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Why His Name is


   Yahweh revealed His Name to humankind. But through ignorance and fear of blasphemy man neglected the Name and chose many other substitutes instead. Now we are without excuse.
   Among those who fully respect and stand in awe of the Mighty One, the Creator of the universe, there is no general agreement on the exact spelling of His name. While most scholars freely admit the hybrid "Jehovah” is wrong, many have not fully researched the truth of His Name, but have accepted the opinions and concepts of others who in turn have followed earlier traditions.
   Spellings, such as JAVE, JAHWAH, JAHVEH, JOVE, YAHVEH, YAHWAH, YAHVAH, as well as the generally accepted YAHWEH, are variously ascribed as being the proper spelling of the Almighty's Name. And each one espousing a certain form or spelling believes his is the only and correct way.
   Let us delve into the background and history of the Sacred Name and review how it has been handed down to us.
   The early translators who gave us the English version of the (originally Hebrew) Bible were not Hebrew scholars. They based their understanding mostly on the Greek texts, the Septuagint for the Old Testament and the extant Greek texts for the New Testament. Generally, they were ignorant of Hebrew and knew very little of Hebrew grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.
   Because of animosity between the Jews and their Roman masters, it was a common practice for Roman soldiers to search out and destroy any Hebrew texts of the Jews and Messianic believers alike.
   Initially, the Romans made no distinction between Jews and converts of the early Assembly, for their worship appeared basically the same. Both worshiped on the weekly Saturday Sabbath and observed the annual festivals, and both read from the same Old Testament Hebrew scrolls in their study and worship.
   It was not until the third century that a distinction was made between Jewish worship and those who had gone on to accept Yahshua as the Messiah.
   The admitted ignorance of the early Christian scholars regarding the Hebrew language lies at the root of the misspellings and variations of the Sacred Name today. The Jews often ridiculed and derided these Christians who claimed to be scholars, but stumbled in their efforts to pronounce simple Hebrew words.

They Feared to Use His Name
   By the time of the Messiah, the Jewish custom of not pronouncing the Sacred Name in public became mandatory. This practice had apparently developed from the warning in Leviticus 24:16,
   And he that blasphemes the Name of Yahweh shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemes the Name of Yahweh shall be put to death.
   By not using the Sacred Name, one could not blaspheme it, and so it was not invoked except by the high priest on the Day of Atonement.
   Thus came about the custom of reading "Adonai" instead of the Sacred Name whenever the Tetragrammaton appeared in the texts at the synagogues. By calling upon a substitute instead of invoking the Name, the Name could not be blasphemed, reasoned the Jews.
   In Jeremiah 44:26 we read of another verse that stifled any public utterance of the Sacred Name, especially during the captivity:
   Therefore hear you the word of Yahweh, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; behold, I have sworn by My great Name says Yahweh, that My Name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “Yahweh Elohim lives."
   This became especially critical when the Jews were taken captive to Babylon. Psalm 137 relates that they refused to sing the songs of Zion or Yahweh's Name in a strange land lest the Name and worship be subject to ridicule by the gentiles. Thus the ban on uttering the Sacred Name became firmly entrenched and was the practice by the time the Savior came to earth.
   While the Jewish zealots would not invoke the Sacred Name, it was their custom to write it in the sacred texts. The scribes carefully placed the vowels of Adonai over.the Tetragrammaton to warn the reader not to utter the Sacred Name, but to use "Adonai." The scribes did, however, place the Hebrew Tetragrammaton in the Greek Septuagint translation.
   Christian scholars did not understand these sacred four Hebrew letters (
hwhy) and translated them into the Greek as (PIP) or PIPI. When the proper pronunciation was pointed out to them they inserted the Greek letters IAO.
   Still later, they substituted the Greek
kurios or theos for the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, as they felt the Greek text was as sacred as the Hebrew. However, neither kurios nor theos is a transliteration of the Hebrew Yahweh. Neither does either have the same meaning.
   "Toward the end of the first century Gentile Christians, lacking a motive for retaining the Hebrew name for God, substituted the words
KURIOS and THEOS (KURIOS being used more often than THEOS) for the Tetragram," wrote Professor George Howard in the Journal of Biblical Literature.
   He adds, "Thus, somewhere around the beginning of the second century, the use of surrogates must have crowded out the Tetragram in both Testaments. Before long the divine name was lost to the Gentile church altogether except insofar as it was reflected in the contracted surrogates or occasionally remembered by scholars."
   Thus, the Sacred Name not only was obscured by overzealous Jewish religionists, but the Greek substitutes soon found their way into both the Old and New Testaments. Note Professor George Howard's comments:
   "As we have seen, the normal practice was for (the Tetragram) to be written in paleo-Hebrew or Aramaic letters, or to be transliterated into Greek letters, in pre-Christian copies of LXX ... Since the Tetragram was still written in copies of the Greek Bible which made up the Scriptures of the early church, it is reasonable to believe that the NT writers, when quoting from Scripture, preserved the Tetragram with the Biblical text. On the analogy of pre-Christian Jewish practice we can imagine that the NT text incorporated the Tetragram into its OT quotations and that the words KURIOS and THEOS were used when secondary references to God were made in the comments that were based upon the quotations."
(Journal of Biblical Literature.)
   It can readily be seen that if the Greek text was considered sacred as the Hebrew, then the Greek substitutes for the Tetragram were equally sacred.
When the Bible was translated into another language (due to the translator's ignorance of Hebrew, directly from the Greek texts) the more familiar local deity's name was customarily substituted for the unfamiliar Greek
Kurios and Theos. Translations into other languages routinely substituted the name of the local deity for the Sacred Name Yahweh.
   Thus, every language has its own substitute for the Tetragram, the choice of the substitute depending upon the translator as well as local custom and tradition.
   From the above we can see that the Sacred Name Yahweh was initially substituted by overly superstitious rabbis. First, the vowels for
Adonai were placed over the Tetragram to caution the reader not to blurt out Yahweh when it appeared in the text. The reader was then to read Adonai instead of invoking the Sacred Name.
   Christian scholars, not realizing the purpose of the vowels placed over the four Hebrew letters, came up with the monstrous hybrid JEHOVAH. Today, most good reference works freely admit this is not the Name and never was. There never was and is not now a letter J in the Hebrew alphabet.
   Eventually the Greek substitutes replaced the Hebrew Tetragrammaton in the Greek texts, and
Kurios and Theos became commonplace. Translations from the Hebrew texts, however, ended up with the hybrid Jehovah.

