Yahweh

Yahweh

Overview
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.

The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton
Tetragrammaton
The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...

, for which the original pronunciation is unknown. The most likely meaning of the name may be “He Brings Into Existence Whatever Exists", but there are many theories and none is regarded as conclusive.
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Encyclopedia
Yahweh is the name of God in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jews and Christians.

The word Yahweh is a modern scholarly convention for the Hebrew , transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH and known as the Tetragrammaton
Tetragrammaton
The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...

, for which the original pronunciation is unknown. The most likely meaning of the name may be “He Brings Into Existence Whatever Exists", but there are many theories and none is regarded as conclusive. The traditional rendering of the name, as found in English Bibles, is "I am who I am" or "I am that I am".

The Bible describes Yahweh as the god who delivered Israel from Egypt
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

 and gave the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

 and says that Yahweh revealed himself to Israel as a god who would not permit his people to make idols or worship other gods "I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, or My praise to idols."

The history of the emergence of Israelite monotheism
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

 and Yahweh worship has been the subject of scholarly study since at least the 19th century and Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen , was a German biblical scholar and orientalist, noted particularly for his contribution to scholarly understanding of the origin of the Pentateuch/Torah ....

'’s Prolegomena to the History of Israel
Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels
Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels is a book by German biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen which formulated the documentary hypothesis...

; in the 20th century a formative work was William F. Albright
William F. Albright
William Foxwell Albright was an American archaeologist, biblical scholar, philologist and expert on ceramics. From the early twentieth century until his death, he was the dean of biblical archaeologists and the universally acknowledged founder of the Biblical archaeology movement...

's Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan – An Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths (1968), which insisted on the essential otherness of Yahweh from the Canaanite gods from the very beginning of Israel's history. However, scholars of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

 have since seen Yahweh worship as emerging from a West Semitic and Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

ite background. Theophoric names, names of local gods similar to Yahweh, and archaeological evidence are used along with the Biblical source texts to describe pre-Israel origins of Yahweh worship, the relationship of Yahweh with local gods, and the manner in which Yahweh worship evolved into Jewish monotheism.

Worship of Yahweh alone is a central idea of historical Judaism. Much of Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 views Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 as the human incarnation
Incarnation
Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial....

 of Yahweh. The importance of the divine name and the character of the “one true god” revealed as Yahweh are often contrasted with the significantly different character of rival deities known by different names in the traditional polytheistic religions. Some scholars, including William G. Dever
William G. Dever
William G. Dever is an American archaeologist, specialising in the history of Israel and the Near East in Biblical times. He was Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson from 1975 to 2002...

, have asserted that the Asherah
Asherah
Asherah , in Semitic mythology, is a Semitic mother goddess, who appears in a number of ancient sources including Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu and in Hittite as Asherdu or Ashertu or Aserdu or Asertu...

 was worshipped as a consort of Yahweh, until the 6th century BCE, when strict monolatry of Yahweh became prevalent in the wake of the destruction of the temple
Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC)
In 589 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of the city and its temple in 587 BC.-Siege:Following the siege of 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as tributary king of Judah at the age of twenty-one. However, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and...

. However, the consort hypothesis has been subject to debate with numerous scholars publishing disagreement.

Name


The archaeological evidence suggests that the greater part of the population of Israel was of Canaanite origin; given this, one would expect the Israelites to worship a Canaanite god, but in the West Semitic world Yahweh was not worshiped outside Israel. (West Semitic
West Semitic languages
The West Semitic languages are a proposed major sub-grouping of Semitic languages. One widely accepted analysis, supported by semiticists like Robert Hetzron and John Huehnergard, divides the Semitic language family into two branches: Eastern and Western. The former consists of the extinct Eblaite...

 is the family of languages to which Hebrew belongs, along with Phoenician, Edomite, Moabite and a few others; they were similar enough to be mutually intelligible).

