Go to Introduction


Search this website || Hebrew Word Studies Index

This bible study uses a Greek Unicode font and the Hebrew Unicode font "David" which comes with later versions of Windows, and is printer friendly.

Introduction 2

God's divine name יהוה (Hebrew) or YHVH (Modern English equivalent), has been the subject of much discussion and debate throughout the centuries. Most Hebrew scholars prefer Yahweh (ancient pronunciation) or Yahveh (modern pronunciation), but it is never translated this way in most bibles. In the King James Version the most common translation is LORD (6510x), but in other places, especially where it appears with the actual title "Lord" (Htr. adonai), it is translated GOD (305x). In four other places it is translated "Jehovah" (Exodus 6:3 KJV; Psalm 83:18 KJV; Isaiah 12:2 KJV; Isaiah 26:4 KJV), and in a further three places it is translated "Jehovah" in compound names (Genesis 22:14 KJV; Exodus 17:15 KJV; Judges 6:24 KJV). Everywhere in the Jehovah's Witnesses bible it is translated Jehovah. So what is God's name? It is important that we find out, because God is seeking for people to worship him "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23), and we cannot do that if we call him by the wrong name. To call him by the wrong name is an insult, so we need to investigate this. This study is a thorough analysis which proves that God's name, YHVH or YHWH in the Hebrew, is not Jehovah. Let us first examine the history of how these different translations came about.


a. The original Hebrew alphabet consisted of 22 letters, and all of them were consonants. Vowels were not represented in writing except that the major vowel sounds were indicated by the three letters yōd (י), vāv (ו), and hē’(ה). These were used to represent long vowels as well as normal letters, and are known as Vowel Letters. Even today, the Hebrew Scrolls of Law, which are read in the synagogues, are without any vowel signs as we know them today. The ancient Hebrew text was reverenced and regarded as sacred, so when errors due to copying were found in the text, the scribes would not alter the original consonantal text, even when the error was an obvious one. Instead they would mark the corrupt word (called "Ketib", meaning, "it is written") with an asterisk or small circle (RKH p44), which would call the readers attention to a correction [called "Qere", meaning, "to be read" (JW p22)]. This would be written in a margin or footnote. When the reader then came to the place of correction, he would see the mark, and read the "Qere" (the corrected word) instead of the "Ketib" (the written word).

b. God's divine name (Hb. יהוה, Eng. YHWH), which is known as the "Tetragrammaton", meaning "four letters", was an example of this. However it may have been pronounced, there came a time when readers of the Hebrew scrolls, for some reason, refused to pronounce it. Then the above method began to be used to substitute another word אֲדֹנָי (Htr. ’adōnây, Eng. adonai) which means "my Lord", for the real name "YHWH". Thus when the text was read, "YHWH" (the Ketib) would be written, but "adonai" (the Qere) would be read. During the time when the Qumran (Dead sea) scrolls were written, it had become practice to write the "Qere" above the "Ketib" in the text, without reference to footnotes or margins for God's name. It was called a "Qere Perpetuum" or a "permanent Qere".

(A PRACTICAL GRAMMAR FOR CLASSICAL HEBREW by J. Weingreen p23) "Since, however, the Divine name occurs so often in the bible, the printed editions do not put the reading required (Qere) in the margin or footnote; the reader is expected to substitute the Qere for Kethibh, without having his attention drawn to it every time it occurs."

In the Qumran Greek documents we find this:

(THE COMPLETE DEAD SEA SCROLLS IN ENGLISH by Geza Vermez p472) "However, it is worth noting that in Leviticus 4:17 (...) the Tetragram (the divine name YHVH) is rendered semi-phonetically as Iao, and is not replaced, as was customary later, by the Greek Kurios (Lord)."

c. However, because the Hebrew was only written with consonants, the reader being expected to put the vowel sounds in from memory, Hebrew was very difficult for the unlearned to read. So at some time, around or after the seventh century AD, a group of Hebrew scholars, called the Masorettes, introduced a system of "vowel points" to the Hebrew text. This enabled the text to be read and pronounced from the writing, by people with little knowledge of Hebrew. It then became practice when writing God's name to write the consonants of יהוה (YHVH or YHWH) with the vowel points of אֲדֹנָי (adonai) together, which some Hebrew grammar books say is an impossible form:

(A PRACTICAL GRAMMAR FOR CLASSICAL HEBREW by J. Weingreen p23) "The consonants of the (Kethibh) יהוה were given the vowels of the (Qere) אֲדֹנָי nameley  ָ  ֹ   ְ, producing the impossible form יְהוִֹה (Yehōwâ)."

