|Do you know God’s Name? The Creator Himself tells us what His Name is; and it is easy to identify in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. But His Name has become clouded and confused by erroneous translations, corrupted manuscripts and Jewish tradition. Some say His Name is “God” or “LORD” — but these are titles rather than personal names. Can we know, then, God’s TRUE Name?|
John D. Keyser
Over the years various people have taken the time to count the number of times the Old Testament contains the inspired Name of the Creator God. However, since there are several variations, contractions and expansions of the Holy Name, there is no real agreement on just how many times it is used.
According to some it is approximately 7,000 times. This is, it turns out, far more than any other name — and more than any other basic word used in the entire Bible!
The Name consists of four Hebrew CONSONANTS — yod, hay, vav, hay — and is referred to as HaShem HaGadol, “The Great Name” in the Hebrew language. The English equivalent is Y H V H. The Greeks simply called it the Tetragrammaton — “the four letters.”
The English translators of the King James Version of the Bible have utilized a unique form of the title “lord” to represent this great Name. The first letter L is CAPITAL in form — large size. The remaining three letters are SINGLE in size, but CAPITAL in form — thus LORD. This arrangement is used by the King James Version and some other translations; however there are many translations that do not use this form, so that when reading them one has no indication that they are reading the Holy Name of the Creator.
Out of the people of Israel — to whom the Creator God made known His Holy Name some 7,000 times — those descended from the House of Judah deem it too sacred to use themselves — much less to teach it to the nations. Those descended from the House of Israel, and the entire Gentile world, look at it as four meaningless Hebrew letters.
Those descended from Judah (part of those called “Jews” today) hide the Name of the Heavenly Father in a box because they think it is too sacred to use. Those of Israel, and the Gentiles, deny that He has a name and call Him LORD, being misled by the translators. But to those that are called by the Heavenly Father — “Jews,” Israelites or Gentiles — the Creator wants to REVEAL His Holy and Great Name.
When God called to Moses out of the burning bush, telling him to free the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, Moses asked: “And Moses said to God, ‘Behold, when I go to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” they shall say to me, “What is his name?” What shall I say to them'” (Exodus 3:13, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible). God answered Moses, “I AM THAT I AM” (verse 14). The Hebrew word for “I AM” is ‘ehyeh, which comes from the verb “to be.” It can also be translated as “I SHALL BE.”
God further told Moses, “say to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers…has sent me to you'” (verse 15). Although the Hebrew word for “Lord” is‘adon, the word translated “LORD” (upper case) in verse 15 is different. Spelled with four Hebrew consonants that read from right to left, it is translated YHVH in English, and is known as the Tetragrammaton (Greek for “four letters”). This word is related to ‘ehyeh and also comes from the verb “to be.” Both words have the sense of “BEING ACTIVELY PRESENT.”
Later, in Exodus 6:2-3, God tells Moses,
“I am YHVH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shaddai, BUT BY MY NAME I WAS NOT KNOWN TO THEM.”
The Revealing of God’s Name
Although God’s Name was apparently not revealed to Abraham — or those before him — the essential meaning of God’s Name was known. El Shaddai was understood to be “the Most High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth” (Genesis 14:19). So it was at Mt. Sinai that God first revealed His PERSONAL Name to Moses and the children of Israel. Writes Dr. James D. Tabor —
“…when Israel comes out of Egypt and is gathered by Moses at Mt. Sinai, the dramatic scene is set. God reveals Himself to the whole nation in an overwhelming display of power and glory, speaking directly to them, and setting forth the Ten Commandments (literally “the Ten Words”). There is thunder, lightning, clouds of smoke and fire, the piercing sound of a trumpet, and the whole mountain shakes. Finally God Himself speaks in an audible voice for all to hear. First, He identifies Himself: ‘I am YHVH your God…you shall have no other gods besides Me’ (Exodus 20:1). The reaction of the people is stark terror! They call out to Moses, ‘You speak to us and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die!'” (20:19) (Restoring Abrahamic Faith, Genesis 2000, Charlotte, NC 28256. 1993, pp. 12-13).
This was the first account of the Israelites rejecting God — a trend that was to continue throughout their history. Continues Dr. Tabor:
“Often in his farewell speeches in Deuteronomy Moses recalls the extraordinary nature of this event, when God personally spoke His Name and revealed His Ten Commandments. “YHVH talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire….these words YHVH spoke to all your assembly in the mountain from of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more (Deuteronomy 5:4, 22; cf. 4:9-14). This was a unique, one-time revelation, centered on the Ten Commandments and the manifestation of God’s awesome personal Presence [and Name]. He warns them further in Deuteronomy 11:28, not to turn to other gods, “whom you have not known” (cf. Jeremiah 7:9). The verb here rendered “known” can be translated “experienced.” This Sinai revelation was to be remembered as the one special time when Israel experienced direct contact with YHVH” (ibid., p. 13).
This revelation of God’s personal Name, which includes an understanding of His very character, carries with it the unique stamp of Divine Authority. Constantly throughout the Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) we run into the phrase, “And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying…” followed by complete sections of text in which the Most High God speaks directly, in the first person. Similarly, in the Prophets, we encounter the key phrase, “Thus says YEHOVAH….” literally hundreds of times. In Hebrew the phrase is most distinct — koh ‘amar YHVH.
Notes Dr. Tabor — “These phrases, followed by the first person declarations of YHVH Himself, reflect a style that no pious Jew would ever dare to fabricate. Neither the writers of the New Testament nor the rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud adopt such a mode of speaking” (ibid., p. 14).
For this very reason, the Five Books of Moses and the Prophets must be the absolute foundation for any restoration of God’s true Name.
Jews Keep the Divine Name in Their Texts
Since the Divine Name YHVH was — and is — the most sacred word in the Hebrew language, it is extremely unlikely that Jews of any sort would have deleted it from their Bibles. Furthermore, we now know from discoveries in Egypt and the Judean desert that the Jews wrote the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew even in their Greek texts.
|The above table displays the name of the Creator in the ancient Paleo-Hebrew text, modern Hebrew text, the English letter equivalents, the sound of the Hebrew letters (transliteration), and the common English translation. Note that Hebrew is always read right to left.|
Some very old fragments of the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament, that actually existed in the Messiah’s day, have survived down to our times; and it should be noted that the personal Name of God appears in them. In 1944, W.G. Waddell discovered the remains of an Egyptian papyrus scroll (Papyrus Fued 266) dating to the first or second century B.C. which included part of the Septuagint. In no instance, however, was YHVH translated into any other form. Instead the Tetragrammaton itself — in square Aramaic letters — was written into the Greek text. This parallels the Qumran sect’s use of the paleo-Hebrew script for the Divine Name in a document which was otherwise written in square Aramaic script.
There are three separate pre-Christian copies of the Greek Septuagint Bible extant today; and not a single instant of the Tetragrammaton translated into a Greek form — or, for that matter, translated at all — can be found. As a result, we can now say, with certainty, that it was a Jewish practice — before, during, and after the New Testament period — to write the Divine Name in the paleo-Hebrew or square, Aramaic script — or in transliteration right into the Greek text of Scripture.
Commenting on the fact that these oldest fragments of the Greek Septuagint do contain the Divine Name in its Hebrew form, Dr. P. Kahle states —
“We now know that the Greek Bible text [the Septuagint] as far as it was written by Jews for Jews did NOT translate the Divine name by kyrios; but the Tetragrammaton, written with Hebrew or Greek letters, was RETAINED in such MSS [manuscripts]. It was the Christians who replaced the Tetragrammaton by kyrios, when the Divine name written in Hebrew letters was not understood any more” (The Cairo Geniza, Oxford, 1959, p. 222).
This is also noted by The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Notice!
“Recent textual discoveries cast doubt on the idea that the compilers of the LXX [Septuagint] translated the Tetragrammaton YHVH by kyrios. The oldest LXX MSS (fragments) now available to us have the Tetragrammaton written in Hebrew characters in the Greek text. This custom was retained by later Jewish translators of the Old Testament in the first centuries A.D.” (Volume 2, p. 512).
