7. Responses to Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah or Yahweh? Is Jes1us separate from Jehovah? What should we believe about a
- Jehovah's Witnesses insist that we must use God's
"proper name." Yet, they continue to use "Jehovah" in the face of scholarly evidence that the
proper pronunciation of the Hebrew YHWH is "Yahweh" rather than "Jehovah."
- That soul -- our essential personhood -- is what Scripture
indicates continues to live on beyond the physical death of our bodies.
- Paul, a Jewish Christian, said there is only one Lord and that Lord is God. Every time Paul
used the word "Lord," it reverberated with echoes of its Old Testament usage: "Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God, the Lord is one." -- Deuteronomy 6:4.
"Then [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." -- Luke
Excerpts from email exchange I had with a Jehovah's Witness
- Jehovah's Witness question: What proof do you have that the name
Jehovah is the wrong pronunciation of the Hebrew word?
- My answer: That's a good question. It's an important one because I know that using
God's "proper name" is so very important to Jehovah's Witnesses. Using the right name for
someone is very important. For instance, my name is Howard. Once in a
while someone will call me Harold. Then, when they discover what they've done, they'll be very
apologetic because they have mispronounced my name (although what they've used does have 5
out of 6 letters correct). Even though Harold is very close to Howard, it is not my name.
As to the issue of how to pronounce this particular name for God, ancient Hebrew writing did not
have vowels; it only used consonants. That makes it impossible to know how to words were
pronounced. As an example of this issue, without vowels, we wouldn't know if the Italian city of
Rm should be pronounced Rome or Rum or Ram. or Rim.
So, in the ancient Hebrew manuscripts of Bible books, we have those four Hebrew consonants
that we transliterate into English as YHWH. When Jewish scholars copyists added what we call
vowel "points" to the Hebrew text several centuries ago, the same vowels selected for Adonai
(Lord) were given to YHWH. It because of this spelling (YHWH combined with vowels used in
another title or nae for God) that Petrus Galatinus is often credited with originating in the 1500s
the Latin spelling of the word we now render as Jehovah. As you can see,
what we wound up with in English as "Jehovah" has the initial Hebrew Y (or Yodh) turned into a
J and the Hebrew W (or Waw) changed into a V.
However, modern Hebrew scholars will point to old Greek manuscripts in which YHWH was
rendered variously as Iabe, Iaoue, and Iaouai. Iaoue, for instance, appears in the
writings of Clement of Alexandria who died about the year 215 A.D. This lends weight to the
conclusion that those four Hebrew letters were originally pronounced as Yahweh rather than
By the way, isn't it interesting that the scribes used the vowels from "Lord" to create what you
now pronounce as Jehovah? So, when you say Jehovah, you should hear an echo of "Lord" in
there. Those scribes understood that "Lord" and YHWH are the same -- not different. I guess you
can keep on saying Jehovah, but if you do, you need to understood that the word does combine
"Lord" and YHWH into one word. Won't that go against what your belief that the Lord Jesus
Christ is not Yahweh?
Now, in terms of the proof you asked for: Have you read the introductory material in the
Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures published by the Watchtower
Society? On page 23 of the 1969 edition, it says: "While inclining to view the pronunciation
'Yahweh' as the more correct way, we have retained the form 'Jehovah' because of people's
familiarity with it since the 14th century."
Isn't that like saying, "Since we've been mispronouncing God's name for a long time, we might
as well keep on doing it"?
Or, what about another Watchtower publication, Aid to Bible Understanding, which
says on page 885 of its 1971 edition that Yahweh is "the most likely pronunciation" of the
Hebrew letters YHWH? Could those two quotations serve as proof for you?
If Jehovah's Witness leaders were saying more than 50 years years ago that "Yahweh" is the
correct pronunciation, then why hasn't the organization started calling itself "Yahweh's
Witnesses"? Shouldn't you be using the correct pronunciation? Why do you keep saying Harold
instead of Howard? 🙂 [ 600 names and titles for
God in the Bible ]
- Jehovah's Witness question: Do you know what the Scriptures say
about the soul?
- My answer: A good place to start is with the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Wouldn't you
agree that Jesus was very precise in the way He spoke? His speech was not sloppy; every word
was powerful. So, wouldn't the distinction Jesus makes between the death of our physical body
and our spiritual soul indicate the soul is something different from the body?
Or, what about the account of the death of Stephen in Acts
7:59? Just before he dies, doesn't Stephen pray to Jesus to "receive my spirit"? Doesn't
this indicate that Stephen believed his spirit or soul was going to live on beyond his bodily
existence. If Stephen's soul or spirit was about to cease to exist when his body died, how could
Jesus, who was in heaven, receive Stephen's spirit? Was Stephen mistaken? If what Stephen was
praying for wasn't going to happen, why would the Holy
Spirit inspire the writer of Acts to include that bit of heresy in the story?
