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

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By BibleAsk Team


YHWH, Lord, and God

Different Bible translations used the terms “God” and “Lord” instead of God’s Hebrew name YHWH, which is also known as the Tetragrammaton. This is done following the tradition of the Israelites in not pronouncing or spelling out God’s name out of reverence. Because ancient Hebrew did not use vowels in its written form, 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,” which is the Hebrew word for “Lord.” LORD/YHWH and Lord/Adonai are by far the two most consistent renderings throughout all the different English Bible translations.

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.

God’s Character Transcends His Name

God’s Word transcends human language and affects people regardless of how they call Him or pronounce His name. David in Psalm 138:2 says, “You have magnified Your word above all You 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

Categories God

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