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YHWH ( Hebrew יהוה; in many European languages ​​also YHWH ) is the un vocalized proper name of the God of Israel in the Tanakh . At the beginning of the Ten Commandments , the God of Israel introduces himself to his people as follows:

אנכי יהוה אלהיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים מבית עבדים
לא יהיה־לך אלהים אחרים על־פני


Ex 20.2-3  BHS

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the slave house.
You shall have no other gods besides me. ”- Ex 20,2–3  ESV

In the Bible, YHWH is the gracious deliverer and just covenant partner of the chosen people of Israel and at the same time the creator , keeper, judge and redeemer of the whole world. He is also referred to there with titles such as Elohim ("gods", pluralis majestatis for God) or El ("god", often associated with personal names or characteristics). In order to avoid pronouncing the proper name YHWH, Judaism uses the substitute readings Adonai (“gentlemen”) or HaSchem (“the name”) for this tetragram .

The tetragram

Tetragram in Phoenician (hypothetical), Old Hebrew and in Hebrew square script

Long form

The name of God always appears in the Tanach as an independent word from the Hebrew consonants Jod , He , Waw , He. Read from right to left they result in the tetragram (quadruple sign)יהוה"YHWH". According to older biblical dictionaries it appears 6,823 times in Tanach and 6,828 times in today's Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia . YHWH is by far the most common biblical proper name. Since this is never combined with other names in the Tanach, it is considered the actual name of God.

All extra-biblical evidence of the tetragram also denotes this god. The Mescha stele (around 840 BC) shows him for the first time as the (here inferior) people's god of the Israelites, parallel to the people's god of Moab : "And I took YHWH's devices from there and dragged them to Kemosh ."

Fragments from the 9th century BC Chr. In Kuntillet ʿAdschrud name YHWH next to the names of the deities Ba'al and Aschera (a fertility goddess) as well as place names like smrn , which is interpreted as evidence of a YHWH temple in the city of Samaria . Since Baal and Asherah are strictly rejected in the Bible, these extra-biblical inscriptions are considered evidence of a temporary syncretism in the northern Reich of Israel .

In business letters from Arad and Lachisch (7th / 6th century BC) only the divine name YHWH is used as a stylized greeting, wish for a blessing or an oath, for example: "YHWH may let my Lord hear [good news] right now" or " As true as YHWH lives! ”From this the renunciation of syncretistic monolatry and the implementation of the exclusive YHWH faith in Israel is inferred.

The independent divine name JHWH has not yet been recorded in cuneiform .

Short forms

Similarly spelled names of God are documented in the ancient oriental environment long before the beginning of the compilation of the Bible. Whether they designate the YHWH of the Bible is controversial. Clay tablets from Ugarit (on the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia ) from the 15th century BC Chr. Call a God jw as "son of El ". An ancient Egyptian list of place names from the time of Amenhotep III. (1402–1363 BC) calls "the land of the Shasu nomads of jhw ". This location is often interpreted as the name of God because the list also names other ethnic groups after their gods. Another list from the time of Ramses II (1279–1213 BC) indicates s-rr as the residential area of ​​these nomads : This is interpreted as the Seir , a mountain range southeast of Palestine. Since some biblical passages name the Seir as YHWH's place of origin, his identity with jhw is assumed.

In the post-exilic Elephantine papyri there are syncretistic formulas of oaths and blessings, such as “the anat of the Jhw” or “through Jhh and Khnum ”. The short forms Jhw and Jhh both stand for JHWH, who lived in the Jewish military colony of Elephantine (Egypt) until 410 BC. Was worshiped in a temple next to local Egyptian gods. The name of God is heldיהוה throughout these documents as יהוreproduced, although this is probably not a different way of speaking, but a different orthography , in which the last letter is omitted in the short end vowel as mater lectionis .

The short forms jw, jh, jhw, jhh and hjw are always theophoric (“God-bearing”) components of personal names in and outside of the Bible : usually preceded as the first syllable, rarely followed, never in the middle of the word. Names combined with such short forms are archaeologically from about 950 BC. Chr. Documents and always designate Israelites and Judeans, at the earliest from 500 BC. In Elephantine possibly also Persians and Egyptians.

short form first non-biblical evidence (BC) place biblical examples
Jw- 950 Northern Reich Jonathan
-jw 950 Northern Reich Miknejaw
Jhw- 900 Southern kingdom Yehoshua
Century 900 Southern kingdom
Century 700 Southern kingdom
Jw- ≈600 Egypt
-hjw 500 Elephantine
-jhw 300 Edfu Elijahu
-jh 200 Transjordan Zechariah , Isaiah , Hezekiah

The prefix Jhw- (vocalized Jeho- or Jahu-) was shortened to Jw- (Jo- or Ja-), the suffix -jhw was shortened to -jh (-jah) or -jw (-jo or -jaw). The vocalization and thus the pronunciation are in each case questionable.

Only the short form Jh appears sporadically in the Bible, for example in Ex 15.2. Mostly it appears with the imperative plural of hll ("praise, glorify, exclaim") combined in the exclamation Hallelu Jah ("praise God!"): Thus in a certain genre of biblical psalms .

Etymological explanations

The relationship between the short forms and the long form YHWH is unclear. Many Hebraists and Old Testament scholars tried to derive the long form from the independent or short forms contained in personal names. Godfrey Rolles Driver (1928) found its origin in the ecstatic exclamation "Jah!", Expressed in the song by the Red Sea in Ex 15.2  ELB : "My strength and my praise is Jah , because he has become my salvation." Bernardus Dirks Eerdmans (1942) saw the two-syllable short form Ja-Hu as its root , which he interpreted as an onomatopoeic exclamation of lightning and thunder. YHWH was originally a thunderstorm god. Sigmund Mowinckel (1961) explained the long form from the emphatic cult cry Ja Hu ("Oh Er!").

The laws of the Hebrew language, however, explain the short forms from the long form rather than the other way around: In verbs, closed syllables often merge into open ones, while they can be omitted from name endings. The long form is derived from the verb roots hwh or hjh . Hwh means in old Arabic "fall", "blow" or "love, desire". In the 19th century, some exegetes interpreted the name causatively as "the felling", "the waving". Julius Wellhausen (1894) translated it imperfectly as "It drives through the air, it blows". For these interpreters, too, YHWH was originally a weather god.

Most of the time, however, the long form following Ex 3.14 is interpreted as the form of the Hebrew verb hjh or its Aramaic equivalent hwh in the third person singular imperfect. This form was compared with analogously formed ancient oriental personal names, such as the Babylonian name Jahwi-Ilum, Jahwi-Adad or the Amorite name Jahwi-GN . Because the Aramaic verb hjh means “to live, to exist, to be, to be effective”, Wolfram von Soden (1966) translated YHWH with “he is”, “he proves himself” (as present, mighty, helping). William Foxwell Albright (1968) and others translated YHWH as causative from Aramaic hjh in the sense of a creation statement: "He who creates being", "who calls into existence", "who causes to be".

However, the causative form is not documented in the Tanach and contradicts the context of Ex 3.14, which refers the name as a "support formula" (Ex 3.12) to the saving act of the Exodus . The exodus god YHWH was only later identified with the world creator EL of the Canaanites . Following Gerhard von Rad (1962), many Old Testament scholars emphasize that the etymology of the Name of God cannot explain its meaning in the Tanach. Antonius H. Gunneweg (1993) emphasized: Every interpretation of the name YHWH as a statement about God's existence and nature implies a high degree of theological reflection, which cannot yet be assumed for the linguistic origin. A creation statement is unlikely because of the biblical Exodus and Sinai connection of this name. Because the Tanach nowhere goes back to Ex 3.14, Rainer Albertz (1996) said that Israel no longer knew its original meaning: “God's names are often much older than the current religions, and ideas about God are changing under the sleeve of the same name. "

Hypotheses of origin

It is unclear where the divine name YHWH comes from, where and when the Israelites got to know him. According to a thesis that has often been held since Julius Wellhausen (1878), the Midianites and Kenites worshiped a mountain god named YHWH. Some Israelite tribes joined this cult early on. The thesis is based on Ex 3.1, according to which Moses met YHWH in Midian (Ex 2.15) on Mount Horeb when he was the shepherd and son-in-law of the "priest of Midian". This priest, here called Jitro , later sacrifices YHWH as the highest God on the “God's Mountain” in gratitude for the exodus of the Israelites and celebrates a meal with their elders (Ex 18.1–12): Karl Budde (1900) interpreted this as Convert the Israelites to the YHWH cult of the Midianites. Volker Haarmann (2008) declared this exegesis to be untenable; In Ex 18.12 it is about the turning of a non-Israelite to the God of the Israelites YHWH.

