traditions regarding tetragrammaton?

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Fri Aug 24 11:13:01 EDT 2001

>----- Original Message -----
>From: David Stabnow <dstabno at>
>To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
>Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2001 8:51 AM
>Subject: Re: traditions regarding tetragrammaton?
>>  If the one LXX MS reflects the original (which would make sense in
>>  context), the others are attempts to mitigate the language regarding the
>>  Name.
>Interesting point, since i think the LXX itself may be evidence of 
>translator with "traditions" to protect the name YHWH since it 
>usually kurios rather than a transliteration. It seems like i recall 
>someone posting here within the past few months and saying that 
>originally LXX (and NT!) MSS had a transliteration of Yahweh but 
>that later scribes replaced it with kurios. Does anyone know of 
>evidence for this? It would not seem likely to me, since we have 
>some pretty early LXX MSS evidence (some pre-Christian), which i 
>don't think have a transliterated name.
>The fact that both LXX and scribal evidence in MT and DSS all seem 
>to point to influence from these "traditions" would seem to indicate 
>that they were late and not original at the time of composition of 
>the HB.
>Regarding "kingdom of heaven" (mostly Matthew) vs. "kingdom of God" 
>(common elsewhere in NT), do we really have any evidence that this 
>was intended to avoid the word _theos_ with Jews, or was it simply 
>diversity of authors' preferences? Why would Matthew not want to say 
>"kingdom of God" when he used _theos_ in plenty of other contexts? 
>And why avoid "kingdom of God" which is not the same as "kingdom of 
>Yahweh" anyway? I don't see that this NT evidence (mostly just in 
>Matthew) is very strong. Am i missing something?
>Dan Wagner

Dear Dan,

I once wrote a thesis entitled "The tetragrammaton and its 
substitutes in the days of the second temple". Here are some points:

All the LXX manuscripts from the second and first centuries B.C.E and 
the first century C.E have the tetragrammaton, either in old Hebrew 
script, square Aramaic script, or as the phonetic transcription IAW ( 
indicating pronunciation). In the Chester Beatty Papyrii from 150 
C.E. the tetragrammaton is changed to KURIOS. While the Qumran sect 
and other groups did not use the tetragrammaton, other groups did, 
and we know nothing to which extent it was used by the people in the 
days of Jesus. The numerous claims that it was not used at all in the 
first century C.E. are unsubstantiated.

In discussions about the tetragrammaton we should differentiate 
between "alternative words" and "substitutes". Different titles and 
designations are used for God both in the OT and the NT, but they are 
not "substitutes" for YHWH. Only if people were afraid of using YHWH 
and used another word instead can we speak of a "substitute". The use 
of "heaven" and "the power" in the NT where we would have expected 
YHWH do not necessarily represent a use of substitutes. We find the 
word "heaven" referring to God in the book of Daniel, where we also 
find the tetrgrammaton. A basic problem for the substitution theory 
YHWH -> )A:DONFY -> KURIOS is that the Qumran sect did not use 
)A:DONFY as asubstitute for YHWH but they used )EL as a substitute. 
It is extremely difficult to correlate the KURIOS of the NT with 
)A:DONFY. But a strong case can be made for the view that the KURIOS 
of NT is a *translation* of more than one Hebrew word, something 
which corroborates with the view that KURIOS  was not original in the 

George Howard has made quite a good case for the view that the 
tetragrammaton originally occurred in the NT (See his article in The 
Anchor Bible Dictionary), and that it was replaced by KURIOS just as 
was the case in the LXX in the second century C.E.


Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

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