Tetragrammaton - Encyclopedia

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TETRAGRAMMATON (TETTapa, four; ypcp. a, letter), a Greek compound, found in Philo and Josephus, which designates the divine name composed of the four Hebrew letters J H V H (n»'). The derivation and pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton is still doubtful. The form "Jehovah" (q.v.) used in some of the English Versions is an error which arose in the 16th century. It is now generally assumed that the word is the causative form (hiph`il) and should be pronounced Yahveh or Yahweh (accent on second syllable). The Jews quite early ceased to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, substituting (as the Books of Chronicles and the LXX translation already indicate) the word Lord ('Adonai). The priests continued to use the name in the Benediction of the People (Numbers vi. 22-27), and on the Day of Atonement the High Priest pronounced it (Leviticus xvi. 30) amidst the prostrations of the assembled multitude. It is recorded in the Talmud that Rabbis communicated the true pronunciation to their disciples once in seven years (Qiddushin, 71a). The Jews called the Tetragrammaton by a Hebrew denomination, Shem Hammephorash (chtnr ?O), i.e. the distinctive excellent name. It was considered an act of blasphemy for a layman to pronounce the Tetragrammaton. This avoidance of the original name was due on the one hand to reverence and on the other to fear lest the name be desecrated by heathens. Partly in consequence of this mystery and partly in accord with widespread superstitions, the Tetragrammaton figures in magical formulae from the time of the Gnostics, and on amulets. Many a medieval miracle-worker was supposed to derive his competence from his knowledge of the secret of the Name.

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