The following *information is for reference and research. We do not subscribe to everything written or explained on this page. We do believe in the Tetragrammaton as being YHWH=Yahweh, and the Hebrew etymology of the Heavenly Father's Name.
[ *This information is taken from Enotes @ http://www.enotes.com/topic/Tetragrammaton ]
The term Tetragrammaton (from Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning "[a word] having four letters") refers to the proper name of the Elohim of Israel YHWH (Hebrew: יהוה) used in the Hebrew Bible.
Occurrences and uses
The Tetragrammaton occurs 6,828 times in the Hebrew text of both the Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. It does not appear in the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, or Esther. It first appears in the Hebrew text in Genesis 2:4. The letters, properly read from right to left (in Biblical Hebrew), are:
In English translations, it is often rendered in capital and small capital letters as "the Lord", following Jewish tradition which reads the word as "Adonai" ("Lord") out of respect for the name of God and the interpretation of the commandment not to take the name of God in vain. The word "haŠem", 'the Name' is also used in Jewish contexts; in Samaritan, "Šemå" is the normal substitution.
Etymology and meaning of YHWH
It has often been proposed that the name YHWH is etymologically a third person masculine imperfect verb form derived from the Biblical Hebrew triconsonantal root היה (h-y-y) "to be", which has הוה (h-w-y) as a variant form. This would connect it to the passage in verse Exodus 3:14, where God gives his name as אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh), translated most basically as "I am what I am" (or "I will be that which I now am"). יהוה with the vocalization "Yahweh" could theoretically be a hiph'il verb inflection of root h-w-y, with a meaning something like "he who causes to exist" or "who gives life". As a qal (basic stem) verb inflection, it could mean "he who is, who exists".
The authentic, historically correct pronunciation is not known, the possible full vocalic (pointed) spelling of the name has historically been a matter of some disagreement, and the consensus view at various points in history has not been consistent.
The Masoretes added vowel points (niqqud) and cantillation marks to the manuscripts to indicate vowel usage and for use in the 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.
Many Jews will not use "Adonai" except when praying, and substitute other terms, e.g., haŠem ("The Name") or the nonsense word Ado-Shem, to avoid misuse of the divine name. In written English, "G-d" is a substitute used by a minority.
Parts of the Talmud, particularly those dealing with Yom Kippur, seem to imply that the Tetragrammaton should be pronounced in several ways, with only one (not explained in the text, and apparently kept by oral tradition by the Kohen Gadol) being the personal name of God.
In late Kabbalistic works the Tetragrammaton is sometimes referred to as the Name of Havayah—הוי'ה, meaning "the Name of Being/Existence".
Translators often render YHWH as a word meaning "Lord", e.g., Greek Κυριος, Latin Dominus, and following that, English "the Lord", Polish Pan, Welsh Arglwydd, etc. However, all of the above are inaccurate translations of the Tetragrammaton.
Because the name was no longer pronounced and its own vowels were not written, its pronunciation was forgotten. When Christians, unaware of the Jewish tradition, started to read the Hebrew Bible, they read יְהֹוָה as written with YHWH's consonants with Adonai's vowels, and thus said or transcribed Iehovah. Today this transcription is generally recognized as mistaken; however many religious groups continue to use the form Jehovah because it is familiar.
Using the name in the Bible
Many Scriptures do favour the use of the Name. The biblical law does not prohibit the use of the Name, but it warns against "misuse", "blaspheming" or in ordinary terms, "taking lightly" the Name of YHWH. The Biblical texts suggest the people of the Bible—including the patriarchs—used the Name of YHWH. A wealth of scriptures support this notion.
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:
Those who argue for argument 1 above are the: George Wesley Buchanan in Biblical Archaeology Review; Smith’s 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible; Section # 2.1 The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon (1848) 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 has a very similar discussion, and also gives the form Yo (יוֹ) contracted from Yeho (יְהוֹ). The Encyclopædia Britannica 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". However, the suffix "-yah" can be explained from Yehovah by taking the first and last letters of the name and joining them, "Y----ah".
Chapter 1 of The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, under the heading: The Pronunciation Of Gods Name quotes from Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 7: Hebrew Scholars generally favor "Yahweh" as the most likely pronunciation. They point out that the abbreviated form of the name is Yah (Jah in the Latinized form), as at and in the expression Hallelu-Yah (meaning "Praise Yah, you people!").
Using consonants as semi-vowels (v/w)
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/. The letter is referred to as waw in the academic world. Because the ancient pronunciation differs from the modern pronunciation, it is common today to represent יהוה as YHWH rather than YHVH.
In unpointed Biblical Hebrew, most vowels are not written and the rest are written only ambiguously, as the vowel letters double 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 BC sheds no light on the original pronunciation. 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.
