[this article is contributed by Alex Rover]
The theme of the JW.ORG June 2015 TV Broadcast is God’s name, and the program is presented by Governing Body member Geoffrey Jackson. [i]
He opens the program saying that God’s name is represented in Hebrew by 4 letters, which can be transliterated into English as YHWH or JHVH, commonly pronounced as Jehovah. While accurate, it is a peculiar statement, because we admit to not knowing the correct pronunciation of God’s name. We only know those four letters. The rest is tradition. The consequence of this statement is that we can use any common pronunciation of those four letters in our language to indicate God’s name, whether it be Yahweh or Jehovah.
Wasting no time, Geoffrey Jackson continues to quote Acts 15 verses 14 and 17. For proper context, we will not omit any verses:
“14 Simeon has explained how God first concerned himself to select from among the Gentiles a people for his name. 15 The words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written, 16 ‘After this I will return and I will rebuild the fallen tent of David; I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord, namely, all the Gentiles I have called to be my own,’ says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from long ago.” – Acts 15:14-18
And immediately afterward he states:
“Jehovah has taken out of the nations a people for his name. And we are proud to be the people who bear his name today as Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The two statements on their own are actually factual:
- It is true that Jehovah’s Witnesses today bear God’s name.
- It is also true that God selected out of the nations a people for his name.
But combine the two statements and the Governing Body is here actually suggesting that God himself has called modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses as his unique people out of all the nations. This is presented to us as if it were a proven fact!
A careful examination of Acts 15:14-18 demonstrates that the people taken are actually Israel. The tent of David, the temple of Jerusalem, would be restored one day. Then, the rest of humanity may seek Jehovah through this New Israel with its New Temple and New Jerusalem.
What this means is that the true “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was Israel, as Isaiah 43 declares:
“1 Now, this is what the Lord says, the one who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel. […] 10 You are my witnesses, says the Lord [Jehovah], my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may consider and believe in me, and understand that I am he. No god was formed before me, and none will outlive me.” – Isaiah 43
How was the temple of Jerusalem restored? Jesus Christ said:
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” – John 2:19
He was talking about his own body, which was resurrected after three days. Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses today? In a previous article, we explored the following Scripture:
“And you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root […] and you stand by faith.” – Rom 11:17-24
Quoting from that article:
The olive tree represents the Israel of God under the new covenant. A new nation does not mean the old nation is entirely disqualified, just like a new earth does not mean the old earth will be destroyed, and a new creation does not mean that our current bodies evaporate somehow. Likewise a new covenant doesn’t mean the promises to Israel under the old covenant have been undone, but it means a better or renewed covenant.
Per the prophet Jeremiah, our Father promised the coming of a new covenant which he would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah:
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:32-33)
This shows that Israel never ceased to be. The New Israel is a renewed Israel made up of Christians. Unfruitful branches of the olive tree were pruned out, and new branches were grafted in. The root of the olive tree is Jesus Christ, thus the members of the tree are all those in Christ.
What this means, simply put, is that all true anointed Christians are members of Israel. They are consequently Jehovah’s Witnesses. But wait, aren’t Christians also called Witnesses of Jesus? (Acts 1:7; 1 Co 1:4; Re 1:9; 12:17) [ii]
Witnesses of Jehovah = Witnesses of Jesus?
In the spirit of truth seeking, I wish to share an observation I made about Isaiah 43:10. I discussed this with several of the authors and editors of Beroean Pickets and want to disclose that we are not fully united on this observation. I want to thank Meleti specifically for allowing me to publish this subheading in the spirit of freedom of expression despite his reservations. Imagine if JW.ORG would ever allow such freedom! I also encourage everyone in advance to take full advantage of the discussion forum in regards to this topic.
Please review this scripture again, this time from the New World Translation:
“’You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah, ‘Yes, my servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and have faith in me and understand that I am the same One. Before me no God was formed, and after me there has been none.’” – Isaiah 43:10 Revised NWT
1. The Father was never formed, so how can this Scripture apply to him? Jesus Christ is the only Begotten.
2. If Jehovah here refers to the Father, then how can it state that after the Father no God was formed? Christ was formed by the Father and was ‘a God’, according to John chapter 1.
3. Why the sudden transition from Jehovah’s Witness to Jesus’ Witness in the New Testament? Did Jesus usurp Jehovah after he came to earth? Could in this verse Jehovah possibly be a manifestation of the Father through Christ? If this was so, then Scripture should declare Israel the people of Christ. This is in harmony with John 1:10, which states that Christ came to his own people.
