[b-hebrew] Vowel Subsitution
yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Jan 9 13:45:02 EST 2010
The basis of the reconstruction "Yahweh" is not the assumption that the name
should be vocalized as causative, but rather, that it fits with actual
into Greek. These transliterations are sound independent evidence, and while
you may not like them, they are evidence that anyone serious with the
In Tiberian vocalization, schewa prior to He with seghol would be pronounced as
a short [o] vowel. So rather than "Yehova" it would be "Yohova." Similar
transliterations can already be found in the Septuagint. For example, yhw)$ is
transliterated as Ioas.
This should already show that while Yahweh is a sound reconstruction based on
actual evidence from ancient times, the reconstruction "Jehovah" (Yehova) is
obviously wrong and based on modern European pronunciation.
The reading Adonai is very ancient and IMO found already in Amos 7:7-9. I think
a very reasonable reading (and perhaps the simplest reading) of the interchange
in those verses of )dny with Y' is that Adonai is the reading of Y'.
how late you date Amos would determine how early you date the practice of
pronouncing Y' as Adonai. Even the epigraphic Iron Age form xyhwh "As Y'
lives", could be taken as support since compound words are rather rare in
Hebrew. But if Y' was normally pronounced as Adonai, the compound form
indicates the wish of the author that the initial letter is to be pronounced Y.
In Masoretic times, aside from reading it as Elohim whenever it comes before
or after the word Adonai (as in Amos 7 above), there is also other evidence.
For example, poems (piyyutim) where Y' rhymes with with words that end
in -ai, and there is also a lot of evidence that the Masoretes themselves
wrote describing their pronunciation. Early Rabbinic texts also prohibit the
pronunciation of the name outside the Temple.
In light of all the above, it is clear that the Masoretes used the vocalization
in the Bible to denote Adonai (as in the issue where it follows/precedes
Elohim), it is very unlikely that they would have used the actual vocalization
in reading the Torah (since already in Mishnaic times, it was considered
something that could only be pronounced in the destroyed Temple), the
pronunciation "Jehovah" is clearly wrong and based on modern European
pronunciation, whereas Yahweh is based on sound evidence from
transliterations from ancient times.
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