The New International Version and the Tetragrammaton
December 27, 2008
The world’s most popular Bible translation today is The New International Version. It does not even once mention God’s distinctive name Jehovah. Edwin H Palmer, Executive Secretary for the NIV committee, was asked about that.
“Here is why we did not,” he replied. “You are right that Jehovah is a distinctive name for God and ideally we should have used it. But we put 2 1/4 million dollars into this translation and a sure way of throwing that down the drain is to translate, for example, Psalm 23 as, ‘Yahweh is my shepherd.’ Immediately, we would have translated for nothing. Nobody would have used it. Oh, maybe you and a handful [of] others. But a Christian has to be also wise and practical. We are the victims of 350 years of the King James tradition. It is far better to get two million to read it—that is how many have bought it to date—and to follow the King James [which does include the name in four places], than to have two thousand buy it and have the correct translation of Yahweh. . . . It was a hard decision, and many of our translators agree with you.” (2nd set of brackets mine)
Who can’t empathize with this fellow? Do you want your new Bible translation to be read by everybody or by nobody? All you need do to ensure the former is remove the feature people loathe so much that its inclusion would send sales into the toilet. Yes, you must be “wise and practical.” As Jesus said, “the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.” (Luke 16:8) So the sons of this system of things remove God’s name from their Bibles and sales go through the roof, whereas the dopey and pious sons of the light won’t compromise an inch and sell a thousand copies of theirs.
What can one say when you have to pull the author’s name from his own book in order to get anyone to read it? This might not be a big deal if the original text featured that name a half dozen times or so, but it appears in the Hebrew almost 7000 times! [the tetragrammaton: YHWH] You don’t think that if God includes his own name 7000 times, he must consider it important, perhaps the most important aspect of the scriptures? After all, the Son’s name, Jesus, appears only 1000 times and you can just imagine the furor if some translator saw fit to take that out! And yet the sons of this system of things pull God’s name, and consider themselves “wise and practical” in doing so.
Over the years, some have pointed outwhat a blunder that is. For instance...."the most common "error" made by most translators in the last 3500 years...is their elimination of heaven's revealed Name of the Most High, Yahweh (Jehovah)" - A. B. Traina; in the Preface of the Holy Name Bible
and "The substitution of the word "Lord" is most unhappy; for...it in NO WAY represents the meaning of the sacred name (Jehovah)..." - The 1872 edition of Smith's Bible Dictionary
Various sons of the light through the years have produced some translations that consistently translate the tetragrammaton as “Jehovah:” such as the American Standard Bible of 1901, or the Bible in Living English (Stephen Byington - 1972), or the Holy Name Bible (1963). Have you heard of any of them? True to Mr. Palmer’s prophesy, they have all slipped into obscurity. Alas, there would appear to be no way to highlight the name of the Bible’s author!
But there is a way, and the sons of the light have proved themselves less dopey than they may at first appear. The key is to dispense with commercial distribution channels and not try to run Christianity as a popularity contest. There is one translation today that both faithfully publishes the divine name Jehovah and enjoys widespread circulation: the New World Translation. It is both translated, published, and distributed by faithful servants of Jehovah. Jehovah’s Witnesses are organized as a separate Bible society in no way beholden to the commercial interests Dr. Palmer felt held hostage to. The translators were free to focus on accurate translating, unconcerned with any popular or commercial verdict, feeling no need to come up with familiar and favored renderings lest money-conscious executives turn thumbs down.
It’s master text in Greek is Westcott and Hort, the same as the Revised Standard Version (1946), the Emphasized Bible (1902), An American Translation (1923) and others…..and in Hebrew, the Masoretic Text, same as most versions. Again, it is by no means the first Bible ever to incorporate God’s name throughout. Many others have done so. It is merely the first such Bible to receive widespread distribution. It’s success lies in the fact that distribution depends upon the efforts of dedicated Christians, and not upon the world’s commercial interests.
If the churches in general reject use of God’s name, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not as put out about it as one might expect. Instead, they have suggested [strongly] that the situation is of God’s doing:
God’s name Jehovah is hated so badly that the clergy of Christendom…. have denied it as being the Creator’s name, have removed it from their modern translations of the Bible, have said it is not the name of the God of Christians and thereby have left Jehovah’s witnesses alone to bear the distinguished divine Name. Little do they know that this is a maneuvering of God, for he respects his sacred name, and has arranged it so that only those devoted to him may bear it. Watchtower 1966, pg 634
The parable giving rise to the expressions sons of this system of things and sons of the light is an odd one. Several of Jesus’ illustrations are downright quirky…..not at all the syrupy drivel you get at church…and the reader isn’t entirely sure who to root for:
“A certain man was rich and he had a steward, and this one was accused to him as handling his goods wastefully. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Hand in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer manage the house.’ Then the steward said to himself, ‘What am I to do, seeing that my master will take the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, I am ashamed to beg. Ah! I know what I shall do, so that, when I am put out of the stewardship, people will receive me into their homes.’ And calling to him each one of the debtors of his master he proceeded to say to the first, ‘How much are you owing my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred bath measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your written agreement back and sit down and quickly write fifty.’ Next, he said to another one, ‘Now you, how much are you owing?’ He said, ‘A hundred cor measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your written agreement back and write eighty.’ And his master commended the steward, though unrighteous, because he acted with practical wisdom; for the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are. Luke 16:2-8
Ain't that the truth.
Tom Irregardless and Me No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash