The Divine Name According To Scholarly Research
Additional Published Research Concerning The Sacred Name
There is no question that the Name of God is important, but what is that Name? Much confusion persists on this in the minds of most Christians. Hebrew scholars seem to agree that the Sacred Name was originally "Yahuah" or "Yahu" in shortened form. This is also seen in the names of kings and prophets in Hebrew pre-exilic history. Below are a few examples of scholarly comments on this:
"The earliest form of the [Divine] Name was doubtless Yahu." (Dr. James A. Montgomery, Univ. of Pennsylvania, "The Hebrew Divine Name," in Journal of Biblical Literature 63, p.162)
"The ostraca from Samaria and the earlier seals from the 9th and 8th centuries write consistently YAU (for the older YAHU)…[There was a] religious revival of Yahwism in the period of Hezekiah and Josiah, which insisted on the use of the full form of the name YAHUEH…To strict Yahwists, the pronunciations YAHU, YAU and YO were associated with religious laxity and worship of the God of Israel under heathen forms. [Jews of Elaphantine still used YAHU, the] distinctily pre-Deuternomic attitude of colonists in Upper Egypt." –Dr. W.F. Albright, "Further Observations On The Name Yahweh," Journal of Biblical Literature 44, p.159
The scholarly ten-volume work, "Commentary On The Old Testament," by C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, transliterates the original Hebrew Name of God as "Yehovah" (see for examples x:304, x:320, etc.), and not as the later popular form, Yahweh. The letter "J" was, however, a late development, later than the 1611 King James Bible! Since European languages (except English) pronounce the letter "J" as a "Y", this is identical to the word, "Jehovah." Also, the letter "V" was a development from the letter "U" by Roman-era stonecutters who worked in straight lines rather than curves; the "V" then later developed into a separate letter. It can be seen, therefore, that "Jehovah" was a late form of "Yahuah".
"The original pronunciation is uncertain…If however—as seems probable—the Arabic Huwa is the original Semitic form…the original cry would be YA-HUVA, which, ironically enough bears a close resemblance to the hybrid form Jehovah. This, Mowinkel argues, could have developed into both Yahu and Yahveh." –Dr. Raymond Abba, University College of Swansea (U.K.), "The Divine Name," Journal of Biblical Literature 80, p.320-321.
"The element Ya-u, as the first element of a proper name, appears in Ya-u-ha-zi, the Assyrian equivalent of the Hebrew Jeho'ahaz, i.e., the Judean king 'Ahaz, in an inscription of Tiglath-pileser IV (cf. Rost, Tiglath-pileser, p.72). The form Ya-u-a occurs as the representation of the name of the Israelite King Jehu, in the inscriptions of Shalmaneser III (cf. KB.i, p.140, p.150). The shortening of Ya-u into Ya as the first element of a proper name is seen in Ya-ma-e-ra-ah."–"Book of Judges," Dr. C.F. Burney, Ktav Pub., NY 1970, p.245.
Comment: Shalmaneser's "Black Obelisk" is a six foot high black basalt monument from the Assyrian city of Calah, now on display in the British Museum, and depicts Israelite King Jehu (Hebrew: Yahuah or Ya-u-a, see above) bowing before the Assyrian king. Israelite king Jehu/Yahuah was named after the name of his God, showing the actual proper pronunciation of the Hebrew Divine Name in Biblical times.
THE SACRED NAME WAS NOT "YAHWEH":
"The writing YHWH found in the Moabite stone, so far from favoring a pronunciation 'YAHWEH', seems definitely to preclude it." –Dr. Luckinbill, quoted by Dr. W.F. Albright, "Further Observations On The Name Yahweh," Journal of Biblical Literature 44, p.161
Article titled, “The Name Of God”
Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. 90-1 (1999), p. 212
“Except for appearances in the proper names of people, the name Yahu all but disappeared from Israelite consciousness; replaced by a never-pronounced YHWH, a visual reminder of the one and only God’s essence.”
Replacing YHVH With Common "Euphemisms"
Selection from the book: “The Old Is Better: New Testament Essays” by Robert Horton Gundry, (2005) p.105: “...Bock deduces that y. Sanh. 7.25a-b (Neusner 7.8-9) suggests that many [rabbis] made the argument that a euphemism [a substitute for the tetragrammaton] left one liable [to the death penalty], just as blaspheming with the Name did.” (ref: Bock, “Blasphemy And Exaltation,” pp. 69-70).
