The most important verse to the Jewish people is Zech 14.9 where it says, “Yehovah shall be king over the whole earth and on that day Yehovah will be one and his name one.” The meaning is, in the end times, all mankind will call on that name. Another verse is Zeph 3.9, “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips (a pure language and belief, confession), that all of them may call on the name of Yehovah, to serve him shoulder to shoulder (as with a yoke).” In the Talmud (Pesachim 50a) it says, “This world is not like the World to Come. In this world the name is written Yehovah and read Adonai, but in the World to Come, it will be one, written Yehovah and read Yehovah.”
Let’s look at Acts 2.21 where Peter says, “And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This is a very important verse and part of the narrative of what happened at Shavuot. In the context of that event 53 days after the death of Yeshua, what does “the Lord” mean? How do we know what he means? Does he mean Yeshua? Does he mean YHVH? We could have lengthy debates on this if we only had this verse in Acts 2.21 to go on. However, we have another verse in Joel 2.32 that says, “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of Yehovah will be delivered.” That is the name Peter is saying to call on, he is quoting this verse and speaking in Hebrew. This is 100 or so years before Rabbi Teradion was killed for speaking the name in public by the Romans.
Where did the pronunciation of God’s name as Yahweh (or Yahveh) come from? Some say the “vav” is a “wa.” They say there is no “v” sound in Hebrew and somehow the “v” comes from German. Where do they get that idea? Many people who were Jews in Europe spoke Yiddish (“Yid” in German is Jewish). It is a dialect that is eighty-percent German, ten percent Hebrew and five percent from other languages. So, some think that is why.
But, how do we know how to pronounce anything in Hebrew? So, in the 1800’s scholars went around to the Jewish world and documented how they pronounced every letter. This was before there was communication among these communities. They didn’t even know the other communities existed and this was before the Internet. They found that the pronunciations were identical. It didn’t matter if they were from France, Germany or Kurdistan. They all pronounced Hebrew the same.
When they got to the “vav” there were two traditions. One said the vav was a “v” sound and the other said it was a “wa” sound. Most said “v” and the “wa” basically came from Arabic speaking Jews. When the Arab speaking Jews read Hebrew they said “v” however. The “v” sound exists in the letter “bet.” An example of this is “Jacob” in English. In Hebrew it is “Ya’acov” with a “bet” at the end (“v” sound). The only dispute is the sixth letter “vav” and there is no question that Jews pronounced it as a “v.” God’s name was never Yahweh. Nehemiah Gordon in his book “Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence” says on Page 69, “Yahweh is based on a second-hand Samaritan tradition reported by a 5th Century Christian author named Theodoret of Cyrus who didn’t know Hebrew and was writing in Greek.” So, some say Yahweh is a Christian view. No Jew ever said the name that way and it is never spelled that way in the manuscripts. But, what do the rabbis say the name is?
There is a conspiracy among the rabbis to hide the pronunciation and that is the premise for the book,”Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence” by Nehemiah Gordon. and this conspiracy is mentioned in the Talmud. It says that “the Sages transmit the four-letter name to their disciples once in a seven-year period” (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 71a, Rabbah Bar Bar Chanah-250-300 AD). By the year 250 AD, Jews were no longer speaking the name. It had been forbidden by the Romans and there was an interval. The prohibition was also to prevent people from healing in the name.
There are rabbis in Jewish literature who have written that the name is Yehovah (“God’s name is not Yahweh” video by Nehemiah Gordon, minute 8:15). The vowel marks for Yehovah are the “sheva” (“e” sound); the cholam (“o” sound) and the Qamatz (“a” sound). The reason the rabbis don’t look for these things but continue saying “Our rabbis didn’t know how to pronounce the name” is because there is a rabbi around 1750 that said, “The vowels of the name itself are hidden…its vowels are the secret of the tetragrammaton” (Elijah of Vilna). The consonants are known (YHVH), but he is saying the vowels are the secret, and hidden.
As a result, people assume they didn’t know the vowels, but is that what he is saying? No, it isn’t. He is saying they are “hidden” and he doesn’t say he doesn’t know what they are. So, sources interpret Elijah of Vilna as saying people don’t know how to pronounce the name because the vowels are hidden. When you look at what Elijah of Vilna is saying, it doesn’t claim to say nobody knew, or he didn’t know. He said the vowels were “hidden.” If that was all you had, you could argue back and forth about whether they knew or didn’t know. Is there a trace about this ceremony of transmitting the name every seven years in Jewish literature somewhere?
There is a book called “The Book of the Divine Name” by Eleazar of Worms. It was written in 1226 AD but the book was never printed, but it was copied in 2014. This book was considered so secret it remained in handwritten form even after it could have been printed (13th to the 21st century). The book describes the exact same thing described in the Talmud, but a thousand years after Rabbi Bar Bar Chanah said the name was transmitted to disciples every seven years in 250 AD.
Eleazar describes an elaborate ceremony where a rabbi and a talmid (disciple) go through a purification process. They fast and then go into a mikvah of water. They then put on white clothes and then do something that seems a little strange at first. They will stand up to their ankles in water. Then it says the rabbi opens his mouth in awe and says, “Blessed are you, Yehovah, God of Israel. You are one and your name is one.” That is referring to Zech 14.9 which we have discussed earlier. Now, there comes a time when in the life of a believer that you realize the name of God is all over the Bible, but you didn’t know how to pronounce it. This verse is one of those verses.
Then the rabbi says, “You commanded us to hide your great name.” But, where did God ever command that? He didn’t, but it can be found in the Oral Law, which isn’t oral anymore because it has been written down. After this there were several blessings and then it says the rabbi and his disciple would place their eyes on the water and then speak the name together, quoting Psa 29.3, “The voice of Yehovah is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, Yehovah is over many waters.” They understand this verse as saying, “The sound of Yehovah is upon the waters.” At that moment, the rabbi has spoken his name and the talmid (student) heard it and now they speak it together to make sure the talmid heard it correctly.
This was something the rabbis were doing in 1226 AD. So, the idea that the Jews may have known the name in ancient times, but not anymore, is false. That idea is not consistent with Jewish sources. Most scholars don’t know about these sources because they are “buried” somewhere. Joseph Dan is a professor who wrote about “The Book of the Divine Name” in a 6000 page series. In Vol 6, p. 561, he says that this isn’t just some theoretical thing but this is something Rabbi Eleazar did. This is an actual ceremony this rabbi participated in. What this tells us is we don’t need to go to Gnostic, Christian, Pagan or Latin sources. The Jews had rabbis who knew the name.
In Part 4 we will pick up here.