AskDefine | Define Jehovah

Dictionary Definition



1 a name for the God of the Old Testament as transliterated from the Hebrew consonants YHVH [syn: Yahweh, YHWH, Yahwe, Yahveh, YHVH, Yahve, Wahvey, Jahvey, Jahweh, JHVH]
2 terms referring to the Judeo-Christian God [syn: Godhead, Lord, Creator, Maker, Divine, God Almighty, Almighty]

User Contributed Dictionary



Transliteration of Hebrew יהוה Causative fom (Hiphil) of the verb "havah" (הוה) "to be / to become". "He causes to be" or "He comes to be". The word deliberately uses the vowel sounds from "adonai" (אדני) "lord".

Proper noun

  1. In the context of "religion": The personal name of God in the Hebrew Scriptures; in Hebrew, יהוה (YHVH)


See also

Extensive Definition

Jehovah is an English reading of , the most frequent form of the Tetragrammaton , the name of God in the Hebrew Bible, in the text with vowel points handed down by the Masoretes.
Although a direct phonetic transliteration, it is arguably based on a misunderstanding. By long tradition, in modern Jewish culture the Tetragrammaton is not pronounced. Instead the above vocalization indicates to the reverent Jewish reader that the term Adonai is to be used. In places where the preceding or following word already is Adonai, the reading Elohim is used instead, indicated by a different vocalization of the Tetragrammaton. It is generally agreed therefore, in line with Jewish teaching, that is a "hybrid form", created when the Masoretes added the vowel pointing of Adonai to the consonants of YHWH. Early English translators, unacquainted with Jewish tradition, read this word as they would any other word, and transcribed it (in very few places, namely those where the Name itself was referred to) as Jehovah.
The form thus achieved wide currency in the translations of the Protestant Reformation, and although seriously critiqued by John Drusius in 1604 A.D., and later regarded by both Jews and Christians as a mispronunciation, it has nevertheless found a place in Christian liturgical and theological usage. It is the regular English rendition of in the American Standard Version, and occurs four times in the King James Version. It is also used in Christian hymns such as "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah".
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 8, 1910 edition, page 329, states: “Jehovah, the proper name of God in the Old Testament."
Popularly, the name Jehovah is perhaps particularly associated with Jehovah's Witnesses. They give the following position (as expressed in the Watchtower):
The truth is, nobody knows for sure how the name of God was originally pronounced. Nevertheless, many prefer the pronunciation Jehovah. Why? Because it has a currency and familiarity that Yahweh does not have. Would it not, though, be better to use the form that might be closer to the original pronunciation? Not really, for that is not the custom with Bible names. To take the most prominent example, consider the name of Jesus. Do you know how Jesus' family and friends addressed him [...]? The truth is, no human knows for certain, although it may have been something like Yeshua (or perhaps Yehoshua). It certainly was not Jesus.,
Some however question the received view that the vowels of Jehovah originate with the word Adonai rather than an ancient pronunciation of YHWH. They note that details of vocalization differ between the various early extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, and note that the vowel points of Jehovah and Adonai are not precisely the same, and that scholars are not in total agreement as to why this should be.

The pronunciation Jehovah

This pronunciation "Jehovah" is grammatically impossible; it arose through pronouncing the vowels of the "kere" (marginal reading of the Masorites: = "Adonay") with the consonants of the "ketib" (text-reading: = "Yhwh")—"Adonay" (the Lord) being substituted with one exception wherever Yhwh occurs in the Biblical and liturgical books.
"Adonay" presents the vowels "shewa" the composite ( ) under the guttural becomes simple ( ) under the ( ), "holem," and "kamez," and these give the reading ( ) (= "Jehovah").
Sometimes, when the two names ( ) and ( ) occur together, the former is pointed with "hatef segol" ( ) under the ( )— thus, (="Jehovah")—to indicate that in this combination it is to be pronounced "Elohim" ( ).
These substitutions of "Adonay"and "Elohim" for Yhwh were devised to avoid the profanation of the Ineffable Name ( hence is also written ’, or even ’, and read "ha-Shem" = "the Name ").

