Ancient Hebrews in Biblical Hebrew language referred to “God” as “Elohim”, which is a plural noun. The singular for “Elohim” is “Eloah”. The often encountered term “El” in the Bible is a contraction for “Elohim”. The term “Elohim” or “God” denotes a supreme divine being or in some cases rulers or judges who represent Elohim in their capacity of carrying out the mandate of Elohim. As such, the term “Elohim” or “God” is not a personal name of Elohim but merely a designation that denotes the position of the One with Power.
In fact Elohim did reveal His Name to us in the Old Testament. In the Masoretic texts Elohim’s Name in Hebrew script is written in four Hebrew consonants (tetragrammaton): יהוה (Hebrew is written from right to left, transliterated to English Yod-Hey-Waw-Hey). Ancient Hebrew was written in abjad system in which the alphabets were all consonants and there was no alphabet or marking to represent vowels. Therefore, it was up to the readers to mentally supply the appropriate vowels as they read the text. Later, when the Jewish scribes invented the diacritic pointing system to represent the vowels they followed the tradition of not vocalizing the Name of Elohim and therefore they substituted the vowels for “Adonai” into the four-letter consonants that represented the Name of Elohim.
When transliterated into Roman alphabet the tetragrammaton is transcribed as YHWH. However, modern Hebrew speakers vocalize the Waw consonant as Vav with a fricative V sound. Therefore, the tetragrammaton sometime also is transcribed as YHVH. Here in my discourse I will use Waw instead of Vav for the tetragrammaton.
The question now is: how do we pronounce the tetragrammaton to correctly call upon the Name of the Judeo-Christian Elohim?
As we have seen, some Bible publications use “Jehovah” and some use “Yahweh” while majority of them simply use the word “LORD” in place of Elohim’s Name. Is there a way to determine whose rationale is correct and whose could be ruled out as error?
Fortunately there is. This is because of the way ancient Hebrew culture came about to naming a child and the way the grammar system worked in Biblical Hebrew. Any theory that defies the tradition of ancient Hebrew culture and Biblical Hebrew’s grammatical structure can therefore be confidently ruled out and dismissed as error. What’s left would be those that conform to the cultural practice and adhere to the rule of grammar. These can eventually be narrowed down to just a few choices that leads to either one or the other.
In this article I will discuss my finding of fact to determine the proper pronunciation of the Name of Elohim given by the tetragrammaton as contained in the Hebrew Bible. I will make my analysis based on the ancient Hebrew culture of naming a person and to reach into the Biblical Hebrew grammar to weed out false interpretation or false rationale and at the same time to find the most possible correct way of vocalizing and pronouncing the Name of Elohim.
Stay tuned for more on this topic.
[updated 10/17/2013: the singular for Elohim is “eloah“and not “Eloha” as the vowel point under the letter hey (h) is a furtive patachh and not a regular patachh. Error regreted.]