2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Divinities

Jehovah is an English transcription of יְהֹוָה, which is a specific vocalized spelling of יהוה (i.e. the Tetragrammaton) that is found in the Masoretic Text.
יְהֹוָה has the consonants of the Tetragrammaton, and יְהֹוָה 's vowel points are similar to, but not precisely the same as, the vowel points found in Adonai.
Since the beginning of the 17th century, [or possibly even earlier], scholars have questioned whether the vowel points found in יְהֹוָה are the actual vowel points of God's name. Some scholarly sources teach that יְהֹוָה has the vowel points of אֲדֹנָי [i.e. Adonai], but to be redundant, the vowel points of these two words are not precisely the same, and scholars are not in total agreement as to why יְהֹוָה does not have the precise same vowel points as Adonai has.
The first English translators of יְהֹוָה, believed it had the correct vowel points, and translated it as it was written:

"Iehouah" in 1530 A.D. English.
"Iehovah" in 1611 A.D. English.
"Jehovah" in 1769 A.D. English.

King-James-Only Movement Christians believe that Jehovah is the correct name that English speaking people should use for God.
Jehovah's Witnesses use the name extensively worldwide as the most common version of the Tetragrammaton.

Modern usage

These works, either always or sometimes, transcribe the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah:

  • The King James (Authorized) Version, 1611: i.e. four times as the personal name of God, and three times in combination names: Gen 22:14; Exodus 17:15; Judges 6:24
  • The American Standard Version, 1901 edition, consistently renders the Tetragrammaton as Je-ho’vah in all 6,823 places where it occurs in the Old Testament.
  • The New English Bible, published by Oxford University Press, 1970, e.g. Gen 22:14; Exodus 3:15,16; 6:3; 17:15; Judges 6:24
  • The Living Bible, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Illinois 1971, e.g. Gen 22:14, Exodus 4:1-27; 17:15; Lev 19:1-36; Deut 4: 29, 39; 5:5, 6; Judges 6:16, 24; Ps 83:18; 110:1; Isaiah 45:1, 18; Amos 5:8; 6:8; 9:6
  • The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY 1961 and last revised in 1984. Renders the Tetragrammaton nearly 7,000 times.

Many religious groups, most notably the Jehovah's Witnesses and the King-James-Only Movement, continue to use the form Jehovah, because it is familiar and became well established in usage among some Christians while the correct pronunciation of יהוה was unknown. Some groups insist that Jehovah is the only correct pronounciation and that Yahweh is an incorrect and invalid pronunciation.


Under the heading "יהוה c. 6823", the editors of the the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon write that יְהֹוָה occurs 6518 times in the Masoretic Text.

The editors of the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon write that the pronunciation "Jehovah" was unknown until 1520 when it was introduced by Galatinus; but it was contested by Le Mercier, J. Drusius, and L. Capellus, as against grammatical and historical propriety.

Early use of forms similar to "Jehovah"

God's name at the Roman Catholic Church named St. Martinskirche, Olten, Switzerland, 1521.
God's name at the Roman Catholic Church named St. Martinskirche, Olten, Switzerland, 1521.

The word "Jehovah" and similar was not at all in general use, but forms already occurred in the 13th century.

'#' marks forms listed by Sir Godfrey Driver.
  • ιεοα: in Hellenistic Greek magical texts #
  • 1278: yohoua: in the work Pugio fidei by the Spanish monk Raymond Martin (Raymundus Martini).
  • 1278 & 1303: Yehova or Jehova, and Johova #
  • 1518: Iehoua: in De Arcanis Catholicæ Veritatis, 1518, folio xliii by Pope Leo X's confessor Peter Galatin (Galatinus)
  • 16th century: Jova, declined as a Latin noun #
  • 1567: Genebrardus Chronographia, Paris, 1567 (ed. Paris, 1600. p. 79 seq.) suggested the pronunciation Iahue, but it was not until the 19th century that it became generally accepted.
  • 1604: Drusius (= Van der Driesche, 1550-1616), noting that the reading "Jehovah" is contrary to Jewish tradition, wrote about the 1518 form "Primus in hunc errorem nos induxit Galatinus ... ante qui sic legerit, neminem novi" ("Galatinus first led us to this mistake ... I know [of] nobody who read [it] thus earlier.."); but Drusius in earlier publications had referred to earlier uses.
  • around 1610: John Buxtorff [1564–1629], Dissertatio de nomine JHVH against the form "Jehovah" ,
  • Nicholas Fuller [1557?-1626]: in defense of the form "Jehovah"
  • 1614 John Drusius published Tetragrammaton, sive de Nomine Die proprio, quod Tetragrammaton vocant against the form "Jehovah"
  • 1628: Sextinus Amama [1593-1659] published De nomine tetragrammato against the form "Jehovah". (see page 8}; ,
  • c. 1640: L. Capellus, De nomine tetragrammato against the form "Jehovah" . He reached the conclusion that Hebrew vowel points were not part of the original Hebrew language. This view was strongly contested by John Buxtorff. (See also Niqqud#Disputes among Protestant Christians.)
  • 1645: Thomas Gataker, De Nomine Tetragrammato Dissertatio (1645) in defense of the form "Jehovah"
  • around 1660: John Leusden, Dissertationes tres, de vera lectione nominis Jehova in defense of the form "Jehovah"
  • James Alting [1618-1679], Exercitatio grammatica de punctis ac pronunciatione tetragrammati against the form "Jehovah"
  • 1657: Genebrardus, in his Chronologia (1567) condemns the pronunciation "Iehoua" as "aliena, irreligiosa, imperita, nova et barbara", rejects the divine origin of vowel points, and proposes "Iahue" as reading of YHWH.
  • 1707: Hadrian Reland collected and published discourses for and against the pronunciation "Jehovah" from 1694 Drusius on : Fuller, Gataker, Leusden and others defended the form "Jehovah" against the criticisms of Drusius, Cappellus and the elder Buxtorf.
William Gesenius's Hebrew punctuation (i.e. Yahweh)
William Gesenius's Hebrew punctuation (i.e. Yahweh)
  • Wilhelm Gesenius [1786-1842] is noted for being one of the greatest Hebrew and biblical scholars . His proposal to read YHWH as "יַהְוֶה" (see image to the right) was based in large part on various various Greek transcriptions, such as ιαβε, dating from the first centuries AD, but also on the forms of theophoric names.

