Pavlos D. Vasileiadis. The Pronunciation of the Sacred Tetragrammaton: An Overview of a Nomen Revelatus that Became a Nomen Absconditus

The Pronunciation of the Sacred Tetragrammaton: An Overview of a Nomen Revelatus that Became a Nomen Absconditus

By Pavlos D. Vasileiadis

(Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)

Source: Judaica Ukrainica 2 (2013): 5–20

Publication date: December 1, 2013

Publication type: article

Language: English

Full text:



The Biblical name of God has a long history of use by the Israelites of Moses’ day that extends even back to the days of the patriarchs and, according to the biblical record, even to the early days of humanity. Although it was known by peoples in lands outside Israel — as in Egypt probably since the late 15th century BCE (list at the temple of Soleb at Nubia written during Amenhotep III) and the land of Moab since the 9th century BCE (Mesha Stele) — it seems that it became more widely known during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Greek philosophical trends influenced decisively Jewish theology. The name of God was gradually silenced inside of Judaism. At the same time, the name proper was translated and diffused in new directions across Europe and America. Renaissance humanism and the development of Hebrew linguistics contributed to the use of the sacred name to an unprecented degree. Starting from the Second Temple period (200 BCE — 70 CE) down to the present time, this is an attempted overview of the thrilling story of the pronunciation of the Biblical name of the Supreme Being.



Barr, James. “St. Jerome and the Sounds of Hebrew.” Journal of Semitic Studies 12 (1967): 1–36.

---. Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1987.

Betz, Hanz D., ed. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Biblical Archeology Review 4, no. 1 (1978).

Bickerman, Elias J. The Jews in the Greek Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Comfort, Philip. Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2005.

Cooten, George H. “Moses/Musaeus/Mochos and His God Yahweh, Iao, and Sabaoth, Seen from a Graeco-Roman Perspective.” In The Revelation of the Name YHWH to Moses: Perspectives from Judaism, the Pagan Graeco-Roman World, and Early Christianity (Themes in Biblical Narrative), edited by George H. van Kooten, 107–138. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006.

De Troyer, Kristin. “The Names of God, Their Pronunciation and Their Translation: A Digital Tour of Some of the Main Witnesses.” Lectio Difficilior 2 (2005).

---. “The Pronunciation of the Names of God, with Some Notes Regarding Nomina Sacra.” In Gott Nennen, edited by Ingolf U. Dalferth and Philipp Stoellger, 143–172. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.

Deissmann, G. Adolf. “Greek Transcriptions of the Tetragrammaton.” In Bible Studies, by G. Adolf Deissmann, translated by Alexander Grieve, 319–336. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1903.

Diodorus Siculus. In Library of History. Translated by Charles H. Oldfather. Vol. 1, books 1–2.34. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1933.

Edwards, James R. The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009.

Frazee, Charles A. The Orthodox Church and Independent Greece: 1821–1852. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

Freedman, David N., and Michael P. O’Connor. “YHWH.” In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, edited by G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, 5:500–521. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986.

Freedman, David N., ed. Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 6. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

Gelb, Ignace J. A study of Writing. Chicago: Phoenix Books, 1963.

Gertoux, Gérard. The Name of God Y.eH.oW.aH which is Pronounced as it is Written I_Eh_oU_Ah: Its Story. Lanham: University Press of America, 2002.

Gibson, John C. L. “The Massoretes as linguists.” In Language and Meaning, Studies in Hebrew Language and Biblical Exegesis. edited by James Barr, 19:86–96. Leiden: Brill, 1974.

Gignac, Francis Th. A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Milano: Istituto Editoriale Cisalpino – La Goliardica, 1975.

Goodenough, Erwin R. The Archeological Evidence from the Diaspora. Vol. 2 of Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period. Princeton: Literary Licensing, LLC, 1953.

Harford, John B. Studies in the Book of Ezekiel. Cambridge: University Press; New York: Macmillan, 1935.

Hirschfeld, Hartwig, trans. Judah Hallevi’s Kitab Al Khazari. London: G. Routledge and Sons, 1905.

Howard, George. “Tetragrammaton in the New Testament.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David N. Freedman, 6:392–393. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

---. “The Name of God in the New Testament.” Biblical Archaeology Review 4, no. 1 (1978): 12–14, 56.

---. “The Tetragram and the New Testament.” Journal of Biblical Literature 96 (1977): 63–83.

Jackson, Samuel Macaulty, ed. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Vol. 21. Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1912.

Josephus Flavius. “Antiquities of the Jews.” In The Works of Flavius Josephus, translated by William Whiston, 57, 2:276; 11:332. London: Armstrong & Berry, 1839.

Kahle, Paul E., ed. The Cairo Geniza. Oxford: Blackwell, 1959.

