We are sometimes asked about our practice of not attempting to pronounce the sacred name of God. Hopefully this article will help you better understand this practice and consider what your own will be.
In mainstream Christianity, the name of God isn’t really a topic that receives much focus. But when people start down the Messianic path, one of the first things they learn is that Jesus’ mother actually called him Yeshua. And from there, we sometimes next question what God’s true name really is – the name used to speak of Him in the Torah.
The Tetragrammaton: י-ה-ו-ה
The name of the God of Israel is spelled in the Torah with four letters: a yud, a hey, a vav, and another hey (as seen in the header above). This is referred to as the Tetragrammaton. It is the holy name of God that He gave to Moses. In those days this name was guarded closely and never used carelessly. Most people never spoke it aloud. The name was so sacred, that if a scribe misspelled it in a Torah scroll, the whole section would need to be properly burned and rewritten. This is still practiced today.
You may already know that the Torah is written without vowel points. In the days of ancient Israel, the pronunciation of God’s name was known, but this slowly changed. In the days of the second Temple, the Jewish people worked to guard the sacred name of God, and so the priests would only pronounce this name every year at Yom Kippur. Common people never used it at all, using circumlocutions instead (words used in place of another word).
Once the temple was destroyed, the correct pronunciation of the name was eventually lost. Different groups have guessed at the pronunciation of this name over the years, but even in Orthodox Judaism, they do not know the proper pronunciation. Rather than mispronounce God’s holy name, they choose not to pronounce it all.
Yeshua & Circumlocution
In addition to this, we have the example of our Messiah Yeshua (who knew how to properly speak our Lord’s name). We see in the Gospels that He chose to use only circumlocutions when referring to HaShem. For example, he referred to God as, “Father,” “Lord,” “Holy One,” even “Heaven” (as in, “The Kingdom of Heaven”). We believe we should follow the example He set for us.
Because of all of this, we also do not attempt to pronounce the Tetragrammaton. We instead use the word, “HaShem”, which simply means “the Name”, or another circumlocution in English or Hebrew.