The following *information is for reference and research. We do not subscribe to everything written or explained on this page. We do believe in the Tetragrammaton as being YHWH=Yahweh, and the Hebrew etymology of the Heavenly Father's Name.

[ *This information is taken from Enotes @ http://www.enotes.com/topic/Tetragrammaton ]

The term Tetragrammaton (from Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning "[a word] having four letters")[1] refers to the proper name of the Elohim of Israel YHWH (Hebrew: יהוה‎) used in the Hebrew Bible.


Occurrences and uses

The Tetragrammaton occurs 6,828 times in the Hebrew text of both the Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.[2] It does not appear in the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, or Esther. It first appears in the Hebrew text in Genesis 2:4.[2][3] The letters, properly read from right to left (in Biblical Hebrew), are:

Hebrew Letter name Pronunciation
י Yodh "Y"
ה He "H"
ו Waw "W" or placeholder for "O"/"U" vowel (see mater lectionis)
ה He "H" (or often a silent letter at the end of a word)

These four letters are usually transliterated from Hebrew as IHVH in Latin, JHWH in German, French and Dutch, and JHVH/YHWH in English. This has been variously rendered as "Yahweh" or as "Jehovah", based on the Latin form of the term,[4] while the Hebrew text does not clearly indicate the omitted vowels.

In English translations, it is often rendered in capital and small capital letters as "the Lord", following Jewish tradition which reads the word as "Adonai" ("Lord") out of respect for the name of God and the interpretation of the commandment not to take the name of God in vain. The word "haŠem", 'the Name' is also used in Jewish contexts; in Samaritan, "Šemå" is the normal substitution.

Etymology and meaning of YHWH

It has often been proposed that the name YHWH is etymologically a third person masculine imperfect verb form derived from the Biblical Hebrew triconsonantal root היה (h-y-y) "to be", which has הוה (h-w-y) as a variant form.[5] This would connect it to the passage in verse Exodus 3:14, where God gives his name as אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh), translated most basically as "I am what I am" (or "I will be that which I now am"). יהוה with the vocalization "Yahweh" could theoretically be a hiph'il verb inflection of root h-w-y, with a meaning something like "he who causes to exist" or "who gives life". As a qal (basic stem) verb inflection, it could mean "he who is, who exists".[5]


The authentic, historically correct pronunciation is not known, the possible full vocalic (pointed) spelling of the name has historically been a matter of some disagreement, and the consensus view at various points in history has not been consistent.

The pronunciation as it is vowel pointed in the Masoretic Text, certain scholars do not hold the pronunciation to be correct.

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Historical overview

Observant Jews write down but do not pronounce the Tetragrammaton, because it is considered too sacred to be used for common activities. Even ordinary prayer is considered too common for this use. The Tetragrammaton was pronounced by the High Priest on Yom Kippur when the Temple was standing in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of Second Temple of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Tetragrammaton is no longer pronounced, and while Jewish tradition holds that the correct pronunciation is known to a select few people in each generation, it is not generally known what this pronunciation is. Instead, common Jewish use has been to substitute the name "Adonai" ("My Lord") where the Tetragrammaton appears.

The Septuagint (Greek translation) and Vulgate (Latin translation) use the word "Lord" (κύριος, kyrios, and dominus, respectively).

The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connected forms in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, with vowel points shown in red. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The Masoretes added vowel points (niqqud) and cantillation marks to the manuscripts to indicate vowel usage and for use in the ritual chanting of readings from the Bible in synagogue services. To יהוה they added the vowels for "Adonai" ("My Lord"), the word to use when the text was read.

Many Jews will not use "Adonai" except when praying, and substitute other terms, e.g., haŠem ("The Name") or the nonsense word Ado-Shem, to avoid misuse of the divine name. In written English, "G-d" is a substitute used by a minority.

Parts of the Talmud, particularly those dealing with Yom Kippur, seem to imply[citation needed] that the Tetragrammaton should be pronounced in several ways, with only one (not explained in the text, and apparently kept by oral tradition by the Kohen Gadol) being the personal name of God.

In late Kabbalistic works the Tetragrammaton is sometimes referred to as the Name of Havayah—הוי'ה, meaning "the Name of Being/Existence".

Translators often render YHWH as a word meaning "Lord", e.g., Greek Κυριος, Latin Dominus, and following that, English "the Lord", Polish Pan, Welsh Arglwydd, etc. However, all of the above are inaccurate translations of the Tetragrammaton.[citation needed]

Because the name was no longer pronounced and its own vowels were not written, its pronunciation was forgotten. When Christians, unaware of the Jewish tradition, started to read the Hebrew Bible, they read יְהֹוָה as written with YHWH's consonants with Adonai's vowels[citation needed], and thus said or transcribed Iehovah. Today this transcription is generally recognized as mistaken; however many religious groups continue to use the form Jehovah because it is familiar.

