Did the translators of the KJV make any comments or notes that explained the basis for their decision not to transliterate each occurrence of the Tetragrammaton into English, rather than translating it as all-caps "LORD"?

  • The name of God is considered to be too sacred to be used sacrilegiously. In order to reflect how it would have been used by the Jewish communities and to avoid saying God's name in vain accidentally, the LORD may have be used to reflect the culture. Translators have to do more than just transliterating; they also have to capture the tone or meaning.
    – Double U
    Aug 23, 2013 at 1:14
  • Likely, but please read my second question, too.
    – user900
    Aug 23, 2013 at 4:43
  • My guess would be that the Septuagint choice of κύριος (Lord) influenced this choice, particularly given the New Testament's use of the Septuagint. (Of course, one might then ask why the Septuagint used κύριος. A transliteration would be more awkward to speak [silent reading seems to have been uncommon] and have difficulties with different sound support. Was "Adonai" [Lord] used to replace "YHWH" in Hebrew use?) That is just an inadequately informed thought.
    – user3331
    Aug 23, 2013 at 13:19

2 Answers 2


I couldn't find anywhere that any KJV translators spoke about their decision to translate the Tetragrammaton as "Lord." Not the preface, not the marginal notes, and I couldn't find any quotes from any of them on it (I wasn't too thorough in my search on the last one, so they could be out there somewhere).

The KJV draws significantly from Tyndale's earlier translation, and he too used "LORD" instead of a transliteration (except in some instances, where it was "Jehovah," as it would later be in a few instances in the KJV). He did not, as far as I could see, explain why he made this choice.

In the Septuagint, the Tetragrammaton becomes "kyrios," which means "lord" or "sir" or "master." This seems to be influenced by Jews' aversion to pronouncing the Divine Name out of deference to the Third Commandment. In synagogues today and dating back to ancient times, Jews use "Adonai," meaning "lord," which itself became "kyrios" in the Septuagint. In the New Testament, when quoting Old Testament verses which include the Tetragrammaton, it is "kyrios," following the Septuagint.

The Latin Vulgate follows the Jewish practice of replacing the Divine Name with "Adonai." In Wycliffe's English Bible, preceding Tyndale and the KJV, he rendered the Tetragrammaton "Adonai."

Around the same time as Tyndale, Luther translated the Bible into German and rendered the Tetragrammaton "Herr," meaning "lord" or "sir."

So although we don't have direct evidence of the translators' reasons via quotations, we do know that throughout history, and even in the New Testament itself, there has been conflation between the Tetragrammaton and the word "lord." At the very least, the KJV was a part of that historical trend.


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 in retrospect 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.

The name of the LORD is sometimes translated as LORD, GOD or the actual name JEHOVAH is written out depending on the appropriate situation.

Where it is Adonai Jehovah, it would be senseless to translate it as Lord LORD. However it is thus translated as if it was Adonai Elohim, Lord GOD. Yet the actual Name of the LORD always appears in capital letters.

The KJV translators had much wisdom in this wonderful translation.

Good article about the Name of the LORD: http://www.lamblion.net/eBooks/Scott%20PDF/jehovah.pdf

The following is from Way of Life's email circular:

