De Moor IV:6: יְהוָֹה/Jehovah, Pronounceable

B. That the same was Pronounced, and so also was able to be pronounced. The same is proven from its frequent use before and after Moses, and especially from the repeated pronouncement of the Priestly benediction in the dismissal of the sacred assembly, in which the Name יְהוָֹה/Jehovah actually occurs three times, Numbers 6:24-26.[1] The Jews themselves acknowledge that in the Sanctuary the use of this Name obtained among the Priests, who bless, and the High Priest in the Feast of Atonement;[2] but quickly and softly, lest it be heard too distinctly by the multitude, while the pronouncing of it was prohibited to the common people under the threat of the punishment of death and cutting off: while its pronunciation ceased also in the Sanctuary after the death of Simeon the Just[3] because of the erupting depravity of men: consult BUXTORF’S Dissertationem de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 26. Concerning the pronunciation of this Name in the Sanctuary alone PHILO also testifies, book III de Vita Mosis, page 670, where he writes concerning the τετραγραμμάτῳ/tetragrammon Name, ὄνομα ὃ μόνοις τοῖς ὦτα καὶ γλῶτταν σοφίᾳ κεκαθαρμένοις θέμις ἀκούειν καὶ λέγειν ἐν ἁγίοις, ἄλλῳ δ᾽ οὐδενὶ τὸ παράπαν οὐδαμοῦ, the name which to those alone that have been cleansed in ears and tongue by wisdom it is a statute to hear and to read in the Sanctuary, but by no one else at all in any place whatever.


This Name is indeed called among the Fathers ἀπόῤῥητον/ forbidden, ἄλεκτον, not to be told, as it is in EUSEBIUS’ Præparationem Euangelicam, book XI, chapter VI, ἄλεκτόν τι τοῖς πολλοῖς καὶ ἀπόῤῥητον τοῦτ᾽ εἶναι παἶς παρὰ πατρὸς εἰληφότες, they have received the tradition from father to son, that this is something unutterable and forbidden to the multitude. It is called ἄφραστον/inexpressible in THEODORET, Question XV in Exodum, τοῦτο δὲ παρ᾽ Ἑβραίοις ἄφραστον ὀνομάζεται, ἀπείρηται γὰρ αὐτοῖς τοῦτο διὰ τῆς γλώττης προφέρειν, among the Hebrews this is known as the inexpressible name, for it is forbidden to them to utter this with the tongue. While EUSEBIUS, in his Demonstratione Euangelica also, book IX on Psalm 90 or 91, has this on page 435, Τὸ Κύριε, διὰ τοῦ τετραγράμμου ὀνόματος ἐν τῷ Ἑβραϊκῷ φέρεται, ὅπερ ἀνεκφώνητον εἶναι λέγοντες Ἑβραΐων παῖδες, ἐπὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ παραλαμβάνειν εἰώθασιν, the Lord is expressed in Hebrew by the Tetragrammaton name, which the sons of the Hebrews say must not be spoken, and are wont to reserve for God alone. According to JEROME, Epistola ad Marcellam, opera, tome 3, page 95, The ninth Name is the τετραγράμματον/Tetragrammaton, which they thought to be ἀνεκφώνητον, that is, ineffable, which is written with these letters, י/Yod, ה/He, ו/Vau, ה/He.


But those epithets do not necessarily indicate that according to the opinion of the Fathers the Name יְהוָֹה/Jehovah was not at all able to be pronounced in the Hebrew Language: but τὸ ἀνεκφώνητον, the ineffable quality, of the Name יְהוָֹה/Jehovah is wont to be referred: 1. Either only to the fact, or τὸ εἰωθὸς, the custom, of the Jews and Christians abstaining from the pronunciation of it. 2. Or to the constitutions of the Jews, constitutions more human and superstitious than religious; which sort, nevertheless, AMAMA[4] and BUDDEUS, Theologiæ dogmaticæ, book II, chapter I, § 3, page 256, tome I, think to have been from the beginning, having arisen from a singular veneration toward this Name and for the purpose of avoiding its abuse, and afterwards to have degenerated; and hitherto τὸ θεμιστὸν, the custom. 3. Or principally to the Letters of the Greeks, by which that Name, because of the want of the Consonants י/Y and ו/V, and of the want of the aspiration expressed by the ה/He in the middle and end of a word, either is not able to be expressed, or is able to be expressed with the utmost difficulty and less fully and distinctly: so that not without good reason the Wise men of the Hebrews, with this situation observed, especially after the Greeks began to dominate in the East and to gain the mastery of affairs there, might resolve that that Name is ἀνεκφώνητον/ineffable: lest that of itself, made known to that people, most inquisitive and dwelling very disdainfully now in all places among the Jews, should cause trouble and provoke mockery, which was to be abhorred and most cautiously avoided; and in this manner τὸ ἀνεκφώνητον, the ineffable quality, of this Name is to be referred also to τὸ δυνατὸν, the ability, which is the observation of FULLER, Miscellaneis, book II, chapter VI. But just how ἀδύνατον/impossible it is for the Greeks correctly to express this Name in their language, the most diverse Greek pronunciations of the same, indeed, the monstrosities of pronunciations, declare, which out of FULLER and others MARCKIUS also enumerates, Exercitationibus textualibus X, Part V, § 12, 13, pages 274-276. 4. But if some Fathers actually thought this Name to be Ineffable in the very Tongue of the Hebrews also, in this then they most certainly suffered themselves to be deceived by the Jews; since they all, with one or another exception, were ignorant of the Hebrew Tongue. Or without good reason they also put confidence in the traditions of the Jews that this Name was not able to be expressed fully with its own proper vowels; but was written with the points of another word, of the Name אֲדֹנָי/Adonai, etc., and so ought to be expressed also by אֲדֹנָי/Adonai.

[1] Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord (יְהוָה) bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord (יְהוָה) make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord (יְהוָה) lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”


[2] See Leviticus 16.


[3] Simeon ben Hillel succeeded his father as president of the Sanhedrin. He was quickly succeeded in turn by Gamaliel I. Some have thought this to be the same Simeon that blessed the infant Jesus, Luke 2:25-35.


[4] Sixtinus Amama (1593-1629) was Professor of Hebrew at Oxford (1613) and at Franeker (1618), succeeding John Drusius. He is remembered for his skill in Oriental languages and his defense of the ultimate authority of the original texts of Scripture.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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