The Name of God and the New Testament

by Giuseppe Guarino

The Name of God and the New Testament


A very peculiar choice of the NWT is the inclusion of the Name of God, Jehovah, in the New Testament.

In 1901 the American Standard Version systematically introduced Jehovah in all of the Old Testament Tetragram occurrences. But the use Jehovah also in the New Testament is peculiar of the NWT.

Am I for or against the inclusion of the Divine Name in the New Testament?

This is not the right question and this cannot be the way we approach this topic.

The question is: Was the Old Testament Name of God present in the autographs of the New Testament?

Then, when this question is answered using all the knowledge and the evidence we have, we are entitled to draw our conclusions and abide with them.

The Bible says that the Divine Name was revealed to Moses by God Himself.

In Exodus 3:13-15 we read: “And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the sons of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say to them? And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And He said, So you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you. And God said to Moses again, You shall say this to the sons of Israel, Jehovah (יהוה) the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My title from generation to generation.[1]

יהוה is the way the name revealed to Moses is written in Hebrew. (Please notice that Hebrew reads from right to left.)

The Tetragram (from the Greek “Tetragrammaton”, which means four letters) corresponds in our alphabet – more or less – to the following letters: “YHWH”.

The Tetragram is translated “Jehovah” in four passages of the King James Version (Exodus 6:3, Psalms 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, 26:4). As we said “The American Standard Version” used Jehovah in the Old Testament and so does the Modern King James Version – that’s why I am quoting from it here.

Discussing the opportunity to render יהוה as Jehovah or Yahweh, or in any of the other suggested ways, is not my goal here. Neither it is to investigate the meaning of the Name or Names of God. It is my purpose to ascertain whether the Divine Name was part of the autographs of the New Testament or not and, by logical consequence, if a translator can rightfully restore it in the New Testament or not.

In general, the need of identifying God’s Name and restore it has been felt by many translators when dealing with the Old Testament. But what about the New Testament? Are there any grounds to extend such practice to the New Testament?

There is nothing wrong in studying the Hebrew roots of our Christian faith. I agree that the New Testament itself motivates the inclusion of Hebrew terms in our Christian terminology. Words we even use daily like Hallelujah, Amen, Messiah, etc., are clear evidence of such tendency. But the New Testament was originally written in Greek, not in Hebrew, and many Hebrew concepts have been adapted and expressed in the Greek language in which the inspired authors were writing – showing us that there is nothing wrong with translating God’s Word. So if someone is trying to force the presence of God’s Name (whether they transliterate it Jehovah or in any other way), along with those who try to “restore” as much as possible of Hebrew terminology and names in general, we can’t help but be skeptical about it.

In fact, not only there isn’t enough evidence to believe that the Name was in the autographs of the Greek Scriptures – LXX included – but, on the contrary, there is good evidence that the Divine Name, יהוה, in any of its forms or abbreviations, was not in the original Greek New Testament.

This I will try to discuss shortly in the pages that follow.


We have almost six thousand manuscripts of the Greek original of the New Testament, attesting its text, antiquity and reliability. There is no trace in them of יהוה, or of any kind of transliteration of the Name in any way. In all of the Greek New Testament  manuscripts, in all the occurrences of the Old Testament passages quoted, where יהוה is found in the original Old Testament Hebrew, we invariably find “Kyrios”, which is the Greek for “Lord.”

Such was the practice of the Septuagint, the LXX, which is a translation of the Old Testament in Greek as old as the third century BC. Since the New Testament writers wrote in that language, they must have simply and logically followed the LXX practice. Again, unanimous manuscript evidence points in that direction.

I believe this objective fact alone would suffice to end the matter here.

Those who believe that the יהוה was in the autographs of the New Testament and that some kind of conspiracy removed it all together from all the existing copies, have absolutely no evidence to support their views. In doing so, in their blind need to further their fantastic theories, they fail to see that, by accusing ALL manuscripts evidence to have been altered so well as to leave no trace at all of such a deliberate falsification, they are undermining the reliability of the text of the very Bible they say they cherish and honor as God’s Word.

If we can believe that someone was able to remove or change anything from the Bible and leave no trace at all of such a corruption of the text, then we must also be ready to give up believing the New Testament text as we know it to be reliable.

We thank God that such a possibility is not remote, but unquestionably and scientifically impossible and we can safely trust the text of the New Testament, which has been handed down to us through the centuries, being virtually identical to that of the autographs.

To this we must add that not only Greek manuscript show no trace of God’s Name in the New Testament, but also all the Christian writers of the first centuries that quote the New Testament know nothing of the presence of the Tetragram in the Greek text. This happens both with the orthodox and the heretic writers – who agree on this. It must be admitted that joined witness of enemies is very reliable.


The New Testament text clearly shows that even if its writers had written their books in Hebrew, they would have avoided the use of the Tetragram – which was the common practice in the first century Jewish writers.

Though Jehovah’s Witnesses keep on believing that our goal should be to bear witness to the mosaic Name of God, in whatever way we write it or pronounce it, biblical and historical facts point to an entirely different direction.