According to Judge 4:11, Moses' father-in-law was called Hobab and belonged to the Kenites; according to Num 10: 29–32, he led the Israelites through the desert. The Kenites are therefore biblically regarded as friends of the Israelites (1 Sam 15.6; 30.29). Because their nomadic progenitor Cain according to Gen 4.15f. protected from extermination by a sign of YHWH, Ludwig Köhler (1966) also saw them as pre-Israelite worshipers of YHWH and part of the Midianites. The Gottesberg in the country of Midian (Ex 3.1) was identified with the " Mount Sinai " because of Ex 19.1.11 and interpreted as an active volcano because of the theophany motifs of smoke, fire and earthquakes in Ex 19.18 (since Hermann Gunkel 1903 ). This ruled out the localization on the Sinai Peninsula , which has been common since around 300 . Active volcanoes only existed in northwestern Arabia at the time in question, i.e. east of the Gulf of Aqaba .

Gunneweg (1964), Ernst Axel Knauf (1988), Klaus Koch (1998) and others continued the Midianite thesis. For the origin of a mountain god YHWH from a region south-east of Palestine, they also used passages that connect a “Coming of YHWH from Sinai” with theophany motifs reminiscent of Ex 19 (rain, thunderstorms, earthquakes, lights up) and the place names “Seir” and Edom ( Judg 5,4f .; Dtn 33,2; Hab 3,3; see Ps. 68,9). The Seir was a mountain range in the Edomite region southeast of the Dead Sea . Therefore the place of origin of YHWH was assumed there or further south in the Midianite area. Rainer Albertz (1992), Werner H. Schmidt (1997), Othmar Keel (2007) and others saw this localization confirmed by the information "(Land of) Schasu-jhw" and "Schasu-s'rr" in the lists of places of pharaohs.

YHWH's pre-Israelite, southern Palestinian origins are now hardly documented. For it is unclear whether jhw in the pharaoh lists means a divine name; the Shasu-jhw are also referred to areas north of Israel. In the biblical passages outside the Torah, “Sinai” means an area, not a single mountain. According to Henrik Pfeiffer (2005), these passages are all post-exilic, literarily dependent on one another and therefore cannot be used for the Midianite thesis. The name YHWH was also linked to the Exodus tradition early on (Ex 15:21). It is unclear which indication of origin is the older one and whether and how a pre-Israelite mountain god was identified with the accompanying exodus god of Israel.


The rewriting of the name of God was customary around the turn of the times in Palestinian Judaism, which was shaped by Hellenism and Pharisaism , in order not to unintentionally violate the commandment Ex 20.7 ("Do not abuse the name of YHWH, your God"). Only the high priest was allowed to pronounce the name of God on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), whereby the loud song of the Levites covered this acoustically. The temple destruction in 70 ended this practice.

The name of God was no longer mentioned in Judaism at least since 100 AD. Therefore, the knowledge of its original pronunciation was gradually lost. Because of the Masoretic punctuation in the Middle Ages , it was largely forgotten in Judaism itself.

Since the early 18th century, historically critical Old Testament scholars have tried to reconstruct the pronunciation of the tetragram and its original form. In doing so, they tied in with the biblical short forms and their masoretic vocalization. In 1749, the Lutheran theologian Romanus Teller enumerated the following readings: Jevo, Jao, Jahe, Jave, Javoh, Jahve, Jehva, Jehovah, Jovah, Jawoh or Javoh.

The pronunciation “Yahweh” had already been reconstructed around 1800; it is considered the most likely today. This is supported by the masoretic avoidance of the long vowel on the first syllable, the peculiarity of Hebrew to underlay open closing syllables of a verb with a long vowel, new pre- and post-exilic evidence from Israel's environment, which use the Jewish name of God as "Jawe", "Jabe" or "Jauwe" pass, and Greek transmissions from the 1st century such as iabe or iaoue . The Greek beta or omicron + Ypsilon was pronounced similarly to the Hebrew waw, for which there is no Greek equivalent.

YHWH in the Tanach

The name revelation

The tetragram YHWH in the text of a Torah scroll (roughly in the middle of the picture)

In the Tanach the name YHWH appears from Gen 2,4 in the second creation story, which is believed to be older. According to Gen 4:26, God was worshiped under this name in primeval times. This representation contradicts the calling history Ex 3.1-18 EU : After that, YHWH revealed his name for the first time to Moses when he asked  . The text describes God in the burning bush as "fire that burns but does not burn" (v. 2) and then explains (v. 6) the rare use of his name in Gen 12-50: He did not face Israel's patriarchs by name, Instead I called them by their name, as Moses did: "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham , the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob ." This is followed by the promise (v. 7f.):

“I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt and I have heard their loud complaint about their instigators. I know their suffering. I came down to snatch them from the hand of the Egyptians and to lead them up out of that land into a beautiful, wide country ... "

In response to his concerns and objections, Moses receives God's promise (v. 12): “I will be with you.” When he asked what name of God he should name the Israelites as the client, Moses received the answer (v. 14a):

אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶר אֶהְיֶה


'ehyeh' asher 'ehyeh

Only this passage from the Bible interprets the name of God. It goes back to the closely related Hebrew verbs hwh (“to be, to be”) and hjh (“to happen, to cause, to be there”), which can be translated presently or futurically: in the present tense with “I am who I am”, in the future tense with "I will be who I will be". Exegetes assume that the verse deliberately plays with this ambiguity. Because of the futuristic statement Ex 3.12, Ex 3.14 is also often translated into the future, for example: "I will be there for you"; “I will prove myself helpful to you”; “I am there (for you)”. For verse 14b affirms:

“I am the 'I-am-there'. And he continued: You should say to the Israelites: The 'I-am-there' has sent me to you. "

In verse 15, YHWH identifies himself with the gods of the patriarchs listed in verse 6 and emphasizes: "That is my name forever and that is how I will be called in all generations."

So the name of God is biblically indissolubly linked with the exclusive election of the people of Israel and their rescue from slavery: In this liberation story he explains himself, from there he wants to be interpreted, in this his identity proves and proves itself. He repeats this self-interpretation in the Bible even after the Exodus in order to preserve his being a subject, to renew his promise of salvation and at the same time to hide his figure ( Ex 33,19  LUT ):

"I want to let all my goodness pass before you and make known to you the name of YHWH: to whom I am gracious, I am gracious to him, and whom I have mercy on, I have mercy."

As a self-expression, the name of God is also otherwise closely connected with his grace , mercy and loyalty (Ex 34.6), but also with his jealousy (Ex 34.14), which wants to exclude other relationships with God in Israel.

In the Tanach there are no references to the name explanation from Ex 3.14. Only in Hos 1,9 (“not there for you”) is it considered that verse Ex 3:12 should negate. YHWH remains unavailable and sovereign to the person calling on him. For example, after Jacob was promised that he would be called “Israel”, when asked about the name of the stranger he received the answer ( Gen. 32,30  EU ): “Why do you ask for my name? And he blessed him in this place. ”Accordingly, God's speeches in prophecy in the Tanakh begin with the self-presentation formula:“ This is how YHWH speaks: I… ”The name of God never moves into the object position here. The self-statement “I am YHWH” became the key word in prophecy for the exclusive faith of Judaism.

Deliverer of the Hebrews

With the exodus from Egypt , YHWH's real story with the people of Israel begins for the Bible. In the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from the labor in Egypt this god shows his identity and from then on claims this people to be his “property” ( Hos 13,4  EU ):

"I am YHWH, your God, from the land of Egypt, and you shall know no other god than me and no savior but me alone."

The motif "YHWH, Israel's God from Egypt" is due to its frequency and distribution as the most important belief in the Tanakh. The exodus is considered the original date or the original creed of the YHWH religion. Its origin was therefore not a natural event or myth of the origins of the world, but the experience of an inner historical turning point for people who had no rights or meaning in the cults of ancient empires. The Exodus theme is the center of the biblical history of salvation in the Torah and the starting point for biblical legislation, historiography and prophecy. It formed the normative core of the all-Israelite confessions of faith (Deut. 6.20 ff .; Deut. 26.5-10), to which later Bible authors repeatedly came back (Jos 24.1-28; Judge 10.11; Ps 136; Hos 11, 1; Isa 51,9; Ez 23,3 and others). In contrast, it is absent in other books of the Tanakh, especially in specifically Jerusalem traditions and late Ketuvim (writings).

The Exodus tradition (Ex 1–15) was initially independent. The Miriam song ( Ex 15.21  EU ) is considered to be the nucleus and oldest creed of the Tanakh : “Miriam sang to them: Sing a song to the Lord, because he is high and exalted! He threw horses and chariots into the sea. ”The saving passage through the sea ​​of ​​reeds in front of the Pharaoh's army (Ex 14) is interpreted here as an encounter with the hitherto unknown YHWH, not as a happy coincidence. The praise of this God became the starting point for the more and more painted “signs and wonders ” with which the Bible depicts his superiority and humiliation of the Egyptian Pharaoh as his earthly opponent. Accordingly, the ancient oriental deification of dead or living rulers in Israel was rejected even after the rise of kingship there (e.g. in 1Sam 8: 5ff.).

