The Pronunciation Ban (4th Century B.C.)

In the third century B.C., the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, and Leviticus 24:16 was changed to say that any “naming of the Name” of God was punishable by death! In the fourth century A.D., Rabbis suggested that the pronunciation ban began in the fifth century B.C.

The Prohibition of the Speaking of God’s Name Began in Ezra’s Time

This dialogue of the Rabbis in the fourth century A.D., in the Babylonian Talmud, tells us that the prohibition of the speaking the Name of God dated back to the time of Ezra:

Rav Dimi said to him (Rav Giddel): The explicit Name may not be enunciated in the provinces, i.e., outside the Temple courtyard.

The Gemara asks: And is this really not permitted? Isn’t it written: “And Ezra the Scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose . . . and Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God” (Nehemiah 8:4-6);

and Rav Giddel said: “Great” in this verse means that he ascribed greatness to Him by enunciating God’s explicit Name. Since this event took place outside the Temple (see Nehemiah 8:3), it suggests that God’s explicit Name may indeed be enunciated outside the Temple.

The Gemara answers: That cannot be proven from here because the permission to use God’s explicit Name in that context was a provisional edict issued in exigent circumstances, since the people had uniquely come together in a prayerful commitment to God.

Talmud, Yoma 69

The Rabbis said that strict rules were in place in the time of Ezra not to speak the Name of God except in the Temple.

Of course, we have been led to believe that the Jews did not pronounce God’s Name because it was too holy to be pronounced. But Jeremiah told us that the Jews actually forgot God’s Name.

Changing the Bible

The Jews employed extreme measures that ensured the pronunciation and meaning of YHVH would completely disappear from the record of history. They even made changes to the Bible itself.

Leviticus 24:16 Was Changed to “He That Names the Name”

In Leviticus 24:16, God instructed the Israelites that if anyone blasphemed נָקַב His name, he should be put to death. This was in response to the incident of verse 11, where we read, “The Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name of YHVH and cursed.”

In Leviticus 24:16, the word נָקַב is translated “blaspheme,” but the same word is translated “curse” in Numbers 23:8, 23:25; Job 3:8, 5:3, and other verses.

In the Greek Septuagint, they translated Leviticus 24:16 as, “He that names the Name of the Lord (ὀνομάζων δὲ τὸ ὄνομα Κυρίου), let him die the death.”

This new translation required death for anyone who “named the Name” of God.

Exodus 3:14 Was Changed to Make God’s Name “I am He WHO IS”

Not only did the Jews forbid the “naming of the Name of God,” but they also changed the Name of God from “He WILL BE” to “I am He WHO IS.”

Here is Exodus 3:14 of the Greek Septuagint translated into English:

And God spoke to Moses, saying, “I am He WHO IS ο ων”; and He said, “Thus shall you likewise say to the children of Israel, I have sent you.”

The name of Yaho was interpreted by Theodoret to mean “the God WHO IS.” Ya (the God)—Ho, the particle as the present tense of “to be.” Effectively, the Jews had changed the Name of God from “Yihvah”—He WILL BE, to “Yaho”—the God WHO IS. The Greek Septuagint was read by Gentiles from the third century B.C. The Latin Vulgate of A.D. 400 followed the Greek Septuagint, using the expression “I AM” in Exodus 3:14.

The Successful Suppression of God’s Name

The suppression of the Name “He WILL BE” was completely successful, as these testimonies prove.

The Testimony of Philo in A.D. 30

Philo was one of the most advanced scholars of his day. He was a prolific writer on the Bible and theology. But many believe that Philo did not know Hebrew. He relied on the Greek Septuagint.

He thought that the speaking of God’s Name occurred secretly in the temple. He wrote:

There is a Name which only those whose ears and tongues are purified may hear or speak in the holy place, and no other person, nor in any other place at all.

Life of Moses, 2:114

He believed that God was nameless, and he paraphrased Exodus 3:14–15 as:

First tell them that I am He Who is, (ότι έγώ είμι ό ών) that they may learn the difference between what is and what is not, and also the further lesson that no name at all can properly be used of Me, to Whom alone existence belongs.

Life of Moses, 1:75

The Testimony of Josephus in A.D. 80

In his Antiquities of the Jews, the Jewish historian Josephus said it was not lawful to speak the Name of God.

Whereupon God declared to him His holy Name, which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say any more.

Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, Chapter 12, Paragraph 4

The Testimony of Justin Martyr in A.D. 150

In A.D. 150, Justin Martyr, the Chief Spokesman of the Church to Rome, said there was no one who knew the Name of God.

Like Philo, he also believed that God was nameless.

In Chapter 61 of his First Apology to the Roman Emperor, he wrote, “For no one can utter the Name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a Name, he raves with a hopeless madness.”

Then in Chapter 63, he said, “Until this day, ALL the Jews teach that the nameless God spoke to Moses.”

The Name of Yaho Gained Prominence among the Gentiles

As a result of the “forgetfulness” and suppression of the Name “Yihvah,” early Gentile Christians believed that the Name of God was really Yaho. The famous fourth century scholar Jerome would even state, “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.”1

  1. “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).