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I thought about posting this on the recent thread "Early Christians, the New Testament and the Divine Name," partly because of a question someone posed there on the earliest evidence for Jewish disuse of the name. However, the issue merits its own thread. There is a book published a few years ago on the Greek form of the tetragrammaton, iota-alpha-omega (Ιαω), that is on-topic, yet that seems to have escaped the attention of non-scholars, and for that matter, many scholars as well. It's dense reading to be sure, but worth the effort. It's written by one of the scholars who has penned reviews of Robert Wilkinson's monograph on the tetragrammaton, Frank Shaw. Its title is The Earliest Non-mystical Jewish Use of the Iao (the last word in Greek script Ιαω), volume 70 of Peeters Press's series Biblical Exegesis and Theology (Leuven 2014). In fact, Shaw's expertise on the name is no doubt why the editors of Oxford's Journal of Theological Studies asked him to review Wilkinson's book.

Shaw's point of departure is the finding among the Qumran documents of a LXX manuscript of Leviticus that has Iao for the Hebrew text's Yhwh. What he attempts to do is gather together all known evidence for this Greek form of the name not used in magic or among Gnostics. His findings are surprising to most people who know something about the issue, whether a layperson or a scholar. It seems that this form of the divine name, vocalized as "Ya-ho," was the active pronunciation of the divine name when Jesus and the apostles lived. There is considerable evidence for this, a point that had been briefly made some years earlier in Sean McDonough's book, YHWH at Patmos: Rev. 1:4 in its Hellenistic and Early Jewish Setting (Mohr Siebeck 1999). Indeed, Shaw corrects some of McDonough's errors. Among other things addressed is the question of when the name began to be disused by Jews in the BCE period, and how use and non-use coexisted for many centuries until some time into the Christian era when disuse totally won out. Shaw offers a strong rebuttal of some Evangelical scholars, notably Albert Pietersma and Martin Rösel, who continue to contend against the mounting evidence that kyrios was originally used by the LXX's translators instead of a real form of the name. He also brings up a point made at this forum by JW Insider that "a problem with the JW position is that the use of a Hebrew YHWH in the middle of a Greek manuscript is an indication that it was not to be pronou[n]ced." What Shaw proposes is that within the Judaism into which Jesus and the apostles were born, there was diversity among the people regarding using the name. The upper class who provide most of our existing documentation of that society, and who are responsible for the LXX manuscripts that have come down to us that have the Hebrew tetragrammaton amid the Greek text, did not want to vocalize the name for multiple reasons, but the masses, among whom Jesus worked and from whom came the apostles and other disciples of him, freely used the name as Yaho in Aramaic. This then shows up as Iao in the written Greek sources.

Shaw also calls out NT textual critics for largely ignoring the findings of, and theory of, George Howard regarding the many textual problems of dozens of NT passages where the Father is referred to. This is also one place where he criticizes McDonough who seems again, like Pietersma and Rösel for the LXX, to have represented Evangelicals who want to downplay these NT textual variants. Shaw modifies Howard's notion that the original NT documents likely did not have mainly Yhwh/יהוה in them, but instances of Iao/Ιαω instead. Another noteworthy thing he does is date just when this Greek form of the name began to appear in mystical sources. Scholarship had never before done this, and there have been very sloppy and erroneous assumptions made regarding this matter, including again McDonough. As it turns out, the evidence points to the use of Iao/Ιαω among magicians and mystics dating to the beginning of the second century CE. Shaw even proposes that these types picked up on this form of the name due to the earliest Christians using it in their preaching work. Later Christians then had reason to remove the name from their documents (LXX and NT) because the "pernicious heretics" and magicians were using it with more and more frequency.

There are many other interesting points in the book, but this post has already gotten longer than I'd planned on. For those who have the stamina to work through it, the book is well worth what you will learn from it.


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This topic has been touched upon before, but I didn't take it as far as I had hoped. For me, this was largely because this was a new area of study for me which I undertook briefly, mostly for about 10 days in May 2017 and only touched on it afterwards when related topics came up on this forum. For myself, that might have been mostly my fault because I was very unsure of the strength of evidence for basing anything on Ιαω. @bruceq, a member or former member of this forum collects reference materials on the Divine Name and pointed out some related links by Pavlos Vasileiadis, which I read at that time.



I'm sure you know of these resources.

Most of the related topics already discussed on this forum were sidetracked or abandoned. But there have been a couple strong attempts to get somewhere on this and we have even started discussing George Howard, Nehemiah Gordon, and the Gertoux/Furuli collaboration with Fritz Poppenberg. 

I have access to a large library of scholarly journals through a university account, but I'm out of the country for most of July (Paris) and will still be here another week. I don't want to try logging in from here because of a potential security flag that might require a complete reset.

I had hoped to discuss George Howard, of course, but that discussion never really started: (HOWARD, Biblical Archaeology Review Vol IV, No. 1). http://www.jstor.org/stable/3265328?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

The posts at  https://www.theworldnewsmedia.org/topic/47810-the-name-of-god-documentary-by-fritz-poppenberg/?page=7 took too many twists and turns to be of much use to review for reference material.

The topic/thread that came closest to discussing the value of IAO in the LXX is here, https://www.theworldnewsmedia.org/topic/35287-what-gives-them-the-right-to-insert-yhwh-so-that-the-the-scriptures-are-manipulated-to-suit-the-their-doctrine/?page=2and might be worth a quick look. I know that my own research on the topic was just beginning at that point, and I had quickly come to the conclusion that IAO was a problematic route that didn't require much more attention due to a supposed permanent relationship with paganism, an Egyptian god, magic, etc. But I realize a couple of points now that I hadn't really seen clearly. One is that IAO was NOT really a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew YHWH (as the NWT Appendix states). And the other is that IAO was the only LXX Divine Name that was meant to be pronounceable.

The work by Shaw appears to be important, and I would have looked up his ideas anyway, just based on his excellent critique of Wilkinson. [And, or course, Furuli had mentioned his book in "Bias in Translation."]  Although as I mentioned above, I have limited access to my "armchair" resources at the moment. When I get back home, I'll see if Shaw is affordable, or get the NYPL to find me a copy.

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I daresay, Gordon Lightfoot and Buffy St. Marie also had a lot to say about it in their famous treatise, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

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JWI, yes, the notion that Iao is tied to mysticism is basically an anachronism. In his preface Shaw asks whether the divine name Ιαω fell down magically from the sky onto its most known appearance, the magical papyrus leaves, or whether it had a prior non-mystical Jewish history. 4Q120 shows that the latter is the case.

Are you familiar with the work of Didier Fontaine? He reviews Shaw's book here:


Enjoy Paris!

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7 hours ago, tromboneck said:

I daresay, Gordon Lightfoot and Buffy St. Marie also had a lot to say about it in their famous treatise, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

I always loved that song. Haunting and apparently based on a true story. It's on one of only three albums I ever bought for myself.

What's interesting about the song, is that even after it was canonized in the album, Lightfoot looked into new evidence that had come to light, and which made Lightfoot's foot path grow brighter and brighter. He realized it was not necessarily human error that caused the sinking, so he humbly changed the words of the song for all future performances. Here's how it was stated at: https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/music/2010/03/25/gordon_lightfoot_changes_edmund_fitzgerald_lyrics.html

  • “He’s not re-recording the song, but he has already changed a line for live performances,” a spokesperson for Lightfoot said Thursday. “He was pretty impressed by what he saw in the film, new evidence that unsecured hatch covers didn’t cause the ship to sink.”
  • The traditional verse goes: “When supper time came the old cook came on deck /Saying ‘Fellows it’s too rough to feed ya’ /At 7 p.m. a main hatchway caved in /He said, ‘Fellas it's been good to know ya.”
  • Lightfoot’s lyrics have now been changed to: “When supper time came the old cook came on deck /Saying ‘Fellows it’s too rough to feed ya’ /At 7 p.m. it grew dark, it was then/He said, ‘Fellas it's been good to know ya’,” Lightfoot’s spokesperson said.

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OK, so JWI will hopefully return from Paris this coming week. He mentioned the BA article by Howard in his post above. That was a watered down version of his 1977 classic article in the JBL, the article that began the controversy in academic circles. I have attached it here for the reading pleasure of those who wish to imbibe. The "Christian Usage" portion begins on p. 74 with some background on the nomina sacra, and then in earnest on p. 76 with the NT.



Howard JBL 96, 1977.pdf

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@indagator  Thanks again. I have not read that much of Shaw directly yet, but I have read all the reviews I could get and sizable portions of other books that quote him, and his own reviews of others (Wilkinson).  (I have access to the complete "Philo of Alexandria: An Annotated Bibliography" book, by the way, Hurtado's "Early Christian Artifacts," articles by Tov, etc.)

But right now I'm in the middle of reading

    Hello guest!

It's not even a year old yet (in this final submission).

As I just mentioned under a similar topic, I find it to be a comprehensive review of all the relevant evidence. (Shaw finds relevance in ALL the references to the Greek IAO, of course, meaning that Shaw treats even apparently non-relevant esoteric evidence as relevant.) Meyer only references Shaw's more esoteric evidence, but barely needs it.

I like the way Meyer avoids jumping to any conclusions about the evidence, but as good scholars do, very even-handedly presents it, and presents what others have said about it, and pushes no particular agenda that I can see so far. In fact, he allows the evidence itself to weaken the more direct assumptions that others have made, especially about the timeline from Tetragrammaton to Kyrios. Both of the authors seem to agree that the evidence favors the Greek "IAO" in the earliest LXX examples, before any Hebrew-styled Tetragrammatons were used in the [Greek] LXX.

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On 7/21/2018 at 3:05 PM, indagator said:

He mentioned the BA article by Howard in his post above. That was a watered down version of his 1977 classic article in the JBL, the article that began the controversy in academic circles.

Thanks. For those with JSTOR access through a university or library, it's also here:

    Hello guest!