Professor George Howard, of the University of Georgia, makes this comment: “When the Septuagint which the New Testament church used and quoted contained the Hebrew form of the divine name, the New Testament writers no doubt included the Tetragrammaton in their quotations” (Biblical Archaeology Review, March 1978, p. 14). What AUTHORITY would they have had to do otherwise?
God’s Name remained in the Greek translations of the Old Testament for a while longer. In the first half of the second century A.D. the Jewish proselyte Aquila made a new translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, and the Tetragrammaton still appeared in Hebrew characters.
Early Church Fathers Retain Divine Name For a While
Then, around 245 A.D., the scholar Origen produced his Hexapla, a six-column reproduction of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures in their original Hebrew and Aramaic — accompanied by a transliteration into Greek, and by the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, the Septuagint, and Theodotion. On the evidence of the fragmentary copies now known, Professor W.G. Waddell says —
“In Origen’s Hexapla…the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and LXX [Septuagint], all represented JHWH [YHVH] by PIPI, in the second column of the Hexapla the Tetragrammaton was written in Hebrew characters” (The Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford, Vol. XLV, 1944, pp. 158-159).
Some believe the original text of Origen’s Hexapla used Hebrew characters for the Tetragrammaton in ALL its columns. Origen himself said:
“…in the most accurate manuscripts THE NAME occurs in Hebrew characters, yet not in today’s Hebrew [characters], but in the most ancient ones.”
As late as the fourth century A.D. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, says in his prologue to the books of Samuel and Kings —
“And we find the name of God, the Tetragrammaton [i.e. YHVH], in certain Greek volumes even to this day expressed in ancient letters.”
In a letter written at Rome in 384 A.D., Jerome states:
“The ninth [name of God] is the Tetragrammaton, which they [the Jews] considered [a.nek.pho’ne.ton], that is, unspeakable, and it is written with these letters, Iod, He, Vau, He. Certain ignorant ones, because of the similarity of the characters, when they would find it in Greek books, were accustomed to read PIPI [Greek letters corresponding to the Roman letters PIPI]” (Papyrus Grecs Bibliques, by F. Dunand, Cairo, 1966, p. 47, ftn. 4).
While the Jews didn’t change the Divine Name in the Hebrew and Greek texts, they avoided saying the Tetragrammaton because they believed that in doing so they would take God’s Name in vain. When reading a passage of the Hebrew Bible that contained it, they referred to God by another one of His names — ‘adonai or “LORD.”
Gentile Christians Discard the Tetragrammaton
But Gentile Christians, unlike the Jewish Christians, had no traditional attachment to the Hebrew Tetragrammaton and no doubt often failed to even recognize it. Early in the second century A.D., after the last of the apostles had died, the falling away from the true Christian faith foretold by the Messiah and his followers began in earnest. Pagan philosophies and doctrines infiltrated the congregation of believers; sects and divisions arose, and the original purity of faith corrupted. And God’s Name ceased to be used. Gentile scribes, who had never before seen Hebrew writing (especially in its archaic form), stopped preserving the Divine Name. This contributed to the use of kyrios and theos for the Tetragrammaton, and toward the end of the first Christian century the use of these surrogates crowded out the Hebrew Tetragrammaton in both Testaments.
Another factor in dropping the Tetragrammaton from the Bible texts is that the Gentile “Christians” did not want to appear Jewish. From 66 A.D. to 135 A.D. there were several Jewish revolts that resulted in severe persecution by Roman authorities upon any who appeared Jewish. Most of the Jewish Christians were killed by the Romans, leaving mostly “Gentile” Christians. These Gentile Christians wanted to appease the Roman authorities and gain approval amongst Romans in general. To accomplish this they began to discard almost anything that made them look in the least bit Jewish. The Greek philosophies were placed on a par with the Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 6:20-21). Under these circumstances all scriptures containing the Divine Name were destroyed, leaving only copies that contained the substitutes,kyrios or theos.
The Jews, on the other hand, because of their reverence for the Divine Name, did NOT destroy texts containing the Tetragrammaton. A famous rabbinic passage (Talmud Shabbat 13.5) discusses the problem of destroying “heretical” texts (very probably including books of the Jewish Christians). The problem the rabbinic writer has with this is that the heretical texts contained the Divine Name and the wholesale destruction would include the destruction of the Divine Name! This further suggests that the Jewish Christians did NOT translate the Divine Name into Greek.
In later copies of the Septuagint, God’s Name was completely removed and words like “God” (The.os’) and “Lord” (Ky’ri.os) were substituted.
The same thing occurred in the “New Testament,” or Christian Greek Scriptures. Professor George Howard makes the following comment: “When the Hebrew form for the divine name was eliminated in favor of Greek substitutes in the Septuagint, it was eliminated also from the New Testament quotations of the Septuagint….Before long the divine name was lost to the Gentile church except insofar as it was reflected in the contracted surrogates or remembered by scholars (BAR, March 1978).
Therefore, while the Jews refused to pronounce God’s Name, the apostate Christian church managed to remove it completely from Greek language manuscripts of both testaments of the Bible — as well as from other language versions.
The Messiah’s Disciples
It should be noted that the so-called Christians who replaced the Tetragrammaton with kyrios in the later Septuagint copies, were NOT the early disciples of the Messiah. They were people of later centuries, when Paul’s prophesied apostasy was well under way and had corrupted the purity of Christian teachings. States theInsight On the Scriptures —
“Thus, in the days of Jesus and his disciples the divine name very definitely appeared in copies of the Scriptures, both in Hebrew manuscripts and in Greek manuscripts. Did Jesus and his disciples use the divine name in speech and in writing? In view of Jesus’ condemnation of Pharisaic traditions (Mt 15:1-9), it would be highly unreasonable to conclude that Jesus and his disciples let Pharisaic ideas (such as are recorded in the Mishnah) govern them in this matter” (Volume 2, p.10).
The Messiah’s own name means “YEHOVAH is Salvation,” and he thus carries the true Name of the Creator God in his own name. The following Scriptures show, without a doubt, that Yeshua and the writers of the New Testament used the Divine Name:
MATTHEW 6:9: You, therefore, pray like this: “Our Father in heaven! May YOUR NAME be kept holy.”
JOHN 5:43: I have come in my FATHER’S NAME, and you don’t accept me; if someone else comes in his own name, him you will accept.
JOHN 12:28: “Father, glorify YOUR NAME!” At this a bat-kol [heavenly voice] came out of heaven, “I have glorified it before, and I will glorify it again!
JOHN 17:6: “I made YOUR NAME known to the people you gave me out of the world. They were yours, you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
JOHN 17:26: “I have made YOUR NAME known to them, and I will continue to make it known…”
HEBREWS 2:11-12: For both Yeshua, who sets people apart for God [YEHOVAH], and the ones being set apart have a common origin — this is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers when he says, “I will proclaim YOUR NAME to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
REVELATION 3:12: I will make him who wins the victory a pillar in the Temple of my God, and he will never leave it. Also I will write on him THE NAME OF MY GODand the name of my God’s city, the new Yerushalayim coming down out of heaven from my God, and my own NEW NAME.
REVELATION 22:4: They will see his face, and HIS NAME will be on their foreheads.
In view of all this, when the Messiah quoted the Hebrew Scriptures — or read from them — he most certainly used the Divine Name, YEHOVAH. Therefore, logically, Yeshua’s disciples, including the inspired writers of the New Testament, would follow his example in this.
So why, then, is the Divine Name absent from the manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures that have come down to us today? Clearly because by the time those extant copies were written (from the 3rd century A.D. onward) the original text of the writings of the apostles and disciples had been altered. As a result, later copyists replaced the Tetragrammaton with Ky’ri.os and The.os’.
Restoration of the Divine Name
In time, however, God’s Name came back into use.
