Keith Hunt - Debunking Sacred Namers #2 - Page Two   Restitution of All Things

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Debunking Sacred Namers #2

Pronouncing JHVH was NOT lost!


Part Two

By Carl D. Franklin December 24, 1997

Myth # 4

Jehovah is Pointed with the Vowel Markings of Adonai

     The divine name (Heb.given)-(jhvh) is used some six thousand
eight hundred and twenty-three times in the Masoretic Text. Six
thousand five hundred and eighteen times the name is marked to be
pronounced (Heb. given)(Hebrew J'hoh-vah' 3068). Three hundred
and five times the name is marked to be pronounced(Heb.given)
(Hebrew Jehoh-vih' 3069). Not once is the divine name jhvh marked
to be pronounced in any other way.
     Sacred namers view the markings that are found with jhvh in
the Masoretic Text as illegitimate. They claim that these vowel
points do not show the original pronunciation of (Heb.given)
(jhvh) but were transferred from the Hebrew name (Heb.given)
(adonai 136), which means "Lord." They point out that many
scholarly works support this view of the vowel markings that are
found with jhvh in the Masoretic Text.
     John R. Kohlenberger III is typical of those scholars who
have adopted this view. He writes in the introduction to "The NIV
Interlinear Hebrew/English Old Testament," "(Heb.given), Yahweh,
the proper name of God, is either pointed with the vowels of 
[adonai], 'Lord,' or [elohim] 'God,' and is to be pronounced as
the word whose vowels it borrows. This deliberate mispointing was
an effort by the scribes to keep the name of God from being taken
in vain (Exod. 20:7; Lev. 24:11) by making it unpronounceable.
This device was misinterpreted in 1520 by one Galatinus who mixed
the vowels of (Heb. given) with the consonants of (Heb. given),
thus producing the hybrid form Jehovah, which remained with us to
this day."

     Is it true that the name Jehovah borrowed its vowels from
Adonai? Did Galatinus invent the name Jehovah by mixing the
vowels of Adonai with the consonants of jhvh?

     Let us evaluate Kohlenberger's statements by reviewing what
we learned under Myth #3. We know from the records of history
that the name Jehovah was used hundreds of years before the time
of Galatinus. Thus Kohlenberger's assertion that Galatinus
invented this pronunciation of jhvh is a historical
     Furthermore, there is no evidence that any Christian scholar
at the time of Galatinus viewed the name Jehovah as a
misinterpretation or mispronunciation. In fact, scholars of that
era unanimously supported the pronunciation of jhvh as Jehovah.
     There is no question that Kohlenberger's assertion
concerning Galatinus is false, but what about his assertion that
the scribes deliberately mispointed the name jhvh? We must search
the records of history before the time of Galatinus to determine
whether or not the Masoretes deliberately mispointed the divine
name jhvh.

     Let us go back to the time when the pointing of the Hebrew
text was first undertaken. At that time, the text contained only
consonants. Although a few consonants could also be used as
vowels, most of the Hebrew words were unpronounceable as written.
The pronunciation of the words had to be taught by word of mouth.
This was the responsibility of the priests and Levites, who
passed the pronunciation of the words down from generation to
generation by oral tradition. Only those who were trained in oral
tradition could accurately interpret the words in the Hebrew text
by supplying the correct vowel sounds. Others who attempted to
interpret the text could easily change the meaning of words
simply by adding the wrong vowel sounds. That is why the task of
pointing the text was undertaken.
     As Wurthwein attests, the effort to point the Hebrew text
began about the fifth century A.D. He writes:

"This task was engaged by the Masoretes from about the fifth
century [the 400's]. It was found inadequate to establish merely
the consonantal text and the matres lectionis [consonants used as
vowels], the vowel letters which were used to a limited extent to
indicate pronunciation, because even with due consideration for
the stabilizing influence of oral tradition the possibility still
remained open for reading and interpreting many words in more
than one way" (The Text of the Old Testament, p.21).

     By this time in history, the Jerusalem Talmud had been
completed and the Babylonian Talmud was in the process of being
     The Talmudic writings raised great concern among the
Levitical Masoretes living in Babylon, who perceived that the
rabbis were misinterpreting many words in the Hebrew text by
adding the wrong vowel sounds to the consonants. In English, it
would be like changing "bid" to "bed," or "date" to "duty."
Changing the pronunciation gave the Hebrew words an entirely
different meaning.
     To eliminate any possibility of misinterpreting the words in
the Hebrew text, the Masoretes devised a written system to denote
the exact pronunciation of the Hebrew words. Instead of inserting
vowel letters between the consonants, as in modern languages, the
Masoretes used a system of dots and dashes, each of which
represented a specific vowel sound. These marks, or "vowel
points," were then inserted into the Masoretic Text.
     In the early stages of vowel pointing, there were two
different systems - the Babylonian system of the Eastern
Masoretes and the Palestinian system of the Western Masoretes. In
both systems the vowel marks, or "points," were placed above the
Hebrew consonants. In the final system, called the Tiberian
system, most vowel points were placed below the consonants.
Wurthwein explains how the later Tiberian system developed from
the earlier work of the Palestinian or Western Masoretes.

