Praise, Religion

Watchtower History of The Name Jehovah

The Divine Name in Later Times

THAT the divine name was used in early history is beyond question. But what about later times? Why have certain Bible translations omitted the name? And what is its meaning and significance to us?

Interestingly, Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican order, first rendered the divine name as “Jehova.” This form appeared in his book Pugeo Fidei, published in 1270 C.E.—over 700 years ago.

In time, as reform movements developed both inside and outside the Catholic Church, the Bible was made available to the people in general, and the name “Jehovah” became more widely known. In 1611 C.E. the King James or Authorized Version of the Bible was published. It uses the name Jehovah four times. (Ex. 6:3; Ps. 83:18; Isa. 12:2; 26:4) Since then, the Bible has been translated many, many times. Some translations follow the example of the Authorized Version and include the divine name only a few times.

In this category is An American Translation (by Smith and Goodspeed) with a slight variation of using “Yahweh” instead of “Jehovah.” Yet, one may ask: “Why have the translators done this? If using ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’ is wrong, why put it in at all? If right, why not be consistent and use it every time it appears in the Bible text?”

[w80 2/1 p. 11 The Divine Name in Later Times]

An Open Letter to the Catholic Monsignor

from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

Oct. 11, 1950.

To Matthew Smith, Monsignor of the Roman Catholic Church in America,
c/o The Register, Catholic Press Soc., Inc. Denver, Colo.

Before us is a copy of The Catholic Telegraph-Register, Section Two, dated Friday, August 18, 1950, containing an article signed by you. It occupies parts of three columns in the lower left-hand corner of page one and continues on page four for two full-column lengths, and is entitled: “Listening In,” with the subheading, “Sect Rewrites Parts of Bible to Fit Beliefs.” Also before us is a copy of the identical article by you appearing in The St. Louis Register of the same date, from which fact is to be gathered that your article was published quite generally in the 32 Diocesan editions of The Register published in as many cities. Your article therefore gained nation-wide publicity.

You open and close your article with a reference to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, released at Yankee Stadium, Wednesday, August 2, the fourth day of the International Assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses there. During the remaining four days of which Assembly 85,850 copies of this new translation were placed with the conventioners. We being the printers who have come into possession of the publication rights of this translation, we feel the obligation of making some answer to your article. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the general public who read your adverse article is expecting a published reply from us, and we do not want either to disappoint these or to fail in our obligation to the Most High God and his recorded Word.

Your article appears to be based entirely on what the news reporters had to say about the speeches and releases offered at the Yankee Stadium Assembly, and not upon a personal examination of the literature that was released. For instance, your remark (¶ 17): “All this will be wholly different from the perpetual earthly happiness promised by the Witnesses. Their idea, if the newspapers are correctly quoting their leaders, is closer to a Mohammedan idea than to a Christian one.”

Hearsay (“Listening In”) is a very unreliable foundation on which to make such an assertion in the public press in criticism of a group of Christians, who, though a minority, have circulated their literature around the earth in more than 90 languages in excess of half a billion copies of bound books and booklets, besides hundreds of millions of free tracts and magazines.

Your article admits that in his public address of August 6 on “Can You Live Forever in Happiness on Earth?” the Watch Tower Society’s president N. H. Knorr answered the question in the affirmative. Following his lecture 250,000 copies of his speech, in a 32-page booklet, were distributed free to all in attendance, numbers taking many copies each, so that what Mr. Knorr said was freely available in print. You, with your Catholic means of obtaining information, could easily have procured a copy of this booklet. Those who heard or read this speech know that it has no resemblance to Mohammedanism but is based wholly upon the inspired Scriptures and the modern-day fulfillments of prophecy.

You say, “The idea of a perpetual reign of the saints on earth is repulsive to the majority of Christians,” “Heaven will not be a glorified earth,” and, “It is to be hoped, therefore, that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not place all their faith in the absurdity of an earthly kingdom that will never die.” (¶¶ 15, 16, 22) In none of their speeches or publications have Jehovah’s witnesses taught that ‘heaven will be a glorified earth’; but it is you, Monsignor, and your religious system that teach that people of your faith will take their earthly bodies to heaven.
Jehovah’s witnesses, however, adhere strictly to the inspired Scriptures and believe what the apostle John says about those of the “little flock” of Christians who will go to the heavenly kingdom: “Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2, Douay Version) We believe with the apostle John in a distinction between heaven and earth, and we accept his vision of the future in which he says: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more.” (Apocalypse 21:1, Douay) Certainly that new earth is to be populated with creatures of the earth, earthy, for Isaias 45:18 declares that the Lord God did not create the earth in vain: “he formed it to be inhabited.”

It is useless for you to counter with the argument that the apostle John saw only an apocalyptic vision. Not only the prophet Isaias speaks also of a new heavens and new earth (65:17; 66:22), but so does the apostle Peter. He describes the destruction of the present heavens and earth in which injustice dwells and then says: “But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to his promises, in which justice dwelleth.”—2 Peter 3:13, Douay.

In harmony with the infallible Scriptures, Jehovah’s witnesses teach that Christ’s footstep followers who overcome this world will reign with him, not in the “new earth”, but in the “new heavens”; and obedient mankind on the “new earth” will be blessed by the invisible, heavenly reign of Jesus Christ and his glorified followers, his bride. (Apocalypse 2:26-28; 3:21; 20:4-6) If this is “repulsive”, it is repulsive to the majority of professed Christians who do not accept God’s Word but who have been indoctrinated with religious traditions of men contrary to God’s Word. (Matthew 15:1-9, Douay) Your hopes, therefore, that we will not place our faith “in the absurdity of an earthly kingdom that will never die” are ill-founded and are needless. We do not hope for such a thing, but preach “the kingdom of HEAVEN” as the rightful government for all the universe. Modern events fulfilling sacred prophecy prove that this heavenly kingdom is at hand and will remove the Devil’s rule of earth; and because of this fact we can assure people of good will that they can live forever in happiness on earth under the heavenly kingdom of Christ and his glorified congregation. Then, in answer to the Lord’s prayer, God’s name will be hallowed and his will will forever be done on earth as it is done in heaven.


Your article (¶ 2) states: “Newspaper accounts indicated that the ‘translation’ changed the texts to fit Witnesses’ doctrines.” Then, to make it appear that Jehovah’s witnesses are mutilating the Christian Greek Scriptures, you quote the New York Times’ report as saying: “Rejecting the idea of the Holy Trinity, the Bible society translation replaces the phrase ‘the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,’ used frequently throughout the King James version with ‘the spirit and the water and the blood’ (1 John v. 7).”

First of all, the newspaper report errs in saying that the phrase “the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” is used frequently throughout the King James Version. It is not so used even in the Catholic Douay Version. The one place in the Scriptures where the phrase does occur, namely, at Matthew 28:19, the New World Translation renders the verse: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” In a corresponding passage, namely, 2 Corinthians 13:14, this translation reads: “The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the sharing in the holy spirit be with all of you.”

No parts of the Bible have been rewritten in this New World Translation to fit the beliefs of Jehovah’s witnesses, as you blatantly assert. The Translation Committee did not construct its own Greek text of the Christian Scriptures. No; but on page 8 of the Foreword it notifies us that the Committee used the 1948 Macmillan Company edition of the Westcott and Hort text of 1881, besides S. C. E. Legg’s editions of Matthew and Mark, and that it also took into consideration “other texts, including that prepared by D. Eberhard Nestle and that compiled by the Spanish Jesuit scholar José María Bover and that by the other Jesuit scholar A. Merk”. Concerning the same Greek text mainly used by the Committee, E. J. Goodspeed says in his Preface in “An American Translation” (1939): “I have closely followed the Greek text of Westcott and Hort, now generally accepted. Every scholar knows its great superiority to the late and faulty Greek texts from which the early English translations from Tyndale to the Authorized Version were made.”

So the New World Translation has rewritten no part of the Greek text, not even 1 John 5:7 which is cited in your article as a place where Jehovah’s witnesses clash with the trinitarian doctrine. Does the New World Translation here replace the phrase “the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” with the phrase “the spirit and the water and the blood”? No! How could the latter phrase be used as a replacement when it is already there in the Greek text? But it is the former phrase that is not there.

The New World Translation of 1 John 5:7, 8 reads: “For there are three witness bearers, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement [margin: are for the one thing].” This is a literal translation of the Greek text by the above-named Augustinus Merk, S.J., in his Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine; it is also a literal translation of the Greek text by the other Roman Catholic scholar, Joseph M. Bover, S.J., in his Novi Testamenti Biblia Graeca et Latina; as well as of Nestle’s Novum Testamentum Graece and of the Westcott and Hort Greek text. So you see that even those Jesuit scholars do not include in their Greek texts the words, “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth.” (Douay) Those words are now recognized by all genuine scholars as spurious to the authentic Greek text. Your own precious Vatican Manuscript No. 1209 of the early 4th century does not contain the words, but brands them spurious.

