Q. Nehemia Gordon, a Karaite Jew, recently made the claim that Yahweh and Jupiter share the same etymology. He bases this on Gesenius’ statement: “I suppose this word to be one of the most remote antiquity, perhaps of the same origin as Jovis, Jupiter, and transferred from the Egyptians to the Hebrews.” Is there any truth to this statement?
A. While Gesenius made this statement, indication is he later retracted it. Consider the below excerpts:
“To give my own opinion [This opinion Gesenius afterwards THOROUGHLY retracted; see Thes. and Amer. trans. in voc.: he calls such comparisons and derivations, ‘waste of time and labour;’ would that he had learned how irreverend a mode this was of treating such subject!], I suppose this word to be one of the most remote antiquity, perhaps of the same origin as Jovis, Jupiter, and transferred from the Egyptians to the Hebrews [What an idea! God himself revealed this as his own name; the Israelites could never have received it from the Egyptians]. (Compare what has been said above, as to the use of this name on the Egyptian gems [but these gems are not of the most remote antiquity; they are the work of heretics of the second and third centuries]), and then so inflected by the Hebrews, that it might appear, both in form and origin, to be Phenicio-Shemiti” (Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, p. 23).
“In There is one other remark before quitting this chapter. We have seen that the principal part of the Jehovistic ideas in this second portion of Dr. Colenso’s work are taken from the articles on that subject in the lexicon of Gesenius. We shall now see that Gesenius is responsible for some part of Dr. Colenso’s new belief. The Bishop writes as follows: –‘My own conviction, however, from the accumulated evidence (!) of various kinds before us is, that Samuel was the first to form and introduce the name, perhaps in imitation of some Egyptian name of the Deity which may have reached his ears.’ Gesenius wrote before him: ‘I suppose this word to be one of the most remote antiquity, perhaps of the same origin as Jovis, Jupiter, and transferred from the Egyptians to the Hebrews’ (see Lex. p. 337).
“This opinion, as we have shown, Gesenius afterward thoroughly retracted, probably through having become convinced that the Egyptian Gems on which it was founded were the work of heretics of the second and third centuries. Bishop Colenso, however, adopts the discarded opinion of Gesenius, and parades it as his own. We think he might at least have had the candour to acknowledge from whence it was obtained” (The Bible in the Workshop, Part II, p. 95).
“The name Yahweh is explained by some as being connected etymologically with the Indo-Aryan ‘Jovis.’ It is, then, derived from [delta, iota, upsilon] “to shine,” hence Yahweh would signify the ‘bright ether.’ This name is also declared to be ideally, though not etymologically, related to ‘daeva,’ ‘deus.’ Thus the name would signify the ‘High One,’ the ‘Heavenly.’ But there is so little common to both languages of which we can speak with any degree of certainty that we cannot think of deriving [Yahweh] from the Indo-Aryan stem [delta, iota, upsilon]. The untenableness of this derivation was already recognized by F. Tuch, who says: ‘The similarity of [Yahweh] with Jovis, Jupiter, which is insufficient enough in itself, disappears entirely when the name is pronounced rightly [Yahweh] = Jahve.'” (Hans H. Spoer, The Origin and Interpretation of the Tetragrammaton, pp. 7, 8)
According to the above scholarly references, Gesenius withdrew his statement regarding the possible connection between Yahweh and Jupiter. In addition, Spoer further explains that these words share so little in common that this connection disappears entirely.
It should also be noted that Gesenius used the words “suppose” and “perhaps” in his initial statement. These words convey that while he believed there may have been a possible connection, such a conclusion could not be authenticated based on the evidence.
Therefore, to state that Gesenius asserts an undeniable and certain connection between Yahweh and Jupiter is quite disingenuous, especially with the fact that there is indication that Gesenius thoroughly retracted this statement along with other scholars confirming that there is so little in common between the origins of these words.
For additional information on Yahweh’s Name, please see the below articles:
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