As far as I'm aware, the Septuagint, New Testament, and Vulgata never directly transcribe the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) into Greek or Latin: they substitute in words like κύριος/dominus "lord" or θεός/deus "god", or leave it written in Hebrew letters.

But it seems likely that other Latin or Greek sources would have talked about Jewish religion from an outside perspective, mentioning this deity by name. Does this ever happen? Or are other circumlocutions used, e.g. deus Judaeōrum "the god of the Jews"?

I'm interested specifically in Imperial-era sources and earlier (even including post-Classical ones); the older, the better.

  • By imperial you mean to include post-classical time? I assume Flavius Josephus is excluded, right? (He meets the imperial criterium, but not quite the outside perspective)
    – Rafael
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 22:13
  • @Rafael If Josephus actually wrote out the name in Greek letters, I'd include him!
    – Draconis
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 23:30
  • Saying that deus weren't actually a name is contestable. I don't know how you would recognize the difference (especially when they still caps'ed everything), save for the plural being used,or how worthwhile that would be to consider if the practice of translating it thus could be much older. Which is getting ahead of your question anyway. Good question, in fact.
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 16:14
  • @vectory Jewish tradition treats the Tetragrammaton very differently from titles like adonai (~dominus), elohim (~deus), etc.
    – Draconis
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 16:35
  • Which is perhaps too unique to infer any general statement. Greek at least capitalized names with a simple size contrast, occasionally. I don't know if you got my point. I want to say that "Deus" [always] was a name, I just don't want to commit to a specific time frame for that.
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 16:55

2 Answers 2


The Wikipedia article on Tetragrammaton gives a long list of examples from Greek and Latin in early manuscripts and patristic writing. The overwhelming majority use "Lord", but a few use proper transliterations, such as Ἰαῶ in Greek and "Jaho" in Latin.

  • 3
    Wonderful! Do you happen to know which sources use the transliteration?
    – Draconis
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 19:55
  • Hi Draconis. The sources are spelled out in the linked article. Thanks to Rafael for making the link!
    – Figulus
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 21:48

The oldest Greek transcription I've found is from Diodorus of Sicily (The Library of History I.94.2):

παρὰ δὲ τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις Μωυσῆν τὸν Ἰαὼ ἐπικαλούμενον θεόν
Among the Jews, Moses [attributed his laws to] the god called "Iaō".

The oldest Latin one I've found is Pseudo-Jerome (Breviary on the Psalms 8: in this manuscript, it's on 12v-13r):

Prius nomen Domini apud Hebraeos quattuor litterarum est, jod, hae, uau, hae: quod proprie Dei uocabulum sonat: et legi potest Iaho, et Hebraei arreton, id est, ineffabile opinatur.

The old name of the Lord, among the Hebrews, consists of four letters (yod, he, waw, he) which spell out the true name of God. And it can be read "Jaho", but the Hebrews call it "ineffable", that is, unspeakable.

(Please correct my translation if it's wrong; I'm not great at later Latin, and I had to read proprie as proprium and Hebraei as Hebraeis to make the grammar line up.)

  • I would read proprie as adverbial (“which properly sounds the word for God”), if indeed proprie is what it should say. Looks like something went wrong when the scribe was writing that word. The final verb is definitely opinantur in the manuscript, though, making Hebreī (nom.pl.) the subject of a perfectly logical sentence. Commented May 16, 2020 at 10:08

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