(TEACH YOURSELF BIBLICAL HEBREW R.K. Harrison p45) "It was regarded as too sacred to pronounce in its original form (which may have sounded something like Yahweh), so another sound was supplied by the word אֲדֹנָי ('adhonāy), and the consonants יהוה were given the pointing of אֲדֹנָי, making the impossible form יְהוִֹה (the hateph under א becoming a simple sewa under י)."

(THEOLOGICAL WORDBOOK of the OLD TESTAMENT p211) "Next, when medieval Jewish scholars began to insert vowels to accompany the consonantal OT text, they added to YHWH the Masoretic vowel points for 'adōnāy; and the actual writing became an impossible YāHōWāH, the ASV 'Jehovah'."

The combining of these vowels and consonants was not without problems, because the vowels of "adonai" do not naturally fit the consonants "YHWH (or YHVH)". The first vowel sound of "adonai" is a "compound sheva" ( ֲ ); a slight "a" sound, under the guttural letter aleph (א). It can only appear under the four guttural letters (אהחצ), so it cannot be put under Yod (י), which is the first letter of the Tetragrammaton. It was therefore changed to its nearest equivalent, which is a "simple sheva" ( ְ ), but this has a slight "e" sound. (This twisting of the word is where the second letter of the name Jehovah comes from.) The divine name now would still be recognized by the reader, and he would still pronounce "adonai" instead of "YHVH (or YHWH)". At some later date it was then decided to combine the consonants of "YHWH (or YHVH)" and the vowel points under it to make a new word, which sounded something like "Yehowah", or "Yehovah"?
[This combining of vowel points and consonants of different words should never have been done, and it was not always done consistently. In about 305 places where we find "adonai" and "YHWH (or YHVH)" occurring together (Jeremiah 4:10; 7:20; Ezekiel 2:4; 3:11 etc.), the Tetragrammaton takes the vowel points of "Elohim" instead of "adonai", and it is pronounced as "elohim". A transliteration of it sounds like "Yehôwīh" or "Yehôvîh" and it is almost invariably translated as "GOD" in most English bibles, but it doesn't make God's name "Yehôvîh", does it?]
By then changing the Y to a J through a variation in the German alphabet (THE INTERLINEAR HEBREW - ARAMAIC OLD TESTAMENT J.P. GREEN pxii; TEACH YOURSELF BIBLICAL HEBREW R.K. Harrison p32) [some also say the Latin (AID TO BIBLE UNDERSTANDING 1971 Watchtower and Bible Tract Society p885)], we end up with a word that sounds like "Jehovah". Before the system of vowel points came in around or after the seventh century AD (A PRACTICAL GRAMMAR FOR CLASSICAL HEBREW by J. Weingreen. p6, footnote c; TEACH YOURSELF BIBLICAL HEBREW R.K. Harrison p21) the word Jehovah could not have been used for God. In the scriptures, "YHWH (or YHVH)" would be written, and "adonai" would be read, so the name Jehovah would never have been used.
According to Jehovah's Witness's own literature:

(AID TO BIBLE UNDERSTANDING 1971 Watchtower and Bible Tract Society p884-885) "The first recorded use of this form dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270 A.D."

The Jehovah's witnesses even go so far as to admit that his name cannot be known with certainty:

(AID TO BIBLE UNDERSTANDING 1971 Watchtower and Bible Tract Society p885) "Since certainty of pronunciation is not now attainable, there seems to be no reason for abandoning in English the well-known form "Jehovah" in favour of some other suggested pronunciation."

One good reason to abandon it is that Jehovah is not God's name, and to make up a name for God, which is what has been done, is an insult. It may even be a breach of the third commandment, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain:" (Exodus 20:7). Besides this, the New Testament teaching is to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:1-2; John 16:23-27; Colossians 1:3), and to worship him (John 4:23). The only way that anyone can think God's name is Jehovah, is if you accept that this twisting of scripture, by placing vowel points of one word under another in order to make a new word, is correct. Otherwise you must reject it completely.

d. There are other ways in which we can show that the real name of God is not Jehovah. The first is that it has a shortened form יָהּ, "YH" (Exodus 15:2; Psalm 118:14; Isaiah 12:2) which has a long "a" sound under the Yod (י). It is pronounced as "Yah". This is one reason why Hebrew scholars favour the pronunciation of "Yahweh".
The second reason is that this shortened form appears in many names where it is pronounced "Yah". Sometimes this shortened version includes the third letter of the tetragrammaton (Hb. יָּהוּ Htr.Yāhū), where the vāv (ו) of the Tetragrammaton now takes a "u" sound rather than an "o" sound as in "Jehovah". Look at some examples:

 Htr. ’ēlîyyāh or ’ēlîyyāhū
1 Kings 17:1; 17:15; 18:2
"my God Yah".
 Htr. Chizqîyāh or Chizqîyyāhū
Isaiah 1:1; 38:1
"strength of Yah".
 Htr. Sha’yāhū
2 Kings 19:20; Isaiah 1:1
"salvation of Yah".
 Htr. Nechemyāh
Nehemiah 1:1; 3:16
"comfort of Yah".
 Htr. ‛Ōbadyāhū
1 Kings 18:3; Obadiah 1:1
"servant of Yah".
 Htr. Zecharyāh
Zechariah 1:1; 1:7
"remembered of Yah".
 Htr. Tsephanyāh
Jeremiah 29:9; Zephaniah 1:1
"hidden of Yah".

A third reason is that the word "Haleyāh", which means "praise you Yah", appears in the Hebrew scriptures (Psalm 104:35; 105:45; 135:3 etc.). This again shows that the first vowel sound of God's name is "ā" rather than "e".
A fourth reason is, that the same thing occurs in the the New Testament, where the Greek equivalent, "Hallēluia", appears four times (Revelation 19:1-6). The last two letters, "yōta" (ι) and "alpha" (α), are equivalent to the sound "Yā". The "h" sound is missing because it cannot appear anywhere except at the beginning of a word in Greek. This again shows that the first vowel sound of God's name is "ā" rather than "e".
A fifth reason is that in the Qumran Greek scrolls, in Leviticus 4:17, the divine name is written as Iao (GV p472), which was probably the Greek Ἰαω (Gtr. Yāō or Yao). This is confirmed by other scholars:

(THEOLOGICAL WORDBOOK of the OLD TESTAMENT p211) "The pronunciation yāh" would be favored by the later Greek form iaō found in Qumran Greek fragments (2d or 1st centuries B.C.) and in Gnostic materials of the first Christian centuries."

Again, when we understand that the "h" sound cannot appear anywhere in Greek, except at the beginning of a word, it seems that the original Hebrew may have been יָהוֹה (Htr. Yāhôh or Yāhô or Yaho). This again shows that the first vowel sound of God's name is "ā" rather than "e".
A sixth reason is that some early scholars agreed to it:

(THEOLOGICAL WORDBOOK of the OLD TESTAMENT p211) "Theodoret in the fourth century A.D states that Samaritans pronounced it iabe. clement of Alexandria (early 3d century A.D.) vocalized it as iaoue."

There is no letter "w" in New Testament Greek, but the "ou" in this last case sounds something like it, so the English equivalent may have been "Yawe". Greek having no way to put an "h" at the end of a word, this favours the name "Yahweh", and so both of these early scholars agree that God's name begins with what is equivalent to Ya in English.

e. There is an exception to all of this, which we need to look at. There are some Hebrew names which have the first three letters of the Tetragrammaton (יהו) at the beginning of the name. Look at some examples:

Htr. Yehô’āsh
2 Kings 12:1, 12:2, 12:4 etc.
"YHWH/YHVH gave".
Htr. Yehôhānān
1 Chronicles 26:3;  2 Chronicles 17:15
"YHWH/YHVH graciously gave".
Htr. Yehôyākhîn
2 Kings 24:6, 24:8, 24:12 etc.
"YHWH/YHVH will establish".
Htr. Yehôyādā‛
2 Kings 11:4, 11:9, 11:15 etc
"YHWH/YHVH knows".
Htr. Yehôyākîm
2 Kings 23:35-36; 24:1 etc.
"YHWH/YHVH will set up".
Htr. Yehôrām
1 Kings 22:51;  2 Kings 1:17; 8:29 etc.
"YHWH/YHVH exalts".
Htr. Yehôshāphāt
1 Kings 15:24; 22:2, 22:50 etc.
"YHWH/YHVH judges".

Do these names prove the possibility of the first three letters of the tetragrammaton being pronounced as "Yehô? The answer is no for this reason. In every one of these cases, the third letter "vāv" (ו) is followed by one or more complete syllables, which are necessary to complete the word. In the case of YHVH, the third letter "vāv." (ו) is only followed by one single letter "hē." (ה). As a syllable in Hebrew must start with a consonant, and cannot begin with a vowel (JW p5), those who want the name to pronounce as Jehovah must force "vāv" to act like a "v", and this is not done in any of the above examples; the letter "vāv" is used simply as a vowel. Therefore, these examples are certainly not proof that Jehovah is the correct pronunciation of God's divine name YHWH (or YHVH).

#2.2 Conclusion: God's Name is not Jehovah

In conclusion, this study has not proved what the correct pronunciation of God's name was in the Old Testament. LORD was a substitute, Jehovah is definitely wrong, and the alternatives left are Yahweh, Yahveh, Yāhūh, Yāhôh, or perhaps even something else. We have not proved any of these with any certainty yet, but we can go on to prove that God's name as the tetragammaton YHWH (or YHVH) is Yahweh. In the New Testament we are not told to use God's Old Testament covenant name when we pray or worship. Actually we have a quote of Jesus reading from Isaiah where he read, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor," (Luke 4:18). This is a quotation of, "The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor." (Isaiah 61:1 KJV). Here the Hebrew for "Lord GOD" is "adonai YHWH" and the Hebrew word for "LORD" is "YHWH". The Greek equivalent used for "Lord GOD" in Luke is "kuriou", which means "Lord". Now why didn't Jesus read both words? Either he left out YHWH altogether, or he left out "adonai" and God inspired the substitution of "kurios" for YHWH. He also refused to quote God's name YHWH a second time, and used the word "he" instead. Jesus refused to say God's name in Matthew 4:7 where he is quoting Deuteronomy 6:16 and YHWH was used. Also in Matthew 4:10 he refused to use God's name again where he is quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20, where again YHWH is used. Again in Matthew 23:39 he had opportunity to use God's name when quoting Psalm 118:26 but God inspired the use of "kurios" instead. Why did Jesus continually refuse to use God's name when he had the opportunity if it was so important to use the name? These New Testament quotations are inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), so whichever way you look at it he had the opportunity to pronounce the name and he didn't do it. If saying God's actual name was not important to Jesus, then why should it be so important to us? Jesus told us to pray to "the Father" (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2; John 16:23), and worship "the Father" (John 4:23). Jesus always called God his Father, and with his spirit in every born again Christian, we ought to do the same (Galatians 4:6).

If you have benefited from reading this study, then please tell your friends about this website.
If you have a website of your own, consider linking to Logos Apostolic website.
To link to this page use: http://www.logosapostolic.org/
Send this link to all your Christian friends who believe that God's name is Jehovah.

Arrow pointing left  Hebrew Names of God Elohim || Read people's comments || Top || Bible Studies Index || God's Name is Yahweh  Arrow pointing right