The following report by Thomas Ross is re-published [in the email] by permission of the author. The vowels of the Tetragrammaton, that is, Yehowah or Jehovah (Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4) are not a late addition, but represent the original and true pronunciation of the profoundly significant Divine Name. The commonly repeated modern idea that the pronunciation Jehovah is a late and incorrect invention, while Yahweh is the true pronunciation of the Name, is false. No known Hebrew manuscript on earth contains the vocalization Yahweh. On the other hand, the form Jehovah is found in a variety of locations in the oldest Hebrew copies, such as the Aleppo codex and a variety of Biblical fragments dated between 700 and 900, as well as being the universal pointing in the Old Testament Textus Receptus. Jewish scholars such as Maimonides (1138-1204) affirmed that the Tetragrammaton was pronounced according to its letters as YeHoWaH.
Were, as the common modern notion affirms, the vowels of the Divine Name simply lifted from Adonai, the yod of the Tetragram would have a hateph pathach underneath it, not a shewa. Furthermore, all the names in Scripture that begin with portions of the Tetragrammaton possess the vowels of Jehovah, not of Yahweh. If one wanted to maintain that the vocalization of God’s Name had been corrupted in Scripture, contrary to His declarations that nothing of the kind would happen (Psalm 12:6-7; Matthew 5:18), one would also need to maintain that every name in the Bible that begins with part of the Tetragrammaton has also been corrupted. Jehoadah would really be something like Yahwadah; Jehoahaz would be Yahwahaz; Jehoash would be Yahwahash, and so on. Furthermore, no theophoric names anywhere in Scripture end with an eh, the expected ending were the Name pronounced Yahweh. Similarly, the word Hallelujah and the Greek Alleluia validate the ah at the end of the Divine Name. Furthermore, the Mishna states that the Name was pronounced as it was written, that is, as Jehovah.This pronunciation is also consistent with Talmudic evidence. The plain facts concerning what the vowels on the Name actually are in the Hebrew text, other theophoric names, the Mishna, and a variety of other evidences demonstrate that the Tetragrammaton is correctly pronounced Jehovah. In contrast to the strong evidence in favor of the pronunciation Jehovah, very little favors the pronunciation Yahweh. Since this latter pronunciation is not favored by any evidence in the Hebrew of the Bible, nor in other ancient Jewish documents, its advocates must look outside of Scripture and Jewish texts for evidence in its favor. This they find in the late patristic writers Theodoret and Epiphanius, who give Iabe as the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, although the former distinguishes this vocalization as the pronunciation of the Samaritans. These statements constitute the most substantive and strongest argument in favor of the pronunciation Yahweh. Also, papyri involving pagan magic, and in which every possible and impossible designation of deities, Greek, Egyptian and Semitic, is found in profuse variety, contain invocations that sound like the word Yahweh. To use the speculations of two patristic writers—one of whom even specifies that Yahweh was a Samaritan pronunciation, and that the Jews used something else—to overthrow the vocalization of the Name in the OT Textus Receptus, Jehovah, is entirely unjustifiable. To use a name found in some pagan papyri that are invoking numberless idols and demons to reject Jehovah is even worse. The evidence for the pronunciation Yahweh is very poor, and totally insufficient to overthrow the powerful and numerous evidences in favor of the pronunciation Jehovah. Thus, it is evident that Jehovah is the correct pronunciation of the Name of God. Jehovah has not allowed the pronunciation of His Name to be lost. The error that Yahweh is the correct pronunciation of the Divine Name is connected to the error that only the consonants of the Hebrew text are inspired, while the vowels were invented by a class of Jewish scribes around the tenth century A. D. On the contrary, Scripture and solid evidence demonstrates that the words of the Hebrew text—including the vowels—are inspired and were recorded by the Biblical authors. Extensive evidence for the inspiration of the Hebrew vowels is provided in my essay “Evidences for the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points” in the Bibliology section of my website (http://faithsaves.net/bibliology/). The evidence for the pronunciation Jehovah above is a summary of Appendix 1 of the same essay on my website, where extensive documentation and a more detailed discussion is provided. The question is also discussed in lecture #1 of my class on Trinitarianism (http://faithsaves.net/trinitarianism/). My essay "The Debate over the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points" should also be mentioned. Furthermore, the fact that Jehovah is the correct pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is one of a number of strong reasons to reject the critical Hebrew text (the Leningrad MS) underlying the generality of modern English Bible versions. While the Old Testament Received Text that underlies the Authorized Version properly and fully vocalizes the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew critical text corrupts the Divine Name by omitting one of its vowels in thousands of passages. Other serious corruptions are also present in the Leningrad MS. Finally, the King James Bible is found to be correct in its vocalization of the Divine Name as Jehovah, while it properly omits the modern fictitious pronunciation Yahweh. God’s people should do the same, and call, not on Yahweh, but on the Triune Jehovah. The previous report by Thomas Ross is re-published [in the email] by permission of the author. Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc.’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service, an e-mail listing for Fundamental Baptists and other fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians.

  • Welcome to the site! Would you mind editing to format the quotes from other authors as such? It's a bit hard to tell where the quotes pick up and your content leaves off. This looks to be a good answer, it's just difficult to tell how much of it is yours, and how much is copy/pasted. Aug 23, 2013 at 13:43
  • @McGafter: I appreciate the time you put into the answer, but there's too much speculation in your quotation. For example, "Jewish scholars such as Maimonides (1138-1204) affirmed that the Tetragrammaton was pronounced according to its letters as YeHoWaH." And where did he do this? I am familiar with the Rambam and never saw him say such a thing. Can you tell me where he does? Also, "The vowels of the Tetragrammaton, that is, Yehowah or Jehovah...are not a late addition, but represent the original and true pronunciation of the profoundly significant Divine Name." Says who?
    – user900
    Aug 23, 2013 at 17:28
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 Since it is a quote from someone else I'm not sure where he got it from. I'll try and verify it if I can find an online repository of Maimon's works. Anyway there are some good arguments in the doc from lamblion.net I linked to.
    – McGafter
    Aug 29, 2013 at 8:00

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