Yahweh

Jehovah (also transliterated Yehowah) and Yahweh are the most common ways to transliterate the personal name of God in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Old Testament). This proper name for God is rendered as LORD or GOD (in small capitals to distinguish it from Adonai, another word translated as "Lord") in most modern translations of the Bible. Most scholars believe "Yahweh" to be most near the original pronunciation, but "Jehovah" is still more commonly used today. "Jehovah" probably originates with the American Standard Version due to the form of transliteration of the Hebrew word.

See also: The name of God in Judaism

Table of contents
1 Not just a title of God in scripture
2 Puzzle of pronunciation
3 External link

Not just a title of God in scripture

Though God is given numerous titles in the Bible (such as "God", "Giver of plenty", "Sovereign Lord", "Creator", "Father", "the Almighty" and "the Most High"), many people believe God's personality and attributes are fully summed up and expressed in His personal name.

Jehovah is probably the most commonly known, though inaccurate, English pronunciation of the divine name; "Yahweh" (also inaccurate) is also used by some scholars. The oldest Hebrew manuscripts present the name in the form of four consonants, commonly called the Tetragrammaton (from Greek tetra-, meaning "four," and gram'ma, "letter"). These four letters (יהוה) may be transliterated into English as YHWH or JHVH.

Like much of Christianity, Judaism forbids to "take the name of God in vain" by using it. However in Judaism, this restriction is much broader and amounts to a taboo on pronouncing the ineffable name. When reading Torah (or some other religious text) aloud, Adonai is read instead of "Jahovah"; the name itself is nicked "shem ha-meforash" - "the interpreted name" ("ha-shem", "the name", is one of God's other names in Judaism). Before writing down texts that include it, a Torah script writer has to make a special ceremony of purification. As Rabbinical sources tell us, even in ancient times the name was pronounced only once a year - on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and only by the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. The tradition of High priesthood ended, however, in 70 A.D., as the Temple was burned.

Puzzle of pronunciation

This raises a question: as the name was never pronounced aloud for about two millennia now, what is the correct pronunciation? In the Jewish Bible, vowel marks (nikkud) suggest a spelling "Jahovah" (this was picked up by translators in the Middle Ages, who have introduced this form into English usage). However, the nikkud system was invented only around the middle of the first millennium A.D. - almost 500 years after the name was pronounced for the last time! Moreover, the vowel marks of "Jahovah" are those of the word "Adonai" - implying, that they replace the original vowels, which were made a secret (or left forgotten) in order to prevent blasphemy, even by accident.

In addition, in recent years there has been a large debate over the meaning of this name. It seems related to the Hebrew root H-Y/V-Y/H (Yod י, He ה, and Waw ו are interchangeable in some cases), which is used to describe various aspects of being. Therefore, many scholars have decided that it means something like "I am the One Who Is". Appropriate reference points in the Old Testament to start an investigation into this name include: Genesis 2:4, Exodus 3:15 (others?). Nevertheless, the most accurate meaning of God's name seems to be "He causes to become" (based upon the causal ה), that is, everything that He wishes to happen is because of his will and becomes a reality (Isaiah 55:10,11), there is nothing God cannot accomplish nor do, except lying (Titus 1:2).

From the point of view of history of religion, the God of the Tanakh whether referred to as Yahweh or Jehovah or by some other name, is the same God worshipped by Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and is sometimes thus referred to as the Judeo-Christian God. However it is important to understand that there are major differences between the religions, so far as theology is concerned. Thus, for example, Christendom followers believe in the Holy Trinity, while Jewish theologians find that this sort of materialization (and division) of the deity is incompatible with the Jewish religion.

It is most interesting that the name also occurs at 21 places in the Rigveda as an epithet for the fire-god Agni. This fact may be a consequence of the early connections between the Veda worshiping Hindu Mitanni and the early Hebrews.

Note: In Hebrew YHWH reads like this: יהוה. It consists of the letters Yod י He ה Waw ו He ה. Hebrew reads from right to left, most newer web browsers such as Mozilla and Microsoft Internet Explorer of version 4 and above would display these four letters correctly in bi-directional manner, but some older web browsers may display the text in the wrong direction. The letters J and Y are interchangeable in the transliteration of the Hebrew letter Yod. For the transliteration of Waw, the letters V and W are interchangeable.

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