I know the Scribes aka Sadducee (Heb. sōperêm, writers) had a habit of removing holy names from the scriptures but did the Pharisee also refuse to use God's personal name?

  • Hi SamTzu and welcome to Mi Yodeya. Could you clarify what you mean regarding both clauses of your question by adding more detail and sources?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Aug 11, 2023 at 12:09
  • Did Pharisee' use God's personal name (JHWH or some version of that) in everyday life?
    – SamTzu
    Aug 11, 2023 at 12:26
  • Saducees are tzedukim. As far as I know, sophrim are not a sect. I'm also not clear on this concept of "God's personal name".
    – rosends
    Aug 11, 2023 at 13:50
  • God does not have a name.
    – Turk Hill
    Aug 11, 2023 at 17:26
  • @Turk Hill - Moses would disagree with you.
    – SamTzu
    Aug 14, 2023 at 9:18

2 Answers 2


The Tetragrammaton was only pronounced once a year by the High Priest in the Yom Kippur Service in the times before the Pharisees (how far back is out of scope for this question), and not in every day life. Other than that, once every seven years the pronouncement was taught to a select Sage in order to preserve it.

Our tradition indicates that Shimon Hatzaddik's brother ended these practices. This was about 100 years before the establishment of the Pharisees, so there was no pronouncement of the name during their time. Source: Guide for the Perplexed 1:61-62.

This does not mean that the Pharisees censored the writing of the name in Torah and prayer scrolls, just the pronouncement. It was written then, and it is written now, and we still don't pronounce it. Rather, we say "Adon-ai", "My Lord".

  • I believe we have instances in scripture of lots of people using the divine name (even non Israelites) before the exile. So I'm not sure how truthful your answer is
    – Aaron
    Aug 11, 2023 at 16:49
  • @Aaron bring them
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Aug 11, 2023 at 17:17
  • Balaam uses it in NUmbers 22, Rahab uses it before her conversion in Joshua 2, Pharoah says "I don't know [the name]" and Naaman the Syrian general in Second Kings 5:22 off the top of my head
    – Aaron
    Aug 11, 2023 at 17:39
  • @Aaron thanks. None of these are Pharisees, but I will make a small adjustment to include these possibilities further back in time.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Aug 11, 2023 at 17:51
  • @Aaron Having it written out isn't a proof that they pronounced it. I have siddurim in my house with it written out too, but that doesn't mean I pronounce it.
    – Heshy
    Aug 11, 2023 at 19:14

I'm not sure how well I'll be able to source this answer as it's a general read of the entire Bible. But it appears from scripture that a lot shifts after the Babylonian exile. We don't hear much about scribes, or public reading of the Torah before the exile. We also see a significant drop in people using the tetragrammaton after the Babylonian exile.

Before the Babylonian exile, Israelites and non Israelites seem to freely use the divine name. Moses tells Pharoah he and the Israelites want to go worship a God called Y-H-W-H and Pharoah says he doesn't know that God. Balaam the prophet tells it to the Midianite messengers in Numbers 22. Rahab the prostitute already knows the divine name and tells it to the Israelite spies in Joshua 2. Naaman the Syrian general uses it with the prophet Elishah in 2 Kings 5:22. The list can go on and on.

But after the exile we see a whole new level of religiosity and classes of people such as Ezra the scribe. Suddenly we can't intermingle with the Samaritans and we have to be separate from them. Now for the first time we are instituting public readings of scripture for Holidays and it's not clear the people hearing it have heard these words before. And if I had to guess, the censoring of the divine name started with Ezra and these public readings. And my further guess would be that both Pharisees and Sadduccees would inherit their traditions from here.

Note: This answer is opinion based and unsourced.

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