Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Jehovah" in the New Testament?

The Jehovah's Witnesses have their own translation of the Bible, the New World Translation.  One of the major differences of this translation from other translations is the insertion of the name "Jehovah" over 200 times in the New Testament. 

However, The Tetragrammaton, (the four letters of God's name in Hebrew), is never found in any of more than 5,000 ancient Greek manuscript copies of the New Testament. It is also missing from ALL of the 36,000+ quotations of the Scriptures made by the early church fathers before the 4th century. The Tetragrammaton never occurs in the Greek text of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation.

If something as important as God’s name was lost from the Christian Greek Scriptures, did God fail to keep His promise to preserve His word from corruption?

The Watchtower says that "Apostate Christendom" removed it? Who removed it? What group? How? Where is your evidence? Proof? How did they get all the manuscripts that were spread to every corner of the Roman Empire and even beyond? How did they do it while being thrown to lions? We have manuscripts that date to within 25 years of the original? How did they do it without leaving any trace of tampering?

The Apostles didn't make a mistake. They were led by the Holy Spirit to do replace the Divine name with Kurios this way. If you say that it was changed, you can't trust anything else in the New Testament. Nothing. You can't know if anything else was taken out or if anything else was added. If they can take out the Divine Name and there is not a shred of manuscript evidence to prove it, then throw out the New Testament.

The Watchtower makes assertions, but simply has no proof.

Obviously not. The implication of this, and the evidence point to the fact that the Tetragrammaton was never in any of the New Testament manuscripts EVER. IF it was removed, you can't trust anything the Bible says because there is not a shred of textual evidence to show that it was removed. By insisting on having the Tetragrammaton in the New Testament you undermine the Bible's reliability!  If the name went missing, what else might have? What might have been added?  You lose all trust and confidence in the New Testament. 

Further, the Septuagint (The Greek Old Testament), despite the best attempts made by the Watchtower, does not make reference to Jehovah or Yahweh, but uses the Greek term kurios in place of the Tetragrammaton. It was translated 300 years before Christ by Jews. By the time of Christ, the Tetragrammaton was unpronounced by everyone except the High Priest. All used either adonai or kurios. The Watchtower is wrong here.

Let's examine a few of the passages from the New World Translation, compare them with the Greek, and see if this is the case. These are commonly cited passages.

Matthew 4:4
επί παντί ρήματι εκπορευομένω διά στόματος θεού
epi panti remati ekporeuomeno dia stomatos theou
but by every word coming forth by the mouth of God.

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have theou, God, not the Divine Name

Matthew 4:7
ουκ εκπειράσεις κύριον τον θεόν σου
ouk ekpeipaseis kurion ton theon sou
You shall not put to test the Lord your God.

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have kurion ton theon, The Lord your God

Matthew 4:10
γεγραπται γαρ κύριον τον θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις
gegraptai gar kurion ton theon sou proskuneseis
For it is written, You shall do obeisance to the Lord your God

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have kurion ton theon, The Lord your God

Matthew 22:37
αγαπήσεις κύριον τον θεόν σου εν όλη τη καρδία σου
agapeseis kurion ton theon sou ek ole te kardia sou
love the Lord your God with your entire heart

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have kurion ton theon, The Lord your God

Matthew 22:44
είπεν ο κύριος τω κυρίω μου
eipen ho kurios to kurio mou
The Lord said to my Lord

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have ho kurios, the Lord

Luke 4:18
πνεύμα κυρίου επ΄ εμέ
pneuma kuriou ep eme
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have kuriou, the Lord

Luke 4:19
κηρύξαι ενιαυτόν κυρίου δεκτόν
kepexai eniauton kuriou dekton
to proclaim the accepted year of the Lord

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have kuriou, the Lord

Acts 15:14-17
όπως αν εκζητήσωσιν οι κατάλοιποι των ανθρώπων τον κύριον και πάντα τα έθνη εφ΄ ους επικέκληται το όνομά μου επ΄ αυτούς λέγει κύριος ο ποιών ταύτα πάντα

opos an ekzetesosin oi kataloipoi ton anthropon ton kurion kai panta ta ethne eph ous epikekletai to ovoma mou ep autous legei kurios o poion tauta panta

so that the remnants of men shall seek after the Lord, and all the nations upon which my name has been called upon by them, says the Lord -- the one doing all these things.

There is no divine name in this passage. Here we have τον κύριον, ton kurion, the Lord.

In every case where the New World Translation says "Jehovah" in the New Testament, the Greek says "kurios" or one of its forms.

There is no evidence that these texts have ever been changed, altered, or tampered with at all. I take the New Testament at it's word. When it says Jesus said, "the Lord" instead of the divine name, I believe it. The question is are you going to let your tradition overturn what the New Testament actually says?

But what about texts in the New Testament that talk about the name of God? "Hallowed be thy name", "I have made thy name known", Etc.

Here I cite the Watchtower against itself. From the Watchtower of 1973 May 1st p. 259, in the article,  "What Does God’s Name Mean to You?"

We are not to believe that when Jesus said, “I have made your name known” or “manifest,” he referred to only the pronunciation of the divine name. His listeners were Jews who, reportedly with the exception of the high priest, did not know the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters making up the name. Then, how did Jesus, by more than pronouncing the name correctly, ‘make God’s name known’ to the apostles? Note the answer given by one noted Bible commentator:

“The word name [in John 17] includes the attributes, or character of God. Jesus had made known his character, his law, his will, his plan of mercy. Or in other words, he had revealed God to them. The word name is often used to designate the person.”—Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the Gospels by Albert Barnes (1846).

When they say, "We are not to believe that when Jesus said, “I have made your name known” or “manifest,” he referred to only the pronunciation of the divine name." I would disagree with an implication in this sentence. When Jesus said he made the Father's name known, he NEVER referred to the use or pronunciation of the divine name.

But Albert Barnes (A good Calvinist I may add), is right. The term "God's name" or other related phrases are just a fancy way of referring to God himself. Jesus did not mean he made a personal pronoun known. That is taking him far too literally. When he said he made God's name known, he means he made God known. The phrase "God's name" thus, "includes the attributes, or character of God. The word name is often used to designate the person."

The use and pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is not important. If it was, it would be in the New Testament, which it isn't. There is no proof that Jesus or the disciples ever used or pronounced the divine name. The quote from the Watchtower and Mr. Barnes is quite enough proof of that. Notice the Watchtower's admission, "His listeners were Jews who, reportedly with the exception of the high priest, did not know the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton." They used ADONAI instead of the name. When the Greek New Testament was written, they rightly use Kurios, because Kurios is the Greek equivalent of Adonai. If they had used the Tetragrammaton, it would be in the Greek too.

