The practice is not approved: "Have we not learnt: The
following have no portion in the world to come: He who says that the
Torah is not from Heaven, or that the resurrection of the dead is not
taught in the Torah. Abba Saul says: Also he who pronounces the Name in
its full spelling?" (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Abodah Zarah, 18a.) The Rabbis warn that pronouncing the Divine Name leads to poverty
and death: "One who hears his neighbor utter God's name in vain1 must
place him under a ban; otherwise he himself must be under a ban,
because the unnecessary utterance of the Divine Name always leads to
poverty, and poverty leads to death, as it is written, [And the Lord
said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return unto Egypt]. For all the men are
dead [which sought thy life]; and it was taught: Wherever the Sages
cast their eyes [in disapproval] death or poverty has resulted."
(Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Nedarim, 7b.).
The Talmud is not only not divinely inspired but is also rather
late; is it possible, as the Jehovah's Witnesses relate, that Jesus and
His followers pronounced the Divine Name as a routine part of life? They
have rewritten the New Testament as it has come down to
us in every surviving manuscript on the strength of their assumption that
everyday people of that time would have spoken the Divine Name. By
inserting the Divine Name into the New Testament, they remove
any possible 'confusion' created by confessing faith in Jesus as 'Lord'.
In this reconstruction, narrator and speakers both pronounce the Name with no inhibition.
. .just like the Jehovah's Witnesses do. But was it really common for those of that day to pronounce the Divine Name?
Let's look at more timely evidence:
The Septuagint translation, dating from before the Christian era,
translates Leviticus 24:16 in such a way as to criminalize on its face
pronouncing the Divine Name: "And he that names the name of the Lord,
let him die the death: let all the congregation of Israel stone him
with stones; whether he be a stranger or a native, let him die for
naming the name of the Lord." (Leviticus 24:16, Brenton Septuagint).
Jesus ben Sirach offers the following cautions: "Do not inure
your mouth to oaths or make a habit of naming the Holy One. As a slave under the lash is never
free from weals, so the man who has oaths and the sacred name for ever on his lips will never be
clear of guilt." (Ecclesiasticus 23:9-11). Ben Sirach contemplates that the Divine Name
would be used exclusively in oaths, not teaching or praying. He also mentions, in his brief
biography of Simon son of Onias, an incident where this High Priest pronounced the Name in blessing,
as a remarkable thing: "Then Simon came down and raised his hands over the whole congregation of
Israel, to pronounce the Lord's blessing, proud to take his name on his lips; and a second time they
bowed in worship to receive the blessing from the Most High." (Ecclesiasticus 50:20).
The Jews to this day translate Leviticus 24:16 in such a way
as to make it sound like pronouncing the Divine Name is blasphemy on its face: "And to the
Israelite people speak thus: Anyone who blasphemes his God shall bear his guilt; if he also pronounces
the name LORD, he shall be put to death. The whole community shall stone him; stranger or
citizen, if he has thus pronounced the Name, he shall be put to death." (Leviticus 24:15-16, Jewish
Publication Society, Tanakh). Usage such as one reads in the Watchtower
Society's Bible translations is prohibited, "Any one that uses the name
of the Lord, as it is written, which is prohibited, has no share in the
world to come." (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson,
Volume 9, Tract Aboth, Chapter 1, Kindle location 37623).
The exception to the rule was the High Priest, who could legally pronounce the Divine Name in the
temple, which he did once a year, on the Day of Atonement: "From the mishnaic period onward, the explicit name of God was never uttered except in
the Temple, and we learn from the Septuagint that this was an ancient tradition...The High Priest
apparently uttered the explicit name on Yom Kippur...The name aroused great awe, as the Mishnah
related: 'When the priests and the people heard the great and terrible name uttered by the High Priest,
they would kneel and bow down and say: "Blessed be the name of His honored kingdom for ever and
ever."'" (The Essential Talmud, Adin Steinsaltz, pp. 213-214).
“He then laid both his hands upon the head of the
bullock, and confessed as follows: — ‘Ah, JEHOVAH I have committed
iniquity; I have transgressed; I have sinned — I and my house. Oh,
then, JEHOVAH, I entreat Thee, cover over (atone for, let there be
atonement for) the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I
have committed, transgressed, and sinned before Thee, I and my house
even as it is written in the law of Moses, Thy servant: “For, on that
day will He cover over (atone) for you to make you clean; from all your
transgressions before JEHOVAH ye shall be cleansed.”’ It will be
noticed that in this solemn confession the name JEHOVAH occurred three
times. Other three times was it pronounced in the confession which the
high-priest made over the same bullock for the priesthood; a seventh
time was it uttered when he cast the lot as to which of the two goats
was to be ‘for JEHOVAH;’ and once again he spoke it three time, in the
confession over the so-called ‘scape-goat’ which bore the sins of the
people. All these ten times the high-priest pronounced the very name of
JEHOVAH, and, as he spoke it, those who stood near cast themselves with
their faces on the ground, while the multitude responded: ‘Blessed be
the Name; the glory of His kingdom is for ever and ever.’” (Alfred
Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 202).
The people responded with veneration when they heard the Holy Name,
"He comes to the scapegoat, and puts both hands on him, and
confesses, using the following expression: I beseech Thee, Jehovah,
they have committed iniquities, transgressed, sinned before Thee, Thy
people the House of Israel. . .And the priests and people who stood in
the forecourt, hearing the expressed name [of God, i.e., Jehovah]
issuing from the mouth of the high-priest, used to kneel, prostrate
themselves, and fall on their faces, and say: 'Blessed be the name of
His kingdom's glory for ever.'" (Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael
L. Rodkinson, Volume VI, Section Moed, Tractate Yoma, Chapter VI,
[66a.] Kindle location 24239).
It was not a daily occurrence. Some Rabbis promulgated the principle
that the Divine Name was only to be pronounced in the temple:
"And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. What does
‘great’ imply? — R. Joseph said in the name of Rab: He magnified Him by
[pronouncing] the Ineffable Name. R. Giddal said: [He recited], Blessed
be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting.
Said Abaye to R. Dimi: But perhaps it means that he magnified Him by
[pronouncing] the Ineffable Name? — He answered: One does not pronounce
the Ineffable Name outside [the limits of the Temple]." (Babylonian
Talmud, Tractate Yoma, 69b).
No doubt these are nothing but commandments of men, but as a matter
of historical fact use of the Divine Name was not common in every-day
life. Not only the Pharisees, but also the Qumran Covenanters,
were upset by the thought of anyone pronouncing the Divine Name: "Anyone who speaks aloud the M[ost]
Holy Name of God, [whether in...] or in cursing or as a blurt in time of trial or for any other
reason, or while he is reading a book or praying, is to be expelled, never again to return to the
society of the Yahad." (Charter of a Jewish Sectarian Association, p. 135, Dead Sea Scrolls,
Wise, Abegg & Cook).
The modern Jewish understanding of Leviticus 24:15-16
as intending to criminalize pronouncing the Divine Name was already in place in Philo Judaeus' day.
He quotes the verse as follows: "'Whoever curses God shall be guilty of sin, and whoever
names the name of the Lord shall die.' Well done, O all-wise man! You alone have drunk of the cup of
unalloyed wisdom. You have seen that it was worse to name God than even to curse him...But if
any were, I will not say to blaspheme against the Lord of gods and men, but were even to dare to
utter his name unseasonably he must endure the punishment of death; for those persons who have a
proper respect for their parents do not lightly bring forward the names of their parents, though
they are but mortal, but they avoid using their proper names by reason of the reverence which they
bear them, and call them rather by the titles indicating their natural relationship, that is,
father and mother, by which names they at once intimate the unsurpassable benefits which they have
received at their hands, and their own grateful disposition. Therefore those men must not be
thought worthy of pardon who out of volubility of tongue have spoken unseasonably, and being too free
of their words have repeated carelessly the most holy and divine name of God." (Philo Judaeus, 25
B.C. - 45 A.D., On the Life of Moses, II, XXXVII-XXXVIII, 203-208).
So it seems like the habit of speaking the Divine Name in daily life was
already history before Jesus' first advent. 'Restoring' it where it never
was is a willful modern invention. The Divine Name does however occur inn
the New Testament. The Divine Name is found
in actually existing manuscripts of the New Testament in several forms: 1.)
in Greek translation, in John 8:58, 8:24 and related verses, 2.) as transliterated
in the chorus of praise of the inhabitants of heaven:
"After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven,
saying, 'Alleluia! Salvation and
glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our
God!'...Again they said, 'Alleluia! Her smoke rises
up forever and ever!' And the twenty-four
elders and the four living creatures fell down and
worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, 'Amen!
Alleluia!'...And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the
sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty
thunderings, saying, 'Alleluia! For the Lord God
Omnipotent reigns!'" (Revelation 19:1-6).
'Alleluia' is the Greek transliteration of
the Hebrew 'Hallelujah', meaning 'Praise Jah!'.
Many psalms begin with a 'Hallelujah', like Psalm 106:1: "Praise the LORD!"
Christians can agree,
"Said R. Jehoshua ben Levi: 'With ten different expressions
of praise the entire Book of Psalms was composed. . .The most important
of all the expressions is that of Hallelujah, because it contains
within itself both praise and the Name.'" (The Babylonian Talmud,
edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume V., Section Moed, Tractate
Pesachim, Chapter X, Kindle location 21658).
3.) One suggested third way derives from the Greek transliteration of the Divine Name
as 'IAO': iota-alpha-omega. 'Alpha and Omega' is offered as a Divine Name
in Revelation, corresponding to the 'First and the Last' [letters of the alphabet].
"I Jesus" [Revelation 22:16] and "Alpha and
Omega" [Revelation 22:13] spell out 'IAO,' though perhaps this is bit recondite.
Another admittedly far-fetched suggestion is that the "seven voices" of
Revelation 10:3 are reciting a seven (Greek) vowel version of the
divine name: "ΙΕΗΩΟΥΑ," familiar to those who derive their acquaintance
with the divine name from amulets and talismans and the like:
"The Greek language has but one word for vowel and voice;
when therefore, “the seven thunders uttered their voices,” the seven
vowels, it is meant, echoed through the vault of heaven, and composed
that mystic utterance which the sainted seer was forbidden to reveal
unto mortals." (King, Charles William (2010-07-13). The Gnostics and
Their Remains (Kindle Locations 3239-3241). Part II, The Worship of
Mithras and Serapis. Kindle Edition.)
And, lastly, 4.) in the form of the pious substitution of 'Lord.' The
habit of substituting 'Lord' for the Divine Name was established in synagogue
worship; Jesus does it in Luke 4:17-18, "And He was handed the book of the
prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where
it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord ['kyrios'] is upon Me, Because He
has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor...'" Where the scroll of
Isaiah 61 would have had the Divine Name, Jesus substitutes 'Kyrios', 'Lord'.
It's this last form which is so lethal to the Jehovah's Witness denial of Christ's Deity that
they've been obliged to 'restore' the Divine Name to places in the New Testament where it
never was — because the early church also confessed that "Jesus is Lord". This
results in puzzling non-sequiturs in the New Word Translation, like Romans 10:9-13, "For if
you publicly declare that 'word in your own mouth,' that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in
your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved...For 'everyone who calls on
the name of Jehovah will be saved.'" This accurate quotation of Joel 2:32 is cut
adrift by the forced substitution of 'Jehovah' for 'the Lord' of the text. Leaving the text
as Paul wrote it makes perfect sense, because "Jesus is Lord"!
Jehovah or Yahweh?
To their credit, the Jehovah's Witnesses have resisted the modern fad of
pronouncing the Divine Name as 'Yahweh.' Though 'Jave' is attested as Samaritan
usage in antiquity, the common Greek usage of 'IAO' cannot be understood
as a shortened form of 'Yahweh,' while both can be understood as shortened
forms of 'Jehovah.' 'IAO' is attested by Origen (Contra Celsus 6.32, Commentary
on John 2.1), Diodorus Siculus, and many other authors. The Greek 'iota' sounds like the 'i' of
'machine,' not like 'eye.' A word which begin with a leading-I, like 'Iesous,' sounds like 'Yay-zous;'
so 'IAO' equates to 'Jahoh.' Partisans of 'Yahweh'
point to a letter from Clement of Alexandria which supplies the transliteration,
I A O U E
So how did Clement come to omit the 'O' of Jehovah? He didn't — it's that
big round thing right in the middle! Except the moderns tell us this 'O'
must be combined with its neighbor, 'U' to form the dipthong 'OU,' pronounced
by the Greeks as 'ooh.' So we end up with something like the French 'oui'
for the syllable of a two-syllable word. In fact, had the King James
Version translators tacked up Clement's
'IAOUE' on the wall, they still would have given us what they did give us,
which is 'Iehouah' in the 1611 edition. Greek lacks any letter 'H,'
except as a rough breathing mark at the beginning of a word. How do we
get from 'Iehouah' to 'Jehovah?' The 'change' from initial 'I' to 'J'
has more to do with the history of type-setting. The moderns'
insistence on making Clement's 'u' into a vowel and mashing it into a
dipthong, which is where 'Yahweh' comes from, strikes me as a
misunderstanding. The Septuagint and the New Testament, in
transliterating Hebrew words, very often give us a 'u,' upsilon, for v
or w (in Silver Age Latin, 'v' is pronounced 'w' in any case). Let's look
at the record:
The Mother of All Living: The KJV edition of 1769 gives us 'Eve' in 1 Timothy 2:13, for 'EUA.'
The Greek diphthong 'eu' is pronounced like the 'eu' in 'feud.' (Goodwin's Greek Grammar, p.
11). Do the moderns go with 'Youah?' That's not right.
Visit Ninyouee and Die: The modern KJV gives us 'Nineve' in Luke 11:32,
not 'Ninyouee.' Unlike many modern translations, the KJV does sometimes go to the trouble of rendering
New Testament words from the Greek; they refrain from substituting 'Isaiah'
for 'Esaias.' There never was any such place in the world pronounced 'Ninyouee,'
though if we follow the modern procedure which yields 'Yahweh' for 'IAOUE,'
that's what we get.
