[b-hebrew] Yitzhak: You can't leave now. You haven't discussed the 1905 Jewish Encyclopedia Article on "Yahweh", yet!

davedonnelly1 at juno.com davedonnelly1 at juno.com
Wed Jul 21 09:29:54 EDT 2010

Yitzhak: You can't leave now. You haven't discussed the 1905 Jewish
Encyclopedia Article on "Yahweh" yet!

The following text is cut and pasted from the on-line 1905 Jewish
which is in the public domain.

Of the names of God in the Old Testament, that which occurs most
frequently (6,823 times) is the so-called Tetragrammaton, Yhwh (    ),
the distinctive personal name of the God of Israel. This name is commonly
represented in modern translations by the form "Jehovah," which, however,
is a philological impossibility (see Jehovah). This form has arisen
through attempting to pronounce the consonants of the name with the
vowels of Adonai ( = "Lord"), which the Masorites have inserted in the
text, indicating thereby that Adonai was to be read (as a "?eri
perpetuum") instead of Yhwh. When the name Adonai itself precedes, to
avoid repetition of this name, Yhwh is written by the Masorites with the
vowels of Elohim, in which case Elohim is read instead of Yhwh. In
consequence of this Masoretic reading the authorized and revised English
versions (though not the American edition of the revised version) render
Yhwh by the word "Lord" in the great majority of cases. 
This name, according to the narrative in Ex. iii. (E), was made known to
Moses in a vision at Horeb. In another, parallel narrative (Ex. vi. 2, 3,
P) it is stated that the name was not known to the Patriarchs. It is used
by one of the documentary sources of Genesis (J), but scarcely if at all
by the others. Its use is avoided by some later writers also. It does not
occur in Ecclesiastes, and in Daniel is found only in ch. ix. The writer
of Chronicles shows a preference for the form Elohim, and in Ps.
xlii.-lxxxiii. Elohim occurs much more frequently than Yhwh, probably
having been substituted in some places for the latter name, as in Ps.
liii. (comp. Ps. xiv.). 
In appearance, Yhwh (     ) is the third person singular imperfect "?al"
of the verb ("to be"), meaning, therefore, "He is," or "He will be," or,
perhaps, "He lives," the root idea of the word being,probably, "to blow,"
"to breathe," and hence, "to live." With this explanation agrees the
meaning of the name given in Ex. iii. 14, where God is represented as
speaking, and hence as using the first person—"I am" (, from , the later
equivalent of the archaic stem ). The meaning would, therefore, be "He
who is self-existing, self-sufficient," or, more concretely, "He who
lives," the abstract conception of pure existence being foreign to Hebrew
thought. There is no doubt that the idea of life was intimately connected
with the name Yhwh from early times. He is the living God, as contrasted
with the lifeless gods of the heathen, and He is the source and author of
life (comp. I Kings xviii.; Isa. xli. 26-29, xliv. 6-20; Jer. x. 10, 14;
Gen. ii. 7; etc.). So familiar is this conception of God to the Hebrew
mind that it appears in the common formula of an oath, "?ai Yhwh" (= "as
Yhwh lives"; Ruth iii. 13; I Sam. xiv. 45; etc.). 
If the explanation of the form above given be the true one, the original
pronunciation must have been Yahweh (      ) or Yahaweh (       ). 
>From this the contracted form Jah or Yah ( ) is most readily explained,
and also the forms Jeho or Yeho ( = ), and Jo or Yo (, contracted from ),
which the word assumes in combination in the first part of compound
proper names, and Yahu or Yah ( ) in the second part of such names. 
The fact may also be mentioned that in Samaritan poetry rimes with words
similar in ending to Yahweh, and Theodoret ("Quæst. 15 in Exodum") states
that the Samaritans pronounced the name 'Iaß?. Epiphanius ascribes the
same pronunciation to an early Christian sect. Clement of Alexandria,
still more exactly, pronounces 'Ia??? or 'Ia??a?, and Origen, 'Ia. 
Aquila wrote the name in archaic Hebrew letters. In the Jewish-Egyptian
magic-papyri it appears as ?a????e. At least as early as the third
century B.C. the name seems to have been regarded by the Jews as a "nomen
ineffabile," on the basis of a somewhat extreme interpretation of Ex. xx.
7 and Lev. xxiv. 11 (see Philo, "De Vita Mosis," iii. 519, 529). Written
only in consonants, the true pronunciation was forgotten by them. The
Septuagint, and after it the New Testament, invariably render d??????
("the Lord"). 
Dave Donnelly
In the online article at
some Hebrew font is show, although the Hebrew font appears "less than
In the online article at
the original page with Hebrew font is shown,  although once again, the
Hebrew font appears "less than perfect"
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