Perhaps, and I speculate, the name Jehovah was the name THE LOGOS employed whenever he meant to reveal something about his Father to mankind. Jesus himself said:
“The Father and I are one.” – John 10:30
I do believe the Father and the Son are different persons, but based on Isaiah 43:10, I wonder whether the name Jehovah is unique to the Father. On the forum, AmosAU posted a list of Scriptures of the Old Testament where the term YHWH may refer to Christ.
I wouldn’t go as far as to claim that YHWH = Jesus. That is trinitarian error in my view. It’s almost like the word Divine. Jesus is divine (in his Father’s image), Jehovah is divine. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus = Jehovah. I would contend that YHWH is the way mankind knew the Father before Christ came to earth, but that it was actually Christ revealing the Father through the name all along.
Consider this verse:
“no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him.” – Matthew 11:27
None in pre-Christian times could know the Father, except through Christ’s revelation of him. How did people know the Father prior to Christ? They knew him as Jehovah. Christ came down to earth to reveal the Father. The Israelites knew the Father as Jehovah, but all they knew about the Father was what Christ himself revealed to them.
So was YHWH a manifestation of the Father through Christ before he came to earth? If so, it makes sense that Christ in Greek Scripture never called his Father by the name Jehovah? He previously made known the True God through the name Jehovah, but now that he had come, it was time to get to know the True God as a personal Father.
4. In whom do we need to have faith according to the Bible? We cannot know Jehovah unless you have “faith in me ” (Isaiah 43:10) I have faith in Christ, so I have come to know the Father through Christ.
Despite this expressed observation and opinion, I think it is fair to continue to use the name Jehovah as a unique name for the Father, because even if the observations have merit, Christ meant for Israel to know his Father through this name prior to his coming. And once on earth, he taught us to honor what this name stood for in relation to his heavenly Father.
Jehovah’s Witnesses = JW.ORG?
So as we have demonstrated from the Scriptures, true Jehovah’s Witnesses are spiritual Israelites. With spiritual, I don’t mean symbolic. I speak of those who value the truth from Scripture, anointed Christians. Why does the Governing Body then say it applies to their modern-day religion? The overwhelming majority of JW.ORG members are not anointed. This group of non-anointed Christians which JW.ORG members call a ‘great crowd of other sheep’ are viewed as antitypical proselytes – foreigners – who in times past “submitted to the Law covenant and worshipped along with the Israelites.”[iii]
This is really an imaginary antitype, because as we have seen, Gentile proselytes to Christianity are grafted into the Olive Tree as new branches of Israel. (Compare Ephesians 2:14) This is why Revelation 7:9-15 describes how the Great Crowd serves in the Holy of Holies (naos). Such a privilege is only held out for anointed Christians, who are made Holy through Christ’s blood.
Only true anointed Christians are Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was the original viewpoint of the Society. The Jonadabs (as they used to call the Great Crowd of Other Sheep), were not spiritual Israelites, not part of the 144,000, and hence did not have the name Jehovah’s Witness. [iv] Accordingly, only a very small minority of JW.ORG members can count themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses today. While this is the Biblical point of view, the Watchtower Society no longer teaches this.
Let’s see the marvelous reasoning they employ to prove that all JW.ORG members are Jehovah’s Witnesses, by means of an analogy:
- Sophia is a representative for the girl scouts.
- I name my daughter Sophia.
- My daughter is the only one named Sophia.
- Hence my daughter is the representative for the girl scouts.
Makes sense right? Except Geoffrey Jackson misrepresents claim 3. He says that Satan made people forget Jehovah’s name, insinuating that JW.ORG are the only ones using God’s name.
A Catholic monk and not JW.ORG is thought to be responsible for first writing down the name of Jehovah in his book Pudego Fidei in 1270 CE. [v] For nearly 700 years afterward, not JW.ORG, but other authors and works preserved the name of Jehovah.
The name Jehovah appeared in John Rogers’ Matthew Bible in 1537, the Great Bible of 1539, the Geneva Bible of 1560, Bishop’s Bible of 1568 and the King James Version of 1611. More recently, it has been used in the Revised Version of 1885, the American Standard Version in 1901, and the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1961. – Wikipedia
The complete New World Translation did not appear until 1961! But JW.ORG has hardly been the only one to use God’s name in Scripture. Yahweh is to Jehovah what Sofia is to Sophia, they are other ways to spell the same name in modern English. Yahweh, an equally valid preservation of God’s name, can be found in these recent works:
The New Jerusalem Bible (1985), the Amplified Bible (1987), the New Living Translation (1996, revised 2007), the English Standard Version (2001), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004) – Wikipedia
If we look back at the four-step logical argument above, given that there are many girls named Sophia in the world, would you be able to tell which Sophia is the representative for the girl scouts just by the name? Of course not! Once again, the argumentation appears sound at first glance, but does not withstand scrutiny when viewed in light of the facts.