Jesus himself said: “But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Christian are Jesus’ witnesses! The Bible clearly says so.

Let us consider some statistics concerning the occurrences of the יהוה and of the word God in the Old Testament.

יהוה God
The Pentateuch 1934 810
Isaiah 500 138
Jeremiah 736 127
Ezekiel 445 253

As we can easily see, Old Testament authors gave great relevance to the Tetragram. It was the Name that God revealed just before the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. In that occasion God gave Moses the Law and He made a covenant with the nation of Israel. יהוה was Israel’s Covenant Name of God.

In the New Testament things change. That a change occurred in the relationship of God with man and also with his people, who had rejected the Messiah, is clearly and openly stated by John in his Gospel: “For the Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

The New Testament is not Jehovah-centered,  like the Old, but Christ-centered.

Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12 – NWT)

Even using Jehovah’s witnesses’ data, which is clearly an overestimation of the possible presence of the name Jehovah in the New Testament, evidence is clear: Jehovah is found 237 times, “God” 1363 times.

The tendency of the Old Testament writers has been reversed and the use of the word “God” is overwhelming compared to the places where the JW inserted Jehovah. Also, it is worth notice that of the 237 occurrences over 133 are quotations or references to Old Testament passages. This reduces the potential use of Jehovah to around 100 occurrences. Less than one tenth of the times the New Testament authors used the word “God.”

If the New Testament intended to be “Jehovah witnessing” it is indeed a very poor witnessing.

But if the words of Jesus are to be relied and we have to be his witnesses in the preaching of the Gospel, it is natural that this must be reflected in the New Testament words.

Let’s see some more statistics.

This is the occurrence of Divine Names in in the New Testament

God                         1363

Jesus                       1112

Christ                        536

Messiah                        3

Lord*                        680

Father                      368

Jehovah*                 237

Son of God             236

Savior                          24

Even believing the ideas of the JWs are correct, looking at the New World Translation we have 237 references to Jehovah, while the reference to the person of Jesus (1112+536+3+236+24) is found about 1911 times, to which the many times he is called “Lord” should be added.

Can there be any more devastating evidence to the Christ-centered New Testament doctrine?

Also, internal evidence shows that, being their focus on Christ, the New Testament writers had no reason to use the Tetragram when the consolidated practice of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint, in some instances even directly quoted) was to use the word “Kyrios”, which is “Lord”, for every occurrence of the Divine Name.

Why use “Lord”?

Because even as far as the third century BC, it was a consolidated orthodox Jewish practice, as a sign of respect, not to pronounce God’s name even when reading the Hebrew Bible.

The Jews encountering the word יהוה in their Bible, even today, read “Adonai”, which means “Lord.” Hence the Greek translation. Hence the New Testament practice. Hence every reliable translation renders “Kyrios” as “Lord”, not corrupting the text, not following opinions and ideas, but simply translating the text of the New Testament as it can be retraced through the manuscript evidence in our possession.

Even through the Greek language reverence for the Name is visible. In fact, New Testament writers show the same attitude of orthodox Jews of the first century in avoiding even the implicit use of God’s Name, as statistics data confirms.

Though the whole New Testament was written in Greek, there is a Hebrew version of Matthew that circulated in the Jewish circles and was used in the fourteenth century to dispute Christian doctrine. I believe the way the Divine Name is dealt with in the Hebrew Matthew is very instructive. In every place where Matthew quotes from the Old Testament as well as where the Name is part of significant expressions (like “Angel of the Lord”, which in Hebrew includes the Tetragram), the Hebrew text has ה, a short form of “hashem”, which means “the Name” – a very common way of reading and addressing the Tetragram among the Jews, even today.

As far as the rest of the Hebrew Matthew, the Name is avoided, not used! This is very significant. It tells us that the writers showed very deep respect for the Divine Name, and that is more evident when we look at a Hebrew version of a New Testament book.

This same attitude the reader will find in the Hebrew translations of the New Testament, where the Tetragram is obviously retained in the places where the text quotes the Old Testament passages that have it but not elsewhere in the text.

Internal evidence shows also that in many passages the context in which the apostles write show that they used the word “Lord” and not the Tetragram.

Let’s look at just one example.

For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation. 11For the scripture says: “No one who rests his faith on him will be disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. There is the same Lord over all, who is rich toward all those calling on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” 14 However, how will they call on him if they have not put faith in him? How, in turn, will they put faith in him about whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? 15 How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent out? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!” (Romans 10:9-14 – NWT)

Paul wrote in Greek to Christians residing in Rome. If you read carefully his words either you realize that he  must have used “Kyrios”, “Lord”, and not “Jehovah” or you must admit that he is openly identifying Jesus with Jehovah.

See the devastating parallel in 1 Corinthians 1:2: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosʹthe·nes our brother, 2 to the congregation of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in union with Christ Jesus, called to be holy ones, together with all those everywhere who are calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:…

Can we have been so deeply brain-washed not to see something so self-evident?


Some believe that the ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint can be a key to solving the problem concerning the presence or absence of the Name in the Greek New Testament.

