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This article is about the literary manifestations of the name of God in Hebrew. For other attributes of the name of God, see Yahweh, God in Judaism, and God in Abrahamic religions.
The Tetragrammaton in Paleo-Hebrew (10th century BC to 135 AD), old Aramaic (10th century BC to 4th century AD) and square Hebrew (3rd century BC to present) scripts.

The Tetragrammaton (from the Greek τετραγράμματον meaning "[a word] having four letters"[1]) is the Hebrew term יהוה the name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible.


Occurrences and uses

The Tetragrammaton occurs 6,828 times in the Hebrew text of both the Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.[2] It does not appear in the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, or Esther. It first appears in the Hebrew text in Genesis 2:4.[2][3] The letters, properly read from right to left (in Biblical Hebrew), are:

Hebrew Letter name Pronunciation
י Yodh "Y"
ה He "H"
ו Waw "W" or placeholder for "O"/"U" vowel (see mater lectionis)
ה He "H" (or often a silent letter at the end of a word)
Front side of the Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, or the Old Cathedral, built in 1834 and located in downtown St. Louis, Missouri near the Gateway Arch. The Tetragrammaton is seen on the Tympanum.

These four letters are usually transliterated from Hebrew as IHVH in Latin, JHWH in German, French and Dutch, and JHVH/YHWH in English. This has been variously rendered as "Yahweh" or even occasionally as "Jehovah", based on the Latin form of the term.[4], while the Hebrew text does not clearly indicate the omitted vowels. In English translations, it is often rendered in capital and small capital letters as "the LORD", following Jewish tradition which reads the word as "Adonai" ("Lord") out of respect for the name of God and the interpretation of the commandment not to take the name of God in vain. The word "haŠem" 'the Name' is also used in Jewish contexts; in Samaritan, "Šemå" is the normal substitution.


The correct pronunciation and spelling of the name has historically been a matter of some disagreement, and the consensus view at various points in history has not been consistent.

Historical overview

יְהֹוָה in the Karlskirche, Vienna.

Observant Jews write down but do not pronounce the Tetragrammaton, because it is considered too sacred to be used for common activities. Even ordinary prayer is considered too common for this use. The Tetragrammaton was pronounced by the High Priest on Yom Kippur when the Temple was standing in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Tetragrammaton is no longer pronounced, and while Jewish tradition holds that the correct pronunciation is known to a select few people in each generation, it is not generally known what this pronunciation is. Instead, common Jewish use has been to substitute the name "Adonai" ("My Lord") where the Tetragrammaton appears.

The Septuagint (Greek translation) and Vulgate (Latin translation) use the word "Lord" (κύριος, kurios, and dominus, respectively). However, newer research has brought to light the oldest available copies of the Septuagint which interestingly include the Tetragrammaton inside the Greek text.

The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connected forms in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, with vowel points shown in red. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The Masoretes added vowel points (niqqud) and cantillation marks to the manuscripts to indicate vowel usage and for use in the ritual chanting of readings from the Bible in synagogue services. To יהוה they added the vowels for "Adonai" ("My Lord"), the word to use when the text was read.

Many Jews will not even use "Adonai" except when praying, and substitute other terms, e.g., HaShem ("The Name") or the nonsense word Ado-Shem, out of fear of the potential misuse of the divine name. In written English, "G-d" is a substitute used by a minority.

Parts of the Talmud, particularly those dealing with Yom Kippur, seem to imply that the Tetragrammaton should be pronounced in several ways, with only one (not explained in the text, and apparently kept by oral tradition by the Kohen Gadol) being the personal name of God.

In late Kabbalistic works the Tetragrammaton is sometimes referred to as the Name of Havayah—הוי'ה, meaning "the Name of Being/Existence".

Translators often render YHWH as a word meaning "Lord", e.g., Greek Κυριος, Latin Dominus, and following that, English "the Lord", Polish Pan, Welsh Arglwydd, etc. However, all of the above are inaccurate translations of the Tetragrammaton.

Because the name was no longer pronounced and its own vowels were not written, its pronunciation was forgotten. When Christians, unaware of the Jewish tradition, started to read the Hebrew Bible, they read יְהֹוָה as written with YHWH's consonants with Adonai's vowels, and thus said or transcribed Iehovah. Today this transcription is generally recognized as mistaken; however many religious groups continue to use the form Jehovah because it is familiar.

Using the Name in the Bible

Exod. 3:15 is used to support the use of the Name YHWH: “This is my Name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.” The word “forever” is “olahm” which means “time out of mind, to eternity.”

The Hebrew word ‘olahm’, translated ‘forever’ clearly doesn’t always mean literal future infinity—although in some places it can have that sense. It is used in places to describe the past; events of a long time ago, but not events that happened an ‘infinitely long time’ ago. It describes the time of a previous generation;[Deut. 32:7] [Job 22:15] to the time just before the exile of Judah;[Is. 58:12] [61:4] [Mic. 7:14] [Mal. 3:4] to the time of the Exodus[1 Sam. 27:8] [Is. 51:9] [63:9] to the time just before the flood.[Gen. 6:4] [5]

Many Scriptures do favour the use of the Name. The biblical law does not prohibit the use of the Name, but it warns against “misuse”, “blaspheming” or in ordinary terms, “taking lightly” the Name of YHWH. The Biblical texts suggest the people of the Bible—including the patriarchs—used the Name of YHWH. A wealth of scriptures support this notion.[6]


Theophoric names

Yeho or "Yehō-" is the prefix form of "YHWH" used in Hebrew theophoric names; the suffix form Yahū" or "-Yehū" is just as common. This has caused two opinions:

  1. In former times (at least from c.1650 AD), that it was abbreviated from the Masoretic pronunciation "Yehovah", pronounced with the stress on vah.
  2. Recently that, as "Yahweh" is likely an imperfective verb form, "Yahu" is its corresponding preterite or jussive short form: compare yiŝtahaweh (imperfective), yiŝtáhû (preterit or jussive short form) = "do obeisance".[7]

Those who argue for argument 1 above are the: George Wesley Buchanan in Biblical Archaeology Review; Smith’s 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible; Section # 2.1 The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon (1848)[8] in its article הוה

Smith’s 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible says that "Yahweh" is possible because shortening to "Yahw" would end up as "Yahu" or similar. The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901-1906 in the Article:Names Of God has a very similar discussion, and also gives the form Yo (יוֹ) contracted from Yeho (יְהוֹ). The Encyclopedia Britannica[9] also says that "Yeho-" or "Yo" can be explained from "Yahweh", and that the suffix "-yah" can be explained from "Yahweh" better than from "Yehovah". However, the suffix "-yah" can be explained from Yehovah by taking the first and last letters of the name and joining them, "Y----ah".

Chapter 1 of The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, under the heading: The Pronunciation Of Gods Name quotes from Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 7: Hebrew Scholars generally favor "Yahweh" as the most likely pronunciation. They point out that the abbreviated form of the name is Yah (Jah in the Latinized form), as at Psalm 89:8 and in the expression Hallelu-Yah (meaning "Praise Yah, you people!").[Ps. 104:35] [150:1,6] The forms Yeho', Yo, Yah, and Ya'hu, found in the Hebrew spelling of the names of Yehoshaphat, Yoshaphat, Shefatyah, and others, could be derived from Yahweh, and could also be derived from Yehovah.

Using consonants as semi-vowels (v/w)

In ancient Hebrew, the letter ו, known to modern Hebrew speakers as vav, was a semivowel /w/ (as in English, not as in German) rather than a /v/.[10] The letter is referred to as waw in the academic world. Because the ancient pronunciation differs from the modern pronunciation, it is common today to represent יהוה as YHWH rather than YHVH.

In unpointed Biblical Hebrew, most vowels are not written and the rest are written only ambiguously, as the vowel letters double as consonants (similar to the Latin use of V to indicate both U and V). See Matres lectionis for details. For similar reasons, an appearance of the Tetragrammaton in ancient Egyptian records of the 13th century BC sheds no light on the original pronunciation.[11] Therefore it is, in general, difficult to deduce how a word is pronounced from its spelling only, and the Tetragrammaton is a particular example: two of its letters can serve as vowels, and two are vocalic place-holders, which are not pronounced.

This difficulty occurs somewhat also in Greek when transcribing Hebrew words, because of Greek's lack of a letter for consonant 'y' and (since loss of the digamma) of a letter for "w", forcing the Hebrew consonants yod and waw to be transcribed into Greek as vowels. Also, non-initial 'h' caused difficulty for Greeks and was liable to be omitted; х (chi) was pronounced as 'k' + 'h' (as in modern Hindi "lakh") and could not be used to spell 'h' as in Modern Greek Χάρρι = "Harry", for example.

Yahweh or Jahweh

The English pronunciation of the letter J (in Latin originally an I) has changed over time. Originally, the pronunciation would have been as the [ IPA: j ] (the 'Y' sound of the word 'You'). This has transformed into the [IPA: dʒ] (the 'J' sound of the word 'Juice') in modern English. Almost all other European languages have retained the [IPA: j] pronunciation of J.

Loan-words from Classical languages also received this sound shift if the spelling was established, and as an effect language transliterations caused trouble if an older transliteration system lingered without modernisation. In an English language conflict between correct pronunciation and historically correct grapheme representation, the practice of correct pronunciation has prevailed.

Kethib and Qere and Qere perpetuum

The original consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible was provided with vowel marks by the Masoretes to assist reading. In places where the consonants of the text to be read (the Qere) differed from the consonants of the written text (the Kethib), they wrote the Qere in the margin as a note showing what was to be read. In such a case the vowels of the Qere were written on the Kethib. For a few very frequent words the marginal note was omitted: this is called Q're perpetuum.

One of these frequent cases was the Tetragrammaton, which according to later Jewish practices should not be pronounced, but read as "Adonai" ("My Lord [plural of majesty]"), or, if the previous or next word already was "Adonai", or "Adoni" ("My Lord"), as "Elohim" ("God"). This combination produces יְהֹוָה and יֱהֹוִה respectively, non-words that would spell "yehovah" and "yehovih" respectively.

The oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, such as the Aleppo Codex and the Codex Leningradensis mostly write יְהוָה (yehvah), with no pointing on the first H; this points to its Qere being 'Shema', which is Aramaic for "the Name".

The Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010 A.D.

Vowel points were added to the Tetragrammaton by the Masoretes, in the first millennium A.D.

Six Hebrew spellings of the Tetragrammaton are found in:
The Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010 A.D. as shown below [Note that all six of these Hebrew Spellings [ i.e. variants can be observed in the Online Leningrad Codex, by clicking on the corresponding Codex L. Link provided] ( Also note that the entries in the Close Transcription column are not intended to indicate how the name was intended to be pronounced by the Masoretes, but only how the word would be pronounced if read without q're perpetuum):

Chapter & Verse Hebrew Spelling Close transcription
Codex L. Link
Genesis 3:14
This is the most common set of vowels, which are essentially the vowels from Adonai (with the hataf patah reverting to its natural state as a shewa).
Judges 16:28
This is the same as above, but with the dot over the holam/waw left out, because it is a little redundant.
Judges 16:28
When the Tetragrammaton is preceded by Adonai, it receives the vowels from the name Elohim instead. The hataf segol does not revert to a shewa because doing so could lead to confusion with the vowels in Adonai.
Genesis 15:2
Just as above, this uses the vowels from Elohim, but like the second version, the dot over the holam/waw is omitted as redundant.
1 Kings 2:26
Here, the dot over the holam/waw is present, but the hataf segol does get reverted to a shewa.
Ezekiel 24:24
Here, the dot over the holam/waw is omitted, and the hataf segol gets reverted to a shewa.

ĕ is hatef segol; ǝ is the pronounced form of plain shewa

Gérard Gertoux wrote that in the Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010, the Masoretes used 7 different vowel pointings [i.e., 7 different Q're's] for YHWH. [Note that one of these different vowel pointings is not a true variant, but was the result of the addition of an inseparable preposition to YHWH][12] A version of the BHS text, which is derived from the Leningrad Codex, is used to translate the Old Testament of almost all English Bibles other than the King James Bible. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon of 1905 shows only two different vowel pointings [ i.e. variants ] of YHWH are found in the Ben Chayyim Hebrew Text of 1525 A.D., which underlies the Old Testament of the King James Bible.[13]

Frequency of use in scripture

According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, יְהֹוָה (Qr אֲדֹנָי) occurs 6,518 times, and יֱהֹוִה (Qr אֱלֹהִים) occurs 305 times in the Masoretic Text. Since the scribes admit removing it in at least 134 places and inserting Adonai, one may conclude that the four letter Name יהוה appeared about 7,000 times.

It appears 6,823 times in the Jewish Bible, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, and 6,828 times each in the Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia texts of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The vocalizations of יְהֹוָה and אֲדֹנָי are not identical

The schwa in YHWH (the vowel under the first letter, ְ) and the hataf patakh in 'DNY (the vowel under its first letter, ֲ), appear different. One reason suggested is that the spelling יֲהֹוָה (with the hataf patakh) risks that a reader might start pronouncing "Yah", which is a form of the Name, thus completing the first half of the full Name. Alternatively, the vocalization can be attributed to Biblical Hebrew phonology[14], where the hataf patakh is grammatically identical to a schwa, always replacing every schwa naḥ under a guttural letter. Since the first letter of אֲדֹנָי is a guttural letter, while the first letter of יְהֹוָה is not, the hataf patakh under the (guttural) aleph reverts to a regular schwa under the (non-guttural) yodh.

Dead Sea scrolls

The discovery of the Qumran scrolls has added support to some parts of this position. These scrolls are unvocalized, showing that the position of those who claim that the vowel marks were already written by the original authors of the text is untenable. Many of these scrolls write (only) the tetragrammaton in paleo-Hebrew script, showing that the Name was treated specially. See this link.

Josephus's description of vowels

Josephus in Jewish Wars, chapter V, verse 235, wrote "τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα*ταῦτα δ' ἐστὶ φωνήεντα τέσσαρα" ("...[engraved with] the holy letters; and they are four vowels"), presumably because Hebrew yod and waw, even if consonantal, would have to be transcribed into the Greek of the time as vowels.


Various people draw various conclusions from this Greek material.

William Smith writes in his 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible" about the different Hebrew forms supported by these Greek forms:

... The votes of others are divided between יַהְוֶה (yahveh) or יַהֲוֶה (yahaveh), supposed to be represented by the Ιαβέ of Epiphanius mentioned above, and יַהְוָה (yahvah) or יַהֲוָה (yahavah), which Fürst holds to be the Ιευώ of Porphyry, or the Ιαού of Clemens Alexandrinus.

Early Greek and Latin forms

The writings of the Church Fathers contain several references to the Tetragrammaton in Greek or Latin.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) and B.D. Eerdmans:[15]

Clement's Stromata

Clement of Alexandria writes in Stromata V, 6:34-35:

"Πάλιν τὸ παραπέτασμα τῆς εἰς τὰ ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων παρόδου, κίονες τέτταρες αὐτόθι, ἁγίας μήνυμα τετράδος διαθηκῶν παλαιῶν, ἀτὰρ καὶ τὸ τετράγραμμον ὄνομα τὸ μυστικόν, ὃ περιέκειντο οἷς μόνοις τὸ ἄδυτον βάσιμον ἦν· λέγεται δὲ Ἰαού, ὃ μεθερμηνεύεται ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἐσόμενος. Καὶ μὴν καὶ καθʼ Ἕλληνας θεὸς τὸ ὄνομα τετράδα περιέχει γραμμάτων." (Reinhold Koltz text)

The translation[9] of Clement's Stromata in Volume II of the classic Ante-Nicene Fathers series renders this as:

"... Further, the mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Jave, which is interpreted, 'Who is and shall be.' The name of God, too [i.e., θεὸς], among the Greeks contains four letters."[28]

Of Clement's Stromata there is only one surviving manuscript, the Codex L (Codex Laurentianus V 3), from the 11th century. Other sources are later copies of that ms. and a few dozen quotations from this work by other authors. For Stromata V,6:34, Codex L has ἰαοὺ. The critical edition by Otto Stählin (1905)[29] gives the forms

"Ἰαουέ Didymus Taurinensis de pronunc. divini nominis quatuor literarum (Parmae 1799) p. 32ff, ἰαοὺ L, ἰὰ οὐαὶ Nic., ἰὰ οὐὲ Mon. 9.82 Reg. 1888 Taurin. III 50 (bei Did.), ἰαοῦε Coisl. Seg. 308 Reg. 1825."

and has Ἰαουε in the running text. The Additions and Corrections page gives a reference to an author who rejects the change of ἰαοὺ into Ἰαουε.[30]

Other editors give similar data. A catena (Latin: chain) referred to by A. le Boulluec[31] ("Coisl. 113 fol. 368v") and by Smith’s 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible" ("a catena to the Pentateuch in a MS. at Turin") is reported to have "ια ουε".

In ancient Judaism

The oldest complete Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) versions, from around the second century A.D., consistently use Κυριος (= "Lord"), where the Hebrew has YHWH, corresponding to substituting Adonay for YHWH in reading the original; in books written in Greek in this period (e.g., Wisdom, 2 and 3 Maccabees), as in the New Testament, Κυριος takes the place of the name of God. However, older fragments contain the name YHWH.[32] In the P. Ryl. 458 (perhaps the oldest extant Septuagint manuscript) there are blank spaces, leading some scholars to believe that the Tetragrammaton must have been written where these breaks or blank spaces are.[33]

Josephus, who as a priest knew the pronunciation of the name, declares that religion forbids him to divulge it.

A Kabbalah explantion of the Priestly Blessing with Adonai inscribed

Philo calls it ineffable, and says that it is lawful for those only whose ears and tongues are purified by wisdom to hear and utter it in a holy place (that is, for priests in the Temple). In another passage, commenting on Lev. xxiv. 15 seq.: "If any one, I do not say should blaspheme against the Lord of men and gods, but should even dare to utter his name unseasonably, let him expect the penalty of death."[34]

Various motives may have concurred to bring about the suppression of the name:

  1. An instinctive feeling that a proper name for God implicitly recognizes the existence of other gods may have had some influence; reverence and the fear lest the holy name should be profaned among the heathen.
  2. Desire to prevent abuse of the name in magic. If so, the secrecy had the opposite effect; the name of the God of the Jews was one of the great names, in magic, heathen as well as Jewish, and miraculous efficacy was attributed to the mere utterance of it.
  3. Avoiding risk of the Name being used as an angry expletive, as reported in Leviticus 24:11 in the Bible.

In the liturgy of the Temple the name was pronounced in the priestly benediction (Num. vi. 27) after the regular daily sacrifice (in the synagogues a substitute—probably Adonai—was employed);[35] on the Day of Atonement the High Priest uttered the name ten times in his prayers and benediction.

In the last generations before the fall of Jerusalem, however, it was pronounced in a low tone so that the sounds were lost in the chant of the priests.[36]

In later Judaism

After the destruction of the Temple (70 C.E) the liturgical use of the name ceased, but the tradition was perpetuated in the schools of the rabbis.[37] It was certainly known in Babylonia in the latter part of the 4th century,[38] and not improbably much later. Nor was the knowledge confined to these pious circles; the name continued to be employed by healers, exorcists and magicians, and has been preserved in many places in magical papyri.

The vehemence with which the utterance of the name is denounced in the MishnaHe who pronounces the Name with its own letters has no part in the world to come![39]—suggests that this misuse of the name was not uncommon among Jews. Modern observant Jews no longer voice the name יהוה aloud. It is believed to be too sacred to be uttered and is often referred to as the 'Ineffable', 'Unutterable' or 'Distinctive Name'[40][41].

In Modern Judaism

The new Jewish Publication Society Tanakh 1985 follows the traditional convention of translating the Divine Name as "the LORD" (in all caps). The Artscroll Tanakh translates the Divine Name as "HaShem" (literally, "The Name").

When the Divine Name is read during prayer, "Adonai" ("My Lord") is substituted. However, when practicing a prayer or referring to one, Orthodox Jews will say either "HaShem" or "AdoShem" instead of "Adonai". When speaking to another person "HaShem" is used.


Later, Christian Europeans who did not know about the Q're perpetuum custom took these spellings at face value, producing the form "Jehovah" and spelling variants of it. The Catholic Encyclopedia [1913, Vol. VIII, p. 329] states: “Jehovah (Yahweh), the proper name of God in the Old Testament." Had they known about the Q're perpetuum, the term "Jehovah" may have never come in to being[42].

For more information, see the page Jehovah. Alternatively, most scholars recognise Jehovah to be “grammatically impossible” Jewish Encyclopedia (Vol VII, p. 8).

Delitzsch prefers "יַהֲוָה" (yahavah) since he considered the shewa quiescens below ה ungrammatical. In his 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible", William Smith prefers the form "יַהֲוֶה" (yahaveh). Many other variations have been proposed.

יַהְוֶה = Yahweh

In the early 19th century Hebrew scholars were still critiquing "Jehovah" [a.k.a. Iehovah and Iehouah] because they believed that the vowel points of יְהֹוָה were not the actual vowel points of the Tetragrammaton. The Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius [1786-1842] had suggested that the Hebrew punctuation יַהְוֶה, which is transliterated into English as "Yahweh", might more accurately represent the actual pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton than the Biblical Hebrew punctuation "יְהֹוָה", from which the English name Jehovah has been derived.

William Gesenius's Hebrew punctuation (i.e., Yahweh)

Wilhelm Gesenius is noted for being one of the greatest Hebrew and biblical scholars [10]. His proposal to read YHWH as "יַהְוֶה" (see image to the right) was based in large part on various Greek transcriptions, such as ιαβε, dating from the first centuries AD, but also on the forms of theophoric names.

In his Hebrew Dictionary Gesenius (see image of German text) supports the pronunciation "Yahweh" because of the Samaritan pronunciation Ιαβε reported by Theodoret, and that the theophoric name prefixes YHW [Yeho] and YH [Yo] can be explained from the form "Yahweh".
Today many scholars accept Gesenius's proposal to read YHWH as יַהְוֶה.
(Here 'accept' does not necessarily mean that they actually believe that it describes the truth, but rather that among the many vocalizations that have been proposed, none is clearly superior. That is, 'Yahweh' is the scholarly convention, rather than the scholarly consensus.)

In the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910,in the article Jehovah (Yahweh), under the sub-title:"To take up the ancient writers", the editors wrote:

The judicious reader will perceive that the Samaritan pronunciation Jabe probably approaches the real sound of the Divine name closest; the other early writers transmit only abbreviations or corruptions of the sacred name. Inserting the vowels of Jabe into the original Hebrew consonant text, we obtain the form Jahveh (Yahweh), which has been generally accepted by modern scholars as the true pronunciation of the Divine name. It is not merely closely connected with the pronunciation of the ancient synagogue by means of the Samaritan tradition, but it also allows the legitimate derivation of all the abbreviations of the sacred name in the Old Testament.

In Smith’s 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible", the author displays some of the above forms and concludes:

But even if these writers were entitled to speak with authority, their evidence only tends to show in how many different ways the four letters of the word יהוה could be represented in Greek characters, and throws no light either upon its real pronunciation or its punctuation.

On the other hand however, is the common belief that the true name was never lost, the Encyclopedia Judaica concludes: "The true pronunciation of the name YHWH was never lost. Several early Greek writers of the Christian church testify that the name was pronounced Yahweh."

The editors of New Bible Dictionary (1962) write:

The pronunciation Yahweh is indicated by transliterations of the name into Greek in early Christian literature, in the form Ιαουε (Clement of Alexandria) or Ιαβε (Theodoret; by this time β had the pronunciation of v).

However, this explanation of the origin of the form "Yahweh" has been questioned as being "a mere guess", considering that Theodoret's references are inconsistent and lack historical probability.[43]

The main approaches in modern attempts to determine a pronunciation of יהוה have been study of the Hebrew Bible text, study of theophoric names and study of early Christian Greek texts that contain reports about the pronunciation. Evidence from Semitic philology and archeology has been tried, resulting in a "scholarly convention to pronounce יהוה as Yahweh".

Gesenius' proposal gradually became accepted as the best scholarly reconstructed vocalized Hebrew spelling of the Tetragrammaton.

Among the Samaritans

The Samaritans, who otherwise shared the scruples of the Jews about the utterance of the name, seem to have used it in judicial oaths to the scandal of the rabbis.[44] (Their priests have preserved a liturgical pronunciation "Yahwe" or "Yahwa" to the present day.)[45] However, the Aramaic "Shema" (שמא) remains the everyday (including liturgical) usage of the name, akin to Hebrew "Hashem" (השם).

Roman Catholic Church

The first edition of the official Vatican Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum, published in 1979, used the form Iahveh for rendering the Tetragrammaton.[46] Later editions of this version replaced "Iahveh" with "Dominus".

On August 8, 2008, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, announced a new Vatican directive regarding the use of the name of God in the sacred liturgy. "Specifically, the word 'Yahweh' may no longer be 'used or pronounced' in songs and prayers during liturgical celebrations."[47]


The caves in which the scrolls were found

According to a theory, Yahweh, or Yahu, Yaho,[48] is the name of a god worshipped throughout the whole, or a great part, of the area occupied by the Western Semites.

In its earlier form this opinion rested chiefly on certain misinterpreted testimonies in Greek authors about a god 'Iαω and was conclusively refuted by Baudissin; recent adherents of the theory build more largely on the occurrence in various parts of this territory of proper names of persons and places which they explain as compounds of Yahu or Yah.[49]

The explanation is in most cases simply an assumption of the point at issue; some of the names have been misread; others are undoubtedly the names of Jews.

There remain, however, some cases in which it is highly probable that names of non-Israelites are really compounded with Yahweh. The most conspicuous of these is the king of Hamath who in the inscriptions of Sargon (722-705 B.C.) is called Yaubi'di and Ilubi'di (compare Jehoiakim-Eliakim). Azriyau of Jaudi, also, in inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III (745-728 B.C.), who was formerly supposed to be Uzziah of Judah, is probably a king of the country in northern Syria known to us from the Zenjirli inscriptions as Ja'di. Also, in Byblos have been found inscriptions telling about the kings named Yehimilk “YH the king” (XI-X B.C.)[50][51] and Yehawmilk “YHW the king” (V B.C.)[52][53].

Deity named YW is mentioned in the Ugaritic text as one of the many sons of El. KTU 1.1 IV 14 says:

sm . bny . yw . ilt

“The name of the son of god, YW”[54][55].

Magic papyri

Some claim that the spellings of the Tetragrammaton occur among the many combinations and permutations of names of powerful agents that occur in Egyptian magical writings.[56] One of these forms is the heptagram ιαωουηε[57]

In the magical texts, Iave (Jahveh Sebaoth), and Iαβα, occurs frequently.[58] In an Ethiopic list of magical names of Jesus, purporting to have been taught by him to his disciples, Yawe[59][60] is found.

Mesopotamian influence

Friedrich Delitzsch brought into notice three tablets, of the age of the first dynasty of Babylon, in which he read the names of Ya- a'-ve-ilu, Ya-ve-ilu, and Ya-u-um-ilu ("Yahweh is God"), and which he regarded as conclusive proof that Yahweh was known in Babylonia before 2000 B.C.; he was a god of the Semitic invaders in the second wave of migration, who were, according to Winckler and Delitzsch, of North Semitic stock (Canaanites, in the linguistic sense).[61]

We should thus have in the tablets evidence of the worship of Yahweh among the Western Semites at a time long before the rise of Israel. The reading of the names is, however, extremely uncertain, not to say improbable, and the far-reaching inferences drawn from them carry no conviction.[62]

In a tablet attributed to the 14th century B.C. which Sellin found in the course of his excavations at Tell Ta'annuk (the city Taanach of the O.T.) a name occurs which may be read Ahi-Yawi (equivalent to Hebrew Ahijah);[63] if the reading be correct, this would show that Yahweh was worshipped in Central Palestine before the Israelite conquest. Genesis 14:17 describes a meeting between Melchizedek the king/priest of Salem and Abraham. Both these pre-conquest figures are described as worshipping the same Most High God later identified as Yahweh.

The reading is, however, only one of several possibilities. The fact that the full form Yahweh appears, whereas in Hebrew proper names only the shorter Yahu and Yah occur, weighs somewhat against the interpretation, as it does against Delitzsch's reading of his tablets.

It would not be at all surprising if, in the great movements of populations and shifting of ascendancy which lie beyond our historical horizon, the worship of Yahweh should have been established in regions remote from those which it occupied in historical times; but nothing which we now know warrants the opinion that his worship was ever general among the Western Semites.

Many attempts have been made to trace the West Semitic Yahu back to Babylonia. Thus Delitzsch formerly derived the name from an Akkadian god, I or Ia; or from the Semitic nominative ending, Yau;[64] but this deity has since disappeared from the pantheon of Assyriologists. Bottero speculates that the West Semitic Yah/Ia, in fact is a version of the Babylonian God Ea (Enki), a view given support by the earliest finding of this name at Ebla during the reign of Ebrum, at which time the city was under Mesopotamian hegemony of Sargon of Akkad.

Bible Translations

Tetragrammaton at the 5th Chapel of the Palace of Versailles, France. This example has the vowel points of "Elohim".

Loss of the Tetragrammaton in the Septuagint

Septuagint study does give some credence to the possibility that the Divine Name appeared in its original texts. Dr Sidney Jellicoe concluded that "Kahle is right in holding that LXX [= Septuagint] texts, written by Jews for Jews, retained the Divine Name in Hebrew Letters (palaeo-Hebrew or Aramaic) or in the Greek-letters imitative form ΠΙΠΙ, and that its replacement by Κύριος was a Christian innovation."[65] Jellicoe draws together evidence from a great many scholars (B. J. Roberts, Baudissin, Kahle and C.H Roberts) and various segments of the Septuagint to draw the conclusions that: a) the absence of "Adonai" from the text suggests that the insertion of the term "Kurios" was a later practice, b) in the Septuagint "Kurios", or in English "Lord", is used to substitute the Name YHWH, and c) the Tetragrammaton appeared in the original text, but Christian copyists removed it. There is therefore a strong possibility that the Sacred Name was once integrated within the Greek text, but eventually disappeared.

Meyer suggests as one possibility that "as modern Hebrew letters were introduced, the next step was to follow modern Jews and insert 'Kurios', Lord. This would prove this innovation was of a late date."

Bible scholars and translators as Eusebius and Jerome (translator of the Latin Vulgate) used the Hexapla. Both attest to the importance of the sacred Name and that the most reliable manuscripts contained the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters.

Dr F. F. Bruce in the The Books and the Parchments[66] illustrates that the religious language of the Greeks is in effect, pagan. Bruce demonstrates that the words commonly used today in Christianity are pagan Greek words and substitutes; this includes words such as "Christ", "Lord", and "God" (The English "Jesus" is not the same as "Iesous" in Greek). For this reason, a few groups such as the Assemblies of Yahweh and the Jehovah's Witnesses have maintained that they are restoring the purity of worship—by using the sacred Names and Hebrew titles. On the other hand, Christianity still generally regards the sacred Name as a minor issue while observant Jews believe it is respectful not to speak the Name at all[67].

Later translations into European languages which descended from the Septuagint tended to follow the Greek and use each language's word for "lord": Latin "Dominus", German "der Herr", Polish "Pań", English "the Lord", French "le Seigneur", etc.

Examining the vowel points of יְהֹוָה and אֲדֹנָי

Jehovah is favored by some Christians as being the actual name of God, but for over 400 years some scholars have claimed that Jehovah is a hybrid name that has the vowel points of Adonay. However, contrary to what many Christians have been taught, Jehovah does not have the actual vowel points of Adonay.[Refer to vowel point tables in Section #1]

The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connected forms in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, with vowel points shown in red.

In the table below, Yehovah and Adonay are dissected

Hebrew Word #3068
Hebrew Word #136
י Yod Y א Aleph glottal stop
ְ .Simple Shewa E ֲ Hatef Patah A
ה Heh H ד Daleth D
ֹ Holem O ֹ Holem O
ו Vav V נ Nun N
ָ Kametz A ָ Kametz A
ה Heh H י Yod Y

Note in the table directly above that the "simple shewa" in Yehovah and the hatef patah in Adonay are not the same points. The same information is displayed in the table above and to the right where "YHWH intended to be pronounced as Adonai" and "Adonai, with its slightly different vowel points" are shown to have different vowel points.

In the New Testament

Since the Tetragrammaton does not appear in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, virtually all translations refrain from inserting it into the English. The vast majority of New Testament translations therefore render the Greek kyrios as "lord" and theos as "God". Nevertheless, the Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition inserts the name Yahweh in the New Testament, while the New World Translation inserts the name Jehovah in the New Testament.

See also


  • van der Toorn, Karel (1995). Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. New York: E.J. Brill. ISBN 0-80282-491-9.  
  1. ^ It originates from tetra "four" + gramma (gen. grammatos) "letter") Online Etymology Dictionary
  2. ^ a b "Importance of the Name". Insight on the Scriptures. vol. 2. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. 1988. p. 8.  
  3. ^ The Bible translator. vol. 56. United Bible Societies. 2005. p. 71.  ; Nelson's expository dictionary of the Old Testament. Merrill Frederick Unger, William White. 1980. p. 229.  
  4. ^ In the Latin alphabet there was no distinct lettering to distinguish 'Y' ('I') from 'J', or 'W' from 'V'.
  5. ^ Changing God's Eternal Law
  6. ^ [1].
  7. ^ AnsonLetter.htm
  8. ^ The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon by Benjamin Davidson ISBN 0913573035
  9. ^ "Jehovhah." Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1910-11, vol. 15, pp. 312
  10. ^ (see any Hebrew grammar)
  11. ^ See pages 128 and 236 of the book "Who Were the Early Israelites?" by archeologist William G. Dever, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003.
  12. ^ refer to the table on page 144 of Gérard Gertoux's book The Name of God Y.EH.OW.Ah which is pronounced as it is written I_EH_OU_AH.
  13. ^ <img src=""/>
  14. ^ Lambdin, Thomas O.: Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971
  15. ^ B.D. Eerdmans, The Name Jahu, O.T.S. V (1948) 1-29
  16. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Histor. I, 94
  17. ^ Irenaeus, "Against Heresies", II, xxxv, 3, in P. G., VII, col. 840
  18. ^ Irenaeus, "Against Heresies", I, iv, 1, in P.G., VII, col. 481
  19. ^ Clement, "Stromata", V, 6, in P.G., IX, col. 60
  20. ^ Origen, "In Joh.", II, 1, in P.G., XIV, col. 105
  21. ^ according to Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica I, ix, in P.G., XXI, col. 72
  22. ^ Epiphanius, Panarion, I, iii, 40, in P.G., XLI, col. 685
  23. ^ "Breviarium in Psalmos", in P.L., XXVI, 828
  24. ^ Theodoret, "Ex. quaest.", xv, in P. G., LXXX, col. 244 and "Haeret. Fab.", V, iii, in P. G., LXXXIII, col. 460.
  25. ^ Footnote #8 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Aïα occurs also in the great magical papyrus of Paris, 1. 3020 (Wessely, Denkschrift. Wien. Akad., Phil. Hist. Kl., XXXVI. p. 120) and in the Leiden Papyrus, Xvii. 31."
  26. ^ (cf. Lamy, "La science catholique", 1891, p. 196
  27. ^ Jerome, "Ep. xxv ad Marcell.", in P. L., XXII, col. 429
  28. ^ The Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D, and James Donaldson, LL.D., ed. "VI. — The Mystic Meaning of the Tabernacle and Its Furniture". The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II: Fathers of the Second Century (American reprint of the Edinburgh edition ed.). pp. 452. Retrieved 2006–12–19.  
  29. ^ "Clemens Alexandrinus Werke, eds. Stählin. O. and Fruechtel. L. (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte, 15), 3. Auflage, Berlin, 1960.
  30. ^ Zu der in L übergelieferten Form ἰαου, vgl. Ganschinietz RE IX Sp. 700, 28ff, der die Änderung in ἰαουε ablehnt.
  31. ^ Clément d'Alexandrie. Stromate V. Tome I: Introduction, texte critique et index, par A. Le Boulluec, Traduction de † P. Voulet, S.J.; Tome II : Commentaire, bibliographie et index, par A. Le Boulluec, Sources Chrétiennes n° 278 et 279, Editions du Cerf, Paris 1981. (Tome I, pp. 80,81)
  32. ^ The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 2, page 512
  33. ^ Paul Kahle, The Cairo Geniza (Oxford:Basil Blackwell,1959) p. 222
  34. ^ Footnote #3 from page 311 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See Josephus, Ant. ii. 12, 4; Philo, Vita Mosis, iii. II (ii. 114, ed. Cohn and Wendland); ib. iii. 27 (ii. 206). The Palestinian authorities more correctly interpreted Lev. xxiv. 15 seq., not of the mere utterance of the name, but of the use of the name of God in blaspheming God."
  35. ^ Footnote #4 from page 311 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Siphre, Num. f 39, 43; M. Sotak, iii. 7; Sotah, 38a. The tradition that the utterance of the name in the daily benedictions ceased with the death of Simeon the Just, two centuries or more before the Christian era, perhaps arose from a misunderstanding of Menahoth, 109b; in any case it cannot stand against the testimony of older and more authoritative texts.
  36. ^ Footnote #5 from page 311 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Yoma, 39b; Jer. Yoma, iii. 7; Kiddushin, 71a."
  37. ^ Footnote #1 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads:"R. Johannan (second half of the 3rd century), Kiddushin, 71a."
  38. ^ Footnote #2 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads:"Kiddushin, l.c. = Pesahim, 50a"
  39. ^ Footnote #3 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "M. Sanhedrin, x.I; Abba Saul, end of 2nd century."
  40. ^ Judaism 101 on the Name of God
  41. ^ For example, see Insights of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik by Saul Weiss and Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, p.9. and Jewish Identity and Society in the Seventeenth Century by Minna Rozen, p.67.[2]
  42. ^ ”Job – Introduction, Anchor Bible, volume 15, page XIV and “Jehovah” Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, volume 15
  43. ^ B. D. Eerdmans, "The name Jahu", Oudtestamentische Studien, 1948 Brill, p. 2.
  44. ^ Footnote #4 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads:Jer. Sanhedrin, x.I; R. Mana, 4th century.
  45. ^ Footnote #11 from page 312 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica reads: "See Montgomery, Journal of Biblical Literature, xxv. (1906), 49-51."
  46. ^ "Dixítque íterum Deus ad Móysen: «Hæc dices fíliis Israel: Iahveh (Qui est), Deus patrum vestrórum, Deus Abraham, Deus Isaac et Deus Iacob misit me ad vos; hoc nomen mihi est in ætérnum, et hoc memoriále meum in generatiónem et generatiónem." (Exodus 3:15)
  47. ^ "CNS STORY: No 'Yahweh' in songs, prayers at Catholic Masses, Vatican rules". Retrieved 2009–07–29.  
  48. ^ Footnote #3 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "The form Yahu, or Yaho, occurs not only in composition, but by itself; see Aramaic Papyri discovered at Assaan, B 4,6,II; E 14; J 6. This doubtless is the original of 'Iαω, frequently found in Greek authors and in magical texts as the name of the God of the Jews."
  49. ^ Footnote #4 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See a collection and critical estimate of this evidence by Zimmern, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, 465 sqq."
  50. ^ Inscription de Yehimilk, roi de Byblos (XI-X), UNESCO, "Memory of the World" program
  51. ^ Nina Jidejian, Maurice Dunand, Byblos through the ages., p. 69, Beirut: Dar el-Machreq Publ., 1968.
  52. ^ Yehawmilk stele, Louvre collection
  53. ^ Phoenician Cities: Byblos, Student Reader
  54. ^ Ugarit and the Bible, site of Quartz Hill School of Theology
  55. ^ Smith, Mark S. (2001) The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195167686)
  56. ^ B. Alfrink, La prononciation 'Jehova' du tétragramme, O.T.S. V (1948) 43-62.
  57. ^ K. Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, Leipzig-Berlin, I, 1928 and II, 1931
  58. ^ Footnote #9 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See Deissmann, Bibelstudien, 13 sqq."
  59. ^ Footnote #10 from Page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See Driver, Studia Biblica, I. 20."
  60. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1910-11), vol. 15, pp. 312, in the Article “JEHOVAH”
  61. ^ Footnote #5 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Babel und Bibel, 1902. The enormous, and for the most part ephemeral, literature provoked by Delitzsch's lecture cannot be cited here.
  62. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1910-11), vol. 15, pp. 312, in the Article “JEHOVAH”.
  63. ^ Footnote #6 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Denkschriften d. Wien. Akad., L. iv. p. 115 seq. (1904)."
  64. ^ Footnote #7 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Wo lag das Paradies? (1881), pp. 158-166."
  65. ^ Sidney Jellicoe, Septuagint and Modern Study (Eisenbrauns, 1989, ISBN 0931464005) pp. 271, 272.
  66. ^ Dr F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, (p. 159).
  67. ^ Judaism 101

