19 February, 2007

Church Splits Over Pronunciation of Hebrew Letter


It is one small letter but it is causing big problems for one congregation in the northwest Louisiana town of Bossier City. The issue has divided both the congregation and the elders of Westminster Presbyterian Church so deeply that the almost half of the church's membership including 3 elders and the associate pastor recently split to form a new congregation in town.

The controversy, which has been growing for almost 5 years now, all centers around the pronunciation of the Hebrew letter 'waw' or 'vav.' Many in the realms of scholarship
insist that the letter is to be pronounced 'vav,' making a 'v' sound when it appears in Hebrew words. Others, though, insist that the letter is to be pronounced 'waw,' making a 'w' sound. So then, depending on what stance one takes one could say, for example, "Bar-mitsvah" or "Bar-mitswah."

"We had hoped it wouldn't come to this." Said the church's pastor, Michael French. "But we've got to be firm in what we stand for. The letter is pronounced 'waw' with a 'w' and that's all there is to it. We're not going to budge on this issue."

"I must agree with our pastor." said 80-year-old Mildred Wilson, a life-long member of the congregation. "There's already one 'v' in the Hebrew alphabet, why in the world would you need another? If you want a 'v' just don't put a dagesh lene in 'Beth' and you'll have a 'v' sound. But don't go messing with 'waw.'"

Still others argue against the 'w' pronunciation.

"It's stupid." Said 6th-grader Kenny Nelson. "What are you supposed to do about the conjunctive then? I mean, come on, do you really expect me to say 'w'ahavta eth Yahweh Eloheka b'kal-l'vavka, wuvkal-nafsh'ka, wuvkal-m'odheka' when I'm saying my Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)? That's weird. All the other kids would laugh at me for saying 'w'!"

The final split in the congregation occurred this past Sunday when those who support the 'v' pronunciation wrote a letter to the pastor, remaining elders and the congregation expressing their desire to withdraw and form a new congregation.

"We are deeply saddened that this matter has come to this point, but we must stand firm and we must be unwaivering in what what we believe is right and true." The letter stated. "Therefore we feel it is in the best interests of all involved if our relations with Westminster Presbyterian Church are severed immediately that we may seek to believe and practice what we believe to be true regarding the Hebrew letter 'vav.' We hope that a level of fraternal fellowship may be maintained between our two congregations in the future but with the clear understanding that we will not be persuaded to change our convictions on this matter."

"It's grieving." Said French. "But we're going to keep pressing on fighting for the truth. I do hope that we can indeed maintain some kind of relationship with these folks who left, but it's going to be hard as long as they maintain this position. I guess one day in heaven this issue will be settled at last."


Anonymous said...

I'm strongly on the vav side of this split. Would the new denomination be the ARPCVA? Or they could just become Vestminster Presbyterian.

Call to Die said...

isaiah543 is gravely mistaken on this issue. Who in their right mind has ever prayed to "YahVeh"?

Anonymous said...

Let all who use waw be considered anathema.

Joseph Botwinick said...

It's those liberal heretics trying to shove Jehovah down our purist legalist throats, when everyone with any lick of sense knows it should be YHWH, which is really best left unpronounced, so let's just say Ha-shem and be done with it. OK? Stop perverting the Hebrew....please.

Stefan Ewing said...

Oh man, Isaiah543 took my punchline!

Velcome, Vestminster Reformed Presbyterian Church!

This blog is brilliant! (I would have inserted some random emphatic adverb ending in -ing before brilliant, but since Jesus saved me, I try to refrain from such language.)

Anonymous said...

It reminds me about the story from Judges chapter 12, where Ephraimites were not able to pronounce "Shibboleth" but
instead pronounced it like "Sibboleth,"

"5 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites.
And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, "Let me go over," the men of Gilead said to him,
"Are you an Ephraimite?" When he said, "No,"
6 they said to him,
"Then say Shibboleth,"
and he said, "Sibboleth,"
for he could not pronounce it right.
Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell."
Judges 12:5,6 (ESV)

Stefan Ewing said...

Whoops, I'd better drop the "Reformed": I don't know enough about Presbyterianism, Reformed or otherwise. Hopefully I haven't unintentionally insulted someone, somewhere!

Team Tominthebox News Network said...

Hey Sewing,

Thanks for visiting and your comments. No offense at all. I hope you don't find offense either. I'm an unashamed Calvinist and here at this blog you'll find some "picking" at non-Calvinists. That doesn't mean I do not think they're Christians, it just means I find our disagreements over Scriptural interpretation to be humorous at times.

There are also those here who are on the receiving end of my satire that I do NOT view as brothers in Christ but rather rank heretics. If you think I've gone "too far" sometimes with a certain person it's probably best to "Google" their name to find out more about them. I probably said the things I said for good reason.

And sometimes I satire things that are general to all Christians.

I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

In Christ,

Stefan Ewing said...

I cannot even being to tell you how much I love your blog! God clearly called you to a ministry of high-minded humour that only dry, dusty, too-serious Bible scholars (myself included) could possibly appreciate! The Holy Spirit sure works in strange ways....

Stefan Ewing said...

...And no offense will be taken, as long as you don't impugn Anabaptists. Then the gloves will come off, good sir! (Whoops, sorry, that would be contrary to my confession of faith....)

Anonymous said...

First of all it was the ancient Priesthood that mingled in divination with the Melek of other tribe/nations for reasons primarily towards greed and self adoration. These felt Yah's Name to be to set-apart to pronounce, thus began the roots to the various perversions all have come to know.It is sad indeed when His people can not except others where they are and respect their views. The fact is the last two letters to the Greek tetragrammaton are not known for certain by any group of either scholars or experts in the fields of language. Why not just use the 49 occurrences to the shortened form of YaHH/Yah which by the way is the most archaic form discovered as of yet, and I believe is His true name in its entirety. Hu-man added to His name to prevent the mass or Goyim from knowing the proper pronunciation. Hallelu-Yah Yahshayah our Saviour. Omain and Omain
Scottyhiyah a son of the Most High Mighty Ones simply Yah.

Team Tominthebox News Network said...


Thanks a lot for that seminary-like lecture. The story was a joke.