Using the name in the Bible

Exod. 3:15 is used to support the use of the Name YHWH: "this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations."[6] The word "forever" is "le'olam" which in biblical Hebrew means "always, continually".[7]

Many Scriptures do favour the use of the Name. The biblical law does not prohibit the use of the Name, but it warns against "misuse", "blaspheming" or in ordinary terms, "taking lightly" the Name of YHWH. The Biblical texts suggest the people of the Bible—including the patriarchs—used the Name of YHWH. A wealth of scriptures support this notion.[8]


Theophoric names

Yeho or "Yehō-" is the prefix form of "YHWH" used in Hebrew theophoric names; the suffix form Yahū" or "-Yehū" is just as common. This has caused two opinions:

  1. In former times (at least from c.1650 AD), that it was abbreviated from the Masoretic pronunciation "Yehovah", pronounced with the stress on vah.
  2. Recently that, as "Yahweh" is likely an imperfective verb form, "Yahu" is its corresponding preterite or jussive short form: compare yiŝtahaweh (imperfective), yiŝtáhû (preterit or jussive short form) = "do obeisance".[9]

Those who argue for argument 1 above are the: George Wesley Buchanan in Biblical Archaeology Review; Smith’s 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible; Section # 2.1 The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon (1848)[10] in its article הוה.

Smith's 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible says that "Yahweh" is possible because shortening to "Yahw" would end up as "Yahu" or similar. The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901-1906 in the Article:Names Of God has a very similar discussion, and also gives the form Yo (יוֹ) contracted from Yeho (יְהוֹ). The Encyclopædia Britannica[11] also says that "Yeho-" or "Yo" can be explained from "Yahweh", and that the suffix "-yah" can be explained from "Yahweh" better than from "Yehovah". However, the suffix "-yah" can be explained from Yehovah by taking the first and last letters of the name and joining them, "Y----ah".

Chapter 1 of The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, under the heading: The Pronunciation Of Gods Name quotes from Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 7: Hebrew Scholars generally favor "Yahweh" as the most likely pronunciation. They point out that the abbreviated form of the name is Yah (Jah in the Latinized form), as at Psalm 89:8 and in the expression Hallelu-Yah (meaning "Praise Yah, you people!").[Ps. 104:35] [150:1,6] The forms Yeho', Yo, Yah, and Ya'hu, found in the Hebrew spelling of the names of Yehoshaphat, Yoshaphat, Shefatyah, and others, could be derived from Yahweh, and could also be derived from Yehovah.

Using consonants as semi-vowels (v/w)

In ancient Hebrew, the letter ו, known to modern Hebrew speakers as vav, was a semivowel /w/ (as in English, not as in German) rather than a /v/.[12] The letter is referred to as waw in the academic world. Because the ancient pronunciation differs from the modern pronunciation, it is common today to represent יהוה as YHWH rather than YHVH.

In unpointed Biblical Hebrew, most vowels are not written and the rest are written only ambiguously, as the vowel letters double as consonants (similar to the Latin use of V to indicate both U and V). See Matres lectionis for details. For similar reasons, an appearance of the Tetragrammaton in ancient Egyptian records of the 13th century BC sheds no light on the original pronunciation.[13] Therefore it is, in general, difficult to deduce how a word is pronounced from its spelling only, and the Tetragrammaton is a particular example: two of its letters can serve as vowels, and two are vocalic place-holders, which are not pronounced.

This difficulty occurs somewhat also in Greek when transcribing Hebrew words, because of Greek's lack of a letter for consonant 'y' and (since loss of the digamma) of a letter for "w", forcing the Hebrew consonants yod and waw to be transcribed into Greek as vowels. Also, non-initial 'h' caused difficulty for Greeks and was liable to be omitted; х (chi) was pronounced as 'k' + 'h' (as in modern Hindi "lakh") and could not be used to spell 'h' as in Modern Greek Χάρρι = "Harry", for example.

Yahweh or Jahweh

The Latin pronunciation of the letter I/J as a consonant sound was [j], the 'y' sound of the English word 'you'. This changed in descendent languages into various stronger consonants, including at one point in French [], the 'j' sound of the word 'juice', and this was the sound the letter came to be used for in English. Thus the English pronunciation of the older form Jehovah has this 'j' sound, following the English pronunciation of its Latin spelling. In order to preserve the Latin (and approximate Hebrew) pronunciation of Jahweh, however, the English spelling was changed to Yahweh.

Kethib and Qere and Qere perpetuum

The original consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible was provided with vowel marks by the Masoretes to assist reading. In places where the consonants of the text to be read (the Qere) differed from the consonants of the written text (the Kethib), they wrote the Qere in the margin as a note showing what was to be read. In such a case the vowels of the Qere were written on the Kethib. For a few very frequent words the marginal note was omitted: this is called Q're perpetuum.

One of these frequent cases was the Tetragrammaton, which according to later Jewish practices should not be pronounced, but read as "Adonai" ("My Lord [plural of majesty]"), or, if the previous or next word already was "Adonai", or "Adoni" ("My Lord"), as "Elohim" ("God"). This combination produces יְהֹוָה and יֱהֹוִה respectively, non-words that would spell "yehovah" and "yehovih" respectively.

The oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, such as the Aleppo Codex and the Codex Leningradensis mostly write יְהוָה (yehvah), with no pointing on the first H; this points to its Qere being 'Shema', which is Aramaic for "the Name".

The Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010

Vowel points were added to the Tetragrammaton by the Masoretes, in the first millennium.

