Ιaω in Mystical Writings and Early Christianity (2nd Century A.D.)

Christians Believed That Ιaω (Yaho) Was the Name of God from the 2nd Century

From the second century A.D., mainstream Christians believed that Ἰαὼ was the Name of God, until it was replaced by Jehovah in the Middle Ages.

The early Church fathers even believed that ‘Ἰαὼ was even in the Name of Jesus, Joshua, Ἰωσουὲ, which was interpreted as ‘Ἰαὼ (Yaho) saves.”

We can find hundreds of uses of the name Ἰαὼ (Yaho) in the first five centuries A.D. It appears on papyri, on rings, on metal plates, and lead tablets throughout Europe. Ἰαὼ is also in the world history of Diordorus Siculus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, written before the time of Christ.

The Sanchuniathon Fragment, 12th Century B.C.

In A.D. 320, Eusebius, the Bishop of Constantine, in Book 1, Chapter 9 of his Preparation of the Gospel, said that Philo of Byblos translated into Greek the writing of Sanchuniathon of Berytus, who received records from Hierombalus the priest of the god Ιευώ, (Yevo).

In A.D. 455, in his treatise, Graecarum affectionem curatio, Theodoret described the same account. He said that “Hierombal (Jerubbaal), a priest of the God iaou, furnished accurate and reliable information of Jewish religious affairs.”1

The Greek word “iaou” that Theodoret used is identical to Clement’s iaou, i.e., Ἰαὼ, which we will see below.

Eusebius dates the writing of Sanchuniathon as “older, as they say, the Trojan times,”2 being the 12th century B.C. Yaho first appeared in the name of the grandson of Moses, Yahonatan, the priest of Dan who set up an idol in 1340 B.C.3

The Dead Sea Scrolls, 150 B.C.

In 1952, the scrolls of Cave 4 were discovered, and two occurrences of Ἰαὼ found in scroll 4Q120 have been dated to the first or second century B.C.

And if his offering be of the goats, then shall he bring it before Ἰαὼ.

Leviticus 3:12

And if a soul of the people of the land should sin unwillingly, in doing a thing any of the commandments of Ἰαὼ . . . then shall he bring a kid of the goats.

Leviticus 4:27–28

These passages are significant in that they describe the work of the priest in the Holy Place, where we are told that the Name was really spoken.

Ἰαὼ was also discovered in fragment 4Q127, an exposition on Exodus.

Since the discovery of these fragments, many theories have been developed regarding the original version of the Greek Septuagint, some even suggesting that Ἰαὼ appeared in place of the Tetragrammaton in the original Jewish versions.

But Origen and Jerome, in their time, said the best manuscripts used YHVH, or YHYH in Paleo-Hebrew characters: “In the more accurate exemplars the Name is written in Hebrew characters; not, however, in the current script, but in the most ancient.”4

The History of Diodorus Siculus, 75 B.C.

In about 50 B.C., Diodorus Siculus recorded in his Library of History, “Moses referred his laws to the God who is invoked as Ἰαὼ” (Book 1, 1.321).

The Testimony of Varro in De Mensibus, 75 B.C.

The sixth century Byzantine Administrator John Lydus, in his history of pagan festivals, De Mensibus, wrote:

But the Roman Varro, when discussing him, says that among the Chaldaeans (Babylonian Jews), in their mystical [writings], he is called “Ἰαὼ,” meaning “mentally perceived light” in the language of the Phoenicians, as Herennius [Philo] says.

Marcus Terentius Varro is called “Rome’s greatest scholar.” He lived in Italy from 116 B.C. to 27 B.C.

The Temple of Apollo at Claros, 10th Century B.C. to 3rd Century A.D.

The Saturnalia was written after A.D. 431 by the Roman official Macrobius Theodosius. It contains many discussions of philosophy and mythology.

He told us that the Oracle of Apollo at Claros, Greek prophecy, regarded Ἰαώ as the Supreme God above all others, including Jupiter, Jove, the God of the Roman Empire.

The sacred things you learn, to none disclose,
A little falsehood much discretion shows;
Regard Ἰαώ as supreme above

In winter Pluto, in spring’s opening Jove,

Phœbus through blazing summer rules the day,

Whilst autumn owns the mild Ἰαώ sway.

