Messianic Confessions

The Divine Name

This pattern showed up also in connection with God’s Name. Now, at the outset, there is no argument that God has a Name and this Name is most well-known in the English language as “Jehovah.” There is not universal agreement on the pronunciation of the Sacred Tetragram, or YHWH. There are over two dozen opinions on this pronunciation. JWs do not have the exclusive on the Divine Name.

Over two decades ago I had wondered whether Jesus ever used “Jehovah” in normal conversation. That is, outside a quotation of the Hebrew Bible. It seemed reasonable that the Nazarene might use YHWH when reading from those verses where it appeared in the Hebrew Bible. For example, in the little synagogue in his home town Nazareth when he read from the scroll of Isaiah, in what is today chapter 61, verse 1, it is possible he would utter the correct pronunciation of YHWH. But, did he use it in everyday conversation?

I compared the NWT and found only three cases where “Jehovah” is used by Jesus outside a quotation: Mark 5:19; 13:20; and, Luke 20:37. There was not much basis for this and an examination of them showed these cases also appeared in other Gospels where the Name did not occur even in the NWT.48 All of this seemed very strange to me. Jesus appeared not to have used the Name that often in private conversation.
48 PARALLEL OCCURENCES. For example Luke 8.37 uses “God” not “Jehovah.” Matthew 24:22 omits either. Matthew 22:32 uses “God.”

Now a JW will point to John 17:6 here: ‘I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world.’ They will do this without realizing that in this prayer, the longest of his in the Gospels, he never uses “Jehovah” at all even in the NWT. This just would not happen for a JW member of the GB or any other JW elder in the world. In his prayers “Jehovah” would be repeated like a “word whisker” such as, “and ah.” It was noted that the Apostle John never uses “Jehovah” in any of his letters. The apostle Paul also refrains from using YHWH in some of his letters, even in the NWT. For example, it does not appear in the NWT in the letter to Titus. Nor, in the private letter to Philemon.

This subject had much to do with thoughts coming out of the “Pure Language” District Conventions. I thought about this idea of “pure language” found at Zephaniah 3:9: ‘For then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.' Much is made of the Old Testament prophecy by JWs. Note it is again a bias to those “prophets” mentioned at Hebrew 1:1 by whom God no longer speaks to us. The thought began to occur to me that language is reflected by two factors: subject and vocabulary. What were the key subjects and words of the Old Testament? Clearly, “Jehovah” was one of them. But, in the New Testament this was replaced by “Jesus.”

I ran a computer search of sample Watchtower magazines and found the ratio much weighted toward “Jehovah” whereas the Book of Acts was the reverse of this. It seemed to me that the one person who truly spoke the “pure language” was Jesus Christ himself. And, he is recorded, in the NWT, only using “Jehovah” three times! Clearly, the language of Jesus Christ was not the same as the Watchtower or any member of the GB. Anyone can make a computer search of a current Watchtower article and see it is not that “pure language” spoken by the Nazarene.

A comparison of this search indicates quite a difference between, say, the Watchtower and the Gospel of John. The 1993 volume of the Watchtower uses “Jehovah” 2,434 times, over twice as much as “Jesus.” (1,137) Compare this to the Gospel of John where “Jehovah” occurs 9 times in the NWT, but “Jesus” 245 times.

There was another problem to consider. Let us suppose Jesus did indeed use YHWH in his every day conversation; that he had, indeed, uttered the correct pronunciation of it to his dearest disciples. Surely, coming from God Himself, the Nazarene would know how to pronounce the noma sagrada. Suppose he stressed this importance and directed his disciples to pass this on to the next generation, etceteras, etceteras. This would have allowed for the preservation of something so very important, from the JW perspective. This agency for passing on the Divine Name and its exact pronunciation, according to JWs, would be that “faithful and discreet slave” class which has come down through history in an unbroken chain right up to modern times. The question rises: who lost this correct pronunciation? It would have to be the “faithful and discreet slave class” itself and this is unthinkable to modern JWs, including those professing “anointed” members of the contemporary “faithful and discreet slave class”. Will JWs accept this blame?

Today scholars possess more than 7,000 very ancient original language manuscripts of the New Testament. None of these contain YHWH. No manuscript of the writings of what are called apostolic fathers in the first and second centuries contain the divine name either.

