I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. I’m approaching seventy now, and during the years of my life, I’ve worked in two Bethels, had a lead role in a number of special Bethel projects, served as a “need greater” in two Spanish-speaking countries, given talks at international conventions, and helped dozens toward baptism. (I’m not saying this to boast in any way, but only to make a point.) It has been a good life filled with my fair share of life-changing decisions—some good, some not so good—and life-altering tragedies. Like everyone, I’ve had my share of regrets. Looking back there are many things I would do differently, but the only reason I’d do them differently is because of the knowledge and wisdom that came from doing them wrong in the first place. So really, I should have no cause for regret because everything I’ve done—every failure, every success—has brought me to a place where I can now grasp hold of something that makes all that came before inconsequential. The last seventy years have become a mere blip in time. Whatever things I once held as worth reaching for, whatever losses I may have sustained, they are all together as nothing compared to what I have now found.
This may sound like a boast, but I assure you it is not, unless it is a boast for a man who was blind to rejoice in gaining his sight.
The Importance of the Divine Name
My parents learned ‘the truth’ from Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1950, largely as a consequence of the publication of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures at that year’s convention in Yankee Stadium, New York. Various dark-green tomes of the Hebrew Scriptures were released in subsequent conventions until the final release of the lime-green NWT in 1961. One of the reasons given for the release of the new Bible was that it restored the divine name, Jehovah, to its rightful place. This is laudable; make no mistake about it. It was and is wrong for translators to remove the divine name from the Bible, replacing it with GOD or LORD, usually in uppercase to denote the substitution.
We were told that the name of God had been restored in over 7,000 places, with over 237 occurring in the Christian Greek Scriptures or New Testament as it is often called.[a] Previous versions of the NWT had numbered ‘J’ references which denoted the supposedly scholarly justification for each of these restorations where, allegedly, the divine name had originally existed and then been removed. I, like most Jehovah’s Witnesses, believed that these ‘J’ references pointed to selected ancient manuscripts where the name had survived. We believed—because we were taught this by people whom we trusted—that the divine name had been removed from most manuscripts by superstitious copyists who believed the name of God was too holy even to copy, and so had replaced it with God (Gr. θεός, theos) or Lord (Gr. κύριος, kurios).[b]
To be totally honest, I really never gave this much thought. Being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness means having been inculcated with a very high regard for the name of God; a feature we view as a distinguishing mark of true Christianity which separates us from Christendom, a term that to Jehovah’s Witnesses is synonymous with ‘false religion’. We have a deep-seated, almost instinctive, need to support God’s name at any and every opportunity. So the absence of the divine name from the Christian Greek Scriptures had to be explained as a ploy of Satan. Of course, being the Almighty, Jehovah won out and preserved his name in some select manuscripts.
Then one day, a friend pointed out to me that all of the J references come from translations, many of them quite recent. I checked this out by making use of the internet to track down each of the J references and found he was right. Not one of these references has been taken from a real Bible manuscript. I further learned that there are currently over 5,000 manuscripts or manuscript fragments known to exist and in not one of them, not a single one, does the divine name appear either in the form of the Tetragrammaton, or as a translation.[c]
What the Translation Committee of the NWT Bible has done is take rare Bible versions where the translator saw fit to insert the divine name for reasons of his own and assume that this grants them the authority to do likewise.
The word of God warns about serious consequences to anyone who takes away or adds to what is written. (Re 22:18-19) Adam blamed Eve when confronted with his sin, but Jehovah was not fooled by this ploy. Justifying an alteration to God’s word because someone else did it first, amounts to much the same thing.
Of course, the NWT Translation Committee does not see things this way. They have removed the appendix listing the J references from the 2013 Edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, but the ‘restorations’ remain. In fact, they’ve added to them, providing the following justification:
“Without a doubt, there is a clear basis for restoring the divine name, Jehovah, in the Christian Greek Scriptures. That is exactly what the translators of the New World Translation have done. They have a deep respect for the divine name and a healthy fear of removing anything that appears in the original text.—Revelation 22:18-19.” (NWT 2013 Edition, p. 1741)
Like my JW brethren, there was a time that I would have readily accepted the statement that ‘there is no doubt that a clear basis for restoring the divine name’ exists. Even if I had then been aware of the complete lack of evidence for such a statement, I wouldn’t have cared, because we can never go wrong giving glory to God by using the divine name. I would have accepted this as axiomatic and not seen the arrogance of such a notion. Who am I to tell God how to write his word? What right to I have to play God’s editor?
