[b-hebrew] YHWH Pronunciation

Schmuel schmuel at nyc.rr.com
Tue Jul 26 15:09:04 EDT 2005

Hi folks,

Well this will be a variety post. 
Go to the sections that interest you, if any :-) 
They are only in a general order, some might say (oops) disorder.  Hopefully not :-)

Peter wrote:
>> I don't think that  authors like Gertoux, Gordon and Franklin have been taken at all  seriously by the scholarly world. I am not saying that they shouldn't  be, but that they are outsiders. I don't think any of them have a recognised academic position, and I have not seen publications by them in peer reviewed academic journals."

This leads to some interesting counterpoint.

What is in fact the strongest peer-reviewed article arguing for a "Yahweh" pronunciation ? Does anybody know ?  Are we going back to Gesenius ?  On the Net we mostly just have the mishegas from the "Qodesh Name" groups :-)  Unless we come here !

And what we most often see in the public literature (eg encyclopedias) is an argument revolving around  the claim that "Jehovah" only arose in the late middle ages, because of a kindergarten error from Christian scholars, a view essentially demolished by Franklin and Gertoux.  And this simplistic and false claim is at the heart of  public articles, and virtually every one of those articles should be rewritten, even if one still rejects the Yehowah type of pronunciation.  (Overall, this is a good example of where Wikipedia is ahead of the standard scholarship publishing curve).

Now, Nehemiah Gordon has in fact been listed as an author with Emanuel Tov  (don't remember where, but I have seen the pub) and has worked with him on Masoretic Text manuscripts, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  That ain't exactly chopped liver for Masoretic Text studies, even if he isn't in the "publish/perish" academic world :-) 
(point of information: I am definitely a critic of Nehemiah's NT work, but quite sympathetic to his Tanach work, I heard him speak on this Tetragrammaton pronunciation issue in 2002 in Jerusalem). 

For Gerard, the work speaks for itself, fifty pages on the Net, I think 300 in the book.  Critiques have overall been relatively small and mild,  lots of well-written stuff, and clearly he is amongst the most informed folks in the world on the issues.  Again, that ain't exactly chopped liver, eggplant vegetarian, or chicken. 

One could consider Carl Franklin's articles as less substantive, however even he does an excellent job on issues like the middle ages Christian history, with a depth of information only rivaled by Gertoux.  Available for reading on the net. Beyond his Middle Ages history, however, I would be more cautious with his work. 

The Nehemiah paper is sitting in our files section on Messianic_Apologetic
God's Name51.pdf  - Tetragrammaton 

James C wrote:
>> Forgive me if this is a wrong opinion but seeing as the title of  'scholar' is one that men bestow upon men it hardly seems to be  an appropriate observation that brings anything of worth to the
>> discussion. ...

>James, I brought in the word "scholarly" only because Steven referred to the "consensus on a scholarly forum" and to "scholarship". Steven seemed to argue that the self-perpetuating group of "scholars" whose consensus since the 19th century has been for "Yahwe" had changed its mind.

"self-perpetuating group" -- this almost sounds like a parody of the "scholarship"position :-)

>But I see no evidence of this. That same group of "scholars" continues to support "Yahwe" and is largely unaware of the arguments of outsiders to whom they would pay little attention.

Fine.  Again, are they really very relevant ?  Who are they ?  Do they have any current writings ? Do they offer more insight than the diverse crew on this forum ?  Is the fact that they are not interested in dialog a point of favor or disfavor ?  Is there really a "they" there ? :-)

Yitzhak Sapir
> Furthermore, the WaH spellings occur in locations not adjacent to "Adonai" and the WiH spellings 
> occur in locations adjacent (directly before or after) Adonai.  This is a strong indication that WaH is 
> intended to convey Adonai and is replaced by the WiH (Elohim) when adjacent to Adonai to avoid a > double "Adonai Adonai". If the WaH spelling had no reading (Qere) "Adonai" why does it avoid being > adjacent to Adonai when Adonai is spelled out?