"Until the Age of Humanism and the Reformation, the Hebrew text
and its transmission remained primarily a Jewish concern. In the
first millennium A.D., during which the basic lines of
transmission were set, we should distinguish between the Jews of
Palestine, the Western Masoretes..., and the members of the great
Jewish colony in Babylonia, the Eastern Masoretes.... The Western
school centered at Tiberias until the end of the third century,
and again from the eighth to the tenth century; the Eastern
centers were the schools at Sura, Nehardea (destroyed A.D. 259),
and later at Pumbeditha, which were authoritative in matters of
Jewish scholarship for centuries. Finally the Babylonian schools
lost the significance, and in the tenth and eleventh centuries
they disappeared. Once again the West assumed the spiritual
leadership of Judaism, and the Western Masoretes sought to
eliminate all traces of textual traditions that differed from
their own. The views of the school of Tiberias became
determinative for the future, and the Eastern tradition
was forgotten for a millennium" (Ibid., p.14).

     Although the Babylonian system of the Eastern schools was
replaced by the Tiberian system in the 900's, it survived in
Yemen until the 1200's. Its early development can be traced
through fragments of ancient manuscripts. Wurthwein writes:

"The Babylonian system ... developed in two stages, an older and
simpler stage represented in the fragments of the seventh century
(E), and a later, more complex stage appearing in fragments from
the eighth and ninth centuries (K).... The Babylonian tradition
was preserved in Yemen into the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Under the influence of Tiberian pointing a characteristic
Yemenite tradition was later developed reflecting a simplified
Tiberian system with supralinear signs [vowel points above the
words]" (Ibid., pp.22-23).

     As Wurthwein goes on to relate, remnants of the Palestinian
system can also be found in ancient manuscripts. He writes:

"A system found in some Samaritan manuscripts from the twelfth to
the fourteenth century is clearly derived from it. Kahle
published the relatively few and textually varying Biblical
fragments (seventh to ninth century) in Masoreten des Westerns, 2
(1930); they are cited in BHK as V(ar)pal. Their significance
lies in showing how the vocalized Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible
first appeared when the Masoretes of Tiberias began their work.
Basically they lack the strict consistency of the Tiberian
Masoretes in indicating pronunciation" (Ibid., pp.23-24).

     These remnants of the early Palestinian system bear witness
to the superiority of the Tiberian system, which became the fixed
standard for the Hebrew text. As Wurthwein testifies, the:
"Tiberian system ... combined the accent system with a means of
indicating finer nuances, and permitted control of pronunciation
and intonation of the Biblical text in its minutest details"
(Ibid., p.24).

     The Tiberian system replaced both the Babylonian and the
Palestinian systems because they were inadequate for the task of
preserving the oral tradition of pronunciation, punctuation and
accentuation that had been faithfully passed down from the time
of Ezra. These earlier systems did not meet the requirements for
strict and consistent pronunciation of the Hebrew words.
     The Tiberian Masoretes strove earnestly to preserve in
written form the pronunciations that they had inherited by oral
tradition. The Masoretes were not descended from the tribe of
Judah but from the tribe of Levi. While all Masoretes were
Levites, not all Levites were Masoretes. The Masoretes were a
special class of Levite, entrusted with the responsibility of
safeguarding the Hebrew text and preserving it from being
corrupted in any way. To allow any word to be mispronounced
through a deliberate mispointing would have been totally against
the ethic of these Levitical Masoretes! Had such tampering with
the Hebrew text been attempted, the cries of protest from these
Masoretic scholars would be recorded in historical writings for
all the world to see. But there is no such historical record!
On the other hand, there is ample evidence in the records of
history to support the accuracy and consistency of the system of
vowel pointing that was developed by the Tiberian Masoretes.     
From the work of the Tiberian Masoretes has come the great
Masoretic Text that underpins the King James Bible and many
grammatical, analytical and lexical study aids.

     Among the Tiberian Masoretes were a number of different
schools, the chief of which were the Ben Asher family and the Ben
Naphtali family. Contrary to the belief of scholars in the past,
it has been discovered that the work of these two leading schools
is identical except in a few minor details. Wurthwein relates the
similarity in the texts produced by these leading Masoretic

"Within the Masoretic center of Tiberias there were several
different parties or schools. The Ben Asher family was
outstanding among them: its last two members are known today for
the model manuscripts Codex Cairensis and the Aleppo Codex (cf.
pp.34f.). But we know that there were other Tiberian Masoretes
besides the Ben Ashers; Ben Naphtali is best known among them.
The Jewish scholar Mishael ben 'Uzziel in his famous tractate
Kitab al-Khilaf (eleventh to twelfth century) discusses the
difference (khillufim) between the text of Ben Naphtali and that
of Aaron ben Moses ben Asher. It was once thought that these two
schools were diametrically opposed, because Ben Naphtali's text
was identified with manuscripts that have nothing to do with him
(see below). But if we read carefully the statement by Mishael,
which is our only reliable source for Ben Naphtali's text
(ignoring as less significant the occasional marginal notes in
some manuscripts), it appears that Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali are
quite closely related. They differ only eight times in their
consonantal text, and these differences are slight. The majority
of their differences are concerned with minutiae [insignificant
details] of vocalization and accent" (Ibid.).

