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The Tetragrammaton in Paleo-Hebrew (10th century BCE to 135 CE), old Aramaic (10th century BCE to 4th century CE) and square Hebrew (3rd century BCE to present) scripts.

The tetragrammaton (from Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning "four letters")[1][2] is the Hebrew theonym יהוה, commonly transliterated into Latin letters as YHWH. It is one of the names of the God of Israel used in the Hebrew Bible.

While YHWH is the most common transliteration of the tetragrammaton in English academic studies, the alternatives YHVH, JHVH and JHWH are also used.[3][4]

Although Yahweh is favored by most Hebrew scholars and is widely accepted as the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, Jehovah is still used in some translations of the Bible. The Samaritans understood the pronunciation to be iabe. Some patristic sources give evidence for a Greek pronunciation iaō.[5]

As religiously observant Jews are forbidden to say the Tetragrammaton in full, when reading the Torah they use the word Adonai.[5] And although most Christians have no prohibition on pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, in most Christian translations of the Bible, "LORD" is used in place of the Tetragrammaton, after the Hebrew Adonai, and is often written with small capitals (or in all caps) to distinguish it from other words translated as "Lord".

The name may be derived from a verb that means "to be, to exist".[1]



The letters, properly read from right to left (in Biblical Hebrew), are:

HebrewLetter namePronunciation
וWaw[w], or placeholder for "O"/"U" vowel (see mater lectionis)
הHe[h] (or often a silent letter at the end of a word)

Scholars widely propose that the name YHWH is a verb form derived from the Biblical Hebrew triconsonantal root היה (h-y-h) "to be", which has הוה (h-w-h) as a variant form, with a third person masculine y- prefix.[6] It is connected to the passage in Exodus 3:14 in which God gives his name as אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh), where the verb, translated most basically as "I am that I am" or "I shall be what I shall be", "I shall be what I am".[7] יהוה with the vocalization "Yahweh" could theoretically be a hif'il (causative) verb inflection of root HWH, with a meaning something like "he who causes to exist" or "who gives life" (the root idea of the word being "to breathe", and hence, "to live").[8] As a qal (basic stem) verb inflection, it could mean "he who is, who exists".[6]


The Mesha Stele bears the earliest known reference (840 BCE) to the Israelite God Yahweh.

The oldest known inscription of the tetragrammaton dates to 840 BCE, on the Mesha Stele. It bears the earliest certain extra-biblical reference to the Israelite God Yahweh.[9] The most recent discovery of a tetragrammaton inscription, dating to the 6th century BCE, was found written in Hebrew on two silver scrolls recovered from Jerusalem.[1]

In the Hebrew Bible, the tetragrammaton occurs 6,828 times,[1] as can be seen in the Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.[10] 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 first appears in Hebrew in Genesis 2:4.[10][11] The only books it does not appear in are Ecclesiastes, the Book of Esther, and Song of Songs.[1]

The Septuagint typically translates YHWH as kyrios or "Lord".[1]


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

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The most widely accepted pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) among non-Jews is Yahweh. Genebrardus suggested the pronunciation Jahve based on Theodoret's assertion that the Samaritans used the pronunciation Iabe. For most Jews, however, it was forbidden to pronounce or even write in full, the Tetragrammaton.[5]

A. Lukyn Williams proposed the pronunciations of the Tetragrammaton to be Yaho or Yahu based on theophoric names in the Hebrew Bible that end in YHW.[5]

The current scholarly consensus is that the vowel diacritic points attached to the written consonants YHWH in the Masoretic orthography of Biblical Hebrew were not intended to represent the vowels of such an authentic and historically correct pronunciation.[citation needed]

Tiberian vocalization[edit]

Vowel points[edit]

The original consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible was, several centuries later, 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 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"), or, if the previous or next word already was "Adonai" or "Adoni", as "Elohim" ("God"). This combination produces יְהֹוָה and יֱהֹוִה respectively, non-words that would spell "yehovah" and "yehovih" respectively.

The oldest complete or nearly complete manuscripts of the Masoretic Text Hebrew Bible with Tiberian vocalization, such as the Aleppo Codex and the Codex Leningradensis, both of the 10th or 11th century CE, mostly write יְהוָה (yehvah), with no pointing on the first H; this could be because the o diacritic point plays no useful role in distinguishing between Adonai and Elohim (and so is redundant), or could point to the Qere being 'Shema', which is Aramaic for "the Name".

Consonantal semi-vowels[edit]

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, and accordingly יהוה is represented in English academic texts as YHWH.

In unpointed Biblical Hebrew, most vowels are not written and the rest are written only ambiguously, as the vowel letters are also used 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 BCE 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. Thus 1st-century Jewish historian and philosopher Josephus said that the sacred name of God consists of "four vowels".[14]

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; χ (chi) was pronounced as 'k' + 'h' (as in modern Hindi "lakh", i.e., लाख) and could not be used to represent 'h' as in Modern Greek Χάρρι = "Harry", for example.


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

The vocalizations of יְהֹוָה (Yehowah) and אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) 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. The vocalization can be attributed to Biblical Hebrew phonology,[15] 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.

The table below considers the vowel points for יְהֹוָה (Yehowah) and אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), respectively:

Hebrew Word #3068
Hebrew Word #136
יYodYאAlephglottal stop
ְSimple ShewaEֲHataf PatahA

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.


The origins for the composite term Jehovah came from early English translators who transposed the vowels from Adonai to the Tetragrammaton, and read the word literally so that the Y in YHWH, was pronounced as a J in English, and the W as a V.[1] Taking the spellings at face value may have been as a result of not knowing about the Q're perpetuum, thus resulting in the term "Jehovah" and its spelling variants. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) states: "Jehovah (Yahweh), the proper name of God in the Old Testament".[16] Had they known about the Q're perpetuum, the term "Jehovah" might never have come into being.[17] Emil G. Hirsch was among the modern scholars that recognized "Jehovah" to be "grammatically impossible" (Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), Vol VII, p. 87).

Nehemia Gordon argues against what he calls the scholarly consensus and says that "the English form Jehovah is quite simply an Anglicized form of Yehovah", the pronunciation preserved by Karaite Jews, who included the Masoretes.[18] Scott Jones also argues that "modern scholarship has no evidence for the pronunciation of Yahweh whatsoever" and that its assumption is merely based on a series of other assumptions, while "the born again Christian knows - and the evidence testifies - that the first words ever written by man were simply - 'In the beginning God ...'"[18][19][20] Some argue that Jehovah is preferable to Yahweh, based on their conclusion that the Tetragrammaton was likely tri-syllabic originally, and that modern forms should therefore also have three syllables.[21]


William Gesenius's Hebrew punctuation (i.e., 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 did not represent (and were never intended to represent) the vowel sounds of the early authentic pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton.

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 descendant languages into various stronger consonants, including, in English, the sound [], the 'j' sound of the word 'juice'. Thus the English pronunciation of the older form Jehovah has this 'j' sound. In order to preserve the approximate original Hebrew pronunciation, however, English spelling uses an initial Y and for the third consonant uses W, a letter unknown in Latin, thus producing the form Yahweh.

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 pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton than the Biblical Hebrew punctuation "יְהֹוָה", from which the English name "Jehovah" has been derived. His proposal to read YHWH as "יַהְוֶה" (see image to the left) was based in large part on various Greek transcriptions, such as ιαβε, dating from the first centuries CE, but also on the forms of theophoric names. In his Hebrew Dictionary, Gesenius supports "Yahweh" (which would have been pronounced [jahwe], with the final letter being silent) because of the Samaritan pronunciation Ιαβε reported by Theodoret, and that the theophoric name prefixes YHW [jeho] and YH [jo] can be explained from the form "Yahweh".[22] Today many scholars accept Gesenius's proposal to read YHWH as יַהְוֶה. Gesenius' proposal gradually became accepted as the best scholarly reconstructed vocalized Hebrew spelling of the Tetragrammaton.

Leningrad Codex[edit]

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.[23]

Six Hebrew spellings of the tetragrammaton are found in the Leningrad Codex of 1008–1010, as shown below. 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 & VerseHebrew SpellingClose transcriptionRef.Explanation
Genesis 2:4
This is the first occurrence of the Tetragrammaton in the Hebrew Bible and shows the most common set of vowels used in the Masoretic text. It is the same as the form used in Genesis 3:14 below, but with the dot over the holam/waw left out, because it is a little redundant.
Genesis 3:14
This is a set of vowels used rarely in the Masoretic text, and are essentially the vowels from Adonai (with the hataf patah reverting to its natural state as a shewa).
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 hataf segol; ǝ is the pronounced form of plain shewa.