In the Insight On the Scriptures we find the following —
“In the second half of the first millennium C.E., Jewish scholars introduced a system of POINTS to represent the missing vowels in the consonantal Hebrew text. When it came to God’s name, instead of inserting the proper vowel signs for it, they put other vowel signs to remind the reader that he should say‘Adho.nai’ (meaning “Sovereign Lord”) or ‘Elo.him’ (meaning “God”)” (Vol. 2, p. 7).
For many centuries the Hebrew language was maintained without vowels. However, after the dispersions when the Israelites were scattered around the world, the Hebrew language (the language through which the Creator God had dealt with the nation of Israel) became so obscure to many that even the prayers could not be spoken intelligibly. As a result, a set of VOWEL MARKINGS called niqqud were designed and attached to the consonants to provide a somewhat uniform pronunciation.
Writes Richard Davis: “For centuries Hebrew teachers had taught their students to pronounce the Great Name as Adonai. When the vowel points were applied to the Holy Name, the people were tempted to speak the name as the vowels indicated — which would have been YEHOVAH” (The Great Holy Name, page 7). This we see verified in Christian D. Ginsburg’s edition of the Masoretic text.
In 1908 this noted scholar prepared a work entitled The Old Testament, diligently revised according to the Massorah and the early editions with the various readings from MSS and the ancient versions for the British and Foreign Bible Society. It compares various readings from more than seventy manuscripts and nineteen published editions.
Ginsburg dates the manuscripts, including the Pentateuch Or. 4445 in the British Museum, to about 820-850 A.D. These manuscripts, as late a date as this, convinced Ginsburg to render the Sacred Name only ONE WAY when it stands alone — YEHOWAH.
Adds the Insight On the Scriptures —
“Ginsburg’s edition of the Masoretic text vowel points the divine name to read YEHO.WAH. (Ge. 3:14, ftn) Hebrew scholars generally favor “YAHWEH” as the most likely pronunciation” (page 7).
In order to support the centuries-old tradition of pronouncing the Great Name as Adonai, and to help the students make the switch in their minds from what they SAW to what they were SUPPOSED TO SPEAK, a teaching was established that the vowels of the Great Name were to be looked at as the vowels of Adonai.
However, this worked only because of the strong tradition it supported, for all one has to do is look at the two sets of vowels to see that they are definitely NOT the same set of vowels at all.
Judaism has utilized a rigid law of devotion in protecting the Torah, the Prophets and the sacred writings that make up the Hebrew scriptures — what we know as the Old Testament. In the entire history of the world there has NEVER been a literature that has been so PROTECTED by such a rigid law, or by such dedication of the people involved. As the apostle Paul said, “What advantage then has the Jew [Judahite], or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because TO THEM WERE COMMITTED THE ORACLES [SAYINGS, SCRIPTURES] OF GOD” (Romans 3:1-2).
That law of protection that has been in effect from Moses until now was in effect in the 9th century A.D. when the Jewish leaders approved a set of vowels to be applied to the scriptures and the prayer book. Those vowels were also APPLIED TO GOD’S NAME to set forth the PROPER pronunciation by the SAME rigid law of protection that was applied to the total scriptures and prayer book.
Today, unfortunately, there are many scholars and students from the ranks of both Jews and Gentiles (and those from the House of Israel) that are reading these vowels and CALLING THEM SOMETHING OTHER than what they actually are! But fortunately, to some of them, the holy spirit is saying, “Read what you SEE instead of what you are TOLD TO SAY, and you will speak my Holy Name YEHOVAH.”
By oral (Jewish) tradition, God’s Holy Name — YEHOVAH — is spoken as Adonai, a symbolic form created by adding a qamats and a yod (pronounced i or oi) to Adonwhich is Hebrew for lord.
By inspiration from the One who gave us His Name in the beginning, and has preserved it for 3,500 years, we now have a set of vowels that enables even the beginning Hebrew student to read and pronounce the GREATEST NAME the world has ever know — YEHOVAH!
In 1278 the Tetragrammaton appeared in Latin in the work Pugio fidei (Dagger of Faith), by Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk. He used the spelling YOHOUA. Soon after, in 1303, Porchetus de Salvaticis completed a work called Victoria Porcheti adversus impios Hebraeos (Porchutus’ Victory Against the Ungodly Hebrews). In this he, too, mentioned God’s Name — spelling it variously IOHOUAH, IOHOUA and IHOUAH. During the 14th century the Tetragrammaton was being used in translations of the Christian Scriptures into Hebrew — beginning with the translation of Matthew into Hebrew that was incorporated into the work ‘E’ven bo’chan by Shem-Tob ben Isaac Ibn Shaprut. Wherever Matthew quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures, this translation used the Tetragrammaton in each case of its occurrence. Then, in 1518, Petrus Galatinus published a work entitled De arcanis catholicae veritatis (Concerning Secrets of the Universal Truth) in which he spells God’s Name IEHOUA.
The Name first appeared in an English Bible in 1530, when William Tyndale published a translation of the first five books of the Bible. In this he included the Name of God, usually spelled IEHOUAH, in several verses, and in a note to this edition he wrote: “IEHOVAH is God’s Name…Moreover as oft as thou seeist LORD in great letters (except there be any error in the printing) it is in Hebrew IEHOVAH.”
The Origin of Yahweh/Yahveh
The quote above from the Insight On the Scriptures, page 7, ends by saying, “HEBREW [“JEWISH”] SCHOLARS generally favor “YAHWEH” as the most likely pronunciation.”
Think about this for a moment. Why would the Jews favor “YAHWEH” as the correct rendition of the Divine Name if they considered it “taking God’s Name in vain” and blasphemy to even pronounce the Tetragrammaton? Did they do this on purpose knowing full well that YAHWEH and its variations (YAHVEH, YAHWAH, YAHVAH etc.) are NOT the true pronunciation of the Divine Name? This way the Christian world — which the Jews actually hate — could pronounce YAHWEH as the Divine Name to their hearts content and NOT take God’s Name in vain in the mind of the Jews!
Notice what Richard Davis has to say —
“While attending classes at the Jewish temple, we also attended the Jewish worship services. One weekend a visiting Rabbi, professor at the Hebrew University in Los Angeles, came and taught on the Holy Name. This was NOT a class taught to Jewish and non-Jewish students, it was a seminar taught to the JEWISH CONGREGATION. He opened his teaching with these words, ‘The time has come for our people to know the correct pronunciation of Ha Shem (The Name).’ He wrote on the blackboard the first syllable of the Name, and had the congregation pronounce it, then erased it; wrote the second syllable, had us pronounce it, and erased it. Then he wrote the THIRD SYLLABLE, had us pronounce it, and erased it. Then he said, ‘Now, pronounce the entire word IN YOUR MIND.’
“He taught the Holy Name one syllable at a time, pronouncing each syllable, but never pronouncing the entire name….The syllables that he taught in English were (YE) (HO) (VAH), just as I had learned them some thirty years previously from Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary #3068″ (The Great Holy Name, Addendum p. 2).
Continues Richard Davis:
“When the Jewish leaders decided to discontinue usage of the Holy Name, they chose the STREET NAME Adon added a suffix to it, called it Adonai (orAdonoi) and taught their people to use it as a SUBSTITUTE for any and all forms of the Holy Name.
“When many of the people refused to accept the street word Adon as the name of their Holy One, the Rabbis had to go back into conference and come up with a name that would be acceptable to the more pious of their people. They took the shortest form of the Holy Name, Yah, added a SYNTACTICALLY INCORRECT suffix to it and created what they call a “NON-WORD,” Yahveh, or after the Germans introduced the double V (VV), the English interpret it asYahweh.
“How can this be a NON-WORD? As with English, Hebrew also has grammatical rules. When the contraction of Yehovah brings the name down to its shortest form Yah, the middle H and V are dropped. When they were ADDED BACK to Yah as SYNTACTICALLY INCORRECT suffix, they were REVERSED, thus VIOLATING the grammatical rules of the Hebrew language, and rendering them MEANINGLESS. This, coupled with the fact that the wordYah does NOT take a suffix, since it is complete in itself, gives a double reason for declaring it a NON-WORD. Then the vav being changed to an English w (which has NO COUNTERPART in the Hebrew language) moves Yahweh a third step away from the true Holy Name thus making it easier for the Rabbis,who refuse to pronounce the true name, to use when necessary in their teaching.