Six Hebrew spellings of the Tetragrammaton are found in:
The Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010 A.D. as shown below [Note that all six of these Hebrew Spellings [ i.e. variants can be observed in the Online Leningrad Codex, by clicking on the corresponding Codex L. Link provided] ( Also note that the entries in the Close Transcription column are not intended to indicate how the name was intended to be pronounced by the Masoretes, but only how the word would be pronounced if read without q're perpetuum):

Chapter & Verse Hebrew Spelling Close transcription
Codex L. Link
Genesis 3:14
This is the most common set of vowels, which are essentially the vowels from Adonai (with the hataf patah reverting to its natural state as a shewa).
Judges 16:28
This is the same as above, but with the dot over the holam/waw left out, because it is a little redundant.
Judges 16:28
When the Tetragrammaton is preceded by Adonai, it receives the vowels from the name Elohim instead. The hataf segol does not revert to a shewa because doing so could lead to confusion with the vowels in Adonai.
Genesis 15:2
Just as above, this uses the vowels from Elohim, but like the second version, the dot over the holam/waw is omitted as redundant.
1 Kings 2:26
Here, the dot over the holam/waw is present, but the hataf segol does get reverted to a shewa.
Ezekiel 24:24
Here, the dot over the holam/waw is omitted, and the hataf segol gets reverted to a shewa.

ĕ is hatef segol; ǝ is the pronounced form of plain shewa

Gérard Gertoux wrote that in the Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010, the Masoretes used 7 different vowel pointings [i.e., 7 different Q're's] for YHWH. [Note that one of these different vowel pointings is not a true variant, but was the result of the addition of an inseparable preposition to YHWH][14] A version of the BHS text, which is derived from the Leningrad Codex, is used to translate the Old Testament of almost all English Bibles other than the King James Bible. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon of 1905 shows only two different vowel pointings [ i.e. variants ] of YHWH are found in the Ben Chayyim Hebrew Text of 1525, which underlies the Old Testament of the King James Bible. Scanned example[15]

Frequency of use in scripture

According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, יְהֹוָה (Qr אֲדֹנָי) occurs 6,518 times, and יֱהֹוִה (Qr אֱלֹהִים) occurs 305 times in the Masoretic Text.

It appears 6,823 times in the Jewish Bible, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, and 6,828 times each in the Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia texts of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The vocalizations of יְהֹוָה and אֲדֹנָי are not identical

The schwa in YHWH (the vowel under the first letter, ְ) and the hataf patakh in 'DNY (the vowel under its first letter, ֲ), appear different. One reason suggested[who?] is that the spelling יֲהֹוָה (with the hataf patakh) risks that a reader might start pronouncing "Yah", which is a form of the Name, thus completing the first half of the full Name[citation needed]. Alternatively, the vocalization can be attributed to Biblical Hebrew phonology,[16] where the hataf patakh is grammatically identical to a schwa, always replacing every schwa naḥ under a guttural letter. Since the first letter of אֲדֹנָי is a guttural letter, while the first letter of יְהֹוָה is not, the hataf patakh under the (guttural) aleph reverts to a regular schwa under the (non-guttural) yodh.

Dead Sea scrolls

The discovery of the Qumran scrolls has added support to some parts of this position[17][clarification needed]. These scrolls are unvocalized, showing that the position of those who claim that the vowel marks were already written by the original authors of the text is untenable. Many of these scrolls write (only) the tetragrammaton in paleo-Hebrew script, showing that the Name was treated specially. See this link.

Josephus's description of vowels

Josephus in Jewish Wars, chapter V, verse 235, wrote "τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα*ταῦτα δ' ἐστὶ φωνήεντα τέσσαρα" ("...[engraved with] the holy letters; and they are four vowels"), presumably because Hebrew yod and waw, even if consonantal, would have to be transcribed into the Greek of the time as vowels.


Various people draw various conclusions from this Greek material.

William Smith writes in his 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible" about the different Hebrew forms supported by these Greek forms:

... The votes of others are divided between יַהְוֶה (yahveh) or יַהֲוֶה (yahaveh), supposed to be represented by the Ιαβέ of Epiphanius mentioned above, and יַהְוָה (yahvah) or יַהֲוָה (yahavah), which Fürst holds to be the Ιευώ of Porphyry, or the Ιαού of Clemens Alexandrinus.

Early Greek and Latin forms

The writings of the Church Fathers contain several references to forms of the Tetragrammaton in Greek or Latin. It should be noted that the Greek form of the divine name, "Iao", is the equivalent of the Hebrew trigrammaton YHW.[18]

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) and B.D. Eerdmans:[19]

Clement's Stromata

Clement of Alexandria writes in Stromata V, 6:34-35:

"Πάλιν τὸ παραπέτασμα τῆς εἰς τὰ ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων παρόδου, κίονες τέτταρες αὐτόθι, ἁγίας μήνυμα τετράδος διαθηκῶν παλαιῶν, ἀτὰρ καὶ τὸ τετράγραμμον ὄνομα τὸ μυστικόν, ὃ περιέκειντο οἷς μόνοις τὸ ἄδυτον βάσιμον ἦν· λέγεται δὲ Ἰαού, ὃ μεθερμηνεύεται ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἐσόμενος. Καὶ μὴν καὶ καθʼ Ἕλληνας θεὸς τὸ ὄνομα τετράδα περιέχει γραμμάτων." (Reinhold Koltz text)

