Divine name in NT

Jonathan Robie jonathan at texcel.no
Thu Oct 1 03:08:09 EDT 1998

At 10:57 PM 9/30/98, Wes Williams wrote:

>The earliest complete 
>text of Matthew in Hebrew is preserved in a 14th century work authored by 
>Shem-Tob ben-Isaac ben Shaprut, or just Shem-Tob. This is referred to as 
>"J1" in the work you cited. In this version of Matthew, YHWH is replaced 
>with ''H (with two yohds, an abbreviation for M$H, or ha-shem, meaning "the 
>Name" in Hebrew). This led and still leads Professor Howard to conclude: "I 
>have no hesitancy in saying that the occurrence of the Divine Name in 
>places where the canonical text lacks any reference to the Lord at all 
>[which is found three times in Shem-Tob, 22:32; 27:9, 28:9], eliminates 
>Shem-Tob as the author of the text." Why? He continues: "No pious Jew of 
>the Middle Ages would have dignified a Christian text by inserting the 
>Divine Name
. Whatever the date of this text (i.e. the source document), it 
>must have included the Divine Name from its inception."

First off, even if he is completely correct in his assertion that this is
based on a Hebrew original, "J1" would still be from the 14th century, and
would presumably be no closer to that Hebrew original than, say, a 14th
century Greek text of John, which most people would not use as manuscript

Secondly, even if "J1" were a manuscript from the 2d or 3d century, I would
have to know how Shem-Tov renders those verses to be able to respond
intelligently to what you say here. I note, for instance, that in Matt
22:32, QEOS occurs four times: EGW EIMI hO QEOS ABRAAM KAI hO QEOS ISAAK
in the same place as each use of QEOS, or only for the first three, or only
for the last? Also, this verse quotes Exodus 3:6, and I notice that in the
Hebrew MT, this text uses ELOHEY, not YHWH. I'm trying to figure out where
YHWH might plausibly be inserted in this verse, and I'm coming up empty,
which makes it really difficult to respond to what you say here. Since I
don't have access to Howard's work or to Shem-Tov's translation, could you
perhaps quote the Hebrew translation for these verses? 

Finally, I note that Howard himself concludes that "J2" is "in a much less
corrupted form than Shem-Tob", which implies to me that Howard sees
Shem-Tov as significantly corrupted.

>The du Tillet Hebrew version of Matthew ("J2") uses three yohds ''' (with 
>the center yohd raised) in place of the name YHWH. With regard to the text 
>that du Tillet used, Howard writes in "The Textual Nature of an Old Hebrew 
>Gospel of Matthew," 1986, p.63, note 34: "I now conclude with considerable 
>finality that the Hebrew Matthew of du Tillet is a rather thorough revision 
>of an earlier Hebrew Matthew in a much less corrupted form than Shem-Tob."

In what verses does he use this? What evidence is there that it is "in
place of the name YHWH" in those verses? Are any of these occurences in any
place other than OT quotes?

Note that both of these translations were probably made for Jews who would
be familiar with the use of the divine name in these Old Testament
passages. Hence, it makes lots of sense to use the divine name in
translations of these quotes, if only to make sure that the target audience
recognizes the quotes.

>Translations that include the name 
>"Jehovah" or, I saw one recently that just inserts the Tetragrammaton in 
>the NT, do not use these secondary sources as their primary line of 
>argumentation. There are other considerations. 

I would like to see a list of these considerations, since I saw no such
list in the appendix of the study Bible that sparked this discussion. Where
can I find such a list?

>For example, in James 5:10, 
>we have: Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the 
>exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of KURIOU. Here 
>we have an example of a statement that is textually correct but factually 
>wrong. They spoke in the name of YHWH. What should a "literal" translator 
>do when there is secondary textual evidence that the Divine Name was 
>originally there but removed? What they do may depend on their translation 
>principles. But reference to Hebrew versions containing nomina sacra in 
>various forms would be secondary sources, IMO.
Your assertion that this statement is factually wrong depends on a
particular interpretation of the phrase "in the name of". I'm stuck in a
hotel room, without access to the reference works I need, but in both
English and Greek, the phrase "in the name of" does not necessarily imply
invoking that person's name literally. For instance, if I say to you,
"Stop! In the name of the Law!", I do not need to know whether that name is
"Fred" or "Shirley", because the phrase "in the name of" does not require a
literal invocation of a particular name. The same seems to be true of
Greek. For instance, in Matt 10:41, hO DECOMENOS PROFHTHN EIS ONOMA
PROFHTOU MISQON PROFHTOU LHMYETAI, I can't think of any way to interpret
the phrase EIS ONOMA for which a literal invocation of a particular name
makes any sense.

If your translation changes the original before translating it, on the
basis of an interpretation like the one above, then I don't think that it
is a literal translation. Even in a less literal translation, think it is
vital that such a change be carefully footnoted, together with its
justification, because otherwise the reader has no way of knowing that the
text itself has been changed before it was translated. (By the way, which
Greek text was used as the basis for the New Testament portion of the New
World Translation?)

>In conclusion, I see a line of defense for its inclusion in the NT where OT 
>quotations and expressions included the name, at least until hard evidence 
>in the form of earlier NT MSS can be found. Or, as you suggested, footnotes 
>are a fine assistance to the reader. On the other hand, I think it proper 
>to note that there is no justification for the removal of the Divine Name 
>YHWH in the O.T. by the translation "LORD." Should not a "literal" 
>translation translate the name in some form in the OT? With that in mind, 
>even if NT MSS that contained the name were found, it may likely have 
>little impact on current translations. 

I rather like the Jerusalem Bible, especially in French (though I can
barely scrape by in that language). It uses "Yahweh" where the
Tetragrammeton occurs. The other translations I use generally have
introductions that show exactly what words are used to translate the
Tetragrammeton, but I agree with you that using a transliteration like
"Yahweh" makes it clearer that the Tetragrammeton was used in the original.

An interesting piece of trivia: since I represent my company to the World
Wide Web Consortium, I had to vote on a proposal to add the Tetragrammeton
to the UNICODE character set. Naturally, I voted "yes".
>Thank you for your thoughts and I always enjoy exchanging opinion with you.

Thanks, Wes. I really like the way you approach this kind of discussion.
You always make me think.

jonathan at texcel.no
Texcel Research

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