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; х (chi) was pronounced as 'k' + 'h' (as in modern Hindi "lakh") and could not be used to spell 'h' as in Modern Greek Χάρρι = "Harry", for example.
Yahweh or Jahweh
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 descendent languages into various stronger consonants, including at one point in French [dʒ], the 'j' sound of the word 'juice', and this was the sound the letter came to be used for in English. Thus the English pronunciation of the older form Jehovah has this 'j' sound, following the English pronunciation of its Latin spelling. In order to preserve the Latin (and approximate Hebrew) pronunciation of Jahweh, however, the English spelling was changed to Yahweh.
Kethib and Qere and Qere perpetuum
The original consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible was 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 very 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 [plural of majesty]"), or, if the previous or next word already was "Adonai", or "Adoni" ("My Lord"), as "Elohim" ("God"). This combination produces יְהֹוָה and יֱהֹוִה respectively, non-words that would spell "yehovah" and "yehovih" respectively.
The oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, such as the Aleppo Codex and the Codex Leningradensis mostly write יְהוָה (yehvah), with no pointing on the first H; this points to its Qere being 'Shema', which is Aramaic for "the Name".
The Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010
Vowel points were added to the Tetragrammaton by the Masoretes, in the first millennium.
Six Hebrew spellings of the Tetragrammaton are found in:
Gérard Gertoux wrote that in the Leningrad Codex of 1008-1010, the Masoretes used 7 different vowel pointings [i.e., 7 different Q're's] for YHWH. [Note that one of these different vowel pointings is not a true variant, but was the result of the addition of an inseparable preposition to YHWH] 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. Scanned example
Frequency of use in scripture
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.
The vocalizations of יְהֹוָה and אֲדֹנָי 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. One reason suggested[who?] is that the spelling יֲהֹוָה (with the hataf patakh) risks that a reader might start pronouncing "Yah", which is a form of the Name, thus completing the first half of the full Name. Alternatively, the vocalization can be attributed to Biblical Hebrew phonology, 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.
Dead Sea scrolls
The discovery of the Qumran scrolls has added support to some parts of this position[clarification needed]. These scrolls are unvocalized, showing that the position of those who claim that the vowel marks were already written by the original authors of the text is untenable. Many of these scrolls write (only) the tetragrammaton in paleo-Hebrew script, showing that the Name was treated specially. See this link.
Josephus's description of vowels
Josephus in Jewish Wars, chapter V, verse 235, wrote "τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα*ταῦτα δ' ἐστὶ φωνήεντα τέσσαρα" ("...[engraved with] the holy letters; and they are four vowels"), presumably because Hebrew yod and waw, even if consonantal, would have to be transcribed into the Greek of the time as vowels.
Various people draw various conclusions from this Greek material.
Early Greek and Latin forms
The writings of the Church Fathers contain several references to forms of the Tetragrammaton in Greek or Latin. It should be noted that the Greek form of the divine name, "Iao", is the equivalent of the Hebrew trigrammaton YHW.
The translation of Clement's Stromata in Volume II of the classic Ante-Nicene Fathers series renders this as:
Of Clement's Stromata there is only one surviving manuscript, the Codex L (Codex Laurentianus V 3), from the 11th century. Other sources are later copies of that ms. and a few dozen quotations from this work by other authors. For Stromata V,6:34, Codex L has ἰαοὺ. The critical edition by Otto Stählin (1905) gives the forms
and has Ἰαουε in the running text. The Additions and Corrections page gives a reference to an author who rejects the change of ἰαοὺ into Ἰαουε.
Other editors give similar data. A catena (Latin: chain) referred to by A. le Boulluec ("Coisl. 113 fol. 368v") and by Smith’s 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible" ("a catena to the Pentateuch in a MS. at Turin") is reported to have "ια ουε".
In ancient Judaism
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. In the P. Ryl. 458 (perhaps the oldest extant Septuagint manuscript) there are blank spaces, leading some scholars to believe that the Tetragrammaton must have been written where these breaks or blank spaces are.
Josephus, who as a priest knew the pronunciation of the name, declares that religion forbids him to divulge it.
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."
Various motives may have concurred to bring about the suppression of the name:
In the liturgy of the Temple the name was pronounced in the priestly benediction (Num. vi. 27) after the regular daily sacrifice (in the synagogues a substitute—probably Adonai—was employed); on the Day of Atonement the High Priest uttered the name ten times in his prayers and benediction.
In later Judaism
After the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) the liturgical use of the name ceased, but the tradition was perpetuated in the schools of the rabbis. It was certainly known in Babylonia in the latter part of the 4th century. Nor was the knowledge confined to these pious circles; the name continued to be employed by healers, exorcists and magicians, and has been preserved in many places in magical papyri.
