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Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category

In the past few months, my wife and I have had visits from a very kind woman from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  We’ve been reading the material she leaves and talking with her when she’s visited.  So far the most interesting thing is how they stress the necessity of knowing God’s name.

It’s true.  Where most people call Him by His general name, “God;” God has a specific name.  God’s name in Hebrew is transliterated YHWH (since Hebrew does not use vowels), called the Tetragrammaton.  It is very different than the Hebrew word for “Lord” (adonai).  Many current translations translate YHWH as Jehovah or LORD (note the capitalization).

I went to the Jehovah’s Witness website and found what they had to say about the importance of God’s name.  The article[1] states that the today’s proper form of YHWH is “Jehovah”.  I must ask: who made that decision?  The truth is that Jehovah is a tainted rendering of YHWH.  Early translators did not know what vowels to use when translating YHWH.  They decided to use the vowels from Hebrew words adoni and elohim (both meaning “Lord”) to come up with Jehovah.  Even with this, Jehovah has changed over the years from “Iehouah” (1530) to “Iehovah” (1611) to “Jehovah” (1671).

YHWH appears 6,521 times in the Old Testament and does not appear at all in the New Testament.

All this is well and good, but the question is whether knowing God’s name is necessary to have a relationship with him.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that one must know God’s proper name before one can have a relationship with him.

They make the following arguments in the article[2].  (These have been directly quoted from the article.)
“Concerning the name of Jehovah our God we shall make mention.”  Psalm 20:7
“If we have forgotten the name of our God, . . . will not God himself search this out?  For he is aware of the secrets of the heart.”  Psalm 44:20-21
“Give thanks to Jehovah, you people!  Call up on his name.  Make known among the peoples his dealings.  Make mention that his name is put on high.”  Isaiah 12:4
God said, “They will have to know that my name is Jehovah.”  Jeremiah 16:21
God said, “I shall certainly sanctify my great name, which was being profaned among the nations, . . . and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah.”  Ezekiel 36:23
“I shall protect him because he has come to know my name.”  Psalm 91:14

I ask that you, as the reader, will look up each one of these verses and their context.  I suggest using many different translations.  With the exception of Psalm 91:14, all these verses do not address whether a person must know God’s name, YHWH, in order to have a relationship with Him.  Most of the verses speak of bringing glory to the great name of God or that the nations will come to know God’s name after He has crushed the nation because of their sins.

I like to interject myself by saying that the Jehovah Witnesses say that there is far more than just knowing His name.  The article references Psalm 9:10, “Those knowing your name will trust in you.”  They do not put their whole weight on the need to know God’s name but that it is the first step.

Interestingly, the article[3] mentions Exodus 3:14 where Moses asks God for His name so Moses could tell the Israelites who sent him.  God replied, “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be…. This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I shall prove to be has sent me to you.’ “.  God did not pass on to Moses His proper name, YHWH, but His purpose.  God’s purpose is to make Himself known to mankind, not informing the world that His name is YHWH.

If mankind were to curse and disrespect God, the mention of God’s name would remind people of profanity and worthlessness.  If mankind honored and glorified God, the mention of God’s name would remind people of power and majesty.  God is concerned with how we view Him.  The way we treat God in our worldview is going to be the way we treat His name in public.  We are to bring glory to both.  By this the nations will come to know God and respect Him and His name.

———-

[1] http://www.watchtower.org/e/20040122/article_01.htm

[2] http://www.watchtower.org/e/20040122/article_03.htm

[3] http://www.watchtower.org/e/20040122/article_04.htm

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