Vocalisation


Biblical Hebrew was written with consonants only, meaning that the name of God is written YHWH. The original pronunciation of this word was lost many centuries ago, but in the 19th century the eminent Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius
Wilhelm Gesenius
Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius was a German orientalist and Biblical critic.-Biography:He was born at Nordhausen...

 (1786–1842) suggested "Yahweh" as the most probable vocalization, based on his study of early Greek transcriptions, theophoric names, and the reported pronunciation of the name in the Samaritan tradition. This has become the conventional usage in Biblical scholarship.

Etymology


Most scholars accept that YHWH is made up of Y, meaning "he", plus a form of HWY, the root of a group of words connected with "being" and "becoming". Frank Moore Cross
Frank Moore Cross
Frank Moore Cross, Jr. is Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages Emeritus at Harvard University, notable for his work in the interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, his 1973 magnum opus Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, and his work in Northwest Semitic epigraphy...

 has advanced the hypothesis that the name Yahweh is an abbreviation, in which the theophoric element el has been dropped, thus giving yhwh-'l or "El-Yahweh", which would parallel "El-Shaddai" and "El-Elyon". El
El (god)
is a Northwest Semitic word meaning "deity", cognate to Akkadian and then to Hebrew : Eli and Arabic )....

 was the chief god of the Canaanite pantheon, and El-YHWH is still attested as an epithet
Epithet
An epithet or byname is a descriptive term accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, objects, and binomial nomenclature. It is also a descriptive title...

, 'El, who shows himself' in a few places in the Old Testament (in Psalm 50:1, for example). It would have originated as a description of El's appearance and blessing: "El who shows himself". The author of gives a similar explanation: God, asked by Moses for his name, provides three names: "I Am That I Am", followed by "I Am", and finally "YHWH":
אהיה אשר אהיה ויאמר כה תאמר לבני ישראל אהיה שלחני אליכם׃
"I AM THAT I AM
I Am that I Am
I Am that I Am is a common English translation of the response God used in the Hebrew Bible when Moses asked for His name . It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah...

 [...] Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you [...] YHWH God
Names of God in Judaism
In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title; it represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relationship of God to the Jewish people and to the world. To demonstrate the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for...

 of your fathers, [...] this is my name for ever"


As the origins of Yahweh seem to lie to the southeast of Israel, in Edom and Midian or even further south, an alternative explanation looks for its etymology in South Semitic
South Semitic
South Semitic is a commonly accepted branch of the Semitic languages. Semitic itself is a branch of the larger Afro-Asiatic language family found in Africa and Asia....

 languages like Arabic rather than in Hebrew, which is West Semitic
West Semitic languages
The West Semitic languages are a proposed major sub-grouping of Semitic languages. One widely accepted analysis, supported by semiticists like Robert Hetzron and John Huehnergard, divides the Semitic language family into two branches: Eastern and Western. The former consists of the extinct Eblaite...

. One of the meanings of HWY in Arabic is connected with falling or causing to fall, leading to an interpretation of Yahweh as a storm god whose name means "He who causes to fall" (meaning rain, lightning, and his enemies) or "He storms". This also helps explain Yahweh's attributes as a storm god (he comes to rescue Israel surrounded by darkness and thick clouds, and the earth trembles, the clouds drop water, and the mountains quake at his appearance), and the way he appropriates attributes from the rival storm god Baal.

Divine names, however, are often much older than the religions using them, and ideas about gods change over time; despite Exodus 14 it is fairly improbable that the authors of the bible were aware of the meaning of the name Yahweh, and even an accurate knowledge of the origins of the name will not help understand the significance Yahweh held for them.

Yahweh in the Hebrew bible


The overwhelming majority of our knowledge of the god Yahweh comes from the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 (more or less identical with the Christian Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

). This consists of 24 books ranging in subject matter from history to poetry to philosophical meditation, and in time from perhaps the 10th century to the 2nd century BCE. Almost every book of the bible mentions Yahweh. Other names for God are also used, notably Elohim
Elohim
Elohim is a grammatically singular or plural noun for "god" or "gods" in both modern and ancient Hebrew language. When used with singular verbs and adjectives elohim is usually singular, "god" or especially, the God. When used with plural verbs and adjectives elohim is usually plural, "gods" or...

