Yahweh, Jupiter of the Hosts (18th Century A.D.)

Jupiter, (Yahweh) the Supreme Deity of the Roman Empire

But if anyone objects that He was crucified, in this also He is on a par with those reputed sons of Jupiter of yours.

Justin Martyr, First Apology Chapter 21, A.D. 150

Justin Martyr’s First Apology was written to the Roman Emperor. As Justin confessed, Jupiter was the supreme Deity of the Emperor and the Roman Empire.

In his famous Hebrew Lexicon, Wilhelm Gesenius suggested that the name Ιαβε, Yahweh, may have come from Jupiter.1

The word Jupiter, transliterated from Latin to Greek is Ιαβε, pronounced “Yahweh,” or “Yahveh.”

Jupiter was the chief deity of the Roman state religion until Constantine replaced it with Christianity.2 The Latin word for Jupiter is Jove. Latin has no “J.” The pronunciation of J is “Y.” The short “o” is the “aw” sound in “off.” In Roman Latin, the V is pronounced W, making the Roman Latin pronunciation of Jove as Yahweh.

In his book Against Heresies, Epiphanius said that some sects used the name Ιαβε. In fact, our only evidence of this Greek name being used by any sects is in the expression Ιαβεζεβυθ.

Ζεβυθ is a peculiar transliteration of the Hebrew word Saboath, meaning “armies” or “hosts.” Ζεβυθ is not a transliteration that was made by someone familiar with the Bible. The Greek Septuagint and the New Testament transliterate “Saboath” as Σαβαωθ.

Ιαβεζεβυθ is considered to be one phrase by those who study magical texts. It always occurs in that form. Ιαβεζεβυθ is literally, “Jupiter of the Hosts” (of the planets).

The Gnostics combined the gods of pagan theology and Christianity to picture “Jupiter of the hosts”of the planets and stars, as recorded in Genesis 2:1, “The heavens and the earth were finished and all the hosts of them.”

Searching the Greek Pronunciations for a New Name of God

How did scholars come to select Yahweh as the Name of God?

The translators of the King James Bible chose the name Yehovah over Yehvah (Yihvah) because the Name “He WILL BE” made no sense in the Trinity doctrine. But, within a short time, scholars were dissatisfied with the name of Yehovah because it had only first appeared as the Name of God in the Middle Ages and had a very weak relationship with the verb “to be.”

They looked to the Greek pronunciations for another name for God, besides Ιaω, which was obviously the pronunciation of YHV. The only name that appeared as a possible pronunciation for YHVH among Church Fathers was Ιαβε, Yahweh.

Significant Greek Pronunciations of God’s Name
Sanchuniathon Fragment12th century B.C. (from Eusebius, in A.D. 320)Iaou (Ιaω)
Clarion of Apollos500 B.C. (from Macrobius Saturnalia)Ιaω
The Dead Sea Scrolls150 B.C.Ιaω
Diodorus Siculus75 B.C.Ιaω
Marcus Terentius Varro75 B.C. (from De Mensibus)Iaw
PhiloA.D. 30 (from De Mensibus)Ιaω
The Secret Letter of JohnA.D. 175Iaye
IrenaeusA.D. 180Ιaω
Hundreds of uses of the name Ιaω in Gnostic literature, Semi-Jewish magical papyri, on amulets, gemstones, and metal plates.31st to 5th century A.D.Ιaω
Clement of AlexandriaA.D. 215Iaou (Ιaω)
OrigenA.D. 230Ιaω
A Curse Tablet in CumaeA.D. 250Ιaω Ιαβεζεβυθ
EusebiusA.D. 320Ιaω
JeromeA.D. 380Ιaω
EpiphaniusA.D. 390Ιaω,4Ιαβε
TheodoretA.D. 440/465Ιaω, Ιαβε, Iabai

The debate between the names of Yahweh and jehovah came to a climax in A.D. 1707, when the German Orientalist Adrian Relaand reprinted the views of several scholars, saying Yahweh was more likely. Jehovah was considered to be an invention of the Middle Ages, but Yahweh could be seen in the writings of Epiphanius and Theodoret.

But Where Did It Come From?

Epiphanius (c. A.D. 375) told us that the name Ιαβε was used by certain Gnostics. The Gnostics were famous for combining the stories of Greek and Roman gods with Christianity.

Ιαβε was used by the Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus (c. A.D. 450). But he seems to have just gotten this pronunciation from Epiphanius’ book Against Heresies. Later, Theodoret used Iabai as the pronunciation of YHVH.

The first possible use of Ιαβε is in The Secret letter of John, which used the name “Yaye.”