“The fourth step away is the ah feminine ending that is an INTEGRAL PART of the true name. Yehovah and its contracted form, Yah, both end in ah. Yahweh DOES NOT, thus it DOES NOT QUALIFY for consideration as the true name” (ibid., p. 2).
The Rabbis, with whom Mr. Davis studied, all use Adonai in their teaching. However, when questioned about the use of the street word Adon as the name of the Holy One of Israel, they will then use Yahweh — knowing that they still ARE NOT pronouncing the TRUE Holy Name!
Protecting the name of the Creator God is probably the most absolute point of doctrine upon which all Judaism agrees. So, the fact that all of the Rabbis with whom Mr. Davis studied DID in fact pronounce Yahweh — and NONE of them would pronounce the TRUE name — is proof positive that Yahweh is used as a SUBSTITUTE for the true Holy Name!
Most of the Jewish people today recognize Adonai as a substitute for the Holy Name. Those who KNOW the Hebrew language also recognize Yahweh/Yahveh as a substitute. Either of these MAY BE SPOKEN. Adonai is used in the temple services, and the Rabbis will ALLOW the use of Yahweh/Yahveh. Yet, many of the Rabbis want their people to KNOW the TRUE name so they can speak it in their SILENT prayers, in their heart, and in their mind, although NEVER with their mouth. And many of the Jewish people today are eager to have a greater understanding of the true name of the Creator God.
Probably the one thing that is detrimental to understanding the true Holy Name is the Gentile acceptance of the substitute name, Yahweh/Yahveh, and their teaching it as the true Holy Name. Why? Because the most important aspect in understanding the Holy Name is to understand that the name of the Father and the name of the Son is one name. The Father’s name and the Son’s name are two applications of the SAME name. Yahweh/Yahveh has no direct relationship to the Son’s name or its contracted form.
Yahweh/Yahveh is the modern spelling of a NON-WORD that was created by the Jewish leaders as a SUBSTITUTE for the TRUE Holy Name. Since, in Hebrew syntax, the name Yah NEVER takes a suffix, Yahweh, Yahshua and Yahsha are INCORRECTLY FORMED words. Any time a suffix is added to the name Yah, it can be considered a NON-WORD.
Over the centuries Bible translators went in one of two directions: Some avoided any use of God’s Name, while others used it extensively in the Hebrew Scriptures, but had a difference of opinion regarding which form to use — either YEHOVAH or YAHWEH.
Most Bible Dictionaries, today, say the Sacred Name (or the “Tetragrammaton”) should be pronounced “YAHWEH,” with a “W” sound at the end of the name or title. However, the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia declares unequivocally of this assumed pronunciation of the ancient name or title of God
“YAHVEH. 1. The Word. Yahveh is the most probable transliteration of the ancient Hebrew name of God. It is frequently, especially among GERMAN scholars, written Jahweh, Jahveh, Jahve or Yahweh; BUT THESE FORMS CALL EITHER FOR THE GERMAN PRONUNCIATION OF J AS Y, OR OF W AS V, OR BOTH. The oldest traditions as to the pronunciation of the name Yahveh are found in the Church fathers. Of these, Clement of Alexandria (about 215 C.E.; Stromata 5, 6:34Z0 writes Iasuai = Iaove [Yahveh], while Theodoret (about 386-457 C.E….) gives IaBe [Yahbeh] as the SAMARITAN pronunciation and ‘Ia [Yah] as that of the Jews (cf. also Epiphanius, Adversus haereticos 40:5, who also has IaBe). The earliest post-Biblical Hebrew reading of the name known to us is YHVH, which is found in an old incantation bowl from the 6th or 7th century C.E. (Montgomery, J.A., in Museum Journal of the University of Pennsylvania, 1910, pp. 28-30). This was evidently VOCALIZED AS YAHBEH…” (p. 584).
The Hebrew language has no J in the alphabet, nor does the language carry a J sound. Therefore, the J used to replace the sacred Hebrew consonant yod is probably the most OBVIOUS of many deJudaizing processes used down through the ages. So, when we see a letter J in connection with anything Hebrew, we should pronounce it as y — which is the English equivalent of the Hebrew yod.
The “J” in Jehovah is a result of Martin Luther’s rendering of the Biblical Hebrew name for God in his German translation of the Masoretic Text, first published in 1534. Due to the fluid position of the letters J and I in English before the 17th century, Luther’s convention fit with earlier English transcriptions and was thus retained in early English translations. The Encyclopedia Americana states —
The form of J was unknown in ANY alphabet until the 14th century. Either symbol (J, I) used initially generally had the consonantal sound of Y as in year. Gradually, the two symbols (J, I) were differentiated, the J usually acquiring consonantal force and thus becoming regarded as a consonant, and the I becoming a vowel. It was not until 1630 that the differentiation became general in England.
The Ashkenazi Jews, who migrated through Russia and Europe, and settled in Germany and other regions of Europe, tend to use the letter “V” for the final consonant of God’s name. When many commentaries, or authors, refer to “Yahweh,” we need to remember that they have been heavily influenced by the German “W” which sounds like an English “V.” The “W” should be pronounced as a “V,” just as in the word “Volkswagen,” which in German is literally, “Volks-VAGON.” Says the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, once again:
“In the light of these facts, it is clear that the first syllable of the name was Ya-, and the only possible uncertainty attaches to the second syllable. Was the name originally Yah, Yahu, Yaho or Yahveh? If the original pronunciation was Yahveh, then Yahu is most easily explained as a contraction…In this case the old for Yahveh and the new for Yahu continued side by side. If Yah or Yahu was original, then YAHVEH is a later theologizing expansion.
“However, the reading YHVH is very old, being found in line 18 of the Moabite Stone, the inscription of King Mesha of Moab, written in the 9th century B.C.E. This goes far to establishing the priority of the FOUR-LETTERED NAME (Tetragrammaton). It is the oldest known datable independent occurrence of the divine name….Unfortunately, the Moabite form, being unvocalized, gives us no help in pronunciation. The prevailing opinion is in favor of the reading YAHVEH…” (The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, “Yahveh,” p. 584-585)
In another article, “God, Names of,” this same authority goes on to elaborate on the names of God as found in the Scriptures. We read:
“The Tetragrammaton or Four-Lettered Name [YHVH], which occurs 6,823 times, is by far the most frequent name of God in the Bible. It is now pronounced Adonai; but the church father Theodoret records that the SAMARITANS pronounced it IaBe, and Origen transcribes it as Iae, both pointing to an original vocalization YahVeh” (p. 6).
Another authority on this question, The Torah: A Modern Commentary, edited by W. Gunther Plaut, and published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York, tells us more about this name of God. Commenting on the pronunciation of the name, it says:
“A large literature exists which deals with the proper pronunciation of the Name as well as its etymology, and much of this is of a highly technical nature. The following represents a brief summary:
“VOCALIZATION. How the Name was originally vocalized is no longer certain. Its pronunciation was in time restricted to the Temple service, then to the High Priest intoning it on the Day of Atonement, and after the destruction of the Temple it received a substitute pronunciation both for the reading of Scripture and for its use in prayer.
“The Masoretes who vocalized the Hebrew texts took the vowels from the word Adonai and put them with YHVH to remind the reader not to pronounce the Name but to substitute Adonai….
“Overwhelming scholarly opinion holds that YHVH was in Moses’ time pronounced YahVeh. There is also a shorter form of the Name, Yah, which may represent the original form from which YAHVEH was expanded or may, contrariwise, be a contraction of the longer ascription….” (p. 425-426).
While the above quotations resolve the “V” versus the “W” question, they are in GRAVE ERROR regarding the assumed two syllable construction of God’s Name.
So, What Is the Correct Pronunciation?
