Yaho (Ιaω) in the Hebrew Scriptures (14th Century B.C.)

The Mistaken Name of God

They have borrowed . . .
from the Hebrew Scriptures Him who is termed in Hebrew Yaho (Ιaω).1

Origen, A.D. 236

The mistaken Name of God, Yaho, is written יהו in Hebrew.

In Greek, it is written as Ιaω, or IAΩ. The ω is the lowercase Greek letter Omega Ω. The Y sound in Yaho comes from the Greek letter I, iota. There is no H in Greek—we simply know how it is pronounced from the Hebrew.

This Name seems to have come from the confusion over God’s statement, “My Name is Him,” referring to Yahoshua (Joshua), the Name that became “Jesus” in Greek, Ιησοῦς.

It appears that Yahoshua was interpreted as “Yaho saves.” The normal method of forming Hebrew names is to use the three-character roots of words. Yahoshua was seen as the combination of two three-character roots, Yaho and Shua.

The grandson of Moses and priest of Dan that set up an idol was the first to use a Yaho prefix in his name. He was called Yahonathan, meaning “Yaho has given.”

The Yeho Prefixes were Yaho Prefixes

The 18 names with Yeho prefixes, like Yehoshua, actually have Yaho prefixes.

Our first proof that “Yeho” was not the original pronunciation is found in the Business Documents of the Murashu Sons of Nippur. Here, we can see these names were pronounced with the substitutionary “Yahu” in the fifth century B.C. There is a clear example of Yahu-natan for Jonathan (Yaho-nathan).2

In the 10th century A.D., the Masorites sounded the names Yihvah, Yahu, and Yaho with a sheva (silent) vowel marking to avoid their real pronunciation. The sheva vowel sound resulted in the pronunciation of Yaho as “Yeho.”

In the Appendix, we can see the Ἰαὼ (Yaho) names contracted to Ἰω (Yo). The normal method of contracting the Name of God was to use the first and last letters.

Early Christians like Eusebius explained these names as contractions from Ἰαὼ to Ἰω. He said that the Name of Jesus was “Ἰωσουὲ (Joshua) being ‘Salvation of Ἰαὼ.”’3

Because of the pronunciation ban, you will not find the name of Ἰαὼ used in Jewish literature.  Only Ιω prefixes can be found in the Greek Septuagint and in the tax rolls of Trikomia (250 B.C.) and in Papyri in Egypt (232–150 B.C.). 

But you will find early onomasticons, or name lists, that explain the Ἰαὼ prefixes. The Onomasticon of Heidelberg Papyri, dated to the late third century, lists eight names beginning with Ἰαὼ and two beginning with Ἰὼ.

Whoever compiled these onomasticons had an excellent understanding of Jewish names and a purpose for documenting them. The writers may not have been Jewish, but the meanings may have been provided by the Jews.

The Onomasticon P.Oxy. 2745, is dated to the third or fourth century A.D. and shows Jewish names beginning with iota.

The first column of P.Oxy. 2745 lists names like Joseph Ιωσηφ. The second column explains the meaning of these names.

For Examples:

Ιωαβ              Ιαω ἰσχύς                    The powerful Yaho

Ιωαναδαβ     Ιαω ἑκουσιότης           The willing Yaho

Ιωχαζ             Ιαω κατάσχεσις           The steadfast Yaho

Ιωφαλες        Ιαω διδάσκαλος          The teacher Yaho

The sixth century Onomasticum Coislinianum is the most significant record of names. It has ten instances of Ιαω in the explanation of Biblical names.  

Christians unanimously regarded the Ιω prefixes of theophoric names as contractions of Ιαω until the Masorites sounded these prefixes with a sheva in the 10th century A.D.