The French Catholic Bible by Canon A. Crampon puts those words in brackets and says in the footnote: “The words put in brackets are not found in any Greek manuscript prior to the 15th century, nor in any manuscript of the Vulgate prior to the 8th.” The Catholic German translation by P. Johann Perk of 1947 puts the words in parentheses and explains in a footnote. It is true that the Jesuit scholars Merk and Bover show the words in their parallel Latin text, but, please, note this: Bover and Cantera do not include the words in their Spanish translation of 1947. Also, the words do not appear in the Latin text of the Novum Testamentum Latine by J. Wordsworth and H. J. White of 1911, and which is rendered according to St. Jerome’s edition. Their footnote says they print the Latin text without the disputed words, in harmony with the Latin manuscripts Amiatinus, Armachanus, Fuldensis, Sangermanensis, and the original Vallicellanus, these manuscripts being of the 6th to the 9th centuries. The footnote adds that the words appear in the Latin manuscripts Cavensis, the revised Vallicellanus, of the 9th century, and the Sixtine and Clementine editions of the Vulgate of the 16th century.

Please note other Roman Catholic translations that omit the words: The Spanish translation of 1948 by Nácar and Colunga; the French translation by Canon E. Osty, of 1949, and the French Catholic Bible of 1949 by the Monks of Maredsous; and the Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures by Rev. Cuthbert Lattey, S.J., of 1948. These read like the 1950 New World Translation.

Thus on the main text that is cited for charging Jehovah’s witnesses with rewriting parts of the Bible to fit their beliefs you are proved false. The New World Translation stands vindicated, and it will remain so against any future attacks from any quarter.


The last four paragraphs of your article are grouped under the heading “Jehovah Not Correct as God’s Name”. Here you open by saying: “Something of the shallow scholarship in the sect in adopting the word Jehovah as part of its title is shown by the Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia’s treatment of this word: . . . .” And your closing paragraph says: “We fear that all the other scholarship of the Witnesses, including what they have done in their translation of the New Testament, is on the same basis as their use of the word Jehovah.”

Thank you for this opportunity to present some facts to you and to the public. We do not say that “Jehovah” is the correct pronunciation of God’s name. For that matter, neither is “Jesus” the correct pronunciation of Christ’s name. But according to the Aramaic language which Christ and his apostles spoke, his name was pronounced “Yeshu?a” (the a representing a gutteral ending). But “Jesus” is only our colloquial way of pronouncing his name, and we do not find fault with you for using it instead of Yeshu?a. However, if you call it shallow scholarship for the Committee to use the word Jehovah in the New World Translation, then you will have to admit that it is due to the shallow scholarship of the Roman Catholic clergy of the thirteenth century, for in that century the word historically appears among them.

Your quotation from the Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia says Jehovah was the incorrect pronunciation given to the Hebrew tetragrammaton JHVH in the 14th century by Porchetus de Salvaticis (1303). But let us say: The origin of the word Jehovah used to be attributed to Petrus Galatinus, a Franciscan friar, the confessor of Pope Leo X, in his De Arcanis Catholicae Veritatis, published in 1518. But the latest scholarship has proved he was not the one to introduce the pronunciation Jehovah, and neither was your aforementioned Porchetus de Salvaticis. As shown by Joseph Voisin, the learned editor of the Pugio Fidei (The Poniard of Faith) by Raymundus Martini, Jehovah had been used long before Galatinus. Even a generation before Porchetus de Salvaticis wrote his Victoria contra Judaeos (1303), the Spanish Dominican friar Raymundus Martini wrote his Pugio, about 1278, and used the name Jehovah. In fact, Porchetus took the contents of his Victoria largely from Martini’s Pugio. And Scaliger proves that Galatinus took his De Arcanis bodily from Martini’s Pugio. Galatinus did not introduce the pronunciation Jehovah, but merely defended it against those who pronounced the Hebrew tetragrammaton Jova.

In 1557 Jehovah became established in John Forster’s New Hebrew Dictionary, and Marcus Marinus admitted Jehova in his Lexicon Arca Noae of 1593. Sebastian Muenster uses the name Jehova in his text of his Latin translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (1534), and in his notes on Exodus 3:15 and 6:3 he uses the name as though it were well known. Also in 1557, in bringing out Pagninus’ Latin version of the Hebrew Scriptures, Robert Stephanus used Jehova uniformly for the Hebrew tetragrammaton. In a note on Psalm 2:1 he remarked that substituting Adonai for it was to be rejected as a Jewish superstition.

