Sacred Name Bibles

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Sacred Name Bibles or sacred-name versions[1] are editions of the Bible that are usually connected with the Sacred Name Movement.[2] Sacred Name Bibles "consistently use Hebraic forms of God's name in both the Old and New Testaments" [3]

The term is not used for mainstream Bible editions such as the Jerusalem Bible which employs the name "Yahweh" in the English text of only the Old Testament, where traditional English versions have "LORD".[4]

Most "Sacred Name" versions also use a Semitic form of the name Jesus.[3] None of these Sacred Name Bibles are published by well-established publishers. Instead, most are published by the same group that produced the translation. Some are available for download on the Web."[5]

Historical background[edit]

The Tetragrammation (Hebrew YHWH) occurs in the Hebrew Old Testament, and also (written in Hebrew within the Greek text) in a few of the manuscripts of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, found at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It does not occur in early manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. Although the Greek forms Iao and Iave do occur in magical inscriptions, generally Hellenistic Jewish texts, such as the works of Philo, Josephus and the New Testament, use the word Kyrios, "Lord", when citing verses where YHWH occurs in the Hebrew.[6] Translators of Sacred Name Bibles argue that Sacred Name Bibles are about restoring the original Name back to the text, usually because of a desire to know Yahweh.[citation needed] For centuries, Hebrew-language editions of the New Testament have included in their text ha-Shem "the Name" or the Tetragrammaton rather than "Lord" or similar.[citation needed]

For centuries, Bible translators around the world did not transliterate or copy the tetragrammaton in their translations. For example, English Bible translators (Christian and Jewish) used "LORD" to represent it. Many authors on Bible translation have explicitly called for translating it with a vernacular word or phrase that would be locally meaningful.[7][8][9] The Catholic Church has formally called for translating the Tetragrammaton into other languages rather than attempting to preserve the sounds of the Hebrew.[10]

But a few other Bible translators, with varying theological motivations, have taken a different approach to translating the Tetragrammaton. In the 1800s–1900s at least three English translations contained a variation of the Name [11] In some cases, these translations were of only a portion of the New Testament; they did not represent a stated effort to restore the Name throughout the body of the New Testament. However, in the twentieth century the first translation to employ a full transliteration of the Tetragrammaton was the Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, but his translation only does so in the Old Testament. Angelo Traina's translation, The New Testament of our Messiah and Saviour Yahshua in 1950, then The Holy Name Bible containing the Holy Name Version of the Old and New Testaments in 1963 was the first to systematically use a Hebrew form for sacred names throughout the New Testament, the first complete Sacred Name Bible. The Jerusalem Bible in 1966 and over a dozen other translations in the years since used the name "Yahweh" in the Old Testament.

Aramaic Primacy[edit]

Main article: Aramaic primacy

Some translators of Sacred Name Bibles hold to the view that the New Testament, or at least significant portions of it, were originally written in a Semitic language, Hebrew or Aramaic, from which the Greek text is a translation, seen as deficient in not having preserved the Hebraic forms of names, particularly sacred names.[citation needed] This view is colloquially known as "Aramaic primacy", and is also taken by some academics, such as Matthew Black.[12][13] Therefore, translators of Sacred Name Bibles[who?] consider it appropriate to use Semitic names in their translations of the New Testament, which they regard as being intended for use by all people, not just Jews (The Sacred Name 2002: 89ff). Though no early manuscripts of the New Testament contain these names, some Hebrew translations from the Latin did use the Tetragrammaton in part of the Hebrew New Testament. Sidney Jellicoe in The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford, 1968) states that the name YHWH appeared in Greek Old Testament texts written for Jews by Jews, often in the squarish Paleo-Hebrew alphabet to indicate that it was not to be pronounced, or in Aramaic, or using the four Greek letters PIPI (Π Ι Π Ι that physically imitate the appearance of Hebrew YHWH), and that Kyrios was a Christian introduction.[14] Bible scholars and translators such as Eusebius and Jerome (translator of the Latin Vulgate) consulted the Hexapla, but did not attempt to preserve sacred names in Semitic forms. Justin Martyr (second century) argued that YHWH is not a personal name, writing of the “namelessness of God”.[15]

George Lamsa, the translator of The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts: Containing the Old and New Testaments (1957) believed the New Testament was originally written in a Semitic language (the terms Syriac and Aramaic are not always clearly differentiated by some). However, despite his adherence to a Semitic original of the New Testament, Lamsa translated using the English word "Lord" instead of some Hebraic form of the divine name.

