Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Tyndale’s Use of ‘Jehovah’


William Tyndale (1491–1536) is known as the father of the English Bible because of the influence of his translation work. He is well known for giving to English Bible readers terms we now take for granted like anathema, godly, scapegoat, unbeliever, and zealous. He also gave us Jehovah for the divine name (spelled Iehouah or Iehoua). Tyndale was killed before he finished the OT, of course, but this translation of the divine name is found in his Pentateuch. 

What I didn’t realize until yesterday is that he does not use it in every case to translate יְהוָה. In fact, his use is quite sparing. A search of an online edition of Tyndale’s Pentateuch, turns up only seven results. Elsewhere, Tyndale treats the tetragrammaton the same way that Luther’s Bible did, by putting the first three letters in caps to mark it out. Thus, LORde akin to Luther’s HERr.

Tyndale’s 1530 Pentateuch at Gen 15.2f (source)

But if Tyndale did not use it always, how did he decide when to use it? Four of the seven cases are explainable because there is an explicit mention of יְהוָה as God’s name. The other five are all uses of הָאָדֹן יְהוָה (marked with an asterisk). He does seem to have missed Gen 15.8 though. Maybe he would have caught in revision had he lived to do so. 

  1. Genesis 15:2*
    And Abram answered: LORde Iehouah what wilt thou geue me: I goo childlesse and the cater of myne housse this Eleasar of Damasco hath a sonne.
  2. Exodus 6:3 
    and I appeared vnto Abraham, Isaac and Iacob an allmightie God: but in my name Iehouah was I not knowne vnto them.
  3. Exodus 15:3 
    The Lorde is a ma off warre, Iehouah ys his name:
  4. Exodus 17:15
    And Moses made an alter ad called the name of it Iehouah Nissi,
  5. Exodus 23:17
    Thre tymes in a yere shall all thy men childern appere before the Lorde Iehouah.
  6. Exodus 33:19 
    And he sayde: I will make all my good goo before the, and I will be called in this name Iehouah before the, ad wil shewe mercy to whom I shew mercy, and will haue compassion on whom I haue compassion.
  7. Exodus 34:23*
    Thrise in a yere shall all youre men childern appeare before the Lorde Iehouah God of Israel:
  8. Deuteronomy 3:24*
    O lorde Iehoua, thou hast begonne to shewe thy servaunte thy greatnesse and thy mightie hande for there is no God in heauen nor in erth that can do after thy workes and after thy power:
  9. Deuteronomy 9:26*
    But I made intercession vnto the Lorde and sayed: O Lorde Iehoua, destroye not thy people and thyne enheritauce which thou hast delyuered thorow thi greatnesse and which thou hast brought out of Egipte with a mightie hand.
One of the reasons I bring this up is because some recent English translations have made a big deal of using “Yahweh” in the OT for the Tetragrammaton. The 2004 HCSB did this when it came out but reversed course with the revised CSB in 2017. The in-process LSB also says it will use Yahweh. Until I checked, I had thought this was essentially a return to Tyndale’s approach. But I now see that is not the case. These modern translations really are innovating rather than returning to precedent. (Someone correct me if that’s wrong.)


  1. The LSB is returning to precedent -of a sort. The LSB is descended from the ASV through 3 revisons (NASB 77, NASB 95, LSB). The uniform practice of the ASV was to render the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah throughout the OT.
    In this sense the LSB could be seen as returning to the precedent of its own predecessor translation.

    1. Thanks for that reminder, Daniel. I had forgotten that.

  2. I recently made a video about Jehovah (Heb pronunciation: Yehovah), showing that it is most certainly the correct pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton and not Yahweh. This is due to the theophoric names that contain the elements Jehovah in it, such as Jehosophat for example. The first evidences of a type of Nomina Sacra was when the Jeho names were contracted and Jehosophat became Josophat for example. This was done by the biblical writers themselves. This was so people did not accidentally violate the command to not take the name of the LORD in vain.

    Most don’t understand that Yahweh is Jupiter (Yahweh Piter - Father). IOVE is the name of Thor. Even though Tregelles exposed the claims of Wilhelm Gesenius as bogus, which Gesenius himself had retracted, IOVE (Yahweh) has still become a popular way of pronouncing the Tetragrammaton.

    Nick Sayers.

    1. I go with the research into Hebrew manuscripts and the pointing's used. Nehemiah Gordon and associates have found more than 1000 manuscripts that confirm Yehovah as a probable transliteration. Not one manuscripts has been found so far that concurs with Yahweh.

    2. Hi,

      For those who like scholarship references, there is, rather new:

      Pavlos D Vasileiadis
      Nehemia Gordon

      “Transmission of the Tetragrammaton in Judeo-Greek and Christian Sources” («Η Μεταβίβαση του Τετραγράμματου στις Ιουδαιο-Ελληνικές και Χριστιανικές Πηγές»), Cahiers Accademia: Revue de la Société Marsile Ficin, Vol. 18 (2021), pp. 85–126.

      In less formal circles, Nehemia tends to emphasize:

      Masoretic Text manuscripts
      Theophoric names
      Hebraic (Rabbinical) references.

      And he has spoken on the yahweh-jupiter connection.

      Steven Avery

    3. Also in American English all Y beginning names are recognized as foreign in origin right away. We say Johnny not Yonnie, Jerimiah not Yirmiyahu, Joshua, not Yehoshua. If a person has a name that starts with a Y as in say, Yolanda, it is immediately recognized as coming from a foreign country, not an American English origin. I think as a rule, almost all Y beginning names in Hebrew are translated into J beginning names in American English, but I'm not sure about British English.

  3. The Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible also used Yahweh explicitly throughout the Tanakh (published (English) 1966 and 1985 respectively). So some newer ones now doing the same (including the Lexham Engish Bible) aren't really "innovating".

    (I believe "murdered" rather than "killed" would fit what happened to William Tyndale better.)

  4. Peter,

    In answer to your 'understood' question, " (Someone correct me if that’s wrong.)"

    I would think that the best way to determine the what each translation or version is doing with the Tetragrammaton is to read the Introduction of each version. It is there that the methodology is delineated. Once that is done then one can check the various passages above, and others, to see if they were consistent.

  5. I have heard that some Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament contain the name Jehovah. Do we know which Hebrew manuscripts Tyndale used?

    1. Alexander Thomson7/11/2023 11:04 pm

      See the Wikipedia article, “Tyndale Bible”, for note and reference.

  6. Alexander Thomson7/11/2023 10:59 pm

    Well, the majority of the English versions, up to and including the Authorised Version, followed what the Greek NewTestament showed us to do - follow the receptor language words for “YHWH/LORD” and “‘ÈLÅHÎM/GOD”.