Of course, not all Ιω prefixes in Jewish names are contractions of Ιαω (Yaho). Here are just a few examples:

Gen 4:20, Ιωβελ, Jabal
Gen 10:2, Ιωυαν, Japath
Gen 10:4, Ιωυαν·, Javan
Gen 10:29, Ιωβαβ, Jobab
Gen 30:24, Ιωσηφ, Joseph, יוֹסֵ֖ף—He increases

But, even the YV prefix in the name of Joseph was converted to a YHV prefix to give “Yahoseph” in the Book of Psalms. From Genesis 30:24, we understand the meaning of Joseph, as “he increases.” “And she called his name Joseph, and said, YHVH shall add to me another son.”  יוֹסֵ֖ף is the hiphil form of יָסַף “he increases” and is a normal expression in Proverbs 1:5 and 9:9.

It Started with the Confusion over God’s statement, “My Name is in Him”

In the Book of Exodus, God told us that His Name was in “the Messenger.”

Behold, I send a Messenger before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My Name is in him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Messenger will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.

Exodus 23:20–23

Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land to war against the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.

Justin Martyr, in Chapter 75 of his Dialogue with Tryphos, said this proved that Jesus was the Name of God.

The name of Joshua in Greek is “Jesus”. This name was created by Moses. In Numbers 13:16, Moses changed the name of his successor to Yehoshua (Joshua) from Hoshea, meaning “Salvation.” He added a “Yod” to Hoshea להושע to create יהושע Yahoshua. This was later shortened to Yeshua/Yashua, which in Greek, is Jesus.

Yahoshua Was Interpreted as Two Three-Character Roots

We know that “He WILL BE” as “Yah” was in Yahoshua’s name. In fact, “He WILL BE” was already in the name of many Israelites, and God had given them a hint that His real name was in Joshua (Yahoshua).

Of course, we know the Name God was referring to was Jesus. But the Israelites could not understand that in their day.

They could not understand how the Name of God was in Yahoshua.

Joshua’s name was the combination of YAH and Hoshea, Salvation.

הושוע י
Saves Yah

But Hebrew names are normally expressed in terms of three-letter roots. More than 90% of Hebrew words are identified by three-letter roots, and these roots are used to form names. The root of הושוע is שוע and Joshua’s name is naturally seen as a combination of these two three-letter roots.   

שוע יהו
Saves Yaho

Irenaeus and Eusebius Said the Jews Understood Joshua as “Yaho Is Salvation”

We may be skeptical whether the Jews really saw the name of “Yaho” in Yahoshua because Yahoshua was not contracted to Yoshua in the Old Testament. It was contracted to Yashua/Yeshua in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and from here came the Greek Ιησοῦς, Jesus.

However, both Irenaeus in the second century and Eusebius in the fourth century said the Jews believed that Yahoshua meant, “Yaho is salvation,” and they said that the Jews contracted it to “Joshua.” Joshua was the name used in the Latin Vulgate of the fifth century and our Bibles today.

In A.D. 180, Irenaeus described the two and a half letters of Yaho in the Name of Jesus.

Moreover, Jesus, which is a word belonging to the proper tongue of the Hebrews, contains, as the learned among them declare, two letters and a half, and signifies that Lord who contains heaven and earth.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Ch. 24:2 (A.D. 180)

Of course, “the Lord” the Jews recognized was God, “Yaho.”  Irenaeus said that the “learned” among the Jews understand that the name of God, “Yaho,” was in Yahoshua. These are “two letters and a half,” the short “Y,” and the “HV”—יהו. 

In A.D. 320, Eusebius wrote, “In Hebrew Ἰησοῦ is ‘salvation,’ and the son of Nave is called by the Hebrews Ἰωσουὲ(Joshua), Joshua being ‘Salvation of Ἰαὼ,’ that is, Salvation of God.”4

Here, we clearly see Ἰω as the contraction of Ἰαὼ. Eusebius said the Jews called him Joshua, a contraction of Ἰαὼ.

The First Yaho Prefix: the Priest of Dan Who Set up an Idol in Judges 18:30

Manoah, in Judges 13, asked the Messenger for His real Name. To this, the Messenger gave a nonsensical answer, “Why do you ask My Name, seeing that it is wonderful”(Judges 13:18).

This questioning of Manoah revealed the discomfort among the Israelites. What was the real Name of God?