The Correct Pronunciation of the Sacred Name YHVH:
A quotation and related footnotes from the book, “The Consequences of the Covenant,” Supplement to Novum Testamentum, Vol. 20, by George Wesley Buchanan, 1970; appendix chapter, “The Pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton,” pages 316-317:
“Most scholars think the correct pronunciation is Yahweh... Clement of Alexandria, however, spelled the Tetragrammaton ‘Iaoue, ‘Iaouai, and ‘Iao. In early Aramaic papyri, the divine Name was spelled yao, which Cowley pointed ya’u, but which might also be pointed yaho. Later magical papyri found in Egypt, often spelled the name Iao... In a Leviticus LXX fragment from cave 4, the Tetragrammaton was used and spelled IAO, with majuscule letters, whereas the rest of the text was spelled in minuscules. In other LXX fragments, the Name was spelled out in square Hebrew letters, even though the rest of the text was Greek. From the names of O[ld] T[estament] personages, whose names contained the divine Name, the pronunciation would also be IAO. For instance, Jonathan’s name was Yaho-nathan, ‘Yaho has given’. The name John was Yaho-chanan, ‘Yaho has been kind’. Elijah’s name was Eli-Yahu, ‘my God is Yahu’. The Masoretic text used the vocalizations hu and hi for words that, according to Arabic or Hebrew of the Dead Sea texts, were followed with an ah sound, like hia... The Masoretes, themselves, may have pronounced these final ah sounds, even though they did not write the consonants needed in Dead Sea Scroll Hebrew to indicate the final vowel. As in Arabic, they may have pronounced vowels after the final consonants. Therefore, it seems likely that the divine Name was pronounced Iaoah or Iauah, whenever it was correctly pronounced.”
Note: G.F. Moore, Judaism (Cambridge 1932), 426-427. His reference was to Quaest xv in Exodus. The only Samaritan vocalized reference is Yahwah. Depending on the dialect, this might support the pronunciation, Yahweh, if the break were abrupt. If it were more like Yahewah, it could be a variant for Yahuwah or Yahowah. See J.A. Montgomery, ‘Notes from the Samaritan,’ Journal of Biblical Literature 25 , 49-51.
Note: “S. Mowinckel, ‘The Name of the God of Moses’, Hebrew Union College Annual 32 (1961), 121-133, held that the divine Name originally was “He.” In invocation, it became ‘Oh He!’ He held that the correct pronunciation would be Ya-huwa (p. 133). The addition of Ya in direct address seems likely. This is regularly done in Arabic. See also Pesikta de R. Kaljana 16:11; E.C.B. MacLaurin, "YHWH, the Origin of the Tetragrammaton," Vetus Testamentum 12 (1962), pp. 429-463; A.L. Williams, "The Tetragrammaton-Yahweh, Name or Surrogate?" ZAW 54 (1936), 262-269; and L. Abrahams, Op. cit. 11, 174-176.”
Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, "A Christian Tradition of Hebrew Vocalization in Medieval England," p.127, in "Semitic Studies In Honor Of Edward Ullendorff," speaking of Roger Bacon's thirteenth century Hebrew grammatical notes, tells us:
"Following a list of the Hebrew consonants and their Latin equivalents, the author describes as vowels the following six letters: aleph, heh, waw, heth, yodh, and 'ayin, which include both matres lectionis and gutteral consonants. He explains that waw can only sound like Latin [o] or [u] and yodh as [i], four of these 'vowels', i.e. aleph, heh, heth, and 'ayin, can sound like any of the Latin vowels."
Applied to the Sacred Name, we have:
YHWH = ihoh (Yahoah) or ihuh (Yahuah)
YHW = iaio or iahu (Yao or Druidic "iao")
"That is to say, there never existed a set of vowels designed to accompany any of the pronounced consonants whose letters, vocalic or consonantal, were Y-H-W-H." -Herbert Chanan Brichto, "The Names of God: Poetic Readings in Biblical Beginnings," Oxford University Press, 1998, p.438. [Quite a statement by this Hebrew language scholar! The word "Yahweh" is not the correct form of the Sacred Name, despite its modern popularity with many in the Sacred Name Movement.]
"Israel is 'a pre-Yahwistic entity' or else it should have the name 'IsraYah'." -R.W.L. Moberly, "The Old Testament of the Old Testament", Fortress Press, MN, 1992, p.197 [Note the importance of what Dr. Moberly says here. The term "Yahweh" did not originate in early Hebrew history or the formation of Israel, but was actually adopted at a relatively late period that scholars date to the post-exilic era.]
Regarding the Hebrew letters YHVH (yod, hay, vav, hay): "The [hay] could originally have represented 'ahu..." -Raymond DeHoop, "Genesis 49 In Its Literary and Historical Context," Brill, 1999, p.57. [Note: This would mean that the early original pronunciation of the Sacred Name was Yahuah(u), and not Yahweh!]
Although ancient Hebrew did not have vowels to aid in pronunciation, we do know the following: Judah was spelled yh-w-d (i.e. Yahud) in Aramaic, and Ia-a-hu-du (yahudu) in Akkadian. -Per Raymond DeHoop, "Genesis 49 In Its Literary and Historical Context," Brill, 1999, p.120. [Note that dropping the last consonant gives the pronunciation of the Divine Name.]
Three times as many "Saulides" (family members of King Saul of Israel) had names formed with "Baal" rather than "Yahu-" There was "political expediency in thus favoring Baalism, which was much more strongly entrenched in the north [House of Israel] than in the south [House of Judah]." -William Foxwell Albright, "The Biblical Period," Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1952, p.24
"Clearly, the reader of biblical texts must be careful always to set aside his assumptions about and knowledge of Modern Hebrew when he attemps to understand the language of the Bible. Indeed, a comparison of the syntactical status of ...Biblical and Modern Hebrew reveals that a significant change has taken place." -Scripta Hierosolymitana, "Biblical Hebrew," by S. Kogut, p.139
More Interesting Sacred Name Information To Be Added In The Future!
The information in this study should be read in conjunction with our separate study, "What is His Name and what is His Son's Name," found on the articles page.