The translation[32] of Clement's Stromata in Volume II of the classic Ante-Nicene Fathers series renders this as:

"... Further, the mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Jave, which is interpreted, 'Who is and shall be.' The name of God, too [i.e., θεὸς], among the Greeks contains four letters."[33]

Of Clement's Stromata there is only one surviving manuscript, the Codex L (Codex Laurentianus V 3), from the 11th century. Other sources are later copies of that ms. and a few dozen quotations from this work by other authors. For Stromata V,6:34, Codex L has ἰαοὺ. The critical edition by Otto Stählin (1905)[34] gives the forms

"Ἰαουέ Didymus Taurinensis de pronunc. divini nominis quatuor literarum (Parmae 1799) p. 32ff, ἰαοὺ L, ἰὰ οὐαὶ Nic., ἰὰ οὐὲ Mon. 9.82 Reg. 1888 Taurin. III 50 (bei Did.), ἰαοῦε Coisl. Seg. 308 Reg. 1825."

and has Ἰαουε in the running text. The Additions and Corrections page gives a reference to an author who rejects the change of ἰαοὺ into Ἰαουε.[35]

Other editors give similar data. A catena (Latin: chain) referred to by A. le Boulluec[36] ("Coisl. 113 fol. 368v") and by Smith’s 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible" ("a catena to the Pentateuch in a MS. at Turin") is reported to have "ια ουε".


In ancient Judaism

The oldest complete Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) versions, from around the 2nd century CE, consistently use Κυριος (= "Lord"), where the Hebrew has YHWH, corresponding to substituting Adonay for YHWH in reading the original; in books written in Greek in this period (e.g., Wisdom, 2 and 3 Maccabees), as in the New Testament, Κυριος takes the place of the name of God. However, older fragments contain the name YHWH.[37] In the P. Ryl. 458 (perhaps the oldest extant Septuagint manuscript) there are blank spaces, leading some scholars to believe that the Tetragrammaton must have been written where these breaks or blank spaces are.[38]

Josephus, who as a priest knew the pronunciation of the name, declares that religion forbids him to divulge it.

A Kabbalah explantion of the Priestly Blessing with Adonai inscribed

Philo calls it ineffable, and says that it is lawful for those only whose ears and tongues are purified by wisdom to hear and utter it in a holy place (that is, for priests in the Temple). In another passage, commenting on Lev. xxiv. 15 seq.: "If any one, I do not say should blaspheme against the Lord of men and gods, but should even dare to utter his name unseasonably, let him expect the penalty of death."[39]

Various motives may have concurred to bring about the suppression of the name:

  1. An instinctive feeling that a proper name for God implicitly recognizes the existence of other gods may have had some influence; reverence and the fear lest the holy name should be profaned among the heathen.
  2. Desire to prevent abuse of the name in magic. If so, the secrecy had the opposite effect; the name of the God of the Jews was one of the great names, in magic, heathen as well as Jewish, and miraculous efficacy was attributed to the mere utterance of it.
  3. Avoiding risk of the Name being used as an angry expletive, as reported in Leviticus 24:11 in the Bible.

In the liturgy of the Temple the name was pronounced in the priestly benediction (Num. vi. 27) after the regular daily sacrifice (in the synagogues a substitute—probably Adonai—was employed);[40] on the Day of Atonement the High Priest uttered the name ten times in his prayers and benediction.

According to the Talmud, in the last generations before the fall of Jerusalem, however, it was pronounced in a low tone so that the sounds were lost in the chant of the priests.[41]

In later Judaism

After the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) the liturgical use of the name ceased, but the tradition was perpetuated in the schools of the rabbis.[42] It was certainly known in Babylonia in the latter part of the 4th century.[43] Nor was the knowledge confined to these pious circles; the name continued to be employed by healers, exorcists and magicians, and has been preserved in many places in magical papyri.[citation needed]

The vehemence with which the utterance of the name is denounced in the MishnaHe who pronounces the Name with its own letters has no part in the world to come![44]—suggests that this misuse of the name was not uncommon among Jews[citation needed]. Modern observant Jews no longer voice the name יהוה aloud. It is believed to be too sacred to be uttered and is often referred to as the 'Ineffable', 'Unutterable' or 'Distinctive Name'.[45][46]

In Modern Judaism

The new Jewish Publication Society Tanakh 1985 follows the traditional convention of translating the Divine Name as "the LORD" (in all caps). The Artscroll Tanakh translates the Divine Name as "HaShem" (literally, "The Name").

When the Divine Name is read during prayer, "Adonai" ("My Lord") is substituted. However, when practicing a prayer or referring to one, Orthodox Jews will say either "HaShem" or "AdoShem" instead of "Adonai". When speaking to another person "HaShem" is used.[47]


Later, Christian Europeans who did not know about the Q're perpetuum custom took these spellings at face value, producing the form "Jehovah" and spelling variants of it. The Catholic Encyclopedia [1913, Vol. VIII, p. 329] states: "Jehovah (Yahweh), the proper name of God in the Old Testament." Had they known about the Q're perpetuum, the term "Jehovah" may have never come in to being.[48]

For more information, see the page Jehovah. Alternatively, most scholars recognise Jehovah to be "grammatically impossible" Jewish Encyclopedia (Vol VII, p. 8).

