Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pronunciation of the Name

God has a Name. As a matter of fact, the Bible declares it in Exodus 3:15: “Say this to the people of Isra'el: ‘Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (י - ה - ו - ה), the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitz’hak and the Elohim of Ya’akov, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.”

That being the case, then, why do so few people know His Name or bother using it? Traditional Jews, for instance, refuse to write or utter His Name, by rabbinic decree, out of sheer reverence and for fear of breaking the Third Commandment. They prefer, instead, to use titles such “G-d” or “the Almighty” or “Hashem” (which literally means, “The Name”).

But there ARE people who see nothing wrong with writing or using His Name, doing their best to pronounce it, with due respect and reverence, according to their own understanding. Unfortuantely, this includes some really strange English transliterations: “Yahuway”, “Yehuah”, “Yahoah”, “Jehovah”, YaHuWaH”, “Yahwah”, and a host of others that make no sense, whatsoever.

Some even claim to have proof positive on “how to pronounce it” - the most recent being the idea that His Name, יהוה, is written and pronounced “Yehovah.”

Personally, I don’t agree.

Attempting to research the correct pronunciation of the Name quickly leads to a literal quagmire of powerfully expressed, deeply held explanations by “experts” - while actually never rising above opinion. Each expert claims “their pronunciation” is the correct one, never mind that for every “correct” pronunciation there are at least a dozen other “experts” admonishing that that particular pronunciation is wrong.

This very article came about because of a popular “Hebrew Roots” (HR) teacher, a Karaite Yeshua denier who has been, for at least 10 years, pushing the pronunciation of יהוה as “Yehovah”. This HR teacher proudly proclaims that he and his “team” have now “identified” over 1000 Hebrew texts in which one finds the vowel-pointed Name, יהוה, as “Yehovah”. Well … of course they do! In-fact all vowel-pointed Hebrew texts, including the Aleppo Codex from about 930CE, annotate the Name as יְהֹוָה, (or a grammatical variation) which, indeed, is read as “Yehovah” (at least according to modern Hebrew vowel marking). But hold the phone! All vowel-marked Hebrew texts originate from about 800 CE or later, as vowel-marking was not known prior to that era. Vowel-marking was thus established at least 1000 years after the imposed ban on uttering the Name in Judaism!

While the modern vowel-pointed Holy Name, יְהֹוָה, according to Hebrew grammar found in many, many manuscripts, does read as “Yehovah”, there is absolutely no reason to expect that it reflects the proper, actual pronunciation so strongly advocated by this well-known Karaite, HR leader! Even Josephus, in the 1st Century CE (about 2000 years ago) states in his writings that he is not permitted to pronounce (or write) the Name due to the established prohibition - even in his time. Josephus - contrary to our respected, popular Karaite HR personality, was a great, well-known, educated, elite, Levite Priest who no doubt knew and guarded the correct pronunciation! Truly, does anyone, today, believe for one minute, that a rabbinic-generated, Hebrew document, intended for public consumption, containing vowel points, is going to provide the correct pronunciation of יהוה as “Yehovah” when the punishment for uttering the forbidden Name was death? That would be like saying in an official, sanctioned document: “Here’s the correct pronunciation which I am not asking you to say! Don’t dare speak this word which I have herein explained is pronounced: ‘Yehovah’ – but don’t say it.”

Actually, there is ample evidence that יהוה, as vowel pointed in Hebrew texts as יְהֹוָה, is done so to imply another pronunciation altogether. The indicated vowels (which some say are actually impossible vowels for the Tetragrammaton) are only to indicate to the reader that יהוה is to be spoken as “Adonai” and certainly not pronounced as “Yehovah” by the indicated vowels. When the reader encounters “יְהֹוָה”, he is expected to automatically, without further provocation, enunciate the Name as “Adonai” because the vowel markings are not those for יהוה, rather, they are for “Adonai”. Yet the Karaite teacher is out there teaching that יְהֹוָה is decidedly “Yehovah” – claiming it is the true pronunciation of the Name and people are fawning all over him for his teaching.

Indeed another vowel marking of יהוה is found, for example in Ezekiel 2:4, as: יְהֹוִה, and it is clearly not intended to be pronounced (according to the vowels) as “Yehoiah” (יְהֹוִה) – (my admittedly crude attempt at enunciating יהוה with those vowels). Rather, it is only another signal to the reader to say “Elohim” instead of יהוה, as it is written. “Elohim” in Hebrew is אְלֹהִים, containing the same vowels as seen in יְהֹוִה. When one sees “יְהֹוִה”, one is expected, again without provocation, to enunciate “Elohim”, not “Yehoiah”!

The Name is not forbidden

Did you know that nothing in Torah prohibits anyone from pronouncing out loud the Name of יהוה? It’s true! The Name is not forbidden to speak. The rabbinical ban on uttering the Name is man-made, man-conceived. Indeed, there are a number of scriptures which declare that people the world over were expected to know the Name! Here are but a few:

Exodus 3:15 “Say this to the people of Isra'el: 'Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (י - ה - ו - ה), the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitz'chak and the Elohim of Ya`akov, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.”

Exodus 9:26 “…and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth.”

Isaiah 42:8 “I am יהוה, that is My Name, and My esteem I do not give to another, nor My praise to idols.

Isaiah 52:6 “…My people shall know My name…”

Zephaniah 3:8-9 “For then I will change the peoples, so that they will have pure lips, to call on the name of יהוה, all of them, and serve him with one accord.”

Ezekiel 39:7 “I will make my holy name known among my people Isra'el; I will not allow my holy name to be profaned any longer. Then the Goyim will know that I am יהוה, the Holy One in Isra'el.

If we are to know His Name, then why don’t we know it today? Why is there even an argument about the proper pronunciation? Why does it remain hidden today?

The answer, in my strongest belief, is that יהוה needs no vowels. (I’m aware that many will scoff at this thought, and that’s fine. I’m writing what I think, not what you think.)

The proper pronunciation is contained within the four Hebrew letters themselves without vowel points. Let me try to explain. I know many will object to the following admittedly simplistic argument, but I am not trying to write a 300 page book on Hebrew Grammar:

“Yod”, in Hebrew is transliterated as a “ya” sound in English. All English words beginning with a “y” have a “ya” sound. That sound may be quickly modified by the next letter, so the result may indeed be a “ye”, “yu”, “yo” or even a “yi” sound as in:

“Yank”, “yard”, “year”, “yesterday”, “yikes”, “yodel”, “yule”. Do you see how the next letter modifies the “y” sound, yet it is always has a “ya” sound?

The point is that in all cases, the English word beginning with “Y” begins with a “ya” sound no matter how it is immediately modified. So, the Hebrew “yod” in יהוה is a “ya” sound-variant expressed in English. So far, the door is still open as to what comes next. That is, we can expect יהוה to begin with a “ya” sound, but we don’t yet know if it will be a “Ya”, “Ye”, etc.

The next letter, the Hebrew “ה” (hey), in יהוה is an “H” sound in English.

Also, depending on which letter precedes or follows the ה, the “sound” may be a “hay”, “hey”, “hi” (short “i”), “hee”, “ho”, “hoo” or “hu”. Here are some English examples of the “h” sound made by the ה:

“Heavy”, “hard”, “heave”, “ho”, “ah”, “have”, “slaughter”, “show”, “pharynx”, “mulched”, “who”, “behind”, “beehive”.

See how the sound of the English “h” is modified by the letter before or after it, and/or its position in the English word? Similarly (though clearly simplistically), this must be considered to understand the sound of the “ה” in יהוה. Here, in יהוה, we have the precedent in scripture that יה, in names is pronounced “Yah”. So we already know the pronunciation of יהוה begins with “Yah…”

The “waw” (and it is a “waw” not “vav” because the “waw” sound is more ancient that a “vav” sound), can be a “wa” sound or a “v” sound (“va”) depending on the placement of the “ו” letter in the word. Examples:

“Hawaii” (some may say “Ha-va-ee”, while others say “Ha-wa-ii”), “wash”, “welcome”, “jaw”, “whacked”, “highway”, “away”.

