Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
"Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is ONE" -- Deuteronomy 6:4
What's the Messiah's REAL Name?
Most people in the "Christian" world call him by a name that simply was NOT his given name -- even though they may have the correct historic personality. The letter "J" in the name Jesus did NOT exist in English until the 1500s and the letter "J" has NEVER existed in Hebrew. Therefore, it is inconceivable that the Messiah was ever called "Jesus" while here on this earth! The name "Jesus" meant absolutely nothing in the Hebrew or Aramaic languages.
by John D. Keyser
The name "Jesus" appears in almost every Bible, movie and piece of "Christian" literature produced in the English language. It is also spread across the world on a daily basis by evangelical missionaries and an endless variety of "Christian" radio and TV programs. And, as a result of all this, millions of sincere people believe that they have come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah through that name.
However, the sad fact is that the name "Jesus" could NOT possibly have been the powerful name which was invoked to heal the sick and to cast out demons. Also, it is IMPOSSIBLE for it to have been declared by the apostle Peter as the one name "under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." In fact, the name "Jesus" DID NOT even exist when Peter made his awesome proclamation. How can this be?
The Messiah Concept
The Messiah concept is central to Jewish culture. Through Moses, YEHOVAH God had foretold the coming of a great prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18), and in the first century -- prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. -- this is who the Jews (Judahites) were waiting for. In the book Proclaim His Holy Name, the authors state that "the prophet spoken of by Moses is the Messiah...identified by the people in his hometown of Nazareth as Yehoshua bar Yahosef bar Ya'akov, (bar is Aramaic for 'son of') which when translated into English becomes Joshua, son of Joseph, son of Jacob. He was NEVER called 'Jesus Christ' by anyone who knew him personally; and rather than being his last name, 'Christ' is actually the English version of the Greek word Christos, which means 'the anointed one.' The Hebrew primitive root word for anointed is mashach, which means 'to spread.' To be anointed by YHVH is to be filled with and consecrated by the holy spirit" (Peter & Linda Miller-Russoi, Proclaim His Holy Name, Only Believe Publishing: 2011, p. 225).
While knowledge about the coming Messiah was common among the Jews, not all persons had the same knowledge or understanding about his origins or role. Observes The Jewish Encyclopedia --
"They [the Jews of the Messiah's time] yearned for the promised deliverer of the house of David, who would free them from the yoke of the hated foreign usurper, would put an end to the impious Roman rule, and would establish his own reign of peace" (1976, Vol. VIII, p. 508).
While many knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem -- some did not (Matthew 2:3-6; John 7:27). Some believed the Prophet to be separate from the Christ or anointed one (John 1:20-21; 7:40-41). Certain prophecies about the Messiah were not even understood by the disciples of the one most people today call Jesus. This was particularly true about those prophecies dealing with the Messiah's rejection, suffering, death and resurrection -- see Isaiah 53:3, 5, 12; Psalm 16:10. Yet -- once these things had come to pass and the prophecies had been explained -- the disciples of the one called Jesus (and even those who were not yet his disciples) began to appreciate the prophetic nature of these texts in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The one thing, however, that emerges from the Bible with absolute clarity is the fact that the identity of the Messiah is NEVER confused with that of YEHOVAH, the Eternal God of Israel. Notice what Dr. James D. Tabor writes:
"To assert, as many Christians have, that the Messiah is YHVH God in the flesh, or even to equate the Messiah with YHVH, reflects the worst kind of confusion and an abysmal ignorance of the most basic Scriptures. The Messiah is the one chosen and appointed BY YHVH; he is the chief agent OF YHVH, who sits at His right hand. He is, accordingly, YHVH's anointed one. As exalted as his role and mission is, he is, and always remains, YHVH's faithful servant. He is a HUMAN BEING, of the physical lineage of David" (James D, Tabor, Restoring Abrahamic Faith, Genesis 2000, 1993, p. 76).
As noted above, the word "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew root verb mashach' -- meaning "to spread" or "to smear" and so "anoint" (Exodus 29:2, 7). Therefore Messiah (ma.shi'ach) means "anointed" or "anointed one." The Greek equivalent is Khri.stos', or Christ.