, but in every case these are simply alternatives for Yahweh.

Origin of Yahweh and the Kenite hypothesis


"Israel" is a term with many meanings, but in this section it means the ethnic group who emerged in the Palestinian hill country in the Iron Age I period (1200-1000 BCE). The bible tells a story in which Israel escaped from Egypt, met Yahweh on a mountain-top in the wilderness, agreed to become his chosen people, and conquered Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 with his help. The view of modern scholarship is quite different: overwhelmingly, the archaeological evidence points to an Israelite community arising peacefully and internally in the highlands of Canaan.

If Yahweh was not a Canaanite god, this raises the question of where he originated and how he became the national god of Israel and Judah in Iron Age II (1000-586). The first probable record of his name is in two Egyptian inscriptions from the 14th and 13th centuries, as a place-name in the region of Edom associated with Shoshu-Bedouins". According to a widely accepted theory (the "Kenite hypothesis"), this god could have been brought north to the Palestinian hill country and the early Israelites by migratory Edomite desert tribes, of whom the Kenites were one.

Yahweh as national god of Israel


According to a theory advanced by Karel van der Toorn, the creation of a unified kingdom early in Iron Age II was the crucial act that led to Yahweh becoming the god of Israel. In Iron Age I the religious life of ordinary Israelites, like that of other peoples throughout the Ancient Near East, was organised around the family-based cult of the ancestors and devotion to a local god, the "god of the fathers". According to the bible the first king, Saul, was a Gibeonite, a tribe with its roots in Edom, and in order to unify the new kingdom and cement his own authority Saul promoted his own god, Yahweh, as god of the kingdom; previously, each extended family or clan was the "people" of a particular god, but now the entire Israelite community became the "people of Yahweh".

Yahweh was the state god of the northern kingdom of Israel by at least the early 9th century, and this is confirmed by an inscription from Kuntillet Ajrud
Kuntillet Ajrud
Kuntillet Ajrud is a late 9th/early 8th centuries BCE site in the northeast part of the Sinai peninsula. It is frequently described as a shrine, but this is not certain....

 which refers to Yahweh of Samaria, probably meaning the kingdom rather than the city.

More than forty inscriptions mentioning Yahweh, Yahu or Yah have been discovered, all tending to reinforce the centrality of Yahweh to Israelite religion. The inscriptions include blessings, oaths, salutations, votive offerings, seals and prayers. No other gods or goddesses are unambiguously recorded except for contentious references to Asherah
Asherah
Asherah , in Semitic mythology, is a Semitic mother goddess, who appears in a number of ancient sources including Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu and in Hittite as Asherdu or Ashertu or Aserdu or Asertu...

, who might be a goddess and Yahweh's consort, or possibly some kind of cult object. A fragment from Kuntillet Ajrud
Kuntillet Ajrud
Kuntillet Ajrud is a late 9th/early 8th centuries BCE site in the northeast part of the Sinai peninsula. It is frequently described as a shrine, but this is not certain....

 (9th/8th centuries) mentions Baal
Baal
Baʿal is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu...

 in association with Yahweh, but in this case the word might simply mean "Lord" (the literal meaning of "baal").

A 10th century cult stand from Taanach
Taanach
Ta'anakh or Taanach is a small village in Israel in Ta'anakh region.Just to the east is a 40 metre high moun which was the site of the biblical city Taanach. 12 Akkadian cuneiform tablets were found here. The main remain visible today is a 11th Century Abbasid palace....

 (a town in Northern Israel, near Megiddo) shows, among other images, two winged sphinxes with an empty space between them, possibly meant to represent Yahweh between the cherubim. A horse or bull figure on the same stand, topped by a solar disk, may represent either Yahweh or Baal, and a stylised tree and female figures are testimony to the presence of goddesses (possibly Asherah
Asherah
Asherah , in Semitic mythology, is a Semitic mother goddess, who appears in a number of ancient sources including Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu and in Hittite as Asherdu or Ashertu or Aserdu or Asertu...

) in the pantheon.

History of Yahwism


Archaeologists and historical scholars use a variety of ways to organize and interpret the available iconographic and textual information. William G. Dever contrasts "official religion/state religion/book religion" of the elite with “folk religion” of the masses. Rainer Albertz contrasts "official religion" with "family religion", "personal piety", and "internal religious pluralism". Jacques Berlinerblau analyzes the evidence in terms of "official religion" and "popular religion" in ancient Israel.

Tension between monotheism and polytheism among the Israelites


Tension between monotheism and polytheism among the Israelites is documented as early as the account of Exodus. Aaron's statement "These are your gods", in the plural, when only one golden calf
Golden calf
According to the Hebrew Bible, the golden calf was an idol made by Aaron to satisfy the Israelites during Moses' absence, when he went up to Mount Sinai...

 was molded, looks forward to the two golden calves of Jereboam.

Both the archaeological evidence and the Biblical texts document tensions between groups comfortable with the worship of Yahweh alongside local deities such as Asherah and Baal and those insistent on worship of Yahweh alone during the monarchal period (1 Kings 18, Jeremiah 2) The Deuteronomistic source gives evidence of a strong monotheistic party during the reign of king Josiah during the late 7th century BCE, but the strength and prevalence of earlier monotheistic worship of Yahweh is widely debated based on interpretations of how much of the Deuteronomistic history is accurately based on earlier sources, and how much has been re-worked by Deuteronomistic redactors to bolster their theological views. The archaeological record documents widespread polytheism in and around Israel during the period of the monarchy.

Patrick D. Miller's schema: orthodox, heterodox and syncretistic Yahwism


Patrick D. Miller has distinguished three broad categories of Yahwism, orthodox, heterodox, and syncretistic. Orthodox Yahwism demanded the exclusive worship of Yahweh (although without denying the existence of other gods). The powers of blessing (health, wealth, continuity, fertility) and salvation (forgiveness, victory, deliverance from oppression and threat) resided fully in Yahweh, and his will was communicated via oracle and prophetic vision or audition. Divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

, soothsaying, and necromancy
Necromancy
Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

 were prohibited. The individual or community could cry out to Yahweh and would receive a divine response, mediated by priestly or prophetic figures.

Sanctuaries were erected in various places and were used to express devotion to Yahweh by means of sacrifice, festival meals and celebrations, prayer, and praise. Toward the end of the seventh century (BCE) in Judah, worship of Yahweh was restricted to the temple in Jerusalem, while the major sanctuaries in the northern kingdom were at Bethel (near the southern border) and Dan (in the north). Certain times were set for the gathering of the people to celebrate the gifts of Yahweh and the deity’s acts of deliverance and redemption.

Everything in the moral realm was understood as a part of relation to Yahweh as a manifestation of holiness. Family relationships and the welfare of the weaker members of society were protected by divine law, and purity of conduct, dress, food, etc. were regulated. Religious leadership resided in priests who were associated with sanctuaries, and also in prophets, who were bearers of divine oracles. In the political sphere the king was understood as the appointee and agent of Yahweh.

Heterodox Yahwism is described by Miller as a mixture of elements of orthodox Yahwism with particular practices that conflicted with orthodox Yahwism or were not customarily a part of it. For example, heterodox Yahwism included the presence of cult objects rejected in by orthodox expressions, such as the Asherah
Asherah
Asherah , in Semitic mythology, is a Semitic mother goddess, who appears in a number of ancient sources including Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu and in Hittite as Asherdu or Ashertu or Aserdu or Asertu...

, figurines of various sorts (females, horses and riders, animals and birds, and the calves or bulls of the Northern Kingdom. The "high places" as centers of worship seems to have moved from an acceptable place within Yahwism to an increasingly condemned status in official and orthodox circles. Efforts to know the future or the will of the deity could also be understood as heterodox if they went outside the boundaries of orthodox Yahwism, and even commonly accepted revelatory mechanism such as dreams could be condemned if the resulting message was perceived as false. Consulting mediums, wizards, and diviners was often employed by heterodox Yahwists.