While sometimes the “w” is a hard sound, at other times it is a softer, “ooah” (wa) sound made with the lips.

Therefore, even in English, we already have more evidence of the pronunciation of יהוה, and we can put it all together!

The full pronunciation of “יהוה” is, with a little practice and consideration is:

“Yahweh” – but not quite sounded-out as you may think! Remember, we are attempting to sound-out the Name, we are NOT “saying” an English word containing these English letters!

In modern English the Name spelled “Yahweh”, (without being informed it is a transliteration of a Hebrew word), sounds much like “Yah-Way”, but that is not quite the proper sound. “Yah” is correct for the first part as substantiated by many, many scriptures. But for the second part, one needs to be more careful. For the second part, you are actually sounding out the combination of הוה (hey-waw-hey) as “ha-whey” but with a very short, almost undetectable “ha” sound followed by a sound much like “whay” (or “whey”, or “oo-way”) but only with the lips and without the sound of the English “w”. One might describe the sound of the second part as “hoo-wey”, as in “ya-hoo-whey” because the “hoo” is so brief, so silent, that it is more like part of a breath – never actually saying “hoo”, rather, simply changing the lips to an “oo” shape as you transition from “Yah” to “wey” – preparing to say “hoo”, but never actually sounding “hoo”: “Yah-(virtually silent “hoo” or “ooh”)-wey”.

So, the resulting pronunciation, without adding any artificial vowel marks whatsoever is this: Breathe-in while saying “Yah”, then breathe-out while saying “whay” (or “whey”) and don’t actually sound the English “w”: “Yah…wey” – just change your lips.

יהוה = “Yahweh”.

Therefore, יהוה is not “Yehovah”, “Yahooah”, Yahoah”, “Jehovah”, “YaHuWaH”, “YaHeWeHe”, or any other of the mind-numbing variants. It is “Yahweh”, plain and simple, before our very eyes in the Hebrew word “יהוהwithout any added vowels.

And there you have it – the pronunciation of יהוה, always there before our eyes, never hidden.  It is Yahweh.

I am open to civil comments/discussion.

7 comments:

  1. In the Leningrad and Aleppo codices, several vowel (6) pointings present themselves. There are as follows in transliterated form:

    Yǝhwāh
    Yǝhōwāh
    Yĕhōwih
    Yĕhwih
    Yǝhōwih
    Yǝhwih

    Or, if one favors the "v" sound over the "w" sound for the waw/vav, then they are as follows:

    Yǝhvāh
    Yǝhōvāh
    Yĕhōvih
    Yĕhvih
    Yǝhōvih
    Yǝhvih

    For the purposes of this post, because those who favor Allepo/Leningrad vowel pointings favor the "vav" we will use the "vav" instead of the "waw" - even though we favor the "waw."

    This tetragrammaton vowel pointing list really boils down to two similar spellings.

    Yehwih is the shortened form of Yehowih. Yehwah is the shortened form of Yehowah.

    Most Hebrew scholars suggest that in using qere perpetuum, that Yehvih/Yehovih points to saying Elohim, and that Yehvah/Yehovah points to saying Adonai.

    Yehvah/Yehovah are the most common occurrences in the Leningrad/Allepo codices. Because of this Yehovah has become the most popular pronunciation of the tetragrammaton. Consequently, there are many known manuscripts following the Leningrad/Allepo that state that Yehovah is the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton. (This is similar to how many today believe that the Messiah's name is Jesus instead of Yeshua, only because it is written so many times). There is one particular Hebrew scholar that is leading a quest to find many of these manuscripts that cite the Yehovah spelling.

    This is nothing new. Jehovah's witnesses adopted this pronunciation for the same reasoning, with the exception of exchanging the Y to a J, typical to a more modern English transliteration.

    All of these manuscripts however point back to the original spelling(s) found in the Leningrad/Allepo codices.

