A cautionary word on EHYEH/YHWH

Edward Hobbs (EHOBBS@wellesley.edu)
Thu, 08 Aug 1996 17:10:57 -0500 (EST)

Dear B-Greek friends:

In the flood of discussion of John 8:58, several posts have stated
or implied something about the Hebrew of Exodus 3:14 which is not
accurate. Hebrew YAHWEH (or, unreconstructed, YHWH) is not
translated into Greek as EGW EIMI. Moses asks God (3:13) (who has
only identified Himself from the bush as "The God of your father"
etc.), when they ask him "`What is his name?' what shall I say to
them? God said to Moses,
[I AM (is) WHO I AM]
"And he said, `Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel,
"EHYEH has sent me to you."'"
[I AM]

In verse 15 we have the "Tetragrammaton" introduced, just after the
God also said to Moses, Thus shall you say to
the sons of Israel: YHWH, the God of your
fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.
This is my name forever, and this is my
memorial [title?] to all generations.

It is clear that the author(s)/transmitter(s)/editor(s) of this
tradition understood YHWH to be derived from HYH (HWH?), "to be",
else this proximity of the two "names" would not occur. Whether
this is actually the case has been debated for many decades,* and
I have no special competence to settle it! But one thing is clear:
YHWH is not one of forms of HYH to be found in a verb chart.

EHYEH means "I am". YHWH means "[?]" (name of the God who
spoke to Moses, and whose name was especially sacred). They are
not the same word, form, or (in any clear way) related to each
other except through this text.

* One of my professors of Hebrew at the Oriental Institute of
Chicago, Ray Bowman, once wrote a piece arguing for "Yahweh the
Speaker". I wasn't convinced, nor were many others!

Edward Hobbs