Pronouncing The Name of God

There are some who believe we’ve lost the ability to pronounce the name of God. The argument is based on the concept that His name has been “unspoken” for so long that no one can accurately remember how to pronounce it. Yet upon investigation of some of the literature it becomes quite clear that the ability to understand and pronounce the name of God, transliterated as YHWH, has never been lost at all. (See What Is God's Name.)

For centuries scribes and certain other scholars have sought to conceal the personal name, YAHWEH. There were various reasons for this, but as a result, there are some today who believe the pronunciation of His name has been lost. Fortunately, there is much evidence to the contrary. There are countless historical records that confirm the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, in the original Hebrew as well as in the Greek, Latin and English languages.

Read this exceprt from The Sacred Name, by R. Clover (3rd Edition, 2002) p. 102:

"The view that the sacred name is made up of four consonants is born out of ignorance. It starts with the false notion that all of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet (or Hebrew-Aramaic form) are consonants. The truth of the matter is that the tetragrammaton is not represented by four consonants at all, but by four vowel-consonants or semivowels. That is, its four letters that can be used either as vowels or consonants. A comparable example would be our English letters “W” and “Y,” which can be utilized either as vowels or consonants. To prove this vital point one only needs to consult any good book on Hebrew grammar. For example, Weingreen states:15

However, long before the introduction of vowel-signs it was felt that the main vowel-sounds should be indicated in writing, and so the three letters Yîw h ◊y were used to represent long vowels."

R. Laird Harris writes in his Introductory Hebrew Grammar:16
"Four of the Hebrew letters, Ra, h, Yîw  and y are called vowel letters. 

The Beginner’s Handbook to Biblical Hebrew by Marks and Rogers (p. 7) and How the Hebrew Language Grew by Horowitz (pp. 333F) likewise report that the letters Ra, h, Yîw  and y are Hebrew vowel-consonants.17 Therefore, every letter in the sacred name hYÎwh◊y is a vowel-consonant or semivowel. 

How then can we determine whether or not the letters making up the sacred name are to be understood as vowels or as consonants? The answer to this question lies in the works of the first century C.E. Jewish priest and historian Josephus. While discussing the garment of the high priest described in Exodus, 28:1-43, he makes this revealing comment: 

His (the priest’s) head was covered by a tiara of fine linen, wreathed with blue, encircling which was another crown, of gold, whereon were embossed the sacred letters, to wit, FOUR VOWELS (ϕων′ηεντα τ′εσσαρα; phonhenta tessara). (Josephus, Wars, 5:5:7 (235f) 

15 PGCH, pp. 6-7.

16 IHG, p. 16.

17 BHBH, p. 7; HHLG, pp. 333f."

And from page 117 of the same source we read:

"The ancient Jews often substituted the sacred name with the word h™RyVh`Ra, (ahayah), a term found in Exod., 3:14. This word was used by Yahweh when he angrily responded to Moses after the latter had asked him about his name. 52 For our present concerns we can take note that h™RyVh`Ra, (ahayah) contains the root h™Ry (yah), which itself is both part of the sacred name hHÎwh◊y  (Yahweh) and the praenomen in hHÎwh◊y h◊y (Yah Yahweh). The term h™RyVh (hayah) means “to exist.” Therefore the word is translated as “I am” or “I exist.” We find in the Greek edition of Theodoret (first half of the fifth century C.E.) that the Jews he contacted referred to the almighty as ’Α¨ι′ α; transliterated Aia in the Latin copies. 54 Some Greek manuscripts, meanwhile, retain the form ’Ι′ α. 55 As D. Williams observes, ’Α¨ι′. α is the Graecized form of the “surrogate” h™RyVh (’ha-yah). Theodoret shows that the word was pronounced “’ha-Yah.” Again the enunciation “Yah” for h◊y is confirmed."

Next, read what the following scholarly sources have to say about this issue:
(Note: Emphasis added for clarity.) 

American Heritage Dictionary:
"Yahweh—A name for God assumed by modern scholars to be a rendering of the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton."

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature:
"Jehovah — the imperfect of Jahve (Yahwe or Jehovah or Jahwe (Yahweh)). He is self existing." Vol. 3, p. 901. 

Davis Dictionary of the Bible:
"Jehovah - The Tetragrammaton is generally believed to have been pronounced Jahweh, Yahweh..." 

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (ll th Edition, vol. 12) says of "Yahweh":

The Rabbinic tradition that after the death of Simeon the Just (fl. 290 B.C.E.) 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 (C.E. 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 know 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. Clement of Alexandria (d. 212) gives laove or laovai (or in one manuscript laov), Origen (d. 253-54) lan, and Epiphanius (d. 404) laBe (or lave in one manuscript); Theodoret (d. 457) says that the Samaritans pronounced it laBe (or lapa)...
This new name, though at first widely known, as the Moabite Stone shows, was soon considered too sacred for daily use and confined to the Scriptures.
Outside the Old Testament Yhwh occurs only on the Moabite Stone (c. 850 B.C.E.); the usual form is YH or Yhw, occurring in unvocalized texts of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E. These forms appear in the Old Testament sporadically as the independent Yah and regularly as Yah or Yahu at the end and Yeho or Yo at the beginning of proper names.” 

