Revising songs that use "Yahweh"?

There have been some who have asked whether it would be possible to give a list of songs that use the pseudo-name Yahweh for God, and to suggest possible alternatives.

For instance, the popular (with a certain set) Frank Anderson song “Strong and Constant” has the line “I will be Yahweh who walks with you”. You could sing this as “I the Lord will always walk with you” (which also actually makes better sense).

But my question is: Name one song that uses “Yahweh” which might actually be worth singing or might be worth perpetuating with alterations?

I think this is a good opportunity just to completely scrap the whole sorry lot. There is a saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but if it is completely stuffed, one could say, don’t bother stuffing around with it.

[Actually, I can name ONE song that uses “Jehovah” and is worth singing, but most hymnals have already altered it: “Guide me, O thou Great Jehovah” is now universally sung as “Guide me O thou Great Redeemer”. It is worth singing, but then it comes from a different time and a different school of hymnody than the modern “Yahweh is my buddy” stuff.]

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0 Responses to Revising songs that use "Yahweh"?

  1. Peregrinus says:

    Hi David

    I have no particular commitment to any hymn that uses “Yahweh”. Most of the ones that I can think of have largely disappared from regular or widespread use already, to join “Bring Flowers of the Fairest” and other hymns that we recall with a slight shudder. I doubt that I would miss any of the remaining ones.

    But can I ask you why you refer to the “pseudo-name Yahweh”? I’ve always understood that it’s our best reconstruction of the word that the Tetragrammaton actually represents. Am I wrong?

  2. Schütz says:

    “our best reconstruction of the word that the Tetragrammaton actually represents”

    That is indeed my point, Perry. It is “our best reconstruction” – and at that it is only a guess. You don’t go about “guessing” or “reconstructing” someone’s name. God reveals his name so that we can come into his presence in prayer and praise and thanksgiving. WE don’t make it up.

    The whole point of the Tetragrammaton is that it cannot be pronounced. Nor can it be transliterated. It is what it is. The name – as revealed to Moses – is a mystery and will always remain so.

    On the other hand, there are “names” for God that are revealed to us in the NT: “Father”, “Lord”, “The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”, and above all “Jesus”. These are sure names by which we come to God.

  3. Peregrinus says:

    Fair enough. Point taken.

    (Incidentally, I read that Dan Schutte came to the same conclusion in 1973, since when he has not employed ‘Yahweh’ in any composition. He has approved a version of I know you are near which does not employ ‘Yahweh’, but the original version remains enduringly popular in the US.)

    There is still a bit of an issue though, not with respect to liturgy or hymnody, but with respect to Bible translation.

    We know that the Hebrew scriptures employed the Tetragrammaton. We also know that, when those scriptures were read aloud, the reader substituted Adonai, rather than making any attempt to pronounce the Tetragrammaton. Nevertheless they continued to write the Tetragrammaton when transcribing the scriptures.

    How should an English translation approach this? The JB uses ‘Yahweh’ but, as it has been adapted for lectionary use, “Lord” is substituted. However a complete substitution of “Lord” in the written text as well as the proclaimed text (as, e.g., in the New American Bible) would be inconsistent with the Jewish tradition. More to the point, it would eclipse the mystery to which the Tetragrammaton points. ‘Yahweh’ at least has the merit of pointing to the Tetragrammaton. Is there a more fitting substute? Should our bibles employ the Tetragrammaton itself? Is there a bible translation which does?

  4. Joshua says:

    Well, the typographical convention of printing LORD in small capitals would seem to be a good way to do what you call for, viz., signal that the underlying word is the ineffable Tetragrammaton.

  5. Schütz says:

    However a complete substitution of “Lord” in the written text as well as the proclaimed text (as, e.g., in the New American Bible) would be inconsistent with the Jewish tradition.

    You could have used other examples than the NAB – since before the JB the total percentage of translations of the Hebrew scriptures that used “Lord” (or its equivalents) to translate the Tetragrammaton was 100%.

    And as regards the Jewish tradition: the very first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures – done by Jews for Jews – was the Septuagint. What did it do? It replaced the Tetragrammaton with the Greek Kyrios (= “Lord”). That’s the point.

    And to prove the point, try to find a Jewish translation of the Tanakh today that uses YHWH (or some such) in its text. You wont. Such a thing doesn’t exist. They don’t even write “God” (preferring “G-d”).

    That’s the authentic Jewish tradition, Perry.

  6. Innocent III says:

    There is one other hymn that uses Jehovah that I would like to see used more often and which is based on a Jewish hymn so I understand namely “The God of Abram praise” which includes the line “Jehovah Great I Am”. A beautiful hymn now sadly ignored by many churches.

  7. Peregrinus says:


    I picked the NAB because it and the JB are the two English translations most used for liturgical proclamation. Of the two, the JB points more clearly to the Jewish liturgical practice of writing one thing but reading another.

    I accept that other translations follow the septaguint and use a translation of kyrie. But the Septaguint, so far as I know, was not prepared or used for liturgical purposes; it’s the Hebrew scripture that are read in the synagogue, and they print the Tetragrammaton but read it as Adonai.

    I’m not saying that we have to follow the Jewish tradition just because it is the Jewish tradition. Nevertheless I think that tradition acts as a pointer to a mystery that is effectively lost when we just use ‘LORD’. I doubt if one person in a hundred reading a bible is conscious that the typography employed points to the Tetragrammaton.

  8. Schütz says:

    Rather, a greater mystery is lost when we do NOT use “Lord”. Not only the mystery of the original divine name is made common, but the mystery of the relationship between the Name of Jesus and the Name of the Lord is lost entirely. What did St Paul mean when he said “There is One God the Father of all, and One Lord Jesus Christ”?

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