Could it be that Jehovah God had a reason for inspiring the Christian writers to avoid using his name?
Why Is the Divine Name Missing?
This last question would be disregarded out of hand by Jehovah’s Witnesses, as it was by me for many years. ‘Of course, Jehovah’s name had to appear in the Christian Scriptures,’ we would reason. ‘It appears almost 7,000 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. How could it not be sprinkled all through the Christian Scriptures as well?’
This naturally leads Witnesses to the conclusion that it was removed.
There is one serious problem with that notion. We must conclude that the Almighty God of the universe defeated Satan’s best attempts to remove his name from the Hebrew Scriptures, but failed to do the same for the Christian Scriptures. Remember, his name does not appear in a single one of the 5,000 plus NT manuscripts in existence today. We must then conclude that Jehovah won round 1 (Hebrew Scriptures), but lost round 2 to the Devil (Christian Scriptures). Just how likely do you think that is?
We, sinful, imperfect men, have drawn a conclusion and are trying to make the Bible conform to it. Thus we presume to ‘restore’ God’s name in places we feel is should be. This form of Scripture study is called “eisegesis.” Entering the study of Scripture with an idea already accepted as fact and looking for evidence to support it.
This belief unwittingly made a mockery of the God we are supposed to be honoring. Jehovah never loses to Satan. If the name is not there, then it isn’t supposed to be there.
This may be unacceptable to Witnesses whose reverence for the divine name causes some to treat it almost like a talisman. (I’ve heard it used a dozen times in a single prayer.) Nevertheless, it is not for us to decide what it acceptable or not. That is what Adam wanted, but true Christians leave it up to our Lord Jesus to tell us what is acceptable and what is not. Does Jesus have something to say that might help us to understand the absence of the divine name from Christian writings?
A Wonderful Revelation
Let us assume—just to make a point—that all 239 insertions of the divine name in the Christian Scriptures in the 2013 Edition of the NWT are valid. Would it surprise you to learn that another term used to refer to Jehovah surpasses that number? The term is “Father”. Remove those 239 insertions and the importance of “Father” becomes significantly greater.
How so? What’s the big deal?
We are used to calling God, Father. In fact, Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in the heavens…” (Mt 6:9) We think nothing of it. We don’t realize how heretical that teaching was at the time. It was considered blasphemous!
“But he answered them: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” 18 On this account, indeed, the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.” (Joh 5:17, 18)
Some might counter that the Jews also considered God as their father.
“They said to him: “We were not born from fornication; we have one Father, God.”” (Joh 8:41)
True, but herein lies the all-important distinction: The Jews considered themselves God’s children as a nation. This was not a personal relationship, but a collective one.
Search for yourself through the Hebrew Scriptures. Consider every prayer or song of praise offered there. On the few occasions when Jehovah is referred to as Father, it is always in reference to the nation. There are occasions when he is referred to as someone’s father, but only in a metaphorical sense. For instance, 1 Chronicles 17:13 is where Jehovah says to King David about Solomon, “I myself shall become his father, and he himself will become my son”. This usage is similar to that of Jesus when he named his disciple John as Mary’s son and she, his mother. (John 19:26-27) In these cases, we are not talking about a literal father.
Jesus’ model prayer at Matthew 6:9-13 denotes a revolutionary change in the relationship of God to the individual human. Adam and Eve were orphaned, disinherited from the family of God. For four thousand years, men and women lived in an orphaned state, dying because they had no father from whom to inherit everlasting life. Then Jesus came and provided the means for adoption back into the family from which Adam had us thrown out.
“However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.” (Joh 1:12)
Paul says that we have received a spirit of adoption.
“For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. 15 For YOU did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but YOU received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!”” (Ro 8:14, 15)
Since the days of Adam, Mankind had been waiting for this event, for it means freedom from death; the salvation of the race.
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now. 23 Not only that, but we ourselves also who have the firstfruits, namely, the spirit, yes, we ourselves groan within ourselves, while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom.” (Ro 8:20-23)
A man does not adopt his own children. That is nonsensical. He adopts orphans—fatherless children—legally establishing them as his own sons and daughters.
This is what Jesus’ ransom made possible. A son inherits from his father. We inherit everlasting life from our Father. (Mr 10:17; He 1:14; 9:15) But we inherit so much more than that as we will see in subsequent articles. However, we must first answer the question of why Jehovah didn’t inspire the Christian writers to use his name.
The Reason the Divine Name Is Missing.
The answer is simple once we understand what the restored Father/Child relationship really means for us.