The vehemence with which the utterance of the name is denounced in the Mishna—He who pronounces the Name with its own letters has no part in the world to come!—suggests that this misuse of the name was not uncommon among Jews. Modern observant Jews no longer voice the name יהוה aloud. It is believed to be too sacred to be uttered and is often referred to as the 'Ineffable', 'Unutterable' or 'Distinctive Name'.
In Modern Judaism
The new Jewish Publication Society Tanakh 1985 follows the traditional convention of translating the Divine Name as "the LORD" (in all caps). The Artscroll Tanakh translates the Divine Name as "HaShem" (literally, "The Name").
When the Divine Name is read during prayer, "Adonai" ("My Lord") is substituted. However, when practicing a prayer or referring to one, Orthodox Jews will say either "HaShem" or "AdoShem" instead of "Adonai". When speaking to another person "HaShem" is used.
Later, Christian Europeans who did not know about the Q're perpetuum custom took these spellings at face value, producing the form "Jehovah" and spelling variants of it. The Catholic Encyclopedia [1913, Vol. VIII, p. 329] states: "Jehovah (Yahweh), the proper name of God in the Old Testament." Had they known about the Q're perpetuum, the term "Jehovah" may have never come in to being.
Delitzsch prefers "יַהֲוָה" (yahavah) since he considered the shewa quiescens below ה ungrammatical. In his 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible", William Smith prefers the form "יַהֲוֶה" (yahaveh). Many other variations have been proposed.
יַהְוֶה = 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 were not the actual vowel points of the Tetragrammaton. 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 actual pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton than the Biblical Hebrew punctuation "יְהֹוָה", from which the English name Jehovah has been derived.
Wilhelm Gesenius is one of the greatest Hebrew and biblical scholars . His proposal to read YHWH as "יַהְוֶה" (see image to the right) was based in large part on various Greek transcriptions, such as ιαβε, dating from the first centuries AD, but also on the forms of theophoric names. In his Hebrew Dictionary Gesenius supports the pronunciation "Yahweh" because of the Samaritan pronunciation Ιαβε reported by Theodoret, and that the theophoric name prefixes YHW [Yeho] and YH [Yo] can be explained from the form "Yahweh". Today many scholars accept Gesenius's proposal to read YHWH as יַהְוֶה. (Here 'accept' does not necessarily mean that they actually believe that it describes the truth, but rather that among the many vocalizations that have been proposed, none is clearly superior) Gesenius' proposal gradually became accepted as the best scholarly reconstructed vocalized Hebrew spelling of the Tetragrammaton.
Among the Samaritans
The Samaritans, who otherwise shared the scruples of the Jews about the utterance of the name, seem to have used it in judicial oaths to the scandal of the rabbis. (Their priests have preserved a liturgical pronunciation "Yahwe" or "Yahwa" to the present day.) However, the Aramaic "Shema" (שמא) remains the everyday (including liturgical) usage of the name, akin to השם (Hebrew "HaShem"). 
In the Catholic Church, the first edition of the official Vatican Nova Vulgata Bibliorum Sacrorum, published in 1979, used the form Iahveh for rendering the Tetragrammaton. Later editions of this version replaced "Iahveh" with "Dominus", in keeping with a long-standing Catholic tradition of avoiding direct usage of the Ineffable Name.
On August 8, 2008, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, chairman of the American bishops' "Committee on Divine Worship", announced a new directive from the Vatican regarding the use of the name of God in the sacred liturgy. "Specifically, the word 'Yahweh' may no longer be 'used or pronounced' in songs and prayers during liturgical celebrations." In fact, for most of the Church's 2,000-year history use of the name was prohibited in public worship, out of respect for God. After Second Vatican Council (1962–65), some songs and hymns had begun to use the Tetragrammaton, which caused the Vatican to issue a clarification that the Divine Name was not to be used.
In its earlier form this opinion rested chiefly on certain misinterpreted testimonies in Greek authors about a god Ἰαω and was conclusively refuted by Baudissin; recent adherents of the theory build more largely on the occurrence in various parts of this territory of proper names of persons and places which they explain as compounds of Yahu or Yah.
The explanation is in most cases simply an assumption of the point at issue; some of the names have been misread; others are undoubtedly the names of Jews.
There remain, however, some cases in which it is highly probable that names of non-Israelites are really compounded with Yahweh. The most conspicuous of these is the king of Hamath who in the inscriptions of Sargon (722-705 BC) is called Yaubi'di and Ilubi'di (compare Jehoiakim-Eliakim). Azriyau, also, in inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III (745-728 BC), who was formerly supposed to be Uzziah of Judah and/or king of Sam'al, was king of an unknown city-state in northern Syria, probably Hatarikka-Luhuti. Also, in Byblos have been found inscriptions telling about the kings named Yehimilk "YH the king" (XI-X BC) and Yehawmilk "YHW the king" (V BC).
