Vatican Says "Yahweh" Not to Be Pronounced

Vatican Says "Yahweh" Not to Be Pronounced

Calls on Practice Used by 1st Christians

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 19, 2008 ( A note from the Vatican has reiterated a directive that the name of God revealed in the tetragrammaton YHWH is not to be pronounced in Catholic liturgy.

Bishop Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, in a note informing prelates of the Vatican directive, said the indications "do not force any changes to official liturgical texts," but might cause "some impact on the use of particular pieces of liturgical music in our country as well as in the composition of variable texts such as the general intercessions for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments."

Commonly used songs with phrases such as "Yahweh, I know you are near," will need to be modified.

The June 29 Vatican message, from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, clarified that the name of God revealed in YHWH was not pronounced by the first Christians, following the tradition already in use.

It explained: "The venerable biblical tradition of sacred Scripture, known as the Old Testament, displays a series of divine appellations, among which is the sacred name of God revealed in a tetragrammaton YHWH -- hwhw. As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: 'Adonai,' which means 'Lord.'

"The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the so called Septuagint, dating back to the last centuries prior to the Christian era, had regularly rendered the Hebrew tetragrammaton with the Greek word Kyrios, which means 'Lord.' Since the text of the Septuagint constituted the Bible of the first generation of Greek speaking Christians, in which language all the books of the New Testament were also written, these Christians, too, from the beginning never pronounced the divine tetragrammaton."


The Vatican goes on to note that this practice had "important implications" for New Testament Christology.

"When in fact, St. Paul, with regard to the crucifixion, writes that 'God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name" (Phil 2:9), he does not mean any other name than 'Lord,' for he continues by saying, 'and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord' (Phil 2:11; cf. Isaiah 42:8: 'I am the Lord; that is my name')," the Vatican note explained.

"The attribution of this title to the risen Christ corresponds exactly to the proclamation of his divinity," it continued. "The title in fact becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith, even though it is not in fact one of the titles used for the Messiah of Israel."

"Avoiding pronouncing the tetragrammaton of the name of God on the part of the Church has therefore its own grounds," the Vatican concluded. "Apart from a motive of a purely philogical order, there is also that of remaining faithful to the Church's tradition, from the beginning, that the sacred tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context, nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated."


  1. Since it took two millenia to come up with the need to make this change, could it be that the rationale has arrived only after the decision to scrap what is admittedly unpronounceable?

    If it is unpronounceable, how does anyone know which pronunciation was the one that the early Christians were not able to pronounce?

    And, with all due respect to the learned foregoing Theological treatise:

    I seem to recall that an angel showed up one day and mentioned, in reference to the son of Mary and Joseph, "his name will be called Jesus."

    Somewhat earlier, when Isaiah in a specific prophecy mentioned a virgin conceiving a child, he suggested his name would be Wonderful, Counselor.

    Assuming that Gabriel and Isaiah both got their orders from God [YHWH], where did this "Lord" business show up before Paul mentioned it? In any case, the English "lord" is derived from Old English--not from Latin or Greek or Hebrew. Just to be accurate, did God speak Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or Old English?

    Another concern: If copyright owners of all the songs currently using the Tetragrammaton [e.g.; "Yahweh, I know you are near,"] will not allow the change, will the USCCB order the publishers to stay away from Communion as in the case of Pro-Choice Catholics?

    If the songs using the Tetragrammaton are banned in Church, the copyright holders stand to lose lots of money, especially for the #1 song on the Church Hit Parade.

    Is that just? Is it possible that a court might consider banning songs currently used in Catholic churches to be a "restraint of trade?"

    I guess this all comes down to what extent Catholics need to resemble 1st Century Christians. After all, the early Christians likely never pronounced the modern English words "nuclear energy."

    Banning a word from use is exactly the same technique for political control that George Orwell suggested in a book he penned in 1948, called "1984."

    Someone in the Vatican apparently only read it recently.

  2. It was Jewish superstition to not pronounce God's name! If you want to follow 1st century Christians then follow their stand on neutrality!

  3. James 4:8 - "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you."

    Who was the last close friend you had that you never called by name?

  4. George Howard of the University of Georgia wrote in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 96, 1977, p. 63: "Recent discoveries in Egypt and the Judean desert allow us to see first hand the use of God's name in pre-Christian times. These discoveries are significant for NT studies in that they aform a literary analogy with the earliest Christian documents and may explain how NT authors used the divine name." The early Christians knew and did use God's name. The reason given by the Vatican is not true.

  5. Matthew 23:23-28 comes to mind....
    Suddenly we're interested in what the Bible says....? Intriguing...

    However, whether one wants to pronounce it or not, the devine name, GOD'S name, IS represented in scripture by the Tetragrammaton: "YHWH".
    English translation "Jehovah".

    Over the years MANY fragments of ancient Greek versions of the Hebrew Scriptures have been discovered with the divine name written, usually in Hebrew letters. This divine name was used in Greek versions until well into the ninth century C.E. Here are atleast ten manuscripts that contain the divine name.

    LXXP. Fouad Inv. 266- Tetragrammaton occurs 49 times

    LXXVTS 10a-The fragments of this scroll were published in Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Vol. X, Leiden, 1963, pp. 170-178

    LXXIEJ 12- published in Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 12, 1962, p. 203.

    LXXVTS 10b -It was published in Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Vol. X, 1963, p. 178.

    4Q LXX Levb- Le 3:12; 4:27. This papyrus manuscript, found in Qumran Cave 4, was dated to the first century B.C.E.

    LXXP. Oxy. VII.1007-abbreviating the Tetragrammaton in the form of a double Yohdh in Ge 2:8, 18. This vellum leaf, dated to the third century C.E., was published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Part VII, edited with translations and notes by Arthur S. Hunt, London, 1910, pp. 1, 2.

    AqBurkitt-Tetragrammaton written in ancient Hebrew characters at: 1Ki 20:13, 13, 14; 2Ki 23:12, 16, 21, 23, 25, 26, 27. The Greek text published by F. Crawford Burkitt in his work Fragments of the Books of Kings According to the Translation of Aquila, Cambridge, 1898, pp. 3-8

    AqTaylor-Ps 91:2, 9; 92:1, 4, 5, 8, 9; 96:7, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13; 97:1, 5, 9, 10, 12; 102:15, 16, 19, 21; 103:1, 2, 6, 8. These fragments of the Greek text- published by C. Taylor in his work Hebrew-Greek Cairo Genizah Palimpsests, Cambridge, 1900, pp. 54-65.

    SymP. Vindob. G. 39777-Tetragrammaton written in archaic Hebrew characters in : Ps 69:13, 30, 31. This fragment of a parchment roll with part of Ps 69 in Symmachus (68 in LXX), kept in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

    Ambrosian O 39 sup.=Tetragrammaton written in square Hebrew characters at: Ps 18:30, 31, 41, 46; 28:6, 7, 8; 29:1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3; 30:1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 10, 12; 31:1, 5, 6, 9, 21, 23, 23, 24; 32:10, 11; 35:1, 22, 24, 27; 36:Sup, 5; 46:7, 8, 11; 89:49- published in Rome in 1958 by Giovanni Mercati under the title Psalterii Hexapli Reliquiae . . . Pars prima. Codex Rescriptus Bybliothecae Ambrosianae O 39 sup. Phototypice Expressus et Transcriptus.

    These ten manuscript fragments indicate that the translators of the Hebrew text into Greek used the divine name where it occurred in the Hebrew text. Moreover, the occurrence of the Tetragrammaton in Zec 9:4 corroborates the claim that the Jewish Sopherim replaced the Tetragrammaton with ’Adho·nai′ (Sovereign Lord) in the Hebrew text in 134 places.

  6. Since it's so obvious that the name of God is YHWH or Jehovah (in English), and it's obviously IN the Bible, it's there for a reason. We need to USE it.(2 Tim 3:16&17 ALL scripture is beneficial...)
    The 'Our father' prayer is a model prayer demonstrated by Jesus at Matthew 6:9&10 to show some of the things one can pray about. He directed it to, not HIMSELF, but to his FATHER, Jehovah (John 8:54)(1 Timothy 2:5) The very first thing Jesus taught in that prayer was 'Hallowed be thy NAME'. That treat God's NAME holy, to SANCTIFY it, treat it with honor, it does NOT mean to avoid it. (Isaiah 12:4 says to 'make KNOWN his name..put God's NAME on HIGH"). Don't keep it secret.
    Jesus' father is Jehovah. (Matthew 16:16)

    Those who call themselves Christian should NOT follow the example of the Jewish nation of the past. The Israelites were criticized for ignoring God's law in general and 'seeking to establish their own'(Romans 10:2&3)(Luke 16:15)(Matthew 15:3&8). One way they did this was by burying the name of God under the word 'LORD, a meaningless title.

    Christians were instructed to go to the nations, with thousands of gods, and preach about God and his Kingdom. If they just called him 'god', how effective would they be?(Matthew 28:19&20). HOW could they possibly tell about their God, Jehovah, without using his name?
    LORD is a TITLE, NOT a name. A name identifies a person and brings with it a mental picture and heart appreciation. The Bible says 'there are many lords and many gods'(1 Corin 8:5&6). Even SATAN is called a god at 2 Corin 4:4. A NAME identifies WHO you're talking about. Saying 'lord' tells you nothing.
    He IS a lord, he IS almighty, he IS a father, he IS a creator, but his NAME is Jehovah.
    The Catholic Encyclopedia 1913 Vol VIII, P329 states: "Jehovah, the proper name of God in the old testament". In the KJ Bible, the name can be found at Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4
    Also important to consider...
    If you're going to insist on NOT speaking the name of God, you also have to stop saying 'Hallelujah!' which literally means 'Praise Jah, you people'...JAH is the shortened form of JEHOVAH. So everytime you shout Hallelujah (Alleluia), you are praising JEHOVAH and SAYING the name.

  7. It amazes me that they can do this. Who has the right to alter the scriptures? Just because they think that the name of God is unpronoucable doesn't mean it shouldn't be there. The fact is that we use the 'english' versions of all the hebrew names. Jesus wasn't called Jesus, it was probably Jehusa or Jehoshua - still, we don't mind calling him 'Jesus'.

    Why should how we pronounce the divine name matter? The fact is that we should use it. He identified himself using his personal name did he not?

    Isa 54:5 “For your Grand Maker is your husbandly owner, Jehovah of armies being his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Repurchaser. The God of the whole earth he will be called.

    Isa 42:8 “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images.

    Psalms 83:18 That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth.

    There seems to be only one religion who actively promote and teach God's name as it should be - Jehovah's Witnesses.

  8. of course the true God's name is Jehovah. Greetings for all brothers JW!