Use of "Jehovah" in English

  • 1395: The Wycliffe Bible translation followed Jewish tradition and wrote 'Adonai', e.g. in Ex. 6:3.
  • 1530: "Iehouah" appeared in Tyndale's translation of the Pentateuch (Exodus 6.3), from which it passed into other Protestant Bibles.
  • 1530 & later: The first early modern English Bible translators to transcribe God's name into English did not contact Jewish scholars, and did not know of the Q're perpetuum custom, but transcribed "יְהֹוָה" into English as they saw it. It therefore became Iehouah in 1530 ( Tyndale's translation of the Pentateuch), Iehovah in 1611, and Jehovah in 1769, the spelling gradually settling down as Roman alphabet J and V became distinct letters from I and U. The transcription Iehouah was used in the 16th century by many authors Roman Catholic and Protestant, but not Coverdale's Bible translation in 1535.
  • 1611: יְהֹוָה is translated "IEHOVAH" ("JEHOVAH" from the 18th century on) in all uppercase in four places in the King James Bible of 1611 A.D.(Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4), the three times in placenames (e.g. Jehovah-jireh). Elsewhere in the King James Bible it is rendered as GOD or LORD.
Image of the divine name as it is written on the wall of a Norwegian church. (Source: The Divine Name in Norway)
Image of the divine name as it is written on the wall of a Norwegian church. (Source: The Divine Name in Norway)

For and against

Arguments against "Jehovah" are:

  • יהוה has two systems of vowel pointing: יְהֹוָה when the qere is Adonai, and יֱהֹוִה when the qere is Elohim.
  • Sandhi effects (i.e. the vowel of prefixed one-letter words, and sometimes the first vowel of the next word if that vowel is normally a shewa) affecting adjacent words follow the rules for contact with "Adonai", not the rules for contact with "Yehowa".
  • The early Greek and Latin forms.

Argument against the form "Yahweh" are:

  • That the vocalized Hebrew spelling "Yahweh" is found in no extant Hebrew text.
  • That the central "ou" or "o" in some Greek transcriptions point to a pronunciation with a "u" or "o" vowel in the middle, i.e. "Yehowa"; but Greek, since it stopped using the digamma, when transcribing foreign words and names has had to write the "w" consonant sound as a vowel "u" or similar (or in later times as β, after the Greek pronunciation of β changed from "b" to "v").

William Smith concludes in his 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible", "Whatever, therefore, be the true pronunciation of the word, there can be little doubt that it is not Jehovah."

The defenders of the form "Jehovah" point at theophoric names [e.g. names starting "Jeho-" or "Jo-" such as Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, &c.] that seem to support a name containing the vowel "o". This is treated in Jehovah#Evidence from theophoric names.

Resulting consensus

Reland agreed with the opponents of "Jehovah", and since his days the majority opinion has been roughly what is expressed in the article JEHOVAH of the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901-1906 , that the pronunciation was "Yahweh". See also:


Critique in the 17th century

As the Roman alphabet letters J and V gradually became distinct letters from I and U, opinion differences arose about the resulting English spelling variants:

  • Iehouah: This form was used in the 16th century by many authors, both Catholic and Protestant, and in the 17th was zealously defended by Fuller, Gataker [1574-1654], Leusden, and others, against the criticisms of such scholars as Drusius, Cappellus and the elder Buxtorf.
  • Jehovah: This form did not exist until about 1769 A.D.
  • Iehovah: This form was "zealously defended" by some and criticized by others in the 17th century.

