Love, Faith & Stewardship
The Evolution and Renaissance Invention of the Name Jesus
Let us begin by stating that we are not among those who consider themselves Sacred Name proponents. We call the Savior by his name Yeshua, because that it what our scriptures teach us. But we take no offense at those who desire to call him “Jesus” or any other name of honor and respect. The name by which you call him is far less important than the feeling in your heart when you call to him.
Speaking of this in the Oracles of Celestine Light, Yeshua’s original Apostles said, “As a child, he was called Yeshua and this was the name by which he was known by his family and friends, save a few who called him Yeshu. But in Galilee, the land of his holy ministry, Greek prevailed among many of the people, since the time of Alexander of Macedonia. Under that influence, he came to be known throughout the land as Iesous of Nazareth. In other tongues Yeshua was called still differently and it matters not; for it is enough that a believer calls upon him with the name by which they know him and with a humble spirit, and by that name, he will answer; for though he is called by many names, in many tongues, it is not because of the name, but because of the spirit of the heart that seeks him that he answers; and by no other name except one spoken with a contrite heart and a true desire for truth, will he answer.” Oracles of Celestine Light; Nexus 2:10-12
Nevertheless, a review of the evolution of the Savior’s name is important as billions of Christians spell his name as Jesus or some translated version of that name, and many seem to take offense at anyone who dares to call him something different, not understanding their own etymological ignorance.
Speaking plainly of the identity of the savior the New Testament says, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:10,12
Given the magnitude of importance this verse places upon the name of the savior, that “there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” it would seem fairly necessary to have the right name.
This is further emphasized by an appearance of an angel in separate instances to both Joseph and Mary, the earthly parents of Jesus. To Joseph, speaking of Mary, the angel said, “she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Mt. 1:21 And to Mary, the Angel Gabriel appeared and told her, “Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS.” Lk. 1:31
Certainly, most people, even non-Christians, would agree that if an angel of God appeared beside you and told you a specific name that you must name your unborn child, it would merit enough amazement, wonder and renewed faith, that you would not even consider naming your child anything else.
In that same vein, would his disciples in ancient times, or his followers in modern times, call him by a name different than that which angels of God had powerfully stated (all capital letters) his name should be?
It is most curious then to grasp the fact that the letter “J” was the last letter created for the English alphabet, and didn’t come into use until around 400 years ago. Nor did the letter “J” exist in any ancient language, including Latin, Greek or Hebrew. To this day in Israel, the land of the Saviors birth, there still is no “J” or “J” sound in the Hebrew language, and the city that English speaking people know as Jerusalem, is known as Yirusalem by both Jews and Muslims.
(See Encyclopedia References to the letter “J” and the evolution of the name “Jesus” at the end of this article)
Most Christians would also probably be surprised to know that the original 1611 King James Bible was actually the King Iames Bible and spoke of Iesus the Savior because the letter “J” had not yet been incorporated into the English language. Beginning in 1629, as the letter “J”, a cross-channel import from France where it had recently become popular, came into vogue in England, the King James version began using it in place of “I’s” for people and place and names. Over the next 100 years as the letter “J” caught on with the general population, the spelling and pronunciation Iesus shifted to the altered spelling and pronunciation of Jesus that Christians continue to use today.
If deforming of the saviors name was simply the use of the modern letter “J” in place of a more ancient letter usage it might be easily dismissed as inconsequential, but the fact is that the spelling, pronunciation and the meaning of the saviors name have all been dramatically altered from the original name that was given by the angels to Joseph and Mary (Yosef and Miryam), which certainly wasn’t “Jesus”.
To get a proper perspective, it is helpful to understand how important a persons name was in the ancient Hebrew culture. To the ancient Hebrews, a child’s name was not just something the parents thought was cute or had a nice ring to it. The very sounds and pronunciation had importance, and were intended to convey significant meanings such as desired personal traits, family lineage, and the nature and essence of the child.
Exodus 3:11-15 indicates how important a name is when in response to Moses query as to what his name was, God told him, “I AM”, and said, “This is my name forever, this is my name for all generations.” In this instance, Moses wasn’t asking by what name he should call God, but more importantly asking, “who are you; what are you like; what have you done?” God’s simple but powerful response of “I AM” was meant to convey his eternal and omnipotent nature.
So how did we get the name “Jesus”? It came about through a series of transliterations from one language to another and finally by the changing of the first letter from “I” to “J”, which even further changed the pronunciation as well as the spelling.
First, it is useful to begin with “Yeshua”, and look backwards. This name was derived from “Ho-sh-u-a” in the Old Testament; an ancient Hebrew name meaning “salvation”. But this was only half the meaning. The Old Testament records added meaning being given to the name when in the story of The Twelve Scouts Moses gave Hoshea a new name of Yehoshua, which is most often interpreted to mean “Yahweh is Salvation” or “Yahweh Saves”, with Yahweh being one of the names used for God.”