Cardinal Thomas de Vio Cajetanus in his Commentary on the Pentateuch, of 1531, regularly used Jehova. In his translation of Genesis 2:4 he has “Jehova Elohim”; and in his note on Exodus 6:3 he says: “Jehovah the God of your fathers appeared to me (Iehova Elohe patrum vestrorum visus est mihi).” To be consistent, you should call that “shallow scholarship” on the part of your cardinal, what?

But that such “shallow scholarship” is not limited to Roman Catholic clergy of the 13th to the 16th centuries, please be apprised that in an edition of the French Catholic Bible by Abbé A. Crampon of 1905 he used Jehovah in his text; this has since been amended to read “Yahweh” according to our copy of the 1939 edition. But note also the following.

You are also doubtless acquainted with the magazine The Grail, published in St. Meinrad, Indiana. Well, in the February, 1949, issue of this magazine appeared the article “Jona, God’s Problem Prophet” by Philip Dan Stack. In it we read: “Now the word of Jehovah came unto Jona the son of Amittay* [Footnote*: ‘All quotations from Sacred Scripture in this essay are from The Westminster Version of the Sacred Scripture, edited by The Rev. Cuthbert Lattey, S.J.; this accounts for the unusual spelling of certain proper names.’], saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and denounce it; for their wickedness is come up before me.’ (Jona 1:1-2) . . . A fine chance he, an insignificant prophet from Gath-hefer, would stand in forcing penance upon the fabulous Ninevites, who did not even know his own God’s name.” From page 54 to page 58 the name Jehovah is used 30 times, twice being spelled Jahve, and the version from which it is quoting is, mind you, the Westminster Version by a Jesuit Reverend! Was that not quite “shallow scholarship” to set before Catholic readers? Does it not make you blush to be confronted with such “shallow scholarship” on the part of Roman Catholic publications and authors in this twentieth century?

The pronunciation Jahweh, usually credited to John L. Ewald of the 18th century, goes back farther, to the 16th century. Ten years before Ewald was born (1747), Jahveh was found in Eichhorn’s Simonis, the Lexicon in most general use in Germany. F. H. Gesenius adopted the pronunciation Jahveh when Ewald was still defending Jehovah.

Why, then, does the New World Translation use the name Jehovah 237 times in its main text? Is it due to “shallow scholarship”, as you insinuate? No. In the Foreword, from page 10 to page 25, the Translation Committee explains its basis for using this name so many times. In addition to the 19 Hebrew versions, it cites versions of the “New Testament” in 38 languages besides English and Hebrew where the translators use a vernacular form of the Hebrew tetragrammaton. But in its 2nd last paragraph the Translation Committee says: “While inclining to view the pronunciation ‘Yah?weh?’ as the more correct way, we have retained the form ‘Jehovah’ because of people’s familiarity with it since the 14th century. Moreover, it preserves, equally with other forms, the four letters of the tetragrammaton JHVH.” And in its footnotea of page 36, on Matthew 1:20 where “Jehovah’s angel” appears, it says: “Jehovah’s, or, Yahweh’s.”

At the Yankee Stadium, when giving his speech introducing the New World Translation, the Society’s president said: “But, while recognizing the merits of the pronunciation ‘Yah?weh?’, the translation committee has used the form ‘Jehovah’ because of its familiarity and because it preserves the four original letters of the Hebrew name. In God’s own time when He reveals the correct pronunciation of his holy name, we will gladly make the accurate correction.”—See The Watchtower, September 15, 1950, page 317 ¶ 14.

The true scholarship behind the New World Translation will make itself known, not by the disclosure of the names of the translating committee, but by the faithfulness of the translation to the Greek text and by the reliable help it gives toward understanding God’s written revelation to men. We are not troubled, therefore, by your thrust: “Albeit the identity of the translators is being withheld at their own request—they are not likely to make much impression on either Catholic or Protestant scholars. It is no wonder that the translators wish to remain unknown.” (¶ 7)

Not praise from the scholarship of this fading world, but the true service of God and the education of the people in his Word, is what we are after. The honesty, courage and firm foundations of this translation will commend it to honest seeking hearts. Already the fact that the universally known Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society publishes this New World Translation has been more of a recommendation to lovers of God’s Word than the mere scholarship of Christendom.

We are releasing this letter for publication in The Register, in fair play, as our answer to your article. Regardless of whether any of the affiliates of The Register publish this answer in whole or not, the Watchtower magazine will gladly publish it and thus it will reach its way to the public to whom it is due.


Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every kind of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.—Matt. 5:11, 12, NW.

[w50 12/1 pp. 469-474 An Open Letter to the Catholic Monsignor]