"But what we have here is a quote from the Old Testament, and the Divine Name is in the Hebrew quote". Who cares! It's not in the Greek, and it's not in the Greek for a reason. Do not change the manuscripts based on what you think should be there.

If you consistently render "kurios" as "Jehovah" every time that an Old Testament verse is quoted where "Jehovah" was used, then you must be consistent in this practice....

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:10-11 ESV)

This is also quoted in Romans:

"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
(Romans 14:10-11 ESV)

These are actually quotes from "Jehovah" in Isaiah:

"By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him." (Isaiah 45:23-24 ESV)

Now if you were going to be consistent, should it not be, "and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, to the glory of God the Father"?

There is a transition of the power and authority of the Old Testament name of Jehovah to the New Testament name of Jesus. This happened in order to reveal God's full plan of salvation. "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 ESV) If you reject Jesus' full inheritance of the name Jehovah, you are in essence rejecting the Father as well. Jesus said clearly, "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." (John 5:22-23 ESV)

Here is another example:

"You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands." (Hebrews 1:10 ESV)

Hebrews 1:10-12, which is applied to the Son, is a quotation of a Psalm talking about Jehovah!

“O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days—you whose years endure throughout all generations!" Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. (Psalm 102:24-25 ESV)

I insist that the words that translators use in their translations of the Bible must be words actually found in the best available Bible manuscripts. I do not allow translators to change the meaning of the best available Bible manuscripts by adding different words from sources outside of these ancient Bible manuscripts themselves.

The fact is, the New Testament has kurios, and not the divine name. If you think that it should have "Jehovah", then be consistent. The result of consistency would be a direct application of the divine name to Jesus Christ. God the Father (Jehovah) would be calling His Son, Jesus Christ, by the divine name, Jehovah, in numerous passages. The Watchtower can't handle this, and thus they are not consistent.


TJ said...

The NWT appendix does list indirect evidence. It shows that the divine name was removed from the Greek OT, the Septuagint, around the time that our earliest copies of the Greek New Testament date from.

The Septuagint copies we do have from the first century do contain the divine name, so it stands to reason that when the NT authors quoted from it, they would have used the name where it appears in those manuscripts.

Matthew said...

The Tetragrammaton does appear in some copies of the Septuagint, in various alphabets. However, not all of the first century manuscripts have it. It's also never in any copies of the New Testament. There is no evidence at all that the NT writers used Tetragrammaton. If they had, it would still be in some copies of the New Testament. In MOST copies, in all likelihood. As things stand now, there are no known manuscripts of the New Testament with the Tetragrammaton. None of the early Church fathers who wrote about textual criticism of the New Testament mention having either seen or heard of any copies of the New Testament with the Tetragrammaton, but they did write about having both seen and heard about copies of the Septuagint with the Tetragrammaton.

By far the largest number of extant copies of the Septuagint contain the word Kurios (Lord) rather than the Tetragrammaton. However, very few of these copies come from the first century CE or earlier. Nonetheless, there are some first century AD (and earlier) copies of the Septuagint which contain one or the other of the Tetragrammaton or Kurios.

While there is evidence of the Tetragrammaton in the Greek Old Testament. There is no evidence of any kind that the Tetragrammaton was ever used in the New Testament. If for the sake of argument, it could be shown that the New Testament did at one time contain the Tetragrammaton, we still cannot determine if the correct word was used in the 237 instances in the NWT has Jehovah. If the LXX has the Tetragrammaton, this doesn't help us either, because you can't determine a word in the New Testament based on a word used in the Septuagint. We must determine the correct word by the word used in the more than 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament Scriptures themselves. The only word used in any of the existing manuscripts is Kurios. The Tetragrammaton is never used.

The only conclusion which fits all of the evidence is that the New Testament never had the Tetragrammaton at any time. Maybe someday some manuscript evidence will turn up to challenge that conclusion, but I doubt it. I would be quite happy to see such evidence, if does exist. I fully expect that if we ever do find such manuscripts, they will have the Tetragrammaton in verses in which the Jehovah's Witnesses will be very upset to see it!

Tony-Allen said...

The whole "They took it out!" conspiracy theory works as well for Jehovah's Witnesses as it does for Muslims: not at all. Certainly with the case of Islam, we have cases recorded from Muslim sources where Muslim leaders rounded up copies of the Quran, gave back "official" copies, and burned all the original fragments. You don't see anything like this with early Christianity, and any ideas that anything like this took place are sheer speculation.

Also, I never realized Albert Barnes was a Calvinist - score! :P

TJ said...

Hello Matthew,

I'm always curious when people seem to almost take delight in arguing against God's name. Do you argue with such ferocity for the restoration of God's name in the Old Testament, where the majority of English Bibles replace it with LORD? If not, why not?

As to the manuscript evidence, there simply is not much to go on from the first couple of centuries when the New Testament copies were relatively few in number in comparison to the LXX. Remember, there was also a time when there was no manuscript evidence that the tetragrammaton had ever appeared in the LXX either. That was just recently those came to light.

The fact is, there was a systematic campaign to remove God's name from non-Hebrew writings. It seems to have stemmed from a Jewish superstition and was carried over by the Christians at some point. We still see the aversion to using God's name today in most Bibles, where it is replaced almost 7,000 times!

The Hebrew versions of the New Testament, though the copies we do have are from later on, do contain the tetragrammaton. The NWT finds agreement with these copies in all 237 occurrences of "Jehovah" in its text. If you are going to criticize the NWT for using Jehovah in these places, shouldn't you at least criticize most other English Bibles out there for using LORD to be consistent?


Tony-Allen said...

The fact is, there was a systematic campaign to remove God's name from non-Hebrew writings.

Could you please demonstrate that argument from church history?

TJ said...

Hi Tony,

It's simple really. No one disputes that God's name appears almost 7,000 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Yet it can be seen, for example, in Jerome's Latin Vulgate that he replaced that distinctive name with Dominus. The earliest fragments of the Greek LXX contain the name, yet over the centuries it faded out in favor of Kyrios. The Coptic translation of the OT, probably going off of the later editions of the LXX, uses Joeis.

There has always been resistance to allowing that name back to its rightful place. When the Bible began to appear in English, Tyndale used God's name in the form of Iehouah and the Authorized Version used Jehovah four times, but they still left the majority of instances as LORD. In 1901 the American Standard Version restored the name throughout the Bible, but later revisions of that same translation replaced every instance of it again with LORD. Now why would they do that?

