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

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Wed Jan 23 23:32:20 EST 2002


Interesting, Ken.
Do you think they pronounced the name differently at Elephantine, and if so,
are these just dialect differences?
Also, in your list of examples, you left out my personal favorite: David's
continually swearing
"as YHWH lives," I'm going to get that bastard, or some such.
Liz
  -----Original Message-----
  From: Ken Smith [mailto:kens at 180solutions.com]
  Sent: Wed, January 23, 2002 11:14 PM
  To: Biblical Hebrew
  Subject: RE: God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"


  I'm hesitant to know how far to carry this conversation, because it
doesn't precisely seem apropos to understanding Biblical Hebrew, and could
very easily (if it hasn't already) degenerate into inter-religious name
calling.  But I'll try to stay as objective as I can on the matter.



  I'm not sure which evidence you're asking for, but I'll toss out evidence
for various things I referred to in my last post:



  (1) That common, ordinary, every-day people regularly spoke and pronounced
YHWH seems clear just from the Biblical writers’ recording of numerous
conversations.  Some very random examples which could be multiplied
repeatedly include Deut. 1:6, which records Moses saying to the entire
assembled nation of Israel, “YHWH our God spoke to us at Horeb.”  1 Sam.
1:11 records Hannah’s vow, “YHWH Sabaoth, if only you will look on the
misery of your servant.”  In 2 Kings 18:22, the Assyrian Rabshakeh says that
YHWH sent him to destroy Jerusalem.  I’m not sure how else to understand
these passages than to believe that common Israelites – and non-Israelites –
all knew how YHWH was pronounced, and indeed pronounced it regularly and
without a thought.  I certainly don’t intend to tread on Jewish
sensibilities here; my understanding was that even Jews agreed that the
prohibitions against speaking the Name were the result of later
developments, of attempts to “put a hedge around the law” to prevent the
possibility of accidentally using the Name L$W).  If it’s normal to argue
that even, say, Adonijah and Elijah and Hezekiah never pronounced the Name,
that’s news to me, and difficult if not impossible to support historically.



  (2) Given #1, there’s a variety of evidence which might indicate how those
same lay people might have pronounced YHWH.  Part of the problem in
evaluating it is that some of it points in different directions.  Everyone
seems agreed that the Masoretic vowel points are a qere perpetuum taken
from )DWNY, so those are out as a pointer.  But there are a number of
theophoric names which contain a shortened version of YHWH, i.e.,
 “Adoni-Yah”, and have the first vowel as a qamets.  The same is true of
“Hallelu-Yah” in the Psalms.  The sere for the second syllable is more
debatable, as it doesn’t seem to have been included in any names.  (It’s
also possible that the Name was known in multiple forms: it certainly seems
to have been shortened in some instances, e.g., in the admittedly
syncretistic Kuntillet Ajrud fragments, where it is sometimes found as YHWH,
and sometimes as YHW.)  There are some who put forth arguments that it must
be sere based on various linguistic considerations, but I’m not really
qualified to evaluate those, and they strike me as hypothetical at best.
More to the point are various forms of YHWH found in Greek transliteration
from before the fourth century CE, where it occurs variously as IAO (perhaps
equivalent to the Kuntillet Ajrud YHW), IABE, IAOUE, IAOUAI, and IAE.  These
latter seem to point fairly clearly towards an original pronunciation as
YFH:W”H (Yahweh).



  Is there other evidence that you’re looking for, Shoshanna?



  Ken Smith



  > -----Original Message-----

  > From: Shoshanna Walker [mailto:rosewalk at concentric.net]

  > Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 7:25 PM

  > To: Biblical Hebrew

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

  >

  > Which evidence?

  >

  >

  >

  > 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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