November 3, 2011

That title is probably kind of sacrilegious.

I would like to start out by saying that some people named Chad (names have been preserved to expose the guilty) think it’s pointless and sad to blog about things like Friday Night Lights. Also, some people named Chad will probably get beaten up by Tim Riggins and The Smash. Just. Saying.

Well, how is your day? Yesterday I left my house one time to go to dinner with my sweet friend Martine. The rest of the time I was inside, wearing sweatpants, drinking coffee, and looking at the snow. I also managed to squeeze in about 4.2 minutes of work. It was so nice not to have to go anywhere though, you guys! Sometimes I really like not doing things.

So, here are some things my professor talked about in Hebrew the other night. Jehovah isn’t a word. Surprise!

Vowels aren’t original to Hebrew — they were added later to help with pronunciation. Also, vowels in Hebrew look like little dots and dashes under or over the consonants. And yes, it is terrifying when you’re in your first semester of Hebrew and you look at the Bible and all the insanely foreign letters are surrounded by Morse code.

So, a group of Hebrew scribes called the Masoretes were super detailed and good at transcribing. They’re the ones who put together the Hebrew Bible I use in my classes today, and it is their Hebrew text that we base our English Bible translations on.

Anyhoo, the Masoretes (along with the rest of the Jewish people) had a great reverence for God’s name, first revealed to Moses at the burning bush. We pronounce this name as “Yahweh,” although no one is exactly sure how it should be pronounced (because the vowels aren’t original). In our English Bibles, any time “Yahweh” is used, we see LORD in all caps instead.

The name Yahweh with no vowels.

Because God’s name is so holy, the Jewish people don’t pronounce it. The Masoretes wanted to make sure that people didn’t accidentally pronounce God’s name, so when they added vowels to the biblical text, they used the vowels that you would use to pronounce the word “Adonai” or “Lord” around Yahweh. This way, when people were reading and came to God’s name, they would see the consonants for Yahweh, but because of the vowels around them, they would know to pronounce it as “Adonai” out of respect for God’s name.

Is this making any sense? Are you sleeping? Rude.

Anyhoos, this is consistent through the Hebrew Masoretic text. But then someone like me — someone non-Jewish and not familiar with what the Masoretes were trying to do — came along and tried to pronounce the name of Yahweh according to the vowels. They didn’t know that those vowels were there so that you would say “Adonai” instead. They just started sounding out the word according to both the consonants and the vowels.

Seriously, any sense at all? Wake up! I’m almost done.

When you sound out the consonants and the vowels in the Hebrew text, it sounds like Ye-ho-vah. Jehovah.

So that’s where it comes from, but really it’s not a word — it’s just a mispronunciation of Yahweh according to the vowels that were put there to make sure you didn’t try to pronounce Yahweh. I guess it didn’t work. Poor Masoretes. They tried so hard.

As my professor pointed out, this is bad news for Jehovah’s Witnesses. And for all of our songs about Jehovah Jireh.

Why yes, you are very welcome for this fascinating Hebrew lesson!

Whew. That failed attempt at teaching I just did wore me out. I had better get back to not doing things. Talk to you soon!


12 Responses to “JeNOvah”

  1. Connie Post said

    Denise – first of all, you don’t know me. I worked with Jeff Able (I think you know him) about a million years ago at Liberty University. I saw something about Hebrew/blog/Jewish studies or something “randomly” on my Facebook home page one day and now I’m following you. 🙂 I love studying the names of God. I just led a Bible study of that with a group a women and as I was doing this thought, “there must be a Bible out there that have the names of God in it instead of just the translated Lord/God”. Anyway, I did a search, and you may know this already, but a new Bible (God’s Word Translation) called “The Names of God” Bible was just released in September. I LOVE it! Here’s the link if you don’t already own it, because I know you’ll want to have it.


    Connie Post

  2. Jemima said

    hilarious way to teach, you had me chuckling all through..thanks for sharing

  3. Little Grey Rabbit said

    I *love* the way you teach!

  4. Amanda Green said

    very interesting!! how about you blog a debrief of all your Hebrew classes and then the rest of us can get our masters through the school of Denise? great idea huh? i thought so.

  5. Jessi said

    well its a good thing i got “jehovah jireh” tattooed on my foot 6 days ago 😛

  6. denisemorris said

    Connie, thank you so much! I’ll check it out.

    Jemima and LGR — thanks!

    Amanda — Totally! That’ll be $5,000, please! I accept checks.

    Jessi — It’s ok! It totally still works. It is how you would pronounce what’s written in the Hebrew text. It still means Yawheh my provider. I love it. 🙂

  7. Michael said

    Back in the day, Carman did a song called “Jehovah Shalom”. It was on his Christmas album, if I recall correctly. Next time I listen to it, I shall be sure to ponder Masoretic pronunciations and vowels. Because that’s the true meaning of Christmas, to quote Junior Asparagus. 😛

  8. denisemorris said

    Carman! A2J! God in America Again! I totally was in a few Easter plays set to The Champion. Oh, Carman. You were always full of theatrics.

    Michael, I was glad I was able to teach you the true meaning of Christmas and distract you with the Masoretic text. My work here is done.

  9. Anonymous said

    I for one found that explanation of the origin “Jehovah” very fascinating. Thanks for posting, Denise!

  10. Sarena said

    Haha! You are great. Yes, I’d like to get my Master’s from you, friend. Since I know your genius capabilities so well, I’d like you to translate your blog entries into Hebrew. Pleuso, prutty pleuso?! (being like those smart people who change vowels to prevent pronunciations) 😉

  11. denisemorris said

    hahahah!! Sarena, so glad you’re here!

  12. […] But why are you not boring us to death with things about the Old Testament or Jewishness or pointing your finger and laughing at us because we’ve used the word Jehovah? […]

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