Historically, only a small fraction of the later Israelites were in Egypt. A compulsory labor of groups of foreign origin in the construction of storage cities is for about 1200 BC. Under Ramses II. They were called HPR; the same root word or name ("Chabiru") can also be found in Akkadian and Sumerian documents of that time. It did not refer to an ethnic group, but to a social group of day laborers, slave workers, mercenaries or robbers. Accordingly, YHWH was not a tribal or popular god, but one with whom these landless groups, dependent on the great empires and repeatedly enslaved, associated unexpected experiences of liberation and rescue. This made it possible for other nomadic tribes to identify this divine name when they encountered them in the cultivated land of Canaan with their own independently transmitted religious traditions.

The exodus tradition was probably brought to Palestine by the tribe of Joseph and gradually grew together with other tribal traditions to form the common faith of Israel. The "Exodus from Egypt" combined with structurally analogous motifs of the "promise" from the nomadic patriarchal stories, the "leadership in the desert", the "revelation of the law" on Sinai and the " land conquest ". From this arose - according to the prevailing opinion probably only after the return from exile (539 BC) - the theological overall conception of the history of the origin of Israel in the Pentateuch . Jörg Jeremias also assumes that YHWH and Israel did not belong together from the beginning, but that it was probably only later that the Rachel tribes introduced the YHWH belief in Israel. This is supported by the fact that the most important sanctuaries of the time of the judges are in the area of ​​the frame tribes and that Jos 24:15 still knows of a decision-making situation. It was not a matter of course to believe in YHWH , as an early Israelite one still had to make a decision.

Joshua's speech in Shechem (Jos 24: 1-28) sums up the pre-state time without the Torah revelation (Ex 19-23) and gives the Israelites the choice of serving YHWH or the traditional gods of the father. The people promise in the form of a legal obligation to serve only YHWH. Gerhard von Rad interpreted this text as a reminder of the adoption of the YHWH belief by tribes that were not in Egypt. They would have linked their independent traditions to this salvation-historical creed only after the conquest of Israel . Today the text is mostly dated to the early royal period and is also interpreted as a rejection of a dynastic kingship.

The “election” of Israel to the “people of YHWH” in the exodus thus tended towards a continuous self-commitment of all Israelites and a responsible bond to this God, who united them into one people. The category of liberating salvation remained decisive for the interpretation of later historical experience, so that Judaism was able to cope with its historical crises and catastrophes in the memory of its origins. YHWH remained his guide of history and hope potential: also for other slaves and peoples and especially where points of detention of his faith, the temple, the social order and the land ownership were lost.

Federal and legal donors

The “covenant book” (Ex 19-24) combines the theophany of YHWH on the Sinai mountain of God (Ex 19), the proclamation of the commandments (Ex 20-23) and the covenant with the people of God Israel (Ex 24) in a larger narrative block. This probably preceded older legal corpora and land acquisition traditions and inserted into the course of salvation history as a station of the desert era (Gerhard von Rad). In addition to the exodus tradition, this is the second center of biblical YHWH theology in the Pentateuch.

The theophany is accompanied by terrifying natural phenomena that emphasize YHWH's holiness: In his “fire” (Ex 19:18; cf. 24:17) man would perish, so that God protects him from himself and commands distance (Ex 19:12 ; see 3.5). Only Moses as mediator of his will is allowed to approach him. The trumpet sounds (v. 13 and 19) and the priests are warned not to follow Moses (v. 24). Only after the commandments have been revealed and the covenant concluded, 70 representatives of Israel are allowed to “see God” and hold the covenant supper in his presence (Ex. 24: 9 ff.). These motifs show that the theophany narrative was developed in the time of the first temple and that it was regularly repeated as a festival.

The commandments are communicated to the whole people and opened with the gracious promise ( Ex 20.2f  EU ): "I am YHWH, your God, who has freed you from the slave house of Egypt ..." The recent liberation, understood as a special election of Israel, justified the exclusive legal claim of this god to his people: “You shall not have any other gods besides me.” The presumed pre-Israelite volcanic or thunderstorm deity is here completely identical with the YHWH of the Exodus: He can therefore also appear in other places and also non-Jews and with draw his people along, for example with the ark of the pre-state judges' time.

While the word "covenant" in Israel's environment mostly meant a mutual legal obligation to balance interests and secure peace, the Hebrew Berît is asymmetrical, especially in the promises to the patriarchs and in Deuteronomy : "YHWH, the God of Abraham" or "Israel" appears as a courteous, sovereign federal donor who reveals his right and imperatively demands that it be observed. "Israel, the people of YHWH" is his covenant partner, who is not entitled to arbitrarily claim rights vis-à-vis God and set up commandments that he has not given. But the promises of land, offspring, blessings , peace with neighbors, etc., which precede the commandments , the people can very well claim.

The prefixing of the Ten Commandments makes all following commandments the instruction of YHWH and places their observance under his promise of grace, but also under his retribution to those who break his right and deny him (Ex 34:14). The people have the choice between death or life, blessing or curse (Ex 23: 20–33; Lev 26), as the later great Moseredas Dtn 28 and Dtn 30 especially explain. Both inside and outside the covenant there are casuistically formulated legal clauses related to the law of the Hittites and the Babylonian Codex Hammurapi , alongside apodictic series of commandments that particularly concern ritual offenses and the protection of the weak. The latter are more often justified with the memory of Israel's liberation from slavery (Ex 22.20 and more).


Only from around 540 BC Post-exilic biblical texts that emerged in BC refer to YHWH as the “Creator of heaven and earth” (Gen 1–11; Ps 8, 19, 74, 77, 89, 104, 139; Deutero-Isaiah ; Book of Proverbs ; Job ). The Israelites adopted this titular formula from Canaan's religion, as suggested by Gen 14.18-22  EU : Melchizedek , king of “Salem” ( Jerusalem ) and a “priest of the Most High God” (El Eljon) , blesses Abraham after his victory the Eastern Kings "from the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth". Abraham recognizes Melchizedek's God by giving up part of the booty. He then swears by " YHWH , the highest God who made heaven and earth" to one of the defeated kings . Archaeological finds in the ancient oriental environment prove the title El Eljon and the creator attribute; Whether it designates the supreme god of the Canaanite pantheon El or another god is disputed.

Ps 93 reflects the adoption and re-stamping of Canaanite gods myths: YHWH is enthroned on it as king of the earth (an image that presupposes the temple cult) and enforces his universal rule against foreign mythical powers in order to preserve it permanently. Creation is understood as an ongoing process of struggle, not as a unique prehistoric act. Only the more recent Ps 74 extends the motif of the universal rule of God to the creation of the world. The creation of man is not a separate topic, even where his unique closeness to God is emphasized (Ps 8), but is classified in the praise of the Creator. Ps 86, 95, 100 and 149 also count Israel and the peoples among YHWH's creatures. Of the creation psalms, only Ps 104 shows a striking proximity to Akhenaten's sun psalm , who introduced the monotheistic cult of Atons in Egypt. But here, too, it is not the light of the sun itself, but YHWH who is praised as its author, who shows the stars the way (v. 19).

Unlike the beliefs about the Exodus god, which define him as the liberator from Egypt's slavery, statements about the Creator in the Bible are diverse and not tied to a specific worldview. The older of the two creation narratives (Gen 2, 4–25) describes YHWH from the perspective of the sedentary farmer as a gardener who moisturizes dry land and plants the Garden of Eden , and as a potter who then shapes animals and people from damp clay . He breathes Adam's breath of life into him, entrusts him with the Garden of Eden to “cultivate and preserve” life, creates a partner for him and gives him the task of naming the animals: Man, as God's partner, should preserve and rule all life.

The more recent exilic account of creation (Gen 1, 1–2, 2) is cosmologically oriented: The original state is like a watery primeval chaos ( tohuwabohu ) , above which God's spirit hovers (ruach) . These motifs are related to natural creation myths such as the Phoenician Sanchuniathon . The chaos does not occur God here but as a separate power over, but he mastered it all by the world it creates ( bara : one exclusively used for God verb), solely by its effective powerful word without drama, struggle and effort ( Ps 33.9  EU ): “He spoke and it happened; he ordered, and it was there. ”This word forms and structures the basic elements of the construction of the world: first the light that illuminates the darkness and distinguishes day from night. Then heavenly festivals and primeval chaos, sea and land are distinguished, followed by plants, fixed stars, sun and moon . These highest deities of Babylonia are deliberately not named by their names, but rather depotentiated to "luminous bodies" that are subordinate to life and that "rule" day and night, but only as time and waypoints for humans. This clear demarcation of the YHWH faith from the astral cults of the environment also confirmed the prophecy of exile (Isa 40:26). Then the ordered cosmos is populated with plants, aquatic animals, birds, land animals and finally humans. All of this happens in a working week after which God looks at his work, decides it is good, and rests on the seventh day. This establishes the Sabbath as a day of rest for Israel. This connects creation with the special election of Israel as a covenant people, who should make the slave liberator known as the true creator of the world and honor it with the daily and weekly rhythm of work and rest. This points to the authorship of priests who contrasted YHWH with the myths of the gods of Babylon. These were supposed to establish and secure the eternal rule of the God-kings with metaphysical powers. In contrast, both biblical accounts of creation are aimed at man and his life-sustaining partnership with God.

With Deutero-Isaiah the creation becomes the proof of the universal uniqueness of YHWH. More radically than in Gen 1 it says in Isa 45,7  EU : “I am YHWH and no one else anymore, to whom I make light and darkness, to whom I give peace and create harm. I am YHWH, who does all of this. ”This does not sanction the calamity that this prophet is heralding to finally overcome. But even in disaster, Israel only has to hold onto its God. The Babylonian myth of Marduk's victory over the chaos dragon , from whose fragments the world emerged, is related to YHWH and is closely linked to Israel's liberation from Egypt ( Isa. 51.9f  EU ; cf.Ps 74.13f .; Ps 89.10 –13):

“Wake up, like before at the beginning of the world! Wasn't it you who chopped up Rahab and stabbed the dragon? Wasn't it you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great depths, who made the bottom of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass through? "

The primeval flood and the Red Sea are equated here, God's creative action, which organizes the world in a meaningful way, and his liberating intervention in the course of history therefore merge directly into one another.

Proverbs interpret the word with which God created the world as wisdom (Proverbs 3:19), which then “plays” as a personal being before God (Proverbs 8:22 ff.). This is what the goddess Maat , who embodies the wise world order, did in Egypt . Here, however, wisdom is only God's first work, which accompanies his others without saying a word of its own. It sets out what Ps 19 :EU proclaims: “The heavens tell the glory of YHWH.” Job, who challenges this in view of the experience of unjust and senseless suffering (see: Theodicy ), is again referred to YHWH's wonderful works of creation before which his questions turn into astonished silence, repentance and praise (Job 38: 4ff.). At the same time, the word "I know that my Redeemer lives" ( Hi 19.25  EU ) expresses the expectation of a coming redemption.

The sanctification of the name of God

By revealing his name to Moses and thus choosing Israel to be his covenant people, according to the biblical view, he committed this people to "sanctify" his name internally and externally. According to Tanach, this happens in different areas:

  • in cult: In response to YHWH's promises of blessing, Abraham often built an altar where he called on God's name (Gen 12.8; 13.4; 21.33). Accordingly, the nameless family gods of the patriarchs were given their own cult places in the transition from nomadic to sedentary lifestyle, at which later only YHWH was worshiped. Because of the ban on images, his name took the place of the Canaanite cult images. While YHWH was presented as living in heaven and not tied to a specific location (Deut. 26:15), his name lived almost like a “doppelganger” of his being in certain places of worship and thus guaranteed his presence.
  • in the rejection of foreign cults in Israel. That this was not the case from the beginning, but that YHWH was syncretistically worshiped or identified together with Canaanite local gods is shown by the fight of the YHWH prophet Elijah in the early days of the kings for the sole validity of the YHWH cult (for example 1 Kings 18:24). In contrast to the Egyptian Re or Babylonian Marduk , only a few, very specific names of the many other gods - such as that of El Äljon (“highest god”) - were titularly related to YHWH: This remained his only proper name. So this was sanctified by recognizing its uniqueness and incomparability, also to all other peoples who did not initially know him (Ps 79: 6).
  • with YHWH's questioning before an all-Israeli defensive battle under a charismatic leader. With the “moving ahead” of the Ark of the Covenant - a kind of movable divine throne - the fighters received courage and confidence that they could win the battle under YHWH's leadership and assistance even against militarily superior opponents (for example Ps 20.8). In the great kingdom of King David this motif also turned into an appeal to the overthrow of inferior neighboring peoples (Ps 44: 6; Ps 118: 10).
  • with a priestly blessing for the people. Since the conquest, the Levites have been given the special task of blessing God's people with their name (Num 6:27; Dtn 10,8; see Aaronic blessing ). Later kings also took on this task (2 Sam 6:18). Since the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant and the construction of a central shrine, the dwelling of the YHWH name has been concentrated on the Jerusalem temple (Deut.; 14.24).
  • with the obedient fulfillment of the Torah commandments. The cult and socially critical scriptural prophets emphasized since the 8th century BC "Law and justice" to the poor and disadvantaged in Israel as the direction of all commandments, the disregard of which would lead to Israel's downfall (for example Mi 4,5).
  • with the appeal to God's help in need. By calling on his name, the prayer already experiences salvation (Ps 54: 3) and protection (Ps 20: 3). Wrongly accused called him in the temple or fled to a city ​​of asylum in order to find asylum from persecution and death (Ps 23: 3; 25: 11; 143; 11; Jer 14: 7). According to Isa 48: 9, calling YHWH protects against his anger.
  • with calling as a legal witness in court. An oath was usually affirmed with the name YHWH (Lev 19:12; Dtn 6:13). The abuse of this appeal to God for false oaths and false statements is forbidden in Ex 20.7 as the most serious offense analogous to the cult of foreign gods (Lev 18.21; 20.3) and threatened with God's retribution , which will eventually catch up with the perpetrator.
  • with the worldwide announcement of this name (Isa 12,4; Ps 105,1–3). This dimension was already laid out in the Exodus tradition: Ex 9:16 explains that YHWH's name should become known to all peoples through the plagues of Pharaoh. According to Jos 9: 9, some tribes of the Canaanites actually learned of the overthrow of Pharaoh and then tried successfully to alliance with the Israelites in order to be spared from extermination. The fact that the preaching of names was supposed to save other peoples as well, however, only came to the fore after the kidnapped Israelites returned from exile in Babylon. A promise of salvation later added to the book of Amos claims foreign peoples like Israel as YHWH's possession (Am 9:12). To recognize YHWH and his covenant with Israel worldwide is the meaning of the temple building according to 2 Sam 7:26.

The revelation of the name given to Israel becomes the goal of salvation history , especially in late post-exilic prophecy : in the end, YHWH himself will reveal his name to all the world in such a way that all idol worship will disappear and all people would recognize and honor him (Zech 14: 9; Is 45:23).


Hebrew scriptures before 70th

Ps 146.8 after the Biblia Hebraica with vocalized tetragram at the beginning of the line on the right

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls (from 250 BC) reproduce the tetragram and some of its substitute readings in ancient Hebrew script where the rest of the text was written in a different script. They also often require the substitute readings El, Elohim (“God” or “Gods”) or Adonai (“my Lord”; actually plural “my lords”, ie a pluralis majestatis ). The old Hebrew spelling for YHWH and its substitute readings was also retained in more recent Greek codices . This is considered a sign of special reverence for the name of God.


Scroll of the Twelve Prophets from Nachal Chever, 1st century, with the tetragram in lines 3, 5 and 13
Tetragram ΙΑΩ in the Septuagint fragment 4Q120 , 1st century BC Chr.

The Greek translation of the Tanakh, the Septuagint , gives the tetragram in the oldest manuscripts since the 2nd century BC. BC only with old Hebrew or Aramaic letters in the middle of the Greek text. The Hebrew name of God appears in Greek manuscripts from books of the Torah , the Psalms , the Book of Job and the Twelve Prophets . In some, the space for the tetragram is left free ( Papyrus Rylands 458 ), only in one manuscript ( 4Q120 ) it is written with the Greek letters ΙΑΩ.

It was only from around 150 onwards that Kyrios (Lord) appeared in Greek Bible manuscripts for the name of God. By the 9th century, this title replaced the Hebrew name entirely.

In the 4th century some copyists transferred the Hebrew consonants of the tetragram of their originals into the optically similar Greek letters ΠΙΠΙ ("PIPI").

Ex 3.14 translates the Septuagint with ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν ("I am the being"). This interpreted the verse as a statement about God's eternal mysterious identity in contrast to everything that can be sensed and as a state of an everlasting presence. This shifted the emphasis on meaning from dynamic action, in which God shows himself as a savior and helper (who is God-for-us?), To the static theory of the concept of essence or substance (what is God-in-himself?). This shows the influence of Hellenism and ancient metaphysics on Jewish theology in the 3rd century BC.

A Jewish tradition began with the Septuagint, according to which the various names of God in the Bible, including the substitute readings of his name, represent various aspects of his actions and characteristics of his being. The tetragram YHWH was mainly used for God's loving mercy, Elohim for God's acting in justice , the addition Zeba'oth (God or Lord “of hosts”) for warlike aspects of God, El Schaddaj for his punishments.

Rabbinic Judaism

The rabbinic Judaism preserved the tradition by the consonant text firmly agreed a binding of the Tanach to 100-135 and all different versions gradually displaced. Up to around 100 the address Adonaj or Adonaj Elohim prevailed in Bible readings in the synagogue . Since the substitute word Adonaj is otherwise only mentioned in prayer, Jews read the name of God when reading a Bible or prayer text aloud as haSchem (the name), so in the phrase Baruch haSchem ("blessed [be] the name").

The rabbinical tradition followed the self-interpretation of the name in Ex 3.14 and derived it from the three tenses of the verb hjh : hajah ("He was", perfect), hojêh ("He is", participle) and jihjêh ("He will his ", past tense). In doing so, she emphasized her belief in God's timeless presence in Jewish history. In Judaism, God's name revelation in close connection with his “coming down”, “saving” (Ex 3.8) or “mercy” is understood as an unpredictable and incomprehensible care for people. Jewish interpreters therefore particularly emphasize the aspect of God's grace, which is viewed as particularly sacred.