There are many “Sacred Names” groups who argue for this or that “correct” pronunciation of the Name, and stridently insist that one use the form they have convinced themselves is correct. Most of these groups prefer the pronunciation YAHWEH, and indeed, this vocalization has the support of most of the scholars — as we have seen above. Others argue for such possibilities as YEHOAH, YAHUWEH or YAHUEH, YAHUWAH or YAHUVAH, YAHVAH, or YAHWAH, etc. The list just goes on and on.
As you can see from these examples (and the quotes above) not only is there disagreement as to whether the third letter of God’s Name should be represented as a “V” or a “W,” but the proper vowels are also in dispute.
Notes Professor James Tabor, Bible translator and expert in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages —
“Frankly, much of this confusion results because of a lack of knowledge of basic Hebrew grammar, as well as the history and development of modern Hebrew. However, even among those who do understand the technical problems involved there is often basic disagreement.
“If one understands that the four Hebrew letters (Yod He Vav He) represent four vowels, rather than four consonants, then the Name is best represented by the four sounds I-A-U-E or ee-ah-oo-eh. If you pronounce these rapidly you will get the combined sound in English. This appears to agree with Josephus [1st-century Jewish historian], with the Greek transliterations, and the 500 BC Murashu text. It would be written in English as YAHUEH, not strictly YAHWEH, which is the consonantal form. The problem with this proposal is the question of MEANING! These four sounds appear to mean NOTHING in Hebrew, and they lose their connection with the verb hayah, “to be,” upon which the Divine Name appears to be based. Hebrew names are supposed to carry meaning, how much more the case with the very Name of God!
“The combination YE-HO-AH makes better grammatical sense. In Hebrew “YE” represents the future or imperfect of the verb “to be,” “HO” represents the present, while “AH” represents the past. In other words, this form of the Name would have specific meaning and not be merely a repetition of vowel sounds. Quite literally YEHOAH means “shall/is/was” — that is, the Eternal, the Ever-living One who will be, is and always was. This is WHY I prefer the pronunciation YEHOAH, or even the more popular form, YEHOVAH, since it clearly reflects this profound meaning. YAH would then be the contracted, or shortened form, of this full Name, taking the first and last sounds together” (Restoring Abrahamic Faith, Genesis 2000, Charlotte, NC. 28256. 1993, p. 11).
Regardless of what you read in other publications, it is simply NOT TRUE that YEHOVAH is a corrupt and mistaken reading of the Masoretic vowel pointing taken from “‘adonai.” Nor is it an “evil name,” as some have ignorantly charged, based on the Hebrew term hovah, which means “ruin” or “disaster.” This Hebrew word hovah is from hayah — which can also mean to “happen.” It has no grammatical connection to the Divine Name. The name YEHOVAH therefore best represents God’s Name in English.
Notice what Peter and Linda Miller-Russo say in their book, Proclaim His Holy Name: Uncovering the Father’s Will For His Name —
“If we examine ‘hovah‘ again we see that it was initially rejected because it appears to mean ‘ruin and disaster’ whereas ‘havah‘ means ‘to be.’ However, upon further examination we find that hovah’s root word in Hebrew is ‘havah or ‘hayah‘ as in ‘to be, or to happen.’ Therefore ‘YeHOVAH’ does have a meaning that makes sense for the Creator’s name. Yet perhaps the strongest evidence in favor of ‘hovah‘ (as in YE-ho-vah) is that in Hebrew ‘YE’ is the future tense of ‘to be’ as in ‘shall’, ‘HO’ is the present tense of ‘to be’ as in ‘is,’ and ‘AH’ is the past tense of ‘to be’ as in ‘was.’ Thus YE-HO-AH can mean ‘who was, who is, and who shall be.’ This is in perfect alignment with YHVH’s own words, ‘I am that I am.’ When we insert the VAV (V sound) we have the pronunciation of: YE-HO-V-AH” (Only Believe Publishing, 2011, pp. 46-47).
In Hebrew grammar there is an invariable RULE that two vowels cannot stand beside each other, therefore the consonantal sound of V has to be pronounced — henceYEHOAH becomes YEHOVAH.
Writes G. W. Buchanan —
“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Jews during the first or second temple [period] pronounced YHWH as Yahweh. But [the] SAMARITANS had a pronunciation which was not far from Yahweh. When the element YAH occurs in proper names, it is at the end of the name. Looking at proper names in the Tanach, it seems that the first two syllables of YHWH [YHVH] was YAHO or YEHO. It is true that the Masoretic pointing of YHWH [YHVH] is based on the vowels of a substitute, but we must remember that the real pronunciation of YHWH [YHVH] was lost when the Masoretes did their work. Thus they did not necessarily use vowels which were different from the original pronunciation (which they did not know), but they used the vowels from the substitute word. Their use of the vowels YE:H, or occasionally YE:HO at the beginning does not rule out that YE:HO was used in the original pronunciation. In short: The evidence points to a pronunciation during the second temple [period] which is closer to the THREE SYLLABIC YAHOWA/YEHOWA [YAHOVA/YEHOVA] than to the two-syllabic YAHWEH” (Some Unfinished Business With the Dead Sea Scrolls, Revue de Qumran, 13:49-52 (1988)).
It is a fact that modern scholarship is starting to recognize the shallow support — almost non-existent, in fact — for the pronunciation “Yahweh” or “Yahveh.”
The original form of the Divine Name was almost certainly THREE SYLLABLES — not two! G. W. Buchanan points out that there was only one group in antiquity to pronounce the Divine Name similar to the popular form, “Yahweh.” And this is only because Theodoret (fifth-century A.D. Antiochene theologian) claimed that the SAMARITANS pronounced the Divine Name as IABE. But, states Buchanan, “all other examples [from antiquity] maintain the middle vowel.”
Clement of Alexandria, whose lead Theodoret followed, argued that the Tetragrammaton had the same consonants as the verb “to be,” so it therefore meant “the One who caused things to be.” However, he did not pronounce the word according to any form of that verb.
“The KEY to the meaning of the name” states Smith’s Bible Dictionary, “is UNQUESTIONABLY given in God’s revelation of himself to Moses by the phrase ‘I AM THAT I AM,’ Ex. 3:14; 6:3. We MUST connect the name Jehovah with the Hebrew substantive verb to be, with the inference that it expresses the essential, eternal, unchangeable being of Jehovah” (page 220).
Firpo W. Carr expands on this by saying:
“…God not only states his name, but interprets it’s meaning: ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.’ ‘HE CAUSES TO BECOME.’ ‘Tell the sons of Israel, “Jehovah the God of your forefathers has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”‘
“The Name is unmistakably a verb form, in the causative form, signifying ‘causing’ or ‘causing to be.’ It is self-evidently in the imperfect state, not meaning defective state, but on-going state, not finished in action or intent or purpose or accomplishment — always forward-moving” (Search for the Sacred Name, p. 42).
While Clement did not have access to the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Aramaic Papyri, he nonetheless spelled the Tetragrammaton in Greek employing THE CENTRAL VOWEL that has been omitted in determining that the proper name was “Yahweh”!
Buchanan also points out that “the name ‘Yahweh’ does not even sound Semitic,” and he produces examples from Exodus 15 with “Yahweh” and “YEHOVAH” in the same sentences. Those with “YEHOVAH” sound “smooth and poetic,” while those with “Yahweh” “sound rough and unrythmical.” Buchanan concludes by saying, “The accumulated data points heavily in the direction of a THREE SYLLABIC WORD, whose middle syllable was ho or hu. The first two syllables were Yahu or Yaho [Yehu or Yeho] that were sometimes abbreviated to Yo. For poetry, liturgy, and some other reasons, the name Yah was also used. Only from Theodoret’s Greek spelling of the Samaritan use of the term is there any basis for the pronunciation ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jahveh.’ This is hardly enough to overpower all of the other exhibits” (Some Unfinished Business With the Dead Sea Scrolls, 419).
