Nazarene Israel’s policy regarding the sacred names is that leaders and teachers should pronounce the name as Yahweh or Yahuweh. However, if you believe the Creator’s name is pronounced Yehovah, or Yahovah, or Yahuah (or some other variant pronunciation), then we accept you in the body in love. Only, we do not allow anyone to teach unless they use the name Yahweh or Yahuweh, for reasons we will explain in this article.
The reason for this article is that some teach that the Creator’s name is pronounced Yehovah. This is not intended to be an exhaustive study, but we will show why that pronunciation cannot be correct.
The Third Commandment
In the Third Commandment, Yahweh tells us not to take His name in vain, for He will not hold anyone guiltless, who takes His name in vain. This means much more than not swearing or cursing in His name.
7 “You shall not take the name of Yahweh your Elohim in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
|(7) לֹא תִשָּׂא אֶת שֵׁם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַשָּׁוְא | כִּי לֹא יְנַקֶּה יְהוָה אֵת אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׂא אֶת שְׁמוֹ לַשָּׁוְא|
The word vain is Strong’s Old Testament 7723, which refers to desolating the name, or “bringing it to nothing”, especially by falseness. Some people believe this means we should not use false or wrong names.
OT:7723 shav’ (shawv); or shav (shav); from the same as OT:7722 in the sense of desolating; evil (as destructive), literally (ruin) or morally (especially guile); figuratively idolatry (as false, subjective), uselessness (as deceptive, objective; also adverbially, in vain):
Whether they are aware of it or not, both Christians and Jews bring Yahweh’s name to nothing by means of false names. For example, in the late Doctor CJ Koster’s book, Come Out of Her, My People, Doctor Koster shows how “Lord” derives from the name of the pagan sun god Lordo or Larth. When Christianity first came to Europe, the people were worshipping Lordo (or Larth). Since they were used to calling the Deity Lordo or Larth, the Catholic Church taught them to use this name for the Hebrew Creator. While one might argue that this helped to move things in the right direction (as a half step), calling Yahweh by the name of a sun god (i.e., Lucifer) is not the same as calling Him by His true name.
Brother Judah also calls Yahweh by false names, but for different reasons. While Judah knows Yahweh’s name, he believes it is his duty to keep the name hidden from the gentiles (i.e., us), to keep us from speaking it in vain (as they believe only Jews may speak it). Because of this, brother Judah calls Yahweh by the title HaShem (meaning “the Name”) on weekdays, and then on the Sabbaths and feasts he calls Yahweh by the title, Adonai. This term Adonai is a plural emphatic form for royalty, referring to “My Lord / the King of kings”. One might think it is good to call Yahweh by this name, because He is the King of kings! However, Adonai is not a name, but a title, and it has also been used historically to refer to pagan deities. Plus, to call Yahweh by His title Adonai is a form of substitution or misuse.
What we need to see here is that while most Ephraimites (i.e., Christians) do not use Yahweh’s name because they do not know what it is, most Jews know what His name is, but they purposefully conceal it from gentiles (i.e., us) by using the substitute names HaShem and Adonai. And, many believe Yehovah should be added to that list, as it also is a substitute for Yahweh’s true name.
The Addition of Written Vowel Points
Before we can understand where the substitute name Yehovah comes from, first we need to realize that there were no written vowel points in Hebrew prior to the Middle Ages. For example, there are no written vowel points anywhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Above is an image of the War Scroll, from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Notice that there are no written vowel points at all.
Some rabbis and some Karaites maintain (as a matter of dogma) that the written vowel points were given by Yahweh when the Torah was given to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai, but the fact is that written Hebrew vowel points first appear in the Hebrew Masoretic Text, which was written (or rather, standardized) in the Middle Ages. (The Masoretic Text is the text that is found in most Hebrew versions of the Tanach [Old Testament]).
Because the written vowel points did not exist before the Hebrew Masoretic Text was standardized in the Middle Ages, we don’t even need to dive deeply into the Hebrew language to show that the pronunciation Yehovah is wrong. The point is that some people teach that the Creator’s name is allegedly pronounced Yehovah because that is how the name is vowel pointed in hundreds of so-called “ancient Hebrew manuscripts”. However, when we realize that these written vowel points are only about a thousand years old, that that they did not even exist in Yeshua’s day (much less Moshe HaNavi’s day), then we can realize that such “arguments from the vowel points” mean nothing, and we can throw them away. This is because these vowel points are man-made additions to text, and we are told many times not to add anything, and not to take anything away from Scripture.