The Papyrus named P. Fouad 266 or also known as Rahlfs 848 is as old as the second century BC. It has the Tetragram in the Hebrew square alphabet, the one we know and which I also used in this article, which is still in use in Israel today. Other ancient Greek manuscripts of the LXX were found with the Name in paleo-Hebrew script, the alphabet in use before the square script alphabet came into use. The singularity of the scribal behavior has led someone to conjecture that the Septuagint, though a Greek translation, originally retained the Divine Name in Hebrew letters.

Professor George Howard, whose merits are undisputed, but whose conclusions I strongly oppose, set forth a theory: “that the divine name, יהוה (and possibly abbreviations of it), was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the OT and that in the course of time it was replaced mainly with the surrogate” Greek word we translate in English as “Lord”. (see Journal of Biblical Literature, The Tetragram and the New Testament, 96/I (1977), 63-83).

I fail to see the reasons for the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ excitement concerning Howard’s theories. They quote him as if he was giving any sanction to their practice of using Jehovah in the New Testament. On the contrary, he clearly states that: the New Testament originals might have had the original Hebrew words for the Tetragram (יהוה) or its common Hebrew abbreviation (ה) – not Jehovah! – but only when quoting from the Old Testament. Also, the fact that some ancient LXX manuscripts had the Name in Hebrew, is openly contrary to the use of Jehovah, that for a Jew might be as good as any other surrogate – since Jehovah is neither the transliteration of the Hebrew into our alphabet nor the way it is read. Jehovah’s witnesses are used to quote authorities that, when fairly considered, are against their views. Professor Howard has been writing to the Watch Tower for a long time to lament this misuse of his work, but without any result.

Albert Pietersma has written a very deep and valuable article on this subject: “Kyrios or Tetragram: a renewed quest for the original LXX.” There he gives convincing evidence that the presence of the Tetragram in some LXX manuscripts is due to the need of harmonization with the Hebrew text felt by some scribes or religious groups. Specifically, in dealing with the witness of the above mentioned P. Fouad 266 or Rahlfs 848, he writes: “it contains at least half a dozen instances of correction to the Hebrew text. Some revising of this text has obviously been done in order to bring it in better accord with the Hebrew.” Pietersma concludes: “In the Pentateuch kyrios (which means “Lord”) as a surrogate for the tetragram is original.”

In this perspective the testimony of the LXX to the Name assumed by Howard in order to develop his theory must be reconsidered altogether. His idea of the presence of the Tetragram or of the abbreviation of it, is not substantiated and cannot be considered anything more than a theory at best. In fact, evidence points to another direction than that suggested by Howard: the presence in some manuscripts of the original Hebrew name of God in a Greek translation must be seen as a trace of deliberate attempts of Jewish scribes to improve the text of the Septuagint, bringing it to a more evident dependence from the Hebrew original. It can be no matter of discussion the fact that the scribe inserting יהוה at the place of kyrios would not expect the fruiters of his work to read יהוה in any other way than “Adonai”, which is equivalent to “Kyrios” in Greek and “Lord” in English.

The Septuagint testimony is in favor of the use of “Kyrios”, “Lord”, by New Testament authors also where they quote from Old Testament passages. In fact they must have followed the Septuagint practice, using “Kyrios.”


As I said earlier, no evidence is so strong against the inclusion of יהוה in the New Testament like the witness of all the existing Greek manuscripts.

In the primitive Church days there were only local, independent groups (churches) connected one to another by bonds of love, but no central authority existed which could impose whatever idea, practice or text to all Christianity. It is self-evident that  the New Testament books must have circulated for some time independently. They must have also been used and copied by heretics and, in general, by different emerging factions in Christianity.

It is practically impossible that something that occurred in all or almost all the books of the New Testament could be obliterated from manuscript evidence without leaving any trace at all in any of the surviving manuscripts. Not with the incredible amount of evidence we have of the original Greek text.

Not even entering into the details of the possible choice among the possible renderings of the Tetragram, I conclude that the serious, honest translator of the New Testament – in order to remain such and not become an editor of the text – must abide with the witness of the New Testament and translate “Lord” every occurrence of “Kyrios.”

Of course the Hebrew translations of the New Testament must be an exception, since they should diligently render the Old Testament quotations including the Name. Of course the Tetragram will be read by Jews “Adonai”, which means “Lord” and corresponds to the Greek “Kyrios” – which is the reading adopted by the New Testament.

For all the above facts, the only possible conclusion of this discussion is that, as far as evidence is concerned, no translator has the right to discard the apostolic choice to include “Lord” (Kyrios in the original Greek) in the New Testament text, even in the quotation of Old Testament passages that, in the original Hebrew, included the Divine Name. All attempts to “restore” the Name, in any of its suggested readings, are not to be encouraged or supported, since they do not improve the text, nor even simply translate it, but represent a corruption of the text of the New Testament as supported and preserved by all the ancient manuscript evidence.

[1]  This and the quotations that follow are from the Modern King James Version free on the e-sword Bible software.


This article is taken from my book The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible.


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