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TETRAGRAMMATON (TETTapa, four; ypcp. a, letter), a Greek compound, found in Philo and Josephus, which designates the divine name composed of the four Hebrew letters J H V H (n»'). The derivation and pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is still doubtful. The form "Jehovah" (q.v.) used in some of the English Versions is an error which arose in the 16th century. It is now generally assumed that the word is the causative form (hiph`il) and should be pronounced Yahveh or Yahweh (accent on second syllable). The Jews quite early ceased to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, substituting (as the Books of Chronicles and the LXX translation already indicate) the word Lord ('Adonai). The priests continued to use the name in the Benediction of the People (Numbers vi. 22-27), and on the Day of Atonement the High Priest pronounced it (Leviticus xvi. 30) amidst the prostrations of the assembled multitude. It is recorded in the Talmud that Rabbis communicated the true pronunciation to their disciples once in seven years (Qiddushin, 71a). The Jews called the Tetragrammaton by a Hebrew denomination, Shem Hammephorash (chtnr ?O), i.e. the distinctive excellent name. It was considered an act of blasphemy for a layman to pronounce the Tetragrammaton. This avoidance of the original name was due on the one hand to reverence and on the other to fear lest the name be desecrated by heathens. Partly in consequence of this mystery and partly in accord with widespread superstitions, the Tetragrammaton figures in magical formulae from the time of the Gnostics, and on amulets. Many a medieval miracle-worker was supposed to derive his competence from his knowledge of the secret of the Name.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Tetragrammaton written in Phoenician, Aramaic, and Hebrew scripts.




From Greek τετραγράμματον ("four-letter word").

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  1. The four Hebrew letters יהוה (in transliteration, YHWH or JHVH) used as the ineffable name of God in the Hebrew Bible, variously transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah.


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki



The quadriliteral name of God, יהוה, which is thus referred to in Josephus, in the Church Fathers, in the magic papyri, and in the Palestinian Talmud (Yoma 40a, below), whence it has passed into the modern languages. Other designations for this name, such as "Ha-Shem," "Shem ha-Meforash," and "Shem ha-Meyuhad," have frequently been discussed by recent scholars (see bibliography in Blau, "Altjüdisches Zauberwesen," p. 128, note 1, and, on the terms, pp. 123-128). The term "Tetragrammaton" apparently arose in contradistinction to the divine names containing respectively twelve and forty-two letters and formed likewise from the letters Y, H, W, H; for only thus is the designation intelligible, since Adonai likewise has four letters in Hebrew.

Statistics of Occurrences.

The Tetragrammaton is the ancient Israelitish name for God. According to actual count, it occurs 5,410 times in the Bible, being divided among the books as follows: Genesis 153 times, Exodus 364, Leviticus 285, Numbers 387, Deuteronomy 230 (total in Torah 1,419); Joshua 170, Judges 158, Samuel 423, Kings 467, Isaiah 367, Jeremiah 555, Ezekiel 211, Minor Prophets 345 (total in Prophets 2,696); Psalms 645, Proverbs 87, Job 31, Ruth 16, Lamentations 32, Daniel 7, Ezra-Nehemiah 31, Chronicles 446 (total in Hagiographa 1,295).

In connection with אדני the Tetragrammaton is pointed with the vowels of "Elohim" (which beyond doubt was not pronounced in this combination); it occurs 310 times after אדני, and five times before it (Dalman, "Der Gottesname," etc., p. 91), 227 of these occurrences being in Ezekiel alone. The designation "Yhwh Zeba'ot," translated "Lord of Hosts," occurs 260 times, and with the addition of "God" four times more. This designation is met with as follows: Isaiah 65 times, Jeremiah 77, Minor Prophets 103 (Zechariah 52; Malachi 24), Samuel 11, Kings 4; but it does not occur, on the other hand, in the Pentateuch, in Joshua, in Judges, or in the Hagiographa. Adding these 264 occurrences and the 315 just noted to the 5,410 instances of the simple Tetragrammaton, the word "Yhwh" is found to occur 5,989 times in the Bible. There is no instance of it, however, in Canticles, Ecclesiastes, or Esther; and in Daniel it occurs 7 times (in ch. ix.) - a fact which in itself shows the late date of these books, whose authors lived at a period when the use of the Tetragrammaton was already avoided, its utterance having become restricted both in the reading of the Bible and still more in colloquial speech. For it was substituted Adonai; and the fact that this name is found 315 times in combination with "Yhwh" and 134 times alone shows that the custom of reading the Tetragrammaton as if written "Adonai" began at a time when the text of the Biblical books was not yet scrupulously protected from minor additions. This assumption explains most of the occurrences of "Adonai" before "Yhwh"; i.e., the former word indicated the pronunciation of the latter. At the time of the Chronicler this pronunciation was so generally accepted that he never wrote the name "Adonai." About 300 B.C., therefore, the word "Yhwh" was not pronounced in its original form. For several reasons Jacob ("Im Namen Gottes," p. 167) assigns the "disuse of the word 'Yhwh' and the substitution of 'Adonai' to the later decades of the Babylonian exile."

Reason for Disuse.

The avoidance of the original name of God both in speech and, to a certain extent, in the Bible was due, according to Geiger ("Urschrift," p. 262), to a reverence which shrank from the utterance of the Sublime Name; and it may well be that such a reluctance first arose in a foreign, and hence in an "unclean" land, very possibly, therefore, in Babylonia. According to Dalman (l.c. pp. 66 et seq.), the Rabbis forbade the utterance of the Tetragrammaton, to guard against desecration of the Sacred Name; but such an ordinance could not have been effectual unless it had met with popular approval. The reasons assigned by Lagarde ("Psalterium Hicronymi," p. 155) and Halévy ("Recherches Bibliques," i. 65 et seq.) are untenable, and are refuted by Jacob (l.c. pp. 172, 174), who believes that the Divine Name was not pronounced lest it should be desecrated by the heathen. The true name of God was uttered only during worship in the Temple, in which the people were alone; and in the course of the services on the Day of Atonement the high priest pronounced the Sacred Name ten times (Tosef., Yoma, ii. 2; Yoma 39b). This was done as late as the last years of the Temple (Yer. Yoma 40a, 67). If such was the purpose, the means were ineffectual, since the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton was known not only in Jewish, but also in non-Jewish circles centuries after the destruction of the Temple, as is clear from the interdictions against uttering it (Sanh. x. 1; Tosef., Sanh. xii. 9; Sifre Zuta, in Yalk., Gen. 711; 'Ab. Zarah 18a; Midr. Teh. to Ps. xci., end). Raba, a Babylonian amora who flourished about 350, wished to make the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton known publicly (Kid. 71b); and a contemporary Palestinian scholar states that the Samaritans uttered it in taking oaths (Yer. Sanh. 28b). The members of the Babylonian academy probably knew the pronunciation as late as 1000 C. E. (Blau, l.c. pp. 132 et seq., 138 et seq.). The physicians, who were half magicians, made special efforts to learn this name, which was believed to possess marvelous powers (of healing, etc.; Yer. Yoma 40a, below).

Church Fathers and Magic Papyri.