The o diacritic dot over the letter waw is often omitted because it plays no useful role in distinguishing between the two intended pronunciations Adonai and Elohim (which both happen to have an o vowel in the same position).

Theophoric names[edit]

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 CE), the prefix pronunciation "Yehō-" was sometimes connected with the full pronunciation "Yehova" derived from combining the Masoretic vowel points for "Adonai" with the consonantal Tetragrammaton YHWH.
  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".[30]

Those who argue for argument 1 above are: George Wesley Buchanan in Biblical Archaeology Review; Smith's 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible;[31] Section # 2.1 The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon (1848)[32] 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[33] has a very similar discussion, and also gives the form Yo (יוֹ) contracted from Yeho (יְהוֹ). The Encyclopædia Britannica[34] 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".

Usages and translations[edit]


Exod. 3:15 is used[by whom?] to support the view that the Tetragrammaton was at one time spoken in Ancient Israel, the way it is written: "...this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations."[35] The term "for ever" is le'olam, which in biblical Hebrew means "always, continually".[36]

Maimonides relates that only the priests in Temple in Jerusalem pronounced the Tetragrammaton, when they recited the Priestly Blessing over the people daily.[37] Since the destruction of Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Tetragrammaton is no longer pronounced. Rabbinical sources indicate that there was an exception for the temple liturgy, where the name of God was only pronounced once a year, by the high priest, on the Day of Atonement.[38] Others argue that the name was also pronounced in the liturgy of the Temple in the priestly benediction (Num. vi. 27) after the regular daily sacrifice, while in the synagogues a substitute (probably Adonai) was used.[39] 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.[40]

Some time after the destruction of Solomon's Temple, the spoken use of God's name, as it was written, had ceased even though knowledge of how it was pronounced was perpetuated in rabbinic schools.[41] It was certainly known in Babylonia in the latter part of the 4th century.[42] 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."[43]

Verbal prohibitions[edit]

The vehemence with which the utterance of the name is denounced in the Mishna suggests that use of Yahweh was unacceptable in rabbinical Judaism. "He who pronounces the Name with its own letters has no part in the world to come!"[44] Such is the prohibition of pronouncing the Name as written that it is sometimes called the "Ineffable", "Unutterable" or "Distinctive Name".[45][46][47]

Halakha (Jewish Law) prescribes that whereas the Name written yud-hei-vav-hei, it is only to be pronounced "Adonai;" and the latter name too is regarded as a holy name, and is only to be pronounced in prayer.[48][49] Thus when someone wants to refer in third person to either the written or spoken Name, the term "HaShem" ("the Name") is used;[50][51] and this handle itself can also be used in prayer.[52] The Masoretes added vowel points (niqqud) and cantillation marks to the manuscripts to indicate vowel usage and for use in 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. While "HaShem" is the most common way to reference "the Name," the terms "HaMaqom" (lit. "The Place," i.e. "The Omnipresent") and "Raḥmana" (Aramaic, "Merciful") are used in the mishna and gemara, still used in the phrases "HaMaqom y'naḥem ethḥem" ("may The Omnipresent console you"), the traditional phrase used in the Jewish mourning house and "Raḥmana l'tzlan" ("may the Merciful save us" i.e. "God forbid").

Written prohibitions[edit]

The written Tetragrammaton,[53] as well as six other names of God, must be treated with special sanctity. They cannot be disposed of regularly, lest they be desecrated, but are usually put in long term storage or buried in Jewish cemeteries in order to retire them from use.[54] Similarly, it is prohibited to write the Tetragrammaton (or these other names) unnecessarily. In order to guard the sanctity of the Name sometimes a letter is substituted by a different letter in writing (e.g. יקוק), or the letters are separated by one or more hyphens.

Some Jews are stringent and extend the above safeguard by also not writing out other names of God in other languages, for example writing "God" in English as written "G-d," and so forth. However this is beyond the letter of the law.