You don't have to look far to realize there is real opposition to using God's name; look at the majority of modern Bibles! After the NIV was first released, a person wrote in to question why God's name was left out. A representative wrote back with a candid admission, saying:

"Here is why we did not: You are right that Jehovah is a distinctive name for God and ideally we should have used it. But we put 2 1/4 million dollars into this translation and a sure way of throwing that down the drain is to translate, for example, Psalm 23 as, ‘Yahweh is my shepherd.’ Immediately, we would have translated for nothing. Nobody would have used it. Oh, maybe you and a handful [of] others. But a Christian has to be also wise and practical. We are the victims of 350 years of the King James tradition. It is far better to get two million to read it—that is how many have bought it to date—and to follow the King James, than to have two thousand buy it and have the correct translation of Yahweh. . . . It was a hard decision, and many of our translators agree with you.”

Do you agree with that? Is it right to substitute the title LORD for God's name where it appears in the Hebrew text?

TJ said...


You wrote, "The Tetragrammaton does appear in some copies of the Septuagint, in various alphabets. However, not all of the first century manuscripts have it."

Could you please cite examples of first-century (or earlier) LXX manuscripts that use kyrios or some other substitute for the divine name? Thank you.

Tony-Allen said...

Forgive me, I'm a little confused. You had stated that there was "a systematic campaign" to do this, yet you simply talk about textual variations while jumping from Jerome to Tyndale. That doesn't reveal a "systematic campaign." In fact, it reminds me a bit of KJV-Onlyists who point to various textual differences between the Alexandrian and Byzantine manuscripts, then declare that the only way this could be so is because there was a vast conspiracy to change the word of God. Likewise, your bringing up questions with no answers provided nor attempts to give the reader answers ("Now why would they do that?") reminds me of 9/11 conspiracy theorists who will just cite a weird fact something they heard off the internet and end it with, "Now isn't that strange?" Neither method really edifies God's people.

Earlier I demonstrated that, if one wished to reveal a conspiracy within Islam to change the Quran, there was ample evidence to do so. I have asked you to give something likewise for Christianity. Can you please show me a "systematic campaign" which is actually systematic and in the open, and using church history and not just name dropping various manuscripts or translations.

TJ said...

Hello Tony,

I'm wondering what exactly would be evidence, in your view, of a such a campaign. Can you define what you are looking for? Let's take a modern example; why did the RSV replace every occurrence of "Jehovah" when it updated the ASV? Is that not evidence of a "campaign" to replace the name? If not, what would be?

My questions were meant for you to answer. I especially wanted to know whether it's right or not in your view to use "LORD" in the OT, given the objections raised here to "Jehovah" in the NT. Thank you.

Tony-Allen said...

You're again going from assumptions and conspiracy theories. I already explained what such evidence would be by citing the burning of old copies of the Quran by Uthman and the "authorization" of his own version of the Quran. Can you point to me any evidence from church history of similar efforts by Christian leaders to take out God's name? Can you point to me any evidence of "systematic" methods by any body of the church to do so? Can you cite any contemporary source from the annals of church history that talk of this occurring? That is all.

TJ said...

Hi Tony,

I'm not sure why you seem to think that external evidence can be the only evidence, and that relying on internal evidence equals "conspiracy theories". After all, aren't spurious passages of scripture corrected in the process of textual criticism via internal manuscript evidence? Does that make the UBS Greek text editors 'conspiracy' theorists? That sounds a bit like the KJV-Only crowd to me.

Internal manuscript evidence is valid. Citing the manuscripts and what they read is not 'name-dropping', it's relevant information. Like I said, this is very simple. We agree (I can only assume) that the tetragrammaton did appear in the Hebrew autographs as well as the Hebrew copies. At some point, it was replaced in the various translations of the OT. Is that really some 7,000 coincidences where little else was significantly changed, or was it done purposefully (for whatever reason)?

Here are my questions for you again. I would appreciate it if you would humor me with answers. 1) Is the RSV's removal of the thousands of occurrences of "Jehovah" from the ASV evidence of a 'campaign' to remove the name? 2) Is it right to use "LORD" in the OT where the tetragrammaton appears?

By the way, this doesn't have to be so hostile. I'm a nice guy. :) Thanks.

Tony-Allen said...

Actually, I wasn't at all leaning towards the KJV-Only crowd - they would be using your methods. It is they who point to variations in manuscripts and decide there must have been a "systematic campaign" to reword scripture and do such things as remove the deity of Christ. This despite the fact there is no evidence for it.

Now you want to turn the tables and ask me questions. However, as I stated before, the claim was made by you. You have tried to dodge this by asking why "external evidence can be the only evidence," however it is by external evidence that we see "systematic campaigns" to change scripture. The very word "systematic" suggests a series of exact procedures, which can only happen under a type of authority or planned scheme. This can be discovered by "external evidence," such as seen in church history.

Again, it was you who made the claim that there was a systematic campaign to remove God's name from scripture. I will now ask you yet again: please provide some contemporary church history sources to provide solid evidence for this.

Matthew said...

Well let's take a look at what some non-JW, Trinitarian, scholars have to say....

From the intro to the 1901 ASV -

The change first recommended in the Appendix - that which substitutes "Jehovah" for "LORD" and "GOD" - is one which will be unwelcome to many, because of the frequency and familiarity of the terms displaced. But the American Revisers, after a careful consideration were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament, as it fortunately does not in the numerous versions made by modern missionaries. This Memorial Name, explained in Ex. iii. 14, 15, and emphasized as such over and over in the original text of the Old Testament, designates God as the personal God, as the covenant God, the God of revelation, the Deliverer, the Friend of his people; -- not merely the abstractly "Eternal One" of many French translations, but the ever living Helper of those who are in trouble. This personal name, with its wealth of sacred associations, is now restored to the place in the sacred text to which it has an unquestionable claim.

From the introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which was published in 2004 and updated last year.

The HCSB OT uses Yahweh, the personal name of God in Hebrew, when a biblical text emphasizes Yahweh as a name: "His name is Yahweh" (Ps 68:4). Yahweh is also used in places of His self-identification as in "I am Yahweh" (Isa 42:8). Yahweh is used more often in the HCSB than in most Bible translations because the word Lord in English is a title of God and does not accurately convey to modern readers the emphasis on God's personal name in the original Hebrew.

So when it comes to the Old Testament, I would agree, it's best to put the name in. "LORD" is not a translation. I however, prefer Yahweh, and thus would use HCSB. I use it for devotional and clarification. I do not use it as my main translation. I use the ESV, a revision of the RSV, because for the most part, it is a really good translation. Because I was raised as a JW, I know that LORD in the OT is Yahweh.

Someone could make the argument though:

IF it could be proven that the Holy Spirit inspired a replacement of Yahweh with Kurios in the NT, (that's an if by the way for the sake of argument), if that could be proven, then replacing Yahweh with LORD in our translations is just following in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit. If he did it, why can't we?

TJ said...

