Sunday, November 20, 2011

God's name in English ought to be "Jehovah" not "Yahweh"

The use of the name "Yahweh" in the place of "Jehovah" in sermons has been jumping out at me for some time now and finally I want to say a few things about why I think it's a very bad practice. I think this discussion belongs here rather than the Bible Hoax blog because it's a more general issue than a translational issue. The King James has "Jehovah" in only four places in the Old Testament. Westcott and Hort used neither "Jehovah" nor "Yahweh" but substituted "LORD" for "Jehovah" in their miserable revision, never content to leave the King James unmolested wherever they could make a change on the flimsiest justification, but at least the use of "Yahweh" can't be directly blamed on them -- indirectly, yes, I think so.

Here's Wikipedia on the Name Jehovah, a paragraph showing one place in the text where some of the modern versions have used "Yahweh" while "LORD" was the choice in others (where apparently Westcott and Hort's example was followed), whereas only the King James continues to use "Jehovah:"
At Exodus 6:3-6, where the King James Version has Jehovah

...the Revised Standard Version (1952),[34] the New American Standard Bible (1971), the New International Version (1978), the New King James Version (1982), the New Revised Standard Version (1989), the New Century Version (1991), and the Contemporary English Version (1995) give "LORD" or "Lord" as their rendering of the Tetragrammaton

...while the New Jerusalem Bible (1985), the Amplified Bible (1987), the New Living Translation (1996, revised 2007), the English Standard Version (2001), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004) use the form Yahweh.
Even the name of God has to be a matter of democratic choice in our churches these days thanks to the current attitude of "scholarship" that leaves it up for grabs.

Many pastors and preachers rather pointedly use "Yahweh" as if it had some kind of established validation, however, apparently more concerned about meeting some notion of accuracy they've learned from somewhere than about contributing to confusion among Christians created by the use of new terms.

Is it more accurate? I don't know what weight to attribute to the Wikipedia article but it sounds like there's far from scholarly consensus on the subject, and why do we have to be accosted with changes that are a matter of scholarly dispute anyway? Shouldn't there be a conservative mindset that respects the poor Christian in the pew, protects us from matters that are beyond our judgment and from innovations that have to be unsettling at some level of our consciousness? This is one of Westcott and Hort's great crimes against the Christian church and their example no doubt inspired the use of "Yahweh" in later translations: Once it becomes acceptable to make casual changes in the text everybody feels free to get in on the act.

I've come to regard the change to "Yahweh" as an attack on the minds of believers, many of whom have spent a lifetime accustomed to the term "Jehovah." "Jehovah" is in the English-speaking mind, the English culture, in English literature, old sermons and old Christian books, and a few old hymns as well. But moving the ancient landmarks that would preserve the old territory intact is of minor importance to minds infatuated with "scholarship" and sounding erudite. Apart from the confusion -- and I even think it's cruelty of a sort -- of foisting novel terms on English-speaking Christians, the name "Yahweh" is mostly a scholarly conceit. There is nothing wrong with "Jehovah" and there is apparently good scholarly support for it too.

The name "Yahweh" sounds puny in comparison to "Jehovah" as well. Maybe that's a subjective judgment born of familiarity with "Jehovah" --I don't know-- but it sounds like a tribal deity rather than the God who made all things.

"Yahweh" is also much loved by the followers of the Hebrew Names heresy, which ought to be one good reason to resist it.

No comments: