Q. I don’t understand why you would refer to Greek documents to prove Yahweh when the Hebrew manuscripts support Yehovah. The Greek language is pagan and unreliable in such matters. Can you explain your refusal to accept the Hebrew?
A. We are not opposed to any language if truth can be learned, especially the Hebrew language. Being that Hebrew is the original language of the Old Testament and possibly for the New Testament, there is something special about the Hebrew language.
The challenge with supporting the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton from the Hebrew is that the Jews stopped pronouncing the name around the 3rd century BCE. This is supported by the Britannica and Babylonian Talmud.
“After the Babylonian Exile (6th century BCE), and especially from the 3rd century bce on, Jews ceased to use the name Yahweh for two reasons. As Judaism became a universal rather than merely local religion, the more common noun Elohim, meaning ‘God,’ tended to replace Yahweh to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel’s God over all others. At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered; it was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai (‘My Lord’), which was translated as Kyrios (‘Lord’) in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures,” Encyclopedia Britannica.
“Tosaf Sotah 38a suggests that the Ineffable Name could be pronounced only when there was some indication that the Shechinah rested on the Sanctuary. When Simeon the Righteous died, with many indications that such glory was no more enjoyed, his brethren no more dared utter the Ineffable Name,” Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 39b, footnote, p. 186.
Because of this reluctance to pronounce the name, it is now impossible to confirm it through the Old Testament Hebrew. Prior to the Masoretes, Hebrew had no spoken vowels, as confirmed in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Later, it was the practice of the Masoretes to conceal the pronunciation of the name through the vowel points of Adonai and Elohim. For this reason, the Hebrew is unreliable regarding the proper pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. In fact, there are multiple pronunciations for YHWH within the Masoretic codices. Below are six different spellings as found within the Leningrad Codex.
יְהוָה – Yehwah (Genesis 2:4)
יְהֹוָה – Yehowah (Genesis 3:14)
יֱהֹוִה – Yehowih (Judges 16:28)
יֱהוִה – Yehuwih (Genesis 15:2)
יְהֹוִה – Yehowih (1Kings 2:26)
יְהוִה – Yehwih (Ezekiel 24:24)
However, unlike the Hebrew manuscripts, we find many Greek documents confirming the pronunciation. The two main sources are from early Church Fathers and Gnostic writings from as early as the 2nd century. Consider the following:
“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’” (Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 7, p. 680).
“Early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century, had used the form Yahweh, thus this pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton was never really lost. Greek transcriptions also indicated that YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., vol. x, p. 786).
“The pronunciation Yahweh is indicated by transliteration of the name into Greek in early Christian literature, in the form iaoue (Clement of Alexandria) or iabe (Theodoret; by this time Gk. b had the pronunciation of v)…Strictly speaking, Yahweh is the only ‘name’ of God. In Genesis wherever the word sem (‘name’) is associated with the divine being that name is Yahweh” (Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, 1979 p. 478).
“Such a conclusion, giving ‘Yahweh’ as the pronunciation of the name, is confirmed by the testimony of the Fathers and gentile writers, where the forms IAO, Yaho, Yaou, Yahouai, and Yahoue appear. Especially important is the statement of Theodoret in relation to Ex. lvi., when he says: ‘the Samaritans call it [the tetragrammaton] ‘Yabe,’ the Jews call it ‘Aia’…” (The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, “Yahweh,” p. 471).
In addition to early church writers, evidence for Yahweh is also found in The Nag Hammadi codices, dating from the 2nd to 4th century CE. This library of Gnostic writings was discovered in Upper Egypt, near Nag Hammadi, in 1945. In all, there are over 50 texts within this library. Since they are in Greek, as the church fathers, they preserve the pronunciation.
One such book is The Secret Book of John. Within this codex, it mentions the name Yahweh and notes, “Eloim and Yawe, two names of God in the Hebrew scriptures…. Yahweh is the name of God (based on the Tetragrammaton, the ineffable four-letter name)” (Dr. Marvin Meyer, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 127).
The Secret Book of John dates to the second century, as it was known to the church father Irenaeus. This was the same timeframe as Clement of Alexandria, who also confirmed the name. Even though Gnosticism was rightly deemed heretical by the early church, it is another witness to the pronunciation of Yahweh. The fact that these groups were at odds, but agreed on “Yahweh,” is significant and adds credence to this pronunciation. It verifies that “Yahweh” was widely recognized as early as the second century, nearly 700 years before any Hebrew manuscripts containing Yehovah.
It’s important to realize that unlike the Jews who had a taboo on pronouncing the name, neither the church fathers nor Gnostics shared this belief. For this reason, they had no axe to grind and are reliable sources for the pronunciation of the name, which they confirm as “Yahweh.”
For additional information on Yehovah, see our article: The Yehovah Deception.
Also, watch 7 Reasons the Name YEHOVAH Is a Counterfeit!