Keri And Catib

The various readings given in the Hebrew Bibles, and which are technically denominated by the Jews the Keri and Cetib, are not to be ascribed to Moses or the prophets, for it can not be supposed that inspired writers were ignorant of what was the true reading of the scripture text. One principal occasion of the notes of the Keri and Cetib is, that there are several words which the Jews, either from superstitious reverence or from contempt, are never allowed to pronounce. When they meet with them in the text, instead of pronouncing them, they pronounce others that are marked by certain vowels or consonants in the margin. The chief of these is the great name of God JEHOVAH, instead of which they always read Adonai, Lord, or Elohim, God. This is the word called Tetragrammaton, or the ineffable name of God, consisting of the four letters, Yod, He, Wau, He. The people were not suffered to pronounce it; the high-priest alone had that privilege, and that only in the temple once a year, when he blessed the people on the great day of atonement; and hence it is, that, as this holy name has not been pronounced since the destruction of the temple, its true pronunciation is now lost. Galatinus in the sixteenth century, was the first who thought fit to say, that it ought to be pronounced Jehovah; “which did not happen,” says Pere l'Amy, “without a very particular providence of God, who was pleased, that when the Jews lost the temple in which the true God was worshipped, they should at the same time lose the true pronunciation of his august name. It happened, I say, because, being no longer willing to be their God (for the destruction of the temple was an authentic testimony of the divorce which he gave them), he would not leave them the power of so much as pronouncing his name.”[5] Vide “Apparatus Biblicus, or an Introduction to the Study of the Holy Scriptures.”

Josephus, himself a priest, says it was unlawful for him to speak of the name whereby God was made known to Moses; and if it be true that the pronunciation of it was connected with the temple service, it is not surprising that all trace of it should be lost when the temple was destroyed, and when the Jews grew every day more superstitiously afraid of pronouncing it. Leusden, the great orientalist, is said to have offered a Jew at Amsterdam a considerable sum of money if he would pronounce it only once, but in vain.