The Y-Word

Should Christians and/or other non-Jewish people avoid saying the Tetragrammaton out loud or even writing out the pronunciation of it? If so, is this because of something in the Christian faith or merely out of respect for Jewish beliefs regarding the name of God? And do Jewish people care whether non-Jewish people say that name or write out its pronunciation?

If a non-Jewish person wants to avoid saying it or writing its pronunciation, how should that person go about referring to it in speech or writing? How should this differ across religious, non-academic secular, and secular academic settings? When one is using the name to refer God in Judaism, God in Christianity, and God in general?

I don't mean any criticism here of any Shipmates who write out the pronunciation of this word on the Ship, and my bringing up this thread has more to do with my discomfort at singing this name aloud in hymns at church (whether it's the Y-word in Vatican-II era hymns or the earlier mispronunciation, the J-word, in older hymns), hearing the word spoken aloud in sermons, and hearing/seeing academics, who one would expect to be PC, use it in their speech and writing (including in my recently published history textbook) when discussing ancient Israelite religion.
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Comments

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    I once knew a rather laidback Jewish guy who I think was an atheist or at least not a particularly traditional believer(eg. didn't keep kosher), who told me that he never said that word, simply because he had been taught not to say it as a kid, and he wasn't about to start as an adult.

    It seemed to me like this was sort of the Jewish equivalent of Christmas/Easter church attendance. I also got the impression that he didn't really care if anyone else said the word.
  • It's along the same line as talking about Mohammed and the pbuh thing they want said (peace be upon him). In my view, the general rule is to not be rude, but also that no-one except those to whom it matters are required to adhere, and that if you're in their space (synagogue or mosque) you should be polite and do what you know is polite.

    Though Jewish is different ever since the Spanish proposed "limpieza de sangre" or that Judaism is a race not only a religion in the 15th century, something that has haunted Christianity throughout the time since.
  • I've also known Jews who write G-d, rather than writing out the full name. A friend told me that this was because one should never thrown away a piece of paper with the full name on it, but I occasionally see people "writing" G-d on the internet, so maybe the recycle bin on a computer is the equivalent?
  • When I did Hebrew as part of my Theology degree (many, many years ago) I was always careful not to say the Y word. Other students didn't worry, and the professor never commented. For me it was a matter of respect.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    I've also known Jews who write G-d, rather than writing out the full name. A friend told me that this was because one should never thrown away a piece of paper with the full name on it, but I occasionally see people "writing" G-d on the internet, so maybe the recycle bin on a computer is the equivalent?

    Torah scrolls must be hand written to be ceremonially legitimate. Errors in other words may be corrected by scraping the scroll, but if the error is in the name of G-d the panel must be cut from the scroll and buried with respect.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    For a moment I thought this was a thread about Youth - until I clicked.

    I have a gut adverse reaction to hearing the name read out in Church, and will always change it to LORD when reading. Otherwise I am not much bothered, though it is much more nature to me to write God, or Lord.
  • I'm a bit shy about it, but I don't think the Lord minds. And I don't want to make anybody else uncomfortable either, but nor do I want to mandate some sort of rule from on high.
  • AnteaterAnteater Shipmate
    I thought Jewish believers used haShem.

    Having been brought up as a JW I'm a bit allergic to the name Jehovah. But I think that the only guide is politeness. Paul is strong on not doing things that offend, even when they are not wrong in themselves.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    The traditional Hebrew action is to substitute hashem (Hebrew for "the name") for the tetragrammaton. For Christians, the prohibition is not to take the Lord's name in vain. And, at least since the KJV, the English language Christian tradition in print is to substitute THE LORD in small caps for the tetragrammaton.
  • Is context not important here? If we're talking a Christian context I can't easily see a reason why the 'Y' word would not be used. However, I'd assume Jesus never used that word himself, so maybe that should be a guide of some sort?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Can't remember the last time I heard or read 'Yahweh'. It's in that hymn chorus which I like. Mighta sung it wunce last year.
  • I think one translation of the modern Jerusalem Bible uses it throughout the Old Testament. Frequently in the Psalms, if memory serves. Maybe they've revised it since then.
  • Should Christians and/or other non-Jewish people avoid saying the Tetragrammaton out loud or even writing out the pronunciation of it? If so, is this because of something in the Christian faith or merely out of respect for Jewish beliefs regarding the name of God? And do Jewish people care whether non-Jewish people say that name or write out its pronunciation?

