people should greet one another by saying T
>(6) Tosefta gives evidence that Pharisees and others pronounced T

..and no hint of Jesus ever using it (even if I do not see any reason _per
se_ why He should not have used it. But I do not se why He had to use it,

>(7) The unanimous witness of the OT is that T should continually be used.

- ?

>(8) Lack of use based on superstition due to Hellenistic and other influence.

I f (!) it be proven that the tetragram originally was in the NT, this
could (perhaps) be one plausible explenation for an replacement of it with

>(9) Jesus refused to follow traditions of men.

Ad (9) ...but only if the traditions of (wo)men would be in conflict with
the original intention of the divine revelation; or would you suggest that
He refused to follow a n y tradition of (wo)men? As you have stated
earlier, "many, perhaps most in Palestine in the time of Jesus did not
pronounce [the] T[etragram]" (your posting, from 11/8-97, in response to
Mr. David L. Moore). This is quite right, I think. Surely, Jesus had many
critical remarks to His fellow Jews. But never do we read about Jesus
condemning anyone for not pronouncing the Holy Name (or use the tetragram)?

Perhaps the real important name in the early NT Era was Jesus? (cf. Acta
22:16 and Rom 10:12-14); etc.).

>(10)Both when Jesus/followers read from the H text and from the LXX the
>tetragrammaton was found in the text

...but that does only prove that they m i g h t have pronounced the Holy
Name. It does not prove that they actually did, nor that they wrote it. Or,
indeed, that they originally used the Holy Name in the NT writings.

>There is no doubt that the lack of manuscript witness to T strongly speaks
>against its pronunciation by Jesus and its legitimate place in the NT, but
>there is a period between the time when the autographs were made where
>there is no manuscript evidence. The realization that Jesus and his
>followers simply had no godly reason not to pronounce the name but several
>such reasons to do it, and we can prove a change in LXX manuscripts from T
>to KS in the period where we lack manuscript evidence, and we also can
>prove a change from ? to KS in the NT manuscripts from the same period,
>strongly suggests that "?" = T.

I would rather say (...for the sake of argument):


Both Kyros and KS are attested. YHWH is not. As long as YHWH is not
attested, the evidence at hand works against your thesis. But - I am, of
coirse, quite willing to reconsider my position i f we an old fragment of a
NT ma is found with the Holy Name as YHWH.

>BTW, IAW is a phonetic transcription and I have never heard that such a
>thing is not pronounced by the phonemes it represents, so IAW is pronounced

But w h o made these mss; Christians, or Jews (and for w h o m [Jews])?

>Allow me a final quote from G.D. Kilpatrick in the volume where the Fouad
>Papyrii were published (The Cairo Papyrus of Genesis and Deuteronomy

>"Well before Origen`s Hexapla there took place two processes both of which
>had their effect on the LXX. One was the acclimatisation of the Greek Old
>Testament in the Christian Church. The important period for this was A.D.
>70-135. In it we can detect three changes. First, the codex took the place
>of the roll. Secondly, the tetragrammaton, the divine name in Hebrew
>character was replaced by KURIOS. Thirdly, abbreviations were introduced
>for the divine names QEOS KURIOS hUIOS ..."

Interesting!! True, the Christians did "replace" the tetragram with (the)
Lord in their Greek verisons of the so-called OT. But why did they do
that?; perhaps they did it because it was the actual Christian practise of
the NT writers. KYRIOS was abbriviated, yes. Not YHWH!

That the NT originally contained the Holy Name remanes a hypothesis; at
least in my opinion.

I f (!) we find an old NT ms with the tetragram (-- we need at least one!
--), your list of 'pros' could be used as an explanation, I think. However,
until this happens, I just cannot see how your list of evidence - your 10
points taken togeter, that is - could be used as any real proof for the
Holy Name ever being in the NT. It does not work that way. It is an
interesting thought, though.

(Finaly, just another question: Do you think that the YHWH originally was
in Hebr 1:10; 1 Pet 3:15; or Acta 2:21? -- cf. Ps 102:25; Isa 8:12f; and
Joel 2:28.)

Best wishes,

Otto Nordgreen
Student at Dept. of Germanic Studies,
University of Oslo, Norway

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