Thank you Yitzhak. Yes, this is an excellent argument that there is a qere "Adonai".  However, it does not fully address the issue of  how that qere is indicated (more below). 

Nor does it address the flip-side issue -- WHAT name was being un-Qered.  Nehemiah discusses that as follow......  he is coming from the point of view that the lack of a vowel with the hey is deliberate and telling, and was a clear sign of qere. More below.

"What is significant about the form Yehowih is that there is nothing to prevent the reader
from accidentally reading the name Yehowih. This form of the name has a full set of
vowels and can be read like any other word in the Hebrew language. But for some reason
the "Masoretic" scribes who copied Scripture in the Middle Ages were concerned about
their readers pronouncing the word Yeh?vah but not concerned at all about them
accidentally pronouncing the name Yehowih. This must be connected to the ban on the
name which the Masoretic scribes clearly accepted."

Nehemiah Gordon's view is that the dropping of the cholam was the full Adonai qere methodology, 
and he gives arguments for that view. 



Now, It would be nice to give a review focusing on the various counterpoints issues like
  a) precisely how are other qere indicated, 
  b) is the yud's sheva really a satisfactory/proper/expected replacement for the adonai hataf patach
  c) analyzing the 50 Leningrad Tetra Yehovah with cholam,
  d) theories for cholam 99% lack/ 1% inclusion in Leningrad, comparing reasons with Nehemias
  e) analyzing the Ben Hayim text
  f) generally, why is this qere different from all other qere 
  g) tri or bi syllabic 

f) "every other instance of Qere-Ketiv, the Ketiv, written in the body of Scripture, has precisely the vowels of the Qere, while the Qere itself is written without vowels in the margin of the biblical manuscript. But the vowels of YHVH are clearly different from the vowels of Adonai! YHVH is written YeHVaH but with the vowels of Adonai it should have been Yahovah ! " - Nehemiah Gordon

Overall, I believe  SBL is awaiting the really good paper and presentations on this topic :-)  
As well as the "emendations of the sopherim" paper ! 



   When considering the Qere, its important to remember that there are two vowel differences (from Adonai to the vowels under the Tetra), out of three, in this Adonai qere.  The cholam for Adonai is almost invariably missing as well as the yud vowel difference.  Why would this cholam be missing ? In Nehemiah's view the qere was being indicated ONLY by the ungrammatical lack of a vowel with the hey, the dropping of the cholam, while the cholam is native to the Tetragrammaton.  

   And we see something similar in the Elohim qere, it apparently is indicated in what might be considered a simplistic fashion, the cheriq tells the tale, and again, there are generally two vowel differences, the sheva would have to have morphed, and as we see below, the cholam would have to be omitted. 

   A lot of the discussion theory has to deal with the omission of the cholam.  If the cholam is really from Adonai and Elohim, and not from the Tetragrammaton, why is it so sparsely included ?

NEHEMIAH GORDON VIEW (attempt at summary)

And I think the Nehemiah view would go like this.

 a) The Tetragrammaton starts with its own vowels
 b) The first hey grammatically requires a vowel or a sheva    (discussion with Peter below)
 c) The vowel we sometimes do see is a cholam,     
 d) The cholam in Yehowah is qere-dropped to indicate special pronunciation (Adonai)
        yet in Leningrad  'the omission was omitted'  50x on Yehowah
 e) chiriq is put in for the qere "Elohim" 
 f) When the chiriq is put in for Elohim, the cholam can be maintained "Yehowih" 
      as there is no concern about wrong pronunciation, due to the chiriq.
      (see below for more on this)

d) "The medieval reader knew that when he came across a word without vowels that this was a word that was not to be read. It is possible that the medieval scribes omitted the vowel in the first he of YeHVaH to prevent the readers from reading the name out loud." - Nehemiah

"Were this a Qere-Ketiv we would expect the vowels of YHVH to be changed to Yehowih (chataf segol - cholam - chiriq). Instead the vowels are Yehowih (sheva - cholam - chiriq). This seems to be a unique scribal practice which consists of changing a single vowel in order to remind the reader how to read the name YHVH."

Note: There are counterpoints to both claims of Nehemiah here :-)

First letter Vowel
(Note: Peter and David discuss three Elohim chataf segol in Leningrad Tetragrammaton
Judges 16:28 ,Genesis 15:2,8 - "the only cases in the Hebrew  Bible of hataf segol under yod"

                     Elohim               YHWH    (These are the adjacent Adonai-YHWH pairs)
                   chataf segol          sheva 

                    Adonai             YHWH        (6900 YHWH)
                   hataf patach       sheva

NEHEMIAH SUMMARY per my understanding.

The chiriq is the Elohim marker  (no concern about reading as written).
The lack of the hey cholam is the Adonai marker. 
               (Otherwise name may be spoken). 
The cholam is a native YHWH vowel.  


Here is the critical Nehemiah discussion-- note that the 50 mentioned here are, seemingly, NOT the Elohim cases.  Yehovah is mentioned, not "Yehovih".

"This means that 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. The way scribes copied ancient writings was to read the words either out loud or under their breath. The scribe sometimes made a mistake and wrote what he heard from his own lips, even if this differed from what he read with his eyes. This is a common mistake in modern English as well. When English speakers are writing quickly or typing they often write down "know" instead of "no" or "their" instead of "there". This is not due to ignorance since most people who make this mistake know full well the difference between these homonyms. Instead this is an error stemming from how the words sound. In the case of the divine name 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. In the L19b Masoretic manuscript, the earliest complete Masoretic manuscript (and the basis of BHS), the name is written Yehovah 50 times out of a total of 6828. It is significant that no other vowel besides "o" was "accidentally" inserted into the divine name."

Peter has counterpointed this ..
 "The evidence seems to be that the holam was never written."

What evidence ? Can  we at some point determine who is right ?
  Vis a vis the Leningrad or Aleppo or (my hope as well) Ben Hayim ?

Peter himself later added - 
"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."

So on what basis does Peter write 
   "The evidence seems to be that the holam was never written." ?  
Dunno. Peter ?



Dave Donnelly
> At Exodus 6:2 YHWH is spelled [yod-shewa-he-waw-qamets-he] If the Masoretes had placed a 
> silent shewa under the first he,  the spelling would have  been [yod-shewa-he-shewa-waw-qamets-he] 
> ,and it would appear to be a pronounceable Hebrew word. But without a silent shewa under the first 
> he, is [yod-shewa-he-waw-qamets-he] pronounceable?

Dunno.. good question.

And there is a related issue.  
Would it be immediately recognizable as a non-word, or a special case.

If I write in English
     "Dave Dnnly asked a good question"

I could pronounce the sentence by simply inserting vowels, but I would stop and consider alternatives.

Now if I saw "Dave Donnly...." yes I definitely *could* pronounce it, but again, 
I likely would stop with a little "whoa Nelly".

So I think Nehemiah's point is that without the sheva it would be immediately recognizable as a non-word, preventing the accidental pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton.  This is true even if the ability to pronounce the word is unclear.  Recognition trumps pronunciation.



btw.. this is an important summary of one paragraph from Nehemiah, relates to a question,
I believe by James.

"Yet nowhere in Scripture is there an instance of Qere Perpetuum in which the word written one way but read another way always lacks a scribal note. If we were to apply the Qere Perpetuum rule to YHVH it would be unique in this class of Qere-Ketiv since it never has a scribal note saying "read it Adonai", not once in the 6828 times the word appears."



And Nehemiah claims that later printings of the Masoretic Text actually modified the vowels to match the Adonai theory, which is rather interesting.   This might have had a lot to do with the enthusiasm of 
the "scholarship" of the last 100+ years.. .they were used to looking at the wrong vowels in their texts !


>"by the rules of the Hebrew language the first hey in YHVH must have some vowel...."

Peter Kirk
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. 

Yes, I was doing a small extract, and I believe you had seen the article
For the forum, here is more in context, and basically the same points are covered by Nehemiah.

