Often we can see two or three people on the streets of our cities standing near the black box with flyers. We all have met or at least heard about the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses. These people state they are the true followers of Jesus because it is they who know the name of God, and who address God by this name that has been revealed by Himself. “Do you know what’s God’s name and how can you address Him? His name is Jehovah and we are His true witnesses” – they say. Many people agree with the arguments they provide and join their ranks. And of course, among those people there are Christians, too, who has been earlier a part of the Church flock. What can we answer to their statement and is it truth that God’s name is Jehovah?
The biblical texts testify that people gave many names to God, which describe Him from this or that side, such as, for example, the Holy, the Almighty, the Lord and so on. Overall, in the Bible there are about 100 names for God that represent His particular features. However, there is the name that God Himself revealed to people. This is the name that God said to Prophet Moses on the mount Horeb, when Moses asked about His name. And God replied: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In the Greek scriptures this phrase sounds as follows: “Εγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν”. However, the words ὁ ὤν (an ancient philosophical term) are just an attempt to translate the Holy Tetragrammaton יהוה from the ancient Hebrew language, which many people read as Jehovah. Is this correct?
First of all, we should say that there are some points we need to pay attention to. In the Hebrew text, Exodus 3:14 looks like this: “אהיה אשר אהיה“. Literally it means “I am who I am”. Moses asks God: What is Your Name?”, to which God replies, “I Am Who I Am”. It is not surprising that some biblical scholars see here God’s refusal to reveal His name to Moses, rather than His revelation. This theory is not groundless. ( Ref. Schild. 1954). To know the name, according to the Old Testament notions, means to know the essence of an object or phenomenon, and when you know its essence you control it and possess it. God’s commandment to Adam to name every creature seems absolutely logical in this case. Giving the names to every God’s creature, Adam had to understand the essence of the whole world – this is what God calls him to. However, God himself is inconceivable for a man, and this is why He refuses to say His name to Jacob and other characters of the Old Testament. (Ref. Genesis 32:24-30, Judges 13:17-18, 22)
The name Jehovah itself is not mentioned in the Bible and is artificial. Because of awe before God, His name (יהוה) was not pronounced. Instead, people used the word Adonai – the Lord. With the course of time people even forgot how to pronounce this name since there was no vowels in their language and the system of vocalization appeared much later. What is more, there were several kinds of it. The word Jehovah appeared as a result of taking vowels from Adonai and adding them to Tetragrammaton. The majority of Bible scholars assume that the right way to read יהוה is Yahweh.
However, this is not the main of the witnesses’ misconceptions. The thing is they do not recognize the biblical evidence that Jesus Christ is the very Yahweh – the very “I Am” – Who appeared once to Moses and Who incarnated then for the salvation of all people. The name Jesus is theophoric, which means it is the name that includes the Name of God in itself. Jesus in Hebrew means “Yahweh saves”: from the moment of the Nativity of Christ, God is no more zealous for us but saving – He comes to save every person. One of the key topics of the New Testament is the name of Jesus Christ. Preaching of repentance, forgiveness of sins, curing diseases, casting out evil spirits and raising people from the dead, union with the Father and Descent of the Holy Spirit – all these things happen in the Name of Jesus Christ, because Christ is not just a human, but Yahweh Himself. In that light, we can look once again at the Orthodox practice of prayerful calling Christ’s name as at the restoration of the ancient practice of calling God’s name that was forgotten by the Hebrews. So, we can say that the Orthodox are the true “witnesses” of Yahweh, since they are the first who believed in the incarnation of Great God and who accepted His New Testament.