     From the Tiberian Masoretes of the Ben Asher school came the
Hebrew text that was inherited by the Sephardic Levites dwelling
in Spain in the tenth century A.D. Shortly after Ben Asher
finished his manuscript, copies were taken to Spain by Levitical
Karaite missionaries. When persecution arose in Spain, the
Sephardic Levites fled northward to France, Germany and other
parts of Europe, taking their Hebrew texts with them.
     After the invention of the printing press, the Ben Asher
text was the first complete Hebrew text to be printed--first as
the Soncino Bible and then as the Bresica Bible. These were the
Hebrew Bibles that the scholars of Europe studied in order to
understand the original language of the Old Testament. It was
from these printings of the Ben Asher text--the most
authoritative text for the pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew--that
European scholars learned the name Jehovah.

     As we observed in the conclusion to Debunking the Myths of
Sacred Namers, Part I, "When the Ben Asher text was finally
sealed by 980 A.D. and the work of the Masoretes became the
standard Hebrew text for all time, the divine name jhvh was
pointed to be pronounced Jehovah. When Fagius, or Buechelin,
supported the name Jehovah, he was following the vowel markings
that he had learned from the Hebrew text of Ben Asher. When
Tyndale translated jhvh to be pronounced as Jehovah, he was
following the vowel markings that he had learned from the Hebrew
text of Ben Asher" (p.22).

     The name Jehovah is supported not only by historical records
of the transmission of the Hebrew text but also by the
philological evidence--that is, the very structure of Hebrew as a
Semitic language. Experts in the study of Biblical Hebrew confirm
that the vowel marks in the Ben Asher text--now known as the
Masoretic Text--fit the traditional structure of all Semitic

     As Waltke testifies, there is ample evidence to show that
the vowel points inserted by the Tiberian Masoretes represent the
original pronunciation of the ancient Hebrew words. He writes:

"The relative uniformity of Biblical Hebrew results primarily
from two factors: the largely consonantal presentaion of the
language throughout its pre-Masoretic history and the unified
representation of it by the Tiberian Masoretes. The consonantal
representation, both with and without matres lectiones,
effectively 'covers up' vocal variations both on the synchronic
and diachronic levels. The consonantal phonemes [sounds], those
represented by most of the letters, are precisely those that are
most stable and not given to change, whereas the vocalic phonemes
[vowel sounds], those most given to change, are not graphically
represented apart from the limited use of vowel letters. Even
more significantly the Tiberian tradition aimed to squelch
variation in order to produce a normative text. Our expectation
that the vowels changed within both the phonological and
morphological system can be verified. Nevertheless, the MT's
[Masoretic Text's] vocalization essentially REPRESENTS AN ANCIENT
AND RELIABLE TRADITION" (An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew
Syntax, pp.24-25).

     Waltke, a leading authority in Biblical Hebrew, confirms the
accuracy and reliability of the vowel points in the Masoretic
Text--including the points that are found with jhvh. Waltke and
other experts in the study of Biblical Hebrew declare with one
voice that IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE to fake the vowel points in
nearly 7000 occurrences of jhvh. A deliberate mispointing of this
divine name would stand out like a proverbial "sore thumb" as an
outright violation of the traditional structure of Semitic words.
Waltke points to an abundance of philological evidence which
shows that the Masoretic scribes did not fake the vowel points,
but recorded the pronunciations they had learned by oral
tradition. He writes:

"The Masoretic tradition, including the vowel points, represents
the overall grammatical systems current during the period when
biblical literature was being created. [The Biblical Hebrew we
possess today is basically the Hebrew of Abraham and Moses!] We
may say this, despite the problems we have reviewed, because of a
considerable body of evidence indicating that the traditioning
function was taken seriously and that the linguistic data of the
MT could NOT be faked .... A COMPLEX BODY OF EVIDENCE indicates
that the MT COULD NOT, in any serious or systematic way,

     Any scholar who understands the structure of ancient Hebrew
and other Semitic languages can see the folly in claiming that
the vowel points found with jhvh in the Masoretic Text were
"invented." As Waltke declares: "On the whole the grammar [which
includes vocalization and accentuation] of the MT admirably fits
the framework of Semitic philology, and this fact certifies the
work of the Masoretes. When in the 1930's Paul Kahle announced
his theory that the Masoretes made massive innovations
[supposedly 'inventing' vocalizations in the 600's and faking the
vocalization of (Heb.given) -  J'hoh-vdh], Gotthelf Bergstrasser
sarcastically observed that they must have read Carl
Brockelmann's comparative Semitic grammar to have come up with
forms so thoroughly inline with historical reconstructions"
(Ibid., p.28).

     There is no question in the mind of the respected Hebraist
Waltke that the name Jehovah "fits the framework of Semitic
philology" and that the pronunciation of jhvh as marked in the
Masoretic Text is "thoroughly inline with historical
     Sacred namers who make claims to the contrary are unlearned
in the structure of the Hebrew language and are ignorantly
speaking about matters of which they have no real knowledge, as
Paul warns in I Timothy 1:7. Scholars who are truly knowledgeable
in the Hebrew language support the vowel points that are found in
the Masoretic Text, knowing that they were placed there by the
Masoretes to preserve the true pronunciation of the ancient
Hebrew words as passed down by oral tradition.
     By establishing a written system to convey the exact
pronunciation and meaning of the words, the Masoretes provided an
accurate and uniform standard for interpreting the text. Their
work laid the foundation for the first Hebrew grammars, which
were developed in Spain after the tenth century A.D. These
grammars were passed down to early Protestantism by Elias Levita
through the Christian Hebraists Reuchlin and Buechelin. Waltke
describes this transition:

"In the late Middle Ages [1250-1550], as the intellectual and
demographic center of Jewry shifted away from the Near East [and
Spain], so too the study of Hebrew grammar took on a European
cast .... The medieval Jewish grammatical tradition died with
Elijah Levita, who, as we shall see, passed this heritage to
Christian hands" (Ibid., pp.36-37).

     By the 1600's most "Jewish scholars" had forsaken any
serious study of the Scriptures, and some rabbis had never even
seen a Hebrew text! Waltke quotes Chomsky's words concerning this
deplorable state of Biblical illiteracy:  " 'Most of the
Jewish scholars of the subsequent generations regarded the study
of grammar as a waste of time, and some even considered such
study heresy. Even the study of the Bible began to be regarded as
of secondary importance [to the study of the Talmud] and was
gradually dwindling to such an extent that a German rabbi of the
17th century complained that there were certain rabbis in his
generation 'who had never in their lifetime seen a text of the
Bible'" (Chomsky, Mikhlol, xxviii)" (Ibid., p.38).

     Chomsky's description of these Biblically illiterate rabbis
should warn us to beware of rabbinical interpretations of the
Scriptures. Today's rabbis have inherited the interpretations of
the Talmudic rabbis of old. These teachings did not originate in
the oral tradition that was passed down from the time of Ezra. On
the contrary, these rabbinical interpretations of the Hebrew text
were a blatant departure from the traditional interpretations of
the text that the priests and Levites had inherited from their
forefathers. When these misleading teachings were recorded in the
Talmud for future generations, the Levitical Masoretes--the
preservers of the Hebrew text--feared that the true meaning of
the Scriptures would be lost. And indeed it might have been, if
the Masoretes had not established their system of vowel points to
preserve the original pronunciation and meaning of the Hebrew
     The Masoretic vowel points, which recorded the
that previously had to be taught orally, opened the Hebrew text
to the entire world. For the first time in history, it was
possible for scholars everywhere to study the structure of the
Hebrew language. Waltke quotes other Hebraist scholars to
emphasize the importance of the Masoretes' work to the study of
Hebrew grammar:

"The Masoretes, whose work had culminated in the tenth century
with the school of Ben Asher in Tiberias, were concerned not with
describing the language but with recording the text. Nevertheless
their activity in vocalizing the text [by adding the vowel
points] and in commenting on it in the Masorah, both activities
aimed at preserving an essentially oral body of tradition, formed
the basis for early grammatical descriptions. Concerning the
relevance of the pointed text, Tene writes: 

'It is rather astonishing that the initial emergence of the
linguistic literature of the Jews had to be so late in time.
There is, however, general agreement that in Semitic this kind of
metalinguistic discourse could not have begun before the
invention of the vowel points.'

"Concerning the more specific contribution of the Masoretes to
Hebrew grammar, Israel Yeivin notes: 

'Some of the terminology used in the Masorah was taken over by
the grammarians. Terms such as masculine, feminine, singular,
plural, the names of the letters, the vowel and accent signs, and
other features of the pointing ... were all used by the Masoretes
and taken over by the grammarians .... Since the Masoretes
compared all the occurrences of particular words, their lists
formed the basis for grammatical observations on changes in vowel
patterns: either conditioned changes, such as changes in forms in
contextual or pausal situations, changes in words with or without
maqqef, with or without the definite article, or waw simple and
waw consecutive, etc., or unconditioned variation in the
vowelling of the word.'

"The Masoretes had a sophisticated linguistic theory with an
underdeveloped expression; the grammarians, in taking the step of
making the theory explicit, were able to advance it because they
could appreciate gaps and inconsistencies in it" (Ibid., p.33).

     The grammarians built their knowledge of Biblical Hebrew on
the foundation that the Masoretes had laid, which was in turn
based on the oral tradition that had been passed down from the
time of Ezra the priest. As Waltke attests, the work of the
Masoretes was "aimed at preserving" oral tradition--not aimed to
undermine or deviate from it in any respect! The Masoretes who
established the vowel system in the Hebrew text were not Talmudic
rabbis but Karaite Levites who had totally rejected Talmudic
rabbinism and had set about to preserve the Hebrew Old Testament
for all time. They were bitterly opposed to Talmudic law,
rabbinic superstition and the esoteric Gnostic paganism that
masqueraded as Judaism!
     Wurthwein attributes the accuracy of the vowel system in the
Masoretic Text to the rigid standards of these Karaite Levites.
He writes:

"The development of a more complex system may have been related
to the appearance of the Karaites, the sect founded about A.D.
760 by 'Anan ben David. They rejected the Talmud for a more
literal interpretation of the text [Protestants would later
carry the torch of 'sola Scriptura'], giving rise to a new
interest in the text of the Bible and the necessity for
determining its pronunciation as closely as possible" (The Text
of the Old Testament, p.23).

     It was their "literal interpretation of the text" that led
the Karaite Masoretes to reject the Talmudic practice of reading
Adonai in place of jhvh, and it was their insistence on
"determining its pronunciation as closely as possible" that led
them to insert the vowel points that are found with jhvh nearly
7000 times in the Masoretic Text. The Karaite Masoretes could not
have faked the name (Heb.given)(J'hoh-vah) unless every Masoretic
school in Tiberias from the end of the eighth century to the end
of the tenth century A.D. had been converted to Talmudic
rabbinism--their bitter enemy. On the contrary, the records of
history all testify that from the beginning of their work in the
fifth century A.D. to the end of their work in the tenth century
A.D., the Masoretes remained adamantly opposed to Talmudic
teachings and practices.

