The ongoing Name debate

Anyone reading through some of the articles on this site will soon notice that we are trying to acknowledge and revere the Name of the Almighty and that we give preference to pronouncing the Name as “Yahweh”. We are aware of the fact that over the years groups and individuals have come up with a great variety of proposals and many different ways of pronouncing this all important Name. Some have even claimed that “their” pronunciation is the only correct one and that everyone with a desire to honour the Father, should pronounce his Name the way they do. Others tend to follow the Jewish tradition by not speaking out the Name at all. Our own studies and experience have brought us to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible to know the exact pronunciation of the Name, but that it is still much better to call on the Name, even if it is done in a humanly imperfect manner, than NOT calling on the Name at all. We take seriously the words of the Creator in Ex 3:15 “ze shemi l’olam” (This is my Name for ever!) and reject the way it has been changed by some into “ze shemi l’allem” (This is my Name to be kept secret!). Time and again new proposals about the “correct” pronunciation of the Name are being made and these proposals are pretty much saturating the internet and social media. Because of this, those who would genuinely like to call upon the Name of the Almighty and are looking for proper guidance, may eventually respond in one (or more) of the following ways: (1) confusion (“I am struggling to find out who is right and who is wrong”), (2) apathy (“I don’t know any longer and therefore I don’t care”), or (3) amazement (“This new proposal sounds wonderful and therefore it must be correct”).

The most recent commotion within this field, with noticeable repercussions among the ranks of Messianic and Torah-embracing believers, was triggered by the Karaite teacher and researcher, Nehemia Gordon, and his public excitement over the fact that he had found more than a 1000 Hebrew Bible manuscripts containing the Name of the Almighty, with vowels, and his conviction that this discovery absolutely supports the view that the Name is to be pronounced as “Yehováh” (with the emphasis on the last syllable). This excitement even resulted in a published article in The Daily Caller of 26/01/2018, under the heading, “SCHOLAR CLAIMS WE’VE BEEN SAYING GOD’S NAME WRONG FOR 200 YEARS”. I would not like to launch an attack upon Nehemia Gordon or anyone who chooses to adopt this particular pronunciation of the Father’s Name. As stated already, there is a considerable measure of uncertainty surrounding the Name and we should never try to “convert” others to our own point of view. What is more, I have met and spoken to Nehemia before and appreciate his insights into Scriptures and his expertise in reading and interpreting ancient Hebrew manuscripts.

However, this renewed thrust to “prove” that the Creator’s Name should be pronounced as “Yehovah”, with “more than 1000 Hebrew Bible manuscripts” to support this claim, is not without its problems. It places a huge emphasis on finding more and more documents, all of which originated in the Post-Masoretic era, when all the creators of these manuscripts have already been exposed to the Masoretic system whereby the Tetragrammaton is vowelized in a way that PREVENTS the Name to be pronounced and NOT in a way that REVEALS how the Name should be pronounced. The Masoretic text is the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible and the Masoretes were the scribes who added the vocalization to the text of the Tanakh (also known as the “Old Testament”) between the years 600 and 1000CE. In some respects, Nehemia’s proposal goes directly against the general consensus among the globally recognized scholars and experts on this subject – especially with regards to the grammatical principles and the related linguistic patterns, underlying the Hebrew language of the Tanakh (or “Old Testament”). The arguments put forward in the teaching materials promoting the “Yehovah” pronunciation (we’ll refer to it phonetically as the ə-ō-ā vowel combination) have caused a considerable degree of oohs and aahs among those who are eager to know the “correct” pronunciation but are not exactly qualified to do a proper evaluation of this viewpoint. This post, and the accompanying attachment, is an effort to bring some much needed clarity and perspective. Some of the points being touched upon, are quite technical by nature and may proof to be hard to understand by those with little or no knowledge of Hebrew. I have tried, however, to keep things as simple as possible. Please click here to access the complete study.

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