In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) the verbal adjective form ma.shi'ach is applied to many men. David was officially appointed to be king by being anointed with oil and so is spoken of as "anointed one" or -- literally -- "messiah" (2 Samuel 19:21; 22:51; 23:1; Psalm 18:50). Other kings, including Saul and Solomon, are termed "anointed one" or "the anointed of YEHOVAH." The term is also applied to the high priest (Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22). The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are called YEHOVAH's "anointed ones" (1 Chronicles 16:16, 22). The Persian King Cyrus is also termed "anointed one," in that he was appointed by YEHOVAH God for a certain assignment -- see Isaiah 45:1.
In the Christian Greek Scriptures the transliterated form "Mes.si'as" occurs in the Greek text at John 1:41, with the explanation, "which means, when translated, Christ." See also John 4:25.
What's In a Name?
While it is true that the vast majority of Jewish people today do not believe that the Messiah has already appeared, some 2.1 billion people (roughly 30% of the world's population) believe that he has. However, most of these people call him by a name that simply was NOT his given name -- even though they may have the correct historic personality. The letter "J" in the name Jesus did NOT exist in English until the 1500s and the letter "J" has NEVER existed in Hebrew. Therefore, it is inconceivable that the Messiah was ever called "Jesus" while here on this earth! Writes Peter and Linda Miller-Russo:
"Just as Rabbinic tradition obscured the name of the Creator, it is the Christian Church itself that has obscured the Messiah's name. Rather than seeking out and proclaiming the TRUE Hebrew name of the Messiah they have instead translated a HYBRID name from Greek manuscripts that twists the Messiah's name into a word unrecognizable by the Jewish nation he was born into. We've inherited an INCORRECT translation of the Messiah's name without question -- because we have trusted in men and their traditions instead of in the Word of Elohim" (Proclaim His Holy Name. Only Believe Publishing: 2011, pps. 54-55).
In Matthew 1:20-21 did YEHOVAH God's angel tell Joseph to name his son with a name that has a sound completely foreign to Hebrew or Aramaic -- Jesus? Did the angel speak to the Messiah's father in Greek -- Iesous? Did the name "Jesus" even have a Hebrew or Aramaic meaning at the time of Joseph's dream? The answer to these questions is an adamant NO! Argue Peter and Linda Miller-Russo --
"While the angel could have given Joseph a nonsensical name for his son and then explained that the name meant "He shall save his people from their sins," there is another Hebrew name that closely matches that specific meaning. It is YEHOSHUA (or in English Joshua). The meaning of Yehoshua in Hebrew is: "YHVH is salvation" or "YHVH saves." Yehoshua, while not a common given name of the times, was also the name of Moses's second in command -- the man who led the children of Israel into the promised land.
"Joseph, a devout Jew, would have been aware of the scriptures regarding the naming of people by YHVH. He would have understood the importance of choosing the proper name for his child. He would have certainly been familiar and comfortable with the name YEHOSHUA as opposed to Jesus, or more accurately Iesous, both of which would have sounded odd and alien to him and meant nothing in the Hebrew language" (ibid., pp 55-56).
It is, therefore, most proper to call the Messiah Yeshua -- only in Hebrew does this name have any meaning. In Hebrew Yeshua means both "Salvation," and the concatenated form of Yehoshua, is "Lord who is Salvation." The name Jesus has no intrinsic meaning in English whatsoever.
There are many Yeshuas that we read about in the Biblical text and many are confused with the Yeshua who would later become the "Christ". The name Yeshua appears 29 times in the Old Testament. Yehoshua (Joshua) of Nun is called Yeshua in Nehemiah 8:17. Yeshua is the name of the high priest in the time of Zerubabel in Ezra 3:2. It is the name of a Levite under King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 31:15. There is even a city called Yeshua in the Negev of Judea in Nehemiah 11:26. Yeshua is also a shortened version of the word Yehoshua -- much like Bill is for William.
There are 7 other Yeshuas (Jesuses) in the New Testament. There is Elymas bar Yeshua in Acts 13:6. There is an ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah: the son of Eliezar, the father of Er in Luke 3:29. In Paul's letter to the Colossians in chapter 4, verse 11, there is a Justus called Yeshua -- a fellow worker of Paul. Josephus, the famous Jewish historian mentions 20 different Yeshuas (Jesuses), 10 of which are contemporary with Yeshua the Messiah. All together, at least 50 Yeshuas from his time plus about 9 in the Old Testament have been revealed from the Biblical text and other literary sources.