     The Talmudic rabbis, whose teachings were based on esoteric
Gnostic beliefs, sought to justify their practices by reading
their own interpretations into Scripture. Before the pointing of
the text, these rabbis did not hesitate to change the vowel
sounds of key words to give them different meanings. The
Talmudists not only tampered with vowel sounds but also tampered
with consonants by adding or eliminating letters in some words.
This was especially true in regard to the unmarked consonants of
the divine name (Heb.given)(jhvh). Here are the bold words of one
Talmudic rabbi concerning the pronunciation of this divine name.
Bracketed material was inserted by the editor of the Talmud:

"R. Jeremiah b. Eleazar further stated: Since the Sanctuary was
destroyed 1 it is enough for the world 2 to use 3 only two
letters 4 [of the Tetragrammaton], 5 for it is said in Scripture,
Let every thing 6 that hath breath praise the Lord, 4 praise ye
the Lord.7" (Freedman, Epstein, "The Hebrew-English Edition of
the Babylonian Talmud: Erubin 18b").

     These words of Rabbi Eleazar show how the Talmudists used
false interpretations of Scripture to support their practice of
altering the divine name (jhvh). The Talmudic rabbis hid the true
pronunciation of jhvh both by dropping letters from this divine
name and also by substituting the name Adonai when reading the
Hebrew text. Thus began the rabbinic tradition of the perpetual
reading. This unscriptural practice was justified by
misinterpreting the meaning of God's words to Moses concerning
His name, as recorded in the book of Exodus. Notice the
contradictory reasoning of the Talmudic rabbis as quoted in the
following paragraph. Single bracketed material is that of the
editor of the Talmud. Double bracketed material is mine.

"Said R. Nahman b. Isaac; Not like this world is the future
world. [In] this world [His name] is written with a yod he 8 [[
jh ]] and read as alef daleth 9 [[ ad, representing adonai ]];
but in the future world it shall all be one: it shall be written
with 'yod he' and read as 'yod he.' Now, Raba thought of
lecturing it at the session, [whereupon] a certain old man said
to him, It is written, le'alem. 10  R. Abina pointed out A
CONTRADICTION: It is written, this is my name, to be hidden; [and
it is also written], 11 and this is my memorial unto all
generations? 12 The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Not as I
[i.e., My name] am written am I read: I am written with a yod he,
while I am read as alef daleth" (Ibid., Pesahim 50a).

     This Talmudic commentary supporting the reading of jhvh as
Adonai is based entirely on a false interpretation of the Hebrew
wording in Exodus 3:15. The Talmudic rabbis changed the meaning
of "this is My name forever" to "this is My name to be hidden,"
although this interpretation contradicts the words that
immediately follow: "this is My memorial to all generations."

     The ancient Talmudists were able to introduce this
rabbinical heresy because the Hebrew text contained no vowel
points at that time. But those who were trained by oral tradition
in the true pronunciation of the text knew that this
interpretation was fraudulent. This rabbinical misinterpretation
of Exodus 3:15 is one of the heretical teachings that prompted
the Masoretes to insert the vowel points in the Hebrew text.

     To expose the error in this rabbinical view, we will analyze
the structure of Exodus 3:15 in the Hebrew text. First, let us
read this verse in its context as translated in the King James

"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children
of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath
sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, 'What is His name?'
what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, 'I AM THAT
I AM.' And He said, 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of
Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.' And God said moreover
unto Moses, 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel,
The LORD (Hebrew  is given - J'hoh-vah' 3068) God of your
fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of
Jacob, hath sent me unto you. This is My name forever, and this
is My memorial unto all generations'" (Ex.3:13-15).

     This translation of God's words to Moses is based on the
Masoretic Text, which is pointed according to the oral tradition
of the priests and Levites, who had preserved the pronunciation
of the Hebrew words for many centuries, and who alone were
qualified to interpret the Hebrew text. As we have seen, the
Talmudic rabbis rejected the traditional interpretation and
pronunciation of the Hebrew wording in Exodus 3:15. To justify
their practice of hiding the pronunciation of God's name, they
taught that "forever" should be translated "to be hidden." But
the Masoretes, who had been taught the true meaning of Exodus
3:15 through oral tradition, knew that "forever" was the correct
interpretation, and they added vowel points to the Hebrew
consonants to signify this meaning. Here are the words "this is
My name forever" as they appear in the Masoretic text:
(Hebrew is given)
     Because Hebrew reads from right to left, the first four
letters in this Hebrew expression are the ones that represent our
English word "forever." These four letters are made up of the
Hebrew noun (Heb. given)(pronounced goh lahm' 5769) and the
preposition lamed (Heb.given)(pronounced le). Together they form
the prepositional phrase (Heb. given) (le goh-lahm), the basic
meaning of which is " 'most distant times', whether the remote
past or the future, depending upon the accompanying prepositions"
(Zodhiates, The Hebrew/Greek Key Study Bible, p.1643).

     The Hebrew noun (Heb.given) (goh-lahm' 5769) may be
accompanied by any of several prepositions. When (Hrb. given)
(goh-ldhm' 5769) is accompanied by the preposition (Heb.given)
(gad), it means "ever." When (Heb.given) (goh-lahm' 5769)
is accompanied by the preposition (Heb.given) (mn) it means "in
old times." But when (Heb. given) (goh-lahm' 5769) is accompanied
by the preposition (Heb. given)(lamed), it means "forever."