    If a non-Jewish person wants to avoid saying it or writing its pronunciation, how should that person go about referring to it in speech or writing? How should this differ across religious, non-academic secular, and secular academic settings? When one is using the name to refer God in Judaism, God in Christianity, and God in general?

    I don't mean any criticism here of any Shipmates who write out the pronunciation of this word on the Ship, and my bringing up this thread has more to do with my discomfort at singing this name aloud in hymns at church (whether it's the Y-word in Vatican-II era hymns or the earlier mispronunciation, the J-word, in older hymns), hearing the word spoken aloud in sermons, and hearing/seeing academics, who one would expect to be PC, use it in their speech and writing (including in my recently published history textbook) when discussing ancient Israelite religion.

    I say, "Lord" or "Adonai" ...
  • tclune wrote: »
    The traditional Hebrew action is to substitute hashem (Hebrew for "the name") for the tetragrammaton. For Christians, the prohibition is not to take the Lord's name in vain. And, at least since the KJV, the English language Christian tradition in print is to substitute THE LORD in small caps for the tetragrammaton.
    The Christian practice of substituting THE LORD in small caps is based on the Jewish practice, dating back to the Second Temple period, of substituting Adonai (literally "my Lords") for the tetragrammaton.

    Substituting HaShem for the tetragrammaton or for Adonai is a more recent practice, and occurs mainly in more casual speech, because Adonai is also regarded as a name for God, only to be used in certain reverent contexts. Adonai is still used when reading Torah, praying or the like, while HaShem is used in everyday conversation.

    My understanding is that the Masorites added the vowel pointing for Adonai to the tetragrammaton as a reminder to substitute the word Adonai when reading. Using that vowel pointing would lead to a pronunciation of the tetragrammaton along the lines of Yahowah, which eventually led to the English Jehovah.

  • I try to avoid it out of respect for my Jewish friends, just as I don't draw, paint, or post pictures of Mohammed.
  • The use or the word "Lord" is not something I do, generally avoiding this and saying "God". As far as I understood its use was a reflection of the feudal and aristocratic nature of societies where they began to translate the bible, and it is contaminated in my view by use to address titled people, e.g., Lord Mayor of <pick a town>. And I'm not really very fond of an exclusively male version of God, and nor am I prepared to accept Paul's apparent usage which doesn't coincide with the modern in any case.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Adonai (if you're reading from A Book) or being formal

    In everyday speech: HaShem, Elohim, Elokim, Eloheinu sh'b'shemayim (Our G-d in heaven), HaKaddosh Baruch-hu (the Holy One, Blessed be He), HaMakom, Avinu sh'b'shemayim (Our Father in heaven)

    I (as people have said above) take into account the person in front of me and use whatever suits them. Or follow whatever they have used
    (Since we are all stereotypes and we are all so sensitive!)

    It's pretty much impossible to use inclusive God-language in Modern Hebrew because the verbs are gendered
  • Galilit wrote: »
    It's pretty much impossible to use inclusive God-language in Modern Hebrew because the verbs are gendered

    If I recall my uni Hebrew correctly, they're gendered in Biblical Hebrew also.
  • Does it matter that it's gendered in Hebrew to us? and if so, why? Isn't this merely an artefact of a particular culture? Considering that God must speak in any human language and didn't invent them.

    I'm reflecting on the Cree language (the largest indigenous group in Canada). Language is gendered in Cree but not to male and female genders. Gender in Cree is animate (living things, life, active) and inanimate (things which aren't alive, have no life, are used by other creatures). Hence "Creator God" works better. But "Lord" as in a chief works less well, because in tradition a chief is a chief for a specific thing only, more like a leader of <pick task>.
  • It matters both from a source and from a target perspective. If the source and the target treat gender differently, decisions need to be made as to how to translate. So yes, it matters a lot.

    For example the Greek anthropos is in most older translations translated "man" (or cognates). But in the original Greek, does it refer to people in general, or male human beings in specific? That's going to affect how we translate it, now that (pace some of our pedants who wish language would stop evolving) "man" now is strictly gender-specific.
  • cgichardcgichard Shipmate
    I wrestle with this all the time when editing translations of Greek hymnody. Sometimes I fall back on "mankind" or "the human race" but the words have to fit the rhythm of the tone for that hymn.
  • And "pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel" can't really be translated any other way. Footnote it, but the wordplay is exquisite and shouldn't be mucked with.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited January 15
    There is an episode of one of John Safran's shows where he goes after a Japanese car maker for using the name of the Zoroastrian creator thingy M---A. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate the segment on you-tube, but he suggests that if the car maker had instead used the name of the great I am, there would have been issues.