Syncretism covers the worship of Baal, the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, and stars), the "Queen of Heaven" and other deities as well as practices such as child sacrifice: "Other gods were invoked and serviced in time of need or blessing and provision for life when the worship of Yahweh seemed inadequate for those purposes."

Ancient Israel and Judah


It has traditionally been believed that monotheism
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

 was part of Israel's original covenant with Yahweh on Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai , also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa , Jabal Musa meaning "Moses' Mountain", is a mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. A mountain called Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus in the Torah and the Bible as well as the Quran...

, and the idolatry criticized by the prophets was due to Israel's backsliding. But during the 20th century it became increasingly recognised that the Bible's presentation raises a number of questions: Why do the Ten Commandments declare that there should be no other gods "before Me" (Yahweh), if there are no other gods at all? Why do the Israelites sing at the crossing of the Red Sea that "there is no god like you, O Yahweh", implying that other gods exist? These observations eventually overthrew the belief that Israel had always worshipped no other god but Yahweh.

Evidence of Israelite worship of Canaanite gods appears both in the Bible and the archaeological record. Respectful references to the goddess Asherah
Asherah
Asherah , in Semitic mythology, is a Semitic mother goddess, who appears in a number of ancient sources including Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu and in Hittite as Asherdu or Ashertu or Aserdu or Asertu...

 or her symbol, for example, as part of the worship of Yahweh, are found in the eighth century inscriptions from Kuntillet 'Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom, and references to the Canaanite gods Resheph
Resheph
Resheph was a Canaanite deity of plague and war. In Egyptian iconography Resheph is depicted wearing the crown of Upper Egypt surmounted in front by the head of a gazelle. He has links with Theban war god Montu and was thought of as a guardian deity in battle by many Egyptian pharaohs...

 and Deber appear without criticism in the original Jewish text of . While traditionally these words have been understood to be either Jewish words whose meaning has been derived from characteristics of these Canaanite deities or references to demons, some interpret these as evidence of Israelite recognition of these gods as part of the military retinue of Yahweh. The "host of heaven" is also mentioned without criticism in and . Though the "host of heaven" has traditionally been interpreted as either the stars/heavenly bodies or the host of angels/heavenly spirits depending on the context, some again have interpreted this term to refer to a pantheon of Israelite gods. The god El is also continually identified with Yahweh.

Israel inherited polytheism from late first-millennium Canaan, and Canaanite religion in turn had its roots in the religion of second-millennium Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

. In the 2nd millennium, polytheism was expressed through the concepts of the divine council and the divine family, a single entity with four levels: the chief god and his wife (El and Asherah); the seventy divine children or "stars of El" (including Baal, Astarte, Anat, probably Resheph, as well as the sun-goddess Shapshu and the moon-god Yerak); the head helper of the divine household, Kothar wa-Hasis; and the servants of the divine household, including the messenger-gods who would later appear as the "angels" of the Hebrew bible.

In the earliest stage Yahweh was one of the seventy children of El, each of whom was the patron deity of one of the seventy nations. This is illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint texts of Deuteronomy 32:8–9, in which El, as the head of the divine assembly, gives each member of the divine family a nation of his own, "according to the number of the divine sons": Israel is the portion of Yahweh. The later Masoretic text
Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...

, evidently uncomfortable with the polytheism expressed by the phrase, altered it to "according to the number of the children of Israel"

Between the eighth to the sixth centuries El became identified with Yahweh, Yahweh-El became the husband of the goddess Asherah, and the other gods and the divine messengers gradually became mere expressions of Yahweh's power. Yahweh is cast in the role of the Divine King ruling over all the other deities, as in Psalm 29:2, where the "sons of God" are called upon to worship Yahweh; and as Ezekiel 8-10 suggests, the Temple itself became Yahweh's palace, populated by those in his retinue.

