The True Pronunciation of the Sacred Name
If you are truly serious as I am about loving and pleasing God; we need to know
His name through fact rather than words of man without strong backing.
Do you know God's Name? The Creator Himself tells us what His Name is; and it
is easy to identify in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. But His Name has
become clouded and confused by erroneous translations, corrupted manuscripts
and Jewish tradition. Some say His Name is "God" or "LORD" -- but these are
titles rather than personal names. Can we know, then, God's TRUE Name?
Over the years various people have taken the time to count the number of times the
Old Testament contains the inspired Name of the Creator God. However, since
there are several variations, contractions and expansions of the Holy Name, there is
no real agreement on just how many times it is used.
According to some it is approximately 7,000 times. This is, it turns out, far more
than any other name -- and more than any other basic word used in the entire
Bible!
The Name consists of four Hebrew consonants -- yod, hay, vav, hay -- and is
referred to as HaShem HaGadol, "The Great Name" in the Hebrew language. The
English equivalent is Y H V H. The Greeks simply called it the Tetragrammaton --
"the four letters."
The English translators of the King James Version of the Bible have utilized a
unique form of the title "lord" to represent this great Name. The first letter L is
CAPITAL in form -- large size. The remaining three letters are SINGLE in size,
but CAPITAL in form -- thus LORD. This arrangement is used by the King James
Version and some other translations; however there are many translations that do
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not use this form, so that when reading them one has no indication that they are
reading the Holy Name of the Creator.
Out of the people of Israel -- to whom the Creator God made known His Holy
Name some 7,000 times -- those descended from the House of Judah deem it too
sacred to use themselves -- much less to teach it to the nations. Those descended
from the House of Israel, and the entire Gentile world, look at it as four
meaningless Hebrew letters.
Those descended from Judah (part of those called "Jews" today) hide the Name of
the Heavenly Father in a box because they think it is too sacred to use. Those of
Israel, and the Gentiles, deny that He has a name and call Him LORD, being
misled by the translators. But to those that are called by the Heavenly Father --
"Jews," Israelites or Gentiles -- the Creator wants to REVEAL His Holy and Great
Name.
When God called to Moses out of the burning bush, telling him to free the
Israelites from bondage in Egypt, "And Moses said to God, 'Behold, when I go to
the children of Israel and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to
you," they shall say to me, "What is his name?" What shall I say to them'" (Exodus
3:13, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible). God answered Moses, "I AM THAT I AM"
(verse 14). The Hebrew word for "I AM" is 'ehyeh, which comes from the verb "to
be." It can also be translated as "I SHALL BE."
God further told Moses, "say to the children of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your
fathers...has sent me to you'" (verse 15). Although the Hebrew word for "Lord" is
'adon, the word translated "LORD" (upper case) in verse 15 is different. Spelled
with four Hebrew consonants that read from right to left, it is translated YHVH in
English, and is known as the Tetragrammaton (Greek for "four letters"). This word
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is related to 'ehyeh and also comes from the verb "to be." Both words have the
sense of "BEING ACTIVELY PRESENT."
Later, in Exodus 6:2-3, God tells Moses,
"I am YHVH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shaddai,
BUT BY MY NAME I WAS NOT KNOWN TO THEM."
The Revealing of God's Name
Although God's Name was apparently not revealed to Abraham -- or those before
him -- the essential meaning of God's Name was known. El Shaddai was
understood to be "the Most High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth" (Genesis
14:19). So it was at Mt. Sinai that God first revealed His PERSONAL Name to
Moses and the children of Israel.
"...when Israel comes out of Egypt and is gathered by Moses at Mt. Sinai, the
dramatic scene is set. God reveals Himself to the whole nation in an overwhelming
display of power and glory, speaking directly to them, and setting forth the Ten
Commandments (literally "the Ten Words"). There is thunder, lightning, clouds of
smoke and fire, the piercing sound of a trumpet, and the whole mountain shakes.
Finally God Himself speaks in an audible voice for all to hear. First, He identifies
Himself: 'I am YHVH your God...you shall have no other gods besides Me'
(Exodus 20:1). The reaction of the people is stark terror! They call out to Moses,
'You speak to us and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die!'"
(20:19) (Restoring Abrahamic Faith, Genesis 2000, Charlotte, NC 28256. 1993, pp.
12-13).
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This was the first account of the Israelites rejecting God -- a trend that was to
continue throughout their history. Continues Dr. Tabor:
"Often in his farewell speeches in Deuteronomy Moses recalls the extraordinary
nature of this event, when God personally spoke His Name and revealed His Ten
Commandments. "YHVH talked with you face to face on the mountain from the
midst of the fire....these words YHVH spoke to all your assembly in the mountain
from of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice;
and He added no more (Deuteronomy 5:4, 22; cf. 4:9-14). This was a unique, one-
time revelation, centered on the Ten Commandments and the manifestation of
God's awesome personal Presence [and Name]. He warns them further in
Deuteronomy 11:28, not to turn to other gods, "whom you have not known"
(Jeremiah 7:9). The verb here rendered "known" can be translated "experienced."
