Hebrew and the Name of God

This was originally an email I sent to an email list. We were discussing whether or not Hebrew has vowels in it.

Actually, Hebrew DOES have vowels[1]. Originally it did not, but vowels were added later. They are separate from the consonents when written. In other words, my name, if in Hebrew, would look like this:


Now, where this gets interesting is with the NAME of God. God's name in much of the Hebrew Bible is YHWH. The consonants only, not the vowels. You were not supposed to say the name of God, ever. Never ever. Ergo, we don't KNOW which vowels went into YHWH. Most scholars write it as Yahweh, pronounced "Yah-way", but no one knows for sure.

In the Hebrew Bible, you do see vowels with YHWH. Remember, the Hebrew was, and is, still read aloud in Temple. So when reading the Biblem outloud, you CAN'T SAY Yhwh's name. So instead, you said "Adonai", which means "the name"[2]. However, the Hebrews didn't write Adonai; instead, they used the vowels: AOAI. The vowels for Adonai—AOAI—were interspersed between the consonants of YHWH, like this (pretend it is backwards):


So, you would see this, know it was really YHWH, but pronounce it outloud as "Adonai"[3].

Here's where it gets really interesting.

A German scholar during the Reformation, I believe, began translating the Bible from Hebrew. He didn't know about the YWHH/Adonai connection, so he thought the name of God in the Hebrew Bible was Yahovah. Germans use J instead of Y, so it became JEHOVAH [4].

The point being, Jehovah is NOT the name of God in the Hebrew Bible! But we still have it as a "word" today.

Pretty interesting, eh?

BTW … none of this is designed to put down anyone's religion. If you believe in God, Yahweh, Jehovah, or Zeus, that's your right. I just find history, especially of language & religion, to be fascinating.

[1] http://www.jewfaq.org/alephbet.htm
[2] http://www.execulink.com/~wblank/20010826.htm
[3] http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/YHVH
[4] http://pages.quicksilver.net.nz/theonomy/name.html

WebSanity Top Secret