Iaye, in The Secret Letter of John, A.D. 175

According to Irenaeus, The Secret Letter of John was written by the Marcosians.5

They told the story of the birth of Iaye and ELOHIM from Yaldabaoth. They combined the ideas of Plato with Christianity. According to ideas of Plato, the “Demiurge” was the chief Archon, the chief creator, whose name was Yaldaboth.

The text we have is a Coptic translation; the original was Greek. Unfortunately, we have no copy of the Greek text, but in the Coptic text are the Greek letters ⲓⲁⲩⲉ. The ⲩ is pronounced as a “u” in Homeric Greek and as a “y” in classical Greek.

The writer may have had YHYH in mind, “He WILL BE” in its more modern form, for the pronunciation of ⲓⲁⲩⲉ.

Stephan Davies translated ⲓⲁⲩⲉ as Yahweh, and Frederik Wise translated it as Yave.

The birth of Iaye and ELOHIM is in Chapter 22:

Yaldabaoth raped Eve.
She bore two sons.
Elohim was the name of the first.
Yave (ⲓⲁⲩⲉ) was the name of the second . . .
Yave (ⲓⲁⲩⲉ) is righteous;
Elohim is not.6

Two hundred years later, Epiphanius, in his book Against Heresies, described a number of different sects, including the Marcosians. He said that the name of Ιαβε was one of the names used by these sects.

Ιαβε Is Not Present in Origen’s List of Names in A.D. 236

Origen in Contra Celsus described the magical names used by the sects, including those names borrowed from the Scriptures. Noticeably absent is Ιαβε, which may not yet have come into use. He wrote:

It must be noticed, too, that those who have drawn up this array of fictions, have, from neither understanding magic, nor discriminating the meaning of holy Scripture, thrown everything into confusion; seeing that they have borrowed from magic the names of Ialdabaoth, and Astaphæus, and Horæus, and from the Hebrew Scriptures Him who is termed in Hebrew Yaho or Yah, and Sabaoth, and Adonæus, and Eloæus.

Contra Celsus, Book VI, Chapter 32

Black Magic in Cumae, Italy, A.D. 250

The first definite use of the name Ιαβε is found in Cumae, Italy, on a lead curse tablet of Roman Imperial date. David R. Jordan dates it to the third century A.D.7

The name that actually appears is Ιαβεζεβυθ.

The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Adolph Deissmann in his 1895 edition of Biblestudien, pages 13–14, inform us that Ιαβεζεβυθ (Yahveh Sebaoth), occurs frequently in the “magical texts.”

Adolph Deissmann cites four examples of Ιαβεζεβυθ in the magical texts. The first he cites is this lead curse tablet.

Many lead tablets, containing curses, have been found in the graves of ancient Greece. They are usually written by a professional curse writer, who will invoke the names of gods.

The curse tablet at Cumae begins with the incantation of magical names. In line 8, we find the name Ιaω Ιαβεζεβυθ, “Demons and spirits in this place, I adjure you by the holy name of ERÊKISIPHTHÊ ARARARACHARARA ÊPHTHISIKÊRE IAÔ IABEZEBYTH LANA BESAPHLAN . . . arouse yourself with the underworld gods!”8

Circled in this drawing of the tablet are Ιaω and Ιαβεζεβυθ.

In these magical texts, Ιαβε occurs only in the expression Ιαβεζεβυθ.

Ζεβυθ is a peculiar transliteration of the Hebrew word Sabaoth, meaning “hosts,” as in the expression, “YHVH of the Hosts.” However, the transliteration of “hosts” in 2 Kings 10:16 of the Greek Septuagint, and Romans 9:29 and James 5:4, is Σαβαωθ. Therefore, we are pretty certain that ζεβυθ did not come from someone who was familiar with Hebrew, or the Greek Old and New Testaments.

As we mentioned, Ιαβε is the Greek transliteration of the Latin word Jove, or “Jupiter.” The citizens of Cumae, Italy, would have pronounced Jove as “Yahweh” in Roman Latin.

Ιαβεζεβυθ is literally, “Jupiter of the Hosts” (of the planets).

The Word Ιαβεζεβυθ, the Son of Ιaω

Adolph Deissmann informed us that the expression Ιαβε ζεβυθ, Yave Sebaoth (of the Armies) can also be found in three other inscriptions: on a tin tablet, on a chalice with λόγον ιαβε ζεβυθ, “the Word, Yahveh Sebaoth,” and once more, without “the Word.”

From the expression “the Word,” we know they had Christ in mind, as Ιαβεζεβυθ. God was identified as Ιaω (Yaho) in the lead curse tablet before Ιαβεζεβυθ.

The Gnostics understood that Christ was Sabaoth, YHVH of Hosts (of the Armies), the Son of Ιaω.

Irenaeus wrote:

They have also given names to [the several persons] in their system of falsehood, such as the following: he who was the first descendant of the mother is called Yaltaboth; he, again, descended from him, is named Ιaω; he, from this one, is called Sabaoth.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Chapter 30

The Gnostics also believed Ιaω was supreme over Jupiter, as in the Oracle of Apollos:

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.

Saturnalia i, 18

So Christ became as Jupiter, Ιαβεζεβυθ, Jupiter Sabaoth (of the Hosts).

ያዌ (Yawe) and More Than 50 Other Pronunciations of YHVH

In the same entry of the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, George Foot Moore referred to the pronunciation ያዌ (Yawe) found in the Ethiopian Magic text Ge’ez Bodlein MS Aeth. 9.5 6b. This was discovered by D. S. Margoliouth in 1884 and related by Samuel Driver, in 1885.9

This Ethiopian manuscript contains Preces Magicae XII Discipulorum, (“Magical Prayers of the Twelve Disciples”). It includes a list of magical names of Christ that He is said to have given to his disciples:

And after that He told them His names: Iyâhê, i.e. terrible; Sûrâhê, i.e. great; Demnâ’êl, i.e. mighty; . . . Meryon, i.e. all-watching; O’e, i.e. helper; Aphrân, i.e. saviour; Manâtêr, i.e. shepherd; ’Êl, ’Êl, i.e. protector of all; Akhâ, i.e. patient; Êlôhê, i.e. supporter of all; . . . Yâwê, Yâwê, i.e. faithful (and) just.

The Ethiopian magicians may have heard Yâwê used as a magical name in Europe.

And it seems that the first name in their list, “Iyahe” may have also been an attempt to pronounce YHVH.

In fact, there are many names in magical texts that sound like an attempt to pronounce YHVH. Besides ιαβα (Yahwah), the Name pronounced “according to its letters,” we can also find ιαβοε, ιαβας, and ιαβω, as Adolph Deissmann related in his Biblestudien.

Pavlos D. Vasileiadis, in his 2014 article, Aspects of rendering the sacred Tetragrammaton in Greek, listed more than 50 possibilities of YHVH found in amulets, and other texts. He concluded that trying to determine the Name of God from Greek transcriptions was futile.

But Ιαβεζεβυθ was popular among the Gnostics. Yahweh (Jupiter) was Sabaoth, the Son of Ιaω.

Epiphanius Described the Names Used by the Sects

In Chapter 40 of his book, Against Heresies, Epiphanius described the names of God used by various sects, including the name of Ιαβε.

Already in the previous Sects I have dealt at length with the translation of Sabaoth and other names—Eli and Elohim, El and Shaddai, Elyon, Rabboni, Jah, Adonai and Jahveh—

Here too I hasten to give them in translation. “El” means “God”; “Elohim,” “God forever”; “Eli,” “my God”; “Shaddai,” “the Sufficient”; “Rabboni,” “the Lord”; “Jah,” “Lord”; “Adonai,” “He who is existent Lord.” “Jahveh” means, “He who was and is, He who forever is,” as he translates for Moses, “‘He who is’ hath sent me, shalt thou say unto them.”

Chapter 40, 5,5 Epiphanius hastens to equate “Javeh” with “He who is” in the Greek text of Exodus 3:14. He also seems to have inferred the idea that the “Javeh” was a combination of the perfect and imperfect tense of HVH: Ja, from Javah, and veh, from Yihveh—giving the overall meaning as, “He who was and is, He who forever is.”

Theodoret Told Us the Samaritans Call It Yave and Yavai

Theodoret of Cyrus was born in A.D. 393 and died about A.D. 458. He was an influential bishop and prolific writer on matters of the faith. He made a lot of comments about language and the pronunciation of Hebrew words in his day.

In his “Questions on Exodus,” at Exodus 6:3, Theodoret said, “The Samaritans call it Ιαβε, but the Jews Aia (ah-yah, meaning eh-yeh, I WILL BE).”

However, later, in his Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium, he said:

Now Saddai signifies Him who is sufficient and able, but Aia His who is. This was also not to be uttered among the Hebrews. But the Samaritans call it Iabai, not knowing the force of the expression.

Theodoret gave us two different pronunciations of YHVH by the Samaritans.

Why is that?

Theodoret himself likely did not hear them pronouncing the Name YHVH. He may have just heard that they did pronounce it.

As far as we know, the Samaritans followed the same rule of non-pronunciation as the Jews. They only pronounced the Name in an oath, as Rabbi Mana said.

For the pronunciation of YHVH as Ιαβε, Theodoret probably referred to the pronunciation described by his predecessor Epiphanius.

Later, he seems to have rhymed Yabai with Saddai. But we know that “Almighty” as the Name of God is actually pronounced “Saddah.” The rhyme of Saddah with Yahwah agrees completely with the testimony of Rabbi Mana in the fourth century. Rabbi Mana informed us that the Samaritans and those who used the Name of YHVH in magic (a charm) pronounced it “according to its letters.” This was Yahwah, described by the Samaritans themselves in Montgomery’s article, Notes from the Samaritan, footnote 5.

Why Did Theodoret Compare the Jews and Samaritans?

Theodoret first said: “The Samaritans call it Ιαβε, but the Jews Aia (ah-yah, meaning eh-yeh, I WILL BE).”

Later, he said, “The Samaritans call it Yabai not knowing the force of the expression.”

In this more accurate account, the reason for his comparison became clear. The Jews understood the meaning of God’s Name, but the Samaritans did not. They did not know “the force of the expression.”

Just as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman by the well:

You worship what you do not know,
We worship what we know,
For salvation is from the Jews.

John 4:22

The Samaritans were speaking a Name without meaning. As Rabbi Mana said, they were only pronouncing the Name of God “according to its letters.”

The Effort to Agree Yahweh with the Verb Havah, “to be”

For more than a century, scholars have been wrestling with Yahweh and YHVH, which is understood from the context of Exodus 3:12–15 to come from the verb “havah,” to be.

There are two problems that scholars face. Yahweh cannot be related to any form of the verb “to be,” and Yahweh is not possible as a pronunciation in Biblical Hebrew.

The Non-existent Hyphal Form

The primary obstacle to the acceptance of Yahweh has been a lack of any connection with the verb, “to be,” havah.

The Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes this:

Here we are confronted with the question, whether Jahveh is the imperfect hiphil or the imperfect qal. Calmet and Le Clere believe that the Divine Name is a hiphil form . . . this opinion is not in keeping with Exodus 3:14, nor is there any trace in Hebrew of a hiphil form of the verb meaning “to be”; moreover, this hiphil form is supplied in the cognate languages by the pi’el form, except in Syriac where the hiphil is rare and of late occurrence.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910, under Jehovah (Yahweh).

The writer stops short of accepting Yahweh as the imperfect qal form of havah because the imperfect qal form is Yihvah.

An Impossible Pronunciation in Any Form of the Verb “to be”

The other issue with the name Yahweh is the pronunciation itself, which is not possible in Biblical Hebrew. This is described by R. L. Harris in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT):

The pronunciation Yahweh assumes the ending of a lamed-he verb, but these verbs in Moses’ day ended in a “y” (cf. for bānâ the Ug. impf. ybny). So the ending “eh” is a late form. But in Hebrew in late times a “w’” that began a word or syllable changed to “y” (as in the pe-waw verbs and the verb hāyâ itself). So the “w” of Yahweh represents a pre-mosaic pronunciation but the final “eh” represents probably a post-davidic form.

So, R. L. Harris concedes:

In view of these problems it may be best simply to say that YHWH does not come from the verb hāwâ (presumably hawaya in its early form) at all.10

Yahweh (Jupiter) Gained Universal Acceptance as the Name of God

In spite of:

  • The impossibility of Yahweh as a pronunciation in the verb “to be,”
  • no connection with the verb “to be,” and
  • no evidence of usage by the Jews

Yahweh (Jupiter) was accepted by scholars as the “real Name” of God. It was purely a rejection of the Name Yehvah/Yihvah, He WILL BE, recorded in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

  1. Gesenius, Wilhem, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, translated by Samuel Treggelles, 1857, p. 337b, CCCXXXVII.
  2. Wikipedia, Jupiter.
  3. For more detail, see The Earliest Non-Mystical Jewish Use of the Ιaω, Frank Shaw, 2014, Chapter 7.
  4. Ἰαὼ Epiphanius, Panarion, five uses.
  5. Against Heresies, Book 1, Chapter XVII, Irenaeus.
  6. The Secret Book of John, translated by Stevan Davies; Yave is from the translation of Frederik Wise; Stewan Davies uses “Yahweh.”
  7. Remedium amoris; A Curse from Cumae in the British Museum, David R. Jordan, 2003, date on p. 670
  8. Ibid.
  9. Driver, S. R. (1885). Recent Theories on the Origin and Nature of the Tetragrammaton. In Studia Biblica: Essays in Biblical Archæology and Criticism and Kindred Subjects (p. 20). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  10. R. L. Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), (Chicago: Moody Press) 1999, c. 1980, under 484 ָהָוה (hāwâ).