The cures, or the exorcisms, of demons in the name of Jesus which are mentioned in the New Testament and the Talmud (see Exorcism) imply that Jesus was regarded as a god and that his name was considered as efficacious as the Tetragrammaton itself, for which it was even substituted. It was in connection with magic that the Tetragrammaton was introduced into the magic papyri and, in all probability, into the writings of the Church Fathers, these two sources containing the following forms, written in Greek letters: (1) "Iaoouee," "Iaoue," "Iabe,"; (2) "Iao," "Iaho," "Iae"; (3) "Aia"; (4) "Ia." It is evident that (1) represents אהיה (3) יהו (2) יהוה and (4) יה. The three forms quoted under (1) are merely three ways of writing the same word, though "Iabe" is designated as the Samaritan pronunciation. There are external and internal grounds for this assumption; for the very agreement of the Jewish, Christian, heathen, and Gnostic statements proves that they undoubtedly give the actual pronunciation (Stade's "Zeitschrift," iii. 298; Dalman, l.c. p. 41; Deissmann, "Bibelstudien," pp. 1-20; Blau, l.c. p. 133). The "mystic quadriliteral name" (Clement, "Stromata," ed. Dindorf, iii. 25, 27) was well known to the Gnostics, as is shown by the fact that the third of the eight eons of one of their systems of creation was called "the unpronounced," the fourth "the invisible," and the seventh "the unnamed," terms which are merely designations of the Tetragrammaton (Blau, l.c. p. 127). Even the Palestinian Jews had inscribed the letters of the Name on amulets (Shab. 115b; Blau, l.c. pp. 93-96); and, in view of the frequency with which the appellations of foreign deities were employed in magic, it was but natural that heathen magicians should show an especial preference for this "great and holy name," knowing its pronunciation as they knew the names of their own deities.

Meaning and Etymology.

It thus becomes possible to determine with a fair degree of certainty the historical pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, the results agreeing with the statement of Ex 3:14, in which Yhwh terms Himself אהיה "I will be," a phrase which is immediately preceded by the fuller term "I will be that I will be," or, as in the English versions, "I am" and "I am that I am." The name יהוה is accordingly derived from the root הוה =) היה), and is regarded as an imperfect. This passage is decisive for the pronunciation "Yahweh"; for the etymology was undoubtedly based on the known word. The oldest exegetes, such as Onkelos, and the Targumim of Jerusalem and pseudo-Jonathan regard "Ehyeh" and "Ehyeh asher Ehyeh" as the name of the Divinity, and accept the etymology of "hayah" = "to be" (comp. Samuel b. Meïr, commentary on Ex 3:14). Modern critics, some of whom, after the lapse of centuries, correct the Hebrew texts without regard to the entire change of point of view and mode of thought, are dissatisfied with this etymology; and their various hypotheses have resulted in offering the following definitions: (1) he who calls into being, or he who gives promises; (2) the creator of life; (3) he who makes events, or history; (4) the falling one, the feller, i.e., the stormgod who hurls the lightning; (5) he who sends down the rain (W. R. Smith, "The Old Testament," p. 123); (6) the hurler; (7) the destroyer; (8) the breather, the weather-god (Wellhausen). All these meanings are obtained by doing violence to the Hebrew text (Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Encyc." viii. 536 et seq.).

Assyro-Babylonian Cuneiform Inscriptions.

Attempts have also been made to explain the Divine Name as Hittite, Persian, Egyptian, and even as Greek; but these assumptions are now absolutely set aside, since the name is at all events Semitic. The question remains, however, whether it is Israelitish or was borrowed. Friedrich Delitzsch, in discussing this question, asserts that the Semitic tribes from whom the family of Hammurabi came, and who entered Babylon 2500 B.C., knew and worshiped the god Ya've, Ya'u (i.e., Yhwh, Yahu; "Babel und Bibel," 5th ed., i. 78 et seq.); and Zimmern (in Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d ed., pp. 465-468) reaches the conclusion that "Yahu" or "Yhwh" is found in Babylonian only as the nameof a foreign deity, a view with which Delitzsch agrees in his third and final lecture on "Babel und Bibel" (pp. 39, 60, Stuttgart, 1905). Assyriologists are still divided on this point, however; and no definite conclusions have as yet been reached (comp. the voluminous literature on "Babel und Bibel").

Abbreviated Tetragrammaton.

"Yah,"an abbreviated form of the Tetragrammaton, occurs 23 times: 18 times in the Psalms, twice in Exodus, and three times in Isaiah. This form is identical with the final syllable in the word "Hallelujah," which occurs 24 times in the last book of the Psalms (comp. also "be-Yah," Isa 26:4 and Ps 685). It is transcribed by the Greek "Ia," as "Ehyeh" is represented by "Aia," thus showing that "Yah" was the first syllable of יהוה. The form corresponding to the Greek "Iao" does not occur alone in Hebrew, but only as an element in such proper names as Jesaiah ("Yesha'yahu"), Zedekiah ("Zidkiyahu"), and Jehonathan. According to Delitzsch ("Wo Lag das Paradies?" 1881), this form was the original one, and was expanded into יהוה but since names of divinities are slow in disappearing, it would be strange if the primitive form had not been retained once in the Bible. The elder Delitzsch thought that "Yahu" was used independently as a name of God (Herzog-Plitt, "Real-Encyc." vi. 503); but, according to Kittel, "This could have been the case only in the vernacular, since no trace of it is found in the literary language" (Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Encyc." viii. 26, 533). All the critics have failed to perceive that the name "Yao" was derived from the same source as "Yaoue," namely, from Gnosticism and magic, in which Jews, Christians, and heathen met. "Yahu" was in fact used in magic, as is clear from the "Sefer Yezirah," which shows many traces of Gnosticism; in the cosmology of this work the permutation of the letters יהו furnishes the instruments of the Creation.

Other Names of God.

With the Tetragrammaton must be included the names of God formed of twelve, forty-two, and seventy-two letters respectively, which are important factors in Jewish mysticism (Kid. 71a et passim). They have, according to tradition, a magical effect; for mysticism and magic are everywhere allied. These great names are closely akin to the long series of vowels in the magic papyri, and are obtained by anagrammatic combinations of the effective elements of the Tetragrammaton. The simplest way of determining these three names is to form a magic triangle, whose base is a single Tetragrammaton, and its apex the Tetragrammaton repeated thrice. The four upper lines (12+ 11+ 10+ 9) give the names with forty-two letters; and the entire figure represents the Divine Name of seventy-two letters (Blau, l.c. pp. 144 et seq.). According to the book of Bahir (ed. Amsterdam, 1651, fol. 7a), the Sacred Name of twelve letters was a triple יהוה (Dalman, l.c. p. 39; Blau, l.c. p. 144).

In the earliest manuscripts of the Septuagint the Tetragrammaton was given in Hebrew letters, which in Greek circles were supposed to be Greek and were read πιπι (Field, "Origenis Hexaplorum Quæ Supersunt," i. 90, Oxford, 1875; Herzog-Hauck, l.c. viii. 530; Blau, l.c. p. 131). See also Adonai; Aquila; Gnosticism; Jehovah; Names of God; Shem ha-Meforash.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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Simple English

Redirecting to YHWH

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