In the 5th Century BC the name Yehoshua was shortened to Yeshua and we see biblical evidence of this is Neh. 8:17.
Now begins the transliteration process. Hebrew and Aramaic are both quite different in letters and sounds than Greek. Whenever Greeks converted a name from Hebrew or Aramaic, they had to decide if the best course was to translate it, where they would try to capture the meaning of the word, without regard for the sound, or to transliterate it, where they would try to capture the sound, without regard to the meaning. One of the best explanations we have seen of the Greek transliteration process is with the name Y’shua, another version of the Savior’ original name, researched by Daniel Gleason, herein quoted:
“Let’s look at the most probable scenario of how the four Hebrew letters in the name Y’-Sh-U-A (Yod-Shin-Vav-Ayin), were transliterated to Koine Greek.
The first Hebrew letter YOD has a “YE” sound. Unfortunately, the Greek language does not have a letter nor a diphthong that has the “Y” sound as in YES! The Greek solution was to pair the two letters IOTA-ETA to produce the sound “EE-AY” which was deemed to be close enough to the Hebrew sound “YE.”
The second Hebrew letter SHIN has the “SH” sound. This was an even bigger problem because the “SH” sound does not exist in Greek. The Greek solution was to employ the “S” sound made by the letter SIGMA.
The third Hebrew letter VAV has a “U” sound. The Greek diphthong “ou” OMICRON-UPSILON is an exact match because it has the same “OO” sound.
The fourth Hebrew letter AYIN has the “AH” sound. According to the Greek rules of grammar, masculine names never end in a vowel sound, and when they do, the name should always be closed with the letter “S” whenever possible. The Greek solution was to drop the final “AH” sound and close out the name with an “S.”
These four steps produce the name “Iesous” which is pronounced “EE-AY-SOOS.” The name Jesus now has an isopsehia value of “888” units which conjured up the “888” power structure of the whole Greek alphabet.
A slightly different explanation for the name Yeshua can be found in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia. “The name was common – the Hebrew Bible mentions ten individuals with this name. It is derived from the three-letter root yod-shin-`ayin which has the meaning of “to save”, but the name is not identical to the word “salvation” (y’shu`ah) or to any verb form such as “he will save” (yoshia`). It does not contain part of the name of God YHWH as the name Yehoshua` (Joshua) appears to do, although this name (yod-he-vav-shin-`ayin) could be considered a third person imperfect hiph`il verbal form of the same yod-shin-`ayin root.”
The early translations of New Testament texts into Latin, Coptic, Slavic and other languages, were all taken from “Koiné” or common Greek manuscripts.
Within two hundred years after Yeshua’s resurrection there were several competing Latin translations of the New Testament texts including many that are not part of the modern Bible, even as there were many widely divergent Christian sects that no longer exist today.
By the beginning of the 4th Century, the Catholic Church had become the sanctioned Christian church of the Roman Empire and their rules and religious decrees became the only ones that counted in the Christian world.
In 382 AD a Catholic priest by the name of Jerome translated the Latin Bible into a work known as the “Vulgate”. It became the canonized version of the Catholic New Testament. Jerome transliterated the Greek “Iesous” by writing a Latin version of “IESUS”, thus bringing across all of the Greek sounds. The spelling differed only because the two alphabets were not identical. However, the Latin pronunciation remained the same as the Greek, which was “ee-ay-soos”.
By the end of the 4th Century, the Emperor Theodosus had declared the Catholic sect of Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire and Jerome’s Vulgate soon became the official New Testament text of the Roman Catholic church. Subsequent rulings by the Catholic Church such as the Council of Toulouse in 1229, made the Latin Vulgate the only authorized version by “expressly forbidding it’s translation into vulgar tongues.” (any other language).
If that wasn’t bad enough, the 1234 Council of Tarragona made owning a Bible a capital punishment offense when they declared, “No person except a cleric may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments and if anyone is found to possess them he must be turned over to the local bishop so that he may be burned at the stake.”
Needless to say, with rules like these, the spelling and pronunciation of the Latin “Iesus”, was the only way anyone dare speak the name of the Savior in continental Europe for over 1000 years.
For many centuries the common people of England defied the Catholic edict that the name of the Savior must be “Iesus”. According to the Oxford Dictionary, in the 1400’s his name was “Healand” (Old English), then “Iefus” (Middle English) during the 1500’s, and finally “Jesus” in modern English.
However, early translations of the Catholic Vulgate into English, retained the Latin name “Iesus”, presumably to give scholarly credibility.
