Correct Spelling and Pronunciation of God’s Name in English

It is often claimed that it is wrong to spell “YHWH” as “Jehovah” due to “the fact that the letter “J” doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, Greek, Latin.”

In fact, no letter of the English alphabet exists in the Hebrew language at all. You will not find any “A” or “Y” or “W” etc., in the Hebrew alphabet.

If the English word “JEHOVAH” is a wrong spelling of God’s Holy Name, then so is the English word JESUS a wrong spelling of the name of Son of God. Indeed, so is the name of any and every name that appears in any translation of the Bible into English a wrong spelling of each and every respective name.

It is then claimed: “Further, the English language did not have a letter “J” before about 1500 AD. For example, the very first edition of the KJV printed in 1611 AD, contained no “J”. Not even one! Instead the letter “I” is used for Jew, Jesus, Joshua, Joanna, John AND the person pronoun “I”. Instead these words were written in 1611 AD as, Iew, Iesus, Ioshua, Ioanna, Iohn.”

While the above is interesting, it is actually irrelevant; according to the earlier reasoning, all of these must not represent any correct spelling of the respective names in Hebrew either, since Hebrew does not have any letter “I”, “E”, “O”, “S”, etc. By the way, IESUS and IOSHUA above are simply forms of the same name, one based on a Latinized form and the other based on a Masoretic Hebrew form. Thus, Jesus and Joshua are the same name, simply based on different linguistic backgrounds. Likewise, IESUS, IOSHUA, JESUS, JOSHUA, YESHUA, etc., are the same name; they are NOT different names. In the original 1611 King James Version, God’s name appears as IEHOVAH in Psalm 83:18. Both IEHOVAH and JEHOVAH are the same name, just spelled differently according the change of the English language. However, many assume that that the emergence of the letter “J” in English means that the sound that we give to that letter did not exist until the letter came into existence; however, more than likely the letter came into existence the sound that already existed, not the other way around. More than likely, the consonantal “I” already carried the sounds of attributed to “J”.

Additionally, in English, the most two common ways of spelling God’s Holy Name is Jehovah and Yahweh. Jehovah is based on the Masoretic Hebrew text while Yahweh is based on some ancient Greek texts. These should not be viewed as two different names, but they are the same name, having come to us from two different linguistic backgrounds.

It is claimed regarding the Jehovah’s witnesses, “In a stunning admission, Jehovah’s witnesses tell us that the reason they continue to use “Jehovah” instead of the correct spelling Yahweh, is to be pleasing to man, not God.”

I am not with the JWs; nevertheless, to speak of “Yahweh” as the “correct” spelling as opposed to “Jehovah” is nonsense, since, in English both are correct spellings. Actually, alleged “correct” English spellings of Hebrew words are dependent on someone’s assumptions related to which English character to use to transliterate the Hebrew; in reality, whatever English phonemes given to such transliterations may or may not actually correspond to the original Hebrew pronunciation.

There are those who, based on various assumptions, make a good case that “Jehovah” is much closer to the original Hebrew than “Yahweh”. The problem is that no one on earth today knows for a certainty how original Hebrew sounded. The Masoretes began adding vowel points long after Hebrew had become a dead language; we do not know for a certainty how any Hebrew word sounded. The same is true of Koine Greek.

In fact, we do not truly know for a certainty how any name in the Hebrew Bible was originally pronounced.

The name “Jehovah” itself — as represented in the Hebrew tetragrammaton – goes all the way back to Genesis. It would be incorrect to think of “Jehovah” in English as a name separate and distinct from the Hebrew name that is represented in English as “Jehovah”. The English word “Jehovah”, is not a name separate from its Hebrew form, but they are both the one and the same name; they are not different names, whether they are pronounced exactly alike or not. Although many have become accustomed to thinking of saying “John” is an English name, and that “Juan” is a Spanish name, this kind of reasoning is misleading, since both are simply linguistic forms of the same name.

The Tetragrammaton in Genesis

Actually, we know that “Jehovah”, in English, is an accepted way of pronouncing God’s Holy Name in English; so is the form “Yahweh” also an accepted way of pronouncing God’s Holy Name in English. Both are English spellings and pronunciations that are commonly used to designate the same Holy Name of God.
The Holy Name in Original Hebrew/Greek

We might add that the English spelling “Jehovah” was not used in the 13th century, as some have claimed, although there were some forms that closely resembled that. Various forms, such as IEHOUAH, IEHOVAH, as well as JEHOVAH, however, are based on the vowel points that the Masoretes supplied to God’s Holy Name, so we have similar pronunciation of this represented in the Masoretic text long before the 13th century.
See our related study:
A Catholic Monk Invented Jehovah?

It is generally claimed that the Masoretes took vowels from the words usually transliterated as ADONAI or ELOHIM, and placed these into the tetragrammaton to remind the reader to not pronounce the Holy Name. However, as yet, we have found no real proof from what the Masoretes wrote that they actually did take the vowels for the Holy Name from either ADONAI or ELOHIM. This appears to be a supposition that was offered later and has become accepted as though fact because it has been repeated so often.

Nevertheless, to truly NOT pronounce the Holy Name would mean to leave a blank wherever the Holy Name appears. Thus one would read Exodus 3:14,15 as:

That they may know that you alone, whose name is, Are the Most High over all the earth.

Rather than not pronounce the Holy Name, God’s Holy Name is usually changed, designated and pronounced as another name altogether.
Should God’s Holy Name Be Pronounced?

Nevertheless, if one should think that one should not pronounce God’s Holy Name for fear of mispronouncing that name, one should really fear to change to Holy Name to other words, such as “the Lord”, or “God”, as most translations do, for both words would certainly be mispronouncing the Holy Name.

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1 comment to Correct Spelling and Pronunciation of God’s Name in English

  • Samuel Alexander Reames

    The correct pronunciation of the Holy Sprit as King David or King Solomon would have used still eludes me !