A Jew who pronounced the name publicly in a negative context ran the risk of suffering the death penalty in ancient Israel as a blasphemer (Lev 24:16). In the Mishnah, pronouncing the Name of God is implicitly forbidden by Abba Shaul adding those who pronounce the Name of God as it is spelled to the list of people who will have no part in the world to come. The name of God was only written out in the manuscripts of biblical books as well as Tefillin and Mezuzot .


In the tradition of Kabbalah , which began in the 2nd century, the interpretation of the tetragram with the help of speculative number symbolism has its firm place. In the Sithre Othioth ("Secrets of the Signs") from the Zohar (written around 1300) there is a longer treatise on the letters of the name of God in the context of the creation story.

The numerical values ​​of the Hebrew letters of the tetragram are 10-5-6-5, in the sum 26 . The Jewish Museum Berlin offered a special exhibition on Kabbalah in August 2004 with the title “10 + 5 = God. The power of signs ”. The title referred to the fact that the consonant "Jod" has the numerical value 10, "He" has the value 5, according to its position in the Hebrew alphabet. Both stand for the Hebrew short form of the tetragram (JH or "Jah"). The exhibition catalog commented: “… writing the name of God is a taboo in Judaism. The 15 is therefore represented with the letters (Waw) and (Teth) = 6 + 9. ”The exhibition itself only used the Arabic numerical values ​​10 + 5 for“ God ”, but not the Hebrew characters Jod and He. In doing so, she did not violate the Jewish taboo for pronouncing the name of God, since in Judaism only Hebrew is the holy language for the names of God.

Christian mystics like the Theosophist Papus ( Kabbalah ) took over elements of the Jewish Kabbalah and connected them with speculative statements to the Hebrew name Yehoshua , who in the New Testament to Ἰησοῦς (Jesus) for Jesus of Nazareth Graecized was. Jewish Kabbalists mostly rejected such works, partly because Yehoshua is spelled in Hebrew יְהוֹשׁוּעַ.


Between 700 and 1000 the Masoretes vocalized the Hebrew consonant text of the Bible according to uniform rules. Out of traditional reverence for God's holiness, they vocalized the tetragram with special vowel symbols, which signaled to those familiar with the Hebrew script that something different was to be pronounced there ( Qere ) than is written ( Ketib ). Mostly they vocalized YHWH with the vowels of Adonaj , whereby the A-sound of the initial syllable became the unstressed E-sound. Where Adonaj stood next to YHWH in the consonant text , they vocalized the name of God with the vowels of Elohim . A substitute reading is also common among the Samaritans : the manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch do not usually contain any vowel characters. Instead of the name of God, however, the traditional Samaritan reading tradition regularly reads Schēma (emphasized on the penultimate syllable, Samaritan-Aramaic “the name”). The readings Adonai (“Lord”), Elohim (“God”) or Schēma / Schəma / HaSchem (“the name”) avoid pronouncing the name of God and thus affirm its incomprehensibility and uniqueness. The Sofer (scribe) who made handwritten copies of sacred texts always paused for a moment before copying a divine name. This taboo contributed to the fact that the original correct pronunciation of YHWH was forgotten.

Today's editions of the Biblia Hebraica follow the Masoretic text and vocalize the name of God differently depending on the context. The punctuation of the words that are to be read at the point is used. So it is not about the vowels of the name of God (which is not read), but more specifically about the Schwa compositum, Cholem and Kamez [(a), o and a] from Adonaj, the Schwa compositum, Cholem and Chirek [( ä), o and i] from Elohim, or the Schwa compositum and Kamez of the Jewish-Aramaic word for "name" ( Schəma , the Hebrew equivalent would be: HaSchem ).

כְּתִיב Ketib (written) יְהוָה יְהֹוִה יְהֹוָה
Substitute word the name God Mr
Aramaic שְׁמָא
קְרֵי Qere (to read) הַשֵּׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲדֹנָי
transliterated HaSchem Elohim Adonaj

Modern translations of Ex 3.14

Moses Mendelssohn , who was the first Jewish theologian to translate the Hebrew Bible into German in the 18th century, translated Ex 3: 13-15:

"Moshe said to God:" If I come to the children of Israel and say to them: 'The God of your fathers sends me,' and they say, 'What is His name?' What should I answer them? "14 God spoke to them Moshe: "I am the being that is eternal." He went on: "This is how you should speak to the children of Yisrael: 'The eternal being that calls itself:' I am eternal 'has sent me to you." God went on to say to Moshe: “This is how you should say to the children of Yisrael: 'The eternal being, the God of your forefathers, the God of Avrahams, Yitzchaks and Yaakovs sends me to you. This is always my name, and this shall always be my word for thought in future times. ‹« "

This translation took into account that “Ehje” in Hebrew can mean both “I was”, “I am” and “I will be”. On the other hand, Mendelssohn interpreted the self-revelation reserved for the subject “I” (God) in time, which in a certain way eludes the interpretation of his “essence”, analogous to Greek metaphysics as a property of the everlasting presence of God.

In his translation of the Psalms, Mendelssohn gave the name of God to Jehovah in some places . Several Jewish translators followed him, at least in individual passages in the Bible: for example, the rabbis who revised Mendelssohn's translation in Saint Petersburg in the Book of Exodus; Julius Prince . In the 1920s, Lazarus Goldschmidt reproduced the tetragram over 4000 times in his unfinished three-volume translation. Simon Bernfeld also included “Yahweh” in the notes.

Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig justified their translation for Die Schrift (1926–1938): “The insight into the pronominal character or content of the original name form indicated the direction. That is why in our Germanization I and mine stand where God speaks, you and yours where he is addressed, he and being where he is spoken of. ... At individual passages of the Scriptures - outside of the Pentateuch - where the name manifests itself in its full disclosure, because precisely the presence of God is to be proclaimed, 'He is there' had to be dared. "They did not understand the name revelation as an ontological essential statement, but as a promise that God's accompanying, helping existence holds out for the needy people chosen by him. They translated Ex 3.14f. Hence: "I will be there as I will be ... So you should say to the sons of Yissrael: I am there, send me to you." Buber therefore paraphrased the statement of Ex 3.14 in connection with Dtn 30.12-14 like this: “You don't need to conjure me up; because I am there, am with you. But you cannot conjure me up either; for I am with you as I want to be; I myself do not anticipate any of my appearances, you cannot learn to meet me, you will meet me when you meet me. "

Current practice

The tetragram is only written out in biblical texts. In prayer books and biblical quotations, the name of God is represented with special letter combinations: usually with two or three iodines , more rarely with iodine-vaw-iodine , occasionally with a daleth , which represents the four letters of the tetragram as a number for the four. An abbreviated He stands for ha-Shem ( "name").

As a salutation and a kind of code name for YHWH, which should be pronounced in his place, Adonai ("my Lord", literally plural) continues to function. Where it replaces the name of God, it is usually translated as “the Lord”. It can also appear in connection with Elohim and is then usually rendered as “the Lord, my God” or “God the Lord”. Since the replacement reading adonaj was partly understood as "the name", other replacement readings or pronunciations have become commonplace instead. Orthodox Jews only use adonaj in the performance of prayer. Ha-shem is mostly used in profane speech or when reading . In certain circles, the mixed form ado-shem (adonaj + ha-shem) is also common.

Avoidance strategies have also developed for letter combinations similar to the tetragram. For example, names with the -yah or -yahu element are often only written in abbreviated form. The numbers 15 and 16, which according to the system should be written yod "he (10 + 5) and yod" waw (10 + 6), are expressed with teth "waw (9 + 6) and teth" zajin (9 + 7 ) out.

The word Elohim - God is often only written in abbreviated form. In Orthodox Jewish circles it is only pronounced in prayer. Otherwise the form Eloqim is used, which is occasionally also found in written form.

The most important replacement term in rabbinical literature is ha-qadosh, baruch hu! (“The Holy One, bless him!”). In the manuscripts, this common formula is mostly abbreviated הקב"ה. There are also terms that emphasize the spatial or temporal dimension of God.

In German, the spelling G'tt / G * tt (English Gd , French D.ieu, D-ieu, D'ieu or D.eu ) also became common for "God" to avoid the risk of name abuse in the sense of Avoid Ex 20.7. Gd is usually pronounced like God [ gɔt ], or the word is paraphrased as Adonaj or ha- shem when reading aloud like YHWH . However, the sanctity of the word “God” is controversial because it is not a name but a general term. Most rabbis believe that the word is only sacred in Hebrew and that it can be erased in any other language. Even so, most Orthodox and many other Jews regard the spelling of Gd as a minhag (custom).


New Testament

The early Christianity was born at a time when already largely taboo than Judaism the name of God and Adonai had replaced ( "[My] Lord"). Frank Crüsemann suspects that the Septuagint texts that the New Testament authors knew contained the name of God with Hebrew letters or with special characters. The scriptures of the New Testament (NT) were written in the Greek then used ; only a few sayings of Jesus have come down to us in Aramaic .

