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God's name is written as the Tetragrammaton יהוה‎ (YHWH) in the Old Testament. The name is not vocalized in the manuscripts and it's considered ineffable, forbidden to say aloud, by Jews. For that reason, the original pronunciation hasn't been preserved.

The two most commonly suggested possible originals are Yahweh and Jehovah. Long ago I heard it claimed that the vocalization Jehovah is based on a misunderstanding, but I don't remember the reasoning.

Which is the probable vocalization, or is it some altogether different one?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Flimzy, Lee Woofenden, Nathaniel, Mr. Bultitude, Dan Apr 25 at 1:53

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Which one do you prefer? YHWH is a human name given to God, so it's clearly not His real name. It's quite presumptuous to think otherwise. – Sklivvz Sep 1 '11 at 14:30
@Sklivvz I was actually quite specific that I'm asking for the vocalization of the Tetragrammaton. The title is mostly for brevity. It doesn't matter what the origin of the Tetragrammaton is, it's not the point of this question. – dancek Sep 1 '11 at 14:32
the vocalisation depends on whom you ask, no? If you are interested in the "correct", i.e. original, vocalisation then you should not ask here, but on – Sklivvz Sep 1 '11 at 15:31
@dancek Judaism.SE mod here. If you're interested about what Jewish tradition says about the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, you're welcome to ask at Judasim.SE. It's true that we consider pronouncing this Name to be forbidden, but that doesn't mean that we can't discuss how it would be pronounced, or that we'd find the question disrespectful. You'll probably find that at J.SE, people will avoid writing the Tetragrammaton's letters or possible pronunciations normally, using some substitution like "YKVK" instead. – Isaac Moses Sep 2 '11 at 7:01
@Isaac thanks for the welcome, I did ask at… . If the question takes off there, I'll vote to close this one. – dancek Sep 2 '11 at 7:43

When a word isn't spoken, all you have to go by is its written representation. Unfortunately, the written representation is incomplete, as ancient Hebrews only wrote consonants. You were supposed to be able to infer the rest of the word from context, and you'd be familiar with them because you used most of them in day to day speech.

Oops! Since the name of the Lord was not spoken aloud, the context needed for interpolation ended up being lost, and now we can only guess at it. The theory is that "Jehovah" is the tetragrammaton with the vowels from adonai ("Lord", used in the place of the ineffable name) mixed in. "Yahweh" is a guess based on trying to reverse-engineer the name into ancient Hebrew roots. It may or may not be correct.

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Yeah it has to do with the way the Masorites wrote the vowel points and some common ways they to indicate things that later European Christians had no knowledge of. – Andrew Sep 1 '11 at 15:37
Yes, they are both defensible transliterations of the Hebrew into English, given the limited information we have to go on. – user32 Sep 1 '11 at 19:07

The fact is the very exact, original pronunciation or vocalization of God's name is lost. But the original name is not.

You see, each language have have their own translation of the name 'Jesus' but 'Jesus' is neither the original vocalization of Jesus' name, its not the way they described it in Hebrew or in Greek way back then, yet we "accept" the name 'Jesus' to pertain to Jesus. This is also true with the other characters in the Bible like 'Moises', 'Jeremiah' and 'Peter', these are 'translation' of their names in English, and this is also true with God's name.

Taken from the Tetragrammaton, 'YHWH' which has also equivalent with 'JHVH', some early language scholars choose 'Jehovah' as the translation of God's name. They use 'Jehovah' to represent God's name in translating the Bible in other languages and this translation has been accepted and used for many centuries. Centuries after 'Jehovah' became the popular translation some Hebrew scholars then recommended that the name of God be translated to Hebrew as 'Yahweh'.

If the name 'Jesus' is 'accepted' to be the name of Jesus in English, why not use 'Jehovah', which has been 'accepted' and used for centuries to represent the God's name in English and other languages and Yahweh to represent God's name in Hebrew.

This brings to the conclusion that although 'Jehovah' might be not the exact pronunciation of the name of God but it is the exact name of God.

Now, why others are not used to the name 'Jehovah' or even admit that God's name is Jehovah the fact that they know that it is really the name of God. Because it is already widely used by Jehovah's Witnesses around the world. That if they used it, this might prove that the Jehovah's Witnesses are right.

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You make good points here. In my native language, largely only Jehovah's Witnesses use Jehovah, others tend to use Yahweh (transliterated another way), so to me Jehovah sounds really strange. As for Jesus, some do actually replace it with Yeshua which I don't understand at all. There seems to be some doctrine floating around that we should use the original name or our prayers are invalid, etc. But in my experience the people claiming that pronounce Yeshua all wrong and they also always write it transliterated... – dancek Sep 3 '11 at 8:34
Some says that Jesus' real name is Yehoshua – Jim Thio Oct 9 '13 at 12:37
I don't know why this answer has so many upvotes. First, you say that "Jehovah" is a translation, not the original hebrew. Then you say that "Jehovah" is the exact name of God. This is a contradiction. Even if you had not contradicted yourself, we know that "Jehovah" is a construction using the consonants from "YHWH", and the vowels from "Adonai". The final paragraph shows your (not so) hidden agenda as a Jehovah's Witness. – daviewales Apr 19 '14 at 8:59
I have no personal problem with using "Jehovah" to mean "God", just as I have no personal problem with using "Yaweh", or even "God" to mean "God". The importance is the meaning, not the vocal structure. – daviewales Apr 19 '14 at 9:00
Don't forget the King James Bible (one of the most commonly used in Christian denominations) uses Jehovah 2 times. One at Psalms 83:18 - It's not like others have totally rejected it. In many cases, denominations may say that Jehovah refers to Jesus. – Bubbles Oct 27 '14 at 21:21

Why the Heavenly Father's name is pronounced, "Yahweh" supports "Yahweh" as the correct name.