The vowel points of Jehovah

Jewish tradition teaches that has the vowel points of (Adonai), but the vowel points of these two words are not precisely the same, and scholars are not in total agreement as to why does not have the precise same vowel points as Adonai has.
The use of the composite "shewa" "hatef segol" ( ) in cases where "Elohim" is to be read has led to the opinion that the composite "shewa" "hatef patah" ( ) ought to have been used to indicate the reading "Adonay."
It has been argued in reply that the disuse of the "patah" is in keeping with the Babylonian system, in which the composite "shewa" is not usual. But the reason why the "patah" is dropped is the non-guttural character of the "yod"; to indicate the reading "Elohim," however, the "segol" (and "hirek" under the last syllable, i.e., ) had to appear in order that a mistake might not be made and "Adonay" be repeated.
Early English translators, unacquainted with or in opposition to Jewish tradition, read this word as they would any other word, and transcribed "Iehouah" (1530 A.D.), "Iehovah" (1611 A.D.), or "Jehovah" (1671 A.D.).
In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1890 A.D.), James Strong transliterated as Yehovah.

Modern usage of the rendering Jehovah

The following works, either always or sometimes render the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah:
  • William Tyndale, in his 1530 translation of the first five books of the English Bible, at Exodus 6:3 renders the divine name as Iehovah. In his note to this edition he wrote: "Iehovah is God's name...Moreover, as oft as thou seeist LORD in great letters (except there be any error in the printing) it is in Hebrew Iehovah."
  • The King James (Authorized) Version, 1611: four times as the personal name of God (in all capital letters): Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4; and three times in place names: Genesis 22:14; Exodus 17:15; and Judges 6:24.
  • Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible by J.N. Young, 1862, 1898 renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah 6831 times.
  • A literal translation of the Old Testament (1890) and the New Testament (1884), by John Nelson Darby, renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah 6810 times in the main text.
  • The American Standard Version, 1901 edition, consistently renders the Tetragrammaton as Je-ho’vah in all 6,823 places where it occurs in the Old Testament.
  • The Modern Reader's Bible, 1914, by Richard Moulton, uses Jehovah at Ps.83:18; Ex.6:2-9; Ex.22:14; Ps.68:4; Jerm.16:20; Isa.12:2 & Isa. 26:4
  • The New English Bible, published by Oxford University Press, 1970, e.g. Gen 22:14; Exodus 3:15,16; 6:3; 17:15; Judges 6:24
  • The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible copyright © 1976-2000 by Jay P. Green, Sr., renders the Tetragrammaton as Jehovah 6,866 times.
  • The Living Bible, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Illinois 1971, e.g. Gen 22:14, Exodus 3:15; 4:1-27; 17:15; Lev 19:1-36; Deut 4: 29, 39; 5:5, 6; Judges 6:16, 24; Ps 83:18; 110:1; Isaiah 45:1, 18; Amos 5:8; 6:8; 9:6
  • The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY 1961 and last revised in 1984: 'Jehovah' appears in the bible text 7,210 times, i.e. 6,973 in the Hebrew scriptures (OT), 237 times in the Christian Greek scriptures (NT).
  • The Bible in Today's English (Good News Bible), published by the American Bible Society, 1976, in its preface states, 'the distinctive Hebrew name for God (usually transliterated Jehovah or Yahweh) is in this translation represented by "The Lord."' In the footnote to Exodus 6:3 they refer to their footnote for Exodus 3:14 which says of the ' Yahweh, traditionally transliterated as Jehovah."
  • In The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson, the name Jehovah is found at Matthew 21:9 and in 17 other places in this translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (NT).
In Italian, the divine name of God is rendered as Jeova, or Geova (soft 'G'), and some Catholic churches in Italy bear the name in this form in their architecture. The Coat of Arms of Plymouth (UK) City Council bears the Latin inscription, "TURRIS FORTISSIMA EST NOMEN JEHOVA". (See , ) being the Latin translation of the first part of the Hebrew bible 'proverb' at Proverbs 18:10, (OT).
Although the original pronunciation of has become lost, for many centuries the popular English word for the personal name of God has been “Jehovah”. This is why some religious groups, notably Jehovah's Witnesses and the King-James-Only Movement, make prominent use, in English speaking countries, of the pronunciation, "Jehovah." Among Jehovah's Witnesses, the name varies according to the common pronunciation in the language spoken, and terms definitively referencing the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, such as Yahweh, are considered equally useful.
Similarly well-established English substitutions for Hebrew personal names include Joshua, Isaiah, Jesus, and others, the precise pronunciations for many of which have also been lost.


