Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

"Yahweh" is a Hebrew word meaning "I am" and is the name by which God identified Himself in the Old Testament. What I am wondering is if (from a NT perspective) the name "Yahweh" has any significance, or if it is merely the meaning "I am" that carries significance.

So my question is whether the NT mentions "Yahweh," and if so, how?

  • Does the NT use the word "Yahweh"? I know Jesus made several "I AM" statements, but in Greek that is not "Yahweh," but “εγω ειμι" which just means ... "I am" or "I am he".

  • Does the NT quote any OT texts that use the word "Yahweh"?

    • If so, is "Yahweh" retained in Hebrew (or transliterated) or is it translated some other way like "εγω ειμι" or "κυριος" (Lord) or something similar?
share|improve this question
Currently there are not any extant Greek texts containing the Tetragrammaton-even in the oldest manuscripts from the 2nd century. If it was there and then removed, then how? The early church was persecuted and scattered. They made copies of copies and these scattered as well. How would someone or some group have gathered all of these letters and copies and changed them all? It would have had to happen almost immediately after they were written. And if that was changed, what else was changed? We would have no reason to believe the validity of the texts if we believe that they have been altered. – user3553 Feb 19 '14 at 21:53
Yahwe means "he is", not "I am". Basic Hebrew grammar. – fdb Feb 4 '15 at 19:28
up vote 12 down vote accepted

The only New Testament book to use the name is Revelation, four times in chapter 19, embedded in the Greek word ἁλληλουϊά (hallelouia).

This is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew phrase הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ (halelu-Yah).

'Yah' is the abbreviated form of Yahweh, which is sometimes also used in the Hebrew scriptures (mostly in the Psalms, but a few times in Exodus and Isaiah), but this is the name nonetheless.

Otherwise the New Testament authors follow the traditional custom of translating Yahweh as κύριος ('lord') whenever they quote the parts of the Hebrew scriptures that use the name.

It is worth noting, 'I am' is not exactly the meaning of Yahweh, at least as understood by ancient Jews. 'I am that I am' is the common translation of the Hebrew phrase אֶֽהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶֽהְיֶה (ehyeh asher ehyeh), used to describe God in Exodus 3 just before he identifies himself to Moses by the name 'Yahweh'. This is where the 'I am' phrase comes from.

share|improve this answer

In a word, No. The oldest extant copies of the books of the New Testament are in Greek, and none of these use the Hebrew divine name ‘YHWH’. Because NT writers who quoted the Old Testament almost always cited a Greek translation rather than the original Hebrew text – 340 times out of 373, according to Archer and Chirichigno [1] – quotations of OT verses that include the divine name in Hebrew are rendered in the NT using kyrios, or Lord; e.g. Mt.3:3.[2,3] The divine name does not appear in the NT.

A shortened form of ‘Yahweh’ or 'Jehovah,' however, is found in many Hebrew personal names (e.g. Jehoshaphat = "Jehovah has judged"), and some of these appear in the NT. Unfortunately, the already shortened ‘yah’ was often nearly lost in transliteration into Greek, as for example with Mattias for Mattithyah (Matthew), Elias for 'Eliyah (Elijah), and Ēsaïas for Yĕsha`yah (Isaiah).

Some of these Hellenized names regained a stronger connection to YHWH when translated into English; e.g. Elijah (Jn.1:21) and Jeremiah (Mt.2:17). So too for the Greek name Iesous (for the Hebrew Yēšūă), though only the two times it is translated as Joshua (Lk.3:29; Ac.7:45), not the 972 times it is rendered Jesus, the same name in Hebrew and Greek.

The ‘yah’ connection is also lost, then found, with the transliteration of the Hebrew ‘Hallelu Yah’ (literally, ‘Praise Yah’, e.g. Ps.105:45) into the Greek ‘äl-lā-lü-ē-ä' in Revelation 19, which is often transliterated again into English as ‘hallelujah’.

These shortened forms hidden in the NT are not the divine name, but they do point it, though often less obviously so in Greek than English.





share|improve this answer

Actually the scriptures may have been changed. The instances of Lord could have originally been the tetragrammaton. It was later changed to Lord or PIPI in greek. Here is a paragraph explaining. YHWH in the New Testament

"Girolamo, the translator of the Latin Vulgate confirms this fact. In the prologue of the books of Samuel and Kings he wrote: "In certain Greek volumes we still find the Tetragrammaton of God's name expressed in ancient characters". And in a letter written in Rome in the year 384 it says: "God's name is made up of four letters; it was thought ineffable, and it is written with these letters: iod, he, vau, he (YHWH). But some have not been able to decipher it because of the resemblance of the Greek letters and when they found it in Greek books they usually read it PIPI (pipi)". S. Girolamo, Le Lettere, Rome, 1961, vol.1, pp.237, 238; compare J.P.Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol.22, coll.429, 430.

