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The first symbol representing both “i” and “j” appeared around 800 A.D. This symbol was invented by French monks, who adapted it from Roman writings. In 1066 the symbol was transported to Saxon England by William the Conqueror. Thus the first symbol representing the “j” sound was introduced to the English-speaking peoples more than nine hundred years ago–nearly five centuries before Tyndale’s transliteration of יְהֹוָה (JHVH) as Iehouah (pronounced Jehovah). About 1200 A.D., the lowercase “j” was developed by tweaking the bottom of the lowercase “i,” in order to distinguish the “i” sound from the “j” sound. Capital “J” was not invented until the late 1500s or early 1600s. In Tyndale’s day, capital “I,” when used before a vowel at the beginning of a word, still represented the consonant sound of “J.”
Tyndale published his translation of the Pentateuch in the year 1530 A.D. At that time in history, the English alphabet was still developing. Many letters did not represent the same sounds that they do today. You may find it difficult to understand some of the words in the following passage, which is quoted from Tyndale’s translation. As you read, you will see that the letter “v” appears in a number of words that are now spelled with “u.” Likewise, the letter “u” appears in the place of “v.” Another noticeable difference is the use of “f” in many words that are now spelled with “s.” These differences in spelling illustrate the major changes that have taken place in the English alphabet since Tyndale’s day.
When Tyndale published his translation, a number of letters in the alphabet had only recently been invented and were not yet in common use. Although the symbol “j” had been invented about 1200 A.D.–three hundred years before Tyndale’s time–Tyndale does not use it here in his translation. The capital “J” was not invented until after Tyndale’s translation was made.
The following example of Tyndale’s translation is taken from Exodus 5:18-6:3 (the first and last verses are not completely quoted). This passage in the book of Exodus contains three examples of the use of “i” before a vowel to represent the consonant sound of “j”. Notice the use of the lowercase “i” before the vowel “u” in Verse 21 below, and the two uses of uppercase “I” before the vowels “a” and “e” in Verse 3 of the following chapter. In
each of these words, “i” or “I” represents the sound of “j.”
“18 sacrifice vnto the Lorde. Goo therfore and worke, for [Fo. IX.] there fhall no ftrawe be geuen you, and yet fee that ye delyuer the hole tale of brycke.
19 when the officers of the childern of Ifrael fawe them filfe in fhrode cafe (in that he fayde ye fhall minyth nothinge of youre dalye makige of
20 brycke) than they mett Mofes and Aaro ftondinge in
21 there waye as they came out fro Pharao, and fayde vnto them: The Lorde loke vnto you and iudge, for ye haue made the fauoure of vs ftincke in the fighte of Pharao and of his fervauntes, and haue put a fwerde in to their handes to flee vs.
22 Mofes returned vnto the Lorde and fayde: Lorde wherfore dealeft thou cruelly with this people: and
23 wherfore haft thou fent me? For fence I came to Pharao to fpeke in thy name, he hath fared foull with this folke, ad yet thou haft not delyuered thy people
VI, 1 at all. Then the Lorde fayde vnto Mofes. Now fhalt thou fee what I will doo vnto Pharao, for with a myghtie hande fhall he let them goo, and with a mightye hande fhall he dryue them out of hys lande.
The .VI. Chapter
2 AND God fpake vnto Mofes fa-
yng vnto him: I am the Lorde,
3 and I appeared vnto Abraham
Ifaac and Iacob an allmightie
God: but in my name Iehouah was I not …”
This translation by Tyndale shows the double usage of “i” to represent both the “i” and the “j” sound. Those who read Tyndale’s translation when it was published understood that “i” before a consonant (as in “Ifrael” and “Ifaac”) represented the “i” sound, and “i” before a vowel (as in “iudge,” “Iacob” and “Iehouah”) represented the “j” sound.
In the same manner that “i” was used as both a vowel and a consonant, so also were the letters “u” and “v”. Tyndale’s use of “u” as a vowel in “you” and “cruelly” and his use of “v” as a consonant in “fervauntes” (servants) follows the modern usage of the two letters. But Tyndale also uses “v” to represent the vowel sound “u”, as in “vnto” (unto) and “vs” (us), and he uses “u” to represent the consonant sound “v”, as in “geuen” (given), “haue” (have), “fauoure” (favor) and “Iehouah” (Jehovah). This double usage of the two letters shows that they were used interchangeably in Tyndale’s day. In the decades that followed, a distinct difference developed in the use of the two letters–“u” was restricted to its present vowel sound and “v” to its present consonant sound. Likewise, “i” was restricted to its present vowel sound, and “j” became the standard symbol for the consonant sound.
Sacred namers [those who prefer Yahweh] use the invention of the letter “j” to argue that “Jehovah” is an illegitimate spelling of the Hebrew name יְהֹוָה (JHVH). They view “Yahweh” as the only correct way to spell and pronounce the divine name. They are completely ignoring the fact that the English letter “w”–used in the name Yahweh–was invented two hundred years later than the first symbol for “j.” In addition, the letters “a” and “h” were not invented until the 1500s. Thus the same argument that they use against the name Jehovah could be used even more strongly against “Yahweh.” The spelling “Yahweh” was impossible before 1500! This same argument could be used against “Yahshua” as well. Since lowercase “s” was not invented until the 1500s, and lowercase “u” did not come into regular use as a vowel until the 1500s, the spelling “Yahshua” was also impossible before that time. [Lastly, it should be noted that the Tetragrammaton יְהֹוָה (four letters) is three syllables (Je·ho·vah) and Yah·weh is only two syllables.]
The truth of the matter is that the invention of the letters of the English alphabet neither proves nor disproves the pronunciation of the Hebrew name יְהֹוָה (JHVH). Although some of the letters in the English alphabet were invented in later centuries, the sounds that they represent existed from the earliest times. Only the symbols used to represent the sounds changed. This document was used by permission from the Christian Biblical Church of God Website at: http://www.cbcg.org/ (By © Carl D. Franklin December 9, 1997) Some small tweaking and a couple additional thoughts were added by Edward D. Andrews in square [ … ] brackets.