What is your father’s name? You know it, no doubt. You will tell others what it is if they ask. However, how often have you used it to address him? My father has fallen asleep, but for the forty years he was with us, I never once—not even a single time—referred to him by his name. Doing so would have degraded me to the level of friend or acquaintance. No one else, save my sister, got to call him “dad” or “father”. My relationship with him was special in that way.
By replacing “Jehovah” with “Father”, the Christian Scriptures emphasize the changed relationship that God’s servants inherit as a consequence of the adoption as sons through the holy spirit poured out after Jesus’ ransom was paid.
A Horrific Betrayal
At the start of this article, I spoke about having discovered something of great value which made everything I’d experienced before seem inconsequential. I described the experience like that of one who is blind finally being able to see. This process was not without its ups and downs, however. Once you gain your sight, you see both the good and the bad. What I experienced at first was wondrous elation, then bewilderment, then denial, then anger, then finally joy and peace.
Allow me to illustrate it this way:
Jonadab was an orphan. He was also a beggar, alone and unloved. One day, a man named Jehu who was about his age strolled by and saw his pitiable condition. He invited Jonadab to his home. Jehu had been adopted by a rich man and lived a life of luxury. Jonadab and Jehu became friends and soon Jonadab was eating well. Every day he would go to Jehu’s house and sit at the table with Jehu and his father. He enjoyed listening to Jehu’s father who was not only rich, but generous, kind and exceedingly wise. Jonadab learned so much. How he yearned to have a father like the one Jehu had, but when he asked, Jehu told him that his father was no longer adopting children. Still, Jehu assured Jonadab that he would continue to be welcome to enjoy his father’s hospitality and to consider his father as Jonadab’s close friend.
The rich man gave Jonadab a room of his own, for he lived in a huge mansion. Jonadab lived well now, but even though he shared much of what Jehu had, he was still only a guest. He would not inherit anything, because only children inherit from the father and his relationship with the father depended on his friendship with Jehu. He was very grateful to Jehu, but he was still a little jealous of what Jehu had and that made him feel guilty.
One day, Jehu wasn’t at the meal. For once alone with the rich man, Jonadab mustered up some courage and with a trembling voice asked if there was still some chance that he might adopt another son? The rich man looked upon Jonadab with warm, kind eyes and said, “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you to ask me since you first arrived.”
Can you imagine the conflicting emotions Jonadab felt? Obviously, he was overjoyed at the prospect of being adopted; that after all these years he would finally belong to a family, finally have the father he had yearned for all his life. But mixed with that sense of elation there would be anger; anger at Jehu for having deceived him for so long. Shortly thereafter, no longer able to cope with the anger he felt over this cruel betrayal by one he considered as his friend, he approached the man who was not his father and asked him what to do.
“Nothing,” was the father’s reply. “Just speak the truth and uphold my good name, but leave your brother to me.”
Relieved of this great weight, a peace such as he’d never experienced before, settled upon Jonadab, and with it, unbounded joy.
Later, when Jehu found out about Jonadab’s changed status, he felt envy and anger. He began to persecute Jonadab, call him names and lie to others about him. However, Jonadab realized that retaliation was not his to take, so he remained calm and at peace. This angered Jehu even more, and he went off to make more trouble for Jonadab.
A Pearl of Great Value
We are taught as Jehovah’s Witnesses that we are “other sheep” (John 10:16), which to a Witness means that we are a group of Christians distinct from the 144,000 anointed ones—a number which Witnesses are taught is literal. We are told that we have a strictly earthly hope and that we do not get everlasting life until we reach perfection at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ. We are not in the New Covenant, do not have Jesus as our mediator, and we cannot call ourselves children of God, but instead are only God’s friends. As such, it would be a sin for us if we were to obey the command of our Lord to drink the wine and eat the bread that represents his life blood and perfect flesh sacrificed for all mankind.[d]
To put it another way, we are allowed to eat at Jehu’s table, and we should be grateful, but we dare not call Jehu’s father our own. He is only a good friend. The time for adoption has passed; the doors are pretty much closed.