    Instead, I post this example of Safran's work, specifically to impress @Colin Smith
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited January 15
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    There is an episode of one of John Safran's shows where he goes after a Japanese car maker for using the name of the Zoroastrian creator thingy M---A. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate the segment on you-tube, but he suggests that if the car maker had instead used the name of the great I am, there would have been issue

    Yes, because there are still worshipers of the great I Am around. Zoroastrians, not nearly so many. Not saying it's right or wrong. But if "there would be issues" is what you are uptight about, that's why. Numbers.
  • I knew one...
  • I have known Zoroastrians. But my point in posting was to undermine the whole idea. I'm sure that's Safran's idea too. He has dedicated himself to undermining shibboleths. He has, inter alia, kicked a footy over the West Bank Barrier in Jerusalem and then gone up to the guards and asked them if they can get his football back.

    In the segment concerning the Zoroastrian creator, Safran actually got one of the names of the Lord in Hebrew (so he said) made in metal. It was quite long, and he purported to secretly take the M--da badge off the car of a Rabbi and replace it with his fabricated steel name plate. I believe this part of the segment was made up, but I'm not 100% sure, because Safran in heavily committed to his projects. Safran is Jewish and grew up ensconsed in that community here in Melbourne. He went to one of the Orthodox schools, not Mt Scopus College, which was part of my school's football league. and therefore perceived by me as more mainstream.

    I am kind of stubborn about forbidden words. I don't like them at all.

  • What's the point of being obnoxious to people? Take it up with the car company. I doubt the rabbi had ever even thought of the meaning of the car name.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    edited January 15
    tclune wrote: »
    The traditional Hebrew action is to substitute hashem (Hebrew for "the name") for the tetragrammaton. For Christians, the prohibition is not to take the Lord's name in vain. And, at least since the KJV, the English language Christian tradition in print is to substitute THE LORD in small caps for the tetragrammaton.

    IIRC, the Vulgate uses 'Dominus' (Lord), which would imply the Christian tradition goes back at least to Jerome.

    I also read recently that the Medieval tendency to abbreviate Dominus to Dñs or similar was not just to save ink - it was from a Jewish-inspired desire to avoid writing out the name of the Lord in full.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 15
    When I did Hebrew as part of my Theology degree (many, many years ago) I was always careful not to say the Y word. Other students didn't worry, and the professor never commented. For me it was a matter of respect.

    But there are any number of beliefs that I can respect without following them myself.

    I respect the dietary requirements of other religions and would not serve someone food that they cannot eat. This does not otherwise dictate the food that I myself eat.

    Respect is why Jacinda Ardern wore a headscarf when she went to meet the devastated Muslim community in Christchurch. But she does not wear a headscarf all the time, because she is not a Muslim.

    So while it would be totally inappropriate to go around saying the name in the middle of a synagogue, I'm not convinced that 'respect' necessitates non-Jewish people following Jewish practice the entire time.
  • I don't think it does. I think it's a matter for individuals to determine.

    And really, in my heart of hearts, I think that if God really cared so much, he would have made it clearer. But I've no need to offend those who feel differently.
  • I knew one...

    So did I. But they are a fairly miniscule part of English-language countries.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    So while it would be totally inappropriate to go around saying the name in the middle of a synagogue, I'm not convinced that 'respect' necessitates non-Jewish people following Jewish practice the entire time.

    Would it bother you greatly if they did? If so, why?
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »
    So while it would be totally inappropriate to go around saying the name in the middle of a synagogue, I'm not convinced that 'respect' necessitates non-Jewish people following Jewish practice the entire time.

    Would it bother you greatly if they did? If so, why?

    Do you mean, would it bother me if non-Jewish people habitually avoided saying YHWH out loud?

    No I don't think it would. For one thing, as has already been pointed out, there are in fact several ways of doing this that have extremely longstanding practice and I wouldn't necessarily even be conscious that the avoidance was occurring in many situations (apart from, perhaps, when there's a hymn or song that has a form of the name and the person does not sing it).

    The only way it would bother me is if someone chose to make a Big Thing out of it. Which some people are very capable of. Some people wear cultural sensitivity as a badge of pride, "look at me and how Culturally Sensitive I'm being".

