[b-hebrew] Re: YHVH Derivation

Evgeny Ivanov evi7538 at yahoo.com
Wed May 4 13:05:41 EDT 2005

There is an interesting evidence that the word "YHVH" has something to do with the verb "to be". It may not be a solid evidence, but may be worth taking into account. It is the Gospel of John 18.4. 
18:4 "Then Jesus, because he knew everything that was going to happen to him, came and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” They replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He told them, “I am he.”  So when Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they retreated and fell to the ground."
Why would the soldiers (who in the garden were Israelites, not Romans) "fell to the ground" when they heard Jesus saying “I am he.”? There is a hypothesys that Jesus said "YHWH" and it was hearing the HaShem that made the Israelites fall to the ground. But if that is true, than the translation to Greek in form of “I am he” suggests that this is how early Christian Israelites understood the meaning of HaShem.    


"Dr. Joel M. Hoffman" <joel at exc.com> wrote:
> Is there any etymological connection between the Tetragrammaton
>and the idea of "breathing" or "breath"? The Siddur says, "The breathing of
>all life praises thy Name," and I'm wondering if this might be more than
>merely a platitude. Could there be an actual connection between YHVH and

The only connection between YHWH (note - not YHVW) and breathing is
interpretive, not historical.

Van der Toorn's article in DDD on "Yahweh" goes through several
unlikely possibilities, noting the stunning amount of literature
devoted to the topic.

But the bottom line is that YHWH seems not to have an etymology.

Noting that (unlike Elohim, El, etc.), YHWH does not appear before
Israelite writing, I believe (based on this and considerable
additional evidence) that the Israelites invtented the term,
specifically out of the matres lectiones that they also invented.
(This is why it didn't have a pronunciation; it was purely a writing

Sadly, my theory doesn't account for any connection between the verb
"to be" (HYH) and YHWH, relegating any similarities to coincidence,
but it does account for:

1. The lack of historical etymology to the word.

2. The fact that it contains only matres lectiones.

3. The fact that the traditional pronuncation for the word has
nothing to do with the sound of the letters.

4. The fact that until very late, the letters of YHWH themselves, and
not the sounds, seemed to be primary. (Some copies of the LXX
contain the Hebrew letters, and some DSS use the ancient letters
for YHWH among modern letters for the rest of the text.) 

It also accords well with the fact that the Israelites seem to have
used their matres lectiones for other important tasks, including
adding a Hey to the names of their Patriarch (AVRM --> AVRHM),
Matriarch (SHY --> SRH) and deity (ELYM --> ELHYM).

-Joel Hoffman

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