Mishle (Proverbs) 30:6
6 Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
We should also add that even giving the benefit of the doubt, there is evidence to suggest that the written vowel points were added in order to disguise Yahweh’s true name from gentiles (perhaps first Babylonians or Greeks, and then gentile Christians). However, in order to see that, first let us talk about brother Judah’s dogma that the Scriptures should sometimes be spoken differently than how they are written.
The Spoken Qere and the Written Kativ
In Judaism there is a masorah (or tradition) that the way Scripture is spoken aloud (the qere, קרי) can differ from how it is spelled (the kativ, כתיב). For example, in Genesis 8:17, in the kativ (written text) it shows Yahweh telling Moshe to bring all of the animals out of the ark, while the qere has Moshe driving the animals out of the ark. In the quote below, the qere is in [brackets], and it immediately follows the kativ.
17 “Every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, bring out [drive out qere] so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”
|(17) כָּל הַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר אִתְּךָ מִכָּל בָּשָׂר בָּעוֹף וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל הָרֶמֶשׂ הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל הָאָרֶץ הוצא [הַיְצֵא קרי] אִתָּךְ | וְשָׁרְצוּ בָאָרֶץ וּפָרוּ וְרָבוּ עַל הָאָרֶץ|
Why was this change made? We don’t know for sure, but one might guess it was made because the sopherim (Karaites scribes) didn’t like the way the text read, so they “corrected” it.
Such changes are not uncommon. In the past it has been a well-kept secret that not all the changes that have been made to the Hebrew text are marked. For example, you can do an internet search for what are called the Emendations of the Sopherim (tiqqun sopherim). There are two lists, one with 18 emendations, and another with at least 134, and there may be many more that we don’t know about. Most of these are like our above example, where the scribes did not like how the text read, so they changed it. This is in direct violation of Yahweh’s words, not to add or take anything away.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim, which I command you.”
The 134 Emendations of the Sopherim are part of the scholarly record, and they are also discussed in Doctor Koster’s study, Come Out of Her, My People.
Now, notice that the kativ in Genesis 8:17 [הוצא] is not vowel pointed. That is because before the Middle Ages (i.e., when the Karaite scribes standardized the vowel pointing of the Masoretic Text), there were no vowel points. Yet, some Karaites and rabbis teach us that the vowel points were dictated to Moshe by Yahweh—and then they go to establish doctrine based on the vowel points (when they should know better).
Hiding Yahweh’s Name
Brother Judah believes the Divine Name must be hidden from the gentiles, because they believe it is blasphemy for anyone but the Jews to speak Yahweh’s name (and even then, only once a year, on Yom Kippur). There is absolutely no scriptural support for this tradition, and there is verse upon verse proving that Yahweh wants us to do otherwise. In fact, we are told many times to glorify Yahweh’s name, and to make it known.
Shemote (Exodus) 9:16
16 “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
Some people believe that brother Judah began to hide Yahweh’s name when they went into Exile in Babylon, to keep the Babylonians from taking Yahweh’s name in vain. This makes sense, as rabbinic Jews are infamous for creating so-called fence laws, which are laws they make in addition to the ones Yahweh commands. And while their reasons might sound good to the ear, in the end they transgress Yahweh’s commandment (not to alter His commandments in any way).
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:32
32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
Another theory is that the ban on speaking the name began during the Macedonian (Greek) occupation of the land of Israel. While Alexander the Great had originally allowed Judah to practice Judaism, his successor Antiochus Epiphanies decided that all his subjects had to learn Greek ways, and worship Greek gods. There was a ban put on Hebraic worship in any form. This is written about in the books of the Maccabees.
1 Maccabees 1:41-50 KJV
41 Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people,
42 And every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king.
43 Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the sabbath.
44 For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda that they should follow the strange laws of the land,
45 And forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days:
46 And pollute the sanctuary and holy people:
47 Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine’s flesh, and unclean beasts:
48 That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation:
49 To the end they might forget the law, and change all the ordinances.
50 And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die.
Jews are very smart people, and when they are under duress they can pray in very normal tones (as if they are just engaging in normal conversation). It seems likely that Antiochus Epiphanies’ soldiers did not know Hebrew, and therefore they would not have been able to tell if brother Judah was praying in Hebrew, or just speaking Hebrew. However, the average soldier could learn to recognize Yahweh’s name, and arrest anyone who spoke it. And if that was the case (which seems likely), it may be that this is what led brother Judah to begin calling Yahweh by substitute names. Now let us look at this possibility more closely.