This Sinai revelation was to be remembered as the one special time when Israel
experienced direct contact with YHVH".
This revelation of God's personal Name, which includes an understanding of His
very character, carries with it the unique stamp of Divine Authority. Constantly
throughout the Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) we run into
the phrase, "And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying..." followed by complete sections
of text in which the Most High God speaks directly, in the first person. Similarly, in
the Prophets, we encounter the key phrase, "Thus says YEHOVAH...." literally
hundreds of times. In Hebrew the phrase is most distinct -- koh 'amar YHVH.
Notes Dr. Tabor -- "These phrases, followed by the first person declarations of
YHVH Himself, reflect a style that no pious Jew would ever dare to fabricate.
Neither the writers of the New Testament nor the rabbis of the Mishnah and
Talmud adopt such a mode of speaking".
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For this very reason, the Five Books of Moses and the Prophets must be the
absolute foundation for any restoration of God's true Name.
Jews Keep the Divine Name in Their Texts
Since the Divine Name YHVH was -- and is -- the most sacred word in the Hebrew
language, it is extremely unlikely that Jews of any sort would have deleted it from
their Bibles. Furthermore, we now know from discoveries in Egypt and the Judean
desert that the Jews wrote the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew even in their Greek texts.
The above table displays the name of the Creator in the ancient Paleo-Hebrew text,
modern Hebrew text, the English letter equivalents, the sound of the Hebrew letters
(transliteration), and the common English translation. Note that Hebrew is always
read right to left.
Some very old fragments of the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament that
actually existed in the Messiah’s day have survived down to our times; and it
should be noted that the personal Name of God appears in them. In 1944, W.G.
Waddell discovered the remains of an Egyptian papyrus scroll (Papyrus Fued 266)
dating to the first or second century B.C. which included part of the Septuagint. In
no instance, however, was YHVH translated into any other form. Instead the
Tetragrammaton itself -- in square Aramaic letters -- was written into the Greek
text. This parallels the Qumran sect's use of the paleo-Hebrew script for the Divine
Name in a document which was otherwise written in square Aramaic script.
There are three separate pre-Christian copies of the Greek Septuagint Bible extant
today; and not a single instant of the Tetragrammaton translated into a Greek form
-- or, for that matter, translated at all -- can be found. As a result, we can now say,
with certainty, that it was a Jewish practice -- before, during, and after the New
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Testament period -- to write the Divine Name in the paleo-Hebrew or square,
Aramaic script -- or in transliteration right into the Greek text of Scripture.
Commenting on the fact that these oldest fragments of the Greek Septuagint do
contain the Divine Name in its Hebrew form, Dr. P. Kahle states --
"We now know that the Greek Bible text [the Septuagint] as far as it was written
by Jews for Jews did NOT translate the Divine name by kyrios; but the
Tetragrammaton, written with Hebrew or Greek letters, was RETAINED in such
MSS [manuscripts]. It was the Christians who replaced the Tetragrammaton by
kyrios, when the Divine name written in Hebrew letters was not understood any
more" (The Cairo Geniza, Oxford, 1959, p. 222).
This is also noted by The New International Dictionary of New Testament
Theology. Notice!
"Recent textual discoveries cast doubt on the idea that the compilers of the LXX
[Septuagint] translated the Tetragrammaton YHVH by kyrios. The oldest LXX
MSS (fragments) now available to us have the Tetragrammaton written in Hebrew
characters in the Greek text. This custom was retained by later Jewish translators of
the Old Testament in the first centuries A.D." (Volume 2, p. 512).
Professor George Howard, of the University of Georgia, makes this comment:
"When the Septuagint which the New Testament church used and quoted contained
the Hebrew form of the divine name, the New Testament writers no doubt included
the Tetragrammaton in their quotations" (Biblical Archaeology Review, March
1978, p. 14). What AUTHORITY would they have had to do otherwise?
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God's Name remained in the Greek translations of the Old Testament for a while
longer. In the first half of the second century A.D. the Jewish proselyte Aquila
made a new translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, and the
Tetragrammaton still appeared in Hebrew characters.
Early Church Fathers Retain Divine Name For a While
Then, around 245 A.D., the scholar Origen produced his Hexapla, a six-column
reproduction of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures in their original Hebrew and
Aramaic -- accompanied by a transliteration into Greek, and by the Greek versions
of Aquila, Symmachus, the Septuagint, and Theodotion. On the evidence of the
fragmentary copies now known, Professor W.G. Waddell says --
"In Origen's Hexapla...the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and LXX
[Septuagint], all represented JHWH [YHVH] by PIPI, in the second column of the
Hexapla the Tetragrammaton was written in Hebrew characters" (The Journal of
Theological Studies, Oxford, Vol. XLV, 1944, pp. 158-159).