The Samaritans shared the taboo of the Jews about the utterance of the name, and there is no evidence that its pronunciation was common Samaritan practice.[55][56] However Sanhedrin 10:1 includes the comment of Rabbi Mana "for example those Kutim who take an oath" would also have no share in the world to come, which suggests that Mana thought some Samaritans used the name in making oaths. (Their priests have preserved a liturgical pronunciation "Yahwe" or "Yahwa" to the present day.)[57] As with Jews, the Aramaic ha-Shema (השמא "the Name") remains the everyday usage of the name among Samaritans, akin to Hebrew "the Name" (Hebrew השם "HaShem").[50]


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.[citation needed][58] In the P. Ryl. 458 (perhaps the oldest extant Septuagint manuscript) there are blank spaces, leading some scholars such as C. H. Roberts to believe that it contained letters.[59] According to Paul E. Kahle, the Tetragrammaton must have been written in the manuscript where these breaks or blank spaces appear.[60]

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".[61] 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 the absence of "Adonai" from the text suggests that the insertion of the term Kyrios was a later practice; in the Septuagint Kyrios is used to substitute YHWH; and the Tetragrammaton appeared in the original text, but Christian copyists removed it.[citation needed]

Eusebius and Jerome (translator of the Latin Vulgate) used the Hexapla. Both attest to the importance of the sacred Name and that some manuscripts of Septuagint contained the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters.[citation needed][62] This is further affirmed by The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, which states "Recently discovered texts doubt the idea that the translators of the LXX (Septuagint) have rendered the Tetragrammaton JHWH with KYRIOS. The most ancient mss (manuscripts) of the LXX today available have the Tetragrammaton written in Hebrew letters in the Greek text. This was a custom preserved by the later Hebrew translator of the Old Testament in the first centuries (after Christ)"[63]

Dead Sea Scrolls[edit]

In the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Hebrew and Aramaic texts the tetragrammaton and some other names of God (such as El or Elohim) were sometimes written in paleo-Hebrew script, showing that they were treated specially. Most of God's names were pronounced till about the 2nd century BC. Then, as a tradition of non-pronunciation of the names developed, alternatives for the Tetragrammaton appeared, such as Adonai, Kurios and Theos.[64] A Greek fragment of Leviticus (26:2-16) discovered in the Dead Sea scrolls (Qumran) has ιαω ("Iao"), the Greek form of the Hebrew trigrammaton YHW.[65] The historian John the Lydian (6th century) wrote: "The Roman Varo [116–27 BCE] defining him [that is the Jewish god] says that he is called Iao in the Chaldean mysteries". (De Mensibus IV 53) Van Cooten mentions that Iao is one of the "specifically Jewish designations for God" and "the Aramaic papyri from the Jews at Elephantine show that 'Iao' is an original Jewish term".[66][67]

Patristic writings[edit]

Petrus Alfonsi's early 12th-century Tetragrammaton-Trinity diagram, rendering the name as "JEVE"
Tetragrammaton at the 5th Chapel of the Palace of Versailles, France. This example has the vowel points of "Elohim".

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) and B.D. Eerdmans:[68][69]

A window featuring the Hebrew tetrgrammaton יְהֹוָה in St. Charles's Church, Vienna.


The tetragrammaton as represented in stained glass in an 1868 Episcopal Church in Iowa

It is assumed that early Jewish Christians inherited from Jews the practice of reading "Lord" where the tetragrammaton appeared in the Hebrew text, or where a tetragrammaton may have been marked in a Greek text. Gentile Christians, primarily non-Hebrew speaking and using Greek texts, may have read "Lord" as it occurred in the Greek text of the New Testament and their copies of the Greek Old Testament. This practice continued into the Latin Vulgate where "Lord" represented "Yahweh" in the Latin text. In Petrus Alphonsi's Tetragrammaton-Trinity diagram, the name is written as "Jeve." At the Reformation, the Luther Bible restored "Jehova" in the German text of Luther's Old Testament.[83]

Christian translations[edit]

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

New Testament[edit]

No Greek manuscript of the New Testament uses the Tetragrammaton. However, the Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition used by adherents of the Church of God (Seventh Day) inserts the name Yahweh in the New Testament, and the New World Translation preferred by Jehovah's Witnesses inserts the name Jehovah. Other translations into English render the Greek words kyrios as "Lord" or "lord", and theos as "God".

