Jehovah is, of all the significant words of Freemasonry, by far the most important. Reghellini very properly calls it “the basis of our dogma and of our mysteries.” In Eebrew it consists of four letters, item and hence is called the Tetragrammaton, or Four-lettered Name; and because it was forbidden to a Jew, as it is to a Freemason, to pronounce it, it is also called the Ineffable or Unpronounceable Name. For its history we must refer to the sixth chapter of Exodus, verses 2, 3. When Moses returned discouraged from his first visit to Pharaoh, and complained to the Lord that the only result of his mission had been to incense the Egyptian King, and to excite him to the exaction of greater burdens from the oppressed Israelites, God encouraged the Patriarch by the promise of the great wonders which He would perform in behalf of His people, and confirmed the promise by imparting to him that sublime name by which He had not hitherto been known: “And God,” says the sacred writer, “spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob as E1 Shaddai, but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them.”
This Ineffable Name is derived from the substantive verb hayah, meaning to be; and combining, as it does, in its formation the present, past, and future significations of the verb, it is considered as designating God in His immutable and eternal existence. This idea is carried by the Rabbis to such an extent, that Menasseh Ben Israel says that its four letters may be so arranged by permutations as to form twelve words, every one of which is a modification of the verb to be, and hence it is called the Nomen substance selessentiae, the name of his substance or existence.
The first thing that attracts our attention in the investigation of this name is the ancient regulation, still existing, by which it was made unlawful to pronounce it. This, perhaps, originally arose from a wish to conceal it from the surrounding heathen nations, so that they might not desecrate it by applying it to their idols. Whatever may have been the reason, the rule was imperative among the Jews. The Talmud, in one of its treatises, the Sanhedram, which treats of the question, Who of the Israelites shall have future life and who shall not? says: “Even he who thinks the name of God with its true letters forfeits his future life.” Abraham Ben David Halevi, when discussing the names of God, says: “But the name mm we are not allowed to pronounce. In its original meaning it is conferred upon no other being, and therefore we abstain from giving any explanation of it.”br> We learn from Jerome, Origen, and Eusebius that in their time the Jews wrote the name in their copies of the Bible in Samaritan instead of Hebrew letters, in order to veil it from the inspection of the profane. Capellus says that the rule that the holy name was not to be pronounced was derived from a tradition, based on a passage in Leviticus, xxiv, 16, which says that he who blasphemeth the name of Jehovah shall be put to death; and he translates this passage, “whosoever shall pronounce the name Jehovah shall suffer death,” because the word nokeb, here translated to blaspheme, means also to pronounce distinctly, to cay by name. Another reason for the rule is to be found in a rabbinical misinterpretation of a passage in Exodus.
In the third chapter of that book, when Moses asks of God what is His name, He replies “I am that I arn ;” and He said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you,” and He adds, “this is my name forever.” Now, the Hebrew word I am is Ehyeh. But as Mendelssohn has correctly observed, there is no essential difference between nnn in the sixth chapter and mm in the third, the former being the first person singular, and the latter the third person of the same verb, the future used in the present sense of the verb to be; and hence what was said of the name Ehyeh was applied by the Rabbis to the name Jehovah. But of Ehyeh God had said, “this is My name forever.” Now the word forever is represented in the original by :by9, I’olam; but the Rabbis, says Capellus, by the change of a single letter, made l’olam, forever, read as if it had been written l’alam, which means to be concealed, and hence the passage was translated “this is my name to be concealed,” instead of “this is my name forever.”
And thus Josephus, in writing upon this subject, uses the following expressions: “Whereupon God declared to Moses His Holy name, which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say any more.” In obedience to this law, whenever the word Jehovah occurs to a Jew in reading, he abstains from pronouncing it, and substitutes in its place the word bout, Adonai. Thux, instead at saying “holinxqs to Jehovah.” as it is in the original, he would say “holiness to Adonai.” And this same reverential reticence has been preserved by our translators in the authorized version, who, where ever Jehovah occurs, have, with a few exceptions, translated it by the word Lord, the very passage just quoted, being rendered “Holiness to the Lord.”
