Author:
Anthony R. Meyer
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During the Second Temple period (516 BCE–70 CE) Jews became reticent to speak and write the divine name, YHWH, known by its four letters in Greek as the tetragrammaton. Priestly and pious circles gradually restricted the divine name’s use, and then it disappeared. The variables are poorly understood and the evidence is scattered. Scholars have supposed that the second century BCE was a definitive turning point from the use to avoidance of the divine name and that this change was absolute. The current study brings together all extant evidence from the Second Temple period in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek to describe how, when, and in what sources Jews approached naming God. The outcome is a modified chronology for the history of the divine name. Instead of a clear trend from use to avoidance, the extant evidence suggests diverse and overlapping practices within distinctive linguistic, geographic, theological, and social contexts.

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