I'm not sure why you're so angry, Tony. To be honest, I'm ok with a discussion, back and forth kind of thing, but not so much with an interrogation. Lighten up.

Evidently we won't agree on this. If you realize that the tetragrammaton was in the Hebrew OT some 7,000 times, then it was not at all in non-Hebrew translations, and this is no evidence to you that it was purposefully changed, I think you'd have a lot in common with those that see no reason for a Designer in nature. Such reasoning doesn't require quotes of contemporary Church Fathers, just common sense.

TJ said...

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for your kind response. Just curious, if you favor the form "Yahweh" do you also favor changing the theophoric names throughout the Bible, like Jesus to Yashua? Or would you prefer just that one name change and we keep names like Jehoshaphat, Jehozadak, etc? That's what always throws me with Yahweh, it doesn't match well.

And I hope you didn't miss my question about LXX copies from the first century or earlier. That was genuine. My understanding is that everything from that point and earlier, which contains a reading where we'd expect the name, uses some form of the tetragrammaton.

Real Truth Ministry said...

To TJ:

Well thats circular reasoning. We dont have not even One Church Father prior to Jerome that even mentions YHWH. The Apostles and early church obviously saw equal importance to "Kurious" Lord, and equated it with the Hebrew YHWH. Theres no way Paul used YHWH when writing to the Greeks. There is no evidence of that at all. We have manuscripts of the NT that go back to 120AD, and no use of the Divine name. If it WAS used, and then taken out, dont you think it would have been something that the early church, both Greek and Jewish would have been fighting or atleast debating over?

It is your assumption that Christians did NOT equate Kurious with YHWH. Therefore you say that since the OT uses YHWH, that the NT Writers must have used it to. But the evidence shows that the NT Writers equated YHWH with Kurious, not the Hebrew or Greek version of YHWH..

Matthew said...


I stand corrected. I misread something on Wikipedia and thought there was a claim that the oldest manuscripts were of a mixed nature.

In the Old Testament, it would be good yes to switch to Yahwistic style names. However that would take much more work and probably would never fly. Yahweh is easier because most translations have LORD.

As for Jesus, the Greek is IESOUS. Jesus is a translation of the Greek. I base my translation of the NT on the best available Greek text. I would not approve of YESHUA or any other form. That's not what the text says.

TJ said...

Hiya Real Truth,

I'm not sure what you see as circular. I'm not trying to deductively prove that the tetragrammaton must be in the NT. In fact, I have no problem with translations that don't use it there (the OT is another story). But there's such a thing as inductive reasoning.

I can't prove to you that the sun will rise tomorrow, but we all have a pretty good hunch that it should. The same for the name. It was in the OT far, far more than any other name, then it disappears entirely from the NT, even in quotes from the OT where it appears? And this is all inspired by the same God?

It doesn't take Columbo to guess something is going on here (I had to look up a tv investigator for the reference). What we have from the second century, as I recall, are mere fragments of the NT, not full manuscripts. And it is my contention that the LXX copies from the first century all do contain the name in the places it should be, which lends more support to the NT authors using it at least in their quotes of the OT.

As for the debate, where is the debate of it being taken out of the LXX? We know that it was in early copies, and not so much in later. Does the absence of the debate, in what documents we have, negate the manuscript evidence in that case?

TJ said...

Hi Matthew,

Again, your candor is much appreciated. Just so you know, I have no problem with Yahweh either, I like it a lot more than LORD.

Since you seem to support straight transliterations of names, does that mean you are opposed to "James" in the NT? A real transliteration should have it as "Jacob".

I tend to think that the form/pronunciation of a name isn't as important as being familiar with it and using it. After all, would you object to those of another language calling you Mateo? We have the biblical precedent with Saul/Paul, Peter/Cephas, etc. Jesus would have like gone by the Semitic form of his name in his ministry with the Jews.

Tony-Allen said...

Actually, I'm not angry at all. All I've asked for is evidence outside of speculation and presupposition that there was a "systematic campaign" to take a word out of the Bible. Thus far, we have not received it. If anything, I was being kind to you, giving you a chance to explain your point and justify it beyond a simple statement. I don't see how this has been an "interrogation," other than the fact I have had to repeat the request because you have dodged answering it.

TJ said...

Hello Tony,

"Interrogation" points to your staunch refusal to allow any kind of two-way discussion. I simply don't buy your premise that such textual evidence can only be proven by what we find in the writings of clergymen. The fact is modern textual critics don't agree with that premise either.

The 'conspiracy' tag is a tactic that is actually a fallacy, meant to discredit the person, not so much the argument. I see you use it freely and often, even in the face of reasonable evidence.

Tony-Allen said...

Actually, I'm permitting a "two-way discussion," it's just you have come to a hilt because, to be blunt, you can't answer my request. And if I use the word "conspiracy," it is not to "discredit the person," but to discredit the tactic. I have studied conspiracy theories for a long time, and have noticed similar tactics used, and was merely pointing out that your reasoning was basing itself on logic that can only stem from conspiratorial thinking. Muslims trying to prove that Christians and Jews corrupted their scripture and KJV-Onlyists who try to prove a scheme to corrupt manuscripts all use tactics similar to what you have employed today. You have not attempted to deny that, only accuse me of getting angry and using labels.

Neither did I ask for "writings of clergymen," I simply asked for contemporary sources from church history that would affirm your point. Again, to use an example: if I were to claim that the Quran might be corrupted, I can easily go to Muslim sources, not from "clergymen" but simply from their historians.

Again, all I've asked for is evidence that what you say is true. If there was a "systematic campaign" to corrupt the text, then where is there evidence of this? If you want to perhaps take back the phrase "systematic campaign" you can, by a "systematic campaign" would be a little more noticeable in the annals of history.

Matthew said...

@ TJ

It is your contention that the LXX copies from the first century all do contain the name in the places it should be, which you think lends more support to the NT authors using it at least in their quotes of the OT

Well, here's the thing.

You are assuming that the NT authors would not have changed it from the Divine Name to Kurios when they were writing the Autographs.

How do you know they didn't change it when they quoted from it? I think given the overwhelming amount of NT textual data and the reliability of the manuscript tradition it is highly likely that they may have changed it when they wrote it.

Also, no one knows who removed the name from the LXX. It could have been Greek speaking Jews. We just are not sure. Also, it is notable that they didn't translate the Tetragrammaton, but put it in Hebrew Letters in the Greek text. We know Kabbala has some occultic views of the Tetragrammaton. It isn't translated into Greek, but remains untranslated. Perhaps they thought it to Holy to Translate. That is far different from translating it into Greek.

