traditions regarding tetragrammaton?

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Mon Aug 27 07:45:38 EDT 2001

Dear Henry,

>>  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).


>I'd be curious to see the evidence for this "uniformity"; anyway you
>left out the Yodh-He-Waw-He which, when written right-to-left in
>"square" letters in Greek ms., was read back left-to-right by Greeks
>as the Greek letters Pi-Iota-Pi-Iota, so that the divine name then
>became "PIPI" ;-)

RF 27.8
I have collected the evidence in my book, which has been mentioned 
earlier in this thread. In addition to the Greek evidence, There is 
evidence that Syriac versions originally may have contained the 
tetragrammaton as well.

>>  While the Qumran sect and other groups did not use the
>>  tetragrammaton,


>?? Certainly in written ms. they did.

RF 27.8
The tetragrammaton occurs in the DSS, sometimes written in Old Hebrew 
script in a text with Aramaic script. In my Gramcord DSS text (which 
contains most of the DSS but not all) it is found 231 times.  My 
point was that the sect probably viewed the tetragrammaton as a word 
that should not be used in conversations or pronounced when a text 
was read. Remember also that manuscripts were imported from other 
places, and some of these use the tetragrammaton.

>>  It is extremely difficult to correlate the KURIOS of the NT with
>  )A:DONFY.

>From what point of view?  Kurios is the most direct and simplest Greek
>translation of Hebrew 'Adhonai (leaving aside the idiosyncratic plural
>and possessive morphology of the Hebrew form, which would not transfer
>smoothly to Greek).  (By the way, the use of "heaven" / ouranos seems
>to be partly simply a reflection of internationally-fashionable
>religious terminology of the 2nd. half of the 1st millennium B.C.)

RF 27.8
 From the point of view that )A:DONFY is a substitute of YHWH. NT 
quotes from the OT may illustrate the problem. In these quotes we 
find KURIOS in the NT manuscripts from the second century C.E., and 
we must ask why the manuscripts do not have YHWH. There are two 
possibilities, 1) KURIOS is used as a substitute for YHWH, and 2) 
YHWH was found originally but was later replaced by KURIOS.

As a matter of fact, all pasages about the use of YHWH in the OT say 
that the name should *allways* be used (e.g. Exodus 3:15; Malachi 
3:16). Without particular reasons to the contrary we would expect 
that the NT writers would use the name. Such reasons do exist 
according to many scholars. They say that the tetragrammaton was not 
used any longer in the days of Jesus, but the substitute )A:DONFY was 
used, and the NT writers followed this custom. But whe evidence for 
this is lacking!

The only group where we have evidence for a disuse of YHWH is the 
Qumran sect. What was their substitute? Not )A:DONFY (which occurs 83 
times in the Gramcord DSS) but )EL. The consonants )L occurs 1458 
times in the Gramcord DSS, and about 700 of these refer to God. 
According to the OT we would expect the tetragrammaton in the NT, but 
if the custom of substitution was followed by the NT writers, we 
would, according to the available evidence, expect )EL and not 
)ADONFY. To rule out the OT's command that the name never should 
cease to be used, one has to demonstrate that )A:DONFY was a common 
*substitute* for YHWH in the first century C.E. But such evidence is 
completely lacking. So the view that KURIOS  in the NT was a 
translation of )A:DONFY which was a substitute for YHWH simply is 
unfounded, as far as historical/archaeological evidence is concerned. 
I therefore see no reason to believe that the NT writers would not 
obey the OT words regarding the tetragrammaton.

>>  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 NT.

>The second clause doesn't follow from the first; that Kurios may be a
>translation of more than one Hebrew or Aramaic word doesn't mean that
>it wasn't a fairly systematic "translation" (or substitute) for YHWH.
>In phrases such as (ho) kurios ho theos in Luke 1:32 etc. etc. I don't
>see how Kurios can be a translation or reflection of anything else.

RF 27.8
What we do know is that the tetragrammaton or IAW occurred in the LXX 
at least until the middle of the first century C.E. In the LXX 
manuscripts from the middle of the second century C.E. we find KS 
(and sometimes QS) where YHWH was written in the Hebrew text. The 
oldest NT manuscripts from the middle of the second century C.E. have 
these nomina sacra (KS and QS) as well (and other nomina sacra). It 
stands to reason that the abbreviations that we call nomina sacra was 
not in the NT autographs, so their occurrence in the second century 
manuscripts  show that the original text has been changed (in these 
instances). Because the same change occurred in the LXX, while it 
originally contained the tetragrammaton, it is not unreaonable to 
think that the tetragrammaton was found in the NT autographs as well. 
Particularly is this a logical view because there does not seem to be 
any reason why the NT writers should leave it out.

There are other Greek words with the meaning "Lord", which sometimes 
(e.g. in Acts) are used with reference to God. The use of KURIOS 
both with reference to God and his son, creates much confusion in 
some texts. There is also confusion when KURIOS is used as a title. 
Grice's linguistic principle, that we, when we work with a text, must 
presume that the author wrote in order to be understood, can be 
applied to the mentioned situation. The confusion created by the use 
of KURIOS in the NT would therefore corroborate with the view that 
KURIOS was introduced instead of YHWH in the last part of the first 
century C.E. or first part of the second century C.E. as a substitute 
for YHWH.

>>  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.

>It does seem to be a rather fatal flaw for this theory that not a
>single such manuscript or manuscript fragment of the NT has ever been
>found.  In any case, it seems to have been the international magicians
>and occultists of the ancient world (not necessarily either Hebrew or
>Christian) who were a lot more obsessed with the Hebrew name and its
>correct pronunciation than the early Christians were.  Has IAO (in
>Greek letters, with omega) really been found in Biblical ms., or just
>in magical papyri?

RF 28.8
Finds of manuscripts could of course solve the question. But in your 
work with your excellend dissertation you presumed many stages of 
phonological change which are not witnessed by manuscripts. So you 
should be ready to accept that the lack of old manuscrips is not 
really fatal. IAW is found in 4QLXXLevb which is dated to the first 
century B.C.E.

>Henry Churchyard   churchh at



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list