Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The KJV translators almost always translated the Tetragrammaton into English as "LORD" (all capital letters).

For example, in Deut. 6:4:

enter image description here

But, on the rare occasion --- extremely rare --- they chose instead to write "IEHOVAH" instead of "LORD."

Now, this question is NOT about the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. The question is, why did the KJV translators seemingly break their rule of writing "LORD" for the Tetragrammaton in these instances?

For example,

in Exo. 6:3:

enter image description here

in Psa. 83:18:

enter image description here

in Isa. 12:2:

enter image description here

in Isa. 26:4:

enter image description here

share|improve this question
It was indeed very wise to use the 'title' LORD in all caps there as it follows on with the Jewish custom of not pronouncing the LORD's name. Also it might have actually prevented the LORD's Holy name to be taken much more in vain as is sadly done these days to the title God and even the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus and His holy title Christ. –  McGafter Aug 23 '13 at 8:30
@McGafter should I expand this part of my answer? –  Jan Dvorak Aug 23 '13 at 8:31
@JanDvorak You may do as you please. –  McGafter Aug 23 '13 at 8:32
Is there are good reason this was asked here and not on BH? –  wax eagle Aug 23 '13 at 14:10
@wax eagle: Well, I didn't know which one to choose. I wasn't asking about the interpretation of a scripture, but more or less, a Christian practice. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Aug 23 '13 at 17:21

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The reason is that "Jehovah" (or any transliteration) does belong there, and in these specific cases, the replacement would sound strikingly incorrect.

Exo 6:3: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, but the Name of God Almighty, but by my name LORD was I not knowen to them

If both occurences were to be understood as "title", "authority", then the phrase would sound very incorrect. Thus, the correct interpretation is to treat "the name" as title, but "my name" as God's personal name:

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, but the Name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not knowen to them

Psa. 63:18: That men may knowe, that thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth

sounds much more reasonable than

That men may knowe, that thou, whose name is Lord, art the most high over all the earth

Isa. 12:2:, Isa. 26:4:

for the Lord Jehovah is my strength.

Well, you just can't say "Lord Lord" here, and it's very hard to hide the fact that the original text uses a personal name here. Different translations used phrases like "Lord, the Lord himself"[NIV], "Lord God" or "GOD the LORD"

Now: The original says "יָהּ יְהוָה"("Yah Yehwah"), so the most correct translation could be along the lines of "Jah, Jehovah" - showing Isaiah's very deep relation to his God, Jehovah:

Look! God is my salvation. I shall trust and be in no dread; for Jah Jehovah is my strength and [my] might, and he came to be the salvation of me. -- Is.12:2 [New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures]

Now, the correct question is: why did the translators have such a rule in the first place? Why not translate יְהוָה as Jehovah or Jahveh?

Judaism 101 says:

Jews do not casually write any Name of God. This practice does not come from the commandment not to take the Lord's Name in vain, as many suppose. In Jewish thought, that commandment refers solely to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by God's Name falsely or frivolously (the word normally translated as "in vain" literally means "for falsehood").

Judaism does not prohibit writing the Name of God per se; it prohibits only erasing or defacing a Name of God. However, observant Jews avoid writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better.

The commandment not to erase or deface the name of God comes from Deut. 12:3. In that passage, the people are commanded that when they take over the promised land, they should destroy all things related to the idolatrous religions of that region, and should utterly destroy the names of the local deities. Immediately afterwards, we are commanded not to do the same to our God. From this, the rabbis inferred that we are commanded not to destroy any holy thing, and not to erase or deface a Name of God.


The Mishnah confirms that there was no prohibition against pronouncing The Name in ancient times. In fact, the Mishnah recommends using God's Name as a routine greeting to a fellow Jew. Berakhot 9:5. However, by the time of the Talmud, it was the custom to use substitute Names for God. Some rabbis asserted that a person who pronounces YHVH according to its letters (instead of using a substitute) has no place in the World to Come, and should be put to death. Instead of pronouncing the four-letter Name, we usually substitute the Name "Adonai," or simply say "Ha-Shem" (lit. The Name).


(link, emphasis added)

Related: Should the Name Jehovah Appear in the New Testament?

share|improve this answer
With regards to the link to a related article: As the LORD is only ever addressed in the New Testament as by the titles of Father, Lord, God etc. and never by His own personal Name in the Greek (if we ignore for this argument the personal names Jesus and Holy Ghost) it would not be good translation work to introduce the actual personal Name of the LORD into the New Testament. –  McGafter Aug 23 '13 at 14:49
@McGafter where Jesus quotes Hebrew scriptures, preserving God's name within those quotation is perfectly fine and should be done. As for the other places, if there is no evidence the originals said "Jehovah" on a particular place, translators of the New World Translation did not put the name there. That would be pure guesswork. Do you have any specific example where you consider the restoration of God's name disputable? –  Jan Dvorak Aug 23 '13 at 15:25
Good quotation from Judaism 101, and especially the reverence with which Jewish scribes wrote YHWH, since they did not want "The Name" to be erased or defaced in any way (Dt 12:3,4). –  rhetorician Aug 23 '13 at 17:14
I see you are no stranger to SE, but Welcome to Christianity.SE. You certainly need no help making a great answer. Just in case: We have a few meta posts that you might have already seen but many of them can be found in Newcomers: Be patient. You will get there if you follow our direction. Keep trying I hope to see more great answers from you. –  fredsbend Aug 23 '13 at 19:53
Thanks for the link. I'll look through it - it looks like a great post –  Jan Dvorak Aug 23 '13 at 19:55

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.