There is no evidence for this in the Bible. It is a lie, and a monstrous one! There is only one hope held out for Christians, and that is to inherit the Kingdom of the Heavens, and with it, the Earth. (Mt 5:3, 5) Any other hope put forward by men is a perversion of the good news and will result in condemnation. (See Galatians 1:5-9)
All my life, I believed I was not invited to the party. I had to stand outside and look in, but I could not participate. I was excluded. An orphan still. A well-fed and cared-for orphan, I reasoned, but an orphan still. Now I find that is not the truth, and it never was. I’ve been deceived and have missed out for decades on what was offered to me by our Lord Jesus—what has been offered to all of us. Well, no more! There is still time. Time to grasp hold of a reward so great that it makes everything I’ve ever achieved, or hoped to achieve, meaningless. It is a pearl of great value. (Mt 13:45-46) Nothing I’ve given up, and nothing I’ve suffered is of any consequence as long as I have this pearl.
Emotion vs. Faith
This is often the breaking point for my JW brethren. It is now that emotion can overwhelm faith. Still deep in the mindset of preconceived doctrine, many object with thoughts like:
- So you believe all good people go to heaven? Or…
- I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to live on earth. Or…
- What about the resurrection? Don’t you believe people will be resurrected to earth? Or…
- If all the good go to heaven, what happens at Armageddon?
Fed with decades of images depicting happy, young people building beautiful homes out in the countryside; or an internationally diverse brotherhood eating sumptuous banquets together; or young children cavorting with wild animals; a powerful desire has been built up for what has been promised in the publications. On the other side of the coin, we are told that the anointed all go off to heaven never to be seen again, while the other sheep become princes in the earth. No one wants to go off and never be seen again. We are humans and made for this earth.
We think we know so much about the earthly hope, that we don’t even notice the Christian Greek Scriptures saying nothing about it at all. Our strongly held belief is based entirely on conjecture, and on the belief that Israelite restoration prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures have a secondary, antitypical application to our future. This, we are all taught in great and meaningful detail, while the hope of inheriting the kingdom is never expounded on in the publications. It is just a big, black hole in the sum total of JW Bible knowledge.
Given the emotional impact of these beliefs and images, it is easy to see why many do not find the reward Jesus spoke of as appealing. Better the reward that men teach. Jesus’ teaching never even gets a chance to appeal to the heart.
Let’s get one thing straight. No one knows exactly what the reward Jesus promised will be like. Paul said that, “at present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror…”. John said: “Beloved ones, we are now children of God, but it has not yet been made manifest what we will be. We do know that when he is made manifest we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.” – 1Co 13:12; 1 John 3:2
So it all comes down to faith.
Faith is based on our belief that God is good. Faith make us believe in God’s good name, his character. The name “Jehovah” is not what matters, but it is what that name represents: A God who is love and who will satisfy the desire of all who love him. (1Jo 4:8; Ps 104:28)
Emotions driven by decades of indoctrination tell us what we think we want, but the God who knows us better than we know ourselves knows what will make us truly happy. Let us not allow emotions to drive us toward false hope. Our hope is in our heavenly Father. Faith tells us that what he has in store is something which we will love.
To miss out on what your Father has prepared for you because of your trust in the teachings of men would result in one of the greatest tragedies of your life.
Paul was inspired to pen these words for a reason:
“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 10 For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” (1Co 2:9, 10)
You and I cannot imagine the full width and height and depth of what our Father has prepared for us. All we can see are the hazy outlines revealed as if through a metal mirror.
The reason for that is there is one thing Jehovah wants from us if he is going to allow us to call him Father. He wants us to display faith. So instead of going into great detail about the reward, he expects us to display faith. The fact is, he is choosing those through whom all of Mankind will be saved. If we cannot have faith that whatever our Father promises us will be more than surpassingly good for us, then we don’t deserve to be serving with Christ in the Kingdom of the heavens.
That being said, an impediment to our accepting this reward can be the power of indoctrinated beliefs based, not on Scripture, but on the teachings of men. Our unexamined preconceptions about the resurrection, the nature of the Kingdom of the heavens, Armageddon, and the thousand-year reign of Christ, will get in the way if we don’t take the time to study what the Bible actually has to say about all of this. If you’re interested in going further, if the reward of the heavenly calling appeals, then please read the Salvation series. It is our hope that it will help you find the answers you’re seeking. Nevertheless, accept nothing any man says about these things, but test all things to see what the Bible teaches. – 1 John 4:1; 1Th 5:21
[a] yb75 pp. 219-220 Part 3—United States of America: “Especially noteworthy was the use of the divine name “Jehovah” 237 times in the main text of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures.”
[d] For proof, see W15 5/15 p. 24; w86 2/15 p. 15 par. 21; w12 4/15 p. 21; it-2 p. 362 subtitle: “Those for Whom Christ Is Mediator”; w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7; w10 3/15 p. 27 par. 16; w15 1/15 p. 17 par. 18