Disclaimer: I know no Hebrew.

I'm trying to find out if the Hebrew argument that this article makes concerning the pronunciation of the divine Name is cogent or not. As an outsider they seem to know what they are talking about.

Here's how the article beings:

The pronunciation of God’s four-letter name, יהוה, known as the Tetragrammaton (meaning “four letters”), is a controversial subject in some religious circles. That is because no one knows for sure how to pronounce it, and yet there are no shortage of confident assertions. This article will focus on why one confidently asserted pronunciation—that is, “Yehovah”—is incorrect and based on a misunderstanding of a Jewish scribal custom.

First it’s important to understand that Hebrew was originally written without vowels. When biblical Hebrew was a spoken language, there wasn’t a need for written vowels since those who spoke the language could easily identify the vowel sounds as they read the Hebrew Scriptures. However, by the second half of the first millennium CE, a need for a study aid to preserve the pronunciation of biblical Hebrew had arisen.1

Out of this need, Jewish scribes known as the Masoretes developed the Tiberian vocalization—that is, a system of diacritical points used to represent vowels that are added to the consonantal text of the Hebrew Scriptures. This vocalization is represented in the Masoretic Text. While other systems of vocalization were experimented with, the Tiberian vocalization became the definitive Hebrew and Aramaic text for Judaism.[2] The Masoretic Text is also used to produce most of our English translations of the Old Testament.

The oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Scriptures that uses the Tiberian vocalization is the Leningrad Codex, which is dated around 1008 CE. This Codex was corrected against the Aleppo Codex, which is older than the Leningrad by several decades. The Aleppo Codex used to be the oldest complete Hebrew manuscript of the Hebrew Scriptures, but sadly a significant portion of it has been lost to us today.[3]

Where Did The “Yehovah” Pronunciation Come From?

In the Aleppo and Leningrad codices, יהוה appears with a variety of different vowel markings. Most of the time it appears with only two vowels, whether that be sheva-qamets (יְהוָה) or sheva-chiriq (יְהוִה). Many other times it appears with three vowels, whether that is sheva-cholem-qamets (יְהֹוָה) or sheva-cholem-chiriq (יְהֹוִה). Other variations appear less frequently, such as chatef segol-cholem-chiriq (יֱהֹוִה), which occurs once,[4] and chatef segol-chiriq (יֱהוִה), which occurs twice.[5]

Among these variations, some have insisted that when יהוה occurs with the three vowels, sheva-cholem-qamets (יְהֹוָה), that these instances give us the actual pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. Indeed, it is argued that when the Masoretic scribes wrote יְהֹוָה, they were mistakenly revealing the true pronunciation as Yehovah (or Yehowah). This assertion, however, is incorrect. Those three vowels attached to יהוה were not meant to give us the pronunciation of the Sacred Name, but rather to alert the reader to say Adonai (אֲדֹנָי).

When יְהֹוָה appears in the Masoretic text, the Masoretes were using a scribal custom known as ketiv-qere (Aramaic for “what is written/what is said”) by which they would insert the vowels of the word to be read aloud (qere) with the consonants of the written word (ketiv), creating a hybrid form. In the case of the Tetragrammaton, the vowels for the word Adonai were attached to the consonants, יהוה. The vowels were intended to remind the reader to say “Adonai” when they read יהוה. Semitic language scholar, Dr. Michael Brown, explains:

"The name Jehovah is actually based on a mistaken reading of the biblical text by medieval Christian scholars who were educated in the Hebrew language but were not aware of certain Jewish scribal customs. In short, they did not realize that it was a Jewish tradition to write the vowels for the word adonai, “Lord,” with the consonants for the name Yahweh, known as the Tetragrammaton, and they wrongly read this hybrid word as Yehowah, or Jehovah in English. That is to say, the name Jehovah (or Yehowah) did not exist in Israel—despite the popularity of this name in English-speaking Christian circles, and despite religious organizations like Jehovah’s Witnesses.[6]"...

Note: If this is off topic please advise and I'll delete.

  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/76917/…
    – Loewian
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 15:18
  • and: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/15396/…
    – Loewian
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 15:25
  • 1
    Did either of the two links provided (above) answer your question? I would dearly love to know the answer to your question!
    – Lesley
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 17:51
  • 1
    From what little I know (because I'm still struggling with English and know nothing about Hebrew) the article in the link you provide sounds like they know what they are talking about. The correct pronunciation of the Tetrargrammaton was lost during the Second Temple Period according to one answer in this link: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9751/…
    – Lesley
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 17:51
  • 1
    That convention is still used in Hebrew Bibles from a few decades ago. I always assumed this was the obvious explanation for the vowelization of the Tetragrammaton.
    – N.T.
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 6:58

1 Answer 1


Yes, they’re correct.

First, some background information about Hebrew: Vowel symbols are not actually part of the language. Hebrew is something called an Abjad, which is an alphabet of only consonants, with the appropriate vowels being inferred by the reader. However, Hebrew vowel diacritics do exist. They were invented by the Masorites, who were the first to record in writing the pronunciation of the Hebrew Scriptures. (Nowadays, the vowel diacritics are used in Hebrew personal bibles as a pronunciation guide, and to teach children certain Hebrew words).

I will now rephrase part of the article, adding some important details:

The Masoretic text contains a phenomenon called Ketiv and Qereh. Ketiv is the visual, written word, and Qere is what is verbally pronounced.

Occasionally, the two do not align; for example, a word may be spelled unusually, or spelled like a slightly different word. The various cases when this disparity occurs were transmitted by the Masorites to Jews today.
Some of these cases occur regularly on a certain word. For example, Issachar, one of the tribes, is spelled with two of the letter for the S-sound. However, only one is pronounced.
In all cases—regular and unique—the Masorites in their codices would write the written word, but with the vowel diacritics of whatever was read.

Another example is the Tetragrammaton. This Name is spelled with the Hebrew versions of the letters Y, H, W, and another H. The tetragrammation is never, unconditionally, EVER pronounced as written. (It will be in the future, but that’s another story.) It is only ever pronounced one of two ways: The Hebrew word for “God”, or a modified form of the word “my Master”.
Thus, the Tetragrammaton is an example of regular Ketiv and Qereh. The Masorites, as usual, wrote the vocalization of the pronounced word, not of the written word.

In the cases when the Tetragrammaton is pronounced as a modified form of “My Master”—as it almost always is—the vocalization marks the vowels Ĕ/Ă, Ō, and Ā respectively. These are the vowels of the pronounced Hebrew word, and thus marked these cases of the Tetragrammaton. The consonant letters, however, still reflected the Ketiv (written word), not the qereh.
Assuming otherwise is a mistake.

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