Delitzsch prefers "יַהֲוָה" (yahavah) since he considered the shewa quiescens below ה ungrammatical. In his 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible", William Smith prefers the form "יַהֲוֶה" (yahaveh). Many other variations have been proposed.

יַהְוֶה = Yahweh

In the early 19th century Hebrew scholars were still critiquing "Jehovah" [a.k.a. Iehovah and Iehouah] because they believed that the vowel points of יְהֹוָה were not the actual vowel points of the Tetragrammaton. The Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius [1786-1842] had suggested that the Hebrew punctuation יַהְוֶה, which is transliterated into English as "Yahweh", might more accurately represent the actual pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton than the Biblical Hebrew punctuation "יְהֹוָה", from which the English name Jehovah has been derived.


Wilhelm Gesenius is one of the greatest Hebrew and biblical scholars [7]. His proposal to read YHWH as "יַהְוֶה" (see image to the right) was based in large part on various Greek transcriptions, such as ιαβε, dating from the first centuries AD, but also on the forms of theophoric names. In his Hebrew Dictionary Gesenius supports the pronunciation "Yahweh" because of the Samaritan pronunciation Ιαβε reported by Theodoret, and that the theophoric name prefixes YHW [Yeho] and YH [Yo] can be explained from the form "Yahweh". Today many scholars accept Gesenius's proposal to read YHWH as יַהְוֶה. (Here 'accept' does not necessarily mean that they actually believe that it describes the truth, but rather that among the many vocalizations that have been proposed, none is clearly superior) Gesenius' proposal gradually became accepted as the best scholarly reconstructed vocalized Hebrew spelling of the Tetragrammaton.

Among the Samaritans

The Samaritans, who otherwise shared the scruples of the Jews about the utterance of the name, seem to have used it in judicial oaths to the scandal of the rabbis.[49] (Their priests have preserved a liturgical pronunciation "Yahwe" or "Yahwa" to the present day.)[50] However, the Aramaic "Shema" (שמא) remains the everyday (including liturgical) usage of the name, akin to השם (Hebrew "HaShem"). [47]

Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, the first edition of the official Vatican Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum, published in 1979, used the form Iahveh for rendering the Tetragrammaton.[51] Later editions of this version replaced "Iahveh" with "Dominus", in keeping with a long-standing Catholic tradition of avoiding direct usage of the Ineffable Name.

On August 8, 2008, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, chairman of the American bishops' "Committee on Divine Worship", announced a new directive from the Vatican regarding the use of the name of God in the sacred liturgy. "Specifically, the word 'Yahweh' may no longer be 'used or pronounced' in songs and prayers during liturgical celebrations."[52] In fact, for most of the Church's 2,000-year history use of the name was prohibited in public worship, out of respect for God. After Second Vatican Council (1962–65), some songs and hymns had begun to use the Tetragrammaton, which caused the Vatican to issue a clarification that the Divine Name was not to be used.


The form Yahu or Yahu is attested not only in composition but also by itself in Aramaic papyri. This is the form reflected as Ἰαω [ˈja.ɔː] in Greek magical papyri.[53] (There was no [h] sound in the Greek of the time.)

In its earlier form this opinion rested chiefly on certain misinterpreted testimonies in Greek authors about a god Ἰαω and was conclusively refuted by Baudissin; recent adherents of the theory build more largely on the occurrence in various parts of this territory of proper names of persons and places which they explain as compounds of Yahu or Yah.[54]

The explanation is in most cases simply an assumption of the point at issue; some of the names have been misread; others are undoubtedly the names of Jews.

There remain, however, some cases in which it is highly probable that names of non-Israelites are really compounded with Yahweh. The most conspicuous of these is the king of Hamath who in the inscriptions of Sargon (722-705 BC) is called Yaubi'di and Ilubi'di (compare Jehoiakim-Eliakim). Azriyau, also, in inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III (745-728 BC), who was formerly supposed to be Uzziah of Judah and/or king of Sam'al, was king of an unknown city-state in northern Syria, probably Hatarikka-Luhuti.[55] Also, in Byblos have been found inscriptions telling about the kings named Yehimilk "YH the king" (XI-X BC)[56][57] and Yehawmilk "YHW the king" (V BC).[58][59]

Deity named YW is mentioned in the Ugaritic text as one of the many sons of El. KTU 1.1 IV 14 says:

sm . bny . yw . ilt

"The name of the son of god, YW".[60][61]

Magic papyri

The spellings of the Tetragrammaton occur among the many combinations and permutations of names of powerful agents that occur in Egyptian magical writings.[62] One of these forms is the heptagram ιαωουηε.[63]

In the magical texts, Iave (Jahveh Sebaoth), and Iαβα, occurs frequently.[64] In an Ethiopic list of magical names of Jesus, purporting to have been taught by him to his disciples, Yawe[65][66] is found.

Mesopotamian influence

Friedrich Delitzsch brought into notice three tablets, of the age of the first dynasty of Babylon, in which he read the names of Ya- a'-ve-ilu, Ya-ve-ilu, and Ya-u-um-ilu ("Yahweh is God"), and which he regarded as conclusive proof that Yahweh was known in Babylonia before 2000 BC; he was a god of the Semitic invaders in the second wave of migration, who were, according to Winckler and Delitzsch, of North Semitic stock (Canaanites, in the linguistic sense).[67]

We should thus have in the tablets evidence of the worship of Yahweh among the Western Semites at a time long before the rise of Israel. The reading of the names is, however, extremely uncertain, not to say improbable, and the far-reaching inferences drawn from them carry no conviction.[68]

In a tablet attributed to the 14th century BC which Sellin found in the course of his excavations at Tell Ta'annuk (the city Taanach of the O.T.) a name occurs which may be read Ahi-Yawi (equivalent to Hebrew Ahijah);[69] if the reading be correct, this would show that Yahweh was worshipped in Central Palestine before the Israelite conquest.[47] Genesis 14:17 describes a meeting between Melchizedek the king/priest of Salem and Abraham. Both these pre-conquest figures are described as worshipping the same Most High God later identified as Yahweh.

The reading is, however, only one of several possibilities. The fact that the full form Yahweh appears, whereas in Hebrew proper names only the shorter Yahu and Yah occur, weighs somewhat against the interpretation, as it does against Delitzsch's reading of his tablets.

It would not be at all surprising if, in the great movements of populations and shifting of ascendancy which lie beyond our historical horizon, the worship of Yahweh should have been established in regions remote from those which it occupied in historical times; but nothing which we now know warrants the opinion that his worship was ever general among the Western Semites.

Many attempts have been made to trace the Northwest Semitic Yahu back to Babylonia. Thus Delitzsch formerly derived the name from an Akkadian god, I or Ia; or from the Semitic nominative ending, Yau;[70] but this deity has since disappeared from the pantheon of Assyriologists. Bottero speculates that the West Semitic Yah/Ia, in fact is a version of the Babylonian God Ea (Enki), a view given support by the earliest finding of this name at Ebla during the reign of Ebrum, at which time the city was under Mesopotamian hegemony of Sargon of Akkad.

Bible translations into English


Loss of the Tetragrammaton in the Septuagint

Septuagint study does give some credence to the possibility that the Divine Name appeared in its original texts. Dr Sidney Jellicoe concluded that "Kahle is right in holding that LXX [= Septuagint] texts, written by Jews for Jews, retained the Divine Name in Hebrew Letters (palaeo-Hebrew or Aramaic) or in the Greek-letters imitative form ΠΙΠΙ, and that its replacement by Κύριος was a Christian innovation."[73] Jellicoe draws together evidence from a great many scholars (B. J. Roberts, Baudissin, Kahle and C.H Roberts) and various segments of the Septuagint to draw the conclusions that: a) the absence of "Adonai" from the text suggests that the insertion of the term "Kyrios" was a later practice, b) in the Septuagint "Kyrios", or in English "Lord", is used to substitute the Name YHWH, and c) the Tetragrammaton appeared in the original text, but Christian copyists removed it. There is therefore a strong possibility that the Sacred Name was once integrated within the Greek text, but eventually disappeared.

Meyer suggests as one possibility that "as modern Hebrew letters were introduced, the next step was to follow modern Jews and insert 'Kyrios', Lord. This would prove this innovation was of a late date."

Bible scholars and translators as Eusebius and Jerome (translator of the Latin Vulgate) used the Hexapla. Both attest to the importance of the sacred Name and that the most reliable manuscripts contained the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters.[citation needed]

Later translations into European languages which descended from the Septuagint tended to follow the Greek and use each language's word for "lord": Latin "Dominus", German "der Herr", Polish "Pan", English "the Lord", French "le Seigneur", etc.

Examining the vowel points of יְהֹוָה and אֲדֹנָי

Jehovah is favored by Protestant denominations as the English spelling of the personal name of God.

Most scholars believe "Jehovah" to be a late (ca. 1100 CE) hybrid form derived by combining the Latin letters JHVH with the vowels of Adonai, but there is some evidence that it may already have been in use in Late Antiquity (5th century).

The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connected forms in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, with vowel points shown in red.

In the table below, Yehowah and Adonai are dissected

Hebrew Word #3068
Hebrew Word #136
י Yod Y א Aleph glottal stop
ְ Simple Shewa E ֲ Hatef Patah A
ה Heh H ד Daleth D
ֹ Holem O ֹ Holem O
ו Waw W נ Nun N
ָ Kametz A ָ Kametz A
ה Heh H י Yod Y

Note in the table directly above that the "simple shewa" in Yehowah and the hatef patah in Adonai are not the same vowel. The same information is displayed in the table above and to the right where "YHWH intended to be pronounced as Adonai" and "Adonai, with its slightly different vowel points" are shown to have different vowel points.

In the New Testament

Since the Tetragrammaton does not appear in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, virtually all translations refrain from inserting it into the English. The vast majority of New Testament translations therefore render the Greek kyrios as "lord" and theos as "God". Nevertheless, the Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition inserts the name Yahweh in the New Testament, while the New World Translation inserts the name Jehovah in the New Testament.