    And/or how Religious I'm being.

    If someone non-Jewish does it because they believe that's the appropriate thing to do, then really it's not all that different from a Jewish person doing it because they believe it's the appropriate thing to do.

    What would bug me is a non-Jewish person doing it because they believe it's what Jewish people want them to do, when there aren't actually Jewish people present. It's a thing to do because you believe in it, not because you're trying to prove how PC you are.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited January 15
    I also feel it's appropriate to add that the very title of this thread, and the suggestion that one should not even write God's name down, is a kind of hypersensitivity that is pretty near the kind of thing that I'm saying bothers me.

    YHWH is written in the Hebrew Scriptures. That's how we know about it. So Jewish belief does not forbid writing the name down. Why then suggest that there's something wrong with writing it? That's not respecting Jewish belief, that's treating Jews like some exotic rare orchid.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I seem to remember that a few years ago Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict gave the instruction that where a Bible translation prints the name of God, those reading aloud should follow Jewish practice and say 'Lord'. I think the only translation in widespread use that does that is the Jerusalem Bible.

    Unless one is a JW, Jehovah is, in effect, an alternative version of the LORD, since it is itself a compromise compound of the consonants of the divine name and the vowels of Adonai.

    @NOprophet_NØprofit I would not agree with your reservations about Lord. To me, there is an important difference between, say, ' Jesus is God', which is an objective Trinitarian statement but involves no element of commitment or personal fealty, and 'Jesus is Lord' which is primarily a statement of commitment and personal fealty but which, because of the link to Kyrie and Adonai and through that to the divine name, is also a Trinitarian statement. So, to me, what you're objecting to as involving undesirable resonances of feudalism, is making a statement that is fundamental to what Christian faith is about.
  • FWIW, French Bibles usually translate the tetragrammaton as “l’Eternel”. Which I quite like.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    edited January 15
    orfeo wrote: »
    I also feel it's appropriate to add that the very title of this thread, and the suggestion that one should not even write God's name down, is a kind of hypersensitivity that is pretty near the kind of thing that I'm saying bothers me.

    YHWH is written in the Hebrew Scriptures. That's how we know about it. So Jewish belief does not forbid writing the name down. Why then suggest that there's something wrong with writing it? That's not respecting Jewish belief, that's treating Jews like some exotic rare orchid.

    AIUI, Jewish belief allows you to write YHWH (without vowels) or Yehovah* (with the wrong vowels), but does not allow you to write Yahweh. I read the OP as asking whether Christians should also avoid writing out Yahweh in favour of one of the other forms.


    * Tangentially, can anyone explain why adding the vowels of Adonai to YHWH gives Jehovah rather than Jahovah?
  • Simon Toad wrote: »
    There is an episode of one of John Safran's shows where he goes after a Japanese car maker for using the name of the Zoroastrian creator thingy M---A. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate the segment on you-tube, but he suggests that if the car maker had instead used the name of the great I am, there would have been issues.

    Instead, I post this example of Safran's work, specifically to impress @Colin Smith

    Ah, sorry. No sound as I'm using wifi in a public space.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    YHWH is written in the Hebrew Scriptures. That's how we know about it. So Jewish belief does not forbid writing the name down. Why then suggest that there's something wrong with writing it? That's not respecting Jewish belief, that's treating Jews like some exotic rare orchid.
    But Jewish practice is also that it can only be written in specific contexts, particularly the Scriptures themselves, that it cannot be read aloud and that any sheet or scroll on which it is written can only be disposed of by burial in a Jewish cemetery. An observant Jew would not write it on, say, an internet discussion board.


  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Ricardus wrote: »
    .... * Tangentially, can anyone explain why adding the vowels of Adonai to YHWH gives Jehovah rather than Jahovah?
    Yes. I was wondering about that. Possible explanations I can think of would include,
    - That it first became current at a time, possibly the late Middle Ages, when hardly anyone in Britain knew any Hebrew. or
    - That the Divine name appears in some psalms shortened to Jah, and so a different vowel was chosen to take it further from that. or even
    - The 'A' in Adonai is a consonant, Aleph (א). Is the first vowel rendering a schwa? It's usually pronounced as one in English.

