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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

The Unspeakable Name of God


We live in a disrespectful world, where individuals are increasingly inclined to pay no mind to parents, teachers, police, employers and even spouses. Based on a belief that respect needs to be both earned and learned, much as individuals are similarly socialized into disrespectful thought patterns, in keeping with a respectful and abiding Jewish tradition, the tetragrammaton, YHWH, will be translated as ADONAI (i.e., “Lord”) in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, when the Old Testament is being referenced. ADONAI translates as the respectful title “Lord.”

Another name for God, Elohim, will always be employed in our rendition when used in conjunction with ADONAI. The appellation reveals the fullness of the plural dimension of our monotheistic God, by means of its “im” ending–a plural ending in Hebrew. When the word “God” appears in the text, apart from the tetragrammaton, we’re translating from Theos (Greek) or Elohim (Hebrew), and not YHWH.  In all, we want to preserve a reverence that is attested in ancient Scripture but so very lacking in modern culture, much as we want to inject long-neglected Jewish sensibilities into the Christian mainstream.

God’s most holy, unspeakable Name usually appears in Bibles as “LORD”, but is sometimes not recognized as especially reverenced due to the mind’s ability to disregard the use of small caps. And, sometimes translators simply add vowels to the YHVH consonants of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet and give “The Name” utterance using the word “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.” This can be seen as very irreverent by Jewish people who would rather you use “HaShem” which literally translates as “The Name.” In fact, some Jewish people even use “HaShem” for the word God.

When the word God appears alone without “The Name”, we will feel free to use “God” with the vowels intact as that is acceptable in both Jewish and Christian Scriptural texts. We will not use “HaShem” or G-D. We will, however, revere God by capitalizing deity pronouns and italicizing Hebrew transliterated words that add depth to understanding.

Please refer to our handy glossary at the back of the Tree of Life Version of the Holy Scriptures. God’s holy, unspeakable Name is sometimes quoted in the New Covenant writings and therefore, has already been transliterated from the original Hebrew Scriptures into ancient Greek. Since our text is English, and we believe it is the intent of the New Covenant writers to point the way back to the Hebrew Scriptures, we chose to continue using “ADONAI” rather than “LORD” consistently—and only—when the verse is specifically calling attention to the TANAKH (The Testament of our Forefathers).

But Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to Bnei-Yisrael and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His Name?’ What should I say to them?” God answered Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Then He said, “You are to say to Bnei-Yisrael, ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses: “You are to say to Bnei-Yisrael, ADONAI, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and the Name by which I should be remembered from generation to generation. – Exodus 3:14-15 TLV

But answering, Yeshua told him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship ADONAI your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” – Luke 4:8 TLV

Here are the 16 Key Principles of translation that guided the entire process of creating the TLV. We’ll journey together to unpack, unveil, and understand them so that YOU can understand the miracle that ADONAI has placed in our midst: The Tree of Life Version.

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