The Name “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The Proclaimers book had stated the Judge was the instrument by which God changed the name “Christian” to that of “Jehovah’s witnesses” by “divine providence.” It said: “But then, in 1931, we embraced the truly distinctive name Jehovah's Witnesses. Author Chandler W. Sterling refers to this as ‘the greatest stroke of genius’ on the part of J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society. As that writer viewed the matter, this was a clever move that not only provided an official name for the group but also made it easy for them to interpret all the Biblical references to ‘witness’ and ‘witnessing’ as applying specifically to Jehovah's Witnesses. In contrast, A. H. Macmillan, an administrative associate of three presidents of the Watch Tower Society, said concerning that announcement by Brother Rutherford: ‘There is no doubt in my mind-not then nor now-that the Lord guided him in that, and that is the name Jehovah wants us to bear, and we're very happy and very glad to have it.’ Which viewpoint do the facts support? Was the name 'a stroke of genius' on the part of Brother Rutherford, or was it the result of divine providence? ... Later that day Brother Rutherford followed this up with another talk, during which he discussed reasons why a distinctive name was needed. To what name did the Scriptures themselves point? The speaker quoted Acts 15:14, which directs attention to God's purpose to take out of the nations a people for his name. ... To make known to the people that Jehovah is the true and Almighty God; therefore we joyfully embrace and take the name which the mouth of the Lord God has named, and we desire to be known as and called by the name, to wit, Jehovah's witnesses.-Isa. 43:10-12."

There is a footnote on this statement by the Judge: “Although the evidence points persuasively to Jehovah's direction in selection of the name Jehovah's Witnesses, The Watchtower (February 1, 1944, pp. 42-3; October 1, 1957, p. 607) and the book "New Heavens and a New Earth" (pp. 231-7) later pointed out that this name is not the ‘new name’ referred to at Isaiah 62:2; 65:15; and Revelation 2:17, though the name harmonizes with the new relationship referred to in the two texts in Isaiah.” (Proclaimers, page 156)

However, for years Isaiah 62:2, 65:15 and Acts 15:14 were the very basis, the Biblical foundation, for claiming God would change the name “Christian” to “Jehovah’s witnesses.” These two texts read: ‘And you will actually be called by a new name, which the very mouth of Jehovah will designate. ... You yourself will be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Owned as a Wife. For Jehovah will have taken delight in you, and your own land will be owned as a wife.’ (Isaiah 62:2, 4) ‘(Jehovah) own servants he will call by another name.’ (Isaiah 65:15)

From 1935 to 1960 this text was effectively used by thousands of pioneers and publishers to prove God would change the name “Christian” to that of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” This argument was used effectively to prove JWs were the only true religion. It was not until the Watchtower of 1957, page 607 the Society corrected this erroneously view. Thus for over twenty years these texts were used to prove “Christian” had been replaced with “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” I know, because I used the argument often. I should have read the passages in Isaiah more closely, for the “name” was identified right in the context itself.

Acts 15:14 was also used: ‘After they quit speaking, James answered, saying: "Men, brothers, hear me. Sym'e·on has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, 'After these things I shall return and rebuild the booth of David that is fallen down; and I shall rebuild its ruins and erect it again, in order that those who remain of the men may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old.'

If this prophecy had meant those disciples of Jesus would be known as “Jehovah’s Witnesses” or otherwise linked with the name Jehovah, where is this evidence in the Book of Acts or the letters of the inspired apostles? Not once is this ever done in the Book of Acts or the inspired epistles. Indeed, the word “witnesses” is most often associated with the name “Jesus” and not “Jehovah.” (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31)

Indeed, the designation “Jesus’ Witnesses” is inferred by Acts 1:8, ‘You will be witnesses of me’; and stated by Revelation 17:6: ‘The witnesses of Jesus.’ There are other clear designations of that early body of the Nazarene’s disciples: an almost Buddhist designation, “The Way” occurs three times. (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23) Also, this new Jewish “sect” was called “Nazarenes” after a designation Jesus uses himself. (Acts 2:32; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 22:8; 24:5; 26:9) There is much more basis for a “name” found in “The Way” or the “Nazarenes.” The Hebrew Prophets may also be sought for evidence “the Way” would be a foretold designation. (Isaiah 35:8; 40:3; 62:10)

Indicating the emphasis on “Jehovah” over “Jesus” unlike the Gospels and inspired letters of the Nazarene’s disciples is the occurrence of “Jehovah” in the JW hymnal, 506 times; compare to the 87 times of the name “Jesus.” This disparity was later used in The Watchtower as further proof of true religion.

The name or designation “Christian” was, according to the NWT, by “divine providence.” (Acts 12:26) Now, the Proclaimers book claims the Judge was used by God for this same “divine providence” to come up with a “new name.” How could a man be so arrogant to change the very name the Lord gave to His worshippers in the First Century?

Nazarene Commentary 2000

Mark Heber Miller

2000 All Rights Reserved