Under the heading " c. 6823", the editors of the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon write that occurs 6518 times in the Masoretic Text.

Early transcriptions of similar to "Jehovah"

  • Ιεωα: (Ieōa, /ˈj:oʊɐ/) in Hellenistic magical texts #
'#' marks forms listed by Sir Godfrey Driver.

Early transcriptions of similar to "Jehovah"

Transcriptions of similar to"Jehovah" occurred as early as the13th century.
The editors of the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon write that the pronunciation "Jehovah" was unknown until 1520 when it was introduced by Galatinus; but it was contested by Le Mercier, J. Drusius, and L. Capellus, as against grammatical and historical propriety. The English transcription "Jehovah" appears in King James Versions as early as the 1670s and in subsequent versions. The critique of the English transcription Jehovah, as well as the critique of Galatinus's Latin Transcription Iehoua, and the earlier English transcriptions Iehouah and Iehovah, is based on the belief of scholars that the vowel points of are not the actual vowel points of God's name.
Thus while most scholarly sources say that scholars are critiquing the name "Jehovah", Galatinus's Latin Transcription Iehoua and the earlier English transcriptions Iehouah [1530 A.D.] and Iehovah [1611 A.D.] were being critiqued before the English transcription "Jehovah" [1671] ever started to appear. From a pronunciation standpoint in English, Iehouah has the same pronunciation and sounds identical to Jehovah.
All three transcriptions have the vowels "e" and "o" and "a", and scholars believe that those vowels are from another word [i.e. Adonay / Adonai], but as noted in the introduction of this article, the vowel points of and the vowel points of Adonay / Adonai are not precisely the same. [See Section 3 and Section 3.1 for more information]

Kethib and Qere and Qere perpetuum

The original consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible was provided with vowel marks by the Masoretes to assist reading. In places where the consonants of the text to be read (the Qere) differed from the consonants of the written text (the Kethib), they wrote the Qere in the margin as a note showing what was to be read. In such a case the vowels of the Qere were written on the Kethib. For a few very frequent words the marginal note was omitted: this is called Q're perpetuum.
One of these frequent cases was God's name, that should not be pronounced, but read as adonai ("My Lord [plural of majesty]"), or, if the previous or next word already was adonai, or adoni, as elohim (God). This combination produces and respectively, non-words that would spell "yehovah" and "yehovih" respectively.
The first early modern English Bible translators to transcribe God's name into English did not contact Jewish scholars, and did not know of the Q're perpetuum custom, but transcribed "" into English as they saw it. It therefore became Iehouah in 1530 (Tyndale's translation of the Pentateuch), Iehovah in 1611, and Jehovah in editions of the King James Bible dated 1670 or so.
The spelling gradually settling down as Roman alphabet J and V became distinct letters from I and U. The transcription Iehouah was used in the 16th century by many authors Roman Catholic and Protestant, but not Coverdale's Bible translation in 1535.

Examining the vowel points of and

In the table below, Yehovah and Adonay are dissected Note in the table directly above that the "simple shewa" in Yehovah and the hatef patah in Adonay are not the same points. The same information is displayed in the table above and to the right where "YHWH intended to be pronounced as Adonai" and "Adonai, with its slightly different vowel points" are shown to have different vowel points.
The difference between the vowel points of ’ǎdônây and YHWH is explained by the rules of Hebrew morphology and phonetics. Shva and hataf-patah were allophones of the same phoneme used in different situations: hataf-patah on glottal consonants including aleph (such as the first letter in Adonai), and simple shva on other consonants (such as the 'y' in YHWH).

