[b-hebrew] yhwh pronunciation

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Fri Jul 22 02:54:09 EDT 2005

We should just remember that the Greek spellings reflect, at best, the
Hebrew pronunciation of the late second temple period, 3rd century BCE at
the earliest. By that time, Hebrew as a spoken language was already at least
900 years old, and, like all languages, constantly evolving. More
significantly, since by that time the Tetragammaton was being pronounced
less and less, the Greek spellings may well represent reconstructions, and
not the was anyone actually heard the Name being said.


> It is helpful to look at old forms of names with furtive patah. For
> example, Yehoshua`/Yeshua`. The Greek form of this is almost always
> IHSOUS, with no trace of an "a" vowel; nothing like IHSOUAS is ever
> found, although the odd spelling IWSHE (W = omega, H = eta) is found in
> the Lucianic recension of LXX. But by the time of the Latin Vulgate
> Jerome writes IOSVE (and IESVS only for the New Testament character).
> This suggests a vowel glide in the pronunciation he heard, but not an
> "a" vowel. I think it was only with the Reformation that spellings like
> Joshua, with a final a, became standard.
> Another name with a furtive patah is Noah. Here the Greek is NWE, and
> the Vulgate is NOE - so evidence of a vowel glide, but to "e" rather
> than "a".
> Of course we cannot tell whether this final "e" was pronounced before or
> after the guttural consonant, because neither Greek nor Latin
> represented these consonants.
> In fact it is part of the nature of sounds like het, ayin and (voiced)
> he that it is difficult to pronounce them with close vowels like "i" and
> "u". That explains the strong tendency throughout Hebrew grammar for "a"
> vowels before and after gutturals. And it explains why an "a" vowel was
> inserted to ease the transition from "i" or "u" to a word final guttural.
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/
> -- 
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