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The unpronounceable Name

I was at work recently and saw two different groups of women with young girls sitting at our tables. It is a small library so it is easy to overhear what people are doing. They were not tutoring. They were indoctrinating. They were teaching the girls Bible lessons and specifically the Jehovah’s Witness faith. I knew that it was this particular denomination because one of the ladies said to the girls with her that “Jehovah is God’s true name”.

It requires a lot of self-discipline on my part not to chime in sometimes, but I can do it here.

In Judaism the name of God is rendered in English as YHVH or sometimes YHWH. The Hebrew letters are pronounced Yud Hay Vav Hay. This is not a word. It is a contraction of the words “am, was, (and) will be”. That alone is worthy of contemplation. God is a verb of being. God is beyond all concepts of time.

This collection of letters is not pronounced by the Jewish people. The Name is considered too holy to be spoken lightly. Many years ago when the holy Temple was still standing it was pronounced only once a year and then only by the high priest, and then only in the innermost part of the Temple known as the Holy of Holies. He was alone in this sacred place and he would say the name of God. It is not something the average person would ever pronounce. Also, the actual pronunciation of it was lost when the Jewish people went into exile.

It is impossible to know exactly how it was pronounced. The Hebrew language has no vowels. How you pronounce a word depends to where you put the vowels. You can’t simply read a word in Hebrew and automatically know how you are supposed to pronounce it. Imagine if you just simply saw the letters T and R. How would you pronounce that “word”? Is it “tear”, “tire”, “tore”, or “tour”? Those are all entirely different words, with different pronunciations and meanings. Now you can see the difficulty in trying to pronounce the Name of God.

Jews today do not even try to say the name of God. Most of them don’t even write out the word “God”. They make it look like this – “G-d”. Some will even say “Hashem” instead, which means “The Name”.

So for Jehovah’s Witnesses to say that this is God’s name is not true. Also, there is no J sound in the Hebrew alphabet, so there’s no way that God’s name could be Jehovah.

In Judaism, it is considered the height of arrogance to attempt to call God by any name, as God is the Name above all names. It is like calling up the President of the United States and saying “Hey, Barack, how are you doing” – but you’ve never met him. You don’t know him personally. Multiply that by a thousand times and you begin to approach the arrogance of calling God by a name.

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