Saturnalia i, 18

Irenaeus, A.D. 180

Before A.D. 150, Christians did not even discuss the Name of God. In A.D. 135 in Chapter 75 of his Dialogue with Tryphos, Justin Martyr said that Jesus was the Name of God, as proved by God’s statement, “My Name is in Him.” We know the date of Justin’s book by the war described in the introduction.

After Justin Martyr moved to Rome, many of his ideas began to change. In Chapter 61 of his First Apology of A.D. 150, he said, “If any one dare to say that there is a Name, he raves with a hopeless madness.” Here, of course, he meant the Name of YHVH.

Irenaeus showed a neutral attitude to the name of Ἰαὼ, but with skepticism. In Book 1 of Against Heresies, Irenaeus used the name of Ἰαὼ in describing the beliefs of several sects.

In Chapter 4 of Book 1, he described the Gnostic legend behind this name:

And as Horos thus obstructed her further progress, he exclaimed, Ἰαὼ whence, they say, this name Ἰαὼ derived its origin.

In Chapter 21, he described the baptism of some Gnostics, who announce:

I redeem my soul from this age (world), and from all things connected with it in the name of Ἰαὼ.

In Chapter 30, Irenaeus described the Gnostic belief that Ἰαὼ was born of Yaltabaoth, and that Sabaoth was born of Ἰαὼ.

Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 215

By the year A.D. 200, the name Ἰαὼ had gained acceptance in mainstream Christianity.

Clement of Alexandria, in his Stromata, explained Ἰαὼ (Iaou) as the Name YHVH. The spelling is slightly different, but “not dissimilar.”5

Again, there is the veil of the entrance into the holy of holies. Four pillars there are, the sign of the sacred tetrad of the ancient covenants. Further, the mystic Name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Ἰαου, which is interpreted, “Who is and shall be.” The Name of God, too, among the Greeks contains four letters (Ἰαου).

Origen, A.D. 230

In Contra Celsus (6.32), Origen refers to those involved in the magical arts who took the name Ἰαὼ “from the Hebrew Scriptures.”

From the first to the fifth century A.D., there are literally hundreds of occurrences of the name Ἰαὼ found in the writings of the Gnostics, in semi-Jewish “Magical Papyri,” on gemstones, in lead tablet inscriptions, and in lamellae, which are thin sheets of metal. This is referred to as the “magical” or “mystical” use of the name Ἰαὼ that prevailed for centuries.

Eusebius, A.D. 320

By the time of Eusebius, the Bishop of Constantine, the name of Ἰαὼ was recognized as the YHV prefix of theophoric names. In his Proof of the Gospel, Eusebius wrote:

The Name of Jesus Ἰησοῦς translated into Greek means “Salvation of God.” For in Hebrew Ἰησοῦ is “salvation,” and the son of Nave is called by the Hebrews Joshua Ἰωσουὲ, Ἰωσουὲ being “Salvation of Ἰαὼ,” that is, Salvation of God.

Book IV, Chapter 17, vs. 3.

Epiphanius, A.D. 380

In his Book Against Heresies, Epiphanius, like Irenaeus, used the name of Ἰαὼ several times to describe the beliefs of Gnostic groups.

Jerome, A.D. 390

Jerome gave us the same message as Clement that Ἰαὼ is the pronunciation of YHVH. In his Commentary on Psalms 8, he wrote, “The Name of the Lord in the Hebrew language contains four letters, Yodh He Waw He, this is the actual Name of God and is pronounced as Jaho.”6

Theodoret, A.D. 450

Theodoret used the name of Ἰαὼ, to describe a Hebrew name and told us the meaning of Ἰαὼ’ as the God who is; YAH—the God, Ho—who is.

“The word Nethinim means in Hebrew ‘gift of Ἰαὼ’ that is the God who is.”7


  1. Theodoret, Graecarum affectionem curatio, sed evangelicae veritas ex gentilium philosopha cognito, Vol IV, p. 740.
  2. Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica of Eusebius, Book 1, Ch ix.
  3. https://www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-exodus-route-date-chronology-of-judges.htm.
  4. Origen, Commentary in Psalms ii. 2; Jerome, Prol. Galeat.
  5. Wilhelm Genesinius, in his Hebrew Lexicon, under Jehovah.
  6. “Breviarium in Pss.,” in P. L., XXVI, 828; At one time thought to be spurious writing, but now considered genuine, and dated before A.D. 392, see Bardenhewer Altk. Lit. iii 620 (1912).
  7. Theodoret, “Quaest. in I Paral.,” cap. ix, in P. G., LXXX, col. 805.