Though Jehovah’s Witnesses proudly assert that the only proper name for God is Jehovah there is evidence, available for years now, that the word Jehovah is not even a defensible name for God, based on the Bible.
Charles T. Russell’s successor, Judge Rutherford, had selected the current name of the group to distinguish those who accepted his leadership from the smaller group that remained faithful to Russell’s memory and leadership, after a split in their ranks.
How did the word ‘Jehovah’ originate? The ancient Hebrews were so very fussy about keeping God’s name sacred that they refused to even call the name of God. Added to that “…until centuries after the New Testament period, Hebrew was written without vowels.” (William Sanford, et al, Old Testament Survey, 1982, 136, n. 14) but of course when Hebrew is read, vowels would have to be used.
The consonants for God’s name in Hebrew are yodh (י), hē (ה), vav (waw) (ו) and hē (ה), יהוה, referred to as the tetragrammaton (the four-letter word/name). Hebrew is read from right to left.
The first and third letters yield plural options each when transliterated into English, i.e., put in English letters.
So yodh can be either Y or J and vav (waw) can be either V or W. This means that the tetragrammaton yields a plurality of linguistic options in English, YHWH, YHVH, JHWH or JHVH.
The first option YHWH, with vowels added yielding YaHWeH, is the most popular rendition of God’s name among scholars because of “transliterations of the name into Greek in early Christian literature, in the form iaoue (Clement of Alexandria [2nd to 3rd cents. AD]) or iabe (Theodoret; by this time [5th cent. AD] Gk. b had the pronunciation of v).” (J.D. Douglas, ed. The New Bible Dictionary, 1962, 478, similarly Sanford, et al, cited earlier, 136, n. 14).
To avoid calling the name of God when reading a text that has the name, the Hebrews substituted the word ‘Lord’ (Heb. ‘adōnay, lit. my Lord) for YHWH, “…so eventually the vowels of ‘adōnay were written on the name YHWH. This is the source of the name ‘Jehovah’.” (Sandford, 136, n. 14)
The vowels of ‘adōnay are ‘a’, ‘o’ and ‘a’ so it took another development over time for the first vowel to mutate from ‘a’ to ‘e’ yielding JeHoVaH.’ But any way you spin it, Jehovah, as a name for God, is most definitely not a bona fide biblical word. Jehovah is a bogus hybrid word. The Witnesses can’t be blamed for it but they are accessories after the fact of this non-biblical coined name for God.
So then, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who reject the doctrine of the Trinity because the word ‘trinity’ is not in the Bible, are using a name for God which is not in the Bible. You may have seen the word Jehovah in a few versions of Ex.6:3 usually King James versions (old, AV or KJV and new KJV) but there is a note indicating that the Hebrew text has YHWH.
Versions of Ex. 6.3
“…but by My name Lord[a] I was not known to them.” (NKJV) note at Lord “YHWH traditionally Jehovah”
“…but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.” (KJV)
Indeed, despite the claims of some Witnesses, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no historical links with any group in the Bible because God is never called Jehovah in the Bible and so no one in the Bible would be regarded as a witness of Jehovah!
Continue to be diligent, fussy even, in your desire to understand Scripture more precisely.
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