“Jehovah”: A Christian Misunderstanding

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In any attempt to understand the Bible, there is no substitute for a knowledge of ancient Jewish custom and practice. For example, the term “Jehovah,” which is found in many Christian translations of the Bible, originated due to Christian lack of awareness of Jewish custom.

Revised: 19-Nov-2012

In any attempt to understand the Bible, there is no substitute for a knowledge of ancient Jewish custom and practice. For example, the name “Jehovah,” which is found in many Christian translations of the Bible, originated due to Christian lack of awareness of Jewish custom.

Pronunciation

In Hebrew Scripture the personal name of God is written with four Hebrew letters—yod, heh, vav, heh (YHWH)[1] —and therefore called the tetragrammaton. The name YHWH appears 6,829 times in the Hebrew Scriptures.

By linguistic comparisons with other ancient Semitic languages, scholars can be almost certain that the divine name was originally pronounced YaHWeH. The pronunciation of the first syllable of the tetragrammaton is confirmed by the abbreviated form of God’s name יָהּ (yah, transcribed “Jah” in the King James Version), which is sometimes used in biblical poetry (e.g., Ps. 68:4). It is also confirmed by the יָה (yah) that is attached as a suffix to many Hebrew names such as אֵלִיָּה (eliyah, Elijah) and עֹבַדְיָה (ovadyah, Obadiah).

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  • [1] At the time the Hebrew Bible was being composed, the ו (vav) , the third letter of the tetragrammaton, was pronounced as a “w” rather than a “v” as in modern Hebrew.

David N. Bivin

David N. Bivin
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David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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