     Fox translates this passage, "That is my name FOR THE AGES,
that is my title (from) generation to generation" (The Schocken
Bible: Volume I, p.274). Fox's translation confirms that these
two statements in Exodus 3:15 are not contradictory but are
complementary; that is, the second statement reinforces the
meaning of the first statement by using similar wording.

     The same Hebrew wording that is used in Exodus 3:15 is also
found in I Chronicles 16:15, which records the words of King
David when he brought the ark of God back to Jerusalem. In this
verse, the Hebrew letters (Heb. given) (le goh-lahm) are not used
as a noun but as a Qal verb in the imperfective form to convey
the meaning, "Remember for ever." In the King James Version this
verse is translated, "Be ye mindful always (Heb. given) le
goh-lahm ] of His covenant; the word which He commanded to a
thousand generations."

     The use of (Heb. given) (le goh-lahm) in I Chronicles 16:15
leaves no room for interpreting its meaning as "to be hidden."
David did not command Israel to hide their covenant with God!
David wanted Israel always to remember their covenant with God so
that He would continue to bless them. But when Israel forsook the
covenant, God sent them into captivity. Instead of repenting, the
Jewish leaders in Babylon continued to follow their pagan
practices, one of which was to hide the name of God. That is why
the Talmudic rabbis interpreted (Heb. given) (le goh-lahm) in
Exodus 3:15 as "to be hidden," contrary to the true meaning of
this word as preserved by oral tradition. (See Owens, "The
Analytical Key to the Old Testament," vol. 1, p.247.)

     It is a violation of the Hebrew text to interpret the
expression (Heb. given)(le goh-lahm) in Exodus 3:15 as (Heb.
given (le gdh-lam') meaning "to be hidden," as the Talmudic
rabbis of ancient Babylon taught. The expression (Heb. given) (le
gdh lam) is not used anywhere in the entirety of the Masoretic
Text! It is found only in the Talmud. If this expression could be
found in the Hebrew text, it still could not be interpreted as
"to be hidden" unless it was used in a construct chain or an
infinitive construct.  No such construct can be found in Exodus
3:15--or in the entire old Testament!

     We do find the use of (Heb. given) (gdh-lam' 5956) to mean
"secret" or "hidden" in Psalm 90:8. But in this verse, the Hebrew
text uses the three consonants  without the preposition (Heb.
given) (lamed).

"Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret (Heb.
given) gah-lam' 5956] sins in the light of Thy countenance."

     In Psalm 90:8, (Heb. given) (gah-lam' 5956) is used as a Qal
verb and is correctly translated "secret." The usage of (Heb.
given) in this verse is very different from the use of (Heb.
given) in Exodus 3:15 and I Chronicles 16:15. Not only is the
preposition (Heb. given) (lamed) missing in Psalm 90:8, but the
vowel points used with the consonants  are not the same as in
Exodus 3:15 and I Chronicles 16:15.

     When the Masoretes pointed the consonants of (Heb. given) 
in Exodus 3:15 to be read as (Heb. given) (le goh-ldhm ), meaning
"forever," they were seeking to preserve the traditional
pronunciation they had learned from their fathers. The Masoretes
did not point (Heb. given) to be read as (Heb.given) (le
gdh-lam'), meaning "to be hidden." They were not seeking to hide
the name of God but to preserve it for all generations to come.
Had the Masoretes believed and practiced the Talmudic dictum that
the divine name jhvh was "to be hidden," they would have pointed
the consonants of (Heb. given) to reflect this belief. They did
not do so, because they placed no credence in Talmudic law! Their
intention was not to hide the divine name, as did the Talmudists,
but to preserve it exactly as they had learned to pronounce it
through oral tradition.

     The Talmudic teaching that God's name should be hidden does
not come from the Bible. This unscriptural teaching can be traced
through the pages of history to the pagan philosophy of
Hellenistic Jews and ancient Gnostics, who practiced the secret
worship of the sacred name of Osiris (the dead Nimrod, worshiped
in Egypt as "Lord of the Underworld"). As originally taught by
Isis (better known as Semiramis), the "sacred name" was hidden to
the world and would be revealed only to those who advanced
through successive stages of initiation into the secret
Mysteries. After Semiramis' death, her son Horus--known as Hermes
in Greek mythology and Mithras in Persia--perpetuated this
esoteric teaching of the Babylonian Mysteries.

     The concept that the name of God was "sacred" and secret was
taught throughout the ancient world. It can be found in the
writings of the most renowned philosophers of Greece and Rome,
and in the theology of Hellenistic Jews and Levitical Gnostics in
Egypt. Rabbi Marmorstein shows the impact of this pagan concept
on early Christianity. He writes: "Greek philosophy, Jewish
Alexandrian theology, Christian apology and Gnostic lore CONCUR
in the idea of God's namelessness. That God has no name, was
taught by Aristotle [of Greece], Seneca [of Rome], Maxim of Tyre
[Phoenicia], Celsus [of Rome], and Hermes Trismegistus [Gnostic
philosophy]" (The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God: The Names &
Attributes of God, p.17). Note: Christian Gnostics in the early
centuries of the New Testament church were instrumental in
spreading the mythology of Hermes Trismegistus.

