Pearl & Prodigal

a Christian podcast

Episode 3 — Tetragrammaton

Nov 03, 2021— 19 Minutes

Your English Bible has some helps for the person who knows what to look for. In this episode we’ll be looking at the formatting of God’s personal name in the Old Testament in particular.

The first place the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) shows up is in Gen 2:4.

Jeremiah 1:4 Highlighted words show the personal name of God is marked in all caps in the English translation using the word Lord.
Jeremiah 1:6 Highlighted words show the personal name of God on the Hebrew side is marked in all caps in the English translation – this time using the word God. Your translation may have a superscript numeral adjacent to the word "God" to reference a note alerting you to this fact as well.
Jeremiah 1:6 Finally, note that this English translation (NASB) uses Lord in this case to translate a different word than the one in verse 4. Again, the personal name is shown in all caps as the clue. Notice in this instance that Lord is simply proper-cased, with "ord" being in the usual lower case.

Nomina Sacra

The “nomina sacra” are words that are found in early Greek copies of the New Testament manuscripts which are shortened versions of words – apparently out of deep reverence for what they represent (usually a reference to Deity). Four words used to refer to God and Jesus are especially associated with the use of nomina sacra: ΘΕΟΣ (God), ΚΥΡΙΟΣ (Lord), ΧΡΙΣTΟΣ (Christ), and ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (Jesus).

There is another distinguishing mark found in use within early Christian manuscripts called the staurogram. This is a small pictogram of a man on a cross formed by placing two Greek letters (tau and rho) on top of one another like this: ⳨.

Notes from the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary:

“By the time of the earliest extant Christian copies of the LXX (2d or early 3d century C.E.), a clear break with the Jewish practice outlined above is to be observed. The Christian copies of the Greek OT employ the words Kyrios (“Lord”) and Theos (“God”) as substitutes or surrogates for  the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. The evidence suggests that this had become the practice of Christian scribes perhaps as early as the beginning of the 2d century. Curiously, the surrogates for the Tetragrammaton have been abbreviated by the writing of their first and last letters only and are marked as abbreviations by a horizontal stroke above the word. Thus, for example, the word for “Lord” is written K̄̄S̄̄ and for God T̄̄H̄̄S̄̄.” – George Howard, “TETRAGRAMMATON IN THE NEW TESTAMENT,” AYBD, 6:392-393.

For more information on this, check out Larry Hurtado’s book The Earliest Christian Artifacts.

Verse References

  • Jeremiah 1:4
  • Jeremiah 1:6

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