    But I've no idea. Is there any shipmate who has?
  • You have to respect other people's right to practise their belief but there is no requirement to respect that which they believe in, let alone observe the diktats of their belief.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Ricardus wrote: »
    .... * Tangentially, can anyone explain why adding the vowels of Adonai to YHWH gives Jehovah rather than Jahovah?
    Yes. I was wondering about that. Possible explanations I can think of would include,
    - That it first became current at a time, possibly the late Middle Ages, when hardly anyone in Britain knew any Hebrew. or
    - That the Divine name appears in some psalms shortened to Jah, and so a different vowel was chosen to take it further from that. or even
    - The 'A' in Adonai is a consonant, Aleph (א). Is the first vowel rendering a schwa? It's usually pronounced as one in English.

    But I've no idea. Is there any shipmate who has?
    The same way we English speakers got from Ya'aqov to Jacob to James? Movement from one language to another does things like that?

    According to The Wiki, though, there's a more straightforward explanation:
    The difference between the vowel points of ’ǎdônây and YHWH is explained by the rules of Hebrew morphology and phonetics. Sheva 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 sheva on other consonants (such as the Y in YHWH).
    FWIW.

  • Anselmina wrote: »
    I think one translation of the modern Jerusalem Bible uses it throughout the Old Testament. Frequently in the Psalms, if memory serves. Maybe they've revised it since then.
    Yes, in the original 1966 JB "Yahweh" was consistently used throughout the OT. The publishers received many complaints from the Jewish community and the New Jerusalem Bible replaced it with "Lord".

    As other posters have pointed out, in Jewish use "ha-Shem" is commonly heard, as for instance in the interjection "Baruch ha-Shem!" where we would say "Thank God!" I would feel a bit silly, or possibly pretentious, though, if I were to say "ha-Shem" in conversation with Jewish friends. Obviously I avoid "Yahweh", but "Jehovah" seems to be okay.
  • The short and good-enough version is, the "e" in "Jehovah" is really a schwa. Adonai should have a schwa*, but it begins with a glottal stop. In Hebrew you can't point a glottal stop with a schwa, so it becomes an "a".

    *because of the form the noun is, i.e. its relationship to the verb root.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    And "pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel" can't really be translated any other way. Footnote it, but the wordplay is exquisite and shouldn't be mucked with.
    Amen.

    I think 'man' should be more acceptable (in old hymns) than 'men'. It is a bit archaic and poetic, and therefore I think it's easier to remember that it's meant to be inclusive. Also, it's a good strong monosyllable which helps the rhythm, and the closest equivalent, 'humanity' is much too long. Half the time 'men' can be replaced with 'all' with no loss of meaning or rhythm. Because it's still in current prosaic use the uninclusive meaning is more insistent. And it just doesn't seem to crop up in as many lines of hymns that I wouldn't do without.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Anselmina wrote: »
    I think one translation of the modern Jerusalem Bible uses it throughout the Old Testament. Frequently in the Psalms, if memory serves. Maybe they've revised it since then.
    Yes, in the original 1966 JB "Yahweh" was consistently used throughout the OT. The publishers received many complaints from the Jewish community and the New Jerusalem Bible replaced it with "Lord".

    My 'New Jerusalem Bible', with text copyright 1985, uses Yahweh.
  • Galilit wrote: »
    It's pretty much impossible to use inclusive God-language in Modern Hebrew because the verbs are gendered

    A Hebrew student who identifies as non-binary and their university Hebrew instructor in the US have suggested a way for people who wish to use gender-neutral language in Hebrew to do so, and Hebrew speakers in Israel have opinions. It's not specifically about language for God, but is still interesting.
  • Galilit wrote: »
    It's pretty much impossible to use inclusive God-language in Modern Hebrew because the verbs are gendered

    A Hebrew student who identifies as non-binary and their university Hebrew instructor in the US have suggested a way for people who wish to use gender-neutral language in Hebrew to do so, and Hebrew speakers in Israel have opinions. It's not specifically about language for God, but is still interesting.

    If I recall, students in a South American country (Venezuela? Argentina?) are trying to develop non-gendered pronouns and to some extent nouns, and make them stick. Remains to be seen of course how much success they have.
  • Ray SunshineRay Sunshine Shipmate
    edited January 15
    Ricardus wrote: »
    My 'New Jerusalem Bible', with text copyright 1985, uses Yahweh.

    My apologies. I got that wrong. I wrote without checking. The change to Lord came with the Revised New Jerusalem Bible, published last year.


  • My question continues to be whether "lord" is actually something worth preserving. Culturally bound terms here.
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