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

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Thu Jan 24 05:47:50 EST 2002

Just one quick comment on this. In extra-biblical (unpointed) texts, there's
really no way to know whether YHW would be pronounced differently from YHWH.
If the final H is a mater, the word could be written just as easily without
it and sound exactly the same.

Trevor Peterson
  -----Original Message-----
  From: Ken Smith [mailto:kens at 180solutions.com]
  Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 11:57 PM
  To: Biblical Hebrew
  Subject: RE: God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"

  Yikes, Liz.  You’re assuming I know enough to have an opinion on the
Elephantine Papyri – I don’t even know Aramaic.  And I’m not really sure how
to explain the various differences in the divine name.  But it does seem
likely that YHW would have been pronounced differently from YHWH, don’t you
think?  Given that it can occur both as YH (usually in names, or in HLLW
YH); as YHW (in names, or in extra-Biblical texts); as YHWH (normally in the
Bible); and in Exodus 3:14 – probably as a word play -- as )HYH, it doesn’t
seem at all unreasonable to conclude that it may have been pronounced
different ways at different times.  Why this is so, or what significance
this might have had, I’m not at all sure.


  -----Original Message-----
  From: Lisbeth S. Fried [mailto:lizfried at umich.edu]
  Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 8:32 PM
  To: Biblical Hebrew
  Subject: RE: God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"

  Interesting, Ken.
  Do you think they pronounced the name differently at Elephantine, and if

  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.


    -----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

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