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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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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
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@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 judaism.stackexchange.com –  Sklivvz Sep 1 '11 at 15:31
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@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
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@Isaac thanks for the welcome, I did ask at judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9751/… . If the question takes off there, I'll vote to close this one. –  dancek Sep 2 '11 at 7:43
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3 Answers

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
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Yes, they are both defensible transliterations of the Hebrew into English, given the limited information we have to go on. –  Lawrence Dol Sep 1 '11 at 19:07
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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
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Why the Heavenly Father's name is pronounced, "Yahweh" supports "Yahweh" as the correct name.

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

  • Hewbrew 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
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