The Encyclopedia Judaica (7th Ed., p. 680) states:

"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.' This is confirmed, at least for the vowel of the first syllable of the name, by the shorter form Yah, which is sometimes used in poetry (e.g. Ex. 15:2) and the -yahu or -yah that serves as the final syllable in very many Hebrew names.” 

A Greek-English Lexicon: "Kurios - equals 'Yahweh.'" p.1013

A History of Christianity, Kenneth Scott Latourette (p. 11):

"Israel regarded their god, Yahweh, a name mistakenly put into the English as Jehovah, as the God of the universe, the maker and ruler of heaven and earth. Other peoples had their gods, but Yahweh was regarded by these monotheists as far more powerful than they."

The International Bible Encyclopedia of King James Version: "Jehovah - It is believed that the correct pronunciation of this word is 'Yahweh.'" 

Jewish Encyclopedia:
"Rabbinical Literature —
The name Yahweh is considered the Name proper." Vol. 9, p. 162. 

The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia identifies some important archaelolgical discoveries that verify the pronunciation: 

“Yahweh: The pronunciation Yahweh of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton need no longer be based primarily on traditions preserved in late patristic sources. Both the vocalization yahwe and yahu (a shortened for n used chiefly in personal names) are now confirmed by a variety of ancient New Eastern inscriptional materials from the first and second millennia B.C.E.  Yahwe was originally a finite verb derived from a causative stem of the Northwest Semitic root hwy, 'to come into being.' The divine name would thus go back to a verbal form meaning 'he causes to come into existence,' or in effect, 'he creates.'  The name Yahweh appears to have been originally the first or key word of an ancient liturgical formula which proclaimed the creative activity of the deity.  No non-Israelite divine name 'Yahweh' has yet been identified certainly in ancient Near Eastern sources.” 

New Standard Bible Dictionary:
"Jehovah - Properly Yahweh . . the form 'Jehovah' is impossible, according to the strict principles of Hebrew vocalization." 

The Oxford Cyclopedic Concordance:
"Jehovah— the name revealed to Moses at Horeb. Its real pronunciation is approximately Yahweh. The Name itself was not pronounced Jehovah before the 16th century." 

Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary:
"And the name above all others that was looked upon as the name, the personal name of God, was YAHWEH." Vol. 1, p. 172. 

Webster's New World Dictionary:
"Yahweh— God, a form of the Hebrew name in the Old Testament. See Tetragrammaton."

These and other sources confirm that the proper pronunciation of The Tetragrammaton,
There is no reason to pretend this pronunciation has been “lost”.
It was only
suppressed, both by political edict and by religious tradition
– both of which are the traditions of men, and not The Word of

For more than 2000 years the personal name, YAHWEH,
has been “stricken from the record”.
His own followers have been instructed to not pronounce His name.
They’ve been threatened with punishments as great as death if they do.
And this has been done under the guise of
“honoring and protecting the sacred name of G-d”. 

This has been done in direct violation of YAHWEH’s specific instructions to His people.
It’s given in the context of forbidding worship of any other “god”, idol, image, etc. (See
Exodus 3.1-6.)
In The Torah given to Moshe on Mount Sinai there was the following instruction

Ex. 20:7  “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (This is from the New King James “translation”.) 

           Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines “in vain” as follows:

7723. aVwÎv shav}, shawv; or wÅv shav, shav; from the same as 7722 in the sense of desolating; evil (as destructive), literally (ruin) or morally (especially guile); figuratively idolatry (as false, subjective), uselessness (as deceptive, objective; also adverbially, in vain):
—false(-ly), lie, lying, vain, vanity.
7722. awøv show}, sho; or (feminine) hDawøv showtah, sho-aw´; or hDaøv shoah, sho-aw´; from an unused root meaning to rush over; a tempest; by implication, devastation:
—desolate(-ion), destroy, destruction, storm, wasteness.

However, it’s most instructive to observe the proper translation of this verse:

Ex. 20.7 You are not to lift up the Name of YAHWEH itself, ta 
your Elohim, for the sake of emptiness 
YAHWEH will not cause to be undefiled 
whoever lifts up 
His Name itself  ta 
for the sake of emptiness.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance gives us the following:

5352. h∂qÎn naqah, naw-kaw´; a primitive root; to be (or make) clean (literally or figuratively); by implication (in an adverse sense) to be bare, i.e. extirpated:
—acquit x at all, x altogether, be blameless, cleanse, (be) clear(-ing), cut off, be desolate, be free, be (hold) guiltless, be (hold) innocent, x by no means, be quit, be (leave) unpunished, x utterly, x wholly.

The concept of being “clean” refers to not being defiled.
No one who was defiled was permitted in the presence of YAHWEH.

The act of suppressing the name of YAHWEH,
thereby removing
YAHWEH from the text,
clearly violates the intent and the specific directions found in this Scripture.

Those who have done so have perpetrated a tremendous fraud
upon everyone who reads Scripture with this perverse “translation” included in it.
It is not a proper translation at all.
It’s not even an approximation of a translation.
It’s a perversion of the Word of
which is also forbidden.

It’s time for the religious community to face this most egregious error
and move to correct it as quickly as possible.
We are at serious risk of experiencing the wrath of
for our failure to properly honor His name and His Word.
Until we correct this problem
we are guilty of committing
identity theft against YAHWEH, The Elohim.
We have effectively stolen His proper identity. 

May He have compassion on us for our ignorance,
and for our apathy.


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