Delitzsch's 1877 translation of the New Testament into Hebrew frequently uses the tetragrammaton, i.e. Hebrew (יְהֹוָה), which Jews read aloud as "Adonai", particularly in verses where the New Testament quotes or makes reference to Old Testament texts.


The Tetragrammaton on the Tympanum of the Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Louis, King of France in Missouri

In the Catholic Church, the first edition of the official Vatican Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio, editio typica, published in 1979, used the traditional Dominus when rendering the Tetragrammaton in the overwhelming majority of places where it appears; however, it also used the form Iahveh for rendering the Tetragrammaton in 3 known places:

In the second edition of the Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio, editio typica altera, published in 1986, these few occurrences of the form Iahveh were replaced with Dominus,[91][92][93] in keeping with the long-standing Catholic tradition of avoiding direct usage of the Ineffable Name.

On 29 June 2008, the Holy See reacted to the then still recent practice of pronouncing, within Catholic liturgy, the name of God represented by the tetragrammaton. As examples of such vocalization it mentioned "Yahweh" and "Yehovah". The early Christians, it said, followed the example of the Septuagint in replacing the name of God with "the Lord", a practice with important theological implications for their use of "the Lord" in reference to Jesus, as in Philippians 2:9-11 and other New Testament texts. It therefore directed that, "in liturgical celebrations, in songs and prayers the name of God in the form of the tetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used or pronounced"; and that translations of Biblical texts for liturgical use are to follow the practice of the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, replacing the divine name with "the Lord" or, in some contexts, "God".[94] The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed this instruction, adding that it "provides also an opportunity to offer catechesis for the faithful as an encouragement to show reverence for the Name of God in daily life, emphasizing the power of language as an act of devotion and worship".[95]

Jewish mysticism[edit]

Magical papyri[edit]

The spellings of the tetragrammaton occur among the many combinations and permutations of names of powerful agents that occur in Jewish magical papyri found in Egypt.[96] One of these forms is the heptagram ιαωουηε.[97] In the Jewish magical papyri, Iave and Iαβα Yaba occurs frequently.[98]

Yawe is found in an Ethiopic Christian list of magical names of Jesus, purporting to have been taught by him to his disciples.[99]


Kabbalistic 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. In late kabbalistic works the Tetragrammaton is sometimes referred to as the name of Havayahהוי'ה, meaning "the Name of Being/Existence." This name also helps when one needs to refer specifically to the written Name; similarly, "Shem Adonoot," meaning "the Name of Lordship" can be used to refer to the spoken name "Adonai" specifically.

As explained by Moshe Chaim Luzzatto,[100] the tetragrammaton "unfolds" in accordance with the intrinsic nature of its letters, "in the same order in which they appear in the Name, in the mystery of ten and the mystery of four." Namely, the upper cusp of the Yod is Arich Anpin and the main body of Yod is and Abba; the first Hei is Imma; the Vav is Ze`ir Anpin and the second Hei is Nukvah. It unfolds in this aforementioned order and "in the mystery of the four expansions" that are constituted by the following various spellings of the letters:

ע"ב/`AV : יו"ד ה"י וי"ו ה"י, so called "`AV" according to its gematria value ע"ב=70+2=72.

ס"ג/SaG: יו"ד ה"י וא"ו ה"י, gematria 63.

מ"ה/MaH: יו"ד ה"א וא"ו ה"א, gematria 45.

ב"ן/BaN: יו"ד ה"ה ו"ו ה"ה, gematria 52.

Luzzatto summarizes, "In sum, all that exists is founded on the mystery of this Name and upon the mystery of these letters of which it consists. This means that all the different orders and laws are all drawn after and come under the order of these four letters. This is not one particular pathway but rather the general path, which includes everything that exists in the Sefirot in all their details and which brings everything under its order."[100]

