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The Name

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  • The Name

    Hi Old Shepherd
    I really have no desire to get into a debate over the name. But since you called me on it, I cut and paste a discussion that I had with another person regarding the name, which took place in June and July of 2000.

    Shalom, Sandy
    A note on the spelling "Yahuah". We do not really know the correct pronunciation of the name YHWH, but we sure can rule out many possibilities.

    Yahuah is simply IMPOSSIBLE according to the rules of Hebrew grammar. In Hebrew EVERY vowel must comes after a consonant. There is no such thing as a free floating vowel. So the syllable "-ah" can not exist in Hebrew! It is possible to have the syllable 'ah with an 'Ayin or an 'Aleph (which you Americans would pronounce like the A in Army, but in real Hebrew it is pronounced as a consonant). We know for a fact that the name YHWH does not have the consonant 'Aleph or 'Ayin, so it can not possibly be pronounced "Yahuah". In the name Yehudah the ah is part of the "dah" syllable, which is possible. Yahuah is not possible. Please ask anyone who knows even basic Hebrew and they will confirm this.

    Now a word on the first part of the name. Here are the FACTS. The element "YHW" appears in many names and in these name it has 2 possible pronunciations. At the END of a name it is pronounced "-YaHu" as in the name Eliyahu (Elijah). At the BEGINNING of a name it is pronounced "Yeho-" as in the names Yehoshua, Yehoyada, Yehoyaqim, Yehoshafat, etc. Of the dozens of names YHW- appears in, it NEVER is pronounced "Yahu-" at the beginning of a name. Never. Not once. So, it is extremely unlikely that in the name of YHWH it would be Yahu- at the beginning of the name when in EVERY OTHER NAME in the Hebrew language it is "Yeho-" at the beginning of a name.

    In the contracted form "Yah-", the Waw has simply dropped. But notice that the contracted form "Yah" is always at the END of a name or a word. Hallelu-YAH (=praise Yah).

    What about the evidence of ancient Greek writers? I have looked into this and it turns out that the Greek writers include almost every spelling under the sun, some of which are simply impossible. One common for is "iota-alpha-omega". To complicate matters we do not have the slightest idea how the ancient Greeks pronounced Alpha, and my understanding is that the pronunciation changed from region to region. So to convert the above Greek into the Hebrew YAHO would be a methodological error. Some Greek authors render the name iota-alpha-beta-epsilon! Part of the problem is that Greek does not have a H sound in the middle of a word nor does the Greek have a letter which really covers the W so any attempt to transfer the name YHWH to Greek is doomed from the outset. Before the Greek starts it must drop 3 of the 4 consonants!!! That is why you find every possible spelling in the Greek literature.

    Here's another factor which complicates matters. Most of the Greek writers who mention the name were in contact with Rabbinate Jews. I have done some research into the Rabbinate view of the name and found that in Mishnaic times it was used to perform magical incantations. The Rabbis responded by banning the use of the name in an attempt to suppress the performance of magic (at least in the Land of Israel). In time, the name was forgotten and was only known to a few select magicians! There is one story in the Talmud of a "physician" (i.e. witch-doctor) who offers to reveal the secret of the name to one of the Rabbis, but the Rabbi says he is not worthy. In any event, it appears that even educated Jews did not know how to pronounce the name in this period, so the Greek authors would have only received inaccurate information from their Jewish informants. How could the Jews tell the Greek authors how to pronounce the name when they did not know how to pronounce it themselves!

    So how do we solve this riddle? The way I see it there are 2 likely possibilities. One is to pattern our pronunciation based on the pronunciation of Hebrew names in which case we are left with something like YeHoWaH or YeHoWeH. Another possibility is to take the linguistic approach as Mordecai Alfandari and some of the modern Christians have done, which results in either YiHWeH (Binyan Kal) or YaHWeH (Binyan Hiphil). I have yet to see another suggestion which is feasible.
    I wrote:
    I would like to know how or why YaHWeH is any different than YaHUah?

    According to the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary:

    The letter U is the twenty-first letter of the English alphabet. It
    is a cursive form of the letter V. In dictionaries of English, U and
    V were not given separate alphabetical positions until about 1800.