The Letter "J"
According to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia "in Semitic, the letter [I] may have originated in a hieroglyph for an arm that represented a voiced pharyngeal fricative (//ʕ/) in Egyptian, but was reassigned to /j/ (as in English "yes") by Semites, because their word for "arm" began with that sound. This letter could also be used to represent /i/, the close front unrounded vowel, mainly in foreign words. The Greeks adopted a form of this Phoenician yodh as their letter iota (<Ι, ι>) to represent /i/, the same as in the Old Italic alphabet. In Latin (as in Modern Greek), it was also used to represent /j/ and this use persists in the languages that descended from Latin.
"The modern letter 'j' was firstly a variation of 'i', and both were used interchangeably for both the vowel and the consonant, coming to be differentiated only in the 16th century. The dot over the lowercase 'i' is sometimes called a tittle. In the Turkish alphabet, dotted and dotless I are considered separate letters, representing a front and back vowel, respectively, and both have uppercase ('I', 'İ') and lowercase ('ı', 'i') forms."
From its humble beginnings as a Roman numeral to its eventual tenth position in the English alphabet, the modern letter "J" has had quite a linguistic journey.
“J” is a bit of a late bloomer in that it was the last letter added to the alphabet. It is no coincidence that "I" and "J" stand side by side -- they actually started out as the same character. The letter "J" began as a swash, a typographical embellishment for the already existing "I". With the introduction of lowercase letters to the Roman numeric system, "J" was commonly used to denote the conclusion of a series of one’s -- as in “xiij” for the number 13.
Both "I" and "J" were used interchangeably by scribes to express the sound of both the vowel and the consonant. It wasn’t until 1524 when Gian Giorgio Trissino, an Italian Renaissance grammarian known as the father of the letter "J", made a clear distinction between the two sounds. Trissino’s contribution is important because once he distinguished the soft "J" sound, as in “jam” (probably a loan sound), he was able to identify the Greek “Iesus” -- a translation of the Hebrew “Yeshua” -- as the Modern English “Jesus.” Thus the current phoneme for "J" was born.
The English language is infamous for matching similar phonemes with different letters and "J" is certainly no exception. In addition to the aforementioned soft "J" sound, as in “jam,” which is phonetically identical to the soft "g" as in “general,” the "j" in Taj Mahal takes on a slight variation of that same sound and is probably the closest to Trissino’s original phonetic interpretation. And coming full circle, the "j" sound you hear in the word “hallelujah” is pronounced “halleluyah.”
The Encyclopedia Americana contains the following information on the letter J:
“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, I) 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.”
The New Book of Knowledge reads:
“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” (Vol. 10, 1992 ed.).
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language says about the letter J:
“The tenth letter of the English alphabet developed as a variant form of I in Medieval Latin, and except for the preference for the J as an initial letter, the two were used interchangeably, both serving to represent the vowel (i) and the consonant (y). Later, through specialization, it came to be distinguished as a separate sign, acquiring its present phonetic value under the influence of the French.”
The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, under “J,” offers additional information:
“J, a letter of the alphabet which, as far as form is concerned, is only a modification of the Latin I and dates back with a separate value only to the 15th century. It was first used as a special form of initial I, the ordinary form being kept for use in other positions. As, however, in many cases initial i had the consonantal value of the English y in iugum (yoke), &c., the symbol came to be used for the value of y, a value which it still retains in German: Ja! Jung, & c. Initially it is pronounced in English as an affricate dzh. The great majority of English words beginning with j are of foreign (mostly French) origin, as ‘jaundice,’ ‘judge’”…(p.103).
Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia (1979 edition), volume 14, page 94 under “J,” states:
“J, the tenth letter and seventh consonant in the English alphabet. It is the latest addition to the English script and has been inserted in the alphabet after I, from which it was developed, just as V and W follow U, the letter from which they arose. In form, J was originally merely a variation of I; J appeared first in Roman times, when it was used sometimes to indicate the long i vowel sound, but was often used interchangeably with I. The Romans pronounced I as a vowel in some words, such as iter, and as a semi-vowel in others, for example, iuvenis, spelled presently juvenis. The only difference in spelling, however, was the occasional use of double i for the y sound for example, in maiior, spelled presently major. In the Middle Ages the elongated form (j) was used as an ornamental device, most often initially and in numeral series; many old French manuscripts indicate the numeral 4 by the letter sequence iiij. The use of j as an initial led ultimately to its specialized use to indicate both the old semi-vowel sound y, found in German, and the new palatal consonant sounds (z) and (dz), found in French, Spanish and English. Not until the middle of the 17th century did this usage become universal in English books; in the King James Bible of 1611, for example, the words Jesus and judge are invariably Iesus and iudge. Long after the invention of printing, j thus became more than a mere calligraphic variation of i (which in Latin could be either vowel or semi-vowel), and, j became restricted to a consonantal function.
“In English, j has the composite sound of d + zh, as in journal. In French, on the other hand, the zh sound alone is given the letter, as in jour; German has retained the original y sound of the Latin i consonant, as in jahr; and Spanish has introduced a new sound resembling a guttural ch, as in Jerez. In Middle English, before the differentiation of i and j, the combination gi was sometimes used to represent the dzh sounds, such as in Giew for Jew, and in modern times the soft g is used for the same sound, as in general…”
Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary confirms how the letter J developed from the I and became a consonant only a few centuries ago:
“J, j (ja), n. 1. The tenth letter of the English alphabet: formerly a variant of I, i, in the seventeenth century it became established as a consonant only, as in Julius, originally spelled Iulius.”
"The letter J was often used instead of the letter I, especially at the beginning of a word. This became common in the 1600s" (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 1995 ed). "Medieval scribes added a tail to the second I when two I’s appeared together. Because a beginning I almost always has a consonant sound, the long form, J, came to be used generally for the consonant sound of the letter" (New Book of Knowledge).
It became necessary to distinguish between the J and the I when the dictionary came into being. In the seventeenth century, the dictionary’s appearance forced a consistent spelling. Using either I or J became mandatory to ensure proper alphabetical positioning. Owing to this close kinship with I, J was inserted immediately following I in our English alphabet.
Note the substantiating comments on the letter J from the Encyclopedia Americana:
“It is one of the few permanent additions to those alphabets, made in medieval or modern times. More exactly, it was not an addition, but a differentiation from an existing letter, I, which in Latin, besides being a vowel (as in index), had also the consonantal value of ‘Y’ (as in maior, pronounced ‘mayor’).
“At a later state, the symbol ‘J’ was used for the distinctive purposes, particularly when the ‘I’ had to be written initially (or in conjunction with another ‘I’). Either symbol used initially generally had the consonantal sound of ‘Y’ (as in Year) so that the Latin pronunciation of either Ianuarius or Januarius was as though the spelling was ‘Yanuarius.’ While in some words of Hebrew and other origin (such as Hallelujah or Junker), ‘J’ has the phonetic value of ‘Y.’”
We discover, then, that the letter J derived from the vowel letter I and originally had the same sound as the vowel I. That is why the lower case j still has a dot over it. The letter I represents the Greek iota (I), which usually corresponds to the Hebrew yothe (Y as in yes). The letter J has a Y sound (as in “hallelujah”) in Latin, German, and Scandinavian languages. In Spanish, J is an aspirate, having the sound of H.
The J was first pronounced as the I at the time of the introduction of the printing press. Dutch printers fostered utilizing the J, especially at the beginning of a word. The letter J eventually acquired its own sound. It was the French who gave the letter J the present sound of the soft letter g as in “large” or “purge.” In Latin, German, and other languages the J is pronounced more like Y with an “ee” sound. Some old European maps still show the spelling of countries like Jugoslavia (Yugoslavia) or Sowjet (Soviet) Russia. It is only in the last century that the letter J has firmly taken on the French pronunciation as in joy or journal.
Webster’s Universal Dictionary (1936) reinforces the fact of the early relationship of the letter J to I:
“As a character it was formerly used interchangeably with ‘I,’ both letters having originally the same sound and after the ‘J’ sound came to be common in English, it was often written where this sound must have been pronounced. The separation of these two letters is of comparatively recent date, being brought about through the influence of the Dutch printers.”
