How To Pronounce Yahweh YHWH
A justification of the pronunciation: YaHuWaH
Oddly, most try to justify using the spelling "Yahweh" by citing the Jewish Encyclopedia.
Yet the pronunciation promoted by Jews has to be a shade away from the actual sound because the TALMUD prohibits the utterance of the Name, and the Jewish scholars revere Talmud.
By Jewish tradition, "YHWH" was prohibited from being spoken aloud under penalty of stoning to death.
I don't mean to be critical of those who believe "Yahweh" is the most correct sound!
It's just that there should be 3 syllables:
The "litmus test" is another Hebrew word, YAHUDAH -- the same letters in the same order, with an added "dalet."
The word YAHUDAH is the doorway to the actual sound of the name: YHWH.
-- just remove the "D", and you have the closest probable sound of the Name.
Look at the letters of YAHUDAH & YAHUAH:
The 3 syllables reflect the meaning of the Name; "I was, I am, and I will be."
Revelation 1:8 identifies the meaning as
YHWH is "omnitemporal", since YAH exists in all of time, or "at all times".
This unique Hebrew word, yod-hay-waw-hay, contains all 3 "tenses."
James Trimm (a writer whose works and reputation we have not verified) writes:
HOW IS THE NAME PRONOUNCED?
The general belief at large is that the Divine Name is pronounce "JEHOVAH."
Where did this pronunciation come from?
Is it accurate?
A popular theory that has been circulating as of late has it that the name YHWH is actually four vowels IAUE. This theory is based largely on a statement made by Josephus in describing the headpiece of the High Priest. Josephus writes:
"In which [headpiece] was engraved the sacred name. It consisted of four vowels."
At first this statement seems to support a four vowel theory.
However on closer examination it is clear that this is not what Josephus is saying. Josephus is not supplying information about the pronunciation of the name.
In fact in Antiquities 2:12:4 Josephus states that it would not be lawful for him to do so.
Josephus is instead referring to the four letters YHWH which appeared on the High Priest's headpiece.
But why would Josephus term these four consonants as "vowels"?
As discussed earlier the Hebrew letters YUD, HEY and VAV (which make up YHWH) have no equivalents in Greek.
They are generally transliterated in Greek with Greek letters that happen to be vowels.
The reason for this is that when the Greeks borrowed the Phonecian/Paleo-Hebrew alphabet they used leftover consonants that did not occur in their language and used them as symbols for vowels, as Robert Whiting writes:
When the Greeks adapted the Phoenician writing system to their own language they made a very significant change.
They created signs for vowels and used them each time a vowel occured.
The Greeks did not invent new signs for the vowels but simply converted some of the Phoenecian signs that they did not need for their own language into vowel symbols.
(The New Book of Knowledge Vol. 1 p. 193 "Alphabet" article by
Robert M. Whiting, the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago)
As a result Hebrew YUD became the Greek vowel IOTA;
Hebrew HEY became Greek vowel EPSILON and Hebrew VAV became Greek vowel UPSILON.
For this reason Josephus writes that the four letters which appeared on the High Priest's headpiece were four "vowels."
To the Greek speaking audience of the Greek edition of Wars of the Jews, the four letters on the High Priest's headpiece were in fact four vowels.
Some who have supported the idea that the name of YHWH is four vowels have also pointed to the use of the letters YUD, HEY and VAV in Hebrew as vowels.
However the use of these letters as vowels in Hebew is a later revision of the language.
Moreover each of them serves as a vowel only when paired with a consonant, as a result none of these letters is ever a vowel when it initiates a word or syllable.
Hebrew was originally a syllabary in which each letter symbolized a consonant vowel pair with the vowel being ambiguous.
As Robert Whiting writes:
The Semitic peoples of Syria and Palestine developed purely syllabic writing systems their signs expressed consonants plus any vowel.
It was not until the ninth century B.C.E. that the Hebrew letters YUD, HEY and VAV began to double as vowels (and then only when paired with consonants).
As Ellis Brotzman writes:
From about the ninth century on, certain consonants came to be used to indicate vowels.
These "helping" consonants are called matres lectionis, literally "mothers of reading."
(Old Testament Textual Criticism by Ellis R. Brotzman p. 40)
Thus prior to this time the letters YUD HEY VAV HEY (YHWH) stood for four Hebrew consonants
Even in later Hebrew an initial YUD can never represent a vowel.
The Hebrew Tenach was originally written like all ancient Hebrew, without vowels.
When the Masorites (tradionalists) added vowels to the Hebrew text in the middle ages they came across a serious problem.
The name had been "kept secret" and "hidden" for hundreds of years.
Since the text contained only consonants in its written form, the vowels were generally unknown.
In order to create vowels for the written name and continue to keep the name "secret" and "hidden" the vowels for Adonai were translanted into the word YHWH.
Later the vowels for Eloah (God) were used creating YEHOWAH.
These vowels for YHWH actually violate the rules of Hebrew grammar since they use the W as a consonant and a vowel at the same time.
Since in modern Hebrew the Hebrew letter WAW (later called VAV) is pronounced "V" in place of its ancient pronounciation "W", YEHOWAH became YEHOVAH.
This became transliterated in the original KJV English as IEHOVAH and later when the J was added to English IEHOVAH became JEHOVAH.
However the J and the V in "Jehovah" are incorrect, as are the vowels E-O-A which actually come from ELOAH.
In fact only the two letters H-H are correct.