Birth of J
   Note the comments of author F. F. Bruce in The Books and the Parchments:
   "In the English Bible, Hebrew proper names with yod are represented with j, which in modern English has quite a different sound from y. Thus 'Jehovah-jireh' would have been pronounced in Hebrew something like Yahweh yeereh," footnote, page 40.
   History shows that the letter J is from the capital I, but with a tail added, and became known as a cursive J because of the curling tail. This was made popular by the Dutch printers about 500 years ago. Before that time the letter J did not exist. If we accept that fact of history, then we must raise the question, "What was His name before the letter J came into be- ing?" It could not have been Jehovah.
   It was the French who gave the letter J the present sound of the letter g as in large or purge. In Latin and other languages the J is pronounced more like Y with an "ee" sound. The Spanish J is more like an aspirant as in San Jose.
   Some old European maps stilI show the spelling of countries like Jugoslavia or Sowjet Russia. It is only in the last century that the letter J has firmly taken on the French pronunciation as in joy or journal. (For more information on the letter J please read our booklet,
The Mistaken J.)
   It is not unusual for some who reject the Name Yahweh to state that because of the aversion of the Jews to use the Name or even utter it, that the pronunciation became lost. This likely is done to vindicate their unwillingness to use the Name.
   To conceal their rebelling against using the Name, they contend the pronunciation is unknown. This they feel absolves them of any and all responsibility of using the Name.
   It is the same weak argument put forth by those who reject the Sabbath by saying the "Sabbath has been lost; no one knows which day it is." It is nothing more than sheer rebellion against the Third Commandment. (Read our mini-study,
Sabbath Keepers, Why Not Keep ALL The Commandments?)

Yahweh: The Authorities Agree
   Many reliable authorities state unequivocally that the correct pronunciation of the Sacred Name never has been lost. Some are as follows:
      • "It is now held that the original name was IaHUe(H), i.e. Jahve(h), or with the English values of the letters, Y AHWE (h), and one or other of these forms is now generally used by writers upon the religion of the Hebrews." (
Oxford English Dictionary under "Jehovah").
     • "The saying of God, 'I am who I am', is surely connected with His Name that is written in the Hebrew consonantal text as YHWH, the original pronunciation of which is well attested as Yahweh." (
Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. 5, p. 743).
     • "Judging from Greek transcriptions of the Sacred Name (iabe, iaouai), YHWH ought to be pronounced Yahweh. The pronunciation Jehovah was unknown in ancient Jewish circles ... " (
Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, p. 1065).
      • "The pronunciation Yahweh is indicated by transliterations 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)." (
New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, "God, Names of”).
      • "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. vi., when he says: 'the Samaritans call it [the tetragrammaton] "Yabe," the Jews call it "Aia" .. .' " (
The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, "Yahweh," p.471).
      • "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.''' (p. 680,
Encyclopedia Judaica).
      "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."
(Encyclopaedia Britannica 15th Edition under "Yahweh").
      • "What the original Hebrew vowels of the name were is a matter of some debate, athough it is usually considered that they were a and e, the word being pronounced Yahweh." (
The Books and the Parchments, p. 120, F.F. Bruce).
   On p. 259 in another scholarly book,
From Stone Age to Christianity, author Bruce makes the following comment:
   “There is absolute unanimity in our sources about the name given his God by Moses. The spelling YHWH (pronounced Yahweh, as we know from Greek transcriptions) is always found in prose passages in the Hebrew Bible, as well as in the Mesha Stone (ninth century) and the Lachish Letters (cir. 589 B.C.)."
      • "The pronunciation Yahweh is indicated by transliterations 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).
The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, volume 12, p. 995 under "Jehovah," makes the following comment:
   "The pronunciation 'Jehovah' is an error resulting among Christians from combining the consonants Yhwh (Jhvh) with the vowels of 'adhonay,’ 'Lord,' which the Jews in reading the Scriptures substituted for the Sacred Name, commonly called the tetragrammton as containing four consonants.
   “The tradition that, after the death of Simeon the Just, 290 B.C., it was no longer pronounced even on these occasions, is contradicted by the well-attested statement that in the last generations before the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) it was uttered so low that the sounds were lost in the chant of the priest. After that event the liturgical use of the name ceased, but the tradition was perpetuated in the Rabbinic schools; it continued also to be employed by healers, exorcists and magicians, and is found on many magical papyri. It is asserted by Philo that only priests might pronounce it and by Josephus that those who knew it were forbidden to divulge it. Finally, the Samaritans shared the scruples of the Jews, except that they used it in judicial oaths ... The early Christian scholars therefore easily learnt the true pronunciation."
      • "Yahweh, yawe (YHWH). The vocalization of the four consonants of the Israelite name for God which scholars believe to approximate the original pronunciation." See GOD, NAMES of, B." (
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, under "Yahweh").

