[b-hebrew] YHWH is Aramaic?

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Jun 29 04:42:41 EDT 2006

Dear Rochelle,

a. The spelling YHWH has nothing to do with German, but rather is based on
the assumption that in antiquity, the letter vav was pronounced "w", like in
Arabic. Whether this assumption is historically accurate is a different

b. YHWH is certainly treated as a proper name. While your assertion that
"The whole point is monotheism -- a single god does not need a name" may be
true philosophically, in the reality of the ancient world, the God of Israel
had to be distinguished by other gods - both by Israelites (who in practice
often worshipped other gods) and by others. The Mesha stele mentions "the
vessals of YHWH" that Mesha captured in the Israelite town of Nebo.

c. In the Zoilos inscription, the Greek part uses THEOS, which can either
mean "god" or refer to a specific god, especially Zeus. All that remains of
the non-Greek is "NDR ZOILO" - a verb or noun that is used in both Hebrew
and Aramic, and a Greek name. The script is Aramaic - although it was also
used by Hebrew. We have no record of "Israelites" living in the area (the
upper Jordan Valley) in the 2nd century BCE (although there might have
been). So how do you know which god was referred to, in what language, not
to mention all the rest? It is certainly not "proof" of the way in which the
name YHWH was used in Judah or Israel 10 to 5 centuries earlier.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Rochelle Altman" <willaa at netvision.net.il>
To: "Shoshanna Walker" <rosewalk at concentric.net>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, June 29, 2006 8:14 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] YHWH is Aramaic?

> Shoshanna,
> The god of Israel does not have a name.  YHVH (or in German notation: YHWH
> -- remember, in German 'W' is pronounced 'V') is a way to refer to god; it
> is specifically not a name. Everybody else had names for their different
> gods -- with a pantheon you need names. The whole point is monotheism -- a
> single god does not need a name.
> If you look at the ZOILOS inscription from Tel Dan (2nd century BCE), you
> will see that the invocation (1st line in Greek) to the god under whom the
> vow was made does not have a name -- just "theos". The text is a standard
> Greek formula; however, the vow itself, the last line, is in cursive 
> square
> script and written by Zoilos himself (a vow must be in the hand of the
> person making the vow) and in an abbreviated form of a standard Hebrew 
> oath
> formula.  Both the first word, the Hebrew "truth" statement and the last
> word, what was actually vowed, have been chiseled out. (It's a cancelled
> vow.) It is not in Aramaic. It was turned into Aramaic by editorial 
> fiat -- 
> on the two lacunae.
> You need concrete evidence that the god of Israel had no name? Well there
> it is.
> I'm leaving early tomorrow morning and cannot continue with this thread.
> Dr. Rochelle Altman
> US and Israel
>>1.  I think that there is a strong reason to think that G-d has
>>name(s) all His own - a. so that we could refer to Him, pray to Him,
>>call on Him, etc.  and b. to give us some hint of various aspects of
>>what Divinity consists of.
>>2.  G-d and His name preceded ancient Hebrew
>>3.  EhYeh asher EhYeh = I will be that which I will be.
>>I think there was a discussion of this on this list a year or so ago.
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