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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary


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God's name in Hebrew known by the technical term “Tetragrammaton” (Greek, meaning four letters), these are the four consonants which make up the divine name (Exodus 3:15; found more than 6,000 times in the Old Testament). The written Hebrew language did not include vowels, only the consonants were used; thus readers supplied the vowels as they read (this is true even today in Hebrew newspapers). Reverence for the divine name led to the practice of avoiding its use lest one run afoul of Commandments such as Exodus 20:7 or Leviticus 24:16 . In time it was thought that the divine name was too holy to pronounce at all. Thus the practice arose of using the word Adonai : “Lord.” Many translations of the Bible followed this practice. In most English translations YHWH is recognizable where the word LORD appears in all caps. See God; I Am; Jehovah; Lord .

In the course of the centuries the actual pronunciation of YHWH was lost. In the Middle Ages Jewish scholars developed a system of symbols placed under and beside the onsonants to indicate the vowels. YHWH appeared with the vowels from “Adonai” as a device to remind them to say “Adonai” in their reading of the text. A latinized form of this was pronounced “Jehovah,” but it was actually not a real word at all. From the study of the structure of the Hebrew language most scholars today believe that YHWH was probably pronounced Yahweh (Yah' weh ).

Mark Fountain

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Yhwh'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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