    The letter V is the twenty-second letter of the English alphabet. V and U are varieties of the same character, and were formerly used indiscriminately. The letter W, a doubled V called "double U," is a survival of this use. V is from the Latin alphabet, where it was used both as a vowel and as a consonant (first with the value of English w, and later with that of v). The Latin derived the letter from a western form (V) of the Greek "upsilon".

    The letter W is the twenty-third letter of the English alphabet. In
    form and origin W is a ligatured combination, VV or UU,
    called "double U," which was introduced into English by French
    scribes in the 11th century to replace the Anglo-Saxon runic wen.

    The letter Y is the twenty-fifth letter of th English alphabet. It
    comes from the Latin, which borrowed it, after the Roman conquest, from the Greek "upsilon" and used it as a vowel in the writing of Greek words. Y is ultimately from the same Semitic source as U, V, and W.

    As to my pronunciation of YAHUAH. The second "A" is part of the "H", for sound, just as in YAH. My pronunciation comes from the following: Y= ee H= ah U= oo H= ah, which you say is impossible according to the Hebrew.

    Dear Sandy,
    The vowel must be PRECEEDED by a consonant. Your "second a" is not preceeded by any consonant, because you made the Waw into a vowel. The A in YAH is preceeded by a Yod. Your A is free-floating, which CAN NOT EXIST in Hebrew. The only way to have the name be YahuAH is to ADD AN ALEPH OR AN AYIN or some other letter.

    In Hebrew the letter Waw is a semi-vowel and can function either as a vowel or a consonant. Your pronunciation takes Waw to be a vowel, like the Waw in the name Yehudah (YHWDH). This is not impossible in and of itself. But what does this have to do with the
    free-floating -AH at the end of your pronunciation?! You have not up till now suggested the pronunciation to be YaHuWaH, which has its own problem, but at least it does not add a letter to The Name. This is a very important point. The pronunciation Yahuah requires that you add the letter Aleph or Ayin to the Name!
    My reply:
    Is it not true that the final letter "H" is often dropped from the end of a word or syllable because it is considered a "latent" character, but on the other hand, because it is a "latent character", when it is there it has the sound of a soft "ah"?

    So again, as to my pronunciation of YAHUAH. The second "A" is merely ADDED before the "H" to produce the correct SOUND. I am not writing in Hebrew, but in English. My pronunciation Y= ee H= ah U= oo H= ah can stand on its own and does not have to be related to the word Yahudah/Yehudah in any way. If you prefer to spell it YHWH it still has the same sound: Y= ee H= ah W= oo H= ah.

    Is it not true that "Yeho-" is the result of the Masoretes vowel-pointing? They took the vowels of "adoni" and added them to
    the Name to provide a substitute and eventually resulted in a new word "Yehovah/Yehowah"?

    I am interested in knowing how you pronounce the name Nun Cheyth, the patriarch of Genesis 6-10.


    Dear Sandy,

    In our discussions I pointed out that in Hebrew a vowel must always be preceded by a consonant. The one exception to this rule in the entire Hebrew language is when the vowel is attached to the letter Chet. So instead of the "anointed one" being pronounced "Mashicha" as would be expected the word is pronounced "Mashi-ach". The patriarch's name is pronounced No-ach. Every other instance of a vowel in the Hebrew
    language is preceded by a consonant except in this one instance of a Kamatz ("A" sound) followed by Chet. Bear in mind that the name of the Creator is Yod-He-Waw-He not Yod-He-Waw-Chet. In our previous exchanges I did not mention this exception because I thought it would only confuse matters.
    We stopped corresponding in July of 2000, but just recently, August 08 of this year, I was surprised to receive an email from this person.
    Dear Sandy,

    I have been giving much thought and study to the name of YHWH lately. It seems I owe you an aplogy. There is in fact a rare instance in Biblical Hebrew in which the vowel can preceed the consonant. This rare instance is called "furtive patah" and only occurs in a few words in the entire Hebrew language. However, the name YHWH fulfills the requirements for this to occur and therefore it could theoretically end in -ah. For this to happen the final He would need to be pronounced. If the final He is silent then it can not be -ah. I know of no evidence that proves or even suggests this pronunciation but it is theoretically possible. I apologize for telling that it was not.

    May YHWH be with you,

    Jerusalem, Israel