Another parallel is drawn between the four letters of the Tetragrammaton and the Four Worlds: the י is associated with Atziluth, the first ה with Beri'ah, the ו with Yetzirah, and final ה with Assiah.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Knight 2011: "The Names of God", The Meaning of the Bible, New York: HarperOne, 2011
  2. ^ It originates from tetra "four" + gramma (gen. grammatos) "letter") "Online Etymology Dictionary". 
  3. ^ Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament
  4. ^ Jewish Philosophy: An Historical Introduction
  5. ^ a b c d Parke-Taylor 1975, p. 79
  6. ^ a b 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).
  7. ^ Eh-yeh, from the Hebrew verb ha-yah, is in the imperfect conjugation. "The conjugations do not signify tense, like English conjugations do (e.g., Simple Past). However, the Perfect is predominantly used to describe past time events, whereas the Imperfect is predominantly used to describe non-past time events (i.e., present or future)" - John A. Cook and Robert D. Holmstedt, Biblical Hebrew: A Student Grammar (PDF).
  8. ^ "Names Of God". JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  9. ^ Lemaire 1994, pp. 30–37
  10. ^ a b "Importance of the Name". Insight on the Scriptures. vol. 2. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. 1988. p. 8. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  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. ^ Josephus, The Jewish War, V:235
  15. ^ Lambdin, Thomas O.: Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.
  16. ^ Maas 1910, p. 329.
  17. ^ "Job – Introduction, Anchor Bible, volume 15, page XIV and Moore 1911, pp. 311–314
  18. ^ a b Nehemia Gordon, The Pronunciation of the Name (PDF)
  19. ^ Scott Jones - יהוה Jehovah יהוה (PDF)
  20. ^ Carl D. Franklin - Debunking the Myths of Sacred Namers יהוה (PDF) - Christian Biblical Church of God - December 9, 1997 - Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  21. ^ George Wesley Buchanan, "How God's Name Was Pronounced," BAR 21.2 (March -April 1995), 31-32
  22. ^ A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with an appendix containing the Biblical Aramaic, written by Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, based on the Hebrew lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius as translated by Edward Robinson, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1906, s. 218.
  23. ^ "villagephotos.com". 
  24. ^ "Unicode/XML Leningrad Codex". Tanach.us. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  25. ^ "Unicode/XML Leningrad Codex". Tanach.us. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  26. ^ "Unicode/XML Leningrad Codex". Tanach.us. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  27. ^ "Unicode/XML Leningrad Codex". Tanach.us. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  28. ^ "Unicode/XML Leningrad Codex". Tanach.us. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  29. ^ "Unicode/XML Leningrad Codex". Tanach.us. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  30. ^ "AnsonLetter.htm". Members.fortunecity.com. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  31. ^ Smith’s 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible
  32. ^ The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon by Benjamin Davidson ISBN 0-913573-03-5.
  33. ^ The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901–1906 Names Of God
  34. ^ "Jehovhah." Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1910–11, vol. 15, 312 pp.
  35. ^ "3:15 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 Retrieved 7 October 2010
  36. ^ "Morphix Dictionary". 
  37. ^ Mishneh Torah Maimonides, Laws of Prayer and Priestly Blessings, Chapter 14; http://www.chabad.org/dailystudy/rambam.asp?tDate=3/28/2012&rambamChapters=3
  38. ^ The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period p 779 William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein, Steven T. Katz - 2006 "(BT Kidd 7ia) The historical picture described above is probably wrong because the Divine Names were a priestly ... Name was one of the climaxes of the Sacred Service: it was entrusted exclusively to the High Priest once a year on the "
  39. ^ Moore 1911, p. 311 Footnote #4: 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".
  40. ^ Moore 1911, p. 311 Footnote 5: Yoma, 39b; Jer. Yoma,iii. 7; Kiddushin, 71a."
  41. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #1: R. Johannan (second half of the 3rd century), Kiddushin, 71a.
