Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Proper Pronunciation of the Sacred Name

There are various "Sacred Namer" groups out there who believe that it's important and necessary to properly pronounce the tetragrammaton, which is the proper name of God in the Old Testament that's made up of four Hebrew consonants. I agree with the majority of professing Christians that it is NOT important or necessary to know this. The various Sacred Namers out there can't seem to agree on what the proper vowel points are or the proper pronunciation. That's because it's a fact that the proper vowel pointing and pronunciation has not be preserved in a way that all scholars can agree on it. In fact, most reputable scholars positively believe it's been completely lost to history and that the best we can do is make an educated guess. The fact that the historical evidence and arguments are not clear suggests to me that the reason might be because God didn't want it preserved in an indisputable way, and so He providentially guided history so that it wasn't. That way, no one could rationally conclude that it was necessary for salvation. Something which some (but not all) Sacred Namers irrationally believe. Even those who don't think one's salvation depends on it often have a superstitious attitude toward what they believe to be the correct pronunciation.

Admittedly, I haven't studied the issue very much since I don't think it's important. Here are just some of the various ways Sacred Namers have said the Divine name should be pronounced.

Yahweh, Yah, Yahveh, Yaveh, Yaweh, Jehova, Jehovah, Jahova, Jahovah, Yahova, Yahovah, Jahowa, Jahowah, Yahavah, Jahavah, Yahowe, Yahoweh, Jahaveh, Jahaweh, Jah, Yahaveh, Yahaweh, Jahuweh, Yahuweh, Iahueh, Jahuwah, Yahuwah, Yah, Jah, Yahu, Jahu, Yahvah, Jahvah, Jahve, Jahveh, Yahve, Yahwe
Here are two Wikipedia articles that deal with this subject. They are both intriguing and informative.

Approaching the name of God as Sacred Namers do is a form of Gnosticism. And like many forms of Gnosticism, it fosters an elitist mentality. If salvation were dependent on the exact pronunciation of God's name, then that consigns the overwhelming majority of Scripture loving people outside the realm of salvation since even the scholars are not in agreement on the issue. Many Sacred Namer groups also believe in the New Testament (to some degree or another). Yet, strangely their position requires them to believe that people during Jesus' time and before Jesus' time had access to the proper pronunciation of the Divine Name (and therefore of salvation) to a greater degree before the establishment of the New Covenant than after the New Covenant Age and since the coming of the Messiah. Assuming that the first believers in Jesus knew the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton (something which some may even dispute), many scholars believe it was clearly lost to history soon afterwards. Though, some believe it was lost even prior to Christ's time. It's also clear that the overwhelming majority of professing Christians during the New Covenant Age didn't believe that its correct pronunciation was crucial to salvation. So, Sacred Namers would have us believe that God sent His Son to earth to save sinners (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15), but failed to indisputably secure the proper pronunciation of His name for posterity's sake. Such a view of God's providence makes such a "God" unworthy to be worshipped.

Even though it doesn't really matter, from the little that I have studied about the subject, I suspect that the proper pronunciation is closer to "Jehovah" or "JehoVAH" or "YehoVAH" or "Yehovah" or "YehoWAH" because of the following works.

Nehemia Gordon a Karaite Jew has written on the subject and his arguments seem to make a lot of sense. Here's a link to two of his works.

The Pronunciation of the Name by Nehemia Gordon

The Ban on the Divine Name by Nehemia Gordon

Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence: The Hebrew Power of the Priestly Blessing Unleashed by Nehemia Gordon is his newest book available for purchase at It touches on the proper pronunciation of the tetragrammaton.

Here's a video of Gordon being interviewed about his book.
Part ONE,     Part TWO

Another Interview video HERE

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The Divine Name YEHOVAH and New Discoveries by Nehemia Gordon (1 of 2) (Kingdom Road Radio:
[[At about a minute and a half after 33 minutes and 34 seconds Nehemia states that he has 16 rabbis in writing saying it's "Yehovah"]

The Divine Name YEHOVAH and New Discoveries by Nehemia Gordon (2 of 2) (Kingdom Road Radio:

Nehemia addresses Vav vs. Wav Dispute here:Yahweh vs. YHVH: The Name of God - Q&A with Michael Rood & Nehemia Gordon
or here

Nehemia Gordon: How to Pronounce YHWH in Hebrew The Awakening Report

Prior to encountering Gordon's articles I came across Carl D. Franklin's works on the subject. From what I can tell, Franklin was (or is) a member of a splinter group of Armstrongism. Or from a "Church of God" sect that's very similar. As a current Evangelical and former Armstrongite, I now consider Armstrongism as heterodox at least, or cultic and heretical at most. Nevertheless, Franklin's three part book "Debunking the Myths of Sacred Namers" first opened my eyes to the possibility that the Divine Name is actually more closely pronounced "Jehovah." Many of the alleged facts Franklin presents are thought provoking. Other alleged facts are suspect. A few of his arguments in the 2nd and 3rd parts of his book seemed weak, but the overall argument of the three parts seemed to be compelling (assuming that his key facts are true regardless of other peripheral errors). However, there were a few things that disturbed me about Franklin's argumentation. He seemed to see a little too much conspiracy happening in the history of the name. Also, he sometimes makes near anti-semitic comments (depending on how you interpret his meaning).  Nevertheless, I recommend his book and other materials on the subject in light of Gordon's actual accredited scholarship.
I emailed Gordon and asked him about Carl D. Franklin's contention in part one of his book that some groups of Jews in the past pronounced Hebrew with a "J" sound. He told me it wasn't true. Not being a scholar, I don't know who is right. I also asked him about how some Karaite Jews pronounce it "Yehowah" rather than his understanding of "Yehovah". Gordon didn't address it.