"A fundamental rule of the Hebrew language is that a consonant in the middle of a word must be followed by either a vowel or a silent sheva. Now there are sometimes silent letters in the middle of a word that have no vowel or sheva (e.g. the Aleph in bereshit ). But this is never the case with a he in the middle of a word. In Biblical Hebrew, it is common for H to be silent at the end of a word, but there is no such thing as a silent he in the middle of a word. This means that by the rules of the Hebrew language the first he in YHVH must have some vowel. So what happened to this missing vowel? Perhaps the answer can be found in another medieval scribal practice. When the biblical scribes wanted to omit a word they would remove its vowels. The medieval reader knew that when he came across a word without vowels that this was a word that was not to be read. It is possible that the medieval scribes omitted the vowel in the first he ä of YeHVaH to prevent the readers from reading the name out loud."

And the fact that these are writing system rules is precisely the issue, we are dealing with folks who are reading text from the Masoretic writing system :-)

> However, this rule needs to be modified in cases of Qere and Ketiv, especially where there are fewer 
> Qere vowels than Ketiv consonants,

It would help here if you could you show other qere/ketiv cases that have comparable ungrammatical omissions in the vowels in the Masoretic Text. 



Alexander Oldernes
> When I read all the theophoric names:
> Jehoaddah, Jehoaddan, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jehohanan, Jehoiachin, Jehoiada, Jehoiakim, Jehoiarib, > Jehonadab, Jehonathan, Jehoram, Jehoshabeath, Jehoshaphat, Jehosheba, Jehozabad, Jehozadak - > and all the names that ends  with -jahu......my personal logic tells me that the YHW in the
 > tetragrammaton can be pronounced Yeho- or Yahu-

Alexander, isn't it significant that you referenced 17 multi-syllabic names and every one of them began with Yeho ?  . The evidence doesn't offer the variety of  your personal logic conclusion :-)

>A little less than 150 names in the OT ends in YAH, and a few begins  with YAH. But those 
> beginning with YAH never have "o" or "u" as the next vowel (e.g. YAHO-; YAHU-). But there are 
> several names that begins with YEHO-. This means that an argument in favor of shewa being the first 
>vowel of YHWH is much stronger than the argument in favor of "a". ...

> Not at all. There is a general phonological rule by which an original qamats in this position is reduced 
> to sheva, and a patah is impossible in this position.

Peter elsewhere related. 
> "One reason might be that hataf patah is never normally found under yod, and physically there is not 
> space to write it there."

Would this understanding then require retranslating the all the names that are like the 17 mentioned by Alexander above ?

James Read
> I don't know if all that was followable or made any sense to anyone except to me!?!?

Yes, as befits your name, your posts are among the most readable.  I can learn from you :-)

And all your questions are excellent.  The problem is getting the answers !

I will mention that there is little in the way of "older LXX transliterations" other than the DSS fragments.
By the time you get to the fourth century manuscripts, many Christian hands have gone right and left, and each manuscript differs greatly.  LXX studies are very squirrelly.


Peter Kirk
>You can download an image of the Ben Chayyim text from http://www.bibles.org.uk/, so you don't have to rely on secondary indications like Smith's ancient dictionary. 

Thanks, looks like a good, new resource. 
In the past what purports to be Ben Hayim has been unreliable. 

>But my point was explicitly about Codex L, the basis of BHS. It seems clear that by Ben Chayyim's 
>time the pointings of YHWH had been regularised, probably to just two - and perhaps another two after prefixes. But at the earlier stage of L there were at least nine different pointings, although four of these are found just once or twice which may indicate copying errors..... And it is going back to 
>this earlier stage, before Ben Chayyim, which is helping us to understand the original intentions of these pointings.

That depends on your viewpoint.  There are many that feel that an "older" manuscript can simply be a corrupt manuscript, of less value.

