In the second half of the first millennium C.E., Jewish scholars introduced a system of points to represent the missing vowels in the consonantal Hebrew text. When it came to God’s name, instead of inserting the proper vowel signs for it, they put other vowel signs to remind the reader that he should say ʼAdho‧nai′ (meaning “Sovereign Lord”) or ʼElo‧him′ (meaning “God”).
The Codex Leningrad B 19A, of the 11th century C.E., vowel points the Tetragrammaton to read Yehwah′, Yehwih′, and Yeho‧wah′. Ginsburg’s edition of the Masoretic text vowel points the divine name to read Yeho‧wah′. (Ge 3:14, ftn) Hebrew scholars generally favor “Yahweh” as the most likely pronunciation. They point out that the abbreviated form of the name is Yah (Jah in the Latinized form), as at Psalm 89:8 and in the expression Ha‧lelu-Yah′ (meaning “Praise Jah, you people!”). (Ps 104:35; 150:1, 6) Also, the forms Yehoh′, Yoh, Yah, and Ya′hu, found in the Hebrew spelling of the names Jehoshaphat, Joshaphat, Shephatiah, and others, can all be derived from Yahweh. Greek transliterations of the name by early Christian writers point in a somewhat similar direction with spellings such as I‧a‧be′ and I‧a‧ou‧e′, which, as pronounced in Greek, resemble Yahweh. Still, there is by no means unanimity among scholars on the subject, some favoring yet other pronunciations, such as “Yahuwa,” “Yahuah,” or “Yehuah.”
Since certainty of pronunciation is not now attainable, there seems to be no reason for abandoning in English the well-known form “Jehovah” in favor of some other suggested pronunciation. If such a change were made, then, to be consistent, changes should be made in the spelling and pronunciation of a host of other names found in the Scriptures: Jeremiah would be changed to Yir‧meyah′, Isaiah would become Yeshaʽ‧ya′hu, and Jesus would be either Yehoh‧shu′aʽ (as in Hebrew) or I‧e‧sous′ (as in Greek). The purpose of words is to transmit thoughts; in English the name Jehovah identifies the true God, transmitting this thought more satisfactorily today than any of the suggested substitutes.
Importance of the Name. Many modern scholars and Bible translators advocate following the tradition of eliminating the distinctive name of God. They not only claim that its uncertain pronunciation justifies such a course but also hold that the supremacy and uniqueness of the true God make unnecessary his having a particular name. Such a view receives no support from the inspired Scriptures, either those of pre-Christian times or those of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The Tetragrammaton occurs 6,828 times in the Hebrew text printed in Biblia Hebraica and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. In the Hebrew Scriptures the New World Translation contains the divine name 6,973 times, because the translators took into account, among other things, the fact that in some places the scribes had replaced the divine name with ʼAdho‧nai′ or ʼElo‧him′. The very frequency of the appearance of the name attests to its importance to the Bible’s Author, whose name it is. Its use throughout the Scriptures far outnumbers that of any of the titles, such as “Sovereign Lord” or “God,” applied to him.
Noteworthy, also, is the importance given to names themselves in the Hebrew Scriptures and among Semitic peoples. Professor G. T. Manley points out: “A study of the word ‘name’ in the O[ld] T[estament] reveals how much it means in Hebrew. The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs. . . . When a person puts his ‘name’ upon a thing or another person the latter comes under his influence and protection.”—New Bible Dictionary