It is in this period that the earliest clear monotheistic statements appear in the Bible, for example in the apparently seventh-century Deuteronomy 4:35, 39, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 7:22, 2 Kings 19:15, 19 (= Isaiah 37:16, 20), and Jeremiah 16:19, 20 and the sixth-century portion of Isaiah 43:10–11, 44:6, 8, 45:5–7, 14, 18, 21, and 46:9. Because many of the passages involved appear in works associated with either Deuteronomy, the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua through Kings) or in Jeremiah, most recent scholarly treatments have suggested that a Deuteronomistic movement of this period developed the idea of monotheism as a response to the religious issues of the time.

The first factor behind this development involves changes in Israel's social structure. At Ugarit, social identity was strongest at the level of the family: legal documents, for example, were often made between the sons of one family and the sons of another. Ugarit's religion, with its divine family headed by El and Asherah, mirrored this human reality. The same was true in ancient Israel through most of the monarchy – for example, the story of Achan in Joshua 8 suggests an extended family as the major social unit. However, the family lineages went through traumatic changes beginning in the eighth century due to major social stratification, followed by Assyrian incursions. In the seventh and sixth centuries, we begin to see expressions of individual identity (Deuteronomy 26:16; Jeremiah 31:29–30; Ezekiel 18). A culture with a diminished lineage system, deteriorating over a long period from the ninth or eighth century onward, less embedded in traditional family patrimonies, might be more predisposed both to hold the individual accountable for his behavior, and to see an individual deity accountable for the cosmos. In short, the rise of the individual as the basic social unit led to the rise of a single god replacing a divine family.

The second major factor was the rise of the neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian empires. As long as Israel was, from its own perspective, part of a community of similar small nations, it made sense to see the Israelite pantheon on par with the other nations, each one with its own patron god – the picture described with Deuteronomy 32:8–9. The assumption behind this worldview was that each nation was as powerful as its patron god. However, the neo-Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in ca. 722 challenged this, for if the neo-Assyrian empire were so powerful, so must be its god; and conversely, if Israel could be conquered (and later Judah, c. 586), it implied that Yahweh in turn was a minor divinity. The crisis was met by separating the heavenly power and earthly kingdoms. Even though Assyria and Babylon were so powerful, the new monotheistic thinking in Israel reasoned, this did not mean that the god of Israel and Judah was weak. Assyria had not succeeded because of the power of its god Marduk
Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

; it was Yahweh who was using Assyria to punish and purify the one nation which Yahweh had chosen.

By the post-Exilic period, full monotheism had emerged: Yahweh was the sole God, not just of Israel, but of the whole world. If the nations were tools of Yahweh, then the new king who would come to redeem Israel might not be a Judean as taught in older literature (e.g. Psalm 2). Now, even a foreigner such as Cyrus the Persian could serve as the Lord's anointed (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1). One god stood behind all the world's history.

Modern Judaism


In modern Judaism, the Tetragrammaton is conventionally substituted by Adonai ("my Lord") when reading the text of the Bible. Jews ceased to pronounce the name in the intertestamental period
Intertestamental period
The intertestamental period is a term used to refer to a period of time between the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament texts. Traditionally, it is considered to be a roughly four hundred year period, spanning the ministry of Malachi The intertestamental period is a term...

, replacing it with the common noun Elohim
Elohim
Elohim is a grammatically singular or plural noun for "god" or "gods" in both modern and ancient Hebrew language. When used with singular verbs and adjectives elohim is usually singular, "god" or especially, the God. When used with plural verbs and adjectives elohim is usually plural, "gods" or...

, “god”, to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel's God over all others. At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered, and was replaced in spoken ritual by the word Adonai (“My Lord”), or with haShem (“the Name”) in everyday speech, see Names of God in Judaism
Names of God in Judaism
In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title; it represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relationship of God to the Jewish people and to the world. To demonstrate the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for...

 for details.