Critique of the transcription Jehovah in the 17th century

The transcription Jehovah [Iehouah] was used in the 16th century by many authors, both Catholic and Protestant. A publication by John Drusius in 1604 was the start of a bitter debate that lasted for a century. Fuller, Thomas Gataker, and Johann Leusden wrote five discourses defending the transcription "Jehovah" [or Iehouah, Iehovah] against the five discourses written by Drusius, Amama, Cappellus, Buxtorf, and Altingius which opposed the transcription Jehovah. Hadrian Reland collected and published these ten discourses in 1707.
Note that while Louis Cappel and John Buxtorf are both listed as authors who opposed the transcription Jehovah, they each were involved in serious controversy with each other concerning the origin of the Hebrew vowel points.

Summary of the criticism of the transcription Jehovah

The following text is found in William Smith's 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible". William Smith gives his summary of the results of the ten discourses mentioned in the previous section:
  • In the decade of dissertations collected by Reland, Fuller, Gataker, and Leusden do battle for the pronunciation Jehovah, against such formidable antagonists as Drusius, Amama, Cappellus, Buxtorf, and Altingius, who, it is scarcely necessary to say, fairly beat their opponents out of the field; "the only argument of any weight, which is employed by the advocates of the pronunciation of the word as it is written being that derived from the form in which it appears in proper names, such as Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, &c."
  • "Their antagonists make a strong point of the fact that, as has been noticed above, two different sets of vowel points are applied to the same consonants under certain circumstances. To this Leusden, of all the champions on his side, but feebly replies."
  • The same may be said of the argument derived from the fact that the letters , when prefixed to , take, not the vowels which they would regularly receive were the present pronunciation true, but those with which they would be written if , adonai, were the reading; and that the letters ordinarily taking dagesh lene when following would, according to the rules of the Hebrew points, be written without dagesh, whereas it is uniformly inserted.
William Smith concludes:
  • Whatever, therefore, be the true pronunciation of the word, there can be little doubt that it is not Jehovah.

In defense of the transcription Jehovah

As mentioned in the previous section, the defenders of the transcription Jehovah believed that theophoric names such as Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, etc, indicated that Jehovah was the actual name of God.
The following text is found in the first sentence of the article: "Jehovah" in William Smith's 1863 "A Dictionary of the Bible":
"JEHOVAH ( יְהֹוָה, usually with the vowel points of אֲדֹנָי ; but when the two occur together, the former is pointed יֱהֹוִה, that is with the vowels of אֱלֹהִים, as in Obad. i. 1, Hab. iii. 19:"
The two vocalizations of the Tetragrammaton shown above were both critiqued by John Drusius in 1604 A.D.. However as noted below, Davidson defends the vowel points of יְהֹוָה. [See also sub section 3.1 above.]
In Scott Jones' article "Jehovah", under the heading "Davidson on the Tetragrammaton", Davidson explains why he believes that the fact that the Masoretes did not point with the precise same vowel points as are found in Adonay indicated that the vowel points of יְהֹוָה are the actual vowel points of God's name.
  • The vocalized Hebrew spelling "Yahweh" is found in no extant Hebrew text.
  • The central "ou" or "o" in some Greek transcriptions point to a pronunciation with a "u" or "o" vowel in the middle, i.e. "Yehowa".
However Greek, since it stopped using the digamma, when transcribing foreign words and names has had to write the "w" consonant sound as a vowel "u" or similar (or in later times as β, after the Greek pronunciation of β changed from "b" to "v").
George W. Buchanan argues:
"In the dozens of Biblical names that incorporate the divine name, this middle vowel sound appears in both the original and the shortened forms, such as in Jehonathan and Jonathan. “In no case is the vowel oo or oh omitted. The word was sometimes abbreviated as ‘Ya,’ but never as ‘Ya-weh.’ ... When the Tetragrammaton was pronounced in one syllable it was ‘Yah’ or ‘Yo.’ When it was pronounced in three syllables it would have been ‘Yahowah’ or ‘Yahoowah.’ If it was ever abbreviated to two syllables it would have been ‘Yaho.’”
For arguments for the pronunciation "Yahweh", see Yahweh.

