traditions regarding tetragrammaton?

GregStffrd at GregStffrd at
Sat Aug 25 11:53:13 EDT 2001

In a message dated 08/24/2001 11:09:08 PM Pacific Daylight Time, 
furuli at writes:

 In "The Rule of the Community" (VI,27-VII,2) of the Qumran sect, 
 there seems to be a prohibition against using the tetragrammaton.The 
 text is broken, but a prohibition is the most likely interpretation. 
 In some of the DSS texts we find the tetragrammaton in Old Hebrew 
 characters, and I suppose this is what you call "Phoenician 
 characters". These characters are used, according to the majority 
 view, to indicate that the tetragrammaton should not be pronounced. >>

Dear Rolf:

Let me add that in addition to the mss. we have which predate the first 
century and which show a phonetic transliteration of the divine name (namely, 
4QLevLXXb where we find IAW), we have testimony from later periods regarding 
what appears to be a wider use of this form of the name in the Hebrew 
Scriptures. In Contra Celsus 6.32 Origen refers to those involved in the 
magical arts who took the name IAW "from the Hebrew scriptures," which is the 
"name used by the Hebrews" (APO DE TWN hEBRAIKWN GRAPHWN TON IAW [or in some 
mss. IAWIA] PAR hEBRAIOIS ONOMAZOMENON). It is unlikely then, that there was 
only ONE mss. of the "Hebrew scriptures" from which the name was taken. 

Additionally, Diodorus, who was a contemporary of Julius Caesar and Augustus, 
 speaks about how, among the Jews, Moses "referred his laws to the god who is 
invoked [EPIKALOUMENON] as Iao [IAW]" (See the LCL's Diodorus vol. 1, page 

These and other historical facts show that what we find in 4QLevLXXb is 
actually representative of a much more widespread use of this particular 
name, which undercuts the belief that a large segment of Judaism prohibitied 
the use of the name in and around the first century CE. 

Regarding the Dead Sea community, certain groups and communities certainly 
did in fact take a stand against any use of the divine name. As you 
mentioned, in 1QS (the so-called "Community Rule") 6.27-7.2, we read: "Anyone 
who speaks aloud the M[ost] Holy Name of God, [whether in  . . .] or in 
cursing or as a blurt in time of trial or for any other reason, or while he 
is reading a book or praying, is to be expelled, never again to return to the 
Society of the Yahad" (Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, The 
Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation [New York: HarperCollins, 1996], 135). 
But this reference seems to indicate that the divine name was pronounced by 
some, and that extreme measures were taken to safeguard it against misuse. 

However, while what is here stated applies to this particular group, there is 
not enough evidence to suggest that this was commonplace throughout 
Palestine. In fact, if 1QS had such a great influence on a large portion of 
the Jewish community, then it is significant that by the time of the writing 
of Sotah 7.6 use of the divine name had become **less restrictive,** 
permitting pronunciation of the divine name in the sanctuary: "In the 
sanctuary one says the Name as it is written but in the provinces, with a 
euphemism." This seems to imply the preservation of an accepted pronunciation 
of the divine name, and specifically indicates its use by the priests. Of 
course, this cannot be considered definitive in terms of establishing the use 
of the divine name in the first century. But it does show that even the 
compilers of the Mishnah acknowledged that the priests pronounced the divine 
name "as it is written." 

Compare Tosefta Yadaim, chap. 2, end, where a group known as the 
"Morning-Bathers" complain about the Pharisees who "speak the Name in the 
morning, before bathing," and of the Pharisees' complaint against the 
Morning-Bathers, "who speak the Name, with a body containing defilement." 

Best regards,

Greg Stafford

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