The spellings of the Tetragrammaton occur among the many combinations and permutations of names of powerful agents that occur in Egyptian magical writings. One of these forms is the heptagram ιαωουηε.
In the magical texts, Iave (Jahveh Sebaoth), and Iαβα, occurs frequently. In an Ethiopic list of magical names of Jesus, purporting to have been taught by him to his disciples, Yawe is found.
Friedrich Delitzsch brought into notice three tablets, of the age of the first dynasty of Babylon, in which he read the names of Ya- a'-ve-ilu, Ya-ve-ilu, and Ya-u-um-ilu ("Yahweh is God"), and which he regarded as conclusive proof that Yahweh was known in Babylonia before 2000 BC; he was a god of the Semitic invaders in the second wave of migration, who were, according to Winckler and Delitzsch, of North Semitic stock (Canaanites, in the linguistic sense).
We should thus have in the tablets evidence of the worship of Yahweh among the Western Semites at a time long before the rise of Israel. The reading of the names is, however, extremely uncertain, not to say improbable, and the far-reaching inferences drawn from them carry no conviction.
In a tablet attributed to the 14th century BC which Sellin found in the course of his excavations at Tell Ta'annuk (the city Taanach of the O.T.) a name occurs which may be read Ahi-Yawi (equivalent to Hebrew Ahijah); if the reading be correct, this would show that Yahweh was worshipped in Central Palestine before the Israelite conquest. describes a meeting between Melchizedek the king/priest of Salem and Abraham. Both these pre-conquest figures are described as worshipping the same Most High God later identified as Yahweh.
The reading is, however, only one of several possibilities. The fact that the full form Yahweh appears, whereas in Hebrew proper names only the shorter Yahu and Yah occur, weighs somewhat against the interpretation, as it does against Delitzsch's reading of his tablets.
It would not be at all surprising if, in the great movements of populations and shifting of ascendancy which lie beyond our historical horizon, the worship of Yahweh should have been established in regions remote from those which it occupied in historical times; but nothing which we now know warrants the opinion that his worship was ever general among the Western Semites.
Many attempts have been made to trace the Northwest Semitic Yahu back to Babylonia. Thus Delitzsch formerly derived the name from an Akkadian god, I or Ia; or from the Semitic nominative ending, Yau; but this deity has since disappeared from the pantheon of Assyriologists. Bottero speculates that the West Semitic Yah/Ia, in fact is a version of the Babylonian God Ea (Enki), a view given support by the earliest finding of this name at Ebla during the reign of Ebrum, at which time the city was under Mesopotamian hegemony of Sargon of Akkad.
Bible translations into English
Loss of the Tetragrammaton in the Septuagint
Septuagint study does give some credence to the possibility that the Divine Name appeared in its original texts. Dr 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." 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: a) the absence of "Adonai" from the text suggests that the insertion of the term "Kyrios" was a later practice, b) in the Septuagint "Kyrios", or in English "Lord", is used to substitute the Name YHWH, and c) the Tetragrammaton appeared in the original text, but Christian copyists removed it. There is therefore a strong possibility that the Sacred Name was once integrated within the Greek text, but eventually disappeared.
Meyer suggests as one possibility that "as modern Hebrew letters were introduced, the next step was to follow modern Jews and insert 'Kyrios', Lord. This would prove this innovation was of a late date."
Bible scholars and translators as Eusebius and Jerome (translator of the Latin Vulgate) used the Hexapla. Both attest to the importance of the sacred Name and that the most reliable manuscripts contained the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters.
Later translations into European languages which descended from the Septuagint tended to follow the Greek and use each language's word for "lord": Latin "Dominus", German "der Herr", Polish "Pan", English "the Lord", French "le Seigneur", etc.
Examining the vowel points of יְהֹוָה and אֲדֹנָי
Jehovah is favored by Protestant denominations as the English spelling of the personal name of God.
Most scholars believe "Jehovah" to be a late (ca. 1100 CE) hybrid form derived by combining the Latin letters JHVH with the vowels of Adonai, but there is some evidence that it may already have been in use in Late Antiquity (5th century).
In the table below, Yehowah and Adonai are dissected
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.
In the New Testament
Since the Tetragrammaton does not appear in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, virtually all translations refrain from inserting it into the English. The vast majority of New Testament translations therefore render the Greek kyrios as "lord" and theos as "God". Nevertheless, the Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition inserts the name Yahweh in the New Testament, while the New World Translation inserts the name Jehovah in the New Testament.
Translations of the New Testament into Hebrew
In the Kabbalah and Chassidut
A parallel is often drawn between the four letters of the tetragrammaton and the Four Worlds, whereas the י is associated with Atziluth, the first ה with Beri'ah, the ו with Yetzirah, and final ה with Assiah.
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