From Yehoshua to Yeshua
It is a fact that the Messiah's Hebrew name has always been known to the Jews as "Yeshua." Writes I. B. Pranitis in The Talmud Unmasked, "The real name of Christ in Hebrew is JESCHUA [YESHUA] HANOTSRI -- Jesus the Nazarene....Since the word JESCHUA [YESHUA] means "Savior," the [Hebrew] name [for] Jesus rarely occurs in Jewish books. It is almost always abbreviated to JESCHU, which is maliciously taken as if it were composed of the initial letters of the three words Immach SCHemo Vezikro -- "May his name and memory be blotted out" (Reprint (1985) of the 1892 edition, p. 28).
Comments Dr. James Tabor --
"The Hebrew name for Jesus is YEHOSHUA, or the shortened form YESHUA, NOT Yahshua, as so many mistakenly think. The form Yahshua is IMPOSSIBLE in Hebrew and ignores completely the second syllable, represented by the letter "vav." This [YESHUA] is a very common name in Hebrew. I have several Jewish friends with this name, and there is no doubt about how to write or pronounce it whatsoever. It is built from the Divine Name YEHOAH [or YEHOVAH]. The first two syllables, YEHO, are common in many Biblical names (Jehoshaphat, Jehoiakim). These three letters or syllables in Hebrew simply CANNOT be represented by YAH. YAH in Hebrew is Yod He, while the letters of the Sacred Name, reflected in such compounds, are Yod He Vav. The Vav must have its common vowel sound in this form, it cannot be silent or ignored" (Restoring Abrahamic Faith. Genesis 2000, Charlotte, NC 28256, p. 12 ftn.).
Writes Richard Davis in The Great Holy Name:
"The Holy Name, Yehovah, was combined with the Hebrew root word Yasha, which means "to make safe." Yasha was then changed from active to passive by adding a vowel sheruq, (a vav with a dot in the center with vowel sound of oo as in pool) between the second and third root letters. (The combining function also removed the y (or yod) and its supporting vowel from the word Yasha.) Thus, Yehovahshua, which interpreted is "saved by Yehovah." [Note Strong's Concordance, Hebrew Dictionary Numbers 3091, 3068 and 3467].
"The next contraction is Yeho
VAHshua, leaving Yehoshua.
"Yehoshua is the Hebrew name that Moses gave to his assistant Oshea (same as Hoshea), son of Nun in Numbers 13:16. It is spelled Jehoshua in the King James Version there in Numbers 13:16. And it is the SAME Hebrew word translated Joshua every other place in the Old Testament. And the evidence of Hebrews 4:8 shows it to be the SAME word written as Jesus throughout the New Testament. (Remember there is no j in the Hebrew language, as explained earlier).
"Hoshea, son of Nun, was already named "Deliverer," but not necessarily FROM GOD. Moses pre-empted the name of Yehovah's [first-born] son, Yehoshua, and gave it to the man who was to be his successor, and who was to lead Israel into the promised land.
"One more contraction is made to this name, Ye
HOshua. (Removing the h, and its supporting vowel o, we have Yeshua).
"Since the sheva under the yod is pronounced with a very short sound, some omit the e and use an apostrophe, and write the name Y'shua. These are the forms used by most Jewish people who have come to know their Messiah, and realize that the Greek Iesous Christos written in English as Jesus Christ is merely a RENAMING of Yehoshua (Yeshua, Y'shua) of Nazareth, whom the record shows to be the [first-born] Son of the living God" (pages 9-10).
This being the case -- the fact that the Messiah's name YESHUA is built from the Divine Name YEHOVAH -- it clearly shows that YAHWEH (or any of its variations) could not be the correct pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton!
This is confirmed by John Gill in his work, A Dissertation Concerning the Antiquity of the Hebrew Language, Letters, Vowel Points, and Accents:
"The plate of Gold on the forehead of the high-priest, on which was engraved 'Holiness to the Lord', the Jews dispute about it, whether this was in more lines than one, and what letters were in a line, but is was NEVER A QUESTION with them in what character it was written. Jerome says indeed, that the word JEHOVAH was in his time written in ancient letters, in some Greek volumes, but it should be observed that Jerome speaks not of Jewish or Hebrew copies, but of Greek volumes [hence the 'J' in JEHOVAH instead of 'Y'], meaning the Greek versions of Aquila and Theodotion in Origen's Hexapla. These were of ancient Hebrew letters in the said Greek versions, where the word JEHOVAH was written in Hebrew characters thus, ****, which the Greeks not understanding, and being deceived with the familiarity of the characters to some of theirs, read it from the left to the right, as they were wont to do...Pipi. However the word was to be read NO OTHER THAN JEHOVAH, and was written in neither Greek nor in Samaritan characters, but in HEBREW LETTERS..." (page 58. Note that **** equals the Tetragrammaton).
