Why is Lord or God used in place of “YHWH” in the Bible?

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Different Bible translations used the terms “God” and “Lord” instead of God’s Hebrew name following the tradition of the Israelites in not pronouncing or spelling out God’s name out of reverence. So, when God’s Hebrew name “YHWH” is used in the Old Testament, English translations usually use “LORD.” So, when God’s Hebrew name “YHWH” is used in the Old Testament, English translations usually use “LORD.” it is not clear how God’s name should be spelled or pronounced. It could be Yahweh, or Jehovah, or Yehowah, or something else.

In the Old Testament, the Jews started to substitute His name with the Hebrew title “Adonai.” Adonai is the Hebrew word for “Lord.” This information can be easily verified in many Bible dictionaries and various encyclopedias. For instance, the Encyclopedia Britannica states:

“Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, his name being revealed to Moses as four Hebrew CONSONANTS (YHWH) CALLED THE TETRAGRAMMATON. AFTER THE EXILE (6TH CENTURY BC), and especially from the 3rd century BC on, Jews ceased to use the name Yahweh for two reasons. As Judaism became a universal religion through its proselytizing in the Greco-Roman world, the more common noun elohim, meaning “god,” tended to replace Yahweh to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel’s God over all others. At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered; it was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai (“My Lord”), which was translated as Kyrios (“Lord”) in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament.”

In the New Testament, “God” is a translation of “theos,” the general Greek word for deity. And the use of the word, “Lord” is a translation of “kurios,” the general Greek word for a master.

David in Psalm 138:2 says, “You have magnified Your word above all You name.” God’s Word transcends human language and affects people regardless of how they call Him or pronounce His name. Therefore, it is more important to know the character of God than to merely know His name. And to know God is to love Him (1 John 4:8) and to love Him is to obey His commands (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2).

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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