Accuracy or popularity[edit]

Sacred Name Bibles are not used frequently within Christianity, even less (if at all) in Judaism. Similarly, only a few translations replace Jesus with Semitic forms such as Yeshua or Yahshua. Most English Bible translations translate the Tetragrammaton with LORD where it occurs in the Old Testament and do not transliterate (“bring over the sound”) into the English. These same patterns are found in languages around the world, as translators have translated sacred names without striving to preserve the Hebraic forms, often using local names for the creator or highest deity,[8][16] conceptualizing accuracy as semantic rather than phonetic.

The limited number of Sacred Name Bibles suggests that phonetic accuracy is not considered to be of importance by mainstream Bible translators. The translator Joseph Bryant Rotherham lamented not making his work into a Sacred Name Bible by using the more accurate name Yahweh in his translation (pp. 20 – 26), though he also said, "I trust that in a popular version like the present my choice will be understood even by those who may be slow to pardon it." (p. xxi).

Complete Sacred Name Bibles[edit]

The following versions are Bibles which systematically use some transliteration of the Tetragrammaton (usually "Yahweh") in both the Old and New Testament, as well as a Semitic form of the name of Jesus such as Yahshua or Yeshua. These Bibles apply this to both the names of the Father and Son, both of which are considered to be sacred.[17]

Tetragrammaton Sacred Name Bibles[edit]

The following versions of Sacred Name Bibles only contain the Tetragrammaton without any vowels, suggesting to the reader to pronounce each of the four letters rather than the name. They follow this practice in both the Old and New Testaments (though some translations are not complete).

  • The Scriptures (ISR) Version(1993, 1998, 2009)
  • Hebraic-Roots Version (2001, 2004)
  • Restoration Scriptures: True Name Edition (2004)
  • Zikarown Say'fer Memorial Scroll (2004)
  • Sacred Name King James Bible (2005)
  • The Seventh Millennium Version (2007)
  • The Aramaic English New Testament (2008)
  • HalleluYah Scriptures (2009)
  • Abrahamic Faith Nazarene Hebraic Study Scriptures (2010)
  • The Restored Name King James Version (2012?)
  • Shem Qadosh Version (2014)
  • HalleluYah Scriptures (2014)
  • His Name Tanakh (In Progress)
  • The Human Instruction Manual (In Progress)

Limited Sacred Name Bibles[edit]

Some translations use a form of "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" only sporadically:

A few translations use either "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" in the Old and New Testaments, but are not generally considered Sacred Name Bibles:

  • New World Translation (1961, 1984, 2013)[19]
  • The Original Aramaic Bible in Plain English (2010) by David Bauscher, a self-published English translation of the New Testament, from the Aramaic of The Peshitta New Testament with a translation of the ancient Aramaic Peshitta version of Psalms & Proverbs, contains the word "JEHOVAH" over 200 times in the New Testament, where the Peshitta itself does not.

The following versions use either "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" only in the Old Testament:


  • An Indonesian translation produced by the Sacred Name Movement, Kitab Suci, uses Hebraic forms of sacred names in the Old and New Testaments (Soesilo 2001:416), based on Shellabear's translation.
  • A French translation, by André Chouraqui, uses Hebraic forms in the Old and New Testaments.[20]
  • The Spanish language Reina-Valera Bible and most of its revisions uses the Sacred Name in the Old Testament as "Jehová" (Spanish for Jehovah) starting in Genesis 2:4.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ernest S. Frerichs. The Bible and Bibles in America. Society of Biblical Literature (January 1, 1988) ISBN 9781555400965. Quote p70-71: "Unlike the other sacred-name versions, pronouns referring to the deity are not capitalized."
  2. ^ J. Gordon Melton. Encyclopedia of Protestantism Infobase Publishing, Jan 1, 2005 ISBN 9780816054565. Quote p480: "More recently several other Sacred Name Bibles have appeared. The movement has remained relatively small and splintered as individuals disagreed over exactly how the names should be spelled."
  3. ^ a b Peter Unseth Sacred Name Bible translations in English: a fast-growing phenomenon. The Bible Translator 62.3: 185.
  4. ^ Rhodes R. The Complete Guide to Bible Translations: How They Were Developed 2009 p206 "Unlike most other translations today, the New Jerusalem Bible renders the Old Testament name for God, YHWH, as “Yahweh,” just as the Jerusalem Bible did. In place of “Lord of hosts” is “Yahweh Sabaoth"
  5. ^ Unseth, Peter. 2011. Sacred Name Bible translations in English: a fast-growing phenomenon. The Bible Translator 62.3: 190.
  6. ^ Aland, K. Text of the New Testament
  7. ^ David Moomo. 2005. Translating YHWH into African languages. Scriptura 88: 151-60.
  8. ^ a b Ernst R. Wendland. 1992. yhwh- The Case For Chauta ‘Great-[God]-of-the-Bow’. The Bible Translator. 43.4: 430-438.
  9. ^ Helmut Rosin. 1956. The Lord Is God: The Translation of the Divine Names and the Missionary Calling of the Church. Amsterdam: Netherlands Bible Society.
  10. ^ "In accordance with immemorial tradition which in deed is already evident in the above-mentioned 'Septuagint' version, the name of almighty God, expressed by the sacred Hebrew tetragrammaton (YHWH) and rendered in Latin by the word Dominus, is to be rendered in any vernacular by a word of equivalent meaning." Liturgiam authenticam, fifth instruction on vernacular translation of the Roman liturgy, Issue 5, section 41c. Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum. 2001. ISBN 1-57455-428-X.
  11. ^
    • A Literal Translation of the New Testament, by Herman Heinfetter (1863)[citation needed]
    • The Epistles of Paul in Modern English, by George Barker Stevens (1898)[citation needed]
    • St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, by W. G. Rutherford (1900)[citation needed]
  12. ^ Black, Matthew. “An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts”. Oxford Clarendon 1967.
  13. ^ Cross F.L “Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church”. London: Oxford University Press, 1961
  14. ^ Peter M. Head Christology and the Synoptic problem: an argument for Markan priority p161 "Jellicoe summarises: LXX texts, written by Jews for Jews, retained the Divine Name in Hebrew Letters (palaeo-Hebrew or "
  15. ^ Justin Martyr, Hortatory Address, ch. 21
  16. ^ David Moomo. 2005. Translating YHWH into African languages. Scriptura 88:151-160.
  17. ^ Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition Bible. Preface, V. "No translation has accurately restored the Name Yahweh to the New Testament text where it undoubtedly appeared when the apostolic authors produced their works, nor is there a translation that has faithfully restored the Saviour's true Name, Yahshua the Messiah, to the text of the Bible", Jacob O. Meyer
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ e.g. Robert M. Bowman, Jr., J. Ed Komoszewski, Darrell L. Bock Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ p2007 p158 "best known for advocating this is theory, of course, the Jehovah's Witnesses , whose New World Translation “restores” ... New Testament 237 times.9 Other “ sacred name” groups (such as the Assemblies of Yahweh) make a similar claim "
  20. ^ Chouraqui's French translation online


  • Bivin, David. 1991a. “Jehovah”—A Christian Misunderstanding. Jerusalem Perspective Vol. 4.6: 5,6.
  • Bivin, David. 1991b. The Fallacy of Sacred Name Bibles. Jerusalem Perspective Vol. 4.6: 7,12.
  • Daams, Nico. 2011. Translating YHWH 'Elohim. The Bible Translator 62.4: 226-235.
  • King, Phil. 2014. Perspectives on translating YHWH in Papua New Guinea. The Bible Translator 65.2:185-204.
  • Neufeld, Don. 1962. An examination of the claims of the Sacred Name Movement (concluded). The Ministry 35.11: 13-16, 36.
  • Moomo, David. 2005. Translating יהוה (YHWH) into African languages. Scriptura 88 pp. 151-160.
  • Pritz, Ray. 1991. The Divine Name in the Hebrew New Testament. Jerusalem Perspective, Vol. 4:2 10-12.
  • Rösel, Martin. 2007. The Reading and Translation of the Divine Name in the Masoretic Tradition and the Greek Pentateuch. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31.4: 411-428.
  • Smith, Mark S. 2010. God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing.
  • Soesilo, Daud. 2001. Translating the Names of God: recent experience from Indonesia and Malaysia. The Bible Translator 52.4:414-423.
  • The Sacred Name YHWH: A Scriptural Study, (3rd ed). 2002. Garden Grove, CA: Qadesh La Yahweh Press.
  • The Scriptures 1993, 1998, 2009. Northriding, South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research.
  • Trimm, James (translator) 2005. The Hebraic-Roots Version Scriptures. Institute for Scripture Research (publisher).
  • Unseth, Peter. 2011. Sacred Name Bible translations in English: a fast-growing phenomenon. The Bible Translator 62.3: 185-194.

External links[edit]