Examples:.. In the NT realm, Aleph and B were maintained in good physical shape precisely because they were junk and unused.  The overwritten Old Syriac manuscript was overwritten precisely because it was recognized as junque.  There is lots in the DSS that are simply oddball and conflicting manuscripts, that have little textual value.  The Leningrad text is just one Masoretic Text, not up to the standards of the Received Text.

 From this viewpoint, what really counts is the Received Text.  And it is not likely to have the annoying small copying errors. And the consistency of such a text is not just accidental, but actually a reflection of the process of Inspiration --> Preservation of Scripture at work. 

Now of course, in scholarship circles "Inspiration" and "Preservation" of scripture are often considered off limits :-)  However, it is important to mention that our view of manuscripts will in fact often be a function of our view of those concepts.  And that is why I personally consider the Ben Hayim text far more significant than Leningrad. 


>Here are some statistics for YHWH pointed as Elohim in the Westminster Leningrad Codex: 

Schmuel -- (I omitted the lesser forms)

>Y:HWIH - 271
>Y:HOWIH - 31 (1KI 2:26; PSA 73:28; 140:8; ISA 50:4; JER 1:6; 7:20; EZK 2:4; 3:11,27; 5:5; 8:1; 12:10; 13:16; 14:21,23; 16:36; 17:9; 20:39; 21:33; 22:31; 23:32; 24:6,14; 26:21; 28:2; 30:22; 33:25; 39:17; 43:27; 46:16; ZEC 9:14)

This seems to partially contradict Nehemiah, who claimed for the Aleppo...
"the vowels are Yehowih (sheva - cholam - chiriq).

(NOTE: looking down, I now see Peter makes the same point :-)

Apparently MOST of the Elohim qere cases do not have the cholam.

On one hand, this would augment the idea that it is the chiriq alone that is the key to the Elohim qere, in a sense strengthening the case that the cholam is a native YHWH vowel, not brought in for qere purposes. 

On the other hand it works against the argument that there was no concern about pronouncing Yehowih, and the contrast given with Yehowah, if 90% of the Elohim cases actually have Yehwih :-)

>And then for comparison, other cases of YHWH:
>Y:HWFH - 4488
>Forms ending in Y:HWFH - 1187
>Forms ending in YHWFH - 788
>Y:HOWFH - 30 (GEN 3:14; 9:26; EXO 3:2; 13:3,9,15; 14:1,8; LEV 25:17; DEU 
>32:9; 33:12,13; 1KI 3:5; PSA 15:1; 40:5; 47:6; 100:5; 116:5,6; PRO 1:29; 
>JER 2:37; 3:22,25; 4:3; 5:3,19; 6:9; 36:8; EZK 44:5; NAM 1:3)
>Forms ending in Y:HOWFH - 14 (DEU 31:27; 1KI 16:33; JER 3:1,13,21; 4:8; 
>5:2,9,15,18,22,29; 8:13; 30:10)
>Forms ending in YHOWFH - 1 (GEN 18:17; EXO 13:12; LEV 23:34; JER 3:23; 
>4:4; EZK 46:13)
>I also found the following interesting case, which is the only hataf 
>patah under yod in the Hebrew Bible:
>$EY:AHWFH - 1 (PSA 144:15)
>These statistics also put paid to Nehemiah Gordon's argument that the holam is written when the intended pronunciation is Elohim, and omitted only when the pronunciation is Adonay. Gordon, as quoted by Steven Avery, wrote:
>>"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."
>But it seems that in the great majority of cases the Masoretic scribes 
>didn't write the holam from Y:HOWIH, as well as in Y:HOWFH. So a 
>different explanation is needed of why the holam is sometimes written 
>and sometimes not.

Although note my interest is principally in the Ben Hayim text, as discussed above :-)

However, this Leningrad reference possibly can be forwarded to Nehemiah, as it seems he built a lot of his views on the implication of a consistent cholam inclusion in the Elohim cases.

That does not necessarily overall make his general case weaker or stronger, (ie. that the cholam is part of the Tetragrammaton) but it potentially deep-sixes one or two of the logical threads therein. 

Steven Avery
Queens, NY

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