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On the Use of the Word Ehoba in the Prayer Book of the Nippon Sei Kokwai.

By two of the Clergy.

Tokio: The Hakubunsha, 1890.

The following considerations with regard to the use of the word Ehoba in the services of the Church, are respectfully laid before the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Nippon Sei Kokwai.

Those with whom these considerations have weight, as well as those who have counter-considerations to offer, are requested to communicate with

Rev. A. F. King,
11 Sakae Cho
Shiba, Tokyo.

May, 1890.

I. Whatever was the actual form of the Name by which God revealed Himself to His chosen people in olden time, the best scholars agree it was not Jehovah and therefore a fortiori not Ehoba.

[2] Moreover it seems clear that either through the excessive reverence of the Jews (which forbad them to use it except very rarely) or through some special providence of God, the exact form of the ineffable Name was lost and cannot with any certainty be recovered. This being so we might not unreasonably have drawn the corollary, that it is most characteristic of reverence in a translator of the Old Testament to own ignorance and always use some authorized title of God in the place of the unknown Name; or, if we must put an alternative, only to use such a form as Jehovah in passages where without some such special word the meaning could not possibly be clearly conveyed to the reader. We find indeed that this corollary has been accepted until quite recently in all the historical churches. Neither the Eastern nor the Latin Church, so far as we know, ever admitted any such word as Jehovah into their translations of the Scriptures. The English translators of 1611 admitted the word Jehovah standing by itself some four times only, into their version; the Old Testament Revisers of 1884 admitted it more frequently, but still accepted the principle of the corollary and only used the [2/3] form where they considered the exigencies of an intelligent translation required the introduction of some such word. The American Revisers of the same year were the first to break through the principle of the corollary and to write Jehovah in every place where they found the characters for the unknown Name in the Hebrew Scriptures. Following (as we must suppose) their example, the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Japanese have in all cases put Ehoba to represent the unknown Name of God.

II. But our particular purpose at this time is not to call in question the advisavility of using the word Ehoba in the Japanese translation of the Old Testament. Had it stayed there we might not have felt so strongly the peculiar unfitness of its use. But we find the word introduced with the same freedom into the Japanese Prayer Book, not only in the Decalogue, in the Sentences at the beginning of Morning and Evening Prayer and in the Offertory Sentences, but in the Church's great Hymnal, the Book of Psalms. When we remember how often one or other of the Psalms is embedded in the daily and occasional offices of the Church, it will be seen how constantly the word Ehoba is put into the mouths of Christian worshippers in Japan.

[4] Now we maintain that this use of the word in Christian worship is much to be deprecated. It would probably only introduce needless discussion into the argument to speak of it as bordering on a theological anachronism; it is quite sufficient to remember that such a use of the word is without precedent in the Church, just as surely as it is contrary to all New Testament analogy.

That it is without precedent in the Church is clear; there are, so far as we know, only two instances of the use of Jehovah in the present English and American Prayer Books, and those are found in Psalms appointed to be said but once a month. The word certainly finds no place in the ancient Liturgies.

That it is contrary to all New Testament analogy is equally clear; for out of the numerous quotations from the Old Testament found in the New (and they include some seventy from the Psalms) not a few are from passages which contain in the original Hebrew a mention of the ineffable Name; in all cases the word read as used by our Saviour and His apostles to represent this Name is 'Kurios' or 'Lord'. To say that the inspired writers generally (for they do not always) quote from the Septuagint Version, or that they were prevented by local considerations from using any other word, is surely not sufficient ground for refusing (in the face too of the universal practice of the Church for at least 1400 years) to take their example in this matter as a real precedent.

III. And here let us observe that with regard to the Prayer Book of the Nippon Sei Kokwai as it stands at present, there are not wanting curious inconsistencies of translation with regard to the use of the word Ehoba.

In translating the Prayer Book into Japanese the translators appear never to have ventured on Ehoba so much as once (in translating the word Lord) except when they took an entire Psalm or sentence direct from the Old Testament. Hence we find again and again they have not hesitated to use Shu where to be really consistent (we cannot be too thankful they were not) they ought to have [4/5] used Ehoba. May we not look upon this providential inconsistency of translation as a loophole, by which we may return the more easily to the uniform use of the word Shu instead of Ehoba?

Surely it needs but a reverent examination of the whole question to make it quite clear that at least in the Prayer Book, as the handbook of Christian Worship and the exponent of Christian faith and Christian duty, the use of the name Ehoba is quite out of place.

In any case we earnestly trust that the present revisers of the Japanese translation of the Prayer Book will, if not from the reasons urged in this pamphlet, at any rate from a desire to fulfil their plain duty as translators, not of the Old Testament but of the combined English and American Book, see their way to remove what we must venture to call this serious blot on the translation as it at present stands.

It is however to be observed that so far as the Book of Psalms is concerned, the present translation (of which in other respects all admit the excellence) has not received the sanction of the Nippon Sei Kokwai; only those Psalms which were embodied in the Prayer [5/6] Book provisionally accepted by the synod of 1887 can be considered as having an authoritative translation. The same remark applies to the Japanese hymnals now in use; they have received no authoritative sanction, so far as we are aware.

To prevent misunderstanding we may take this opportunity of saying we are aware that the present translation of the Old Testament into Japanese was not made till after the Japanese Prayer Book had been issued; this does not really affect any of the statements made in this pamphlet.

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