Q. Nehemia Gordon, a Karaite Jew, has now discovered over 1,000 manuscripts with the proper pronunciation Yehovah. Considering this newfound evidence, why do you continue to use Yahweh?
A. There are several facts to acknowledge regarding Nehemia Gordon’s “new” finding. To begin with, all these Hebrew documents with the vowel points forming Yehovah are from the 9th century or later and part of the Masoretic manuscripts. According to the overwhelming majority of scholarship, the Masoretes purposefully added the vowel points from Adonai to the Tetragrammaton, forming the hybrid Yehovah (also rendered as Yehowah or Jehovah). In the history of the Ministry, we have actually never seen a scholarly reference confirming Yehovah.
Consider the following: “In the early Middle Ages, when the consonantal text of the Bible was supplied with vowel points to facilitate its correct traditional reading, the vowel points for Adonai with one variation – a sheva (short ‘e’) with the first yod [Y] of YHWH instead of the hataf-patah (short ‘a’) under the aleph of Adonai – was used for YHWH, thus producing the form YeHoWaH. When Christian scholars of Europe first began to study Hebrew they did not understand what this really meant, and they introduced the hybrid name ‘Jehovah’” (Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 7, p. 680).
“Jehovah, modern form of the Hebrew sacred name of God, probably originally ‘Yahweh.’ From c.300 B.C. the Jews, from motives of piety, uttered the name of God very rarely and eventually not at all, but substituted the title ‘Adonai,’ meaning ‘Lord,’ the vowels of which were written under the consonants of ‘Yahweh.’ In the Middle Ages and later, the vowels of one word with the consonants of the other were misread as Jehovah” (The Collegiate Encyclopedia, vol. 9, p. 580).
“Jehovah….What has been said explains the so-called qeri perpetuum, according to which the consonants of Jehovah are always accompanied in the Hebrew text by the vowels of Adonai except in the cases in which Adonai stands in apposition to Jehovah: in these cases the vowels of Elohim are substituted. The use of a simple shewa in the first syllable of Jehovah, instead of the compound shewa in the corresponding syllable of Adonai and Elohim, is required by the rules of Hebrew grammar governing the use of Shewa” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. VIII, p. 329).
“Jehovah, an erroneous pronunciation of the name of the God of Israel in the Bible, due to pronouncing the vowels of the term ‘Adonay,’ the marginal Masoretic reading with the consonants of the text-reading ‘Yahweh,’ which was not uttered to avoid the profanation of the divine name of magical or other blasphemous purposes. Hence the substitution of ‘Adonay,’ the ‘Lord,’ or ‘Adonay Elohim,’ ‘Lord God.’ The oldest Greek versions use the term ‘Kurios,’ ‘Lord,’ the exact translation of the current Jewish substitute for the original Tetragrammaton Yahweh. The reading ‘Jehovah’ can be traced to the early Middle Ages and until lately was said to have been invented by Peter Gallatin (1518), confessor of Pope Leo X. Recent writers, however, trace it to an earlier date; it is found in Raymond Martin’s Pugeo Fidei (1270)” (Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 16, p. 8.).
“The pronunciation you mentioned [i.e., Yehovah] is a mistake. The Hebrew consonantal text is YHWH and no one really knows how that was pronounced in Old Testament times. At a later date (the latter half of the 2nd millennium CE) Masoretes added vowel signs to the consonantal text. Whenever the Tetragrammaton was written, they added the vowel signs of the word “Adonay,” which means “My Lord” – there was a taboo on pronouncing the Divine name and one was supposed to read the word “Adonay – my Lord.” Much later some started reading the vowel signs together with YHWH and came up with the nonsensical word Jehovah” (email correspondence between Professor Fassberg and Pastor Randy Folliard). Note: Professor Fassberg, Ph.D., is one of the leading professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem within its Hebrew language department.
In addition to the fact that scholarship nearly universally confirms that the Masoretes added the vowel points from Adonai to the Tetragrammaton, another issue with Yehovah is that there are other variants based on the vowel pointing within the Masoretic manuscripts. For example, the Leningrad Codex contains at least six different spellings for the divine name. Similar evidence can also be found within the Aleppo and other codices. The fact that we find different pronunciations within the Masoretic manuscripts confirms that they cannot be trusted.
Another issue with Yehovah and this claim of a 1,000 manuscripts is that the pronunciation Yahweh is confirmed within Greek documents from church fathers and Gnostic writings 700 years before the Masoretic documents.
One such example from the Gnostic library 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.
Evidence for the short form “Yah” is also found in early Greek documents of the Septuagint, part of the Dead Sea collection, dating to 1 BCE.
Based on these facts, the number of manuscripts found with the vowel points of Yehovah is irrelevant. Scholarship confirms that Yehovah is a hybrid that arose through the vowel points of Adonai. Additionally, antiquity confirms the pronunciation Yahweh through Greek inscriptions dating back to the 2nd century CE, 700 years before any manuscript containing Yehovah.
For additional information, read our online article: The Yehovah Deception.
Also, watch our videos: