"Not Jehovah, and not Yahweh"

16 Jul
Over at another blog the argument was made (albeit for personal reasons) not to pronounce HaShem / The Name YHWH. Note the impasse in semi-professional circles over whether to pronounce YHWH or not:
I’ve had professors (who were trained in England/American institutions and obviously Evangelical) be very adamant about the veil being torn and therefore we have access to God in such a way we SHOULD say Yahweh.  Then I have professors (secular and Evangelical) who’ve studying in Jerusalem and prefer adoni (LORD).
 A minor nitpick, but it should be adonai (אֲדֹנָי) not adoni (אדֹנִי). For example, a Hebrew literate would read Psalm 110.1 that way (Adonai says to adoni…).
Anyway, I really don't have a dog in the fight over which pronunciation we should use. Some Church Fathers knew how to pronounce The Name. Clement of Alexandria had in his church this particular tradition:
Again, there is the veil of the entrance into the holy of holies. Four pillars there are, the sign of the sacred tetrad of the ancient covenants. Further, the mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Jave (Ίαουε), which is interpreted, Who is and shall be. The name of God, too, among the Greeks contains four letters. (Stromata 5.6).
It's nice to know that Clement's tradition is that close to modern scholarship about both the pronunciation of HaShem and what it means. That being said, a quote that the blog I referred to above quotes from is very telling:
Waltke writes of the matter:

“As an aside, let me explain why I uniquely, in a biblical theology, render God’s personal name- which is represented by the four Hebrew consonants YHWH- as “I AM,” not as “Jehovah,” “Yahweh” (as I did in my Genesis commentary) [n]or “LORD” (as I did in my Proverbs commentary).  Providence has not preserved the vocalization of this tetragrammaton (“four letters”). Scribes, who in the Second Temple period preserved and transmitted the Scriptures, read the tetragramation as adoni. YHWH cannot be pronounced. That was the scribes’ intention but not the original author’s intention. “Jehovah” confounds the vowels of adoni with the four consonants. Yahweh, though the probable normalization, is nevertheless speculative.  Moreover, it seems to demote the status of the living God to that of just another ancient Near Eastern deity, like Marduk of the Babylonains or Asshur of the Assyrians.  This normalization alienates God from the modern reader- at least, so it seems to me.” (emphasis his)

Since I am a secularist, and I think we should be teaching the Bible from a secular perspective, we should be likening YHWH to other ancient Near Eastern deities like Asherah or Marduk. We should be fair across the board in our objective study of religion and history. But of course the quoted section has its own internal logic; since Waltke still worships YHWH, it's his own personal preference for not pronouncing the vocalization of YHWH.
Ironically (I guess) on a related note, some Jews from the (2nd? 6th?) century CE claimed that Christianity was started by a man who carved YHWH into his flesh and performed miracles due to the power inherent in the name.

Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “"Not Jehovah, and not Yahweh"

  1. beowulf2k8

    July 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Isn't calling God “The Name” (HaShem) more irreverent than pronouncing his name wrong? I mean, its like saying “You, whatever your name is.” For someone to mispronounce your name is better than to call you “whatever your name is.”

  2. J. Quinton

    July 26, 2011 at 6:03 am

    It would seem that way, and I agree. The reason I err more towards saying “the name” is because I don't actually know with a high level of certainty how to pronounce it since the pronunciation has generally been lost.

    In normal conversation outside of blogging on the internet I usually say Yahweh, since those are the contexts I believe should emphasize the non-uniqueness of the tribal god of the Jews.

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