It was Jehovah himself who named Israel his witness, and Jesus himself who named his disciples as his witnesses. What a contrast with JW.ORG, who appointed themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then claimed they were the only Sophia on earth.
Substituting JHWH with LORD
Then the program goes on to examine some reasons why different translations choose to employ the title LORD or GOD versus using Jehovah. The first reason examined is because translators follow an orthodox Jewish tradition of substituting the word Yahweh by LORD.
Geoffrey Jackson has a valid point in my opinion. It would be much better to leave the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) in place, instead of substituting it for LORD. On the other hand, it would be unfair to say that they have removed God’s name from Scripture, since you can argue that in a translation, you remove all Hebrew words and replace them with English words. Also the translators are not dishonest, since the foreword clarifies that every time they print LORD, the original said YHWH or Yahweh.
Then a most revealing statement is made by the Governing Body:
“So it wasn’t the Jewish people who removed God’s name from the Hebrew Scriptures, rather it was the Apostate Christians who took the tradition one step further and actually removed the name of God from the translations of the Hebrew Scriptures.” – (5:50 minutes into the program)
Why didn’t he say: “from the Bible”? Is Geoffrey Jackson implying that they only removed God’s name from the Hebrew Scriptures, but not from the Greek New Testament? Not at all. The truth of this matter is that God’s name does not occur in the New Testament at all. Not even once! So it could not have been removed.[vi] His statement is correct! Unfortunately, this does corroborate our claim in our article “Orphans” that JW.ORG messed with God’s Word and inserted JHWH where it was not there.
The next argument is that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for making the word of God invalid by means of their traditions. But did Jesus Christ specifically have the practice in mind of not speaking God’s name when he said this, or was he teaching that they lacked true love for their neighbor, thus accusing them of “legalism”? Note that the accusation of legalism is often raised against JW.ORG itself, because they make many man-made rules which have become JW traditions, such as not wearing beards. We could devote an entire essay to how JW.ORG has promoted countless traditions of their own, while we often lament the lack of love shown by many rule-loving elders in the congregations.
Geoffrey Jackson gives many more good reasons why Jehovah’s name should not be removed from the Hebrew Scriptures, the most notable argument being that he had his name recorded thousands of times. He says: “if he didn’t want us to use his name, then why did he reveal it to mankind?”
But then we have another lapse of honesty. We are taken to John 17:26 where it is written:
“I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known”.
The first problem is that by his own admission, the Jews already knew God’s name. It is recorded thousands of times in the Hebrew Scriptures. So what did Jesus “make known”? Was it just God’s name, or was it the significance of God’s name? Recall that Jesus revealed the Father to us. He is the visible manifestation of God’s glory. For example: he made it known that God is love, by exemplifying love.
The second problem is that if Jesus truly meant that he was making the name Jehovah known, then why did he address his God as Father and not as Jehovah in the verses immediately preceding John 17:26? Observe:
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they can see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, even if the world does not know you, I know you, and these men know that you sent me.” – John 17:24-25
Obviously Jesus was not teaching us to simply use the appellation, “Jehovah”, but rather to manifest the qualities of his Father by exemplifying God’s love for mankind.
Yahweh or Jehovah?
Joseph Byrant Rotherham used Yahweh in 1902 but a few years later, he published a work where he chose the rendition, Jehovah. Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body explains that he continued to prefer Yahweh as a more correct pronunciation, but because he understood that Jehovah as a translation would connect better with his audience, he used it on the principle that easy recognition of the divine name was more important than accuracy.
Jesus’ name was probably pronounced Yeshua or Yehoshua, yet Jesus is far more common in English and thus if translators are at work, they want to make sure the target audience understands exactly who is referred to. A very good argument made is that God allowed the Greek Writers to translate Jesus’ name into the Greek equivalent “Iesous”. This sounds a lot different than Yeshua. Thus we can conclude that the exact pronunciation is not of primary concern, as long as we know who we talk about when using a name.
Geoffrey Jackson points out that Jesus in English has two syllables, whereas the Hebrew equivalents Yeshua or Yehoshua have three and four respectively. He makes this point because Jehovah has three syllables, whereas Yahweh has two. Thus if we care for precision, we might use Yeshua and Yahweh, but if we care to write in modern language, we’ll stick with Jesus and Jehovah.
