ArticlesQ&A

Where do we get the word “Jehovah”? Is “Jehovah” an acceptable pronunciation of the name of God?

By June 3, 2015 6 Comments

Response: The origins of the word “Jehovah” go back to Exodus 3:14 when God reveals his name to Moses: “I Am Who Am.” The Hebrew “YHWH” (also called the tetragrammaton) is generally accepted as representing this Name of God (cf. Ex. 3:14; Jn. 8:58), and “Jehovah” is an attempt at translating the Name of God. While a common pronunciation, “Jehovah” is a misnomer that developed out of an improper understanding of the Hebraic texts.
Discussion: Originally, written Hebrew had no vowels. The Jews who read the Scriptures knew what words the consonants represented. Additionally, the Jews regarded the
Name of God as holy, and in post-biblical times they ceased to pronounce it. Instead, they substituted the word Adonai (“my Lord”). Thus the true pronunciation of “YHWH” was not handed down through the generations. In writing, the Masoretes eventually pointed the consonants of the word “YHWH” with the vowels of the word Adonai in order to prompt the usage of Adonai.[1] No one knows for certain how YHWH was pronounced.
The pronunciation “Jehovah” rests on an erroneous understanding of the writing system of the Masoretes that resulted in the combination of the vowels of Adonai and the consonants “YHWH.” Scholars trace the actual word “Jehovah” and its spelling to anywhere between the 1100s and the 1500s AD. The Anchor Bible Dictionary states:
The misreading of the text to form the word “Jehovah” is usually traced to Petrus Galatinus, confessor to Pope Leo X, who in 1518 AD transliterated the four Hebrew letters with the Latin letters JHWH together with the vowels of Adonai, producing the artificial form “Jehovah.” (This confused usage may, however, have begun as early as 1100 AD). (“Yahweh,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 6, 1011)
While not denying the possibility of Petrus Galatinus’s role in promoting the use of “Jehovah,” The Catholic Encyclopedia traces its origins further back:
Drusius [a sixteenth-century professor of ancient languages]. . . represents Peter Galatinus as the inventor of the word Jehovah, and Fagius as its propagator in the world of scholars and commentators. But the writers of the sixteenth century, Catholic and Protestant (e.g. Cajetan and Théodore de Bèze), are perfectly familiar with the word. Galatinus himself . . . represents the form as known and received in his time. Besides, Drusius . . .discovered it in Porchetus, a theologian of the fourteenth century. (“Jehovah [Yahweh],” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 8)
Scholars disagree as to who coined “Jehovah,” but they agree that it is a human construct (i.e., not an authentic pronunciation of “YHWH”). And though “Jehovah” is a common pronunciation, it is not as accurate as “Yahweh.” The Catholic Encyclopedia states:
The Samaritan pronunciation Jabe probably approaches the real sound of the Divine name closest . . . Inserting the vowels of Jabe into the original Hebrew consonant text, we obtain the form Jahveh (Yahweh), which has been generally accepted by modern scholars as the true pronunciation of the Divine name. It is not merely closely connected with the pronunciation of the ancient synagogue by means of the Samaritan tradition, but it also allows the legitimate derivation of all the abbreviations of the sacred name in the Old Testament. (“Jehovah [Yahweh],” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 8)
These “legitimate derivations” include the phrase hallelu-yah (“Praise YHWH”) found in the Psalms. Further, the shortened form (“Yah”) of the divine name occurs several times in the Masoretic texts and is actually vocalized as such by the Masoretes.
Because it is the closest known pronunciation, the Church renders “YHWH” as “Yahweh.” “Jehovah” is not found in Church documents and thus is not formally part of the language of the Church.
Today, the word “Jehovah” is commonly associated with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. History shows, however, that they were not the first to call God “Jehovah.” In fact, one reason that the pronunciation “Jehovah” is so popular today is that the King James Bible translated YHWH as “Jehovah.” The word “Jehovah” is also found in hymns and used in the American Standard Version of the Bible.

6 Comments

  • Miriam Capistrano says:

    I’m catholic ,it doesn’t matter if they use Jehovah ,for me its the name of their religion,Jehovah is the father in heaven,and Jesus is the son ,they praise the father and son only 15 years ago I work to one family the lady is Jehovah but husband is Catholic and kids I meet a lots of missionaries and I never hear from them to critisize other religon

  • Miriam Capistrano says:

    Catholic and Jehovah have the same God but different thought and belief

  • Kathy Donohue says:

    I don’t know that’s how. I was thinking it was of a different faith. A friend of mine, who’s a Messianic Jew, told me also that it’s of Hebrew. Oh a doctor told me to learn a different language. It’s Hebrew. There was a Messianic group I liked before the operation so learned a tad before. Like I thought that Shalom. Just means Hello and Goodbye. Oh now I learned it means much much more.

  • It is not so important as how we pronounce Yahweh as many other translations above show but it’s important to use his name as Jesus even told us in Matthew 6:9 in the model prayer he says to sanctify God’s name. That means you praise His name. God is a title the scriptures tell us that there are many gods and many lords but there is only one true God and one mediator which is Jesus who we pray through to our Heavenly Father Jehovah. The name Jehovah however you pronounce it in any language is important to use because we are approaching him in prayer and as you would talk to her friend you would not talk to them as a girl or boy you would use their name. How much more important it is to use our Creator’s name who deserves all the praise in the world above all others. So we use his name so we can have a close relationship with him as our true friend and helper. So you can do that all you want about the name Jehovah and what vowels to use. But use his name. Even Jesus Christ told Satan the devil during The Temptations that Satan was throwing at him when he offered him all the kingdoms of the Earth he said it is Jehovah your God you must worship. So even Jesus used his Heavenly father’s name. But usually in prayer it would be as his own father. Because it was a father and son relationship.

  • Judith Bosch says:

    Well I certainly have to apologize for having my comment put on here so many times – I was having a hard time checking in and didn’t think my comment went through. If there is a commentator on here please delete the extra ones – apparently I can’t. Sorry about that. Judith

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