This is my first post on the FiveDoves website, in response to Paul Wilson's post on 8/18/2010 which is available here: http://www.fivedoves.com/letters/aug2010/paulw818.htm
The original post was:
I know of 3 pronunciations one is Yah (like the Swedes say) - way and Yah (like the Swedes again) - Ho - Vah and the last is Jah (like the Jamaicans use for god) - Ho - Vah. are these pronunciations ok??? Is any one of them more correct?? I am most familiar with the first one mentioned.
It is absolutely amazing that something as important to all Hebrew/Christian faiths like the correct pronunciation of God's revealed name can be lost over time and misused today on such a grand scale. Whether you are a religious person or not, please keep in mind while reading this that the name of God (indeed, in any religion), is a very sacred thing, and commands a great deal of reverence. As a side note, to illustrate just how important this is to some people, the ancient Egyptians believed that knowledge and use of a spirit's name commanded some degree of authority over the spirit. This is a concept that is still very much in use today in certain circles, it is especially significant since Moses was brought up by the Egyptians, and is in a certain sense what is happening in prayer when you say "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". As you probably know, many of the times that you encounter a reference to God only a title is used, like Adonai, or El. These are all generic titles for God and were very common in ancient times... they mean Lord (which is Adonai), or god (which is El; Elohim is the plural for gods which is also sometimes used). Out of respect for the divine name, it is considered respectful to use a generic title for God whenever possible. This was so important to the Hebrews that over time pronouncing or even writing the divine name verbatim was considered taboo, and sometimes blasphemous. Therefore, use caution, and please keep in mind the respect that we ought to have for this name. There is a saying, "to a wise man everything is sacred, and to a fool nothing is sacred."
The revealed name of God to Moses consists of only four letters: Yodh, Heh, Vav, Heh, but it is important to keep in mind that the pronunciation of these letters do not directly match the name of the letter. When possible, it is encouraged to use an alternate title for God out of respect for the divine name.
Whether the correct pronunciation of the name of God (also referred to as the Tetragrammaton) as revealed to Moses can be known with certainty hinges on whether the name contains solely vowels or consonants. This is because in ancient times, in an effort to preserve valuable parchment, Jewish scribes were known to omit vowels and just use consonants when writing. If, then, the name of God contains only consonants, it cannot be known with certainty because the vowels are unknown, and therefore the exact pronunciation is uncertain (although you can still imply the pronunciation based on the consonants that exist). For example, the name "David" in Hebrew is expressed as just the consonants 'dalet', 'vav', 'dalet'. This translates to just 'd', 'v', 'd'. The letter 'vav' is often used to represent the 'v' or 'w' sound as we know it in English. Since the Hebrew language did not have a hard 'v' sound quite as we know today, it is arguably more properly transliterated as a 'w' sound, especially with consideration towards how the letter would have likely been used in ancient times. In fact, the name "Dawid" is an actual Jewish name and still used today. Notice the 'w' in place of what is typically now used as a 'v'.
The Hebrew language can express words without vowels, and often does, but the language is also able to express vowels when needed. Interestingly, the letter 'vav' may also used to designate the vowel 'u'. According to wikipedia:
"In the traditional form, vowels are indicated by the weak consonants Aleph, He, Vav, or Yodh serving as vowel letters".
Aleph is guttural, or silent, though sometimes used [perhaps mistakenly] to denote 'a'.
Yod is transliterated as "Y" or "I" and is pronounced "ee."
Heh is transliterated as "H" or "E" and is pronounced based on the letters surrounding it, such as "eh" and "ah."
Vav is transliterated as "W" or "U" or "V" and may be pronounced as a 'w' or soft double-o sound, "ooh." (The hard 'v' sound is supposedly only a more modern development)
Weingreen, a reputable Hebrew scholar, confirms this by stating:
"Long before the introduction of vowel-signs it was felt that the main vowel-sounds should be indicated in writing, and so the three letters, Vav, Heh, and Yodh, were used to represent long vowels."