Some believe the original text of Origen's Hexapla used Hebrew characters for the
Tetragrammaton in ALL its columns. Origen himself said:
"...in the most accurate manuscripts THE NAME occurs in Hebrew characters,
yet not in today's Hebrew [characters], but in the most ancient ones."
As late as the fourth century A.D. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, says
in his prologue to the books of Samuel and Kings --
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"And we find the name of God, the Tetragrammaton [i.e. YHVH], in certain
Greek volumes even to this day expressed in ancient letters."
In a letter written at Rome in 384 A.D., Jerome states:
"The ninth [name of God] is the Tetragrammaton, which they [the Jews]
considered [a.nek.pho'ne.ton], that is, unspeakable, and it is written with these
letters, Iod, He, Vau, He. Certain ignorant ones, because of the similarity of the
characters, when they would find it in Greek books, were accustomed to read PIPI
[Greek letters corresponding to the Roman letters PIPI]" (Papyrus Grecs Bibliques,
by F. Dunand, Cairo, 1966, p. 47, ftn. 4).
While the Jews didn't change the Divine Name in the Hebrew and Greek texts, they
avoided saying the Tetragrammaton because they believed that in doing so they
would take God's Name in vain. When reading a passage of the Hebrew Bible that
contained it, they referred to God by another one of His names -- 'adonai or
"LORD."
Gentile Christians Discard the Tetragrammaton
But Gentile Christians, unlike the Jewish Christians, had no traditional attachment
to the Hebrew Tetragrammaton and no doubt often failed to even recognize it.
Early in the second century A.D., after the last of the apostles had died, the falling
away from the true Christian faith foretold by the Messiah and his followers began
in earnest. Pagan philosophies and doctrines infiltrated the congregation of
believers; sects and divisions arose, and the original purity of faith corrupted. And
God's Name ceased to be used. Gentile scribes, who had never before seen Hebrew
writing (especially in its archaic form), stopped preserving the Divine Name. This
contributed to the use of kyrios and theos for the Tetragrammaton, and toward the
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end of the first Christian century the use of these surrogates crowded out the
Hebrew Tetragrammaton in both Testaments.
Another factor in dropping the Tetragrammaton from the Bible texts is that the
Gentile "Christians" did not want to appear Jewish. From 66 A.D. to 135 A.D.
there were several Jewish revolts that resulted in severe persecution by Roman
authorities upon any who appeared Jewish. Most of the Jewish Christians were
killed by the Romans, leaving mostly "Gentile" Christians. These Gentile
Christians wanted to appease the Roman authorities and gain approval amongst
Romans in general. To accomplish this they began to discard almost anything that
made them look in the least bit Jewish. The Greek philosophies were placed on a
par with the Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 6:20-21). Under these circumstances all
scriptures containing the Divine Name were destroyed, leaving only copies that
contained the substitutes, kyrios or theos.
The Jews, on the other hand, because of their reverence for the Divine Name, did
NOT destroy texts containing the Tetragrammaton. A famous rabbinic passage
(Talmud Shabbat 13.5) discusses the problem of destroying "heretical" texts (very
probably including books of the Jewish Christians). The problem the rabbinic
writer has with this is that the heretical texts contained the Divine Name and the
wholesale destruction would include the destruction of the Divine Name! This
further suggests that the Jewish Christians did NOT translate the Divine Name into
Greek.
In later copies of the Septuagint, God's Name was completely removed and words
like "God" (The.os') and "Lord" (Ky'ri.os) were substituted.
The same thing occurred in the "New Testament," or Christian Greek Scriptures.
Professor George Howard makes the following comment: "When the Hebrew form
for the divine name was eliminated in favor of Greek substitutes in the Septuagint,
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it was eliminated also from the New Testament quotations of the
Septuagint....Before long the divine name was lost to the Gentile church except
insofar as it was reflected in the contracted surrogates or remembered by scholars
(BAR, March 1978).
Therefore, while the Jews refused to pronounce God's Name, the apostate Christian
church managed to remove it completely from Greek language manuscripts of both
testaments of the Bible -- as well as from other language versions.
The Messiah's Disciples
It should be noted that the so-called Christians who replaced the Tetragrammaton
with kyrios in the later Septuagint copies, were NOT the early disciples of the
Messiah. They were people of later centuries, when Paul's prophesied apostasy was
well under way and had corrupted the purity of Christian teachings. States the
Insight On the Scriptures --
"Thus, in the days of Jesus and his disciples the divine name very definitely
appeared in copies of the Scriptures, both in Hebrew manuscripts and in Greek
manuscripts. Did Jesus and his disciples use the divine name in speech and in
writing? In view of Jesus' condemnation of Pharisaic traditions (Mt 15:1-9), it
would be highly unreasonable to conclude that Jesus and his disciples let Pharisaic
ideas (such as are recorded in the Mishnah) govern them in this matter" (Volume 2,
p.10).
The Messiah's own name means "YEHOVAH is Salvation," and he thus carries the
true Name of the Creator God in his own name. The following Scriptures show,
without a doubt, that Yeshua and the writers of the New Testament used the Divine
Name:
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