Hostility to God's "name"

by AwSnap 46 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • PSacramento


    what do you think of Joesephus stating that the name that can't be pronunced had 4 vowels?

    Is "Y" considered a vowel in Hebrew?

  • Narkissos

    Perhaps we should start with the usual simplification that 'Hebrew writes only consonants'; the Hebrew letters corresponding to Y, H, W, H are written.

    But not all Hebrew written letters are actually consonants in the phonetic sense: in most English uses, for instance, Y and W stand for semi- or half-consonants" (not sure of the English terminology here), and it was most likely also the case in ancient Hebrew. Moreover, in Biblical (and even more in DSS) Hebrew a number of letters can also work as matres lectionis, i.e. as a graphic reminder of (or substitute for) a full vowel; in that case Y can stand for "i" or "e", W for "o" or "u", H for "a" or "e". It is an either/or system: either the letter stands for its own (semi-)consonantic value, OR for the vowel it substitutes -- not both -- a fact which is often missed by those who try to deduce the vowels of the Tetragrammaton from the written letters, while retaining their (semi-)consonantic value.

    Now when you transliterate Hebrew into Greek you find yourself with a problem; neither the semi-consonantic Y or W nor the aspirate H exist as separate letters. To transliterate a name like Yahweh you will likely have to use four Greek vowels: i-a-u-e (or more, e.g. i-a-ou-ai); if the Hebrew equivalent to W is read as a fricative (V) as is the case in later, especally Eastern-European Hebrew, you may include the consonant beta: i-a-b-e etc. (in late Greek beta tends to be pronounced as "v" as well). And that the divine name in Greek transliteration seems to consist of four vowels (even though at least two of them may have originally stood for semi-consonants just as Y and W) lends itself to speculation in a Hellenistic setting (cf. Plato on the "superiority" of vowels over consonants, and the vocalic invocations in Gnostic texts of the Nag Hammadi library for instance).

  • PSacramento


    Does Hebrew "separate" the prononuciation of words by the vowels like we "typically" do? did Koine greek?

    Would 4 vowels equal 4 syllabuls?

  • Narkissos
    Does Hebrew "separate" the prononuciation of words by the vowels like we "typically" do? did Koine greek?
    Would 4 vowels equal 4 syllabuls?

    Vowels between words? Apparently no. Between each consonant (in the broadest sense) and the next, like in some (African?) languages where a sequence of consonants cannot be pronounced unless separated by vowels (and a word like spectre would have to be transliterated with something like *isipikitiri, for instance)? Neither I think. But "we" don't "typically" do that either so I'm afraid I don't understand your question. Could you explain and/or give an example?

    In Greek it is likely that the sequence i-a-u-e wouldbe read as a 4-syllable word with triple dieresis, especially by readers without a semitic background; but not necessarily so; if the i and/or u are taken as semi-consonants it could also be read as ia-u-e, ia-ue, i.e. 3 or 2 syllables respectively.

  • SixofNine

    Narkissos, have you ever seen a published list of legitimate attempts to 'vowel-ise" Yhwh?

    Are there good arguments for just one or two variations, or are there good arguments for many variations?

  • Narkissos

    Hi 6,

    I can't recall anything like that, but then this is the kind of topic to attract a lot of 'fringe scholarship' and eccentric proposals (all legitimate in their authors' eyes of course). E.g. this French JW, non-specialist, who overwatchtowers the Watchtower by arguing for... Yehowah ; or this more recent thread: (the first few posts before it gets off topic)

    The network of evidence for a first syllable Ya- is overwhelming imo; the arguments for Yahweh are strong but it seems to me that Yahu(h) (or less likely Yaho) remains a plausible concurrent; it is generally dismissed as an abbreviation of the Tetragrammaton (Yhw, prefix or suffix in theophoric names), but this doesn't rule out a similar pronunciation for the whole Tetragrammaton. Yahweh undoubtedly existed at some point (in Samaria notably) but may also be a late development adapting a pre-Israelite divine name to Hebrew language....

  • Spook

    I am hostile because it's made up and they get all gooey in their pants about someone who they think they are talking to by name who doesn't actually exist - even as a literary character in the book they are referencing. And it is a really stupid name, too.

  • AwSnap

    Sorry, i'm not on here very much...gotta control myself. This place is addictive! ;-) Thanks for all the comments.

  • Pistoff

    The whole issue of God's name is important to JW's and other sacred name cults.

    The issue is clouded by all of the issues that narkissos has outlined; the absolute best thing we can say about YHWH is we don't know, and may never know:

    1. What was the original pronunciation?

    2. Was it ever actually pronounced?

    3. Did the common israelite use it, or priests only?

    4. At what point, and why, did the Yahwist faction of Israel win over against the El faction?

    5. If it was ever pronounced, why did it fall out of use? Was it really because they considered it too sacred, or was it unnecessary as monotheism took hold to have a name to distinguish the national deity? Was it a confusion of Aramaic words between pronounce and profane when they were in exile in Babylon?

    Based on what I have read, the use of and later abandonment of YHWH had to do with differentiation of Israel from it's Canaanite neighbors and a move to elevate the history of Moses and the priesthood, the same basic reasons that Rutherford likely took it up.


  • Narkissos


    1. The problem of "original" pronunciation gets even more complex when you factor in that the history of the DN Yhw(h) started before the earliest Bible texts and out of Canaan/Israel... "original" to what?

    2 & 3. Theophoric names, epigraphic uses in blessings and curses, and dialogues in Biblical narratives strongly suggests that Yhwh was very widely used (not just in liturgy) at some point (down to the 4th century BC at least).

    4. I don't think the Yahwist faction ever "won", what we rather see is a merging of Yhwh and 'El (very early if the association of Asherah with Yhwh rather than El is any indication).

    5. I think Yhwh fell out of ordinary use as a secondary consequence of the shift to monotheism. At first it was entirely compatible, cf. Deutero-Isaiah. But then a name for the One God became a problematic concept. It had to be explained theologically (cf. Exodus 3, first in a negative then in an ontological manner). The Name of the One God was of itself sacrosanct, dangerous (hence avoided by ordinary people) and powerful (hence the magical and esoterical uses). In-between it became a kind of "empty significant," a placeholder for "God" himself (cf. the Qaddish or the Lord's Prayer). To more "philosophical" minds (e.g. Philo) "God" could not have a name in any real sense.

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