In 1384, John Wycliffe was the first person to translate the Catholic Latin Vulgate into English and he preserved the Latin spelling of “Iesus”. Even though each copy was hand-written they became treasures of the people lucky enough to obtain a copy. It was the first time people other than priests could read the texts. Of course, the Wycliffe Bible was immediately banned by the Catholic Church.
The first book printed on Gutenburg’s fanstatic new invention, the printing press, was the Catholic Vulgate Bible in Latin. Subsequent printings of the Mentel Bible in 1466, and the Martin Luther Bible in 1522, continued to use the Latin “Iesus”.
William Tyndale was the next Englishman to come forward with a translation of the Catholic Latin Vulgate into English. He completed his work in 1525 after a visit to Martin Luther, and used the Latin “Iesus” in his translation. He smuggled 18,000 copies into England but only 2 are known to exist today. In 1534, he was captured in Belgium and tried for “Heresy” in a Catholic court, by order of the Pope, and subsequently ordered put to death by strangulation, followed by a burning of his body at the stake. It was obviously a very big deal to the Catholic Church that their Bibles not be allowed into the hands of anyone except Catholic clergy, or translated into any other languages except Latin. An interesting modern digression is that heavily Catholic Spain kept a law on the books banning anyone except Catholic priests from owning a Bible until 1968.
By the middle of the 1600’s the letter “J” was coming into common use in English and many other European languages. Subsequent editions of the King James Bible as well as other translations rendered “Iesus” as “Jesus’.
Today there are entire denominations of Christanity labeled “Sacred Name” sects that base vital tenets of their faith on their followers only saying the name of Yeshua/Jesus in the form that they feel is correct. However, there are different interpretations among the various sects as to which is the correct form of his name.
Regardless of their reasoning in determining their “correct version” of the Saviors name, understanding their motivation to have it correct, based upon the points of the Bible and the importance of names in the ancient Hebrew culture pointed out in this article, it is easy to understand why saying the Saviors name as closely as possible as it was spoken while he was on Earth, is meaningful to many people.
“The form of ‘J’ was unknown in any alphabet until the 14th century. Either symbol (J,I) used initially generally had the consonantal sound of Y as in year. Gradually, the two symbols (J,l) were differentiated, the J usually acquiring consonantal force and thus becoming regarded as a consonant, and the I becoming a vowel. It was not until 1630 that the differentiation became general in England.” Encyclopedia Americana
“In ancient Latin Jesus is spelled Iesus, in ancient Greek (I-ee-sous), ad. late Heb. or Aramaic yeshua, Jeshua, for the earlier y’hoshua, Jehoshua or Joshua.” Oxford English Dictionary
“In Late Latin Jesus was original spelled Iesus; In Greek it was spelled Ièsous; and in ancient Hebrew spelled “yÈshÙa,” which is a contraction of yehÖshÙa (Joshua), help of Jehovah < yÀh, Jehovah + hÖshïa, to help.” Webster’s New World Dictionary “J, the tenth letter of the English alphabet, is the youngest of the 26 letters. It is a descendant of the letter I and was not generally considered a separate letter until the 17th century. The early history of the letter J is the same as the history of the letter I. I is a descendant of the ancient Phoenician and Hebrew letter yod and the Greek letter iota” New Book of Knowledge (Vol. 10, 1992 ed.).
“Jesus”. The word is the Greek rendering of a well-known Hebrew name. It was Yahoshu first, then by inner Hebrew phonetic change it became Yoshua, and by a still northern dialectal shift, Yeshua. The first element, Yahu (=Yahweh) means ‘the Lord,’ while the second comes from shua ‘To help, save.’ The most probable meaning is ‘O Lord, save.’” Anchor Bible (note on Matthew 1:1) (Vol. 26, p.2)
“Christ (Christos) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah, meaning anointed.” Classic Bible Dictionary
His personal name; ‘Christ’ (Gk. Christos, ‘anointed’) is the title given Him by His followers…” (p.531).
“Jesus Christ [Gr. Iesous] (a transliteration of the Aramaic Yeshua, from the Heb. Yehoshua, ‘Joshua,’ meaning ‘Yahweh is Salvation’), Christos (a translation of the Heb. Mashiach, ‘Messiah,’ meaning anointed or anointed One).] The English form ‘Jesus’ comes from the Latin.” SDA Bible Dictionary, page 565
“Jesus” transliterates the Greek Ιησους [Iēsoûs], itself a transliteration from Aramaic or Hebrew (ie: Yeshua). “Christ” is a theological title, transliterating the Greek Χριστός [Christos], in turn a translation derived from the Hebrew Mashiach [Messiah], meaning “anointed” or “the anointed one and his anointing.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia