Q&A: What is the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton?
I’ve just returned from my summer break, so I’ll be posting regularly again and also catching up on the questions from the About page.
I’ll start with Rabbi Morton Kaplan, who asks simply, “What is the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton?”
I’ve already explained a bit of the background. I have more information in my Jerusalem Post article (which, unfortunately, lost most of its formatting when the Jerusalem Post migrated to a new website), and I have even more in Chapter 4 of my In the Beginning.
But that information — the bottom line is that I don’t think the tetragrammaton originally had a pronunciation — is all about the original pronunciation of the tetragrammaton, which may be different than the “correct” pronunciation.
That’s because I think “correct” has to take into account not only the original text, but also what has happened with it over — in this case — roughly 3,000 years. There’s a long-standing Jewish tradition that the tetragrammaton represents the long-lost not-to-be-pronounced name of God, and that adonai is used as a substitute. I see no reason that modern scholarship should change this ancient tradition. (Whether Christians want to adopt the Jewish tradition seems like a more complicated question.)
More generally — and this is why I like Rabbi Kaplan’s question — I think that “original” or “scientific” is only one way of being “correct.”