Since mainstream Judaism believed that the divine name of God was too sacred to be uttered, and Hebrew contained consonants but no vowels, the exact pronunciation of YHWH has been lost. However, there is consensus by scholars that God’s name was rendered as Yahuweh or Yahweh.
“There is almost universal consensus among scholars today that the sacred Tetragrammaton (YHWH) is to be vocalized and pronounced Yahweh. Probably the name means literally “He is.”” New International Version: The Making of a Contemporary Translation CHAPTER 9: YHWH Sabaoth: “The Lord Almighty” Kenneth L. Barker
Jews recognise the divine name in modern times as Yahweh, with the Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls, including Yahweh when translating into English.
The first letter was Y as the letter J did not exist in the Hebrew language. The Encyclopedia Americana contains the following on the J:
“The form of J was unknown in any alphabet until the 14th century. Either symbol (J,I) used initially generally had the consonantal sound of Y as in year.”
The first half of the Tetragrammaton is commonly used as an abbreviation for God’s name in the shorten form Yah. The New World Translation reference Bible states;
“Yah is the first half of the Tetragrammaton” Footnote to Psalm 68:4
The word Hallelujah (“Praise Yah”) shows that YH was pronounced as Yah. Likewise with the names Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, all ending in Yah. On the other hand, Jehosaphat begins with the incorrect “Jeho” in place of Yah, thus carrying the same inaccuracy as Jehovah.
The pronunciation of the name of God has been preserved in a number of other languages that do contain vowels. Egyptian hieroglyphics contain written vowels. In Budge’s An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, page fifteen shows that the shortened form of YHWH was transliterated as “IA” or “YA”, supporting that God’s name begins with the sound Yah. In Jesus time the Greek transliteration of the divine name was Iaoue or Iabe.
The origin of the word Jehovah shows why it is incorrect. In an unfortunate stroke of the pen the Watchtower Society chose to adopt the rendition of YHWH that has least resemblance to the original name and incorporates the very reason the exact pronunciation is unknown.
In order to preserve the pronunciation of the Hebrew language, the Masoretes created a system for introducing vowels into the Hebrew language during the ninth century A.D. However, when it came to YHWH, rather than putting the correct vowel signs, they put vowel signs for Adonai (Lord) or Elohim (God), in order to remind the reader to use the word Lord or God instead of the name of God. It is generally accepted, as proposed by the 19th-century Hebrew scholar Gesenius, that mixing the vowels for Lord and God and consonants of Yahweh led to the manufacture of the hybrid word Jehovah.
“The form Jehovah is of late medieval origin; it is a combination of the consonants of the Divine Name and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes but belonging to an entirely different word. The sound of Y is represented by J and the sound of W by V, as in Latin. The word “Jehovah” does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew.” Revised Standard Version pp.6-7
The first time the Tetragrammaton appeared in an English Bible was on the title page of William Tyndale’s Bible translation of 1525, where it was written as Iehouah. The King James Version also originally used Iehouah, but changed the spelling to Jehovah for the 1762-1769 edition.
Combining YHWH with Adonai is referred to as interlacing, fusing or superimposing. It is neither accurate or respectful. The illogical fusion of the sacred Name with the vowel points of another name is shown in the preface to The J.B. Rotherham Emphasized Bible:
“To give the name JHVH the vowels of the word for Lord [Heb. Adonai], is about as hybrid a combination as it would be to spell the name Germany with the vowels in the name Portugal – viz., Gormuna. The monstrous combination Jehovah is not older than about 1520 A.D.”
The Watchtower argues that Jehovah is acceptable as it is a translation.
“”Yahweh” is obviously a transliteration, whereas “Jehovah” is a translation, and Bible names generally have been translated rather than transliterated.” Awake! 1973 Mar 22 p.27
As already seen, this is inaccurate, as Jehovah is also a transliteration, but of two separate words. By combining the consonants from YHWH with the vowels from Adonai or possibly Elohim the word Jehovah incorporates the very reason the original pronunciation was lost.
Advocates of the word Jehovah argue that it does not matter whether the word is accurate or not, what is important is that God is distinguished by a personal name. The Divine Name Brochure p.10, by the Watchtower Society states:
“Even though the modern pronunciation Jehovah might not be exactly the way it was pronounced originally, this in no way detracts from the importance of the name. While many translators favor the pronunciation Yahweh, the New World Translation and also a number of other translations continue the use of the form Jehovah because of people’s familiarity with it for centuries.”
When translating between languages the pronunciation of names change and so it may not be essential that in English the divine name is pronounced as God originally spoke it to Moses. However, it is ironic that the word Jehovah mixes God’s name with the very superstition that caused it to stop being used in the first place. Every time the word Jehovah is pronounced it is a reminder of this very superstition
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Hebrew was the first language as given to Adam and Eve and that it will possibly be the language spoken in the New System. (g71 2/22 p.10) The Watchtower Society prides itself on possessing the pure language, on being the only religion to teach truth.
“Through the Theocratic organization of his anointed witnesses he has been clearing up the Bible truth more and more and thus purifying their speech. So now they talk and live in harmony with the language of the approaching new world. And here, in this year of 1950, his providence brings forth this New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures as a further purification of the speech of his people. He has graciously provided it as a further powerful means for turning to the peoples a “pure language”.” Watchtower 1950 Sep 15 p.320
One might assume then that the Watchtower would prefer to use the accurate version of God’s name, rather than the superstitious rendition. The word Jehovah is not an accurate form of the divine name. It can be argued that it is the common pronunciation in English and it is not important to use the name in its correct version. It is strange though that the version chosen actually incorporates the very reason that the divine name stopped being used in the first place.