The first to use “Yaho” as a prefix was the grandson of Moses, the priest of the tribe of Dan who set up an idol to worship. He was called, “Yaho has given,” Yahonathan. We can see his YHV prefix in the Leningrad Codex and the Alepo Codex, and also in the divinely inspired Targum Jonathan.

It is very possible that the Tribe of Dan called the name of their idol “Yaho.” In Genesis 4:26, the Palestine Targum says, “That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the Name of the Word of the Lord.” The tribe of Dan may have used the Name of God for this idol too.

The Yaho High Priests

Judges 18:30 tells us that the priests of Yahonathan’s family served “until the captivity of the land.” The captivity of the land is explained in 2 Kings 25:21. The land was taken captive by the Assyrians in about 720 B.C. So, these priests served Dan for about 600 years.

Neither the Bible nor Josephus records the names of the High Priests of Israel from 880 B.C. to 840 B.C. However, their names are recorded in Seder ‘Olam Zutta, as Yahoirib, Yahoshaphat, and Yahoiada.5 These are the only High Priests in Israel’s history to have Yaho prefixes in their names.

The priests of Dan may have been the High Priests of Israel when Israel reached the climax of its idolatry and the worship of Baal in the time of Elijah.

Saul’s Son Jonathan: from “Yihvah has given” to “Yaho has given”

Saul’s Sons Ishbaal (Man of Baal) and Yahonathan

King Saul, Israel’s first King, named one of his son’s Ishbaal (1 Chronicles 8:33, 9:39), meaning “man of Baal,” and he named another son Yahonathan, meaning “Yaho has given.”

It is a bit shocking that one of the King’s sons used the name of a foreign God, and another was named after the priest that cared for the idol of Dan.

In the past, the Israelites only used the Name of YHVH in their surnames. Perhaps this is was God meant when He said, “Their fathers forgot My Name for Baal” (Jeremiah 23:27).

Ishbaal was the first King over Northern Israel. Within 100 years, Northern Israel was overtaken by the worship of Baal.

YV Was the Abbreviation of “YihVah,” and Later the Contraction of YhV, YahO

After the Israelites embraced the Name of Yaho (YHV) as the Name of God, they began to interpret all YV prefixes as contractions of the name Yaho.  

Even the name of Joseph was interpreted as a contraction of the name Yahoseph in Psalm 81:5.

The name of Moses’ mother is read today as Yochebed, a contraction of “Yaho glory.”

Moses’ mother’s name was most likely “Yihvah (He WILL BE) Glory.” The YV prefix in her name was certainly the abbreviation of Yihvah as YV. No other consonants are required for the vowel sounds of Yihvah. The YV abbreviation of Yihvah is the predecessor of YY—the double Yod that appears in old manuscripts, Jewish coins, and in Targum Jonathan as the abbreviation of “Yihyah.”

The “YV” prefix in the name of King Saul’s son Jonathan was likely pronounced “YihVah” before YV was seen as a contraction of YHV, “Yaho.”

Jonathan’s name changed from “Yihvah has given” to “Yaho has given” after Saul was possessed by an evil spirit. The change in his name is clear in the Hebrew text.

From “Yihvah has given” to “Yaho has given”

יונתן to יהונתן

In the Book of Samuel, Jonathan’s name originally had a YV prefix, which we can see eight times until 1 Samuel 14:6.Then, the prefix of his name switched back and forth between YHV and YV. From 1 Samuel 19:1 on, he was only Yahonathan, as recorded 62 times. The exact pattern of this change is shown below:

  Verse Range Occurrences
Yonathan 1 Sam 13:2–14:4 8
Yahonathan 1 Sam 14:6–8 2
Yonathan 1 Sam 14:12–14:49 20
Yahonathan 1 Sam 18:1–18:4 4
Yonathan 1 Sam 19:1 1
Yahonathan 1 Sam 19:1–2 Sam 23:32 62

This use of YV and YHV in the Masoretic Text (MT) is entirely consistent with Targum Jonathan. This is true in Sperber’s edition that follows the Yemenite manuscripts and in the rabbinical Mikraot Gedolot HaKeter edition prepared by M. Cohens. The same cannot be said of the YHV suffixes of names, which the Targum only records as YH. The absolute consistency of the Targum and the Masoretic Text in the YH and YHV prefixes tells us that this pattern was not arbitrary.6

