For many people, there seems to be no hesitation in spelling out and regularly using the Tetragrammaton. I’m not one of those. Perhaps it’s because the people that taught me Hebrew (Biblical, post-Biblical, and Modern Israeli) were Jewish that I’m entirely uncomfortable with pronouncing the currently favored scholarly reconstruction of this name. When reading the Hebrew Bible we always vocalized what the Masoretic Text was pointed to indicate,
There are other reasons, too. Socially, I’m not on first name terms with God. Nor am I so with my father or my mother or any number of others whom I love and/or respect. That does it for me. The rest is icing on the cake.
Religiously, I find using that pronunciation suspect. It’s not part of any religious tradition carried down through the millennia. The Judaic tradition abandoned its pronunciation long ago. The Christian tradition never used it, though it was a curiosity, apparently. Had the syncretistic Hermetic magical tradition survived late antiquity, there might be a living connection there to a garbled version of it, but it was garbled and that tradition died out anyway. It’s a new thing in that sense, and its usage is no more necessary or required or necessarily correct than the use of the simplistically concocted “Jehovah.” The “Sacred Names” people can be all over it, with their syrupy CDs and ghastly Tshirts and coffee mugs and whatnot, in fonts with appropriatly Hebrewish-looking English letters (Lord. Have. Mercy!) but that doesn’t make it authentic. To me it just seems really, really wrong to be bandying about this name as though it’s some kind of proof or trophy badge of your authenticity when it’s not an authentic part of any tradition at all. It’s a scholarly reconstruction, utterly devoid of any traditional religious value.
I have some basic scholarly reservations, too, though they’re not so viscreally felt as my reaction to a tacky Tshirt sporting the supposed only name of God. It would be one matter if the pronunciation were preserved there in the Masoretic Text, but it’s not. Therefore, it’s another matter: that of taking the word of patristic Christian writers (who didn’t know Hebrew!) on Hebrew pronunciation. Aside from Origen and Jerome, apparently none of them, including Clement of Alexandria, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Epiphanius of Salamis, our star witnesses to the ancient pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, knew Hebrew. Certainly the scribes doing the transmitting of the Greek texts of these fathers didn’t know Hebrew, and we can’t be certain that, textually speaking, these readings which we think are accurate indicators of ancient Hebrew are really such. So that’s the “traditional” pronunciation in a nutshell, based on writings from 100-200 years after the name had ceased to be pronounced by anyone, anywhere (with the date for its last pronunciation being the last celebrated Day of Atonement in the Jerusalem Temple in 66? AD). Yet with that in hand, it’s possible to back this up with data from the Masoretic Text, particularly other words ending with