Did you know the name Jesus is less than 400 years old? Where did this name come from, and how did Yeshua become Jesus when translating from Hebrew to English?
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by Lex Meyer
Did you know that the name “Jesus” is less than 400 years old? Where did this name come from, and what was the original name of our Messiah?
In the Bible, names have significant meanings. For example, the name Abram means “exalted father”, but the name Abraham means “father of a multitude”. This is why God changed his name from Abram to Abraham saying,
“No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” Genesis 17:5
Likewise, the name of our Messiah has significant meaning. When the Angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph about his son, he told Joseph what to name the child, saying,
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21
This is significant, because the name “Yeshua” means “salvation”. The Angel was basically saying, “call Him Salvation, because he will save His people from their sins."
So, where did the name “Jesus” come from?
When His name was translated into Greek, it became Iesous. The "Ie" represents the "Ye" sound, the "s" represents the "sh" sound, and the "ou" represents the "ua" sound. But, why did they add the “s” to the end of His name?
The Greek language has certain rules about nouns that indicate case, number, and gender by their spelling. This means the same word can have different spelling depending on its use as subject or object in a sentence. For example, Iesous is in the nominative case, while Iesou is in the genitive case.
The spelling of the name “Jesus” has been in use for less than 400 years. This can easily be seen in the fact that the 1611 King James Version of the Bible still spelled His name “Iesous”, not “Jesus”. The name Iesous was used in Greek, Latin, and English until the 17th century, when the letter “J” was introduced as a replacement for the letter “I” when used as a consonant. However, it was still pronounced “Yea-soos” for many years before it eventually took on the “g” sound that we know today in the word “Jesus”. This means the pronunciation of the name “Jesus” is a very recent development in the English language.
It is also interesting to note that if His name was directly translated from Hebrew into English, it would be Joshua, because the Joshua of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament are the same name in both Hebrew and Greek. We can clearly see this in the book of Acts, when Joshua is referenced in the book of Acts, his name in Greek is identical to the name of Jesus in Greek. Likewise, in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament), Joshua’s name is also translated into Greek as “Iesous”. In fact, if you look up the name Iesous in the Strong’s Concordance, it will tell you that Iesous is the Greek form of the name Joshua.
So, if Joshua and Jesus share the same Hebrew and Greek names, why do they have different English names? Some people assume there is a great conspiracy involved in why the names are different, however, it is a very simple reason. When the Old Testament Hebrew text was translated into English, they phonetically translated “Yehoshua” as “Joshua”, and when they translated the Greek New Testament into English, they phonetically translated “Iesous” as “Jesus”, with one exception, when “Iesous” referred to Joshua son of Nun the translators chose to continue using the name Joshua to avoid confusion.
I have heard some pretty ridiculous theories about the name “Jesus”. For example, some people claim that the name “Jesus” really means “hail Zeus”, which is simply untrue and proves they are unfamiliar with the Greek language. They make this claim because the words “Jesus” and “Zeus” have similar sounding pronunciation in English. However, in Greek, there are no connections between these two names, except that they both end with an “s” sound. If you compare the two names in Greek, you will see that they have nothing in common. The name Zeus is spelled Διός in Greek, while the name Jesus is spelled Ἰησοῦς in Greek.
Some people also claim that His name was changed to Jesus to hide the fact that He was a Jew, since Jesus is based on a Greek name rather than a Hebrew name. While it is possible that there might be some truth to this claim, it is pretty far fetched to think that it was some grand conspiracy to hide the Jewishness of Jesus, since the Bible clearly tells us that Jesus was Jewish.
“For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” Hebrews 7:14
Likewise, the Gospels contain some pretty extensive genealogies that trace the Jewish lineage of Jesus back to a number of Old Testament Jewish people including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David.
Unfortunately, despite these facts, some people remain unaware of the fact that Jesus was Jewish. However, I think it has less to do with the pronunciation of His name, and more to do with these people not knowing what the Scriptures say about Him.
Is it wrong to call Him "Jesus"?
I do not think there is anything wrong with using the name “Jesus”, but in the Bible, names have meaning, and the name Yeshua means “salvation”. Yet the Greek, Latin, and English translations do not carry any meaning since they are phonetically created words that did not exist otherwise.
I prefer to call Him by His Hebrew name Yeshua, because it has such powerful meaning and significance. He is salvation and His name IS Salvation! But I am by no means a "sacred namer", and I want you to know that it does not bother me if you prefer to use the name "Jesus", because I know who you are talking about, and He knows who you are talking about too.
Unfortunately, some people treat His name as if it were a magic word. They seem to think if you pronounce His name a certain way your prayers will be answered, but if you don’t say it just right your prayers will be ignored. I have even heard people argue that you must pronounce His name a certain way if you want to be saved. Let me just say, that is not the way His name should be treated. Our God is not so petty that He would reject someone for using the "wrong" name.
Languages change over time, pronunciation changes from one location to another. We can see some pretty vast differences just within the English language. If you took people from London, New Jersey, Louisiana and Australia and placed them all in the same room, you would immediately notice how differently they all speak the same language. They are all speaking English, but which one is speaking the “right” English? This is a good example of why fighting over pronunciation is unprofitable. Placing so much emphasis on a certain pronunciation of His name is like the person in New Jersey telling the person from Australia that they are not speaking English correctly. It is more important that we understand the meaning of words than it is to have the correct pronunciation of them.
I hope this teaching has helped to clear up some of the confusion about the name Jesus, and I hope it has given you a better understanding about how His name was translated from Yeshua to Jesus.
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