Resulting consensus

Reland agreed with the opponents of "Jehovah", and since his days the majority opinion has been roughly what is expressed in the article "JEHOVAH" of the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901-1906, that the pronunciation was "Yahweh". See also:

Use of "Jehovah" in English

  • 1530: Iehouah appeared in Tyndale's translation of the Pentateuch (at Exodus 6.3 for instance) upwards of 20 times. This custom continued with Miles Coverdale's translation in 1535, John Rogers Matthew Bible in 1537, the Great Bible of 1539, the Geneva Bible of 1560, Bishop's Bible of 1568, the King James of 1611, the Revised Version of 1885 and the American Standard Version in 1901. The Revised Standard Version (1952) was the first mainline English translation to not use Jehovah in the main text. Nor does it tranliterate alleluia [sometimes 'Hallelujah'] in any of the four occurrences found in many English translations [in the 19th chapter of Revelation].
  • 1611: is translated IEHOVAH ("JEHOVAH" from at least the 17th century on) in all uppercase in four places in the King James Bible of 1611 A.D.(Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4), and three times in placenames (e.g. Jehovah-jireh). Elsewhere in the King James Bible it is rendered as GOD or LORD.


Jehovah in Tosk Albanian: Jehova
Jehovah in Arabic: يهوه
Jehovah in Asturian: Xehová
Jehovah in Bosnian: Jehova
Jehovah in Bulgarian: Яхве
Jehovah in Catalan: Jehovà
Jehovah in Czech: JHVH
Jehovah in Danish: Tetragrammaton
Jehovah in German: Jehovah
Jehovah in Estonian: Jahve
Jehovah in Modern Greek (1453-): Τετραγράμματο
Jehovah in Spanish: Yahveh
Jehovah in Esperanto: Jehovo
Jehovah in French: YHWH
Jehovah in Friulian: Jeova
Jehovah in Korean: 야훼
Jehovah in Indonesian: Tetragrammaton
Jehovah in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Jehovah
Jehovah in Icelandic: JHVH
Jehovah in Italian: Tetragramma biblico
Jehovah in Hebrew: השם המפורש
Jehovah in Cornish: Yehovah
Jehovah in Latin: Iehovah
Jehovah in Lithuanian: Tetragramatonas
Jehovah in Hungarian: Jahve
Jehovah in Min Dong Chinese: Ià-huò-huà
Jehovah in Dutch: JHWH
Jehovah in Japanese: ヤハウェ
Jehovah in Norwegian: JHVH
Jehovah in Norwegian Nynorsk: JHVH
Jehovah in Polish: JHWH
Jehovah in Portuguese: Tetragrama YHVH
Jehovah in Romanian: YHWH
Jehovah in Russian: Тетраграмматон
Jehovah in Albanian: JHVH
Jehovah in Slovak: Tetragramatón
Jehovah in Serbo-Croatian: Jahve
Jehovah in Finnish: Jahve
Jehovah in Swedish: JHVH
Jehovah in Tamil: யாவே
Jehovah in Thai: พระเยโฮวาห์
Jehovah in Vietnamese: Giêhôva
Jehovah in Turkish: Yahova
Jehovah in Contenese: 耶和華
Jehovah in Chinese: 耶和華

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Almighty God, Alpha and Omega, Demiourgos, Demiurge, God, God Almighty, Heaven, I Am, King of Kings, Lord, Lord of Lords, Lord of hosts, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Providence, the Absolute, the Absolute Being, the All-holy, the All-knowing, the All-merciful, the All-powerful, the All-wise, the Almighty, the Creator, the Deity, the Divinity, the Eternal, the Eternal Being, the First Cause, the Infinite, the Infinite Spirit, the Maker, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Preserver, the Supreme Being, the Supreme Soul
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