In the beginning of the 17th century [or possibly even earlier] scholars rose up to question whether or not the vowel points found in the Hebrew spelling יְהֹוָה were the actual vowel points of God's name; this controversy continues even to this day. Some of the contrary arguments were:

  1. That "Jehovah" has the consonants of "Yahweh" with the vowels of "Adonai" due to the q're perpetuum rule, as described elsewhere.
  2. That every part of the Hebrew Bible including its vowel points were inspired by God and must be taken as alsolutely true.

More recent opinions

The "JEHOVAH" article in the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901-1906 agrees with (1) . Most modern scholars agree with it.

The editors of the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament write "יַהְוֶה" under the heading "יהוה", and describes "יַהְוֶה" as:

" Yahweh, the proper name of the God of Israel."

Details of vowel pointing

The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connected forms in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, with vowel points shown in red. (Click on image to enlarge.)
The spelling of the Tetragrammaton and connected forms in the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, with vowel points shown in red. (Click on image to enlarge.)

In the table below, Yehovah and Adonay are dissected

Hebrew Word #3068
Hebrew Word #136
י Yod Y א Aleph glottal stop
ְ .Simple Shewa E ֲ Hatef Patah A
ה Heh H ד Daleth D
ֹ Holem O ֹ Holem O
ו Vav V נ Nun N
ָ Qamets A ָ Qamets A
ה Heh H י Yod Y

Note in the table directly above that the "simple shewa" in Yehovah and the "hatef patah" in Adonay are not the same points. The same information is displayed in the table above and to the right where "YHWH intended to be pronounced as Adonai" and "Adonai, with its slightly different vowel points" are shown to have different vowel points.

The difference between the vowel points of ’ǎdônây and YHWH is explained by the rules of Hebrew morphology and phonetics. Shva and hataf-patah were allophones of the same phoneme used in different situations: hataf-patah on glottal consonants including aleph (such as the first letter in "Adonai"), and simple shva on other consonants (such as the 'y' in YHWH).

Evidence from theophoric names

"Yahū" or "Yehū" is a common short form for " Yahweh" in Hebrew theophoric names; as a prefix it sometimes appears as "Yehō-". This has caused two opinions:

  1. In former times (at least from c.1650 AD), that it was abbreviated from the supposed pronunciation "Yehowah", rather than "Yahweh" which contains no 'o'- or 'u'-type vowel sound in the middle.
  2. Recently, that, as "Yahweh" is likely an imperfective verb form, "Yahu" is its corresponding preterite or jussive short form: compare yiŝtahaweh (imperfective), yiŝtáhû (preterit or jussive short form) = "do obeisance".

George Wesley Buchanan in Biblical Archaeology Review argues for (1), as the prefix "Yehu-" or "Yeho-" always keeps its second vowel.

Smith’s 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible Section # 2.1 supports (1) for the same reason.

In his Hebrew Dictionary Gesenius ( see image of text) supports the pronunciation "Yahweh" because of the Samaritan pronunciation Ιαβε reported by Theodoret, and that the theophoric name prefixes YHW [Yeho] and YH [Yo] can be esplained from the form "Yahweh".

The Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon (1848) in its article הוה supports (1) because of the "Yeho-" name prefixes and the vowel pointing difference described in #Details of vowel pointing.

Smith’s 1863 A Dictionary of the Bible says that "Yahweh" is possible because shortening to "Yahw" would end up as "Yahu" or similar.

The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901-1906 in the Article:Names Of God has a very similar discussion, and also gives the form Jo or Yo (יוֹ) contracted from Jeho or Yeho (יְהוֹ).

The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1910-11, vol. 15, pp. 312, in its article "JEHOVAH", also says that "Jelo-" or "Jo" can be explained from "Yahweh", and that the suffix "-jah" can be explained fom "Yahweh" better than from "Yehowah".

Chapter 1 of The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures, under the heading: THE PRONUNCIATION OF GOD'S NAME quotes from Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 7:

Hebrew Scholars generally favour "Yahweh" as the most likely pronunciation. They point out that the abbreviated form of the name is Yah (Jah in the Latinized form), as at Psalm 89:8 and in the expression Hallelu-Yah (meaning "Praise Yah, you people!") (Ps 104:35; 150:1,6). Also, the forms Yehoh', Yoh, Yah, and Ya'hu, found in the Hebrew spelling of the names of Jehoshaphat, Joshaphat, Shephatiah, and others, can all be derived from Yahweh. ... Still, there is by no means unanimity among scholars on the subject, some favoring yet other pronunciations, such as "Yahuwa", "Yahuah", or "Yehuah".

Everett Fox in his introduction to his translation of The Five Books of Moses stated: "Both old and new attempts to recover the ‘correct’ pronunciation of the Hebrew name [of God] have not succeeded; neither the sometimes-heard ‘Jehovah’ nor the standard scholarly ‘Yahweh’ can be conclusively proven."

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