[b-hebrew] YHVH pronunciation - cholam analysis & Ben Hayim text question

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Jul 21 09:43:21 EDT 2005

On 21/07/2005 10:12, Praexus at aol.com wrote:

> ...
>Now to Nehemiah Gordon, since we don't have HTML I have to make a few 
>"by the rules of the Hebrew language the first hey in YHVH must have some 

This point is misleading. The Hebrew *language* does not require a 
pronounced vowel following the he. There are many words e.g. EHYEH "I 
am" in which he is followed directly by a consonant. The rule which 
Gordon presumably has in mind is a rule of the Hebrew *writing system*, 
with Tiberian Masoretic pointing, by which, except at the end of a word, 
each consonant which is to be pronounced (i.e. excluding matres 
lectionis - but he is never a mater lectionis in the middle of a word) 
must carry a point. But that point may be not a vowel point, but sheva, 
which (in a context like this) indicates the lack of a vowel sound, that 
the consonant is the first in a consonant cluster. However, this rule 
needs to be modified in cases of Qere and Ketiv, especially where there 
are fewer Qere vowels than Ketiv consonants,

>This hasn't really come up directly, the basic rule, on b-hebrew.   
>There was a little preview leading up to that conclusion, which I bypassed. 
>"It is possible that the medieval scribes omitted the vowel in the first hey 
>of YeHVaH to prevent the readers from reading the name out loud."

This presupposed that they omitted something, rather than never writing 
it. The evidence seems to be that the holam was never written.

>"only reason the Masoretic scribes would have left the form Yehowih without 
>dropping the vowel after the hey is because they knew this was not the true 
>pronunciation of the divine name. ... the Masoretic scribes knew the name to be 
>Yehovah and suppressed its pronunciation by omitting the "o". This is confirmed 
>by the fact that the scribes actually forgot to suppress the vowel "o" in a 
>number of instances."

Again, this presupposes an accidental omission. There are reasonable 
alternatives. One might be that, according to some reading tradition, 
the divine name was most commonly pronounced something like shema', but 
in just a very few cases 'adonay, or 'elohim: these three alternatives 
correspond to the three attested pointings. But it might be interesting 
to analyse in detail the 50 or so cases where holam is written in L, and 
the apparently smaller number where it is written in Aleppo, to see if 
there are any common factors to explain why the pronunciation was 
sometimes shema' and sometimes 'adonay.

>"the scribe knew that the word YHVH sounded like Yehovah and even though he 
>was supposed to suppress the vowel "o" he left it in, in a few dozen instances. 
>So this is a very clear assertion, and I don't think we have discussed it on 
>the thread yet.

Such a repeated scribal error seems highly improbable, especially as L 
was probably copied directly from Aleppo but there are places where L 
has the holam but Aleppo does not.

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

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
Version: 7.0.323 / Virus Database: 267.9.2/54 - Release Date: 21/07/2005

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list