Josephus the Jewish historian wrote that the set-apart name consisted of "four vowels" (Jewish Wars, 5. 5. 7.). Why did Josephus write this? Please consider the following thoughts.
Remember, Josephus was writing to a Greek audience! He first wrote his history [at least his notes] in Hebrew Aramaic (Antiquities 12.5. 1-4 footnotes; Against Apion 1. 9). After the Jewish/Roman war, he had time, and with long perseverance, he mastered the Greek language, and compiled his history in Koine Greek, which was the international language of the world at that time. Though it was the international language, do not think it was the every day language in Israel, for it was not!
Josephus frequently altered Hebrew names, spelling them after the fashion of the Greeks, "to please [his Greek] readers" (Antiquities 1. 5. 1.). Josephus describes the head-gear worn by the Levitical priest:
"Of this was a crown made, as far from the hinder part of the head to each of the temples; but this ... did not cover the forehead, but it was covered by a golden plate, which had inscribed upon it the Name of (Elohim) in SET-APART CHARACTERS." (Antiquities 3. 7. 6. set-apart title and emphasis added).
The term HOLY CHARACTERS, means not just Hebrew letters, but the ancient Hebrew, known as Paleo-Hebrew, used in the time of Moses, and David.
Anciently, even the Greek language, like the Hebrew, was written from right to left. Also, the ancient Greek letters were similar to Paleo Hebrew. Therefore, the ancient Greek would have written the set-apart name very similar to the ancient Hebrew, which appeared like this: . The Modern Greek equivalent would be written IHYH, and understood as IEUE. But do not think that this, in any wise, proves the pronunciation of the set-apart name. Josephus was writing to the Greeks, the equivalent of YHWH. It was from this [Greek form] that the heathen formed their Jeue, Jove, and Jeve (see Adam Clarke's Commentary on Exodus 3:14)
It is true that the letters , , can function as vowel letters. Let us consider a few examples: the yod acts as a vowel in the words "Eli" (Mt 27:46) also #430 Elohim, #4899 Mashiach, ish (Gen 2:23 margin KJV) etc. Yet it also functions as a consonant in other words like #3050 Yah, #2968 ya ab etc. Sometimes it acts as a vowel and a consonant all in the same letter, as in Eliyah, where it is a double yod.
"The is stronger and firmer than , and never loses it's consonantal sound in a middle of a word . . . . On the other hand, at the end of a word it is always a mere vowel letter, unless expressly marked by Mappiq as a strong consonant." (As in Yahh, and Eloahh) Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar p. 81
The waw also can act as a vowel in words like #452 Eliyahu, #3194 Yutah etc.. It also carries the "o" sound, as in #3117 yom. On the other hand, it acts like a consonant in words like #2331 chavah, actually the consonant is not a V, but as in Arabic, or as the English sound of "w".
Sometimes the acts like a vowel and a consonant all in the same letter; they can also be consonants, depending on the usage.
Concerning the Set-Apart Name, the structure of the letters tell us that the yod is a consonant, as in the word YAH (Ps. 68:4 & Isa. 12:2; 26:4; 38:11 NKJV). Also the is a consonant, since "it never loses it's consonantal sound in the middle of a word." Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar p. 81
Also, the waw always acts as a consonant when ending words (except in Eloahh). When Hebrew-words end with "uah" sound, it is expressed in Hebrew as or ; therefore, if the Hebrew word ends , it will always act as a consonant, ending like "wah" or "weh" etc.
The final in is the vowel letter in the set-apart name, "at the end of a word it is always a mere vowel letter." Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar p. 81
Conclusion: When Josephus said "four vowels", he was talking to his Greek audience trying to express the Tetragrammaton in a way that they would comprehend, trans-letter-ating from Paleo-Hebrew , which in Paleo Greek was , then into modern Greek, thus arriving with IHYH (literally IEUE.) But this does not in any way prove the pronunciation of the set-apart name.
Chapter 6 / Index