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830242.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:03 am Reply with quote

I'm currently reading (= slowly struggling through) McGregor Mathers' The Kabbalah Unveiled, which is his 1912 translation into English of some of the founding books of the Kabbalah.

(It can be found in the Internet Sacred Texts Archive, for those who are interested and masochistic. You'll probably find the introduction more than enough.)

Since a lot of the early Kabbalah was based on finding hidden meanings in words through anagrams, numerical letter equivalencies, and even the shapes of the letters, there are whole chapters discussing names of God. (For instance, how IHVI differs from IHVH and what this means in the grand scheme of things.)

I don't know Hebrew, though I'd like to, but this is what I've gathered so far:

El = "god"
Eloh, Eloah = "goddess" ("god" + feminine ending)
Adonai = "lord, ruler"

Elohim = "goddess" + masculine plural ending. Seems to be an attempt at describing a dual deity, both male and female. Refers to God as the Great Mother.

IH, IHVH, JHVH, Jehovah, Jah (Yah), Tetragrammaton, etc. = Based on a root meaning "is" or "exists". The idea that God simply is, perfect and unchanging.
Ehieh = "I am". Much the same meaning as IHVH.

Elohim is the word used in Genesis when God says "Let us make man in our image" -- the "us" in translation is the giveaway that the original was a plural word. Presumably the assumption behind the creation myth was that both male and female are needed to create life.

A lot of angelic names end with either -el or -iah (-jah); many demonic names also end in -el, but none in -iah. Most of the Biblical "devils" are older or foreign gods that have been demonised, so the -el ending is understandable if it's a very old root.

In modern occultism, the ending -el is supposed to be a reference to divine severity and judgement, while the ending -iah refers to divine mercy and generosity. This isn't supported by the linguistics, and I don't know where the belief came from. Angels with names ending -el are supposed to be pictured with wings, and usually with a sword or scales of justice; those with names ending -iah are supposed to be pictured seated on a throne.

830245.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:42 am Reply with quote

I need to correct myself, incidentally, which illustrates the dangers of trying to do things from memory. It's not "El Elohim" which is the "god of heights", but "El Elyon".

Incidentally, "elohim" is sometimes used to refer to judges, as a straightforward plural, which fits in with the idea of a celestial court.

830247.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:57 am Reply with quote

This is fascinating stuff - thanks folks. How possible would it be to boil the linguistic material about the derivation of Yahweh down to something manageable in a note for Stephen in a show, while retaining whatever you think is particularly fascinating about it in terms of what people perhaps normally might not know?

830258.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:03 pm Reply with quote

Well, I guess the J-related stuff is this:

- The divine name is Yahweh.

- Hebrew is written with consonants, so "YHWH" (the ultimate four-letter word, the "Tetragrammaton"), plus (if necessary) "points" to represent vowel sounds.

- For reasons of religious taboos, people reading the text aloud had to be alerted not to pronounce the divine name, so vowel sounds from "Adonai" = "my lord" were inserted into YHWH, to give Yehowah, i.e. Jehovah.

It's probably necessary to know that J was originally a variant of I when it represented the semivowel [j] -- it there's any skepticism about that, the word "Hallelujah" provides the perfect illustration (it means "Praise Yahweh!").

Is that succinct and interesting enough? I'm a poor judge of that sort of thing.

830263.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:03 pm Reply with quote

I think it would be interesting to understand how jehovah is derived from/ related to the verb "to be"... even if it's a stretch...

BTW some interesting stuff here:

830268.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:28 pm Reply with quote

I think there are a lot of theologians who would love to know just how Jehovah is related to the verb "to be", beyond the fact that it probably is. He who is, he who will be, he who causes to be, he who reveals himself... it really is quite mysterious.

I'm now more glad than ever that this isn't Yahoo Answers. Thanks for that.

830366.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 7:07 pm Reply with quote

Posital - yes, I thought that 'to be' stuff was very interesting.

Rewboss - thanks for that :-)

830387.  Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:36 pm Reply with quote

This reminds me -- I enjoyed my halibut the other evening.

830412.  Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:42 am Reply with quote

OK, this is some heavy stuff coming up right now -- and I mean like, heeeavy. </Neil>

So, basically, in the Semitic languages, it's the consonants you need to concentrate on: consonants convey meaning, vowels have a grammatical function. In any case, it's suspected that the vowel points in the Masoretic text "Yahweh" may be incorrect.

The most natural way to analyze YHWH is as the verb HWH plus the third person masculine prefix Y. This would be similar to the names of some old Arabian gods, such as YGT (Yagut), "he helps". Problem is, there is no Hebrew verb HWH.

In Exodus 3:14, the voice from the burning bush tells Moses: "HYH SR HYH" -- adding the vowels: "Ehyeh asher ehyeh", "I am that which I am", or "I will be that which I will be", or even, "I will be that which I am". That little speech ends with the voice telling Moses to tell the Israelites that Yahweh sent him, so the writer of that passage is clearly trying to link YHWH with HYH. For him at least, and presumably for his audience, the connection seems natural enough.

So one assumption is that HWH is a variant of HYH, possibly with the meaning of "breathe" or "live" as well as "exist", so YHWH could mean "he who causes to exist" or "he who gives life", which is pretty much the most important function of a god in a monotheistic religion.

If YHWH is an imperfective verb form, then the short form of the past tense or the jussive mood (used for giving commands) would be YHW, that is Yahu (the consonant W can be a placeholder for the vowel sound "u" or "o"). This is the form that appears in names, Yeho- as a prefix (Yeho-natan "given by Yahweh" = Jonathan), and -yahu, often shortened to -yah, as a suffix (Yirme-yahu "Yahweh exaults" = Jeremiah).

And, for extra interest, the Hebrew for "Yahweh is salvation" is "Yeho-shea", which we usually write as "Joshua". The Greek transliteration is "Iesous", in Latin "Iesus", hence "Jesus".

830545.  Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:16 am Reply with quote

That's fascinating, rewboss - thanks for that. Do any other Hebrew-speakers (and I know we have a couple among our posters) have a comment on that?

830607.  Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:55 am Reply with quote

Oy veh?

830658.  Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:28 pm Reply with quote

I would like to make it clear, in case there is an almighty blunder on my part anywhere, that I don't actually speak Hebrew. A comment from a Hebrew speaker or at least a theologian would be grand. :)

830909.  Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:59 am Reply with quote

Jehovah/Yahweh is supposed to be the personal name of the Deity, and the tradition is that no-one actually knows how it's pronounced. It's sometimes claimed that if anyone ever speaks the name correctly, either the speaker will become as God or else the universe will come to an end.

Here's a passage from SJ MacGregor Mathers' book The Kabbalah Unveiled (Introduction, paragraph 62). Mathers was a very learned man as well as being a respected occult scholar, so I trust what he says about Hebrew word meanings and their traditional mystical interpretations.

SJ MacGregor Mathers wrote:
The name of the Deity, which we call Jehovah, is in Hebrew a name of four letters, IHVH; and the true pronunciation of it is known to very few. I myself know some score of different mystical pronunciations of it. The true pronunciation is a most secret arcanum, and is a secret of secrets. "He who can rightly pronounce it, causeth heaven and earth to tremble, for it is the name which rusheth through the universe." Therefore when a devout Jew comes upon it in reading the Scripture, he either does not attempt to pronounce it, but instead makes a short pause, or else he substitutes for it the name Adonai, ADNI, Lord. The radical meaning of the word is "to be," and it is thus, like AHIH, Eheieh, a glyph of existence. It is capable of twelve transpositions, which all convey the meaning of "to be"; it is the only word that will bear so many transpositions without its meaning being altered. They are called the "twelve banners of the mighty name," and are said by some to rule the twelve signs of the Zodiac. These are the twelve banners:--IHVH, IHHV, IVHH, HVHI, HVIH, HHIV, VHHI, VIHH, VHIH, HIHV, HIVH, HHVI.

902467.  Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:30 pm Reply with quote

Posital wrote:
I think it would be interesting to understand how jehovah is derived from/ related to the verb "to be"... even if it's a stretch...

“Jehovah” (Heb., יהוה, YHWH), God’s personal name, first occurs in Ge 2:4. The divine name is a verb, the causative form, the imperfect state, of the Hebrew verb הוה (ha‧wah′, “to become”). Therefore, the divine name means “He Causes to Become.” This reveals Jehovah as the One who, with progressive action, causes himself to become the Fulfiller of promises, the One who always brings his purposes to realization.

hayah - to happen, to come into being, to become

In Exodus 3:13, Moses asks what God's name is - but people had been using the name Jehovah for centuries, so clearly he was asking something deeper - what he could tell people about that name. In response Jehovah explained the meaning of his name. He said to Moses: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” (Exodus 3:14) Jehovah would “prove to be,” or cause himself to become, whatever was needed in order to fulfill his promises. J. B. Rotherham’s translation pointedly renders this verse: “I Will Become whatsoever I please.”
One authority on Biblical Hebrew explains the phrase this way: “Whatever the situation or need . . . , God will ‘become’ the solution to that need.” - Gianotti, "The Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH," BSac 39 (1985), 46.

As with most names that have made the transition from Hebrew to English and other languages (David, Esther, Abraham, Ruth, etc.) it's pronunciation has changed - but that's of little real interest. Even if we definitely knew all the original pronunciations, it wouldn't make any difference to how any of us speak. We all just use whatever spelling and pronunciation of a name is accepted in our own language.

902610.  Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:12 am Reply with quote

Thank you JohnSmith, and welcome to the forums :-)


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