[b-hebrew] yhwh pronunciation

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Jul 21 07:47:17 EDT 2005

On 21/07/2005 11:44, Read, James C wrote:

> >Yes, James, this does make sense, at least to me as a linguist. Your
> >explanation of how Hebrew W became Greek beta in IABE etc is good, and
> >this is good evidence for a pronunciation Ya(h)ve derived from Yahwe;
> >the Greek forms IAOUE and IAOUAI also clearly support the pronunciation
> >Yahwe. So Rolf is wrong to state that there is no ancient evidence for
> >Yahwe.
> Do you know where these transliterations come from? Which cultures?
> Which dialects? What dates? Which MSS? I just knew about them because
> I read about them once in an Anchor Bible Dictionary. But I would
> be very interested in learning more about their actual sources.

You might like to look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iaoue where these 
transliterations are discussed, with links to supporting documentation.

> The Greek forms IAOUE and IAOUAI seem to strongly support a trisyllabic
> pronunciation with long middle o/u vowel. I think it is reasonably clear
> that the initial I is supposed to represent the yodh consonant. And that
> the first vowel was an 'a' and that the 'he' we read in b-hebrew is meant
> to be in this position 'IA.H.OU.E/AI'. Which all seems to bolster the
> evidence we have seen in hebrew names (Yaho/Yahu) that there was clearly a
> long o/u vowel understood to rightly reside in the 2nd syllable.

The issue is not this simple. The Greek letter pair OU (omicron-upsilon) 
was commonly used in transliterations to represent a consonantal W 
sound, as well as a U vowel, English "oo". Also, by this time AI 
(alpha-iota) was probably pronounced like a long E, or English "ai". So 
IAOUE/IAOUAI might represent either Ya(h)u(h)e or Yahwe. I note that U 
(upsilon) on its own was not used for a consonantal W, so this 
transliteration would seem to rule out a pronunciation Ya(h)owe.

> I'm sure I read somewhere that IABE transliteration was of Samaritan 
> influence
> but am not sure of the origin of such a conclusion. But if this is true
> would not this just suggest a mere dialectal variation of the more 
> authentic
> yehudan trisyllabic version 'YaHoWaH/YaHoaH'.

Yes, this does seem to be true. From that Wikipedia article, quoting the 
Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition:

> Theodoret (d. c. 457), born in Antioch, writes that the Samaritans 
> pronounced the name IaBe (in another passage, IaBai), the Jews Aia.

By your argument, the more authentic version must be Aia.

> Finally, I find it difficult to entertain the idea that the final 'he' was
> nothing more than matres lectionis because the consonant was clearly part
> of the orginal root 'HWH' which is the verb in question. ...

Well, here you have not recognised that the final he in the root HWH, as 
in almost all "lamed-he" verbs, is in fact a mater lectionis, which is 
never pronounced in any form of the verb. In fact these verbs were 
originally "lamed-yod" or "lamed-vav". Gesenius (GKC 75a) writes: "In 
Hebrew, instead of the original VAV or YOD at the end of the word, a HE 
always appears (except in the ptcp. pass. Qal) as a purely orthographic 
indication of a final vowel". There are a few verbs (e.g. GBH., TMH., 
MHH.) where the third root consonant is a real pronounced he, 
distinguished in writing by a mappiq, but HWH is not one of these.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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