Debunking the Myths of Sacred Namers by Carl D. Franklin
Part ONE,     Part TWO,     Part THREE     [ Parts 1 & much of 2 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED]

In Defense of Jehovah by Carl D. Franklin

I later contacted Carl D. Franklin and he emailed me four issues of his sect's Theological Research Report (issues 23, 24, 25, & 26 according to the publication). Most of the issues, like much of his main book Debunking the Myths of Sacred Namers, unfortunately has an overly conspiratorial spin on the history of the sacred name. Nevertheless, the last half of the 4th issue has some interesting alleged facts which, if true, conclusively demonstrates why the original pronunciation of the divine name follows the earlier (not modern) Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew which had the "J" sound, rather than the "Y" sound for the letter jod/yod as it is found among Ashkenazi Jews. The following links are to all four issues. I recommend reading the 2nd half of the fourth issue.

Issue 23
Issue 24
Issue 25
Issue 26         [2nd half of Issue 26 RECOMMENDED]

How to pronounce the Father's name by Peter and Linda Miller-Russo

Here's a link to a video by another Karaite Jew who argues that the correct Pronunciation is "Yehowah"

The Name of Elohim (God): Yehowah or Yehovah? by Melech ben Ya'aqov

Here's a link to Calvinist scholar Francis Nigel Lee's book:

JeHoVaH, YaHWeH, and the Lord Jesus by Dr. Nigel Lee

I haven't read the entire book yet, but from what I can tell, while he's not dogmatic on what the correct pronunciation is, he does seem to say that it could have been "Jehovah". That's unlike many conventional scholars who outright reject that possibility. Dr. F.N. Lee's expertise is in other fields, so I wouldn't be surprised if he made some mistakes in the book. But it's clear from a perusal of the book that he tried to be accurate and at least semi-exhaustive.

Here are other links to articles defending a pronunciation closer to "Jehovah" by people whose scholarship is questionable.

Jehovah by Scott Jones

Here's a YouTube video of a guy who has studied the issue and uses "Yehovah" even though he admits no one can be sure which is the proper pronunciation. He gives some examples of other pronunciations and then gives his reason for using "Yehovah"

Here are some links to some general articles that argue against Sacred Namers. I'll be adding more as I come across sufficiently acceptable articles.

The Sacred Name Movement by Let Us Reason Ministries Part 1 of 4
Part ONE,     Part TWO,     Part THREE,     Part FOUR

Directory of Sacred Name Groups by Let Us Reason Ministries


see also Gérard Gertoux's book The Name of God Y.eH.oW.aH Which is Pronounced as it is Written I Eh oU Ah: Its Story 

There's the complete version and Gertoux's 2015 simplified edition. Both are available on

One reviewer of Gertoux's book makes excellent good points which I agree with:

Linguists recognise that in the evolution of a language, the vowels change more noticably than the consonents. For example, The short vowels of British Recieved Pronunciation are manifested as dipthongs or even tripthongs in many accents of the Southern United States. In 1940s Britain, the present [æ] phoneme was pronounced more like [e], and this is a time difference of only 60 years!!!

Anglo-Saxon words of 900 years ago, are recognised by etymologists as antecendents of Modern English primarily by their consonents, because vowels, semi-vowels, and glides change even from generation to generation. The Anglo-Saxon language of 900 years ago is a "foreign language" in that it has changed beyond recognition due to linguistic factors such as ablaut, semi-vocalisation, palatisation.

The fact that the name YHWH is made up entirely of slippery semi-vowels, and possibly aspirants, renders it very difficult for linguists to extrapolate an original form.

palatal [j] --- semi-vowel [y] --- vowel[i]

labiodental[v] --- biablial[β] --- semi-vowel[w] --- vowel[u]

(This demonstrates semi-vocalisation, palatisation and the forming of approximants)

Ablaut is shown in the gradual vowel changes of the Proto-Indo-European *[pod] to the Latin *[ped] to the authors own language French: 'pied' [pye] ('d' not reflected in modern pronunciation)

To be objective though, the change from PIE *[pod] to the Anglo-Saxon [fo:t] to our present pronunciation of 'foot' [fut] is less striking with regard to consonent preservation, but we still notice a general trend of vowel "slipperyness".

Ablaut (or apophony) is also demonstrated by the the pluralisation of 'man' to 'men' or that of 'goose' to 'geese'. This is common in Amharic, ANOTHER SEMITIC LANGUAGE.

ASSUMING that the Hebrew language underwent linguistic changes similar to Amharic, in the 1070 years between the first and last books of the Old Testanment (compared to the 900 years between Beowulf and the present literature), it is quite possible that many pronunciations of The Name came in and went out of use, especially in view of the Jewish prohibition of pronouncing the name.

Due to the ablaut of the unwritten and "un-pin-downable" vowels in Hebrew, the name Y.eH.oW.aH (Jehovah/Yehowah), could easily have been Y.aH.oW.eH (Yahweh/Yahoweh) or even hypothetical Y.iH.uW.H (Jihuβh) or iY.H.uW.H (Ihuh).

I appreciate the depth of research and reasoning that Gertoux has undertaken but i still believe from a linguistic point of view that is impossible to determine the original pronunciation of The Name and therefore any dogmatic attempts to support ANY of the varients are futile, even with the support of personal names such as Yehoshuah/Yahushuah/Yeshua.

Revelation of the divine name by Steve Hays

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