Yahweh’s Name

Literary Support for Yahweh’s Name

Literary Support for Yahweh’s Name

The following is a compilation of scholarly sources confirming the pronunciation of “Yahweh.” While some maintain that the name is Yehovah or Jehovah, this form is a hybrid that developed through the practice of adding the vowel points from the Hebrew Adonai to the Tetragrammaton.

Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, pg. 5:  “Jehovah,” Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1988.  “Correct Pronunciation of the Divine Name. ‘Jehovah’ is the best known English pronunciation of the divine name, although ‘Yahweh’ is favored by most Hebrew scholars.  The oldest Hebrew manuscripts present the name in the form of four consonants, commonly called the Tetragrammaton (from Greek te∙tra-, meaning ‘four,’ and gram’ma, ‘letter’).  These four letters (written from right to left) are hwhy and may be transliterated into English as YHWH (or, JHVH).”

A Book About the Bible, George Stimpson, pg. 247.  “Jehovah in that form was unknown to the ancient Israelites.  In fact, Hebrew scholars say that Jehovah would have been impossible according to the strict principles of Hebrew vocalization.  The God of Israel was known by a name approximately rendered into English as Yahweh.”

Wycliff Bible Dictionary, Charles Pfeiffer, Ed., “God, Names and Titles of,” pg. 694.  “Yahweh was doubtless the approximate pronunciation of the tetragrammaton, the four-letter word YHWH, since transliterations into Gr. in early Christian literature have been found in the form of iaoue (Clement of Alexander) and iahe (Theodoret) pronounced ‘iave.’  The name is a variant connected with the verb haya, ‘to be,’ from an earlier form, hawa.”

The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce Metzger, Ed., “Names of God in the Hebrew Bible,” pg. 548.  “The Bible often refers to God by his proper name, which was probably pronounced Yahweh …In the Hebrew Bible, the consonants yhwh are usually to be read as Adonai…’my Lord,’ for the sake of reverence, and English versions represent the word by ‘Lord’ or (less often) ‘God’ in capital letters.”

The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Allen C. Myers, Ed., “Yahweh,” pg. 1075.  “Although the meaning of the name remains subject to debate, Yahweh is most likely a verbal form of Heb. haya (perhaps originally hwy)…Because of the utmost sanctity ascribed to the name, Jews from postexilic times on have declined to pronounce it in public reading, and only the consonants were written (YHWH; the Dead Sea Scrolls use the archaic, ‘paleo-Hebrew’ script).  Although the original pronunciation was thus eventually lost, inscriptional evidence favors yahwae or yahwe.  The name is represented in the MT by the consonants with the vowel pointing for ‘adonay ‘Lord.’  From this derived ca, the sixteenth century the form ‘Jehovah’ (yehowah).  In modern usage pious Jews often substitute the expression has-sem ‘the Name.'”

The Journey from Texts to Translations, Paul D. Wegner, pg, 172, 173.  “The scribes reasoned that if they did not point the name Yahweh then it could never be treated lightly since his name would not really be known.  Initially the real pointing was probably passed along by tradition, but in time it was lost.  In Exodus 20:7 the name Lord is written in capital letters according to the convention of signifying the name Yahweh, but the name as it appears in the Hebrew text is hwhy (yehowa), in which appear the consonants from the name Yahweh (hwhy [yhwh]) and the vowels from the word Lord (ynda [idonay]).  Proof for the fabricated nature of this word are the two vowels which appear on the waw, an impossibility in Hebrew.  However, until the revival of the Hebrew language in western Europe scholars read the consonants YHWH (Germans would read them as JHVH) with the vowels of adonay, thereby originating the incorrect form Jehovah.  This word was then introduced into English by William Tyndale and was continued by the King James Version.”

Understanding the Old Testament, Bernhard Anderson, “Definition:  ‘Jehovah,’ ‘The Lord,'” pg. 61.  “The personal divine name YHWH…has had an interesting history.  In the Old Testament period the Hebrew language was written only with consonants; vowels were not added until the Common Era, when Hebrew was no longer a living language.  On the basis of Greek texts, which of course use both vowels and consonants, it is believed that the original pronunciation of the name was Yahweh.  Notice the shortened form of the divine name in the exclamation, ‘Halleluyah’ — ‘Praise Yah.’

“However, because of its holy character, the name Yahweh was withdrawn from ordinary speech during the period of the Second Temple (c. 500 B.C.E. and later) and the substitute word — actually a title not a personal name — Adonai, or (The) Lord, was used, as is still the practice in synagogues.  Scholars who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (the Septuagint) in the third century B.C.E. adopted this synagogue convention and rendered YHWH as (ho) kurios, ‘(The) Lord.’  From this Greek translation the practice was carried over into the New Testament.

“The word Jehovah is an artificial form that arose from the erroneous combination of the consonants YHWH with the vowels of Adonai — written under or over the Hebrew consonants to indicate that the substitute is to be pronounced.  This hybrid form is often held to be the invention of Pater Galatin…but in actuality it can be traced back to a work by a certain Raymond Martin in 1270.”

The New English Bible, Introduction, pg. xv, xvi.  “The traditional text was originally written only in consonants, but in order to preserve what they regarded as the correct pronunciation of the words the Rabbis added vowel-signs to the text…One variation of this convention is of special importance, inasmuch as it affects the divine name.  This personal proper name, written with the consonants YHWH, was considered too sacred to be uttered; so the vowels for the words ‘my Lord’ or ‘God’ were added to the consonants YHWH, and the reader was warned by these vowels that he must substitute other consonants.  This change having to be made so frequently, the Rabbis did not consider it necessary to put the  consonants of the new reading in the margin.  In course of time the true pronunciation of the divine name, probably Yahweh, passed into oblivion, and YHWH was read with the intruded vowels, the vowels of an entirely different word, namely ‘my Lord’ or ‘God.’ In late medieval times this mispronunciation became current as Jehova, and it was taken over as Jehovah by the Reformers in Protestant Bibles.”

