This is the first in a new series on short questions or points one can make in discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The idea is to plant a “seed of doubt” in the mind of the Witness. Often, these are questions they’ve never thought of before. They could lead to in depth discussions but that’s not necessary and may even be counter-productive.
These are questions to provoke thought — not to win some sort of debate. Avoid an argumentative spirit or trying to force the Witness you’re talking with feel he has to give you an answer immediately. Don’t expect the Witness to “cry uncle” in your presence. Just plant the question and if further discussion on the subject continues come back to the question again. If needed, there are “further reading” links at the end but it’s probably best just to plant the seed of doubt and let it take root.
As their name indicates, the Jehovah’s Witnesses attach great importance to the name Jehovah. They believe their use of the name Jehovah is an identifying mark that they are the real Christians.
There’s a lot to the subject and one can get involved in complex historical arguments. A direct question to ask that most Witnesses have not thought about and few would have answers for is to ask this:
Is there a verse in the New Testament where Jesus utters the name “Jehovah” in one of his prayers?
There isn’t. And even though the Witnesses’ New World Translation has “restored” the name Jehovah to the New Testament, it forgot to “restore” it to any of Jesus’ prayers. (The fact that Jesus never utters the name Jehovah or Yahweh in any of his prayers is good internal evidence that this so-called “restoration” is invalid.)
A Witness may refer to passages where Jesus prays: “Hallowed be thy name” or “Let your name be sanctified” (Matthew 6:9) or “I have made your name manifest” (John 17:6) — but come back to the question:
Does Jesus actually use the name “Jehovah” in these prayers?
He doesn’t. That’s the point you want to emphasize. He doesn’t actually utter Jehovah or Yahweh or any such name in these prayers. Instead, he refers to God as “Father.” Remember, before Jesus said: “Hallowed be thy name,” he said: “Our Father.” Similarly, in John chapter 17. There he prays to God as “Father” (John 17:1).
In the Semitic culture of his listeners, the word “name” does not always mean a pronunciation of someone’s personal name. In commenting on John 17:6, the Bible commentator Albert Barnes explains this use of “name:
The word name here includes the attributes or character of God. Jesus had made known his character, his law, his will, his plan of mercy — or, in other words, he had revealed GOD to them. The word name is often used to designate the person, Jn 15:21, Mt 10:22, Rom 2:24, 1 Tim 6:1.
We even do this in our own culture. For example, a policeman may shout: “Open the door in the name of the law!” There, “name” refers to authority.
In subsequent discussions on what the Witness will refer to as the “importance” of Christians using the name Jehovah, come back to the initial question:
So, would it be okay if I just followed Jesus’ example of addressing God as “Father” in prayer?
If Jesus didn’t use the name Jehovah in any of his prayers, do I need to?
For further reading: