Last Updated on : November 23, 2014

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What The Scholars Say About

The Hebrew Name: Yahweh



One crucial instance of the difficulty offered by a Hebrew term lies in the prehistoric name given at the exodus by the Hebrews to their God. Strictly speaking, this ought to be rendered "Yahweh," which is familiar to modern readers in the erroneous form of "Jehovah." Were this version intended for students of the original, there would be no hesitation whatever in printing "Yahweh." But almost at the last moment I have decide with some reluctance to follow the practice of the French scholars and of Matthew Arnold (though not exactly for his reasons), who translate this name by "the Eternal," except in an enigmatic title like "the Lord of hosts.' There is a distinct loss in this, I fully admit; to drop the racial, archaic term is to miss something of what it meant for the Hebrew nation..." Moffatt, James. Pages xx-xxi.

A major departure from the practice of the American Standard Version is the rendering of the Divine Name, the "Tetragrammaton." The American Standard Version used the term "Jehovah"; the King James Version had employed this in four places, but everywhere else, except in three cases where it was employed as part of a proper name, used the English word LORD (or in certain cases GOD) printed in capitals. The present revision returns to the procedure of the King James Version, which follows the precedent of the ancient Greek and Latin translators and the long established practice in the reading of the Hebrew scriptures in the synagogue. 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" (or Elohim meaning "God"). 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. The sound of Y is represented by J and the sound of W by V, as in Latin. For two reasons the Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version: (1) the word "Jehovah" does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used In Hebrew; and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church." R.S.V. Preface Page 5

Yahweh is the acknowledged name used In the notes of the New American Bible. A Catholic version.

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. The present translators have retained this incorrect but customary form in the text of passages where the name is explained with a note on its pronunciation (e.g. Exodus 3:15) and in four place names of which it forms a constituent element; elsewhere they have followed ancient translators in substituting 'LORD' or 'GOD', printed as here in capital letters, for the Hebrew name." The New English Bible. Page xvi.

"...I. The etymology: attempts have been made to explain the name Yahweh (abridged forms like Yaho, Yah etc. are found in both biblical and non-biblical texts) from various Hebrew roots but there seems little doubt that it is an archaic form of the verb 'to be'...." The Jerusalem Bible note on Ex. 3: 15. Yahweh is used throughout.

"... 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 Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia Of The Bible. Vol. 5, Page 1021.

The New Bible Dictionary published by the Inter-Varsity Press is in agreement with the above discussions.