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We know God's name was written in the Old Testament over 6000 times, but was it God's full name or the Tetragrammaton, YHVH??

Because of the Babylonian exile, they stopped using it altogether and instead used Adonai and El/Elohim. In which case, when or how was the Tetragrammaton used? Cause if the original authors were writing YHVH, then that meant they too felt God's name shouldn’t be pronounced. Which I feel should give people pause for using it nowadays as well.

But if that’s not the case, then how was the YHVH used?

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    Isn't the Tetragrammation "Gods full name"? If not, what do you consider it to be?
    – kutschkem
    Jun 1, 2023 at 6:23
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    Welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange and thank you for this question. My understanding is that because the Hebrew for God's name does not have any vowels, only consonants, YHWH would be written. You may benefit from taking our Tour to find out what we look for in well-researched questions: christianity.stackexchange.com/tour
    – Lesley
    Jun 1, 2023 at 6:59
  • @kutschkem and Lesley you’re right, I completely forgot that when I asked the question. I was going through some research on Gods name due to conversations I was having and this thought came up. My mind filled with so much research forgot what I had learned years ago 😂 but thank you so much!
    – pinkie
    Jun 3, 2023 at 19:38

2 Answers 2

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You are confusing the Tetragrammaton (yhwh) as an abbreviation for the name Yahweh. The ancient Hebrew or Semitic languages lacked vowels, however the readers knew how to pronounce them. YHWH or yhw is how it was written actually, it isn't an abbreviation. When the Masoretes added vowel accents to the text of the Hebrew Bible around the eighth century CE, they gave the word YHWH the vowels of Adonai, to remind the reader to say Adonai instead. Later Biblical scholars mistook this vowel substitution for the actual spelling of YHWH and interpreted the name of God as Jehovah. Although, the practice of substituting the Name with Adonai or Kyrios (Greek) is very ancient, and started as a superstition. It has always been a convenient and practical tradition for translation and common use, as the ancient YHWH name was more meaningful to those people, and now its meaning and pronunciation itself has become obscure. There are countless existing topics on the sacred name concerns on this site.

You are cursed by the god yhw, cursed.

You will die, cursed—cursed, you will surely die.

Cursed you are by yhw—cursed.

As the curse tablet reads, which has been recently discovered and what has been called the greatest archaeological discovery after the Dead Sea Scrolls.

enter image description here

According to the team, the Mt. Ebal tablet is a type of legal text, which threatens curses upon individuals who transgress a covenant. They connect it directly to the covenant renewal ceremony on Mt. Ebal, described in Deuteronomy 27 and Joshua 8. Moreover, the team claims the tablet is evidence that certain books of the Hebrew Bible could have been written down hundreds of years earlier than most biblical scholars previously thought. As stated by the ABR’s Director of Excavations, Scott Stripling, during the initial press conference, “One can no longer argue with a straight face that the biblical text was not written until the Persian period or the Hellenistic period, as many higher critics have done, when we clearly do have the ability to write the entire text [of the Bible] at a much, much earlier date.” One of the project’s epigraphers, Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa reiterated the point, saying, “The scribe that wrote this ancient text, believe me, he could write every chapter in the Bible.”

The tablet dates around 1500 BC, proving the name YHWH was in use since the beginning, as opposed to what have been taught prejudicially by the Marxist universities and seminaries. Uttering his name or substituting it with a practical name for deity depends on us, it is a matter of practicality.

Michael Marlowe has written an excellent article addressing the controversial "sacred name" craze.

The use of “the Lord” to represent the tetragrammaton will no doubt continue to be normal in English Bible versions. The example of the apostles, confirmed by two millennia of tradition, is not to be set aside lightly. The interests of scholars who wish to call attention to the use of the Name are adequately served by the use of the capital letters which indicate where the tetragrammaton occurs in the Hebrew text.

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  • Nice. I would point out that the formal use of Lord as the Name is shown in the LXX. Jun 2, 2023 at 15:41
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My Hebrew instructors have informed me that the language had not developed to the point of using four letters for God's name in the time of Moses. That came in about the time of David. Around David's time, the scribes began adding the final "ה/heh". It was not used as a consonant, but as one of the early vowel markers, popularly called "matres lectionis," Latin for "reading mothers" because they help the reader know how to pronounce the word.