In his second letter to the Corinthians, doesn't Paul say that
he would rather be "absent from the body" so he could go make his "home with the
Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8)? Doesn't that indicate Paul believes in an existence of the soul or
spirit after bodily death? Was Paul mistaken in thinking he could be "absent from the body"?
When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he said he would
rather depart from this life so that he could go be with Christ (Philippians 1:23). How could Paul
be "with Christ" and make his "home with the Lord" if -- as the Jehovah's Witnesses teach -- no
one could enter heaven until 1914?
Similarly, if the soul is the body, why does Paul make a distinction between the "spirit and
soul and body of you" in 1 Thessalonians 5:23?
Unless there is conscious awareness after death, how could
Sheol or the grave below become "all astir (or agitated) to meet you at your coming"
(Isaiah 14:9)? How could the souls in Sheol or the grave "all respond" and "say to you" (Isaiah
14:10-11)? How could the souls in Sheol "see you (and) stare at you" and "ponder your fate"
saying, "Is this the man?" (Isaiah 14:16)?
If the soul has no existence apart from the body, how could
Moses and Elijah appear to Peter, James, and John and actually converse with Jesus (Matthew
If the soul dies when the body dies, how could the "souls" of
Revelation 6:9-11 -- those who had been "slain because of the word of God and the testimony
they had maintained' -- call out "in a loud voice: 'How long, Sovereign Lord ..."?
If the human soul is inseparable from the human body, how
could the soul go out of a person's body (Genesis 35:18) or come back into a person's body (1
Kings 17:21)? Similarly, if the soul ceases to exist at physical death, then what was Jesus saying
could be thrown in Gehenna or Hell in Luke 12:4-5 ("Fear him who, after the killing of the
body, has power to throw you into hell")?
If the soul ceases to exist at physical death, what would be
left of a person after they were killed that could be thrown into Gehenna?
Do not misunderstand what I'm saying about the soul. I
don't think human beings "have" a soul like they "have" a bicycle or a dress. Human beings "are"
souls. That soul -- our essential personhood -- is what Scripture indicates continues to live on
beyond the physical death of our bodies (unless, as you have said, numerous passages Scripture
aren't to be taken literally).
- Jehovah's Witness question: Do you accept Jesus as your Savior and
Lord? If so, that means you are saying He is separate from Jehovah.
- My answer: Do I accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Yes, I do and because of that I
have had to acknowledge him as Yahweh. For believers, as Paul said,
there is only "one Lord, one faith, one
baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).
In that verse, Paul is echoing what Zechariah said:
"On that day there will be one Lord, and his
name the only name" -- Zechariah 14:9
Since the Old Testament uses the title "Lord" for Yahweh from the very first
[pages of Genesis, one must conclude that calling Jesus "our Lord" means we are
acknowledging him as God himself. How can you come to any other conclusion without
distorting the words of Scripture?
Yahweh is called Lord. Jesus is called Lord. Both Paul and Zechariah say there is only one
Lord. Therefore, Jesus must be Yahweh.
I'm puzzled by the distinction you're trying to make between
Lord and God or Yahweh. Doesn't such an attempt only make Biblical interpretation more
difficult because you then have to re-word so many other Biblical passages? From its beginning
pages, doesn't the Bible use "Lord" and "God" synonymously?
Moses clearly said: "The Lord your God is a
consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 4:24). It doesn't say: "The Lord is a
consuming fire and your God is a jealous God." When a Jewish Christian like Paul says there is
only one Lord, there's no way he's saying there is someone who is Lord and then there is someone
else that is God. To assert that is to ignore or forget that Paul was a Jew.
Every time Paul used the word "Lord," it reverberated with
echoes of its Old Testament usage. Remember, Paul was a Jew and He knew the Hebrew
Scriptures by heart. To him, "Lord" could only refer to God Himself: "Hear, O Israel: The
Lord our God, the Lord is one." -- Deuteronomy 6:4.
Every pious Jew, including the Apostle Paul, had recited that phrase from Deuteronomy -- the
first line of the "shema" -- in synagogue services and in private prayers.
One of sad thing about our email exchanges is that my Jehovah's Witness friend rarely wrote
a comment on any answer I had given him or asked me a follow-up question. So we had very
few real "conversations" in which we discussed anything in-depth.
-- Howard Culbertson,
You might also like these
10/40 Window explanation and map Seeking
God's will? African
martyr's commitment Mission trip
fundraising Ten ways to
ruin a mission trip
Nazarene Missions International resources