Re: Divine name in NT

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Sep 30 1998 - 17:38:37 EDT

> wrote:
>> > Matthew's Gospel was eventually translated into Greek. Would God's
>> > name have appeared in these Greek writings?
The original discussion from which you quote comes from an interlinear
study Bible which I have looked at recently. This study Bible is based on a
translation that translates KURIOS as "Jehovah" in many places in the NT
when the reference is clearly to God; in most of these places, this is the
only translation I have that would translate KURIOS as "Jehovah" or
"Yahweh" in these places. The study Bible to which you refer sees this as a
corruption of scripture, and argues for the "restoration of the divine
name" in New Testament passages, not only in quotes from the Old Testament,
but in many other places

Although I do not have it available to me right now, I think the original
argument went like this:

1. Matthew's Gospel was written in Hebrew.
2. Other books of the Bible frequently quote Hebrew scriptures, generally
from their Greek translation into the LXX.
3. Some early LXX manuscripts use the tetragrammeton directly instead of
translating it; when it is translated, it is translated to KURIOS. This
shows that KURIOS can be a reference to the divine name.

So far, so good. But his argument continues...

4. Since the NT writers quote from the OT, we can assume that they
originally used the divine name to refer to God, not only in the OT
quotations, but quite generally in their writings. The translator must
determine when KURIOS would have been a reference to the divine name in the
original manuscripts, and "restore" the divine name in these cases.
5. We have many Hebrew versions of the New Testament, and these can be used
as a guideline to tell us when to translate KURIOS as "Jehovah". The author
of this article labels them J1 to J15 and treats them as though they were
NT manuscripts, then says that KURIOS should only be translated as
"Jehovah" where there is manuscript evidence from these sources. However,
the earliest of these 15 Hebrew versions of the NT was 1500, and I believe
that all of these are back-translations into Hebrew. None of these sources
are listed in the Nestle/Aland, and I'm not sure where the numbering came
from. Since the numbering is completely sequential - it starts at J1 and
goes up to J15, without a gap - I infer that the author of this particular
study Bible came up with the numbering scheme for these. At any rate, since
the earliest of these is from 1500 or so, and these "manuscripts" include
translations made right into the current century, this is rather like using
the King James Bible (1611) and later translations as manuscript evidence
to correct the original Greek manuscripts. I found it disconcerting to see
references to manuscripts like P66 and "J13" as though they were equally
authoritative. Since anyone who wants to translate the Greek scriptures
into Hebrew is perfectly free to decide whether to translate KURIOS as
Adonai or using the Tetragrammeton, the choices made in these translations
do not constitute any form of primary evidence.

The study Bible to which you refer argues for very literal translation,
saying that it is wrong for the theology or traditions of the translator to
influence the translator to go beyond a literal translation. It also claims
that the translation in question is a very literal translation of the Greek
scriptures. In this case, however, it argues against translating what the
Greek text says, saying that the Greek texts that are being translated have
been corrupted, and must therefore be corrected before translating. The
only guideline it gives for when it is appropriate to translate KURIOS as
"Jehovah" is this: the name is only restored when at least one of the
Hebrew translations made between 1500 and the current century translates it
as YHWH. Since there are 15 or so to choose from, this gives the translator
a fair degree of freedom, and since these are all relatively recent
translations, none of these "manuscripts" are really any kind of evidence.

IMHO, a translation that claims to be a very literal translation should
simply translate the text, perhaps using footnotes if the translator feels
that the text being translated differs from the original. Since we have
absolutely no examples of Greek texts of the NT that include the
Tetragrammeton, a literal translation that is based on the Greek text
should not translate KURIOS as "Jehovah". Naturally, there are also works
like that of the Jesus Seminar that claim the Greek texts we have are quite
different from the original accounts, and attempt to reconstruct an
original that is different from any text we have. A work that does this
should be very clear that this what it is doing, and should not call itself
a literal translation of the Greek scriptures. What really bothers me is
that this same appendix implies that all the translations that translate
the Greek text directly are flawed.

At 04:42 PM 9/28/98 -0700, Ron Rhoades wrote:
>I feel the Hebrew Scriptures could be a guide in many passages where the
>Greek Scriptures quote the O.T. In addition to quotes where phrases such
>as the tautological "Lord God" (KURIOS THEOS) or "the angel of the Lord"
>and similar indications occur we would understand the reference would be
>to YHWH and not KURIOS.

I think this is a much better justification than the one found in the study
Bible we've been discussing. If you are clear that you are paraphrasing the
original instead of translating it directly, this could be a device for
clarifying when you believe a text refers to God the Father.

>My personal view is that we should restore the Divine Name where ever
>contextual evidence allows. This avoids the confusion that later
>syncretism caused concerning "the 'Lord God' and the 'Lord Christ.'" But
>now we're outside of B-Greek.

In every single Greek manuscript we have of the New Testament, the phrases
'Lord God' and 'Lord Christ' are used in rather similar ways. A translation
should not attempt to hide this. If you think it is due to "later
syncretism", then all Greek texts we have have been affected by this
syncretism, and a translation of those texts will reflect that fact.
Phrases like "in the name of the Lord" and "in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ" may very well lead to the "confusion" to which you refer, but these
phrases occur in the texts that we have. Translations should not attempt to
prevent us from coming to the same conclusions we might reach by reading
the original text that is being translated.



Jonathan Robie

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