The New World Translation transliterates the Tetragrammaton as “Jehovah”.

  • Why does this translation choose to transliterate the Tetragrammaton this way?
  • How was the choice made to use the transliteration Jehovah, rather than Yahweh or another?
  • Why would the name “Jehovah” convey the desired information?
  • In what way is the translators’ decision controversial?
  • 6
    Good translation is considered to be the one that saves as many possible meanings and connotations in the translation as there are in the original text. Sometimes, that, of course, is impossible. However, in case with the New World translation in many cases it was more than possible, yet the translators chose to render them as having only one possible meaning (using "Jehovah" to render the Greek κύριος is one such case in point). In the team of translators that I used to work before that would be considered highly unprofessional.
    – brilliant
    Jun 23, 2013 at 4:25
  • I actually think this should be split into separate questions, as the question for the Hebrew text is merely about choices of transliteration, while the question for the Greek text is significantly more controversial.
    – TRiG
    Jun 25, 2013 at 12:29

4 Answers 4


The understanding of the meaning of the word name (hebr. shem / gr. onoma) in general tends to be too narrow in the context of the modern use. In the ancient languages the word name meant the person. The name was semantically not a referent, at least not primarily.

Therefore the Name of YHWH is not the Tetragrammaton (neither it is Jehovah, nor Jahweh). The Name is the One Himself. The letters to the word have a meaning, but this is not the Name. The meaning was almost a chiffre: He Will Be. It was a promise. It may have been a threat to some. He did not reveal himself to Moses (through the angel) saying (in regard to the people): I shall be your Father. He said: hjh 'schr hjh. I shall be as I shall be.

Were they (scribes? priests?) right to speak and even write Adhonai and Elohim (and Kyrios and Theos) when they read these letters?

They may have been wrong in their reasons. Still they may have been right in the result: The revelation of God did not go backwards. It advanced.

Reintroducing the Letters after the coming of the Son of God would be like saying: Moses is more than the Teacher that would come after him. Going back to Moses' revelation would be like saying: There is no other to expect.

Introducing the transliterated Tetragrammaton with medieval vocalization to the NT texts is a decision that reveals a thorough disregard for the impact of the coming of Christ to the revelation of God. It is an attempt (as an overreaction to Trinitarian dogma) to separate Father from Son, to override the new way of speaking of God and Christ as shown by the Apostles in their letters.

I can appreciate some challenging element in this translational approach. With other translations it has in common that not every decision has been thoroughly thought through.

  • 1
    I cannot understand how you think this answers the question. The question is about the choices made by the translators of the NWT: you never even mention the NWT in this "answer". It looks like the question sparked off some semi-related thoughts in your head, and you decided to write them down. Good. But you shouldn't have written them down here. They're not relevant here. Go put this on your blog.
    – TRiG
    Feb 4, 2015 at 17:13
  • 1
    Honestly, I'm having a hard time understanding what this response is even saying, let alone how it answers the question.
    – user2910
    Feb 4, 2015 at 19:18
  • @TRiG Whether this is the "best" answer or not could be disputed but that it is an answer does't seem to be the issue here. In spite of not naming the translation it does address the issue that makes it controversial. See for example the second to last paragraph. That's what NWT did.
    – Caleb
    Feb 5, 2015 at 10:19

In the Hebrew Scriptures

The Tetragrammaton appears multiple times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Many translations render this as LORD, following the Jewish practice of not pronouncing the Divine Name (though the Jews do write the name in their scriptures). The Jerusalem Bible renders the name as Yahweh, which is a scholarly “best guess” at the original pronunciation. The New World Translation uses Jehovah, which is almost certainly not the original pronunciation, but is the traditional rendering in English, found in both religious and secular books for many many years. Certainly including some form of the name is more accurate than bowdlerising it.

As for the decision to use that specific rendering: Why not? Names change from language to language. If we’re happy to see Rebecca, Solomon, and Jeremiah in our English translations, why not Jehovah?

So, the name is there, in the text, and the translation includes it. Translations which leave it out are the ones which need to explain themselves, not the ones which leave it in.

In the Christian Greek Scriptures

The New World Translation also uses the name Jehovah in the Greek Scriptures, although it is not found there in any extant manuscript. When the Greek text quotes the Septuagint, they reinsert the name (yes, reinsert, as they maintain that it was there originally). Certainly there do exist editions of the Septuagint which contain the untranslated and untransliterated Tetragrammaton, and others which render the divine name as Pipi, suggesting that they were copied from an earlier version which contained the original Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew letters of which look a little like the Greek letters for Pipi. So, where the Christian scriptures quote passages from the Septuagint, it is somewhat reasonable to assume that the Tetragrammaton, or some variant thereof, existed in the original text and was later lost.

Somewhat reasonable, yes. but only somewhat. The fact is that no form of the Divine Name exists in any extant manuscript of the Christian Greek Scriptures, the belief of the New World Translation Committee that it was there origionally notwithstanding.

However, NWT includes the divine name in places where the Christian text is not quoting the Septuagint. Sometimes support comes from the existence of the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures (some of those Hebrew translations used for support are actually fairly recent, so any support they offer is tenuous at best). The name Jehovah occurs many times in the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, each time accompanied by a footnote and an explanation of the rationale in The New World Translation — with References.

  • Note: This answer was excerpted and very slightly rewritten from a something I wrote on Christianity Stack Exchange.
    – TRiG
    Oct 26, 2013 at 21:02
  • "The New World Translation also uses the name Jehovah in the Greek Scriptures, although it is not found there in any extant manuscript." --- Related to this.
    – user2910
    Feb 4, 2015 at 19:24
  • Just a note about the parenthetical remark in the recently added 2nd paragraph: The reference to the tetragram in the name יִרְמְיָהוּ (yirməyāhû --> Jeremiah) is the , which is not represented by J in English. (Jehovah, if anything, obscures that reference (and many others), since the there’s no or even .)
    – Susan
    Feb 4, 2015 at 23:35

The question asks for a positive justification for the use of that specific Latin-alphabet rendering. I don't see where a text-based justification is going to come from. That rendering is the result of a misunderstanding. In traditional Jewish pointed orthography, the four consonants of the name are written with those vowels -- not because anyone anywhere in the Masoretic tradition ever thought that the word was pronounced that way, but to serve as a reminder not to try for the original pronunciation. See https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/6063/947 and surrounding answers for plenty of detail. Later, non-Jewish readers mistook this for the actual pronunciation, and we were off for the races.

In making a translation, some think that it's important to make it clear where the different Hebrew deity-words appear. If some translator into English decided to uniformly use Jehovah for the four-letter name (where others choose LORD, or others put the Hebrew letters), and use other words for the other words, I suppose that's better than just picking words at random.


This short, well done video does a great job of documenting what is a popular explanation of the evolution of the divine name from Exodus 3 to present day. However, since it provides no sources it and all explanations are, to my knowledge disputed it probably, like all explanations can't be taken as incontestable. It does, however, seem very convincing to my pea sized brain:


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