What of "Jehovah"?
   The group known as Jehovah's Witnesses have admitted in certain of their writings that the proper spelling and pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is best represented by "Yahweh."
   In their pamphlet, "The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever," we read this revealing statement:
   "Some ‒ though not all ‒ feel that the Israelites before the time of J-sus probably pronounced G-d's name Yahweh," pp. 8 - 9.
   On pages 10 - 11 is the following, "While many translators favor the pronunciation Yahweh, the New World Translation and also a number of other translations continue the use of the form Jehovah because of the people's familiarity with it for centuries."
   In other words, the Jehovah's Witnesses rely upon traditions of past generations rather than acknowledge that the hybrid name Jehovah, which they use, is an inferior transliteration. They admit they are following a mere custom of man. Was it not our Savior Who said,
"You have made the commandment of Yahweh of none effect through your traditions"? (Matthew 15:6).
The Jewish Encyclopedia, on page 160, says this about the name Jehovah, "This name is commonly represented in modern translations by the form 'Jehovah,' which, however, is a philological impossibility. ... This form has arisen through attempting to pronounce the consonants of the name with the vowels of adonai.
   Dr. J. B. Rotherham, in his
Emphasized Bible, makes the following observation concerning the name Jehovah: "T o give the name JHVH the vowels of the word for Lord (Hebrew 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."
Emphasized Bible further states, "The true pronunciation seems to have been Yahwe (or Iahway, the initial I = Y as in Iachimo). The final e should be pronounced like the French e', or the English e in there, and the first be sounded as an aspirate." Further, Dr. Rotherham states, "The form 'Yahweh' is here adopted as practically the best. The only competing form would be 'Yehweh,' differing, it will be observed, only in a single vowel ‒ 'e' for the 'a' in the first syllable," p. 25 of his introduction to "The Incommunicable Name."

BAR Taken to Task
   In a letter to the prestigious Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), a professor took to task the editorial note of BAR that the pronunciation Yahweh for the Tetragrammaton is simply a form agreed to by Hebrew scholars. Note his letter to the editor:
   "An editorial note in BAR, November/December 1984, states that the pronunciation YAHWEH for the Tetragrammaton is 'by scholarly convention.' It should be noted that there are many strong linguistic and epigraphic arguments in favor of Yahweh as the correct form. There are Greek transcriptions from religious papyri in Egypt; there are personal names in Biblical Hebrew ending in YAHU, which is the typical ‘Short form’ (jussive, i.e., commands, and past tense) for verb forms of the particular type in which the last two consonants were originally WAW (w) and yod (y), The 'long form' of those same verbs ends in eh. The Anglicized form, Jehovah, is a 'ghost word' based on the four consonants YHWH, with the vowels of another word,
adonai, meaning 'my Lord.' The Hebrew scribes of the Middle Ages put those vowels in to remind the reader to say ADONAI rather than pronounce the Sacred Name. But in the first syllable, they nevertheless put in ane rather than ana so as not to cause anyone to see the syllable YA and inadvertently blurt out the Sacred Name! This is just further proof of the correct first syllable, which in any case is confirmed by Greek spellings and the evidence of Hebrew linguistics. So Yahweh is not just some sort of scholarly convention." (Professor Anson F. Rainey, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv ,Israel).
   It is quite apparent from the Bible and language scholars of our day that the best spelling of the holy Name in English is Yahweh. This most closely approximates the Hebrew pronunciation as used in the temple. Other variant spellings are a result of attempting to bring phonetic sounds across from another language. Jewish authorities admit Yahweh is the proper spelling of His Name in English. Some of the differences surrounding the pronunciation of the Sacred Name centers on the letter J versus the letter Y. Our booklet,
The Mistaken J, covers this topic.

-Elder Donald Mansager (deceased)

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