Around 245 C.E., the noted scholar Origen produced his Hexapla, a six-column reproduction of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures: (1) in their original Hebrew and Aramaic, accompanied by (2) a transliteration into Greek, and by the Greek versions of (3) Aquila, (4) Symmachus, (5) the Septuagint, and (6) Theodotion. On the evidence of the fragmentary copies now known, Professor W. G. Waddell says: "In Origen's Hexapla . . . the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and LXX all represented JHWH by PIPI; in the second column of the Hexapla the Tetragrammaton was written in Hebrew characters." - The Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford, Vol. XLV, 1944, pp. 158, 159. Others believe the original text of Origen's Hexapla used Hebrew characters for the Tetragrammaton in all its columns. Origen himself stated that "in the most accurate manuscripts THE NAME occurs in Hebrew characters, yet not in today's Hebrew [characters], but in the most ancient ones". A biblical magazine declare: "In pre-Christian Greek [manuscripts] of the OT, the divine name was not rendered by 'kyrios' as has often been thought. Usually the Tetragram was written out in Aramaic or in paleo-Hebrew letters. . . . At a later time, surrogates such as 'theos' [God] and 'kyrios' replaced the Tetragram . . . There is good reason to believe that a similar pattern evolved in the NT, i.e. the divine name was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the OT, but in the course of time it was replaced by surrogates". - New Testament Abstracts, March 1977, p. 306."

The article is an interesting read if you are curious.

share|improve this answer
Interesting. Thanks. – Jas 3.1 Nov 22 '13 at 22:18
Writing this article lead into me doing further research because it is very interesting for me. I found out that the Greek scriptures where probably translated from Aramaic. – Jeremy Nov 23 '13 at 0:13
That is one prominent view, but not the only prominent view. There are significant reasons for doubting that hypothesis as well. – Jas 3.1 Nov 23 '13 at 19:58
DV explanation: the suggestion in this answer is historically unlikely, and the extended quote (which includes reliable information) presented in a tendentious (I think misleading) fashion. The evidence needs handling with care, and while specialists still debate details, it seems probable that by the time of the NT, "kurios" is read regardless of what characters are on the parchment/papyrus. ... 1/2 – Davïd Jan 16 '14 at 21:12
... There is some solid academic discussion available online: (1) A. Pietersma, "Kyrios or Tetragram" (1984); (2) D.B. Capes, OT Yahweh Texts in Paul's Christology (1992); + (3) L. Hurtado, "Divine Name and Greek Translation" (blog post). I leave this as comment because I lack time to construct a quality answer for BH.SE just now - might come back to this. [end] 2/2 – Davïd Jan 16 '14 at 21:14

The NT does not mention the Tetragrammaton itself, but Rev 4:8 mentions its meaning as revealed in Ex 3:14-15.

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'YHWH, 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 memorial-name to all generations.”

We have to take into account two properties of Hebrew verbs: stem and form.

A verb stem is an offshoot of the root that is used to indicate the properties of voice and aspect. The relevant stems here are:

  • Qal stem: Simple action, active voice;
  • Hifil stem: Causal action, active voice.

Hebrew has two main verb forms: the Perfect and the Imperfect. The perfect describes completed action whereas the imperfect describes actions or states which are incomplete, ongoing, habitual, or continual.

The Name revealed in Ex 3:14, "Ehyeh", is qal stem, first person, singular, imperfect form, of the verb "hyh", "to be". Therefore it means "I was", "I am", or "I will be", all in a continuing sense, depending on the context where it may be used. So if used by God in the first person, since God lives in eternity, which is not an infinite succession of moments but one moment of infinite fullness, it will be "I Am" (which is clear in Jn 8:58, when Jesus says "before Abraham was, I Am", and not "before Abraham was, I was").

The Name revealed in Ex 3:15, "YHWH", comes from "hwh", an earlier variant of the root "hyh", "to be". In contrast to "Ehyeh", it can have two possible meanings depending on its vocalization:

  • qal stem, third person, singular, imperfect form, if vocalized "YiHWeH", meaning "he was", "he is", or "he will be", all in a continuing sense, and depending on the context where it may be used. So if it is used by a creature, which exists in time, to refer to God, it would refer to all three meanings at the same time, as in the past God continually was, in the present God is, and in the future God will continually be: "He Was, Is and Will Be". Thus, in this case the Tetragrammaton is the same Name revealed in Ex 3:14 but pronounced by a creature, denoting God as He is in Himself: Absolute, Subsistent Being.

  • hifil stem, third person, singular, imperfect form, if vocalized "YaHWeH", meaning "He causes to be", or, more completely, "He was causing, causes and will cause to be". In this case, while the Name of Ex 3:14 denotes God as He is in Himself, the Name in Ex 3:15 denotes God as He is for us: the Creator.

Now, compare the first option with Rev 4:8:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who Was and Is and Is to Come!”

share|improve this answer

The Septuagint renders the divine name as Kyrios, which of course appears plenty in the NT, but only by context could you determine if Kyrios is a reference to YHWH or simple a title of honor, "Lord". The only safe place to assume that Kyrios = YHWH in the NT would be when the NT quotes the Hebrew Bible.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.