What about Jehovah? has reasons why "Jehovah" is incorrect.

  • Hebrew doesn't have a J sound.
  • Masoretes replaced vowels.
  • Names have Yah and not Jeh.
  • Hovah means ruin and mischief.

Here's a quote.

Some Christians, especially Jehovah's witnesses, use this name for the Heavenly Father. However, every scholar and every reference book I have ever checked on "Jehovah" (including Jehovah's witness tracts) has said that this is not the way you pronounce His name! First of all it is impossible because of the fact that the Hebrew language has no "J" sound! According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1991 under the heading "Yahweh", here is how this name came into being:

"The Masoretes, who from about the 6th to the 10th century worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible, replaced the vowels of the name YHWH with the vowel signs of the Hebrew word Adonai or Elohim. Thus the artificial name Jehovah (YeHoWaH) came into being."

So we see here one of many confirmations that the name Jehovah is not really His name at all! But it is a artificial name that was invented by man. Does man have the right to change the name of the one who created him? I think not! But that is exactly what has happened here.

Now let's look a little more deeply into this name Jehovah. Notice that many Hebrew names contain the first part of Yahweh's name which is Yah. This is true in the name Isa-YAH (Hebrew: YeshaYAH), which means "Yah is Salvation". Also in Jeremi-Yah (Hebrew: YermeYAH), Obadiah, Zechariah, and so on. Taking this knowledge, apply this to the name Je-hovah with Jeh being the first part of His name. First of all it doesn't add up when it comes to the names of these prophets. (Isaiah's name isn't IsaJEH) Second, the Hovah part of Je-hovah means RUIN and MISCHIEF in Hebrew according to Strong's Concordance #1943:

#1943 Hovah, another form for 1942; RUIN:-MISCHIEF

THE MISSING J has more about the letter J and the J sound.

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+1 for comparison with prophet names :) – Click Ok Oct 13 '11 at 20:14
You can't compare other Hebrew names and words to find the pronunciation of Jehovah. Paul's original name Saul was spelled the same as Sheol. 2 completely different pronunciations and meanings. Also with the way the structure of Hebrew works you can't dissect a word to find its meaning like you could with English. The first part of the name could describe the second and again change its meaning. This is why we cannot know for sure Gods name or pronunciation. – Jeremy Dec 20 '13 at 14:02
Much of what you say is correct. So this is more for others that come to read this. God's name in the Form of El is actually the Hebrew Aleph(A) and Lamed(L). So "AL" is more correct then "EL". The meaning is "ALL" God is All! – Decrypted Sep 19 '14 at 14:08

Most Greek sources if not all render Jesus name as "Ἰησοῦ or Ἰησοῦς". Even the sources that others do not feel are correct for the bible. That is an incredible amount of unity. So there is a really good chance logically that his name sounded like that Greek Pronunciation.

The beginning Greek Iota has the sound of a Y in the form of Smooth Breathing It was derived from the Phoenician letter Yodh similar to the Hebrew (י) Yod which also has the sound of a Y.

The Hebrew name for Jesus is (ישוע).

I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. (John 5:43 NKJV)

So both the Hebrew and the Greek are in agreement to the sound starting with "Y".

The Second letter in the Greek Eta η and sounds of a "Long E". So together the Greek (Ἰη) has the sound of "YE".

The Tetragrammaton is a spelling of the Father's Name as (יהוה). The Second letter is the Hebrew He (ה). So the Sound for the first Two letters (יה) Has been in much disagreement. However knowing what we know from the Greek pronunciation the Sound "YE" is possible.

The second Hebrew Letter to the Name Jesus is the Shin (ש) can carry both the sound of an "S" or a "SH". The third comparative letter in Greek is the Sigma σ and also carries the sound of the "S". So for The Name Jesus in Hebrew (יש = Yesh or Yes) in Greek (Ἰησ = Yes).

The Third letter in the Tetragrammaton is the Vav (ו) and can carry the sound of w, v, o, u. The fourth Letter again is the He (ה).

Now in the Greek after the Sigma is the two letters (οῦ). Now it is agreed that the Ancient Pronunciation for the "Hebrew Vav" can carry the sound of OU. So this leans away from the W or the V pronunciation.

The Final Hebrew letter in the Hebrew spelling for Jesus is the Ayin (ע) is usually a silent letter.

  • So the Hebrew Version For Jesus is most likely (YESHOU | YESOU)
  • So the Greek Version For Jesus is most likely (YESHOU | YESOU | YESOUS | YESUS)
  • Making the Pronunciation for the Name of the Father most Likely (YEOU)

So literally if the "S" represents Salvation, Then the Salvation came "IN" the Father's Name also literally as "YESOU". Cool huh ^^

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