Translations of the New Testament into Hebrew

In the Kabbalah and Chassidut

A parallel is often drawn between the four letters of the tetragrammaton and the Four Worlds, whereas the י is associated with Atziluth, the first ה with Beri'ah, the ו with Yetzirah, and final ה with Assiah.

See also



  1. It originates from tetra "four" + gramma (gen. grammatos) "letter") "Online Etymology Dictionary". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=tetragrammaton. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Importance of the Name". Insight on the Scriptures. vol. 2. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. 1988. p. 8. 
  3. The Bible translator. vol. 56. United Bible Societies. 2005. p. 71. ; Nelson's expository dictionary of the Old Testament. Merrill Frederick Unger, William White. 1980. p. 229. 
  4. In the Latin alphabet there was no distinct lettering to distinguish 'Y' ('I') from 'J', or 'W' from 'V'.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The New Brown–Driver–Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic by Frances Brown, with the cooperation of S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs (1907), p. 217ff (entry יהוה listed under root הוה).
  6. "15 And God said moreover unto Moses: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations". mechon-mamre.org. http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0203.htm#15. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  7. "Morphix Dictionary". http://morfix.mako.co.il/default.aspx?q=לעולם. 
  8. "Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:18; Genesis 21:33; Genesis 22:14; Genesis 26:26; Genesis 28:21 (New International Version)". biblegateway.com. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Gen.%2012:8;%2013:18;%2021:33;%2022:14;%2026:%2026,%2028:21;%20Exodus%2020:7%20and%20Deuteronomy%205:11;&version=31;. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  9. AnsonLetter.htm
  10. The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon by Benjamin Davidson ISBN 0-913573-03-5.
  11. "Jehovhah." Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition (New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1910-11, vol. 15, 312 pp.
  12. (see any Hebrew grammar).
  13. See pages 128 and 236 of the book "Who Were the Early Israelites?" by archeologist William G. Dever, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003.
  14. refer to the table on page 144 of Gérard Gertoux's book The Name of God Y.EH.OW.Ah which is pronounced as it is written I_EH_OU_AH.
  15. "villagephotos.com". http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2003-7/264290/bdbandstrong290.jpg. 
  16. Lambdin, Thomas O.: Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.
  17. "Jehovah","Insight from scriptures", The Watch Tower bible and tract society of Pennsylvania
  18. Bezalel Porten, Archives from Elephantine: The life of an ancient Jewish military colony, 1968, University of California Press, pp. 105, 106.
  19. B.D. Eerdmans, The Name Jahu, O.T.S. V (1948) 1-29.
  20. Diodorus Siculus, Histor. I, 94.
  21. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies", II, xxxv, 3, in P. G., VII, col. 840.
  22. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies", I, iv, 1, in P.G., VII, col. 481.
  23. Clement, "Stromata", V, 6, in P.G., IX, col. 60.
  24. Origen, "In Joh.", II, 1, in P.G., XIV, col. 105.
  25. according to Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica I, ix, in P.G., XXI, col. 72.
  26. Epiphanius, Panarion, I, iii, 40, in P.G., XLI, col. 685.
  27. "Breviarium in Psalmos", in P.L., XXVI, 828.
  28. Theodoret, "Ex. quaest.", xv, in P. G., LXXX, col. 244 and "Haeret. Fab.", V, iii, in P. G., LXXXIII, col. 460.
  29. Footnote #8 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Aïα occurs also in the great magical papyrus of Paris, 1. 3020 (Wessely, Denkschrift. Wien. Akad., Phil. Hist. Kl., XXXVI. p. 120) and in the Leiden Papyrus, Xvii. 31."
  30. cf. Lamy, "La science catholique", 1891, p. 196.
  31. Jerome, "Ep. xxv ad Marcell.", in P. L., XXII, col. 429.
  32. "ANF02. Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria, Chapter VI.—The Mystic Meaning of the Tabernacle and its Furniture.". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.v.vi.html. Retrieved 2010-09-27. ]
  33. The Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D, and James Donaldson, LL.D., ed. "VI. — The Mystic Meaning of the Tabernacle and Its Furniture". The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II: Fathers of the Second Century (American reprint of the Edinburgh edition ed.). pp. 452. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.v.vi.html. Retrieved 2006–12–19. 
  34. "Clemens Alexandrinus Werke, eds. Stählin. O. and Fruechtel. L. (Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte, 15), 3. Auflage, Berlin, 1960.
  35. Zu der in L übergelieferten Form ἰαου, vgl. Ganschinietz RE IX Sp. 700, 28ff, der die Änderung in ἰαουε ablehnt.
  36. Clément d'Alexandrie. Stromate V. Tome I: Introduction, texte critique et index, par A. Le Boulluec, Traduction de † P. Voulet, S.J.; Tome II : Commentaire, bibliographie et index, par A. Le Boulluec, Sources Chrétiennes n° 278 et 279, Editions du Cerf, Paris 1981. (Tome I, pp. 80, 81).
  37. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 2, p. 512.