  42. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #2: Kiddushin, l.c. = Pesahim, 50a.
  43. ^ Moore 1911, p. 311 Footnote #3: 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".
  44. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #3: M. Sanhedrin, x.I; Abba Saul, end of 2nd century.
  45. ^ "Judaism 101 on the Name of God". jewfaq.org. 
  46. ^ For example, see Saul Weiss and Joseph Dov Soloveitchik (February 2005). Insights of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7425-4469-7.  and Minna Rozen (1992). Jewish Identity and Society in the 17th century. p. 67. ISBN 978-3-16-145770-8. 
  47. ^ M. Rösel The reading and translation of the divine name in the Masoretic tradition and the Greek Pentateuch - Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 2007 "It is in this book that we find the strictest prohibition against pronouncing the name of the Lord. The Hebrew of 24.16, which may be translated as 'And he that blasphemes/curses (3B?) the name of the Lord (9H9J), he shall surely be put to death', in the LXX is subjected to a ..."
  48. ^ "They [the Priests, when reciting the Priestly Blessing, when the Temple stood] recite [God's] name -- i.e., the name yod-hei-vav-hei, as it is written. This is what is referred to as the 'explicit name' in all sources. In the country [that is, outside the Temple], it is read [using another one of God's names], א-ד-נ-י ('Adonai'), for only in the Temple is this name [of God] recited as it is written." -- Mishneh Torah Maimonides, Laws of Prayer and Priestly Blessings, 14:10
  49. ^ Kiddushin 71a states, "I am not referred to as [My name] is written. My name is written yod-hei-vav-hei and it is pronounced "Adonai."
  50. ^ a b Stanley S. Seidner,"HaShem: Uses through the Ages." Unpublished paper, Rabbinical Society Seminar, Los Angeles, CA,1987.
  51. ^ For example, two common prayer books are titled "Tehillat Hashem" and "Avodat Hashem." Or, a person may tell a friend, "Hashem helped me to perform a great mitzvah today."
  52. ^ For example, in the common utterance and praise, "Barukh Hashem" (Blessed [i.e. the source of all] is Hashem), or "Hashem yishmor" (God protect [us])
  53. ^ See Deut. 12:2-4: "You must destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to dispossess worshiped their gods...tear down their altars...and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that site. Do not do the same thing to Hashem (YHWH) your God."
  54. ^ "Based on the Talmud (Shavuot 35a-b), Maimonides (Hilkhot Yesodei HaTorah, Chapter 6), and the Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh Deah 276:9) it is prohibited to erase or obliterate the seven Hebrew names for God found in the Torah (in addition to the above, there is E-l, E-loha, Tzeva-ot, Sha-dai,...).
  55. ^ The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman culture: Volume 3 - Page 152 Peter Schäfer, Catherine Hezser - 2002 " In fact, there is no proof in any other rabbinic writing that Samaritans used to pronounce the Divine Name when they took an oath. The only evidence for Sarmaritans uttering the Tetragrammaton at that ..."
  56. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #4: Jer. Sanhedrin, x.I; R. Mana, 4th century.
  57. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #11: Montgomery, Journal of Biblical Literature, xxv. (1906), 49-51
  58. ^ The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 2, p. 512.
  59. ^ The Septuagint and Modern Study, Sidney Jellicoe, 1968, pp. 271–2.
  60. ^ Paul E. Kahle, The Cairo Geniza (Oxford:Basil Blackwell, 1959) p. 222.
  61. ^ Sidney Jellicoe, Septuagint and Modern Study (Eisenbrauns, 1989, ISBN 0-931464-00-5) pp. 271, 272.
  62. ^ Papyrus Grecs Bibliques, by Francoise Dunand, Cairo, 1966 pg. 47 ftn. 4
  63. ^ The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol.2, pag.512 Colin Brown 1986
  64. ^ Troyer, Kristin De (February 2005), lectio difficilior: The Names of God. Their Pronunciation and Their Translation, ISSN 1661-3317, retrieved April 2013 
  65. ^ Bezalel Porten, Archives from Elephantine: The life of an ancient Jewish military colony, 1968, University of California Press, pp. 105, 106.
  66. ^ Stern M., Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (1974-84) 1:172; Schafer P., Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World (1997) 232; Cowley A., Aramaic Papyri of the 5th century (1923); Kraeling E.G., The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri: New Documents of the 5th century BCE from the Jewish Colony at Elephantine (1953)
