[b-hebrew] YHWH discussion recap

Schmuel schmuel at nyc.rr.com
Mon Jul 25 09:12:53 EDT 2005

Hi b-hebrew,

   Thanks for the thread, folks, especial thanks to the mod for letting us go here and there,
and let me discuss this recap from George a bit, since it is foundational.  And share a few
thoughts of my own. 

    First, some have said essentially "we can't really know" ... and that might be true
from a 100% scholarly objective view, however various theories and their evidences can be
examined.  We can place theories next to each other, look at texts, consider the history, etc.
e.g. I tried to do that especially with the post on the cholam after the hey, and George does
that here with the recap.

     For consideration, probably just a decade or two ago, the "Yahweh" usage would have
likely been the almost-overwhelming consensus on a scholarly forum, and we have also in
the last decades seen it make its way into various translations, from the catholic Jerusalem 
Bible to the Everett Fox translation to others.  It was becoming mainstream (socalled "sacred
name" or "qodesh name" Bibles had been using various such forms for 50 years).   

    Yet now we see a major turn-around, and to put it a bit indelicately, the promoters and 
defenders of "Yahweh" for the Tetragrammaton are a bit on the defensive, and the 
scholarship has shifted rather radically to at least a strong level of simpatico to the 
three-syllable "Yehowah/Yehovah" forms.  And this is shown even on a scholarly forum like 
this one,  possibly the most advanced discussions of the issues anywhere.   And some
of the credit should, I believe, go to three writers on the topic, Gerard Gertoux, Nehemiah
Gordon and Carl Franklin, all defending forms close to Yehovah, while the "Yahweh" 
scholarship has been rather stagnant. 

   Now to the recap :-)  

    Understand that I am just a layman, using only reading comprehension and logic and common sense, very interested in the topic, however :-)

Gene Gardner 
>I would like to recap some of the points that have been made during this discussion. If any of my
>perceptions are in error, I welcome your correction.
>1)If we read the tetragrammaton as written with the vowel points found in the Masoretic texts (Aleppo,
>Leningrad), some of the variables would be: YeHWaH, YeHWiH, YeHoWiH, YeHoWaH

Yes, I believe that is correct, from what has been stated.  (Not sure if there are ANY other lesser-used forms in those two codexes, although there are variants in other manuscripts, as well as complete omission in some). The two-syllable forms are the large majority, with various theories as to why there are two-syllable and three-syllable forms in the same texts -- part of the crux of the matter, at least in determining whether the vowels have any relation to the pronunciation.   

Also my own special interest in an examination of the Ben Hayim text (considered a Received Text by many) comes to play, which we now see may be properly and fully on the Net.  

>2)Yah is a valid name represented throughout the Psalms, but not necessarily related to the
>pronunciation “YaHWeH”.

Right.  You will see it in the Halleluyah type of suffix, and I believe also the special one-syllable form.  These seem to be more akin to the theophoric names that use -yah as a suffix, and don't offer much to the Tetragrammaton pronunciation.

>3)The cantillation marks in Psalm 96:10 does represent a tri-sylabic cantoring of YHWH, or possibly Adonay. This would need to be verified in the Massorah.

Ok.. I have to catch up on that aspect on the thread :-)  My ISP was down for a bit. 

>4)There is no vowel pointing found in the Masoretic texts that would allow YHWH to be pronounced as “YaHWeH.”

Right.  It exists only as a scholarly conjectural guess, no more, no less.  More on that below.

>5)That the pronunciation “YaHWeH”, is a scholarly re-construction based on early Greek writings.

Largely based on the Clement of Alexandria/Samaritan issues.  However the reasons for the support for Yahweh are fairly diverse. 

Allow me to mention that Gerard Gertoux especially gives countervailing defenses for Yehowah, looking largely at the historic rabbinic writings. 

>6)That the nineteen or so tri-sylabic names found in the Hebrew Scriptures that have the theophoric element “Yeho”, which are pointed the same as YHWH as found in the Masoretic texts, may or may not have any relation to the pronunciation of YHWH.

Right.  However, supporters of forms akin to Yehowah would say that these are very strong evidence to the proper pronunciation.  Am we right in saying that such forms are generally tri & quatro syllabic, and never bi-syllabic ?


Also I believe another point should be mentioned.
Let's say that the vowels are only a representation of Elohim and Adonai,
as expressed by the Yahweh proponents. (hotly debated).

Then we still have no convincing reason for choosing a two-syllable form
(at least based on the sharing I have seen on this forum.)  Since the vowels
are simply not relevant. 

If one decided on a two-syllable form, there would be NO starting vowels at all.  
It seems that "Yahweh" would be one of a dozen or so possible forms, and one that 
has a major problem to begin with (multi-syllabic Theophoric names invariably start
with "Yeh", per the pages on the Gerard Gertoux paper).  It only exists as one scholarly
reconstruction, hard to defend.  

Additional Note:
The defenders of Yehowah forms often tend to come from a higher view of the Scripture,
that Elohim would not leave us in a quandary and conundrum,  without real knowledge of 
the pronunciation of his name.

This leads to another point. 

    We should be aware that our scholarship may in fact be influenced by our spiritual
view.   I have no difficulty if a Jehovah's Witness tends to give arguments for a "Yehowah" 
type of pronunciation, if the scholarship is sound. Or if a Traditional Jewish perspective
emphasizes the "ineffable" aspect. Or if a believer in the Received Texts brings that 
perspective to the table, even that the historic BIbles in English truly represented the 
Word of God.   Or if someone with what might be called a historio-etymological approach 
tries to find the precursor to the Tetragrammaton in Ugaritic or Akkadian or whatever.
Or if a gnostic ties the Tetragrammaton into other cultures.  

     However, we should be aware of the tendencies of scholars, aware that *everyone* 
brings some viewpoints or biases to the table, consciously or not.

Steven Avery
Queens, NY

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