ESV Interview : Why is YHWH translated "the LORD"?

Other translations gave their reasons on why the chose to translate YHWH as the LORD instead of Yahweh. The introduction of the ESV made no mention on why you choose the LORD instead of Yahweh. Some might argue that this is not a literal translation although it is clearly a traditional one. What are your reasons for continuing this?

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WatchrnC. John Collins respond (Windows Media format).

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Watch C. John Collins respond (Windows Media format).

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The question of why we translated the Divine Name thernway we did in the Old Testament as the LORD, which is therntradition, rather than Yahweh, which is what most scholars think is pronounced,rnis a very good question. And in our revised preface we will explain why wernchose to stay with the English Bible convention, which is thernLORD (and the LORD is in small caps).

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When the Hebrew Bible was first written, they onlyrnwrote the consonants, and they assumed you knew how to pronounce the words, andrnso they didn't have to write the vowels. But after a while, they began tornput in the vowels because people didn't always remember how to pronouncernthings.

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And that led to a particular problem, namely that byrnthe time the vowels were added, nobody was pronouncing the Divine Name anyrnlonger. And the Jews when they would read it would always say, "Adonai, rnwhich means the Lord. We know that this is an early practicernbecause in the Septuagint, the Greek translation made as early as the thirdrncentury B.C., they were already translating the Divine Name with the Greek wordrnfor the LORD. And so that's what became the convention forrnall Bible translations, is to do precisely that.

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I think it's a good idea for several reasons.rnOne is that, well, we're not exactly sure how the Hebrew word was to bernpronounced. I think that Yahweh is probably right, but it is worth discussingrnand debating.

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The question of why we translated the Divine Name the way we did in the Old Testament as the LORD, which is the tradition, rather than Yahweh, which is what most scholars think is pronounced, is a very good question. And in our revised preface we will explain why we chose to stay with the English Bible convention, which is the LORD (and the LORD is in small caps).

When the Hebrew Bible was first written, they only wrote the consonants, and they assumed you knew how to pronounce the words, and so they didn’t have to write the vowels. But after a while, they began to put in the vowels because people didn’t always remember how to pronounce things.

And that led to a particular problem, namely that by the time the vowels were added, nobody was pronouncing the Divine Name any longer. And the Jews when they would read it would always say, “Adonai, which means the Lord. We know that this is an early practice because in the Septuagint, the Greek translation made as early as the third century B.C., they were already translating the Divine Name with the Greek word for the LORD. And so that’s what became the convention for all Bible translations, is to do precisely that.

I think it’s a good idea for several reasons. One is that, well, we’re not exactly sure how the Hebrew word was to be pronounced. I think that Yahweh is probably right, but it is worth discussing and debating.

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But perhaps even more importantly, when you have thernNew Testament using the Old, they are using a Greek translation of the OldrnTestament, which has the LORD in it. And it's veryrnimportant for Bible readers to see exactly what's going on when the NewrnTestament writers make use of the Old Testament. And for that reason we arernhappy to use the convention that was established by the Septuagint sornthat you can see, for example, in a passage like 1 Peter 3:15, where JesusrnChrist is called the Lord, whom we are to regard as holy. You canrnsee that Peter is using a passagernfrom Isaiah about the Lord, the God of Israel, and applying that title tornour Savior and making a strong affirmation of his deity.

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Commentrnon this post for your chance to win a freernESV Bible.

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But perhaps even more importantly, when you have the New Testament using the Old, they are using a Greek translation of the Old Testament, which has the LORD in it. And it’s very important for Bible readers to see exactly what’s going on when the New Testament writers make use of the Old Testament. And for that reason we are happy to use the convention that was established by the Septuagint so that you can see, for example, in a passage like 1 Peter 3:15, where Jesus Christ is called the Lord, whom we are to regard as holy. You can see that Peter is using a passage from Isaiah about the Lord, the God of Israel, and applying that title to our Savior and making a strong affirmation of his deity.

My response to this reply
I must say that I have never thought through this issue the way this reply takes it. Its not an issue that I get hot under the collar about but it cropped up more than once in the questions I was emailed. It would seem that this question has been asked frequently as
it seems we can expect a revised preface to address this issue. It is slightly intreging that they didn’t comment on whether there were English stylistic changes afoot, but confirmed this forthcoming change to the preface. Please
do comment on or even better trackback to this post for your chance to win a free ESV Bible.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. His book, Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything was published by Crossway, January 2010. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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