Laird Harris, in “The Pronunciation of the Tetragram” in The Law and the Prophets: Old Testament Studies Prepared in Honor of Oswald Thompson Allis, believes that the form “Yahweh” is an “incorrect hybrid form with an early w and a late -eh.” Harris himself believes (see page 224) that “the syllable division ya ho wi hu is the most likely,” and that if the Divine Name were a noun form it “would have ended up as JAHOWEH [YAHOWEH], a form accidently similar but remarkably like the hybrid [?] form JEHOVAH [YEHOVAH]!”
Christian Ginsburg wrote in the 19th century that —
“There are, however, a number of compound names in the Bible into the composition of which THREE out of the four letters of the Incommunicable Name [YHVH] have entered. Moreover, these letters which begin the names in question are actually pointed “JEHO,” as [in] the Tetragrammaton itself and hence in a pause at the reading of the first part of the name it sounded as if the reader was pronouncing the Ineffable Name” (Introduction To the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible, p. 369).
He then goes on to admit that the Hebrew names with Divine meaning were deliberately shortened so as not to pronounce the Divine Name.
YEHOVAH has seven letters in it. If we go by what Ginsburg mentions above, we have already gotten most of the Name (YEHO) with only three letters to identify. The next letter — “V” — is the “V” in YHVH, and the last two letters (AH) join with Y to make the Name YAH, which commonly occurs in the Bible. So we have YE-HO-VAH.
What Judean Names Tell Us
Following the principle of contracting words in the Hebrew language, the two center consonants (hay and vav) and the vowels (sheva and cholem) are DROPPED, making the word pronounced YAH. This is the shortest contracted form of the Holy Name and is set forth in the Bible as the COMPLETE HOLY NAME. (Hay and vavare versatile letters and as such are dropped as necessary for combining, or contracting words). “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; extol him who rides on the clouds, by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him” (Psalm 68:4, NKJV).
Today, the contracted form of the Holy Name, YEHOVAH, is spoken in almost every language known to man, and is pronounced exactly as it is in Hebrew in the great inspired praise sentence Halleluyah. This term is translated “Praise ye the LORD” by the English translators — see Psalm 146 through 150. However, the definition of Halleluyah is “Come out of yourself and into YAH.” It is in the imperative form, and is really an invitation — “Come out of yourself and into YAH with me.”
|The Hebrew text translated as “Praise ye the LORD” (HLLYH) is shown broken down into Hebrew and English in the above table.|
When the vowel markings are factored into the Hebrew word, HLLYH becomes Hal-lu-yah which in English is pronounced Halleluyah. “Praise ye the LORD” is actually “Praise ye YHVH” or in Hebrew “hal-lu-YAH” — where YAH is the short form of the Creator’s true name.
YAH is written with the consonants YH in Hebrew and with the vowel point “a” between these two consonants. The vowel and the consonants are taken from the Tetragrammaton, and this indicates a vowel “a” in it. So the result is either Y-aH-V-H or Y-H-V-aH, depending on WHICH of the H’s is taken from the tetragrammaton. Can we tell which of these it actually is?
It is a fact that the Israelites used to combine names with an ABBREVIATION of God’s Name when they named their children. These names are called TEOPHORIC NAMES and they have been preserved WITH VOWEL POINTINGS.
There are mainly TWO KINDS of teophoric names in the Bible. One kind BEGINS with the three first consonants of the Tetragrammaton, Y-H-V-, and the second kind ENDS with the short form -YAH or -YAHU (Yahu is contraction of the expression Yah hu’ — which means “Yah himself”).
Here are some examples of teophoric names that BEGIN with the three first consonants of the Tetragrammaton: Yehoiakim, Yehonathan, Yehoshaphat, Yehoash,Yehoram, Yehoiada, Yehoiarib, amongst others. These names were sometimes shortened to create new names, and this resulted in Yoiakim, Yonathan, etc.
Notes Firpo W. Carr —
“There are nineteen names in the Bible that BEGIN with ‘Yeho-‘ or ‘Jeho-‘, and there appears to be little argument over the ‘e’ and ‘o’ vowels used here. It is whether the Divine Name contains but two syllables or three that controversy is stirred. Does the Name END in two conconants, WH [VH]? Or is there a VOWEL BETWEEN the W[V] and the H, making a THIRD syllable?” (Search for the Sacred Name, Scholar Technological Institute, Hawthorne, CA 1993, page 174).
Examples of teophoric names that END with the short form -YAH are as follows: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Zachariah, Elijah, Zedeciah, Jeconiah, to name just a few. (The iah and jah are simply the Holy Name, YAH, spelled differently). From the time King David popularized this contracted form of the Holy Name YEHOVAH, it was used to name many of the prophets and kings of Israel.
Carr goes on to explain HOW he resolved the issue of whether there should be a vowel between the V and the H to make a THIRD syllable — notice!
“…in analyzing the OVERWHELMING, consistent majority of vowel points the pronunciation was indicated as Yehovah, or Yehowah.
“The evidence must appear from resolving the spelling of the last syllable, the ‘-wah [-vah].’ Well, if there are Bible names beginning with the first two syllablesof the Divine Name, and I had come up with 19, what about names ending with the LAST syllable of the Name?
“By use of concordances I came up with many besides the Sacred Name. For example, the names Al-vah, Ch-vah, Hode-vah, Iv-vah, and Pu-vah are a few I encountered. What is significant about these names?
“To find out I tried what no one apparently had tried before. I took the computer and devised a reverse Hebrew-English dictionary. That is, I set the computer up to spell names backwards.
“It was, in other words, instructed to search out all words containing a ‘w’ at the end with an ‘h’ as its next consonant. So in starting out at the end and spelling backwards to the beginning, what would the computer come up with?
“First of all, what it DID NOT come up with: it DID NOT come up with a single word ending with the TWO FINAL CONSONANTS, vh, stuck together with NO VOWEL in between.
“What it DID come up with was this: In EVERY instance of the many root words in Hebrew that end with the consonants WH [VH] THERE WAS AN ‘A’BETWEEN THEM. The ‘-vah’ was as CONSISTENT at the END of human or place names as the ‘Yeho’ was at the beginning of human or place names. If ‘Yeho-‘ makes up the first two syllables of God’s Name, then ‘-WAH’ [-VAH] MAKES UP THE LAST SYLLABLE OF GOD’S NAME.” (ibid., pps. 175-176).
When we compare the names that BEGIN with the three first consonants of the tetragrammaton (YHV), we see that all the names are vocalized YeHo-. In Hebrew the consonant V may be used to represent the vowel sound o (“o” as in hole), and this is indicated by placing a dot above the consonant V. Usually, the consonantal sound is not pronounced when it represents a vowel (an exception to this is if this results in two vowels STANDING BESIDE EACH OTHER — which is NOT grammatically correct).
Therefore teophoric names indicate that the Tetragrammaton is to be vocalized Ye-H-oV-aH. Since teophoric names don’t indicate a vowel “a” in the first half of the Tetragrammaton, this means that the -aH in the short form Yah (iah or jah, as we noted above) HAS to be in the last part of the Tetragrammaton. The names ending in iah or jah prove this. When we combine these two pieces of information it gives us the following result — Ye-H-o-aH. Since two vowels cannot stand next to each other, the consonantal sound of V has to be pronounced. The result, therefore, is Ye-H-oV-aH.
One thing that is common in all the names that begin with the FIRST consonants of the Divine Name is that the vowel “o” is INCLUDED — both in the primary form (i.e. Yehonathan) and in the shortened form (Yonathan). This CLEARY indicates to us that the name COULD NOT have only two syllables. For example, Yahve, which has only TWO syllables, cannot have the vowel “o“.
Since the name, YAH, is the beginning and the ending — the FIRST and the LAST letters — of the Holy Name (YEHOVAH), it is COMPLETE, so nothing can be added to it to make it any more complete. As noted above, this short form of the Name was used many times as a SUFFIX to a verb to name special people such as prophets, kings and priests.
Notes Richard Davis:
“The fully expanded form, YEHOVAH, was used to describe a function such as Yehovah-Nissi (YEHOVAH (is) my banner); Yehovah-Tsidkenu (YEHOVAH (is) our righteousness); Yehovah-Shalom (YEHOVAH (is) peace), etc.