King Dowd: Later transliterated 'Dabid,' early Greek versions have 'Dauid,' for
instance in Matthew 1:6. 'AU' is a Greek dipthong pronounced like the 'ou'
of 'house.' (Goodwin's Greek Grammar, p. 11). But 'David' is actually
right. So is 'Jehovah.'
In many of these cases, it appears that what the transliterators did in the first place is to
substitute the Greek 'upsilon' for the Hebrew 'vav.' The 1769
KJV succeeds by
reversing the procedure. The moderns, suspecting elaborate mimicry rather than letter-for-letter substitution,
lead us far afield from successful transliteration when we adopt their
procedure for the many Old Testament words brought into the New Testament.
In general these transliterations seem to succeed best when one carefully
pronounces each letter rather than blending them into Greek dipthongs.
'Raab' (James 2:25) would be pronounced in Greek as one syllable; two 'alpha's'
should contract to a long 'a,' like the 'a' in 'father' (Goodwin's Greek
Grammar, 15). But this does not lead to success, the woman's name had two
syllables. Likewise in the case of 'Father Abraham' (Luke 16:24); it takes
a careful listener to tell the difference between 'Abraam' (long 'a')
and 'Abram' (short 'a'). Pronouncing the letters separately, however, does
keep us in the ball-park, though it goes against the grain of normal Greek
practice. These New Testament transliterations, as well as those in the
Septuagint, seem to succeed best when the reader avoids combining the vowels into dipthongs.
Did readers understand this convention...or
did they content themselves with pronunciations which do not resemble their exemplars?
While substituting 'upsilon' for 'vav' may seem arbitrary, language itself follows
this protocol; the Greek 'bous,' the lexicons tell us, is the same word as the Latin 'bovis'
('bos'), from which we get our 'bovine.' If that is what Clement is doing, then
he is telling us the Divine Name is pronounced 'Yahoweh.' If, on the other
hand, he is introducing a brand-new transliteration procedure to his readers,
employing imaginative combinations of dipthongs to mimic consonants, it
is unclear how he expected his readers to catch on to this novel private language.
When English-speakers decided to pronounce the leading-I of words like 'Iesous,'
as 'Gz,' is unclear, but 'correcting' this usage in one case — 'Yahweh'
— while leaving it uncorrected in the other — 'Jesus' — impairs the
reader's ability to discern that 'Jesus' is 'Jehovah Savior.' In any case, 'IAO' serves
as a useful check on the ingenuity of the moderns. The 'O' of 'IAO' cannot be combined
with 'U' to form a dipthong...because there isn't any 'U'! The Jehovah's
Witnesses are closer to the mark with 'Jehovah' than is the 'Yahweh'
contingent, for my money.
Did Jesus die upon a cross, with intersecting horizontal and vertical timbers, or upon a
vertical stake? Writing early in the second century, this author likens the cross to the
letter 'T,' tau:
“And because the cross, which is shaped like the T,
was destined to convey grace, it mentions also the 'three hundred.'” (Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 9.8,
The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, and Holmes, p. 174).
(The letters of the Greek alphabet did double duty as numbers.) If the penal cross then in use had a vertical member only, it is unclear why the letter 'T'
would be the ideal symbol, instead of the letter 'I,' iota (which this author has already
claimed for the first letter of the name 'Jesus').
Tertullian likewise saw the letter 'T' as a prophecy of the
"Now the Greek letter Tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross.
. ." (Tertullian, 'Five Books Against Marcion,' Book III,
A 'torture stake' does not look like a 'T.' He is discussing
Ezekiel 9:4, and seems to have found his 'T' in a Greek transliteration of
the Hebrew 'tav,' meaning 'mark.' (Some of these
interpretations do not survive transfer from the Septuagint; the
point is not that they are worthwhile Bible interpretations, but
that they imply the interpreter thought a cross looked like the
Irenaeus describes the conventional figure for the cross: "The very
form of the cross, too, has five extremities, two in length, two in
breadth, and one in the middle, on which [last] the person rests who is
fixed by the nails." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 24,
Section 4, p. 787, ECF_1_01).
A man tied to a 'torture stake' does not stretch out his hands,
yet these writers link Jesus' death on a cross with
Old Testament references to stretched-out hands:
“When the people,” replied I, “waged war
with Amalek, and the son of Nave (Nun) by name Jesus (Joshua), led the
fight, Moses himself prayed to God, stretching out both hands, and Hur
with Aaron supported them during the whole day, so that they
might not hang down when he got wearied. For if he gave up any
part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross, the
people were beaten, as is recorded in the writings of Moses. .
.he himself made the sign of the cross." (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 90).
Writers who lived when crucifixion was still employed as a method of
execution are not likely to be mistaken about this, and the Jehovah's
Witnesses who insist upon a single stake in order to assign a pagan origin to the
image of the cross, are not likely to be correct.