The divine name YHWH does not appear in the NT. Its short forms are also contained in the NT in Hebrew personal names and in the “ Hallelujah ” (Rev 19: 1-6). He is regularly quoted in the Bible as kyrios ("lord", "owner", "master"). The NT thus ties in with the language used in the Septuagint, which translates the replacement name Adonaj with Kyrios .

Jesus of Nazareth was an Aramaic speaking, possibly rabbinically trained Galilean . His Hebrew first name “Yehoshua”, Western Aramaic “Yeshua” or “ Jeschu ”, also contains a short form of God's name. The Greek first name Jesus , which occurs about 900 times in the NT, is therefore the sentence: "YHWH saves" or "YHWH is salvation". Jesus spoke several times of the “name of God” (Mt 6,9; Joh 17,6,26; Joh 12,28). His prohibition of all swearing (Mt 5: 33-37) intensified a Jewish tradition of avoiding the name of God when swearing.

Next to Christos, Kyrios is the most frequent sovereign title for Jesus in the NT. According to Phil 2,11  EU, this title is a gift of God (YHWH) himself to his son, because he obediently bore death on the cross and so renounced his power. Accordingly, in the NT some actions are ascribed to Jesus Christ for YHWH or for YHWH: The way is to be prepared for both (Mal 3,1; Mt 11,10); both “test the kidneys and hearts” (Jer 17:10; Rev 2:23) and forgive sins (Mk 2,5f.); both are called "Lord of lords" (Ps 136: 3; Rev 17:14) and "the first and the last" (Isa 44: 6; Rev 1:17).

The unique relationship between YHWH and Jesus Christ is described in the NT with the salutations “Father (Jesus Christ)” for YHWH and “Son (of God)” for Jesus, for example in the mission statement Mt 28:19  EU . The “father” metaphor was predetermined in the Tanakh as an address to YHWH as the creator and sustainer. Jesus of Nazareth took up the Aramaic address Abba ("Father") and taught his disciples in the Lord's Prayer to call on God as "Father" (Mt 6: 8f.). This was followed by the later Christian doctrine of the Trinity . Due to their influence, the proper name YHWH was largely replaced in Christianity by the title " God the Father " (God the Father, God the Father).


JEHOVAH Raymundus Pugio Fidei 1270 a.png

The spelling Jehovah (h) goes back to the Dominican Raymundus Martinus . He reproduced the tetragram in his Latin-language work Pugio Fidei adversus Mauros et Judaeos (1278; numerous copies and reprints in the following centuries) with Iehovah . He combined the vowels eoa of the replacement word Adonaj , with which Masoretic Bible manuscripts dotted the name of God, with the consonants I (J) -HV (W) -H. This reading was based on ignorance of the masoretic punctuation that the substitute word required to be read.

Some theologians have adopted this spelling since the 16th century, such as Petrus Galatinus (1518), William Tyndale (1530) and Immanuel Tremellius (1580). However, even then, other theologians who knew the Masoretic practice, such as Johannes Drusius, contradicted them .

On and in church buildings in Europe, inscriptions Jehovah or Iehovah have appeared more often since the time of the Reformation, as well as in the texts of some evangelical hymns. The chorale “To you Jehovah I want to sing” from 1695 was included in today's Evangelical Hymnbook (EG 328); "Jehovah" was replaced by "O Most High". Jehovah can also be found in other compositions, including oratorios by Georg Friedrich Handel , Giuseppe Verdi's opera Nabucco , Franz Schubert's song “Die Allmacht” (D 852 op. 79,2), as well as in poetic works such as Heinrich Heine's ballad Belsazer .

The spelling Jehovah also penetrated some German Bible translations, including the Elberfeld Bible from 1891 and 1905. The editors later expressly distanced themselves from it. It can also be found on coins.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have called themselves this since 1931 and use this spelling in their " New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures " (German complete edition since 1971) for YHWH in the OT and Kyrios in the NT. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) mostly refers to Jesus (not God) as Jehovah in their scriptures .


Martin Luther translated the verse Ex 3.14 in his Luther Bible from 1545 into early New High German: "I will be who I will be". In the NT he translated Kyrios where God meant it as the Father of Jesus Christ, just like YHWH in the OT with LORD (150 times). Where Kyrios Jesus Christ as Son of God says, he translated it with Lord .

Most evangelical Bible translations also translate YHWH with Lord following the Jewish tradition . Some distinguish between LORD and LORD in order to point out that YHWH or Adonaj could be in the original text at this point ; for Adonaj YHWH then stands accordingly Mr. GOD or “Mr. LORD”. Most other languages ​​do the same.

The around 1900 by Emil Kautzsch published and many Protestant exegetes Text Bible YHWH translated wherever this name in the original Hebrew text appears, with "Yahweh". The Bible in Righteous Language (2006) does not specify a translation, but instead offers its readers alternating reading options: Adonaj, the Eternal, the Eternal, Shekhina, GOD, I-am-there, the name, the living, the living, ErSie etc. The New Evangelistic Translation (NIV) gives the name of God throughout the Old Testament with Yahweh .

The unrevised standard translation (1980) used Yahweh in 133 passages , but wrote Herr in most passages . In the revised standard translation (2016), the tetragram is represented uniformly by " Lord ". This follows the standards of the Vatican for the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the vernacular (Liturgiam authenticam) from 2001: With regard to the church tradition, the tetragram should only be represented by a word that corresponds to the Latin dominus ("Lord"). In the Herder Bible (“Benedict Bible”) the word “Yahweh” was also replaced by “Lord”.

Exegetical-theological commentaries

The Old Testament scholar Ludwig Köhler (1936) emphasized on Ex 3.14: “'I am who I am' is a statement that refuses to provide information. God does not reveal the secret of his being to Moses. Who is God, Moses will see in his work. "

For the Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad , biblical theology was thus differentiated from the ancient oriental environment: There the name always reveals the whole "essence" of its wearer so that it is tangible in it. This revelation was indispensable for the cult in order to create a “memory” of the deity: “The name forces the figure to remain and guarantees that man will find it again and again.” Only those who knew her name could summon a deity and interested in their own need. This was inevitably linked to abuse for human interests. So God or demons in the name were magic for magic formula , summon at which the common (cf. art. Rumpelstiltskin ).

For the Old Testament scholar Walther Zimmerli , Ex 3.14 also rejects this abuse. The speaking subject reserves his or her self-revelation and sets an insurmountable limit to all attempts to deduce God's essence from his name: "For Israel the name of Yahweh is a name that establishes the personal secret, not a name that identifies the essence of Yahweh."

From there, many Jewish and Christian interpreters emphasize the future aspect. Ernst Bloch translated Ex 3.14 as “I will be who I will be” and contrasted this being, which will only be complete in the future, with a timeless, unchangeable existence of God. These represent the name of Apollo, handed down by Plutarch : "El: You are". Walter Kreck dedicated the work title “God's being is in the making” to the relationship between God's present and future. Following Martin Buber, Hans Küng named both translation options: “I am there as I am” or “I am there as him I will be there. ”This is not a metaphysical essential statement like“ being-itself ”or“ being-in-itself ”in Thomism , but a declaration of intent for presence, dynamic existence, being present, being real, effective, without objectification, determination or allow the consolidation of an image of God.

Following the two aspects of the rejection in view of God's subject being, the promise in view of God's healing work in history, Karl Barth commented : “I am the one whose real name no one repeats - that is significant enough: the revealed name itself Its wording is intended to remind of the concealment of the revealed God. ”Barth later interpreted this aspect called“ eschatological reservation ”- God only knows who he will be and how he will show himself - as the openness of the Old Testament to the incarnation God in Jesus Christ: "The name of Yahweh, who in the Old Testament is the sole source of all consolation and salvation, is now concretely filled through the salvation event, the subject of which is the person Jesus."

Use in worship

With the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam from 2001, the Vatican demanded that the tetragram with an equivalent for "Lord" be translated into the respective national languages. On June 29, 2008, Cardinal Francis Arinze and Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, representing the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Order of the Sacraments, wrote to all Roman Catholic Bishops' Conferences in the world: The name of God should be used in liturgy, prayers and hymns out of respect for Jewish tradition and in Loyalty to the customs of Christian tradition can no longer be expressed. With this Pope Benedict XVI. responded to a request made by the Roman chief rabbi Riccardo Di Segni in January 2006.