“Either the shortest form, YAH, or the expanded form, YEHOVAH, is recognized as the COMPLETE HOLY NAME” (The Great Holy Name, page 6).
Judging by the available evidence at hand, it seems quite CLEAR that the correct pronunciation of the divine name represented by the Tetragrammaton, YHVH, is simply YEHOVAH, and not the “Yahweh” that so many today amongst the “Holy Names” sects insist upon using. One such sect, in Texas, has now even discarded the name “Yahweh,” and instead simply refers to God as “Ha Shem,” meaning, “The Name” — just as many Orthodox and Conservative Jews do, also, today, because they are fearful of misusing the Divine Name.
The Evidence of Josephus
The 1st century Judean historian, Flavius Josephus, knew well how the Divine Name was to be pronounced (this can be seen in his work Antiquities of the Jews), but he didn’t want to reveal it. However, he gave us some clues in his work The Wars of the Jews. In volume 5, chapter 5 — which is a description of the Temple in Jerusalem — he wrote the following: “A mitre also of fine linen encompassed his head, which was tied by a blue riband, about which there was another golden crown, in which was engraven the sacred name [of God]: it CONSISTS OF FOUR VOWELS.”
Since there were no vowels in the Hebrew alphabet at this time, what did Josephus mean by this? Some people, influenced by the erroneous form Yahveh, don’t even bother to delve any deeper but claim that Josephus was presumably thinking of the Greek vowels IAUE. But, in contradiction to this, these “secret letters” — that were undoubtedly the Tetragrammaton — were written in Paleo-Hebrew and NOT Greek — something Josephus knew. So what, then, did Josephus mean?
Before the Hebrew vowel pointing was invented, the Judeans used some of their consonants as vowels, to indicate vowel sounds. These letters are called “vowel letters” — or, in Latin, matres lectionis (“mothers of reading”). There were FOUR CONSONANTS that could indicate a VOWEL — ‘aleph, vav, yod, and the letter hay(he’) if it is the LAST letter of a word.
In a Hebrew text that has vowel points there are grammar rules that do not allow a yod that BEGINS a Hebrew word to be used as a vowel letter — but Josephus’ teaching that the Sacred Name “consists of four vowels” was VALID for a time BEFORE Hebrew text had vowel points.
This is why Josephus could call the letters YHVH “vowels.” The letters Y, H and V were regarded as vowels. So how will the Name sound if we switch the letters with the vowels of matres lectionis?
Findings at Qumran in Israel show us that in the first century the letter Y was often used as the vowel sound I (ee as in seek); V was equivalent to O (o as in hole) or U (oo as in mood); and H at the end of a word was pronounced A (a as in father). When these letters were used as vowels, their consonantal sound was usually not pronounced — unless this results in two vowels standing next to each other, something that is not allowed in Hebrew grammar.
With this in mind, let us try this manner of reading with a name we already KNOW the pronunciation of. Let’s use the name YHVDH, which is written almost the SAME WAY as the Divine Name. If we write the vowels as they are to be pronounced, Y-H-V-D-H turns into I-H-U-D-A. This is in agreement with the pronunciation we already know — “YeHuDaH” (the English “Judah”).
When we use this manner of reading with the Divine Name YHVH, we can do it the SAME way. Y-H-V-H turns into I-H-U-A or I-H-O-A. This brings us closer to “Yehova” and further away from “Yahve.” (The fact that the Divine Name is written without a mappiq shows that the last H should be pronounced A).
When we read the vowel letters, we see that YHVH has pretty much the SAME pronunciation as YHVDH (YeHuDaH), the difference being that the letter D is not in it. If we, as an experiment, were to remove the D, we would get YeHuaH. But, since in written Hebrew there is an invariable rule that two vowels can’t stand next to each other, there HAS TO BE a consonant between u and a. The consonantal sound of V shall therefore also be pronounced — and we get the pronunciation YeHuVaH.
If we choose to read matres lectionis as Josephus did, we get the pronunciation IHOA or IHUA. The form “Yahveh” doesn’t explain the vowel “o”. This plainly shows us that the form “Yahveh/Yahweh” CANNOT even be close to the original form!
The Egyptian Evidence
The oldest archaeological evidence favors the pronunciation “YEHOVAH.” In the Amun-temple in Soleb (Sudan) can be found sculptures from the time of Amenhotep III. These sculptures date from circa 1382-1344 B.C.
On one sculpture is an Egyptian hieroglyph with the Divine Name — this being the OLDEST archaeological occurrence of the Divine Name that we are aware of. Following is an illustration from a reconstruction of the sculpture in question:
The pronunciation of the hieroglyph has been determined by Gerard Gertoux, professor at Association Biblique de Recherche d’Anciens Manuscrits in France, and reads as follows:
Transcription of the hieroglyph:
t3 i3-sw-w-y-h-w3-w (Shneider’s transcription)
ta sha-su-w-y-eh-ua-w (conventional vocalization)
The text is easy to decipher — it sounds “ta’ sha’suw yehua’w”, which means in English “land of the bedouins those of Yehua.” It was common practice to name lands after the names of the gods — for example in Genesis 47:11 we read about “the land of Rameses.”
We know little about the vowels of ancient Egyptian words, but for FOREIGN WORDS (like Yhw3), Egyptians used a form of matres lectionis. In this system the vowel letters were like this: 3 = a, w = u, y = i. Mr. Gertoux points to the Merneptah stele, dated 13th century B.C., where the name “Israel” is transcribed in hieroglyphs Yysri3l as “Yisrial.” Gertoux draws the valid conclusion that Yhw3 can technically be read as YEHUA’.
Writes professor Jean Leclant — “It is evident that the name on the name-ring in Soleb that we discuss corresponds to the ‘tetragram’ of the god of the Bible YHWH [YHVH].” He adds: “The name of God appears here in the first place as the name of a place.” In a footnote he explains that place-names often are derived from the names of gods. (Jean Leclant, Le “Tetragramme” a l’epoque d’Amenophis III, in Near Eastern Studies dedicated to H.I.H. Prince Takahito Mikasa on the Occasion of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday, pages 215-219, 1991, Wiesbaden).
The oldest archaeological testimony where you can see the Divine Name is from about the 14th century B.C.. Professor Gertoux states that the Egyptian text shows us that the Name was pronounced YEHUA — from which we get YEHOVAH.
What the Experts Say…
Writes Paul Drach in De l’harmonie entre l’eglise et la synagogue (“Of the Harmony Between the Church and the Synagogue,” 1842) — “Yehova, which was in agreement with the beginning of all the theophoric names, WAS THE AUTHENTIC PRONUNCIATION…”
Won W. Lee, professor at Calvin College, states: “The tetragrammaton, YHWH, is therefore read I-eH-U-A (Iehoua), the equivalent of “YeHoWah” in Masoretic punctuation. This means that the name is to be pronounced as it is written, or according to its letters” (Religious Studies Review, Volume 29, Number 3, July 2003, page 285).
“That mystic name which is called the Tetragrammaton, by which alone they who had access to the Holy of Holies [in the Temple in Jerusalem] were protected, is pronounced JEHOVAH (Iehovah), which means, Who is, and Who shall be” (Nicetas, Bishop of Heraclea, 2nd Century A.D. From The Catena On the Pentateuch, published in Latin by Francis Zephyrus, p. 146).
Expounds Gilles C.H. Nullens — “The Jewish scholars known as Masoretes introduced a system of vowels and accents….In this way the Tetragrammaton became Ye-Ho-Vah and later on, in Western languages, Jehovah…” (The Biblical Background).
Skilton, Fisher and Sloat, editors of The Law and the Prophets, state — “The form Yahweh is thus an INCORRECT HYBRID with an early ‘w’ and a late ‘eh’.”
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament has this to say: “Actually, there is a PROBLEM with the pronunciation Yahweh. It is a STRANGE combination of old and late elements.”