The Qere Perpetuum and Yahweh’s Name
To get technical, brother Judah has several different kinds of qere (spoken pronunciations). One of these is called the qere perpetuum, or the perpetual qere. Interestingly, there are only a few special cases of this, and many of them involve Yahweh’s name.
A qere perpetuum is different than our example above, in that there is no need to put the qere in [brackets] next to the kativ. Rather, one simply puts the vowel points of the qere onto the kativ, and an initiated reader will know that he is to speak the qere (rather than the kativ).
To see how the qere perpetuum applies to Yahweh’s name, first let us recognize that Yahweh’s name is spelled Yod-Hay-Vav-Hay (יהוה). This is often called the Tetragrammaton (the four-letter name). The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells us that these four letters are all vowels. Because of this, there is no need to give them any vowel points (as one does not need to add additional vowel points to vowels). This passage refers to the head coverings of the high priest.
A mitre also of fine linen encompassed his head, which was tied by a blue ribbon, about which there was another golden crown, in which was engraven the sacred name: it consists of four vowels….”
The Wars of The Jews, Book 5, chapter 5, paragraph 7.
We should note that vowels are generally pronounced in soft tones, without fricative sounds (such as “v”). This shows that the pronunciation “Yehovah” cannot work, because Yehovah requires fricatives (such as “v”).
Further, in the Masoretic (traditionalist) Text, Yahweh’s name is usually rendered as יְהֹוָה. According to the Jews, this vowel pointing (qere) indicates that it is to be pronounced as אֲדֹנָי Adonai (“My King / my Lord”). This is exactly what brother Judah did in the Middle Ages, and it is still exactly what Orthodox Judah does today. The rabbis tell us directly that it is an example of qere perpetuum, meaning that Yahweh’s name is supposed to be pronounced as Adonai, because the vowel points of Adonai have been added to the Tetragrammaton.
[To get technical, Hebrew grammarians will notice that the shva vowel point under the first letter of the qere/kativ Yehovah (יְהֹוָה) is different than the hataf patakh vowel point under the first letter of Adonai (אֲדֹנָי). However, as Wikipedia explains, “The vocalisations Yehovah and Adonai are not identical. The shva in YHWH…and the hataf patakh in (Adonai)…appear different. The vocalisation can be attributed to Biblical Hebrew phonology, where the hataf patakh is grammatically identical to a shva, always replacing every shva nah under a guttural letter. Since the first letter of אדני is a guttural letter while the first letter of יהוה is not, the hataf patakh under the (guttural) aleph reverts to a regular shva under the (non-guttural) Yod.” Once we realize that the vowels under the Yod would have been changed to be functionally identical, then we can see that the argument that Yehovah does not have the same functional vowels as Adonai is false.]
The Impossible Variant Vowel Points, Which Exist
Now, let us consider for a moment that Yahweh’s name is vowel-pointed differently in other places in the Hebrew Masoretic Text, and that according to the logic of those who argue for the name “Yehovah”, such variant vowel points are impossible (and yet they exist). For example, the Tetragrammaton is vowel marked as יֱהֹוִה in Deuteronomy 3:24 and Psalms 73:28, indicating a qere of אֱלֹהִים (Elohim). And there are other vowel markings in both the Leningrad and the Aleppo Codices, which should be impossible, according to those who expound the name Yehovah. Here are a few representative samples, with references for those who wish to look up the references in Hebrew.
יְהוָה – Yehwah (Genesis 2:4)
יְהֹוָה – Yehowah (Genesis 3:14)
יֱהֹוִה – Yehowih (Judges 16:28)
יֱהוִה – Yehuwih (Genesis 15:2)
יְהֹוִה – Yehowih (1Kings 2:26)
יְהוִה – Yehwih (Ezekiel 24:24)
The reason this is a death-knell for the name Yehovah is that Jewish scribes were meticulous in copying Torah scrolls. They followed a special 20-point procedure, and if there were any errors at all, the errors had to be remedied within 30 days, or the entire scroll had to be buried. Because of that, it seems impossible that these other variant spellings could be scribal errors that were not corrected over the years, because any scrolls with errors would have to have been destroyed. Therefore, the only explanation is that these variant spellings are traditionalist qere/kativ. (Not surprisingly, this is also exactly what mainstream Judaism tells us it is.)