This distinction to use vowels instead of consonants is of the utmost importance. Most modern religions have come to the consensus that the letters that compose the Tetragrammaton are consonants (Yod, He, Vav, He = YHWH), and not vowels (Yod, He, Vav, He = IEUE). However, while researching this matter I found several sources which indicate that they are in fact vowels, and not consonants. One such source is a well-known and highly regarded first century historian, Flavius Josephus, who indicates clearly that the Tetragrammaton is composed of four vowels:
"A mitre also of fine linen encompassed his head, which was tied by a blue ribband, about which there was another golden crown, in which was engraved the sacred name...: it consist of four vowels." From: The Works of Flavius Josephus, The Learned And Authentic Jewish Historian, And A Celebrated Warrior, pg 785, Book V, Ch. V, Wars of the Jews, sec. 7.
Even using the ancient Paleo-Hebrew script does not discredit this view. If the Tetragrammaton contains consonants, then we have established that the pronunciation can not completely be known and the closest transliteration would be: "y-h-w-h", with any combination of vowels potentially filling the gaps but the general sound of the consonants remaining the same. However, using the vowels, IEUE, an accurate pronunciation can be known with certainty based on how the vowels were to be pronounced at the time. This would be "ee-ah-oo-eh", which may be pronounced "Yahweh" or "Yahuweh". When spoken out loud, although it looks different, you can hear that "Yahuweh" perhaps most closely matches the pronunciation based on the vowels "ee-ah-oo-eh". In Greek, Ιαου, to pronounce the same four letters of the Tetragrammaton, the omicron+upsilon (the last two letters) are pronounced as "oo". Therefore the name "Yahu"/"Yaho" was derived. The Greek word "ιαουε" would have been needed to preserve the correct pronunciation "Yah-oo-eh", or "Yahuweh". This is just one small problem that comes when translating to different languages, and we will discover more problems where error has certainly occurred below, if you read on. This will help to understand how the name has been corrupted with so many variations over time.
Perhaps because of confusion around vowels in the Hebrew language, the Masoretes added marks above and below the letters to function as vowels. This is the modern method commonly used to designate vowels in Hebrew words. However, these marks appeared much later than the divine name was revealed and therefore do not help to understand the pronunciation of the name. To further emphasize that the vowel marks cannot be used to aid pronunciation, the Leningrad codex contains at least six different variations on the vowel marks for the Tetragrammaton. Because Jewish people often substituted the generic title for Lord "Adonai" or "Hashem" in place of the divine name, the vowel marks for these other words are sometimes printed as the vowel marks for the Tetragrammaton so that they do not mistakenly say the wrong thing. Therefore, it is clear that the vowel marks associated with the Tetragrammaton cannot reliably be used to provide pronunciation guidelines for the name itself.
The earliest known English translation for the divine name was from Tyndale in 1525. The term used in place of the divine name was 'IEHOUAH', arguably influenced from the Greek texts (the word ιαουε). The spelling "Jehovah" appeared in the King Jame's bible around 1762-1769. Prior to that time, there is no clear evidence that supports the translation of "Jehovah" as the name of God, especially considering that the letter "J" as we would speak it is a corruption of the sound "Y" from ancient times. The ancient Phoenician alphabet, from which Hebrew as we know it today was eventually derived, also did not have a distinct "J" sound. The hard 'v' sound was also not in widespread use at the time, it would have been pronounced with a 'w' instead.
Another interesting note is the pronunciation of the name for the Christian messiah, who is commonly referred to as "Jesus" today. The proper pronunciation of the name of the Christian messiah can be more definitively known. It is "Yahshua", sometimes spoken as "Yahushua" or "Yahoshua". It is not difficult to see how the name of the Christian messiah, "Yahshua", reflects that of his Father, "Yahuweh". Why, then, do people speak the name Jesus so often? Again, just like the name "Jehovah", the name "Jesus" was introduced through a series of transliteration errors from Hebrew, to Greek, to Latin, and ultimately to English. Yahshua = Iesous in Greek = Iosous in Latin = Jesus in English. The name Jesus, as it exists, would not even be spelled or pronounced with a "J" in ancient times. As this clearly demonstrates, a translation is not equivalent to a transliteration of the original word. In other words, a translation may be spoken completely different, and the proper pronunciation of a word therefore may become lost over time.
As always, while researching this topic I encountered several obviously erroneous articles with several different opinions on the matter. I have tried my utmost to separate the chaff from the wheat, and have strived to present only the most sure facts that can be known. If the one main assumption that I have presented above is wrong, and consonants are to be used, then the closest transliteration would be: "y-h-w-h", and Yahuweh still fits.
As a side note, as I have read through the posts here, I want to remind everyone that not everything is a conspiracy. Take some time before posting and think about what you're saying.