God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"

Ken Smith kens at 180solutions.com
Wed Jan 23 19:23:43 EST 2002


I'm sure other folks on this list know far more than I do, but I'll jump in anyway with what I do know.  Shoshanna, I think it's pretty clear from the evidence that, well, pretty much everybody knew how to pronounce the name, up until the time of the Maccabees or later.  The tradition that only the High Priest could pronounce the name certainly isn't found in the Hebrew Bible itself.  Far to the contrary, given that many Israelites had theophoric names, and that YHWH (or variations thereon) are found in purely secular correspondence like the Lachish letters, it seems beyond dispute that the restrictions on pronouncing or writing haShem are from a much later time than the Biblical materials themselves.

In other words, if average, every day people pronounced the Name back in, say, King David's time (as the Scriptures very clearly indicate they did), it shouldn't (in theory) be beyond the scope of investigation to understand how they pronounced it.  Now, I suppose some might find it irreverent; and everyone agrees that it is difficult and uncertain; but I guess I don't understand why you think that it is beyond the possibility of investigation.  (Nor do I understand why being Jewish would have anything to do with the possibility of the investigation succeeding or not.)

Ken Smith

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Shoshanna Walker [mailto:rosewalk at concentric.net] 
> Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 4:12 PM
> To: Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"
> 
> 
> Lookit
> 
> Only the High Priest knew how to pronounce the Name, and was the only 
> one permitted to pronounce the Name, once a year, on Yom Kippur, in 
> the Inner Chamber of the Temple, where no one else was ever permitted 
> except for him, and only on this one day per year.  In case he DIED 
> from not being sufficiently spiritually prepared for the sheer 
> holiness of the experience, a rope was tied to him, so that they 
> could pull him out if necessary, without having to go in.
> 
> And you tell us that there is a - modern - non Jewish - BOOK - which 
> purports to discuss the pronunciation of this holy Name????????
> 
> Is this author really serious?  What utter chutzpa!  What is there to 
> discuss, what is the need that people feel, to what purpose do they 
> think they need to know the  pronunciation of the Name?  They 
> wouldn't even know what to do with it, even if they knew how to 
> pronounce it, and worse, it could cause them great damage, if they 
> were not meant to know.....
> 
> Shoshanna
> 
> 
> 
> 
> There is a new book on this subject that soon will be 
> published in English. I have read the French edition: "Gérard 
> Gertoux (1999) Un Historique du Nom Divin YHWH, Paris: 
> L'Harmattan. It will soon be published in English by 
> "University Press of America": I got a pre-publication 
> discount of 20 % by ordering it last week 
> (custserv at rowman.com.); ordinary price is $ 47.
> 
> The author has marshaled a huge amount of material from 
> Hebrew and cognate languages, and while it is difficult to 
> draw definite conclusions regarding the pronunciation of the 
> name, this is the most thorough discussion I have seen.
> 
> 
> Regards
> 
> Rolf
> 
> 
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
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