Before the dawn of the internet, the corpus of books would be the best way to find out which was indeed more popular. And it seems like the word Jehovah was popularized in English in the late 18th century, a hundred years before Charles Taze Russell came on the scene.
What happened since 1950 according to the graph above? Yahweh became more popular in books. So why are we not using Yahweh today? According to Geoffrey we are to use the most common name!
Here is my theory, quite humorous to entertain. Consider this:
The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Yankee Stadium, New York, on August 2, 1950. – Wikipedia
So I presume that what happened there is that other Christian denominations wanted to distance themselves from Jehovah’s Witnesses and started favoring Yahweh. True that if you do a google search, you will find a lot more mention of “Jehovah” than “Yahweh”. But remove all references to and from “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and I suspect we will find a picture more like the graph above, which only deals with printed books.
In other words, if my theory has any grounds, JW.ORG has done more to depopularize the word Jehovah than any other group. They have adopted the name Jehovah in 1931 and requested a trademark for the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, aka JW.ORG.[vii] Isn’t that something special, to legally pursue a trademark Jehovah granted specifically to Israel?
Video Review: How can we be sure the Bible is True?
The video states:
“When it mentions scientific matters, what it says should be in harmony with proved science.”
We are not scientists, and do not support any scientific theory over another. On Beroean Pickets we simply believe that God created all things through Christ as Scripture teaches us, and we also agree that scripture and nature are in harmony, because they are both inspired. What Scripture does not state leaves room for interpretation. What Scripture does state should be absolute and true. God’s word is truth. (John 17:17; Psalm 119:60)
But why is JW.ORG deliberately vague in their word choice ‘proved science’? Notice this quote from a pro-evolution website:
It is true that the theory of evolution has not been proven – if, by that term, one means established beyond any further possibility of doubt or refutation. On the other hand, neither has atomic theory, the theory of relativity, quantum theory, or indeed any other theory in science. – Patheos
Another interesting aspect of the quote above is ‘when it mentions scientific matters’. We ask: “what is considered scientific matter”? The definition of science is:
“The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”
Nothing highlights this more than the next claim:
“When it foretells the future, those prophecies should come true 100% of the time.”
In view of decades of failed prophetic interpretation and setting false expectations (a claim I don’t even need to substantiate because no-one can disagree with it), how have they contributed to belief in the Bible as God’s trustworthy book? They are guilty of turning millions away from God’s word due to their prophecies who did not come true. Instead JW.ORG dishonestly calls it refinement, new light, improved understanding.
While we believe on this site that God’s word is accurate in its predictions, we need to distinguish the theories or interpretation from man with what Scripture actually states. Accordingly, some proclaim that Bible Prophecy for the “Last Days” has started fulfillment. The end has been announced many times, but precisely because the Bible is accurate, these interpretations only proved to match Bible Prophecy partially. If the interpretation is correct, we agree that 100% of the words written concerning the Prophecy need to be fulfilled.
Then the video reveals its true goal. Three questions are raised:
- Who is the Author of the Bible?
- What is the Bible about?
- How can you understand the Bible?
The message is that the beautiful Asian girl cannot find the answer in her Bible by herself, but that Jehovah has provided another written document published by JW.ORG titled “Good News From God”.
Chapter 3 answers the third question “How can you understand the Bible?”
“This brochure will help you to understand the Bible by using the same method that Jesus used. He referred to one Bible text after another and explained ‘the meaning of the Scriptures’”.
In other words, JW.ORG’s brochure will help you to understand the Bible and explain the meaning of the Scriptures to you. But can we trust that this meaning truly comes from God? On this site we continuously point out unscriptural teachings in the written documents of JW.ORG by using God’s Word the Bible.
Just look at the answer to question 2: “What is the Bible about?” The brochure would have you believe the purpose is for you to become Jehovah’s friend rather than his child! What a stark contrast between the Christian hope is presented by the Watchtower and the Christian hope presented in the pages of the Bible!
All this effort to build faith in God’s word the Bible culminates with this message, that we need JW.ORG to understand it. Jehovah could preserve his word for thousands of years, but cannot make it understandable to those who read it without the Watchtower helping you.
[iii] See Questions from Readers, w02 5/1, pp. 30-31
[iv] Watchtower 2/15/1966 paragraphs 15,21
[v] Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, p. 884-5, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses
[vii] Trademark Application Document from https://jwleaks.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/final-outcome-us-trademark-application-no-85896124-jw-org-06420-t0001a-march-12-2014.pdf