Once we realize that Yehovah (יְהֹוָה) is a qere/kativ that tells the initiated Jew to pronounce the Creator’s name as Adonai, then we can understand that Yehovah was originally a Christian mistake. The Christians assumed that the Divine Name was supposed to be pronounced as Yehovah, and Judah allowed the Christians to make this mistake because of his ancient dogmas that only Jews may speak the Divine Name (and that if gentile Christians utter the Divine Name, it profanes it). Thus, brother Judah let the Ephraimites make their mistake (and may even have encouraged it).
There are a lot of very sophisticated arguments that can be made if we allow the vowel points to be used in the discussion, but from our point of view this would make no sense, as the written vowel points did not even exist until the Middle Ages. All of these “arguments from the vowel points” deflate when we realize that the vowel points are man-made additions to the text, and do not truly belong in Scripture, but are only used because (for the most part), they are helpful for beginning readers who are not yet fluent in Hebrew. For example, in the land of Israel, vowel points are taught to young children, but they are not used after the first few grades. You just don’t see them except in books for children, and for those who are learning Hebrew as an additional language.
As we explain in other places, if we do away with the extra vowel points, and just let the four letters of the Divine Name flow out of our mouths smoothly, most people find that they come out as Yahweh or Yahuweh, with no fricatives (“v” sounds).
Support from the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls also seem to indicate that the Divine Name was rendered as Iao (Yaho).
It is worth noting that in Lev. iv, 27 (4Q120, fr. 20, 4) the Tetragram (the divine name YHWH) is rendered semi-phonetically as Iao, and is not replaced, as was customary later, by the Greek Kurios (Lord).
[The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, page 472]
Support from Outside Sources
There is also a lot of evidence from outside sources that the Divine Name was originally pronounced as Yahweh or Yahuweh. For example, the name Yehovah does not appear in any manuscript before the 9th century CE, but Yahweh appears as early as the 2nd century CE. Let us consider the following:
The pronunciation Yahweh is indicated by transliteration of the name into Greek in early Christian literature, in the form iaoue (Clement of Alexandria) or iabe (Theodoret; by this time Gk. b had the pronunciation of v)…Strictly speaking, Yahweh is the only ‘name’ of God. In Genesis wherever the word sem (‘name’) is associated with the divine being that name is Yahweh”
[Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, 1979 p. 478]
Such a conclusion, giving “Yahweh” as the pronunciation of the name, is confirmed by the testimony of the Fathers and gentile writers, where the forms IAO, Yaho, Yaou, Yahouai, and Yahoue appear. Especially important is the statement of Theodoret in relation to Ex. lvi., when he says: ‘the Samaritans call it [the tetragrammaton] ‘Yabe,’ the Jews call it ‘Aia’…”
[The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, “Yahweh,” p. 471]
The true pronunciation of the name YHWH was never lost. Several early Greek writers of the Christian Church testify that the name was pronounced “Yahweh.”
[Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 7, p. 680]
Evidence from Common Usage
Finally, we could add that we don’t say “Halleluyeh” (praise be to Yeh), we say Halleluyah (praise be to Yah). Also, when we look in Strong’s Concordance, we see that the phrase “hovah” refers to ruin, or mischief.
OT:1943 hovah (ho-vaw’); another form for OT:1942; ruin:
KJV – mischief.
And here is the reference:
OT:1942 havvah (hav-vaw’); from OT:1933 (in the sense of eagerly coveting and rushing upon; by implication, of falling); desire; also ruin:
KJV – calamity, iniquity, mischief, mischievous (thing), naughtiness, naughty, noisome, perverse thing, substance, very wickedness.
There is a lot more evidence that we could include here. In fact, it would be easy to fill a whole book on this subject. However, we believe that it is not necessary to fill a book, because we have shown ample evidence that the pronunciation Yehovah was originally a Christian misunderstanding of the Jewish qere/kativ יְהֹוָה, which brother Judah vocalizes as Adonai. We have also shown that this vocalization Adonai probably stems from a desire to mislead the gentile nations and Christians as to the true pronunciation of Yahweh’s name, due to brother Judah’s mistaken belief that he is supposed to hide the Divine Name from the nations (because there is power in the name), and that this belief of his is not what Yahweh commands.
2 “If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says Yahweh of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart.”
Yet for all of this, Nazarene Israel’s policy regarding the sacred names is one of tolerance, and education, and helping people come to Yahweh’s truth as the Spirit leads them. We believe that leaders and teachers should pronounce the name as Yahweh or Yahuweh. However, if the congregants believe the Creator’s name is pronounced Yehovah, or Yahovah, or Yahuah (or some other variant pronunciation), then we accept you in the body in love. Only, we do not allow anyone to teach unless they use the name Yahweh or Yahuweh, for reasons we have explained in this article.