Revised Standard Version, Preface, pg. iv, v.  “While it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh,’ this pronunciation was not indicated when the Masoretes added vowel signs to the consonantal Hebrew text.  To the four consonants YHWH of the Name, which had come to be regarded as too sacred to be pronounced, they attached vowel signs indicating that in its place should be read the Hebrew word Adonai meaning ‘Lord’…The ancient Greek translators substituted the word Kyrios (Lord) for the Name.  The Vulgate likewise used the Latin word Dominus.  The form ‘Jehovah’ is of late medieval origin; it is a combination of the consonants of the Divine Name and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes but belonging to an entirely different word… reasons the Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version… the word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew…”

The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, “Yahweh,” Vol. 4, pg. 923.  “YAHWEH.  The vocalization of the four consonants of the Israelite name for God which scholars believe to approximate the original pronunciation.”

The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible, “Yahweh,” Vol. 5, pg. 1021.  “Yahweh…meaning debated but often tied to the root meaning to be, become.  The word Yahweh is a vocalization of the four consonants in the way many scholars think this covenant name for God was pronounced in OT times.”

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “God, Names of,” Vol. 4, pg. 241.  “The English form ‘Jehovah’ arose by a Latinized combination of the four consonants (YHWH) with the vowel points that the Masoretes used to show that they meant the reader to say ‘Adonai’ when reading the tetragrammaton.  That is, they left the consonants for ‘Yahewh’ in the text but put with them the vowels for ‘Adonai’…Though the older English versions sometimes used this hybrid form with compound names (such as ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ [Gen. 22:14]), usually the divine name has been rendered by ‘the Lord,’ following the ancient Greek translations of the OT, which commonly rendered Yahweh by kyrios.”

The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, “Yahweh,” Vol. N-Z, pg. 2537.  “The probable pronunciation of the OT four-lettered word YHWH, the most profound and sacred of the Hebrew names for God.  The name is interpreted in Ex. 3:14 as ‘I am who I am.’  The name was held in such high regard that the Jews were forbidden to pronounce it and read the word ‘Adonai’ (i.e., lord) instead.  When the Hebrew masoretes added the vowel points to the consonantal text, they used the vowels of Adonai with the four consonants YHWH; this was transliterated in the early versions as Jehovah.  This form of the word became quite popular, but it should be remembered that such a word never existed.”

Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, “Yahweh,” Vol. 2, pg. 1195.  “…It has become increasingly clear that no satisfactory attempt to recover the etymology and original meaning of the name ‘Yahweh’ can ignore the laws governing the grammatical, especially the phonetic evolution of Northwest Semitic.  Thus attempts to derive the name from an original ya, yah, yaw, or yahu (popular among a large numbers of scholars since the discovery of the independent form YHW in the Egyptian papyri of the fifth century B.C. from Elephantine) appear now to be without sound philological foundation.”

The Emphasized Bible, (Joseph Bryant Rotherham), Introduction, pg. 23-25. “Why not in the form ‘Jehovah’?  Is that not euphonious?  It is, without question.  Is it not widely used?  It is, and may still be freely employed to assist through a period of transition.  but is it not hallowed and endeared by many a beautiful hymn and many a pious memory?  Without doubt; and therefore it is with reluctance that is here declined.  But why is it not accepted?  There it is–familiar, acceptable, ready for adoption.  The reason is, that it is too heavily burdened with merited critical condemnation–as modern, as a compromise, as a ‘mongrel’ word, ‘hybrid,’ ‘fantastic,’ ‘monstrous.’ The facts have only to be known to justify this verdict, and to vindicate the propriety of not employing it in a new and independent translation.  What are the facts?  And first as to age. ‘The pronunciation Jehovah was unknown until 1520, when it was introduced by Galatinus; but was contested by Le Mercier, J. Drusius, and L. Capellus, as against grammatical and historical propriety.’ Next, as to formation. ‘Erroneously written and pronounced Jehovah, which is merely a combination of the sacred Tetragrammaton and the vowels in the Hebrew word for Lord, substituted by the Jews for JHVH, because they shrank from pronouncing The Name, owing to an old misconception of the two passages, Ex. 20:7 and Lev. 24:16…To give the name JHVH the vowels of the word for Lord [Heb. Adonai] and pronounce it Jehovah, is about as hybrid a combination as it would be to spell the name Germany with the vowels in the name Portugal – viz., Gormuna.  The monstrous combination Jehovah is not older than about 1520 A.D.’  From this we may gather that the Jewish scribes are not responsible for the ‘hybrid’ combination.  They intentionally wrote alien vowels–not for combination with the sacred consonants, but for the purpose of cautioning the Jewish reader to enunciate a totally different word, viz., some other familiar name of the Most High.”

World English Bible, preface, “The World English Bible main edition translates God’s Proper Name in the Old Testament as ‘Yahweh.’ The Messianic Edition and the British Edition of the World English Bible translates the same name as ‘LORD’ (all capital letters), or when used with ‘Lord’ (mixed case, translated from ‘Adonai’,) GOD. There are solid translational arguments for both traditions.”

For more info on Yahweh’s Name  please check out our free booklet: Your Fathers Name

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