The correct pronounciation of YHWH has however, been preserved.
The first evidence for the true pronounciation of YHWH is found in the Hebrew text itself in those Hebrew names of which the Divine Name forms a part.
Now when a Hebrew name in the Tenach begins with part of the divine name, the vowels are given as E-O. Some examples are:
Yehoshaphat (Jehoshaphat) YEHO- Shaphat
Yehoshua (Joshua) YEHO- Shua
In these names the incorrect vowels from YEHOWAH have been transplanted into their names.
However when we look instead at names which end with part of the Divine Name we find completely different vowels in the Masoretic text.
Some examples are:
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) Yesha- YAHU
Yiramiyahu (Jeremiah) Yiremi- YAHU
Eliyahu (Elijah) Eli- YAHU
Moreover the "tri-gramaton" (the first three letters of YHWH) appear by themselves in the Tenach and always with the vowels being YAHU.
Finally the Hebrew word Halleluyah (praise-Yah) has the first portion of the divine name with the vowels YAH.
Another source for the correct pronunciation of the name of YHWH is the Peshitta Aramaic text.
The Peshitta is an Aramaic text of the Bible used by Aramaic speaking Assyrians, Syrians and Chaldeans.
These Aramaic speaking peoples became Christianized in the first century C.E.
By the fourth century (long before the Masorites of the nineth century) these people created written vowels for the Aramaic text.
When they added vowels to names that begin with part of the divine name they got names like YAHOSHAPHAT reather than YEHOSHAPHAT.
Further evidence as to the original pronounciation of YHWH can be found in ancient transliterations of the name into Egyptian hieroglyphics, which had written vowels.
Although this author is not aware of any case in which the entire name of YHWH has been found transliterated into Egyptian hieroglyphics, there are cases where the abreviated name (the first portion of the name) has been found transliterated in hieroglyphics.
Budge's AN EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHIC DICTIONARY give two transliterations that occur in Egyptian glyphs.
The first is given on page 15 column A and is "IA" or "YA."
The other is on page 142 column A and transliterates in english as "IAA" or "YAA."
This supports the fact that the original pronunciation of the first syllable of the name was "YA."
Another source of evidence for the correct pronunciation of the name of YHWH can be found in ancient transliterations of the name of YHWH into cuneiform script, which unlike Hebrew script, had written vowels.
In 1898 A. H. Sayce published the discovery of three clay cuneiform tablets from the time of Hammurabi which contained the phrase "Jahweh (Jehovah) is God."
(Halley's Bible Handbook p. 62).
Now obviously the text read "Yahweh" and not "Jahweh" as was common to transliterate it in the 19th century.
(This author believes this cuneiform should be examined to see if it reads YAHUWEH rather than YAHWEH).
A further source for evidence in cuneiform is the Murashu texts.
The Murashu texts are Aramaic texts written in cuneiform script on clay tablets found at Nippur.
These texts date back to 464 to 404 B.C.E. and contain many Jewish names transcribed in cuneiform with the vowels.
Many of these names contain part of the divine name in the name.
In all these names the first portion of the name appears as YAHU and never as YEHO.
("Patterns in Jewish Personal Names in the Babylonian Diasporia" by M.D. Coogan; Journal for the Study of Judaism, Vol. IV, No. 2, p. 183f ).
Transliterations of YHWH also occur in ancient Greek texts.
Although late by comparison to the hieroglyphic and cuneiform evidence, these Greek transliterations also contain the name with vowels.
The following chart shows a list of Greek transliterations of YHWH (in English), their date and their source:
Clement of Alexandria
150 ï¿½ 212 C.E.
(NOTE: "OU" are pronounced together in
Greek as "oo" as in "zoo")
Now transliterating the name of YHWH into Greek is not easy.
This is because certain Hebrew letters/sounds do not occur in Greek.
Among these are the letters YUD (Y); HEY (H) and VAV (W) the very letters which make up the name in Hebrew.
When transliterating these letters into Greek substitutions are made.
Consistantly the Hebrew letter YUD (Y) is transliterated into Greek as IOTA (I).
Thus all of our Greek witnesses agree that YHWH begins with YA.
The next letter HEY (H) is impossible to write in Greek.
Some of the Greek sources have attempted to transliterate it with OMEGA (which I have transliterated with a "w" and which is pronounced "o" as in "no."
Origin has tried to use ETA for this letter (I have transliterated it with an "h").
ETA as a character descends from the Paleo-Hebrew HEY but is pronounced "ey" as in "they."
Clement and the Greek Papyri agree that the next vowel is "oo" as in "zoo."
Clement gives the final syllable as "E" and the Greek Papyri has "hE" which agrees with a Hebrew termination of "-eh"
Thus it is evident that the Greek transliterations are consistent with a Hebrew pronounciation of "YAHUWEH."
It is clear when examining the many sources that the pronunciation of YHWH can be recovered as YAHUWEH sometimes abbreviated as YAHWEH, YAHU or YAH.
This is attested to by the Yahwitic names of the Masoretic text, the Peshitta Aramaic and the Marashu texts.
The true pronunciation of YHWH is also preserved in ancient transliterations of the name written in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, cuneiform and Greek, all of which had written vowels.
The restoration of the use of the name of Yahuweh with its correct pronunciation is as prophetically significant as the restoration of the ancient sect of the Nazarenes.
Such a restoration of the name of Yahweh to his people is promised in scripture:
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