     Although the concept of a hidden sacred name gained
widespread acceptance, this teaching did not go unchallenged
within the Jewish community. Those who opposed this philosophical
view of the name of God raised staunch resistance, which led to
major splits in early Judaism. One Levitical faction favored
using the pronunciation of God's name as written, while another
faction favored hiding the name by substituting Adonai. The
latter view was supported by the Hasidim, later known as the
Pharisees. (The rise of the Hasidim in early Judaism is described
in the study paper "The Two Jehovahs of the Pentateuch.")
Marmorstein describes the conflict that arose between the two

"We notice a very far-reaching difference between Palestinian and
Alexandrian theology concerning the Tetragrammaton [jhvh]. A
bitter struggle between Hellenists [an Alexandrian faction] and
Hasidim [a Palestinian faction] centred around the pronunciation
of the Divine Name. A similar CONTROVERSY arose afterwards around
the use of the name Elohim and even as to the SUBSTITUTION OF THE

     The pervasive influence of pagan concepts concerning the
name of God is reflected in key passages in the Septuagint--the
Greek version of the Old Testament, which was translated by
Hellenistic Levites in Alexandria, Egypt. The Septuagint
translation of Leviticus 24:15 and the following verses clearly
follows the views of pagan Greek philosophy. Marmorstein speaks
openly of the connection of this philosophy to Egyptian magic and
the use of sacred names. He writes:

"The influence of Greek philosophy is felt in the LXX
[Septuagint]. They see in Lev. 24.15 f. a PROHIBITION OF
PRONOUNCING THE DIVINE NAME .... Philo, Josephus, and Aquila (et
denominans nomen dei morte morietur) agree with  their Greek
Bible .... He [Philo] held with his teachers of philosophy that
no name can adequately give an idea or expression of God. New
material is gained from the Magic Tablet of Adrumetum, where the
important saying is inserted: ...'I adjure thee by the SACRED
NAME which is not uttered in any place.' This is the old reading
of Maspera: ... 'not even in the Temple'" (Ibid., pp.17-18).

     Despite the Hasidic effort to hide the name of God, the
pronunciation of the divine name jhvh, as written, continued to
be used both in the Temple and outside--not only by priests and
Levites, but also by the common Jew. After the death of the High
Priest Simon the Just (circa 180 B.C.), growing pressure from
factions within the priesthood and from political forces within
Judaism caused a decline in the use of the divine name. However,
not all the priests and people succumbed to this pressure.
Marmorstein quotes Deissmann to show that the divine name jhvh
continued to be pronounced as written at least until the
destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. He writes:

"Deissmann considers it 'absolutely impossible that any one
having any kind of sympathy with Judaism whatever could assert
that the Holy Name was not pronounced in the Temple'" (Ibid., p.

     Marmorstein refers to a number of authorities who
substantiate that the pronunciation of the divine name did not
stop with Simon the Just [circa 180 B.C.], as Hellenistic writers
have claimed. Here is Marmorstein's detailed testimony to this

"We are told that the priests, after the death of Simon the Just,
either ceased altogether, or stopped for a short period, to use
'the Name' in pronouncing the blessing .... Geiger connects this
historical tradition with the INFORMATION DERIVED FROM
HELLENISTIC SOURCES, according to which the pronunciation of the
divine name was strictly prohibited. Weiss says: 'We do not know
the special reason for this reform, but it is quite clear that
the priests, seeing the decline of faith and fear of God,
considered neither themselves nor their contemporaries worthy of
proclaiming or of hearing the name of God.' This information
CONTRADICTS many other traditions of the Mishna [Sotah].... In
the Sanctuary the priests said the Tetragrammaton ACCORDING TO
ITS WRITING, outside the Temple by its substitute .... There is a
consensus of opinion as to the prohibition of using the Shem
hamphorash [the pronunciation of jhvh] outside the Temple, yet in
the service of the Temple the Name WAS PRONOUNCED .... A third
version is given in B. Sotah, 38A, where the view of R. Josiah is
ascribed to R. Jonathan, and that of R. Jonathan to R. Josiah.
Anyhow, we learn that according to these Rabbis the Name was
Tarphon, who tells us AS AN EYEWITNESS that the priests used to
pronounce the Name in the Temple. R. Tarphon was of priestly
descent, saw the Temple service, and relates: 'Once I followed my
uncle to say the priestly blessing, and I inclined my ear near
the High Priest, and I have heard that he mixed ... the Name with
the tune of his brethren, the priests.' The Name was said, but
not distinctly" (Ibid., pp.19-21).

     Parke-Taylor quotes other reliable sources which confirm
that the divine name continued to be pronounced by the priests as
written. Notice:

"According to Tamid 7:2 and Sotah 7:6, when the blessing of the
priests was given, 'in the Temple they pronounced the Name AS IT
WAS WRITTEN, but in the provinces by a substituted word.' Samuel
Cohon comments, 'The Tetragrammaton was ORIGINALLY SPOKEN BY ALL
THE PRIESTS in the Temple in pronouncing the benediction. In the
synagogues the substitute name Adonai was employed in worship'"
(Yahweh: The Divine Name in the Bible, pp.86-87).