The turning point of the name change is at 1 Sam 14:49. Here, we are told that Saul had only three sons, “Yonathan, Jishui, and Malchishua.” We wonder why there was no mention of his fourth son, Ishbaal. In 1 Samuel 15, we find out that Saul had been rejected by God as the King. In 1 Chapter 16, David was anointed as the new King by Samuel, and Saul was troubled by a disturbing spirit, which Targum Jonathan called an “evil spirt.” From here on, Jonathan was called Yahonathan, “Yaho has given,” 66 times, except in 1 Samuel 19:1, where he was called both “Yonathan” and “Yahonathan.”

Saul’s fourth son Ishbaal7 (man of Baal) appeared for the first time in 2 Samuel 2:8 as the King who ruled the northern Kingdom of Israel after Saul’s death in spite of the fact that David was anointed by God as their king.

Yaho and He WILL BE in the Psalms

The confusion of the Name of God affected the whole Kingdom of Israel, including King David.

The change in God’s Name, from Yihvah to Yaho, can be seen in the Book of Psalms. 

Most of the Psalms were written by King David and his worship leader Asaph.

The early Psalms of David emphasized the Name of YHVH. Psalm 7:17 reads, “I . . . will sing praise to the Name of YHVH most High.” Here, the Babylonian version8 of Targum Jonathan used the consonants YHYH, יהיה to emphasize the name of God as “He WILL BE.”

But Psalms 42 through 83 are called the “Elohist Psalms” because they seem to avoid the name of YHVH.

In Psalm 81:5, Asaph called Joseph, Yahoseph! יהוסף.

Most YHV Prefixes Were Collapsed to YV by the Time of Ezra

By the time of Ezra, nearly all of the Yaho prefixes had been contracted to YO. There are five YHV names that appear in the form of YH (YO) for the first time in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. These are Jehoichin, Jehoida, Jehoiakim, Jehoirab, and Jehozadak.

The only Yaho prefixes in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are Yahonathan (pronounced Yahu-natan) and Yahohanan (pronounced Yahu-hanan), meaning “God has given” and “God is gracious.” These (YHV) Yaho prefixes that were not collapsed to YO in Ezra’s time were pronounced using the substitutionary Yahu. We can see this in the Business Documents of the Murashu Sons of Nippur dated in the reign of Artaxerses I (464–424 B.C.). Yahu-natan became the new pronunciation of Jonathan (Yaho-nathan).

The name of John the Baptist, given by the Angel, was understood as Yahu-hanan, “Yahu is gracious.” Yahu had replaced both Yihvah and Yaho by the time of Christ. And by Jesus’ day, the YO prefixes of personal names had no meaning in their pronunciation. They had been transliterated to Greek names hundreds of years earlier.

  1. Contra Celsus, Book VI, Chapter 32.
  2. Patterns in Jewish Personal Names in the Babylonian Diaspora, M. D. Coogan, 1973, p. 184.
  3. Proof of the Gospel, Book IV, Chapter 17, vs. 3.
  4. ibid
  5. Wikipedia, List of High Priests of Israel
  6. The scribes at Qumran firmly believed that Ιaω was the real Name of God and even wrote it in place of YHVH in Leviticus. They made no effort to follow the MT and the Targum, and there are other substantial differences in their text of Samuel. 1 Samuel 14:29 and 49 read Yo in the MT, but Yaho in 4Q51; I Sam 20:30, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42; 23:16 read yo in 4Q52, but Yaho in the MT; 1 Sam 20:40 in 4Q51 agrees with Yaho in the MT; and 2 Sam 4:4 4Q51 agrees with Yaho.
  7. 1 Chronicles 8:33 and 9:39
  8. Luis Díez Merino, Targum de Salmos. Tradición sefardí de Alfonso Zamora. Edición Príncipe del Ms. Villa-Amil no. 5, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto ‘Francisco Suárez’, 1982.