Conventional wisdom says that the Hebrew alphabet was preceded by, and descended from, the Phoenician alphabet. However, some scholars have concluded that it may have been the other way around, and that Moses played a principal part in the invention of the Hebrew alphabet. The earliest books of the Bible were written by Moses, who had been educated in Pharaoh's court.

Few would question, however, that at the time of Moses the alphabet consisted only of consonants, which did not include the final "heh" in the Tetragrammaton. Like the "w" in English, which functions as both a consonant and a vowel in "willow", the "heh" in Hebrew can be either consonant or vowel.

Scholars differ on whether the scribes who were copying Moses' books later, such as in the time of David, may have used the updated spellings which had developed by then. Of special interest is one passage in Exodus where the "heh," thought to have been added to God's name by those scribes, may turn one of God's statements into exactly the opposite if understood, instead, as a consonant--the "interrogative 'he'" prefix to the following word (word spaces were not then in use either).

Consider:

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3, KJV)

וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לֹ֥א נֹודַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃ (TR)

Placing the "ה/heh" on the following word means that it becomes a question rather than a statement--the "ה" being used as a grammatical marker to indicate the start of a question. Considered in this way, the translation might be:

[RETRANSLATED]

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, and by my name JEHOVAH, was I not known to them? (Exodus 6:3)

(Note that the "and" in this Hebrew text is usually translated as "and" but is sometimes acceptably translated as "but" or as "now.")

Rendered in this fashion, verse 3 appears consistent with the statements made immediately following. It also removes a contradiction from the Bible in that the Bible is clear that Abraham knew God's name.

And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. (Genesis 22:14, KJV)

(Even the word "the LORD" is "Yahweh" in the Hebrew.)

Exodus 6:3 stands as evidence that in the time of Moses, God's name would have been written with three letters, YHW, instead of the four which it came to be later.

Conclusion

Based on the evidence we have today, Moses would not have written the full four-character "Tetragrammaton" of God's name: he would have written only the three consonantal letters. The fourth letter, added later as a "matres lectionis" vowel, would have been a usage unknown in Moses' time.

UPDATE (I re-read the question and caught its pronunciation emphasis!):

Because none of the Hebrew words were written with vowels in Moses' day, the pronunciations for all of them would have been rooted in oral tradition. The earliest written vowels began to creep into the language in about the time of David and the First Temple Period. That one of these was specifically added to God's name shows that they were indeed teaching its pronunciation, and were not ashamed to speak it.

Around 300 BC is when God's name was declared ineffable, and its pronunciation nearly ceased. For a time, the high priest would say that name once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Eventually, the original pronunciation of the name would be entirely forgotten and it is now lost to history. We can guess, perhaps accurately, perhaps not, at what it may have been; but no one now living can know with certainty.

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  • If Abram knew the name did he know YH or the full form? How does the theory of the later development comport with the Song of Moses in Exodus 15? Jun 2, 2023 at 15:37
  • @RevelationLad I'm not certain I understand your question fully. There is no reason to think Abraham knew anything other than the full name. The fact remains that the final letter in what would be written later was not one of its consonants; but because it was not written does not mean it was not pronounced. Did Abraham ever see a single Hebrew letter? All knowledge was transmitted through oral tradition in those days, not through writing.
    – Biblasia
    Jun 2, 2023 at 15:42
  • I think Exodus 15:2-3 illustrates the issue. How are YH and YHVH possible but YHV not found? If one can correctly pronounce without the need of the final H, why did scribes fail to preserve that and instead preserve YH and YHVH. And if YH is sufficient for Moses why is YHV necessary for Abram? Not looking for a response. Just pointing out some of the issues with the assumptions in a three letter name later changed to four. What is the logic of scribes making an “unnecessary” change to the Name? It’s sacred and cannot be spoken but it’s ok to unnecessarily change the spelling? Jun 2, 2023 at 16:14
  • @RevelationLad The shortened form of God's name, seen translated in Psalm 68:4 in the KJV as "JAH" (and everywhere else as "the LORD"), was a poetic alternation of the full word: it was never intended to mean the name should not be pronounced. The fact that both the shortened and longer forms can occur together in the same passage is evidence of this. At the time the Hebrew "vav/waw" began to be added to Hebrew words as a vowel, there was no taboo against pronouncing God's name. That is why it was added--they were pronouncing it! As for the logic...why did the Masoretes add the vowels later?
    – Biblasia
    Jun 2, 2023 at 17:27

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