Karmires, Ioannes. The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church. Vol. 2. Athens, 1953.

Krašovec, Joze, ed. The Interpretation of the Bible: The International Symposium in Slovenia. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 289. Ljubljana: Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti, 1998.

---. The Transformation of Biblical Proper Names. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010.

Kraus, Wolfgang, and R. Glenn Wooden. Septuagint Research: Issues And Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scriptures. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006.

Levy, J. H. “The Tetra(?)grammaton.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 15, no. 1 (1902): 97–99.

Löfstedt, Einar. Late Latin: Oslo, Aschehoug. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

Ludwell, Philip, trans. The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Eastern Church, Faithfully Translated from the Originals. London, 1762.

Maimonides, Moses. Guide for the Perplexed. Translated by Michael Friedländer. London: George Routledge & Sons; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1904.

Maloney, George A. A History of Orthodox Theology Since 1453. Belmont: Nordland Pub. Co., 1976.

Marcos, Natalio F. The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible. Leiden: Brill, 2000.

McClintock, John, and James Strong. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. 1. New York: Harper, 1867.

McDonough, Sean M. YHWH at Patmos. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999.

Nelson, Thomas, ed. The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Todays World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2008.

Neusner, Jacob. Chapters in the Formative History of Judaism: Fifth Series. Lanham: University Press of America, 2010.

Nicolaus Cusanus. Dialogus de Genesis. In Opera, edited by Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples and Josse Bade, vol. 1. Paris: J. Bade, 1514.

Parke-Taylor, Geoffrey H. Yahweh: The Divine Name in the Bible. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1975.

Payne, Barton. “hāwâ: Yahweh.” In Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, edited by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, 1:210–211. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980/2003.

Philonis Alexandrini. Legatio ad Gaium 44.353. Translated by E. Mary Smallwood. Leiden: Brill, 1961.

Priestley, Joseph. “Rules of translating” for “A plan to procure a continually improving translation of the Scriptures.” In The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley, edited by J. T. Rutt, 17:532–533. London: G. Smallfield, 1797.

Riley, Mark T., trans. “Tertullian: Against the Valentinians.” PhD diss., Stanford University, 1971.

Rösel, Martin. “The Reading and Translation of the Divine Name in the Masoretic Tradition and the Greek Pentateuch.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31, no. 4 (2007): 411–428.

Rotherham, Joseph Bryant, ed. The Emphasized Bible. London: H. R. Allenson, 1902.

Runia, David T., ed. Philo of Alexandria: An Annotated Bibliography 1997–2006. Leiden: Brill, 2011.

Schaff, Philip. The Greek and Latin Creeds, with Translations. Vol. 2 of Bibliotheca Symbolica Ecclesiæ Universalis. New York: Harper, 1878.

Shaw, Frank “The Emperor Gaius’ Employment of the Divine Name,” Studia Philonica Annual 17 (2005): 33–48.

Shaw, Frank. “The Earliest Non-Mystical Jewish Use of Ιαω.” PhD diss., University of Cincinnati, 2002.

Shipley, Joseph T. In Praise of English: The Growth & Use of Language. New York: Times Books, 1977.

Singer, Isidore, ed. The Jewish Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. London and New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1904.

Skehan, Patrick W. “The Divine Name at Qumran, in the Masada Scroll, and in the Septuagint.” Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint 13 (1980): 14–44.

Sockice, Janet M. “Creation and the Glory of Creatures.” Modern Theology 29, no. 2 (2013): 172–185.

Sperber, Alexander. A Historical Grammar of Biblical Hebrew: A Presentation of Problems witch Suggestions to Their Solution. Leiden: Brill, 1966.

Stange, Theodor F. “Hebreische sprachfunde” (1820). Kritisches Journal der neuesten theologischen Literatur 15 (1822): 382.

Stroumsa, Guy G. “A Nameless God: Judaeo-Christian and Gnostic ‘Theologies of the Name.’ ” In The Image of the Judeo-Christians in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature, edited by Peter J. Tomson and Doris Lambers-Petry, 230–244. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003.

Thompson, Marianne M. The God of the Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001.

Valerius Maximus. “Epitome of Julius Paris.” In Memorable Deeds and Sayings. One Thousand Tales from Ancient Rome, translated by Henry J. Walker, book 14, 1:3.3[12]. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004.

Βεντότης, Γ. Λεξικόν τρίγλωσσον της Γαλλικής, Ιταλικής και Ρωμαϊκής διαλέκτου, εις τόμους τρεις διηρημένον. Vol. 1. Vienna, 1790.

Λάουνδς, Ι. (Isaac Lowndes). Λεξικόν Εβραϊκό-Νεοελληνικόν της Παλαιάς Διαθήκης. Μελίτη (Malta): Αποστολική Εταιρία Λονδίνου, 1842.