Luke probably didn't know Hebrew. He was a Gentile and his Greek is the best in the entire NT. If someone was going to be concerned about the Divine Name it would be Matthew, Paul, or Peter.If the NT quoted from the LXX that had the Tetragrammaton and didn't change it, they would also put the Tetragrammaton untranslated in their manuscript. However, if they quote from the LXX and find the Tetragrammaton untranslated and are writting to Gentiles, it is concievable that they would replace it with a word the Greeks would understand, Kurios.

TJ said...

Hi Tony,

So when I make the observation that the name appears in the Hebrew OT, but at some point it is removed from (or not allowed into) the non-Hebrew translations of the OT, that is a 'conspiracy tactic' in your view? I don't understand that.

So you're looking for just any Church historians? I still don't agree with the premise that that is the only acceptable evidence, and I doubt you seriously believe that yourself. However, an example would be Professor J. Wash Watts, who wrote:

"The first and supposedly supreme obligation of translators is to convey the meaning of the original language into that of another. In the case of this name (Yahweh), however, a conscious, persistent and confusing preference for substitutes has prevailed through more than two milleniums of translation efforts."

TJ said...

Hi Matthew,

Well no, we don't know that every NT writer didn't change YHWH to kyrios, but we also don't know that they didn't retain the name either. Matthew purportedly wrote his gospel originally in Hebrew, where it is very unlikely any such substitution would have taken place. Luke claims to have 'traced all things with accuracy'. (Luke 1:3) I doubt he would want to promote confusion and ambiguity with an expression like "The Lord (instead of YHWH) said to my Lord" in quoting Psalm 110:1. (Acts 2:34)

The manuscript evidence we do have from the first century all retains the name in Greek. Unfortunately, the real picture of manuscript evidence for the NT doesn't come in until centuries later, after the name started disappearing from the LXX.

The LXX was primarily used by Christians after the first century, which is why in fell into disfavor among the Jews. The name didn't always appear in Hebrew letters, it was sometimes transcribed as IAO or in other various forms. I just don't see men inspired by God falling into such superstition with the name. It completely contradicts the working of the inspired writers of the OT.

TJ said...

I think it's worth mentioning that the NWT is hardly alone in rendering the divine name in the NT. I could list off over 40 other English translations that do the same, to different extents. Moreover, translations of the NT into other languages by missionaries often contain God's name freely. Eminent Hebrew scholars, such as Franz Delitzsch and David Ginsburg, used the tetragrammaton in their respective translations of the NT into Hebrew. Delitzsch wrote:

"It has been my endeavor to present the text as the writers of the N.T. conceived it in Hebrew and would have written it in Hebrew."

Tony-Allen said...

So when I make the observation that the name appears in the Hebrew OT, but at some point it is removed from (or not allowed into) the non-Hebrew translations of the OT, that is a 'conspiracy tactic' in your view? I don't understand that.

Well that's a strawman; I don't believe that in and of itself is a tactic at all. However, if one were to find that, it would then have to be decided why it happened. The problem with jumping to a "systematic campaign" is there is a missing link, and that is where the suggestions of presumption and conspiratorial thought come in.

The problem with such a jump is that it is often filled by questions that are simply meant to add doubt to the reader. For example, your question about the ASV and other translations, which was easily answered by Matthew by quoting the translators. You provided no source for yourself, and I can only guess, by your questioning, you never attempted to read yourself. The question was simply meant to make a reader ponder the strange phenomenon, expecting them to then conclude that, "Well, there must indeed have been a systematic campaign!" Again, this is similar to Muslims who look at variations in manuscripts and conclude, "Well see, there's our evidence that the Christians knowingly corrupted their scripture," despite the fact there's a great disconnect between their findings and their conclusions.

Furthermore, I did not say "church historians." I said contemporary sources from church history, or at the very least around the time period from which these transitions took place. I simply asked for some connection between what you say took place and your conclusion that there was a "systematic campaign" (which, in the end, may have simply been a poor choice of words) to take out God's word. When I asked you at the very beginning to demonstrate your argument, I was merely asking you to demonstrate to us that a conscious, deliberate - and by your own words systematic - attempt by the church or the scribes to take out a name for God.

TJ said...


You said, "if one were to find that [God's name had been removed], it would then have to be decided why it happened."

This is where you're talking way past me. I am not dealing with the question of why it happened so much as just establishing the fact that it did indeed happen for whatever reason. Calling it a 'systematic campaign' was not meant to answer the question, 'why?' It was meant to simply state that all instances of the divine name were intentionally replaced with substitute words. That's factual. I went on to give a hypothesis of why this may be, but the point was to establish that the manuscript evidence shows it happened.

You said, "For example, your question about the ASV and other translations, which was easily answered by Matthew by quoting the translators. You provided no source for yourself, and I can only guess, by your questioning, you never attempted to read yourself."

It seems there's quite a disconnect here. Matthew quoted the ASV Preface, which I have read before, but that in no way answered my question. Do you understand what my question was?

The ASV uses "Jehovah" all throughout the Old Testament. Decades later the ASV text was revised, and the revision was called the RSV. The RSV replaced the thousands of occurrences of "Jehovah" in the ASV with "LORD". I asked you if this fact, in and of itself, is evidence of a 'campaign' to remove God's name. You refused to answer for whatever reason. Quoting the ASV Preface has nothing to do with the RSV's policy of removing the name.

This is a modern example of what we find in the ancient LXX manuscripts. The earliest copies have the name but it eventually gets replaced in each of the later copies with kyrios through the centuries. Quoting people to tell us about what we see in the text already doesn't change things. The manuscripts themselves are evidence! Don't focus on the 'why?', focus on the 'what?', as in 'what does the text development tell us happened?' When you insist on historians' views, you are demanding something that you wouldn't demand of a textual critic.

Tony-Allen said...

That is where you are still having problems. Announcing that there's been a "systematic campaign" is trying to explain "why." Furthermore, it was not stated as a "hypothesis," it was stated as a fact. In fact, you cannot say there was a "systematic campaign" if you admit yourself the entire idea is based on a hypothesis. We are past where textual critics would be of use; now you are entering the realm of church history. That is why I requested contemporary sources to demonstrate your point.

The main problem may be a choice of words. "Systematic campaign" suggests a church-wide, controlled environment with some intent. This in and of itself has not been proven. You are allowed to reword yourself, but to continue using that word would simply be erroneous.

TJ said...

Here's what I wrote, "The fact is, there was a systematic campaign to remove God's name from non-Hebrew writings."

This, again, is not the 'why?', it's the 'what?' This is factual, based on the overwhelming manuscript evidence. I'll explain this more below. I continued with my hypothesis on why, "It seems to have stemmed from a Jewish superstition and was carried over by the Christians at some point."