     As further evidence that the use of the divine name did not
end with the death of Simon the Just, Marmorstein refers to a
treatise in the Mishna which describes the Temple service on the
day of Atonement. He writes:

"In the service of the Day of Atonement, which is described in
the ancient treatise of the Mishna called Joma.... the High
Priest pronounced the Name ACCORDING TO ITS WRITING ...[contrary
to] the idea that the High Priest had merely used a, or the
substitute for the, divine name, which of course, upsets the
report about the usage [ending] after the death of Simon" (The
Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God: The Names and Attributes of God, 

     The Mishna contains additional records that are even more
revealing. These records show that the pronunciation of the
divine name continued long after the death of Simon the Just and,
in fact, was practiced by the common people as late as the first
century A.D. Contrary to Hellenistic teachings, the average Jew
at the time of Christ openly used the divine name with no fear of
recrimination from the authorities. Notice the following record
from the Mishnic tractate Berakhoth:

"There is a further passage which exhibits the same difficulty.
M. Berakhoth, ix. 5, contains several institutions which are of
the greatest importance for the knowledge of the intellectual
movements of the FIRST CENTURY [AD]. They instituted that people
should greet their fellow men ... 'by the Name'. The date of this
arrangement must be very old. In the very Mishna it is put
together with practices in the Temple. It must date back,
therefore, before the destruction of the Second Temple"
(Marmorstein, p.22).

     As this Mishnic record reveals, the Jewish practice of
greeting others by the divine name was a long-standing custom by
the first century A.D. Here is absolute and undeniable evidence
that the pronunciation of the divine name jhvh had not been lost!
The common people had been greeting each other by this name for
many generations, and they were thoroughly familiar with it. The
fact that they used it every day, to greet visitors both in their
homes and in public, shows that they did not view the divine name
as "sacred" and did not have a superstitious fear of pronouncing

     These historical records verify that the pronunciation of
the divine name jhvh was known even in New Testament times. The
true pronunciation had been passed down through the oral
tradition of the faithful priests and Levites. And how did the
priests and Levites of the first century A.D.--and the
generations that went before--pronounce the divine name jhvh?

     The answer is revealed in Rabbi Kohler's writings. A
recognized authority on the history of Judaism, Rabbi Kohler
played a dominant role in founding the Jewish Encyclopedia, as
well as compiling a history of Jewish practices, entitled "The
Origins of the Synagogue and the Church." In this book, Rabbi
Kohler acknowledges the traditional pronunciation of the divine
name by the priests, but he rejects it as erroneous because his
views have been molded by the Talmud. Notice how he justifies the
substitution of Adonai for the divine name:

"For as long as Yahweh--or JEHOVAH, AS THE NAME WAS erroneously
[in Rabbi Kohler's view] READ--was viewed as the proper Name of
Israel's God, there adhered to Him a more or less tribal
character, but as soon as He is spoken of as the Lord (Adonai),
He has ceased to be merely the God of one nation and has become
the universal God" (The Origins of the Synagogue and the Church,

     As this eminent rabbi admits, before the substitution of
Adonai, the divine name was READ AS JEHOVAH. Although Rabbi
Kohler disagrees with this pronunciation, he acknowledges that it
was the pronunciation that the priests used in reading the
Scriptures. That is the true pronunciation of jhvh as passed down
by oral tradition and read by the priests of every generation
from the time of Aaron.

     In confirming the original pronunciation of the divine name
as read by the priests, Rabbi Kohler has exposed the falsehood in
claiming that the name Jehovah was invented by "borrowing" the
vowel points of Adonai for jhvh. There is no historical evidence
whatsoever to support this claim. The truth is that the Masoretes
pointed jhvh to be read as JEHOVAH because they were descendants
of the priests and Levites, and THAT WAS HOW THEY HAD ALWAYS

     The original pronunciation of jhvh, as marked in the Masoretic
Text, is confirmed by historical records of the priestly usage of
the name. The fact that the common people freely used this divine
name, as well as the priests, shows that the pronunciation of
jhvh was not regarded as "sacred"--that is, not until the
esoteric practices of the ancient Mysteries were adopted by the
Hasidim during the Jewish exile in Babylon.
     As the influence of the Hasidim spread, the practice of
hiding the name of God by substituting Adonai was gradually
established among the Jews of the Dispersion. Underlying this
practice was the belief that the pronunciation of the divine name
jhvh was "sacred." Rabbi Kohler writes, "For the people at large
the name Adonai, 'the Lord,' was introduced as a substitute both
in the reading and the translation of the Scripture .... THIS
(Ibid., p.50).

     Over the centuries, the substitution of Adonai in reading
the Scriptures became a fixed tradition in every synagogue. And
with it, the pronunciation of the divine name jhvh was lost to
the entire Jewish community. Today, the rabbis teach that the
original pronunciation of jhvh was Yahweh, and all Jews regard
this name as "sacred."

     The leaders of Judaism have embraced both a false concept
and a false name--and many Christians are following in their
     The only difference is that, while the rabbis refuse to
pronounce this so-called "sacred name" in public, those
Christians who view it as sacred insist on using it!

     Contrary to the claims of both Jewish and Christian sacred
namers, Yahweh is not the true pronunciation of the divine name
jhvh. The records of history and Semitic philology testify to the
accuracy of the vowel points that are found with jhvh in the
Masoretic Text, verifying that the true pronunciation of the
divine name is Jehovah--not Yahweh. Yahweh is not and never has
been a name of the God of the Old Testament. It is neither
Scriptural nor sacred! Although Jehovah is the true pronunciation
of the divine name jhvh, and is a legitimate Scriptural name, it
should not be viewed as sacred. The concept that God has a sacred
name is pagan to the core!


To be continued                       

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