    It is universally agreed that the authors of the Leningrad/Allepo codices were attempting to hide the true pronunciation of the name. There is no other explanation as to why they would use multiple pronunciations if that were not the case. In order to hide something, one must have it. So we would agree that the authors did, at least at one time, did know the pronunciation of the name. Their goal was to hide the name in its entirety.

    Because of this agenda, we would strongly reason that none of the spellings in the Leningrad/Allepo codices reflect an accurate pronunciation of the tetragrammaton.

    Their goal was to not allow anyone to say the name, or to even write it. Thus, none of the spellings in the Leningrad/Allepo codices can be accurate pronunciations. Yehvah/Yehovah and Yehvih/Yehovih would be the least likely pronunciations out of all existing theories because these are only pronunciations invented to serve the hiding of the name, not the exposing of the name.

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    1. Thank you. Your six variations in the Leningrad/Allepo codices is why I simply said "...(or a grammatical variation)"!

      For our readers, the term "qere perpetuum", (not used in the article), refers to a "permanent" replacement in the Torah, of the pronunciation of a word, without requiring the scribe to make a comment in the margin to inform the reader. Thus, as I said in the article, the reader was simply expected to, as in the case of YHWH, say "Adonai" or "Elohim" instead of actually pronouncing the Name YHWH. To learn more, study the terms "Qere and Ketiv".

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  2. It is sometimes said that the "o" was accidentally inserted into Yehvah to form Yehovah, thus revealing the name. There is no proof of this and would be contradictory to the painstaking error proofing methods employed by Hebrew scribes over thousands of years. In addition. Yehvih also has a form that also occasionally inserts an "o" making it no different than the "o" inserted occasionally in Yehvah. This is why it is well understood that Yehvih and Yehvah are simply shortened forms of Yehovih and Yehovah, which are also presented in the codices.

    It is also sometimes said that the placement of the "o" in Yehvah (creating Yehovah) in the codices is perhaps intentional. This can be quickly dismissed because intentionally placing a correct pronunciation in the codices would lead others (even Gentiles) to occasionally pronounce the name. This would be a massive offense to their faulty understanding of what it means to profane the name and completely contradictory to their agenda. Also, this would not afford any explanation as to why Yehovah is the supposedly the correct pronunciation and why Yehovih is not, when both spellings are present in both codices. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses, a subscription to Yehvah/Yehovah is apparently simply discarded over Yehvih/Yehovah, only because of its slight dominance in the texts.

    So, if the authors of the the Leningrad/Allepo codices were attempting to hide the name, in which nearly every Hebrew scholar agrees, then it is interesting to note which possible Tetragrammaton prefix and suffix they never used in their attempt to hide the name. They never used "Yah" or "weh." You will never find those two present in any manuscript in reference to the Tetragrammaton. It seems likely that there is a reason for this. If you are going to hide the name, you are not going to use any part of the true pronunciation in your attempt to hide it. By process of elimination and considering the prefix and suffix elements used, a spelling (or perhaps only spelling) left standing is Yah-weh. Interestingly enough, this also agrees with historical witnesses that date prior to the Leningrad/Allepo codices.

    Does that prove this pronunciation? No. We would suggest that anyone claiming to "know" the pronunciation is misguided and divisive, doing more damage than good. All theories on the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton are educated theories.

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    1. Again, thank you. While you point out that "Yah" or "weh" are never used in the ancient (vowel-marked) texts does not prove a proper pronunciation, I must admit that in this case, the absence of the pronunciation certainly seems to indicated intent. It's akin to those who argue the dark moon of conjunction "is not a sign", when the very absence of the moon is a most important "sign" - simply because of its absence!

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  3. Yah weh to me is the Breath of Elohim! Yah (breath in) Weh (breath out). Sounds right to me! Just a thought.

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  4. I love to KNOW His Real Name. But I cannot tell my own saying correctly. I am truly very glad to learn His Mighty YHWH so much. It is worth to learn how to speak correctly in all the things. Thank you Carmen and Bill for that awesome Love!

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