Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav
Is the name of God pronounced Yehovah? (Video)By Jeff A. Benner
Is the Tetragrammaton (YHWH or YHVH) originally pronounced "Yehovah?" Or is there evidence to suggest that this was "not" the original pronunciation. In this video, we will be examining how the vowel "o" is written in Masoretic Hebrew text and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which will provide us some clues on this debate. Just as is the case with many of the mysteries of the pronunciation of the name YHWH, and many other Hebrew words, it comes down to interpretation of evidence and only when we find Moses' tape recorder will all of these questions be answered.
Nehemiah Gordon has been a strong advocate for the pronunciation Yehovah, so I sent him an email concerning the use of the "o" in Yehovah and emailed him. Below is my question, but I am adding some clarifications for your benefit in brackets.
I have noticed that words in the Masoretic text that include the nikkud cholam [The nikkud are the dots and dashes added to Hebrew words in the Masoretic text. The cholam is a single dot placed above a letter to represent the "o" sound] are spelled with a vav in the Dead Sea Scrolls. For instance, אלהים includes the cholam in the Masoretic text, but in the Dead Sea Scrolls it is spelled אלוהים [In the Masoretic text this word is written as אֱלֹהִים, with the cholam above the letter ה (h)]. The same can be seen in the name יעקוב, the word כול, and many others.
The following is Nehemiah's response.
Regarding the double Vav, this is an interesting suggestion. The Qumran scrolls are not consistent about inserting Vavs to indicate Cholam or Shuruk/ Kubutz. In the case of the Name, the matter is complicated by the fact that it would produce a double Vav. I would be very surprised to find such a thing in Qumran. In the Masoretic Text we find these double Vavs representing the sound Vo (as in Avon, Mitzvot, etc.) and Vu (as in Yishtachavu, Nilvu). That means the double Vav in the hypothetical form יהווה* might be pronounced YHVuH or YHVoH. I checked Hovah (usually translated "ruin"), since this has a similar consonant and vowel pattern. The way it appears at Qumran is quite interesting. It is written as HVYH in 1QIsa-a, which presumably is Hoyah, a linguistic variant to Hovah, and identical to what we find in the Masoretic Text in Ex 9:3.
And here is my response back to Nehemiah
How confident are you that the nikkudot preserve the original pronunciation of Hebrew words? I ask because I have the opinion that while they do preserve the pronunciation fairly well, history suggests that the pronunciations of words do change over time, especially from one dialect to another. So, while כלוה (Is 24:2) is pronounced "kalovah" in the Masoretic text, could it have originally been "kalavah" (or something similar)?
And that is where we are at on this issue at this time.