M. Gerard Gertoux makes this observation — “Non-superstitious Jewish translators ALWAYS favoured the name Jehovah in their translations of the Bible. On the other hand one can note that there is NO Jewish translation of the Bible with Yahweh” (Hebrew scholar and specialist of the Tetragram; president of the Association Biblique de Recherche d’Anciens Manuscrits).
Here is a chart showing some of these Jewish translations —
NAME OF VERSION (JEWISH)
DIVINE NAME RENDERED
Rabbi L. Golschmidt
Notes George Wesley Buchanan — “When the Tetragrammaton was pronounced in one syllable it was “Yah” or “Yo.” When it was pronounced in THREE syllables it would have been “Yahowah” or “Yahoowah.” If it was ever abbreviated to two syllables it would have been “Yaho,” BUT even this spelling may have beenpronounced with three syllables, including the final aspirant, because Hebrew had no vowel points in Biblical times” (Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1995).
Notice what the Encyclopedia Britannica (1943) has to say: “It was formerly held that Yah and similar forms were abbreviations of Yahweh. The arguments, however, AGAINST this view are OVERWHELMING: (1) the short forms show that ya was the essential syllable, although on this theory it would be merely a prefix; (2) the inscriptions and papyri, as well as proper names, show that Yh or Yhw, NOT Yahweh, was the extra-biblical form; (3) it is priori improbable that a name held so sacred as Yahweh would be commonly abbreviated; (4) no other Semitic race ever shortened the names of its gods; (5) the endeavor to assign an abstract meaning to a divine name bears the impress of a LATER PERIOD of theological reflection. It has, therefore, been suggested, as Greek speculation shows, that Yahweh comes from an original Yahw, afterwards vocalized Yahu, either by adding a QUESTIONABLE ENDING -ay become -eh (Grimme) or an -h like the Arabic vocative -ah (Lukyn Williams and Burkitt) or else by assimilation to yihyeh, “he is” (van Hoonacker) (Volume 12, page 996).
The first book printed in the American colonies was a collection of psalms in verse form known as The Bay Psalm Book. In it “the Name appears more than 200 times, while appearing only once in the King James Version (Psalm 83:18). In this remarkable book the Sacred Name is spelled ‘Iehovah‘ in ALL instances save one, where it is spelled Jehovah” (Firpo W. Carr, Search for the Sacred Name, pps. 97-98).
Dr. Max Reisel writes that “vocalization of the Tetragrammaton must ORIGINALLY have been YeHuaH or YaHuaH” (The Mysterious Name of Y.H.W.H., Page 74).
Professor Gerard Gertoux refers in his book to what Maimonides (a Jewish scholar and famous talmudist of the 12th century A.D.) has written, and says: “This nameYHWH is read without difficulty because it is pronounced AS IT IS WRITTEN, or according to its LETTERS as the Talmud says.” He then displays a long study in the pronunciation of names, and draws the conclusion that the Divine Name is pronounced “I-Eh-oU-Ah“. He even writes: “The name Yahweh (which is BARBARISM) has only been created to BATTLE with the true name Jehovah” (The Name of God…its Story).
The truth is that God WANTS us to use His Name — properly, reverently, and worshipfully. It is not a name which we should cringe before, in terror and fear. It is a name by which we should REVERENCE AND WORSHIP the Most High God! Therefore, we should not be afraid to speak the name of God, and to use it, so long as we are very respectful. However, we should always and only use it with respect, reverence, and love — in true worship.
We should avoid false names, or weak imitations, and strive to remain as faithful to the original Name as we possibly can, with the knowledge we have today. This means, if we use the Tetragrammaton in worship or speech, we should use YEHOVAH because this Name contains ALL of the letters of the sacred Name.
As we have seen, there is no letter “w” in the Hebrew language. The correct pronunciation of the Hebrew letter “vav” is just as it appears — the “v” sound in English. Also, the reason the Jewish people don’t make an issue of the fact that scholars often spell the name of God “Yahweh” (or “Yahveh”) is that since it is a wrong pronunciation — an incorrect name — that they believe its common usage by many does not “profane” the name of God as the misuse of the correct name and pronunciation would. Therefore, many would just as soon leave the Gentile world in ignorance, rather than give them the correct name, lest they pervert, misuse, abuse, and desecrate the holy Name.
However, I believe it is important to understand this point of truth: It is not wrong for us to USE the name of God, today, in worship and adoration of the Divine Creator and Holy One of Israel. Names are important in God’s eyes, and He put in man the desire to identify people and things by means of names. Would it be consistent for the Creator of all things to leave Himself nameless? I think not. However, we should not abuse this knowledge, or begin to take God’s name for granted. Nor should we use it “in vain,” or to no good use or purpose (Exodus 20:7).
A “name” expresses the character, qualities, and intrinsic nature of a person or individual. God’s Names tell us just who and what He is, and define for us His very character and nature. It is, therefore, very important that we should know them, and use them. God’s Name represents WHO AND WHAT HE IS — not a magical “potion” to perform magical “tricks.” Notes The Illustrated Bible Dictionary:
“A study of the word ‘name’ in the O[ld] T[estament] reveals how much it means in Hebrew. The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs” (Vol. 1, p. 572).
The Awesome Name of God
Notice the following passages from the Old Testament —
PSALM 113:1-3: “Praise YEHOVAH! Praise, O servants of YEHOVAH, praise the NAME of YEHOVAH! Blessed be the NAME of YEHOVAH from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its going down YEHOVAH‘s name is to be praised”.
ISAIAH 12:2-4: “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for YAH, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation. Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say: Praise YEHOVAH, call upon His name; declare His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted”.
ISAIAH 56:6-7: “I am YEHOVAH, that is My name” (Isa. 42:8). “As for our redeemer, YEHOVAH of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 47:4). “But I am YEHOVAH your God, Who divided the sea whose waved roared — YEHOVAH of hosts is His name” (Isa. 51:15). “Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks: behold, it is I” (Isa. 52:6). “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves toYEHOVAH, to serve him, and to love the name of YEHOVAH, to be his servants — every one who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant — even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer”.
JOEL 2:32: “For whoever calls upon the name of the YEHOVAH shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of YEHOVAH shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the YEHOVAH has said, among the remnant whom YEHOVAH calls”.
Did you notice in the above passages that God reveals Himself BY NAME — and not by just any name but by this awesome Sacred Name which belongs ONLY TO HIM? The title “God” is neither personal nor distinctive — one can even make a god of his belly, notice Philippians 3:19! In the Hebrew Scriptures the same word (‘Elo.him’) is applied to YEHOVAH, the true God, and also to false gods, such as the Philistine god Dagon (Judges 16:23, 24) and the Assyrian god Nisroch (2 Kings 19:37). Obviously, for an Israelite to tell a Philistine or an Assyrian that he worshipped “God (‘Elo.him’)” would not have been sufficient to identify the Person to whom his worship went.
Notice what Dr. James Tabor says:
“There is a great difference between saying “I am the LORD and “I am YEHOVAH.” The latter is personal and direct. It immediately calls forth as absolutely unique and singular understanding of the One true God — identifying the ETERNAL ONE by Name. Notice, in the above quotations from Isaiah, how God uses this Name constantly, in the first person, “I am YHVH…” The Scriptures speak of “calling upon the Name YHVH” which conveys a completely unrelated meaning, when mistranslated “calling upon the name OF the LORD” (Joel 2:32). There are many so-called gods and “lords” upon whom people call. We hear constant talk of “the Lord” this and “the Lord” that. One should always ask, just who is this “Lord?” What is His Name?” (Restoring Abrahamic Faith, p. 10).
With this in mind, notice now what Jeremiah has to say:
“Thus says YEHOVAH who made the earth, YEHOVAH who formed it to establish it, YEHOVAH is His Name, ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know'” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).
What a wonderful declaration and promise, spoken directly in the first person by the Most High God Himself! To literally “call upon YEHOVAH” — using His personal Name — leads one into an intimate relationship with the very Creator God!
Let us therefore worship the Eternal God, YEHOVAH, as He Himself directs and commands. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
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