I used the word "seems" specifically to not present that part as fact. I actually obtained that view a long time ago from the ASV Preface, which you just accused me of not reading. I don't view the 'systematic campaign' as some centralized and highly-coordinated "Church-wide" agenda, things weren't that organized at that time. I'm talking more of a movement among scribes of adopting a policy to replace all instances of God's name.

I see that very same 'campaign' or movement in modern times with, for example, the RSV's policy on removing the divine name. Even in modern times there is relatively little attention given to this practice, it's just become accepted.

Tony-Allen said...

I was not debating the "seems," I was debating what you said was fact. If you're saying this is a general movement among scribes, then that is not a "systematic campaign," hence my suggestion that you should probably use another phrase. If you admit "things weren't that organized at that time," then you admit there could not have been a "systematic campaign."

A definition of campaign is "a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purpose." Another definition reads: "a series of coordinated activities...designed to achieve a social, political, or commercial goal." Can you demonstrate there was any such coordinated measure taken? You yourself have admitted things could not have been that organized, therefore how could this have been so?

TJ said...

This is a little too pedantic for me Tony, and not very interesting. I'm not going to start with definitions of words now. I get it; you didn't like the phrase I used. Did any other points get through to you?

Tony-Allen said...

I think there might indeed be a disconnect here. My original intent in questioning you was to ascertain what you meant by "systematic campaign," and if you simply meant a trend among scribes, that's something I'll allow Matthew to discuss with you. I was simply trying to get to the heart of what you meant by that phrase.

Tony-Allen said...

Ha we posted at once :P

I'm a firm believer words have meaning. Some beliefs are taught by a person directly, some are caught by the person's own words. Blame experience in a liberal seminary for my caution with words. I was simply seeking your use of that phrase and might have suggested rephrasing it was all.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Thanks

Matthew said...

On of the manuscripts from the second century, codex Cester Beatty, P46, contains nine of the Apostle Paul's letters. In this text, we find ΚC and sometimes ΘC with a horizontal bar above them in citations of the Hebrew Bible where the Tetragrammaton occurs in the Hebrew text. KC is short for Kurios and ΘC for Theos. This is what is known as the nomina sacra.

So it is my contention that when the New Testament quoted form the LXX, the Tetragrammaton would have been substituted by the nomina sacra.

The problem with this whole discussion is there is simply no hard manuscript evidence on the New Testament side.

Scholar George Howard who agrees with you that the Tetragrammaton was in the NT admits this:

"My theory about the Tetragrammaton is just that, a theory. Some of my colleagues disagree with me (for example Albert Pietersma). Theories like mine are important to be set forth so that others can investigate their probability and implications. Until they are proven (and mine has not been proven) they should not be used as a surety for belief."

Even though Albert Pietersma does not accept Howard's theory, he has stated:

"It might possibly still be debated whether perhaps the Palestinian copies with which the NT authors were familiar read some form of the tetragram."

Your argument also relies on the fact that when the NT authors quote the LXX, they quote it verbatim. That is not the case. There are places where the NT author's citation differs slightly from that of the Septuagint: either because the author has adjusted the quotation to fit the syntax of his own sentence or otherwise adapted it to his purpose, or because he has quoted the Septuagint from memory, or because the quotation represents a textual variation. There are places where the NT author has apparently corrected the Septuagint in order to be closer to the Hebrew. So it is conceivable that they would replace the Tetragrammaton with the nomina sacra.

However, there is another problem here as well. If we ever do find Greek NT manuscripts that have the Tetragrammaton, it will appear in verses in which the Jehovah's Witnesses will be very upset to see it! NT authors often apply OT texts to Jesus that originally applied to Yahweh, the God of Israel. The NT uses these texts consistently with their original intent—they describe Yahweh—and recognize that their description applies to Jesus as being no less truly Yahweh than is God the Father.

My other thought on this is, how important is it really to know and use God's name?

"God also said to Moses, "Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, 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; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation." - Exodus 3:15 HCSB

Abraham, who is called the man of faith and is an example for us all, didn't ever know God's name. Must not be important or at least necessary for salvation.

Also, God preserves his word. If God was concerned about his name being in the NT, he would have preserved it.


TJ said...

Hey Tony,

You're staying up much too late. :P

If my wording is what caused us to be on two different planes, I apologize. Just to give you a little insight into why I would have chosen those words, I bear in mind the scriptural warnings/prophecies that the Christian congregation would quickly be overtaken by bad teachings and apostasy. Jesus described this with his ‘wheat-and-weeds’ analogy. (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43) The wheat field would be overrun with weeds, and only at the harvest would they be separated again.

Paul reiterated this same thought, assuring his readers concerning the day of the Lord, that it “shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) He also mentioned that at that time, there was still something restraining that “man of sin” and the “falling away”. (2 Thessalonians 2:6)

Finally, at the close of the first century, John, the aged and last living apostle, wrote this warning, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18)

More examples could be cited, but it was with these scriptures in mind that I labeled such a popular trend of substituting out God's name from the OT as a systematic campaign. It had the same pattern and plan as an unrelenting infection.


TJ said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks for that. P46 is dated at the very earliest to about 175 CE, which is over a hundred years after its contents were originally written. That leaves plenty of time for copies to have subject to the substitution policy to find its way in. Think of how many years it takes for a studious person to wear out their personal copy of the Bible. These were community texts that were even less durable. New copies would have been made often. Note too that this is the time period when we see substitutions first appearing in the LXX.

It really wasn't so long ago that it was consistently argued by scholars that God's name never appeared in the LXX. So don't get too locked into a position. The name has always been a special case, even today.

You said, "Your argument also relies on the fact that when the NT authors quote the LXX, they quote it verbatim."

I don't believe so. They always quoted the essence of what the LXX had. So I don't see how this would make it more probable that they would adopt a policy to remove this one name. We don't see them using other such policies.

You said, "If we ever do find Greek NT manuscripts that have the Tetragrammaton, it will appear in verses in which the Jehovah's Witnesses will be very upset to see it! NT authors often apply OT texts to Jesus that originally applied to Yahweh."

This is a common misconception. It wouldn't upset me anymore than the fact that NT authors also applied OT texts to Jesus that applied to David. Does that make Jesus David? It's funny that you bring this up actually. I just responded to the very same reasoning elsewhere, where it was pointed out that Jesus does something originally said of Jehovah. Here is what I said:

"You mentioned John 1:23. A passage I sometimes ask people to read is found at Matthew 8:5-13; picture the scene in your mind as you read it. Think you have the picture? Now read the corresponding account recorded by Luke, found at Luke 7:1-10. Does this change your view of what took place? I see the same thing happening with respect to John 1:23."

You said, "Abraham, who is called the man of faith and is an example for us all, didn't ever know God's name."

