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The New International Version and the Tetragrammaton

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 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; 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


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


Dave McKeegan

Hi Tom. Can I request an article from you? I'd be really interested in one describing the process of reasoning by which you came to conclude that the Bible was the Word of God (if your conclusion was arrived at through reasoning, that is).


Tom Sheepandgoats Harley

Most of my posts contribute toward that conclusion and demonstrate my reasoning. I'm not so sure I'm willing to put them all together into one grand overture. It would either be absurdly long or unconvincing cliff-note style.

But I like that the Bible contains reasonable answers to why evil exists and why illness and death. I like also that Jehovah's Witnesses have an understanding of the Bible which makes these answers understandable, whereas churches do not.

I like that they've been able to blast through ridiculous doctrines that others have not: trinity and hellfire, for example.

These posts offer some reasonings, though I don't claim they're all inclusive.

Then, too, the alternative to God seems too far-fetched to be believed. (posts in evolution, science, and atheist categories)

Also, Jehovah's Witnesses have been able to overcome within their ranks both nationalism and racism....two forces that are ripping many other communities apart.

All these items contribute to my conclusions. I'm not sure there is just one "silver bullet."

Though, on second thought, perhaps I do have what you're after. Here is a long-ranging conversation with an atheist fellow named Ragoth which may fit the bill.

Alas, you'll probably take his side :)

Ooh ooh. Also this one:

Awake In Rochester

Happy New Year!

I hope that you have a great 2009!

Dave McKeegan

Tom, would you mind distilling those factors into a few bullet points? There’s a lot of reading in those links, and most of it does is not directly relevant to the question.

Something like this:
“I believe the Bible is the infallible word of God because:
1) I find the answers it provides to certain questions to be personally satisfying
… etc”

Thanks in advance!

Tom Sheepandgoats Harley

Awake: Thanks for your kind wishes. I hope things go well for you also.

Dave: It's a reasonable request, respectfully submitted, which I appreciate. Still, I will only partly comply. I'm not sure what will be the point other than to set the stage for a very long debate. I'm not really a debating type guy. When I comment on another's blog, it is just to give a contrasting viewpoint. When I write my own posts, I like to use current events and add a spiritual dimension to them.

Not that I haven't entered debates. On the contrary, I've entered quite a few of them, both with atheists and religionists....the trinitarian hellfire kind. They take forever and rarely go anywhere. One of the links I gave you is such a discussion with a fellow named Ragoth. It has taken forever and it hasn't gone anywhere, as is just winding down...or appears to be.

Still, I don't want to be entirely uncooperative. The post I just put up should go a long ways toward meeting your request:

It's been in the hopper for some time, and the gist of it is somewhere in the aforementioned Ragoth discussion (I think):

Mary A. Kaufman

since when did God change his name from Yahweh to Jehovah?

Tom Sheepandgoats Harley


I could live with ‘Yahweh.’ Likewise, I could live with ‘Yahweh’s Witnesses.’ But things didn’t play out that way. The confusion, as I think you know, stems from the fact that Jews for many centuries avoided uttering the divine name, considering it too sacred to pronounce. In time, its pronunciation was lost. Today, the consensus view is that ‘Yahweh’ represents the original pronunciation, but since the tetragrammaton is only consonants (YHWH) and not vowels, nobody can be sure. Anglicized, the name has come down to us through the centuries as ‘Jehovah.’

I’m not sure that should be such a big deal. Names are pronounced differently as we switch from one language to another; we all realize that. Even the name Jesus, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and so forth, are nothing like they were in their original language.

If you have a friend from a foreign country, would you prefer she call you ‘Mary,’ even if she mispronounces? Or would you rather she address you as ‘Honorable Woman.?’

Howard Roszak

Could you please send me your source for the quote from edwin palmer.

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