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I've read Meyer's diss as well. There are several problems with it, but they aren't major ones. He seems to be, in effect, backing off one point in his review where he disagrees with Shaw, namely that the use of Iao among Jews in the Second Temple Period was more a socio-economic class thing. In his diss. he seems more amenable to the idea, though he never comes out and states that. Again, it is what the evidence suggests. Interestingly, he never discusses in either work the implications for all this in the NT (Shaw's chapters 7 and 10). It's probably too much of a hot potato for him. He comes from an Evangelical background and plenty of those folks feel threatened by the implications of the use of the divine name by NT Christians because it would endanger their unscriptural high Christology. It sort of puts people like Meyer in a quandary: embrace the evidence or stick with his tradition.

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Well, I now have Shaw's book, the whole thing. It is densely packed. It will take a while to wade through completely, and I'd like to complete it by next week, but I'm not sure I'll even start before then. I would like to complete Meyer's work first, now that I read about a third of it. And I'm constantly find intriguing little side-routes along the way, or things that just come to mind:

  1. The most recent sidetrack was a dissertation I just read about the "acrostic" divine name, YHWH, in the book of Esther. I have always wondered what the most complete surveys of the evidence would say about it, and I think my suspicions are now confirmed after reading a good scholarly treatment of that subject last night.
  2. The night before it was trying to figure out how early that Christian writers were treating the name Jesus as a divine name. Some of Chester Beatty's mss that could potentially be dated to the second century CE (although this is likely too early) even have the name JOSHUA in the OT turned into a "divine name" based, it is assumed, on the proximity to the name JESUS.
  3. The night before that it was reading some things Philo said that I had never read before.
  4. The night before that it was reading some things I probably read before in Josephus, but didn't remember.
  5. etc.

As an amateur, so many of these points are new to me, and I therefore get sidetracked more than most, I'd guess. I'm not a steady reader who can stay on topic. But one of the advantages of being an amateur is the special joy you get when you are about to read someone's treatise on a topic that you know very little about, and you guess the outcome in advance. I'm constantly second-guessing authors with the idea that "I bet I'm going to find . . .  this or that." When you guess them right, it's probably the same kind of joy my grandmother would get when she completed a difficult crossword or jig-saw puzzle.

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JWI, yes, Shaw's book is, as you say, "densely packed." It requires concentration, and likely a rereading of portions as you plow through certain sections the first time. It is all worth it.

I think many of us can relate to getting distracted with our various interests in diverse things having to do with Jehovah's word. On the topic of an acrostic divine name in Esther, have you read this?

    Hello guest!

If not, it's the best thing I've found on the subject.

Looking forward to hearing your impressions of Shaw's book.

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32 minutes ago, indagator said:

On the topic of an acrostic divine name in Esther, have you read this?

Yes. I read it soon after GA once asked a question here about that view of Esther and YHWH. I also have the following saved to my drive that I hadn't completed yet, but I have skimmed most of it and read the conclusions. It covers much of the same material as Turner, about the same length, but in slightly more depth, I think. So far, it seemed to answer the question in the same way, not definitively, but as definitive as necessary in a scholarly paper. 

  • Accident or Acronymy: The Tetragrammaton in the Masoretic Text of Esther
  • John M. Manguno Jr.
  • From Bibliotheca Sacra 171 (October - December 2014): 440-451

    Hello guest!


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    • I disagree. Jesus "framework" is/are interpreted many times by many people or organizations as how they see how would Jesus do this or that. So when you put quote that sound so final and as definitive diagnosis; " the Watchtower has the same framework as Jesus did", i must be careful, alert :)))) Not forget how same WT using phrases (when they explaining GB doctrines) as "Jesus must be thinking this or that, he obviously mean this or that. So, please do not call for Jesus authority when promote own or GB ideas :))  
    • Then you will notice, the Watchtower has the same framework as Jesus did, to separate church from state. So, it is not what the GB is saying, it is what scripture is saying. The majority of former witnesses fail to make that distinction.  As for the trolling, from everyone here, that’s to be expected. There’s only one cure. The moral fiber of some is zero.
    • My opinion is not of some importance now. It is more important how WT define it and how some of people who participate in this forum as WT defender, are not  in harmony /unity, obeying) what GB told them, instructing and teaching. Let see what i found in JW publications. Politicians, activists, and reformers have long struggled to find solutions to divisive issues. Their efforts may be sincere and well-motivated. Yet, Christians recognize that only God’s Kingdom can solve mankind’s problems and guarantee true justice. We must leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands. After all, if each Christian advocated the solution he thought best, would not our congregations soon become divided? -  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. "From Political Activist to Neutral Christian"                                                                                                                                                                                            THE year was 1953. The place—Liberec, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). I was then a 19-year-old activist who sought political change. We activists propagated our views by distributing leaflets that were critical of the Communist Party, then in power. -  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. Similarly, true Christians today do not engage in civil disobedience. They await the day and hour when qualified intervention by God will come. Only he has the wisdom and the power to bring lasting solutions to mankind. Through their preaching work, Jehovah’s Witnesses reassure those who are suffering from injustices that such relief is soon to come. -  Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content.
    • Where can I find comments for the watchtower images?  
    • rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... rubadubdubdub ...... .... stupid chain saw .....
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