. . . or why we should use "Yahweh" and not "LORD" when we read the Hebrew scriptures in church.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
11. I ended Part 2 saying that there is little or no evidence suggesting that the Jews substituted 'adonay for YHWH before the intertestimental period of decline. And even then it wasn't universal. Doing a little research on this uncovers the fact that the Jews were still pronouncing YHWH at the end of the OT period. Indeed, there is no solid evidence to suggest that the Jews did not pronounce this name at the time of Jesus. Most evidence points to the conclusion that the development of this superstitious avoidance of vocalizing the name of Yahweh comes after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, which means after the writing of the New Testament. That doesn't mean that nobody was doing it before this time. But the practice doesn’t appear to be the official policy of Judaism until after the destruction of the Temple. The superstitious avoidance of Yahweh is associated with the transformation of Judaism into a new religion after the NT period, an extension and intensification of apostate, Pharisaical Judaism.
And what about the Septuagint (LXX) translators? Well, it appears that the writers of the LXX were not yet under the spell of this dangerous error.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology notes: ""Recent textual discoveries cast doubt on the idea that the compilers of the LXX translated the etragrammaton YHWH by kyrios. The oldest LXX MSS (fragments) now available to us have the tetragrammaton written in Heb. characters in the Gk. text. This custom was retained by later Jewish translators of the OT in the first centuries A.D. One LXX MS from Qumram even represents the tetragrammaton by IAO. These instances have given support to the theory that the thorough-going use of kyrios for the tetragrammaton in the text of the LXX was primarily the work of Christian scribes. . . On the other hand, the Jews would have already replaced the tetragrammaton by kyrios in the oral transmission of the Gk. OT text" (Vol. 2, p. 512).
"In pre-Christian Greek [manuscripts] of the OT, the divine name was not rendered by 'kyrios' as has often been thought. Usually the Tetragram was written out in Aramaic or in paleo-Hebrew letters. . . . At a later time, surrogates such as 'theos' [God] and 'kyrios' replaced the Tetragram . . . There is good reason to believe that a similar pattern evolved in the NT, i.e. the divine name was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the OT, but in the course of time it was replaced by surrogates" (New Testament Abstracts, March 1977, p. 306).
This, then, raises the question of whether the NT writers really were accommodating themselves to the Jews when they translated YHWH as kyrios. They must have had some other reason for doing it. What might that have been?
Notice that the divine name YHWH was given to Israel. The name of God used by non-Israelite believers was most often "God Most High" or the "Most High God." Just do a concordance search and you'll see this, from Melchizedek in Gen. 14 to King Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 4. With the exile, however, God does a new thing in the world. He sent the Jews (short for Judahites) into the whole world to be witness for him. They no longer have their own Davidic King. Now they are subject, by God's own decree, to the world emperors of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
This new world order is different than the old tribal and kingdom arrangement of the past. Now God begins a new work of international significance. Of course, this culminates in the work of Jesus and his apostles. I don't have time to go into all the details here. But interestingly, at this time God begins to speak in tongues (non-Hebrew languages), specifically Aramaic. And the name Yahweh is not used in the Aramaic sections of the OT.
It seems best to understand that the name YHWH was given specifically to Israel and the Jews and is particularly associated with the Mosaic and kingdom phases of their history. God is for the Israelites peculiarly Yahweh. The name YHWH is not used in the Aramaic and later in the Greek Scriptures because YHWH is for Israel and the Jews. Yahweh is "the name of the God of Israel" (Ezra 5:1, in Aramaic).
Even if the evidence seems to indicate that the people of God did not use the name Yahweh as much in the exilic and post-exilic period - a time when the kingdom of God expanded to include the world emperors as guardians of his seed people - that does not imply that they refused to say the name Yahweh anymore at all. Writing new things for a new situation is one thing, reading the received Scriptures is something else. In other words, when they read the Torah in their assembly they read Yahweh, but when they wrote and spoke to their Gentile neighbors in the wider world they used more generic titles for the true God.
If the NT writers, continuing the trajectory of the new covenantal arrangement after the exile, did not use the name Yahweh in their translation of OT texts, this does not necessarily imply that they refused to vocalize the world when they read the Hebrew Scriptures publicly in their services. The revelation of God's name corresponded with the increasing revelation of his character and purposes so that finally God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the specific "memorial name" for worship and prayer is now the name of God incarnate, Jesus.
This does not mean, however, that we should just go back and erase all the previous names of God and put Jesus or Lord in their place. Even if we don't use the name of Yahweh in the same way as the Israelites did, we need to be able to read the Scriptures in such a way that we can learn how that name functioned for them. After all, these things were written for our instruction. If hearers of the Scripture cannot discern the difference between God's personal name and the title "Master/Lord," then they will miss an important dimension of instruction concerning how the people relate to their covenant God.
12. The bottom line is the LORD/Lord business in English is confusing, especially when heard/sung in church and not simply in one's private reading. Even by making that distinction (LORD/Lord) the translators are conceding the battle. Why even do this? It just raises questions. When people read this odd translation they will look in the margin or in the explanation in front of their Bibles and see "Yahweh" anyway, so why not go the whole nine yards?
Moreover, the distinction is completely lost when the text is publicly read out loud and not just "studied." You see, for liturgical use the modern way of translation utterly fails. Hearers will have no idea when LORD or Lord is being used. Well, this is just par for the course. Not many in our tradition think about corporate/liturgical use when they do these translations. It's all about private reading and study. If we insist on not vocalizing YHWH, then we must at least do something to make the distinction audible in public reading - maybe if we use "Lord" for Yahweh, then "Master" should be used for adonay. At least the distinction could be heard. But again, why go through such linguistic contortions? Why not rather translate the text faithfully and allow God's people to hear and thereby understand the proper difference between the title Lord and the name Yahweh?
In conclusion, for reading the text in Church and for use in study Yahweh should be used. It is, after all, the unique name God revealed to Israel, and to say "by my name LORD I was not known by them" (Ex. 6:3) is grotesque and dangerously misleading.