This is another misunderstanding. Abraham used God's name, e.g. Genesis 18:27; 22:14. When God 'revealed his name' to Moses, it is meant that he revealed the full meaning of that name. But God's name was known and used from Adam and Eve's time onward.

As to the importance of that name, the prophet Joel, in writing about the day of Jehovah, wrote, "it must occur that everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe." (Joel 2:32) Paul later quoted this very verse. (Romans 10:13)

Really though, if God put his name in the Bible more than any other name, invites us to call upon it and Jesus made it manifest, don't you think we should use it?

Matthew said...


I thank you for your thoughts and arguments.

I refer you to the following article, "YHWH in the New Testament".

To quote from this article:

In summary:

Prior to the twentieth century our oldest copies of the Old Testament texts dated from a millennium or more after the close of the OT era. Overnight, that gap shrank hundreds of years. With a millennium-long gap, it would have been highly speculative to have guessed what we would find in older Greek translations of a Hebrew original. (The fact that a translation is the subject is significant, since translations exhibit a greater degree of verbal variance from one another than copies in the same language do from one another)…

The situation with the New Testament is not the same. We are not talking about translations of the original language texts into other languages, and we are not talking about a millennium long gap. We have manuscripts of the NT in the original language dating from as little as 25 years from the close of the NT era. We have manuscripts of virtually the entire NT dating from a century after the NT was finished. We also have a paper trail of writers quoting from those NT writings throughout the intervening century; these writers confirm the evidence of the NT manuscripts that no change in the text was made.[11]

In the above debate, Rob Bowman states, “…even though the manuscript evidence does not provide absolute, mathematically certain proof that your [WTBTS] position is impossible, the best explanation of the evidence we have is that your [WTBTS] position is incorrect.”[12]

I very much agree.

TJ said...

Thank you for that Matthew. The difference I see is that we are not talking about simple "verbal variance" here. We are talking about an evident and distinct policy of editing one word out of the LXX that started occurring before our oldest known relatively complete NT manuscripts were made, though we have no evidence this policy was around until after the NT was completed.

Since the Greek LXX was primarily copied by Christian scribes at this time (the Jews wanting little to do with it anymore), it stands to reason that this same policy could easily have carried over to the NT as well. Do you recognize a "falling away" taking place among the Christian congregation after the apostolic era?


Matthew said...


No TJ, it does not stand to reason. I think that the objective facts show that you are wrong.

Take a look at Raymond Franz's book, "In Search of Christian Freedom".

One of the most important chapters is chapter 14 entitled: A People For His Name. He does a very good job in debunking the Watchtower's myth that Christians must use the name Jehovah when identifying themselves as a group or organization.

He argues that the Watchtower Society has misrepresented the issue by dogmatically claiming that the apostles extensively used the name Yahweh despite evidence to the contrary.

He highlights the overall theme that runs through the New Testament - that being the glorification of the name of Jesus Christ; and that Christ's followers were to identify themselves as His followers. To arbitrarily state that adopting the name Jehovah into a sectarian name somehow makes it superior is off base.


TJ said...


I'm not sure how that response follows at all what we were talking about (and it didn't answer my question). I can only guess that you wanted to bring attention to this particular book. OK. But instead of telling me what someone else argues, make the argument yourself and let's examine the claims against scripture.

Matthew said...

Back to P46. It contains, in fragmentary form, nine of the apostle Paul’s letters.

The date of this codex formerly was for long estimated to be about 200 A.D.

There is some evidence for dating it even earlier.

In 1988, in Volume 69, Fasc. 2, of the scholarly publication Biblica, Dr. Y. K. Kim, a manuscript expert, has presented serious evidence for redating it to the latter part of the first century, perhaps even before the reign of Emperor Domitian, that is, before 81 A.D. If correct, the evidence he advances would, at the least, place the papyrus collection within a few decades of the time of Paul’s original writings.

You claim that the original apostolic writings contained the Tetragrammaton, hundreds of times, and that it was only in later centuries that ‘apostate Christians’ removed it from those writings. If that is true, is it not reasonable that during the century immediately following the writing of the Christian Scriptures there should have been at least some appearance of the Tetragrammaton in the copies made? That's the case for the Septuagint. If the Tetragrammaton had appeared originally in the letters of Paul, some of them written as late as 60/61 A.D., it seems hard to believe that it would have been quickly removed in the copies. If the use of the Tetragrammaton were of major importance, certainly the Apostle John’s influence should have exercised an effect in its favor on Christian copyists of apostolic letters (including the letters of Paul), not only during John’s lifetime but for some time after.

It is certainly reasonable that we should expect to find at least some appearances of the
Tetragrammaton in the letters found in the ancient P46.

The plain fact is that in P46 there is not a single use of the Tetragrammaton in any form. Paul quotes the Septuagint, but not once do his quotations have the Tetragrammaton. His quotations follow the practice of replacing the Tetragrammaton with the Greek kyrios (Lord) or theos (God).

You argue that the appearance of the Tetragrammaton in some of the most ancient copies (actually fragmentary copies) of the Septuagint is proof that it was originally there. If that principle applies, then the same principle should rightly apply here, namely, that the absence of the Tetragrammaton in this most ancient copy of nine of Paul’s letters is proof that it was also absent in the apostle’s original writings.

If the Tetragrammaton had appeared originally in his letters,some of them written as late as 60/61 A.D., it is inconceivable that it would have been eliminated so soon after the original writing, at a time when other apostles, notably John, were still alive.

Your claim that, when quoting from the LXX, the apostles and other first-century Christian writers included the Tetragrammaton in their writings is, then, based on theory only, a speculative theory that the historical evidence weighs predominantly against.

Matthew said...

Also, The discovery of the fragments of the Septuagint only allows for the possibility of the appearance of the Tetragrammaton in Septuagint copies that may have been found in Palestine in the first century. This of itself it does not prove that such was the case.

Either way, the Septuagint did not use a translation of the Tetragrammaton, but wrote the four letters in various alphabets. Transcribing the Tetragrammaton is a far cry from translating it into the target language.

This all still doesn't prove that the New Testament writers used the Tetragrammaton when they quoted from the Septuagint. It's possible that they had copies of the Septuagint that didn't have the Tetragrammaton. It's also possible that they had copies of the Septuagint with the Tetragrammaton and replaced it with kurios or theos. That they did replace it is evident by the complete lack of the Tetragrammaton in any existing Greek Manuscript.

The New Testament manuscripts were preserved with remarkable accuracy. New Testament manuscript expert Professor Kurt Aland says:

"The text of the New Testament has been excellently transmitted, better than any other writing from ancient times; the possibility that manuscripts might yet be found that would change its text decisively is zero."

Greek text scholar F. J. A. Hort says, "the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation [in the ancient copies of the Christian Scriptures] can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text."

With the overwhelming testimony of the Greek New Testament manuscript tradition, we can safely throw out the idea that the Tetragrammaton was ever included in the New Testament autographs.

Also, the issue of the Hebrew Translations, the "J Documents", is really laughable. They are first of all translations. Since when do we base our text off of translations? That's the exact same style of argument that the King James Only movement uses. The J Documents are all later then the 14th Century and some are from the 19th Century. They do not reflect anything but the translators person bias. They contain nothing of substantial worth in the discussion of the Greek New Testament autographs.

The question then raised is why the change? Why is the Tetragrammaton so prominent in the Old Testament, and then not even used in the New Testament? The answer is simple. The emphasis in the New Testament is not on the Covenant God Yahweh, but has switched to his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of a distant covenant God, we have a Father, and are taught by Christ to call him such in the Lord's Prayer.


TJ said...

Hi Matt,

I think you're essentially restating everything that we've already addressed many times. The manuscript evidence cannot prove conclusively, one way or another, if the divine name was originally in the NT or not. And since there has not yet been an ancient manuscript of the NT found with the divine name in it, I am not critical of modern translations for not using it in the NT portion of scripture. But the LXX manuscript evidence does give interesting insight into how the name was treated in the first few centuries.

Again, I feel that your forcefulness against the NWT for using the divine name in the NT, which is against available (NT) manuscript evidence, is unbalanced when compared to your relatively apathetic view of the vast majority of translations out there that leave the name out of the OT, also against available manuscript evidence. With all due respect, that leads me to believe that you aren't approaching this subject with a totally objective viewpoint. And your previous post going on about an ex-Jehovah's Witness' book seems to support that.

One aspect of this discussion that we haven't really gotten into that I've tried to get your viewpoint on a couple times now is what the scriptures themselves say would happen in the following centuries after Christianity's beginning. Do you believe that a 'falling away' from the teaching of the apostles was prophesied? If so, when? Thanks.

Matthew said...

Well, I do believe that error slowly crept into the Church over the centuries. That's why there were the Gnostics, and all sorts of heresies. However I don't buy the whole "great apostasy" deal that the Watchtower spins. The true church was never completely lost and there were always true believers. The errors that entered the Church were for the vast majority errors related to the Roman Church, viz. cannon law, veneration of saints and icons, exaltation of Mary, the Mass, the Papacy, Purgatory, Indulgences, etc.

The 1689 London Confession has a good section that I am in agreement with. "The purest churches under heaven are liable to be troubled by mixture and error, and some have so far degenerated as no longer to be churches of Christ at all, but 'synagogues of Satan'. Nevertheless, Christ always has had a kingdom in this world of such as believe in Him and profess His name, and He ever will have such a kingdom to the world's end." - 1689 Conf. 26.3

When it comes to the most common passage cited on this issue, 2 Thessalonians 2, I am not sure that this passage isn't talking about anything but the Jewish Rebellion and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.

TJ said...

Thanks for that Matt. I too believe that there has always been true believers on earth down through the centuries. But what do you believe John was talking about when he wrote that it was "the last hour"? (1 John 2:18-19)

Matthew said...

Good question. The verse in question is:

"Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour. " (1 John 2:18 ASV)

I think that last hour began with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (compare Hebrews 1:2); so I think the implication is that his second coming could occur at any time.

TJ said...

John wrote those words quite a few decades after Jesus' resurrection, and we are still awaiting Jesus return even now. To me, saying it is the last hour stresses imminence. What's more, John tells us how he knows it's the last hour, not because Jesus has been resurrected and could return at any time, but because of the presence of the many antichrists from among themselves.

Compare this with what the apostle Paul said: "I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves." (Acts 20:29-30)

Do you see the parallel? Paul says that after he leaves there would be a falling away and John, at the end of his life and as the last living apostle, draws attention to an 'antichrist' influence that was now taking over. Could it not be that the apostles were acting as the "restraint" against the lawlessness spoken of at 2 Thessalonians 2:7?

Matthew said...

I think that what you say is possible. I would add the caveat that I don't think that this was a complete loss of the Church. Jesus said there would be both wheat and weeds until the end.

When it comes to the "antichrist" or "man of lawlessness", we must note that Antiochus IV Epiphanes who desecrated the Temple by offering a big to Zeus and claimed to be "God in the Flesh", is the reference point which Daniel, Paul and Jesus both draw from.

I believe that the man of lawlessness in the days of Paul was the Roman Emperor. Titus, Nero, Vespasian, Domitian, Hadrian, all of them. They demanded worship as "the divine son of god". The only way you can read Paul's words without thinking of a first-century Roman emperor is if you don't know your Roman emperors. Caligula had pulled his stunt in AD 39 as part of his program of having his deity recognized throught the empire. it was an absolutle outrage to the Jews, but it was even problematic for many pagans. They didn't mind deifying a king after he was safely dead, but when he acted like a god walking around the earth in real time, they were extremely uncomfortable. The apostle Paul probably wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians sometime around AD 53, when Caligula's offense was still fresh in people's minds.

Nero was much like Caligula--at least in terms of cruelty, megalomania, and a lot of power at his fingertips. The room was still full of fumes, and Paul know what would happen when the sparks finally came, and they did in AD 66-70.

The rebellion happened. The Jews rebelled against Rome. Titus desecrated and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The man of lawlessness was revealed. He continued to exist in the form of the different emperors. However, after about 400ish A.D., the man of Lawlessness became the Papacy of Rome, which holds the same title as the emperors did "Pontifex Maximus". So the office of the Pope is the Man of Lawlessness. When Christ returns, he will destroy this man of Lawlessness.

The Confession I hold to says in summary at 26.4

"It is impossible for the Pope of Rome in any true sense to be the head of the church, for he is the antichrist, described in Scripture as 'the man of sin', 'the son of perdition,' who 'exalts himself' in the church against Christ and 'above all that is called God', whom 'the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming'."

I would love to continue this conversation live. Do you have skype?

TJ said...

Hey Matt. That's an interesting interpretation, but not necessarily one I would subscribe to for various reasons that I could explain if need be.

There would no doubt be external threats to the congregation, but these scriptures seem to warn more against the internal ones. "The man of lawlessness" in Paul's letter is tied directly to the "apostasy", which would be within the congregation. He told the Ephesians that it would be men from among themselves that would twist things. And John too said that the antichrist 'went out from us'.

My point of course in all of this is to gain the historical context from a scriptural perspective on why it may have been possible for various extra-biblical traditions to take hold very early, possibly including the policy on removing God's name from writings.

I don't have skype but I do have the gmail chat. :)