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Bible Views

The Outline Of History By H.G. WELLS - Jehovah ( footnote page 167 ) - Published By London George Newnew Limited Southampton St. Strand W.C.2

So this name should be spelt in English. It is now the fashion among the learned and among the sceptical to spell it Yahwe or Jahveh or Jahve, or in some such fashion. There is a justification for this in the fact that at first only the consonants were written in Hebrew, and then, for reasons into which we will not enter here, the wrong vowels were inserted in this name, But ever since the days of Tyndales Bible, Jehovah has been established in English literature as the name of the God of Israel, and it is not to be lightly altered.

There is at present a deplorable tendency to strange spoiling among historians. Attention has already been called to the confusion that is being accumulated in people's minds by the variable spelling of Egyptologists, but the tendency is now almost universal among historical writers. In an otherwise admirable little book, The Opening-up of Africa, by Sir H. H. Johnston, for example, one finds him spelling Saul as Sha'ul, and Solomon as Shelomoh Jerusalem becomes Yerusalim and the Hebrews, Habiru or Ibrim. Historians do not realize how the mind of the general reader is distressed and discouraged by these constantly fluctuating attempts to achieve phonetic exactitude.

This treatment of old forms has much the same effect as the dazzle-painting of ships that went on during the submarine warfare. It is dazzle-spelling. The ordinary educated man is so confused that he fails altogether to recognize even his oldest friends under their modern disguises. He loses his way in the story hopelessly. The old events occur to novel names in unfamiliar places. He conceives a disgust for history in which no record seems to tally with any other record. Still more maddening and confusing is the variable spelling of Chinese names A large part of the popular indifference to Chinese history may be due to the impossibility of holding on to the thread of a story in which one narrator talks of t'sin and another of Sin, and both forms mix themselves with Chin and T'chin. A boldly Europeanized name, such as Confucius, is far more readily grasped, Modern writers in their zeal for phonetics seem to have lost their sense of proportion.

It is of far more importance not merely to civilization, but to the welfare, respect, and endowment of historians, that the general Community should form clear and sound ideas of historical processes, than that it should pronounce the name Jehovah exactly as this or that learned gentleman believes it was pronounced by the Hebrews of the days of Ezra.

A day may come in the future for one final, conclusive reform in the spelling of historical names, Meanwhile, it will probably save school teachers of history from endless confusion and muddle if they adhere firmly to the time established spelling. Yet we have attempted no pedantic classicalism. The reader will find Peisistratus for Goldsmith's Pisistratus and Habsburg has replaced the older Hapsburg.