  67. ^ Sufficient examination of the subject is available at Sean McDonough's YHWH at Patmos (1999), pp 116 to 122 and George van Kooten's The Revelation of the Name YHWH to Moses (2006), pp 114, 115, 126-136. It is worth mentioning a fundamental, though aged, source about the subject: Adolf Deissmann's Bible studies: Contributions chiefly from papyri and inscriptions to the history of the language, the literature, and the religion of Hellenistic Judaism and primitive Christianity (1909), at chapter "Greek transcriptions of the Tetragrammaton".
  68. ^ Maas 1910, p. 330.
  69. ^ B.D. Eerdmans, The Name Jahu, O.T.S. V (1948) 1-29.
  70. ^ "Among the Jews Moses referred his laws to the god who is invoked as Iao (Gr. Ιαώ)." (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica I, 94:2)
  71. ^ Irenaeus, "Against Heresies", II, xxxv, 3, in P. G., VII, col. 840.
  72. ^ Irenaeus, "Against Heresies", I, iv, 1, in P.G., VII, col. 481.
  73. ^ Clement, "Stromata", V, 6, in P.G., IX, col. 60.
  74. ^ Origen, "In Joh.", II, 1, in P.G., XIV, col. 105, where a footnote says that the last part of the name of Jeremiah refers to what the Samaritans expressed as Ἰαβαί, Eusebius as Ἰευώ, Theodoretus as Ἀϊά and the ancient Greeks as Ἰαώ.
  75. ^ Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica I, ix, in P.G., XXI, col. 72 A; and also ibid. X, ix, in P.G., XXI, col. 808 B.
  76. ^ Epiphanius, Panarion, I, iii, 40, in P.G., XLI, col. 685
  77. ^ "nomen Domini apud Hebraeos quatuor litterarum est, jod, he, vau, he: quod proprie Dei vocabulum sonat: et legi potest JAHO, et Hebraei ἄῤῥητον, id est, ineffabile opinatur." ("Breviarium in Psalmos. Psalm. viii.", in P.L., XXVI, col. 838 A). This work was traditionally attributed to Jerome, but authenticity has been doubted or denied since modern times. But "now believed to be genuine and to be dated before CE 392" ZATW (W. de Gruyter, 1936. page 266)
  78. ^ "the word Nethinim means in Hebrew 'gift of Iao', that is of the God who is" (Theodoret, "Quaest. in I Paral.", cap. ix, in P. G., LXXX, col. 805 C)
  79. ^ Theodoret, "Ex. quaest.", xv, in P. G., LXXX, col. 244 and "Haeret. Fab.", V, iii, in P. G., LXXXIII, col. 460
  80. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #8 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.
  81. ^ cf. Lamy, "La science catholique", 1891, p. 196.
  82. ^ Jerome, "Ep. xxv ad Marcell.", in P. L., XXII, col. 429.
  83. ^ A Catholic Handbook: Essentials for the 21st Century Page 51 William C. Graham - 2010 "WHY DO WE NO LONGER SAY YAHWEH? The Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments directed in ... just as the Hebrews and early Christians substituted other names for Yahweh when reading Scripture aloud."
  84. ^ search in BBE for "Yahweh", 8 results
  85. ^ Usage in English
  86. ^ The Living Bible, "Jehovah" or "Lord" per text or footnotes. e.g. Genesis 7:16; 8:21; Exodus 3:15.
  87. ^ search in NLT for "Yahweh", 10 results
  88. ^ "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).
  89. ^ "Dominus quasi vir pugnator; Iahveh nomen eius!" (Exodus 15:3).
  90. ^ "Aedificavitque Moyses altare et vocavit nomen eius Iahveh Nissi (Dominus vexillum meum)" (Exodus 17:15).
  91. ^ "Exodus 3:15: Dixítque íterum Deus ad Móysen: «Hæc dices fíliis Israel: Dominus, 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."
  92. ^ "Exodus 15:3: Dominus quasi vir pugnator; Dominus nomen eius!"
  93. ^ "Exodus 17:15: Aedificavitque Moyses altare et vocavit nomen eius Dominus Nissi (Dominus vexillum meum)"
  94. ^ Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (PDF)
  95. ^ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Divine Worship (PDF)
  96. ^ B. Alfrink, La prononciation 'Jehova' du tétragramme, O.T.S. V (1948) 43-62.
  97. ^ K. Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, Leipzig-Berlin, I, 1928 and II, 1931.
  98. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #9: See Deissmann, Bibelstudien, 13 sqq.
  99. ^ Moore 1911, p. 312 Footnote #10: "See Driver, Studia Biblica, I. 20.
  100. ^ a b In קל"ח פתחי חכמה by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Opening #31; English translation in book "138 Openings of Wisdom" by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum, 2008, also viewable at http://www.breslev.co.il/articles/spirituality_and_faith/kabbalah_and_mysticism/the_name_of_havayah.aspx?id=10847&language=english, accessed 12 March 2012



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