Jesus’ Name Etymology

Some fight over whether or not to call the Messiah Jesus or Yeshua (or Yahshua). As far as I am concerned, anyone who says you can’t call him anything other than Yeshua/Yahshua is saying he doesn’t respond to prayers from people who call on him different names from other languages. I’m pretty confident that when Greek believers in the 1st Century called the name Iēsous (“Jesus”) they got the same results that Hebrew and Aramaic-speaking Jews got with Yeshua, otherwise the Bible would have said you can only say Yeshua.

The difference between Jesus and Yeshua is linguistics. In Spanish, it gets translated as Jesus but pronounced as (Hey-soose) and in Italian it is Gesù. In Arabic, his name is Isa (عيسى). This is about linguistics, is not something to convict people over. In fact, Arab Christians call God, Allah. Not because they believe Islam has the same God theologically, but because Allah means the[one] God in Arabic. In Spanish God is Dios(from the Latin word Deus), in Japanese kami means deity or god. They are just the words for the titles, not necessarily the name of God, like YHWH, or Elohim would be. Yeshua ya Mashiach in Hebrew and Aramaic is the same as Iēsous Christos in Greek and Latin because they all point to Jesus Christ.

While Yeshua is his name in Hebrew, remember all languages in the world were divided from an original language at Babel in Genesis 11, and God talked to Noah in a pre-Babel language. Therefore God can speak and hear in any language since made them all. It doesn’t matter if you say, Jesus, Isa, Yeshua. The gift of speaking in tongues that came upon those filled with the spirit in Acts 2 is further evidence of this. This stuff is not important, the focus should justice, mercy, faith, etc (Matt 23:23).

In the Letter J:
There are people who claim Jesus didn’t exist because the letter “J” didn’t appear until later on in Europe. However, the letter “j”, came from the letter “i” which itself is based on the Greek letter iota (ι) which is the first letter in Ἰησοῦς which is Iēsous. Iota came from the Phoenician letter Yodh which is the as same the Hebrew letter Yod (י). This letter makes the Y sound in Yeshua (ישוע‎) which is a variant of Yehoshua (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ) or Joshua. So Jesus is a variant of Joshua. Like James is a variant of Jacob which in Hebrew is Yaaqob (יַעֲקֹב), and Michael, Micah, and Michelle are variants of Mikael (מִיכָאֵל).

Jesus’ name is only pronounced “Gee-sus” in English. The new testament was originally written Greek and uses the name Iesous. The letter j is a derivative of the letter “i”. The letter “i” was pronounced with both the “j” and “i” sound in Latin. Here is a video about letters added later to the Latin alphabet like G, J, and W.

In Greek and Latin, names that begin with” I “can begin with j in English as the video discusses. The letter i originally had to do the work of both i and j sounds, until j was separated mid ages. Examples: Julius (Ivlivs) Caesar, January (Ianuarius).

Greek words translated from Hebrew that start with I come from Hebrew words that start with y sounds. This is because the Greek letter iota (ι) came from the letter yodh. The Greek alphabet is a derivative of the Phoenician alphabet. Phoenician is a Semitic language, so it shares an alphabet with other Semitic languages like Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, etc., so this letter yodh is equivalent to the Hebrew letter yod (י). Therefore, the “y” sounds in Hebrew can become j sounds in modern western languages.

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, which has a different alphabet than Hebrew (although Greek has shared roots), but also lacks the “sh” sound found in “Yeshua.” The New Testament authors decided to use the Greek “s” sound in place of the “sh” in Yeshua and then added a final “s” to the end of the name to make it masculine in the language. When the Bible was translated into Latin from the original Greek, the translators rendered the name “Iesus.” Even the 1611 publication of the King James Bible used the “Iesus” spelling. The Geneva Bible, which was translated into German, is believed to be the earliest rendering of Jesus. In German, the “J” is pronounced more like an English “Y”, or the Latin “Ie” as in “Yesus”, but it is spelled, Jesus.

Therefore, the English name Jesus is from the German translation of the Latin name Iesus, which is translated from the Greek name Iesous, from the Hebrew name Yeshua. Even in modern languages, there are differences in the pronunciation of Jesus. In English, the name is pronounced with a hard “J” while in Spanish, even though the spelling is the same, the name is pronounced with what would be an “H” in English.

A similar transition happened with the name James. James is an English variation of the Latin word Iacomus. Which came from the greek Iacobus(Iakobos), which is a translation of Yacob/Ya‘akov (Jacob). The apostle James’ name should actually be Jacob. However, in the case of James, there were linguistic changes, from the letter b to the letters “MB” to the letter m in Latin. As well as a change in the pronunciation of the o sound.

Languages aren’t static, they die, they fuse with other languages, or they become simplified. These changes can occur for various reasons like cultural shifts via conquering or technological shifts, via medium changes like going from etching in stone, to writing on paper, to typing on a computer. Until the 17th century, u and v were interchangeable, which was convenient for stone writing because it is easier to write a “u” on paper than to etch it in stone. Another example of technological changes to language is how text lingo (using shorthand and emojis), has become its own sublanguage.

There is also the development of various dialects and such, which are distinguished by factors like region and generation. English is spoken in many countries around the world, but it’s not exactly the same in every place due to variations in spelling and pronunciation, colloquial expressions and idioms, as well as historical and cultural influences. Nor is English today exactly the same as just 100 years ago.

To conclude let’s look at the sacred name theology from a biblical perspective:
The holy spirit gave people the ability to communicate the gospel in multiple languages in Acts 2, so it was never mandated for us to all learn Hebrew. Therefore, this idea that we have to use the original name is preposterous. Even the new testament was preserved in Greek which s not the language of the Hebrews. I say Yeshua when personally praying but when in a community setting I use the common language pronunciation of “Jesus” because I want everyone to understand. It is important for us to have historical, cultural, and linguistic of the bible’s original authors but that should never become a gatekeeping mechanism for others. English will always be a translation of the original text but that doesn’t mean people have to learn Hebrew to become Christians.

One last point. The Great Commission according to Matthew 28:18-20 is to teach all nations. The word nation in the new testament is translated from the Greek word ethnos (ἔθνος) which is where we get the English word ethnicity. This means that biblical nations aren’t specifically referring to nation-states but rather people groups (ethnicities). The word kingdom is used for nation-states. This goes back to the ethnic/nation separation by language at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10 and 11. Acts 2 was a reversal of the Tower of Babel since God is unifying the nations back into one Kingdom, his kingdom. This may imply that the return of the messiah will be when all ethnic groups have the bible (either written or audio/video recording) in their language. Something to ponder.

This may be why Jesus has not returned yet. Roman maps in the first century did not include Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, Australia, or Oceania. Plus we didn’t have the tech to record audio so languages that don’t have writing systems and deaf people that use sign language would not have a bible. Now there are ministries working on a video(sign language) and an audio bible, and technology has allowed us to distribute these things electronically through the internet so they can be preserved and accessed all over the world immediately and withstand the test of time since they aren’t subject to decay like physical books and scrolls.

Video: Jesus’ name in the 1st century
An article on the subject of Jesus’ name
More on Yeshua vs Jesus