YHWH vs. Yahweh
GregStffrd at aol.com
GregStffrd at aol.com
Wed Apr 28 10:22:15 EDT 1999
In a message dated 4/27/99 9:02:02 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
gs02wmr at panther.Gsu.EDU writes:
I was always taught that there existed no such name as "Yahweh" since that
is obviously an anglicized version of the ancient Hebrew
Tetragrammaton(YHWH) and an incorrect transliteration. >>
Modern scholarship is starting to recognize the shallow support (almost
non-existent, in fact) for the pronunciation "Yahweh."
The original form of the divine name was almost certainly three syllables,
not two. George W. Buchanan, "Some Unfinished Business With the Dead Sea
Scrolls," RevQ 13.49-52 (1988), 416, points out that there was only one group
in antiquity to pronounce the divine name similar to the popular form,
"Yahweh." And this only because Theodoret (fifth-century CE Antiochene
theologian) claimed that the Samaritans pronounced the divine name as Iabe.
I would add Epiphanius (c. 315-403 CE) to the list of those who used Iabe.
See A. Lukyn Williams, "The Tetragrammaton-Jahweh, Name or Surrogate?" ZAW 54
But, "all other examples [from antiquity] maintain the middle vowel" (Ibid.,
416) Buchanan also points out that "the name 'Yahweh' does not even sound
Semitic," and he produces examples from Exodus 15 with "Yahweh" and "Yahowah"
in the same sentences. Those with "Yahowah" sound "smooth and poetic," while
those with "Yahweh" "sound rough and unrythmical." Buchanan concludes: "The
accumulated data points heavily in the direction of a three syllable word,
whose middle syllable was hô or hû. The first two syllables were Yahû or Yahô
that were sometimes abbreviated to Yô. For poetry, liturgy, and some other
reasons, the name Yâh was also used. Only from Theodoret's Greek spelling of
the Samaritan use of the term is there any basis for the pronunciation
'Yahweh' or 'Jahveh.' This is hardly enough to overpower all of the other
exhibits" (Ibid., 419).
Buchanan has elsewhere, and more recently, taken issue with the pronunciation
"Yahweh." In "How God's Name Was Pronounced," BAR 21.2 (March-April 1995),
31-32, he writes:
"Anyone who cares to check the concordances will find that there is no name
in the entire Scriptures that includes the Tetragrammaton and also omits the
vowel that is left out in the two-syllable pronunciation [=Yahweh] Rainey
upholds. . . When the Tetragrammaton was pronounced in one syllable it was
'Yah' or 'Yo.' When it was pronounced in three syllables it would have been
'Yahowah' or 'Yahoowah.' If it was ever abbreviated to two syllables it would
have been 'Yaho,' but even this spelling may have been pronounced with three
syllables, including the final aspirant, because Hebrew had no vowel points
in Biblical times."
Laird Harris, "The Pronunciation of the Tetragram," in The Law and the
Prophets: Old Testament Studies Prepared in Honor of Oswald Thompson Allis,
ed. John H. Skilton (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed
Publishing, 1974), 220, believes that the form "Yahweh" is an "incorrect
hybrid form with an early w and a late -eh." Harris himself believes (page
224) that "the syllable division ya ho wi hu is the most likely," and that if
the divine name were a noun form [Harris does not believe the divine name is
necessarily etymologically related to haw(y)ah-ibid., 218-222] it "would have
ended up as Jahoweh, a form accidentally similar but remarkably like the
hybrid form Jehovah!"
While I do not necessarily accept Laird's interpretation, it shows that
because modern scholarship is now admitting that "Yahweh" is not the correct
way to pronounce God's name, particularly for reasons similar to those given
by Buchanan, they are looking other directions to solve the problem, and
these directions are all on the path of three syllables, not two.
Hope this helps!
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