To the tetragram

Biblical religious and social history

Old Testament theology

  • Frans Hendrik Breukelman : Sjemot: de eigen taal en de vertaling van de Bijbel ", BT II / 2. Kok, Kampen, 2009, ISBN 978-90-435-1705-8 (only Dutch, German: Names: Die Sprache und die Translation of the Bible )
  • Erhard S. Gerstenberger : Yahweh - a patriarchal God? Traditional image of God and feminist theology. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 1988, ISBN 3-17-009947-7 .
  • Erhard S. Gerstenberger: Theologies in the Old Testament. Plurality and Syncretism of Old Testament Faith in God Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-17-015974-7 .
  • Antonius HJ Gunneweg: Biblical Theology of the Old Testament. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 1993, ISBN 3-17-012199-5 .
  • Otto Kaiser : The God of the Old Testament. In: Theology of the OT Volume 1 Foundation. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1993, ISBN 3-8252-1747-7 .
  • Kornelis Heiko Miskotte : When the gods are silent. From the meaning of the Old Testament. Stoevesandt, Munich 1963; Spenner, Kamen 1995, ISBN 3-927718-66-1 . (For YHWH see pages 127–301)
  • Werner H. Schmidt : Old Testament Faith in its History. 4th edition. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1982, ISBN 3-7887-0655-4 .
  • Gerhard von Rad : Theology of the Old Testament Volume 1: The theology of the historical traditions of Israel. (1969) 8th edition. Christian Kaiser, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-459-00410-X .
  • Walther Zimmerli : I am Yahweh. In: Collected Essays on the Old Testament Volume 1: God's Revelation. Theological Library Volume 19, Christian Kaiser, Munich 1963/1969, ISSN  0563-430X .
  • Walther Zimmerli: Outline of the Old Testament theology. 5th edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1985, ISBN 3-17-008956-0 .


  • Gérard Encausse: The Kabbalah of Papus. German translation by Julius Nestler. (1900) Marix, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-937715-61-4 .

Kiddush HaSchem

  • Verena Lenzen: Jewish life and death in the name of God. Studies on the Sanctification of the Divine Name (Kiddush HaSchem). Pendo, Zurich 2002, ISBN 3-85842-460-9 .

Web links

Commons : Tetragrammaton  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The original pronunciation of the name is unknown.
  2. ^ Francis Brown, HFW Gesenius, Samuel Rolles Driver, Charles Augustus Briggs (Eds.): A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic. (Reprint of 1906 edition) Clarendon Press, 1952, ISBN 0-19-864301-2 , p. 1059.
  3. ^ Wilhelm Gesenius (ed.): Hebrew and Aramaic concise dictionary on the Old Testament. Second partial delivery. 18th edition. Springer, 1995, ISBN 3-540-58048-4 , p. 446.
  4. Christian Molke: The text of the Mescha stele and the biblical historiography. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-631-55807-4 ; Othmar Keel, Max Küchler, Christoph Uehlinger: Places and landscapes of the Bible. A Handbook and Study Guide to the Holy Land, Volume 4.1. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 3-525-50177-3 , p. 212
  5. Manfred Weippert: Yahweh and the other gods: Studies on the religious history of ancient Israel in its Syrian-Palestinian context. Mohr / Siebeck, Tübingen 1997, p. 14f.
  6. Dirk Schwiderski: Handbook of the north-west Semitic letter form: A contribution to the question of authenticity of the Aramaic letters of the Esra book. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-11-016851-0 , p. 46 , p. 64 and more often
  7. Othmar Keel, Max Küchler, Christoph Uehlinger: Places and landscapes of the Bible. A Handbook and Study Guide to the Holy Land, Volume 4.1. Göttingen 2007, p. 547
  8. Manfred Weippert: Yahweh . In: Dietz Otto Edzard, Erich Ebeling, Bruno Meissner (Hrsg.): Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Aräologie Volume 5: Ia - Kizzuwatna. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1976–1980, ISBN 3-11-007192-4 , pp. 246–253, here: p. 248.
  9. ^ John I. Durham: Proclamation and Prescence. Mercer University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-86554-101-9 , pp. 53 and footnotes 20-22
  10. Reinhard Müller: Yahweh as weather god: Studies on ancient Hebrew cult poetry based on selected psalms. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 3-11-020731-1 , p. 243, fn. 50
  11. Anke Joisten-Pruschke : The religious life of the Jews of Elephantine in the Achaemenid period. Harrassowitz, 2008, ISBN 3-447-05706-8 , pp. 60 , 90 , 210
  12. A. Ungnad: Aramaic papyrus from Elephantine. Pp. III-IV, ( online ).
  13. Dietz Otto Edzard, Erich Ebeling, Bruno Meissner: Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Aräologie Volume 5: Ia - Kizzuwatna. Berlin 1999, p. 247f.
  14. Christoffer Theis, Jhwh in an ancient Egyptian magic spell ?, in: GM 242 (2014), pp. 105–110.
  15. Klaus Seybold: The blessing and other liturgical words from the Hebrew Bible. Theological Verlag, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-290-17320-8 , pp. 89-93
  16. Godfrey Rolles Driver: The original form of the name "Yahweh": evidence and conclusions. In: Journal for Old Testament Science (ZAW) 46/1928, pp. 7–25
  17. Bernardus Dirks Eerdmans: The Name Jahu. In: Pieter Arie Hendrik De Boer (Ed.): Oudtestamentische Studiën. Brill Archive, Leiden 1954, pp. 22-29
  18. ^ Sigmund Mowinckel: The Name of the God of Moses. Hebrew Union College Annual (HUCA) 32/1961, pp. 121-133; quoted from George Wesley Buchanan: The Consequences of the Covenant. Brill, Leiden 1970, p. 317, fn. 1
  19. Ernst Jenni, Claus Westermann: Theological dictionary to the Old Testament. Christian Kaiser, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-290-11259-4 , Sp. 544
  20. ^ Wilhelm Gesenius (ed.): Hebrew and Aramaic concise dictionary on the Old Testament. Second partial delivery. 1995, p. 447
  21. Otto Eißfeldt: JHWH. In: Kurt Galling (Hrsg.): The religion in past and present, Volume 3 (H – Kon). Mohr, Tübingen 1965, p. 523
  22. ^ Julius Wellhausen: Israelite and Jewish history. (1894) 10th edition. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-11-017463-4 , p. 23, fn. 1
  23. Reinhard Müller: Yahweh as weather god: Studies on ancient Hebrew cult poetry based on selected psalms. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 3-11-020731-1 , p. 3 ; Othmar Keel, Max Küchler, Christoph Uehlinger: Places and landscapes of the Bible. A Handbook and Study Guide to the Holy Land Volume 4.1. Göttingen 2007, p. 203
  24. ^ Rainer Albertz: Religious history of Israel in the Old Testament period Volume 1: From the beginnings to the end of the royal era. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1996, p. 85
  25. Martin Rose: Yahweh: on the dispute over the Old Testament name of God. Theological Verlag, 1978, p. 33f.
  26. Dietz Otto Edzard, Erich Ebeling, Bruno Meissner: Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Aräologie Volume 5: Ia - Kizzuwatna. Berlin 1999, p. 252
  27. Wolfram von Soden: Yahweh: He is, He proves himself. WO 3, 1966, pp. 177-187
  28. William F. Albright: Yaweh and the Gods of Canaan. 1968, p. 146ff .; DN Friedman, P. O'Connor: JHWH. In: Theological dictionary to the Old Testament Volume III , 1982, pp. 533-554
  29. ^ Ernst Würthwein, Antonius H. Gunneweg, Otto Kaiser (ed.): According to the text. Essays and contributions to the hermeneutics of the Old Testament. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 3-525-53564-3 , p. 128 ; Walter Zimmerli: Outline of the Old Testament theology. 5th edition. Stuttgart 1985, p. 14
  30. Werner H. Schmidt: The name of Jahwename and Ex 3.14. In: Ernst Würthwein, Antonius H. Gunneweg, Otto Kaiser (Ed.): According to the text. Essays and contributions to the hermeneutics of the Old Testament. Göttingen 1997, p. 123
  31. ^ Antonius H. Gunneweg: Biblical Theology of the Old Testament: A Religious History of Israel in Biblical-theological View. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-17-012199-5 , pp. 77ff.
  32. ^ Rainer Albertz: Religious history of Israel in the Old Testament period Volume 1: From the beginnings to the end of the royal era. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1996, p. 86
  33. ^ Karl Budde: The religion of the people of Israel up to exile. J. Ricker, 1900, pp. 17-19
  34. Volker Haarmann: YHWH worshipers of the peoples: The turning of non-Israelites to the God of Israel in Old Testament traditions. Theologischer Verlag, Zurich 2008, pp. 78–81
  35. Ludwig Köhler: Theology of the Old Testament. Mohr / Siebeck, Tübingen 1966, ISBN 3-16-111271-7 , p. 27f.
  36. Paul Maiberger: Topographic and historical studies of the Sinai problem. Universitätsverlag, 1984, ISBN 3-7278-0300-2 , p. 23ff.
  37. ^ Antonius H. Gunneweg: History of Israel to Bar Kochba. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1976, ISBN 3-17-002989-4 , p. 29
  38. ^ Antonius H. Gunneweg: Mose in Midian. In: Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 61, 1964, pp. 1–9; Ernst Axel Knauf: Midian. Studies on the history of Palestine and Northern Arabia at the end of the 2nd millennium BC Chr. Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1988, ISBN 3-447-02862-9 , pp. 40-63; Klaus Koch: Yahwa's move from the desert mountain to Canaan. In: Manfried Dietrich , Ingo Kottsieper (ed.): "And Mose wrote this song down". Festschrift for Oswald Loretz. AOAT 250, Münster 1998, pp. 437-474
  39. Hermann Spiekermann and others: History of the people of Israel and its neighbors in outline: From the beginnings to the time when the state was formed. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 3-525-51679-7 , p. 114
  40. ^ Rainer Albertz: Religious history of Israel in the Old Testament period Volume 1: From the beginnings to the end of the royal era. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1996, p. 83 ; Werner H. Schmidt: The Jahwename and Ex 3.14. In: Ernst Würthwein, Antonius H. Gunneweg, Otto Kaiser (Ed.): According to the text. Essays and contributions to the hermeneutics of the Old Testament. Göttingen 1997, p. 132 ; Othmar Keel, Max Küchler, Christoph Uehlinger: Places and landscapes of the Bible. A handbook and study guide to the Holy Land Volume 4.1, Göttingen 2007, p. 200 ; Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson and Others: History of the Jewish People: From the Beginnings to the Present. Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-406-55918-2 , p. 58
  41. Reinhard Müller: Yahweh as weather god: Studies on ancient Hebrew cult poetry based on selected psalms. Berlin 2008, p. 243, fn. 50
  42. ^ Stefan Timm: Sinai. In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie Volume 31, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-11-016657-7 , p. 284
  43. Henrik Pfeiffer: Jahwes Coming from the South: Jdc 5, Hab 3, Dtn 33 and Ps 68 in their literary and theological history environment. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-525-53075-7 , p. 260
  44. Werner H. Schmidt: Old Testament Faith in its History. 1982, pp. 54f.
  45. Romanus Teller: The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1749
  46. Otto Eißfeldt: Yahweh. In: Kurt Galling and others (ed.): The religion in history and present volume 3. 3rd edition. 1956, p. 515 f.
  47. Anja Angela Diesel: “I am Yahweh”: the rise of the I-am-Yahweh statement to the key word of Old Testament monotheism. Neukirchener Verlag, 2006, ISBN 3-7887-2138-3
  48. Sabine Frank: The Exodus Motif of the Old Testament. Lit Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3-8258-7510-5 , pp. 61-65
  49. ^ Rainer Albertz: Religious history of Israel in the Old Testament period I: From the beginnings to the end of the royal era. 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1996, p. 68ff.
  50. Jörg Jeremias: Theology of the Old Testament . 2017, p. 16-17 .
  51. ^ Gerhard von Rad: Theology of the Old Testament Volume I: The Theology of the Historical Traditions of Israel. 10th edition. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 1987, ISBN 3-579-05002-8 , p. 136
  52. Bernd Janowski, Mark S. Smith, Hermann Spieckermann, Reinhard Müller: Kingship and Lordship of God: Investigations on the Old Testament criticism of the monarchy. Mohr / Siebeck, Tübingen 2004, p. 226 ff.
  53. Herbert Niehr: The highest God. Old Testament YHWH belief in the context of the Syrian-Canaanite religion of the 1st millennium BC Chr .. Walter de Gruyter, 1990, ISBN 3-11-012342-8 , p. 124, fn. 27
  54. Cornelis Houtman: Heaven in the Old Testament: Israel's worldview and worldview. Brill Academic Publications, Leiden 1993, ISBN 90-04-09690-6 , pp. 86f.
  55. Article creator / creation II. In: Horst Robert Balz (Ed.): Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Volume 30. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-11-016243-1 , pp. 265-267
  56. Jörg Lanckau: The Lord of Dreams. Theological Publishing House, Zurich 2006, p. 174
  57. ^ Gerhard von Rad: Theology of the Old Testament Volume 1. 6. Edition. Christian Kaiser, Munich 1969, p. 196
  58. Martin Rösel: Adonaj - why God is called "Lord". Mohr / Siebeck, Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-16-147193-8 , p. 208 ; Johann Maier: The Qumran-Essener: The texts from the Dead Sea, Volume III: Introduction, time calculation, index and bibliography. UTB, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-8252-1916-X , p. 8 ; Folker Siegert: Between the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament: an introduction to the Septuagint. Lit, 2001, ISBN 3-8258-5012-9 , p. 98
  59. Papyrus Fouad 266 , 2nd / 1st century. v. , The scroll of the twelve prophets 8HevXIIgr, 1st century AD, u. a.
  60. Gérard Gertoux : The Name of God Y.eH.oW.aH Which is Pronounced as it is Written I_Eh_oU_Ah. It's story. Lanham, New York, Oxford 2002, pp. 99-108
  61. ^ Mishnah Sanhedrin 10.Retrieved February 27, 2020 .
  62. Zeev Ben-Ḥayyim: The Literary and Oral Tradition of Hebrew and Aramaic Amongst the Samaritans , Vol. IV: The Words as pronounced , Jerusalem 1977, 327–329.
  63. ^ Frank Matheus: Introduction to Biblical Hebrew: Study Grammar. 7th, revised edition, 2017, pp. 18, 22, 26.
  64. Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig: The five books of instruction. Lambert / Schneider, Heidelberg 1981, ISBN 3-7953-0180-7 , p. 158
  65. Martin Buber: The Faith of Judaism. (1928) In: Shalom Ben-Chorin (Hrsg.): Lust in the knowledge: Jewish theology in the 20th century. Piper, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-492-10879-2 , pp. 147-160; here p. 159
  66. Klaus Koch: Name of God. In: Reclams Bibellexikon, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-15-010272-3 , p. 1119
  67. Frank Crüsemann: The Old Testament as a truth space of the new: The new view of the Christian Bible. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 2011, ISBN 978-3-579-08122-9
  68. Martin Karrer : Jesus Christ in the New Testament. (Floor plans for the New Testament; 11), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 3-525-51380-1 , p. 344
  69. Martin Vahrenhorst: “You shouldn't swear at all”: Matthew in the halachic discourse. Neukirchener Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3-7887-1889-7 , p. 366
  70. Manfred Görg, Bernhard Lang: New Bible Lexicon - Complete Edition. Patmos, 1994, ISBN 3-545-23074-0 , col. 261
  71. ^ Robert J. Wilkinson: Tetragrammaton: Western Christians and the Hebrew Name of God: From the Beginnings to the Seventeenth Century. Brill, Leiden 2015, ISBN 978-90-04-28462-3 , pp. 353-356
  72. ^ Robert J. Wilkinson: Tetragrammaton: Western Christians and the Hebrew Name of God: From the Beginnings to the Seventeenth Century. Brill, Leiden 2015, p. 381
  73. Eduard Emil Koch: History of the hymn and hymn of the Christian, in particular the German Evangelical Church, Vol. 5: First main part, the poets and singers. (1876) Reprint, Forgotten Books, 2018, ISBN 0-365-96177-9 , p. 46
  74. Wolfgang Herbst (Ed.): Who is who in the hymnal? 2nd edition, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-50323-7 , p. 65
  75. Albert Scheibler: Georg Friedrich Handel: Oratorio Guide. Edition Cologne, 1993, ISBN 3-928010-04-2 , index
  76. ^ Andrea Lindmayr: Franz Schubert - The fragmentary work , Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, 2003, p. 151 f.
  77. ^ Günter Hartung: Jews and German literature. Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 2006, ISBN 3-86583-020-X , p. 120
  78. Rolf E. Gerlach: Carl Brockhaus: A life for God and the brothers. R. Brockhaus, Wuppertal 1994, ISBN 3-417-29386-3 , p. 141 and fn. 465
  79. Sarah Ruth Pohl: External and internal observations and statements on education in a closed religious system using the example of Jehovah's Witnesses. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 3-631-60036-4 , p. 101 f.
  80. Gerald Willms: The Wonderful World of Sects: From Paul to Scientology. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 3-525-56013-3 , p. 169
  81. Ludwig Köhler: Theology of the Old Testament. Tübingen 1966, p. 235
  82. Gerardus van der Leeuw : Phenomenology of Religion 1933, p. 135; quoted in Gerhard von Rad: Theology of the Old Testament Volume 1. 6th edition. Christian Kaiser, Munich 1969, p. 195, fn. 15
  83. Walther Zimmerli: The instruction of the Old Testament on the business of language. In: Walther Zimmerli: Collected essays on the Old Testament Volume 1: God's Revelation. Christian Kaiser, Munich 1963, pp. 277–299, here: p. 289
  84. Ernst Bloch: Principle Hope Volume III. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1969, pp. 1457f.
  85. Hans Küng: Does God Exist? P. 680
  86. ^ Karl Barth: Kirchliche Dogmatik Volume I / 1, p. 335
  87. ^ Karl Barth: Kirchliche Dogmatik Volume III / 2, p. 758
  88. Zenit.org, August 21, 2008: The Hebrew name of God "Yahweh" should no longer be uttered in Catholic songs and church services
  89. ^ Jewish-Christian Relations, November 1, 2008: Vatican prohibits “Yahweh” mentioning in liturgy
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on February 18, 2006 .