Roman Catholic church


Traditionally in both Latin and vernacular worship "Lord" was used, following the Greek New Testament and Septuagint. Although the rendering of the Tetragrammaton as "Yahweh" is found in the Old Testament of versions such as the Roman Catholic Jerusalem Bible
Jerusalem Bible
The Jerusalem Bible is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible which first was introduced to the English-speaking public in 1966 and published by Darton, Longman & Todd...

, and New Jerusalem Bible
New Jerusalem Bible
The New Jerusalem Bible is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible published in 1985 by Darton, Longman & Todd and Les Editions du Cerf, and edited by the Reverend Henry Wansbrough.- Contents :...

 (1985), the liturgical use of Yahweh in English-speaking worship was reprobated by the Vatican in 2008. The Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is the congregation of the Roman Curia that handles most affairs relating to liturgical practices of the Latin Catholic Church as distinct from the Eastern Catholic Churches and also some technical matters relating to the...

 direction that the word "Lord" be used instead of Yahweh in English-language worship, was based on the understanding that Jews at the time of Christ and also early Christians substituted other words rather than pronounce the name.

Protestantism


When transcribing the Tetragrammaton, the vocalization Jehovah
Jehovah
Jehovah is an anglicized representation of Hebrew , a vocalization of the Tetragrammaton , the proper name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible....

 has been popular in particular in Protestantism
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 from the time of the Reformation
Reformation
- Movements :* Protestant Reformation, an attempt by Martin Luther to reform the Roman Catholic Church that resulted in a schism, and grew into a wider movement...

.

Bible scholar and author Charles Ryrie
Charles Caldwell Ryrie
Charles Caldwell Ryrie is a Christian writer and theologian who served as professor of systematic theology and dean of doctoral studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and as president and professor at what is now Philadelphia Biblical University...

, author of the Ryrie Study Bible, says the name “Yahweh” appears 6,823 times in the Old Testament, and also many times in the New Testament when it directly quotes or paraphrases passages from the Old Testament containing God’s name. He writes that the name "Yahweh" is particularly associated with God's holiness, his hatred of sin and his provision of redemption. It may be that the contemporary translations of the Bible do not use "Yahweh" out of respect for the traditional Jewish reverence for this name.

The King James Bible, the New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version substitute the titles “LORD” and “GOD” with all the letters capitalized where the Name “Yahweh” actually belongs. The name "Yahweh" does not appear in the text of most popular English Bible translations on the market today. Jewish Bible scholars introduced this tradition in the mid-2nd century B.C., and it has continued since that time. In 1611, the inaugural edition of the King James Bible editors did not include the name ”Yahweh,” not being aware of the rendering, though Jehovah does appear several times.

There are some contemporary instances where the spelling Yahweh has come into religious use. The Sacred Name Movement
Sacred Name Movement
The Sacred Name Movement is a movement within Adventism in Christianity, propagated by Clarence Orvil Dodd from the 1930s, that claims to seek to conform Christianity to its "Hebrew Roots" in practice, belief and worship. The best known distinction of the SNM is its advocacy of the use of the...

 is a small Christian movement, active since the 1930s, which propagates the use of the name Yahweh in Bible translations and in liturgy. "Sacred Name Bibles
Sacred name Bibles
The term Sacred Name Bibles and the term sacred-name versions are used in general sources to refer to editions of the Bible that are usually connected with the Sacred Name Movement...

" are Bibles which render the Tetragrammaton by transliteration (or iconographically by inserting Hebrew script in the translation). An early such Bible was Rotherham's Emphasized Bible of 1902.

See also



  • God
    God
    God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

  • Ancient Semitic religion
  • Canaanite religion
    Canaanite religion
    Canaanite religion is the name for the group of Ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites living in the ancient Levant from at least the early Bronze Age through the first centuries of the Common Era....

  • Names of God in Judaism
    Names of God in Judaism
    In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title; it represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relationship of God to the Jewish people and to the world. To demonstrate the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for...

  • Tetragrammaton
    Tetragrammaton
    The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...


External links