  38. Paul Kahle, The Cairo Geniza (Oxford:Basil Blackwell,1959) p. 222.
  39. Footnote #3 from page 311 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See Josephus, Ant. ii. 12, 4; Philo, Vita Mosis, iii. II (ii. 114, ed. Cohn and Wendland); ib. iii. 27 (ii. 206). The Palestinian authorities more correctly interpreted Lev. xxiv. 15 seq., not of the mere utterance of the name, but of the use of the name of God in blaspheming God."
  40. Footnote #4 from page 311 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Siphre, Num. f 39, 43; M. Sotak, iii. 7; Sotah, 38a. The tradition that the utterance of the name in the daily benedictions ceased with the death of Simeon the Just, two centuries or more before the Christian era, perhaps arose from a misunderstanding of Menahoth, 109b; in any case it cannot stand against the testimony of older and more authoritative texts.
  41. Yoma, 39b; Jer. Yoma,iii. 7; Kiddushin, 71a." (cited after EB 1911)
  42. Footnote #1 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads:"R. Johannan (second half of the 3rd century), Kiddushin, 71a."
  43. Footnote #2 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads:"Kiddushin, l.c. = Pesahim, 50a".
  44. Footnote #3 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "M. Sanhedrin, x.I; Abba Saul, end of 2nd century."
  45. "Judaism 101 on the Name of God". jewfaq.org. http://www.jewfaq.org/name.htm. 
  46. For example, see Saul Weiss and Joseph Dov Soloveitchik. Insights of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. p. 9. http://books.google.com/books?id=rmmRRNYXb7kC&pg=PA9&dq=YKVK&ei=tS6uSNeTK9C4iQHG_sWSDA&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U2tTJjODLVpW8qp2hRYTxxsSmJzIA.  and Minna Rozen. Jewish Identity and Society in the Seventeenth Century. p. 67. http://books.google.com/books?id=Pt50fMlgKuMC&pg=PA67&dq=YKVK&ei=tS6uSNeTK9C4iQHG_sWSDA&client=firefox-a&sig=ACfU3U3l_Jb3bWBjCWm8QY487Qi65V3VFA. 
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 Stanley S. Seidner,"HaShem: Uses through the Ages." Unpublished paper, Rabbinical Society Seminar, Los Angeles, CA,1987.
  48. "Job – Introduction, Anchor Bible, volume 15, page XIV and "Jehovah" Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, volume 15.
  49. Jer. Sanhedrin, x.I; R. Mana, 4th century (cited after EB 1911).
  50. Montgomery, Journal of Biblical Literature, xxv. (1906), 49-51 (cited after EB 1911)
  51. "Dixítque íterum Deus ad Móysen: «Hæc dices fíliis Israel: Iahveh (Qui est), Deus patrum vestrórum, Deus Abraham, Deus Isaac et Deus Iacob misit me ad vos; hoc nomen mihi est in ætérnum, et hoc memoriále meum in generatiónem et generatiónem." (Exodus 3:15).
  52. "CNS STORY: No 'Yahweh' in songs, prayers at Catholic Masses, Vatican rules". http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0804119.htm. Retrieved 2009–07–29. 
  53. Aramaic Papyri discovered at Assaan, B 4,6,II; E 14; J 6; "This doubtless is the original of Ἰαω frequently found in Greek authors and in magical texts as the name of the God of the Jews." (EB 1911)
  54. Footnote #4 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See a collection and critical estimate of this evidence by Zimmern, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, 465 sqq."
  55. J.D. Hawkins: Izrijau, in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie vol. 5, p. 227. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter 1976-1980.
  56. Inscription de Yehimilk, roi de Byblos (XI-X), UNESCO, "Memory of the World" program.
  57. Nina Jidejian, Maurice Dunand, Byblos through the ages., p. 69, Beirut: Dar el-Machreq Publ., 1968.
  58. Yehawmilk stele, Louvre collection.
  59. Phoenician Cities: Byblos, Student Reader.
  60. Ugarit and the Bible, site of Quartz Hill School of Theology.
  61. Smith, Mark S. (2001) The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-516768-6).
  62. B. Alfrink, La prononciation 'Jehova' du tétragramme, O.T.S. V (1948) 43-62.
  63. K. Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, Leipzig-Berlin, I, 1928 and II, 1931.
  64. Footnote #9 from page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See Deissmann, Bibelstudien, 13 sqq."
  65. Footnote #10 from Page 312 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "See Driver, Studia Biblica, I. 20."
  66. Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition (New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1910-11), vol. 15, pp. 312, in the article "JEHOVAH".
  67. Footnote #5 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Babel und Bibel, 1902. The enormous, and for the most part ephemeral, literature provoked by Delitzsch's lecture cannot be cited here.
  68. Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition (New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1910-11), vol. 15, pp. 312, in the Article "JEHOVAH".
  69. Footnote #6 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Denkschriften d. Wien. Akad., L. iv. p. 115 seq. (1904)."
  70. Footnote #7 from Page 313 of the 1911 E.B. reads: "Wo lag das Paradies? (1881), pp. 158-166."
  71. Usage in English
  72. The Living Bible, "Jehovah" or "Lord" per text or footnotes. e.g. Genesis 7:16; 8:21; Exodus 3:15.
  73. Sidney Jellicoe, Septuagint and Modern Study (Eisenbrauns, 1989, ISBN 0-931464-00-5) pp. 271, 272.

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