Maimonides tells us that the knowledge of this word was confined to the hachamin or wise merit who communicated its true pronunciation and the mysteries connected with it only on the Sabbath daft, to such of their disciples as were found worthy; but how it was to be sounded, or with what vocal sounds its four letters were to be uttered, was utterly unknown to the people. Once a year, namely, on the Day of Atonement, the holy name was pronounced with the sound of its letters and with the utmost veneration by the High Priest in the Sanctuary. The last priest who pronounced it, says Rabbi Bechai, was Simeon the Just, and his successors used in blessing only the twelve-lettered name. After the destruction of the city and Temple by Vespasian, the pronunciation of it ceased, for it was not lawful to pronounce it anywhere except in the Temple at Jerusalem, and thus the true and genuine pronunciation of the name was entirely lost to the Jewish people. Nor is it now known how it was originally pronounced. The Greeks called it Jao; the Romans, Jova; the Samaritans always pronounced it Jahve.
The task is difficult to make one unacquainted with the peculiarities of the Hebrew language comprehend how the pronunciation of a word whose letters are preserved can be wholly lost. It may, however, be attempted. The Hebrew alphabet consists entirely of consonants. The vowel sounds were originally supplied by the reader while reading, he being previously made acquainted with the correct pronunciation of each word; and if he did not possess this knowledge, the letters before him could not supply it, and he was, of course, unable to pronounce the word. Every Hebren, however, knew from practice the vocal sounds with which the consonants were pronounced in the different words, in the same manner as every English reader knows the different sounds of A in hat, hate, far, was, and that krtt is pronounced knight.
The words God save the Republic, written in the Hebrew method, would appear thus: Gd so th Rpblc. Now, this incommunicable name of God consists of four letters, Yod, He, Vau, and He, equivalent in English to the combination J H V H. It is evident that these four letters cannot, in our language, be pronounced, unless at least two vowels be supplied.
Neither can they in Hebrew. In other words, the vowels were known to the Jew, because he heard the words continually pronounced, just as we know that Mr. stands for Mister, because we continually hear this combination so pronounced. But the name of God, of which these four letters are svmbols, was never pronounced, but another word, Adonai, substituted for it; and hence, as the letters themselves have no vocal power, the Jew, not knowing the implied vowels, was unable to supply them, and thus the pronunciation of the word was in time entirely lost. Hence some of the most learned of the Jewish writers even doubt whether Jehovah is the true pronunciation, and say that the recovery of the name is one of the mysteries that will be revealed only at the coming of the Messiah. They attribute the loss to the fact that the Masoretic or vowel points belonging to another word were applied to the sacred name, whereby in time a confusion occurred in its vocalization.
In the Ineffable Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, there is a tradition that the pronunciation varied among the patriarchs in different ages. Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah pronounced it Juha; Shem, Arphaxad, Selah, Heber, and Peleg pronounced it Jeva; Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abraham, Isaac, and Judah, called it Jova; by Hezrom and Ram it was pronounced Jevo; by Aminadab and Nasshon, Jevah; by Salmon, Boaz, and Obed, Johe; by Jesse and David, Jehovah. And they imply that none of these was the right pronunciation, which was only in the possession of Enoch, Jacob, and Moses, whose names are. therefore, not mentioned in this list. In all these words it must be noticed that the J is to be pronounced as Y. the a as in father, and the e as a in fate. Thus Je ho vah would be pronounced Yay-ho-vah.
The Jews of old believed that this holy name, which they held in the highest veneration, was possessed of unbounded powers. “He who pronounces it,” said they, “shakes heaven and earth, and inspires the very angels with astonishment and terror. There is a sovereign authority in this name: it governs the world by its power. The other names and surnames of the Deity are ranged about it like officers and soldiers about their sovereigns and generals: from this King-Name they receive their orders, and obey.”
It was called the Shem hamphorash, the explanatory or declaratory name, because it alone, of all the Divine names, distinctly explains or declares what is the true essence of the Deity. Among the Essenes, this sacred name, which was never uttered aloud, but always in a whisper, was one of the mysteries of their initiation, which candidates were bound by a solemn oath never to divulge.
It is reported to have been, under a modified form, a password in the Egyptian mysteries, and none, says Schiller, dare enter the temple of Serapis who did not bear on his breast or forehead the name Jao or Je-ha-ho; a name almost equivalent in sound to that of Jehovah, and probably of identical import; and no name was uttered in Egypt with more reverence.
The Rabbis asserted that it was engraved on the rod of Moses, and enabled him to perform all his miraeles. Indeed, the Talmud says that it was by the utterance of this awful name, and not by a club, that he slew the Egyptian; although it fails to tell us how he got at that time his knowledge of it.
That scurrilous book of the Jews of the Middle Ages, called the Toldoth Jeshu, attributes all the wonderful works of Jesus Christ to the potency of this incommunicable name, which He is said to have abstracted from the Temple, and worn about Him. But it would be tedious and unprofitable to relate all the superstitious myths that have been invented about this name. And now as to the grammatical signification of this important word. Gesenius (Thesaurus ii, page 577), thinks—and many modern scholars agree with him that the word is the future form of the Hiphil conjugation of the verb to be, pronounced Yavah, and therefore that it denotes “He who made to exist, called into existence.” that is. the Creator. The more generally accepted definition of the name is, that it expresses the eternal and unchangeable existence of God in respect to the past, the present, and the future.
The word mn is derived from the substantive verb hayah, meaning to be, and in its four letters combines those of the past, present and future of the verb. The letter ‘ in the beginning, says Buxtorf (de Nomine v), is a characteristic of the future; the 1 in the middle, of the participle or present time; and the is at the end, of the past. Thus, out of m1lr we get Urn, He was mn, He is; and mm, He wil be. Hence, among other titles it received that of nomen essential, because it shows the essential nature of God’s eternal existence. The other names of God define His power, wisdom, goodness, and other qualities; but this alone defines His existence.
It has been a controverted point whether this name was made known for the first time to Moses, or whether the patriarchs had been previously acquainted with it. The generally recognized opinion now is, and the records of Genesis and Exodus sustain it, that the name was known to the patriarchs, but not in its essential meaning, into which Moses was the first to be initiated. In the language of Aben Ezra, “Certainly the name was already known to the patriarchs, but only as an uncomprehended and unmeaning noun, not as a descriptive, appellative one, indicative of the attributes and qualities of the Deity.”
“It is manifest,” says Kallisch (Commentary on Exodus), “that Moses, in being initiated into the holy and comprehensive name of the Deity, obtains a superiority over the patriarchs, who, although perhaps from the beginning more believing than the long-wavering Moses, lived more in the sphere of innocent, childlike obedience than of manly, spiritual enlightenment.” This, too, is the Masonic doctrine. In Freemasonry the Holy Name is the representative of the Word, which is itself the symbol of the nature of God. To know the Word is to know the true nature and essence of the Grand Architect.
Cohen the pronunciation of the name was first interdicted to the people is not with certainty known. Leusden says it was a rabbinical prohibition, and probably made at the second Temple. The statement of the Rabbi Bechai, already cited, that the word was pronounced for the last time by Simeon, before the spoliation by the Roman emperor Vespasian, would seem to indicate that it was known at the second Temple, although its utterance was forbidden, which would coincide with the Masonic tradition that it was discovered while the foundations of the second Temple were being laid. But the general opinion is, that the prohibition commenced in the time of Moses, the rabbinical writers tracing it to the law of Leviticus, already cited. This, too, is the theory of Freemasonry, which also preserves a tradition that the prohibition would have been removed at the first Temple, had not a well-known occurrence prevented it. But this is not to be viewed as a historic statement, but only as a medium of creating a symbol.
The Jews had four symbols by which they expressed this Ineffable Name of God: the first and most common was two Yods, with a Sheva and the point Kametz underneath, thus, ‘..’ the second was three points in a radiated form like a diadem, thus, his, to represent, in all probability, the sovereignty of God; the third was a Yod within an equilateral triangle, which the Cabalists explained as a ray of light, whose luster was too transcendent to be contemplated by human eyes; and the fourth was the letter if, which is the initial letter of Shaddai, meaning the Almighty, and was the symbol usually placed upon their phylacteries, the strips of parchment inscribed with passages of Scripture and enclosed in- a case having thongs for binding it on the forehead or around the left arm. Buxtorf has a fifth method of three Yods, with a Kametz underneath ‘ “, enclosed in a circle.
In Freemasonry, the equilateral triangle, called the delta, with or without a Yod in the center, the Yod alone, and the letter G. are recognized as symbols of the sacred and Ineffable Name. The history of the introduction of this word into the ritualism of Freemasonry would be highly interesting, were it not so obscure. Being in almost all respects an esoteric symbol, nearly all that we know of its Masonic relations is derived from tradition; and as to written records on the subject, we are compelled, in general, to depend on mere intimations or allusions, which are not always distinct in their meaning. In Freemasonry, as in the Hebrew mysteries, it was under the different appellations of the Word, the True Word, or the Lost Word, the symbol of the knowledge of Divine Truth, or the tale nature of God.
That this name, in its mystical use, was not unknown to the medieval Freemasons there can he no doubt. Many of their architectural emblems show that they possessed this knowledge. Nor can there be any more doubt that through them it came to their successors, the Freemasons of the beginning of the eighteenth century. No one can read the Defense of Freemasonry, written in 1730, without being convinced that the author, probably Martin Clare, which see elsewhere in this work, was well acquainted with this name; although he is, of course, careful to make no very distinct reference to it, except in one instance. “The occasion,” he says, “of the brethren searching so diligently for their Master was, it seems, to receive from him the secret Word of Masonry, which should be delivered down to their fraternity in after ages” (Constitutions, 1738, page 225).
It is now conceded, from indisputable evidence, that the holy name was, in the earlier years, and, up to the middle of the eighteenth century, attached to the Third Degree, and then called the Master’s Word. On some early tracing boards of the Third Degree among the emblems displayed is a coffin, on which is inscribed, in capital letters, the word JEHOVAH. Hutchinson, who wrote in 1774, malces no reference whatever to the Royal Arch, although that system had, by that time, been partially established in England; but his lectures to Master Masons and on the Third Degree refers to “the mystic word, the Tetragrammaton” (see Lecture X, page 180). Brother Oliver tells us distinctly that it was the Master’s word until Dunckerley took it out of the Degree and transferred it to the Royal Arch. That it was so on the Continent, we have the unmistakable testimony of Guillemain de Saint Victor, who says, in his Adonhiramite Masonry (page 96), that Solomon placed a medal on the tomb of Hiram, ‘”on which was engraved Jehova, the old Master’s Word, and which signifies the Supreme Being.”
So far, then, these facts appear to be established: that this Ineffable Name was known to the Operative Freemasons of the Middle Ages; that it was derived from them by the Speculative Freemasons, who, in 1717, revived the Order in England; that they knew it as Master Masons; and~that it continued to be the Mastery Word until late in that century, when it was removed by Dunckerley into the Royal Arch.
Although there is, perhaps, no point in the esoteric system of Freemasonry more clearly established than that the Tetragrammaton is the true somnific word, yet innovations have been admitted, by which, in jurisdictions in the United States, that word has been changed into three others, which simply signify Divine names in other languages, but have none of the sublime symbolism that belongs to the true name of God. It is true that the General Grand Chapter of the United States adopted a regulation disapproving of the innovation of these explanatory words, and restoring the Tetragrammaton; but this declaration of what might almost be considered a truism in Freemasonry has been met with open opposition or reluctant obedience in some places.
The Grand Chapter of England has fallen into the same error, and abandoned the teachings of Dunckerley the founder of the Royal Arch in that country, as some of the Grand Chapters in America did those of Debby who was the founder of the system here. It is well, therefore, to inquire what was the Somnific Word when the Royal Arch system was first invented.
We have the authority of Brother Oliver, who had the best opportunity of any man in England of knowing the facts, for saying that Dunckerley established the Royal Arch for the modern Grand Lodge; that he wisely borrowed many things from Ramsay and Dermott; and that he boldly transplanted the word Jehovah from the Master’s Degree and placed it in his new system. Brother Hawkins adds the following comment at this point to Brother Mackey’s article: “But more recent authorities, such as Brother R. F. Gould, History of Freemasonry and Brother H. Sadler, Life of Dunckerley, have cast great doubt on these statements (see Dunckerley).” Now, what was The Word of the Royal Arch, as understood by Dunckerley? We have no difficulty here, for he himself answers the question. To the first edition of the Latvs and Regulations of the Royal Arch, published in 1782, there is prefixed an essay on Freemasonry, which is attributed to Dunckerley. In this he makes the following remarks:
It must be observed that the expression The Word is not to be understood as a watchword only, after the manner of those annexed to the several Degrees of the Craft, but also theologically, as a term, thereby to convey to the mind some idea of that Grand Being Who is the sole author of our existence, and to carry along with it the most solemn veneration of His sacred Name and Word, as well as the most clear and perfect elucidation of His power and attributes that the human mind is capable of receiving. And this is the light in which the Name and Word hath always been considered, from the remotest ages, amongst us Christians and the Jews.
And then, after giving the well-known history from Jos4ephus of the word, which, to remove all doubt of what it is, he says is the Shem Hamphorash, or the Unutterable Name, he adds: “Philo, the learned Jew, tells us no’ only that the Word was lost, but to make an end of these unprofitable disputes among the learned, be it remembered that they all concur with the Royal Arch Masons in others much more essential first, that the Name or Word is expressive of Self Existence and Eternity; and, secondly, that it can be applicable only to that Great Being who Was and is and Jill be. Notwithstanding this explicit and un. mistakable declaration of the founder of the English Royal Arch, that the Tetragrammaton is the Somnific Word, the present system in England has rejected it, and substituted in its place three other words, the second of which is wholly unmeaning.
In the American system, as revised by Thomas Smith Webb, there can be no doubt that the Tetrad grammaton was recognized as the Omnific Word. In the Freemasons Monitor, prepared by him for monitorial instruction, he has inserted, among the passages of Scripture to be read during an Exaltation, the following from Exodus, which is the last in order, and which anyone at all acquainted with the ritual will at once see is appropriated to the time of the Euresis or Discovery of the Word.
And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord, and I appeared unto Abrnham and unto lsaae, and unto Jaeob by the name of clod Almighty, but by my name Jehovah wan I not known to them;
From this it will be evident that Webb recognized the word Jehovah, and not the three other words that have since been substituted for them by some Grand Chapters in America, and which it is probable were originally used by Webb as merely explanatory or declaratory of the Divine nature of the other and principal word. And this is in accordance with one of the traditions of the Degree, that they were placed on the Substitute Ark around the real word, as a key to explain its signification. To call anything else but this four-lettered name an Omnifie Word—an all-creating and all-performing word—either in Freemasonry or in Hebrew symbolism, whence Freemasonry derived it, is to oppose all the doctrines of the Talmudists, the Cabalists, and the Gnostics, and to repudiate the teachings of every Hebrew scholar from Buxtorf to Gesenius. To fight the battle against such odds is to secure defeat. It shows more of boldness than of discretion. And hence the General Grand Chapter of the United States has very wisely restored the word Jehovah to its proper place. It is only in the York and in the American Rites that this error has ever existed. In every other Rite the Tetragrammaton is recognized as the True Word.