Writes George Wesley Buchanan: "Among the caves of Qumran was a Greek text that included a few Greek words of Leviticus (4QLXX Lev), one of which was the Tetragrammaton. It was spelled IAW (Ya-oh). This is apparently a two-syllable word, but the second syllable is only a vowel. There is no way that it could be rendered "Yah-weh." This was a transliteration of the Hebrew Ya-ho. It is the same spelling given in the fifth century B.C. Aramaic papyri. From the Aramaic alone, this word could be pronounced either Ya-hoo or Ya-hoh" ("The Tetragrammaton: How God's Name Was Pronounced," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 21, No. 2, March/April 1995, pp. 30-31, 100).
The Archaeological Evidence
According to the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia, under "Yeshua":
"During the second Temple period (beginning 538 BC-70 AD), Yeshua first became a known form of the name Yehoshua. All occurrences of Yeshua in the Hebrew Bible are in I Chron. 24:11, II Chron. 31:15, Ezra, and Nehemiah where it is transliterated into English as Jeshua. Two of these men (Joshua the son of Nun and Joshua the High Priest) are mentioned in other books of the Hebrew Bible where they are instead called Yehoshua (transliterated into English as Joshua).
"The earlier form Yehoshua did not disappear, however, and remained in use as well. In the post-exilic books, Joshua the son of Nun is called both Yeshua bin-Nun (Nehemiah 8:17) and Yehoshua (I Chronicles 7:27). The short form Yeshua was used for Jesus ben Sirach in Hebrew fragments of the Wisdom of Sirach. (Some concern remains over whether these fragments faithfully represent the original Hebrew text or are instead a later translation back into Hebrew.) The earlier form Yehoshua saw revived usage from the Hasmonean period onwards, although the name Yeshua is still found in letters from the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 AD).
"In the documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus, archeologist Amos Kloner stated that the name Yeshua was then a popular form of the name Yehoshua and was "one of the common names in the time of the Second Temple." In discussing whether it was remarkable to find a tomb with the name of Jesus (the particular ossuary in question bears the inscription "Yehuda bar Yeshua"), he pointed out that the name had been found 71 times in burial caves from that time period.
"Thus, both the full form Yehoshua and the abbreviated form Yeshua, were in use during the Gospel period -- and in relation to the same person, as in the Hebrew Bible references to Yehoshua/Yeshua son of Nun, and Yehoshua/Yeshua the high priest in the days of Ezra.
Ilan's lexicon of the Second Temple period of names on inscriptions in Palestine (2002) includes for "Joshua" 85 examples of Hebrew Yeshua, 15 of Yehoshua, and 48 examples of Iesous in Greek inscriptions," with only one Greek variant as Iesoua. One ossuary of the around twenty known with the name Yeshua, Rahmani No. 9, discovered by Ezra Sukenik in 1931, has "Yeshu... Yeshua ben Yosef." The "Yeshu..." may have been scratched out. Two Jewish magical incantation bowls have been discovered both bearing variant spellings of Yeshua.
Apart from the "Yesh... Yeshua ben Yosef" ossuary, the only other known evidence for the existence of a Yeshu form prior to the material related to Jesus in the Talmud, is a graffito which Joachim Jeremias identified in Bethesda in 1966, but which is now filled in.
In the spring of 2002 an ossuary box came to light in the collection of a Jewish antiquities dealer. When Andre Lemaire, one of the world's leading experts on ancient Semitic scripts, was asked to examine the box he was startled to find an inscription of unprecedented import on the side of the box:
"Lemaire's eyes popped. The inscription in Aramaic read: Ya'akov bar Yosef achui d'YESHUA. In English: James, son of Joseph brother of Jesus [Yeshua].' Lemaire immediately recognized its potential significance -- if it was genuine. The Jesus of the New Testament had never before appeared in an archaeological context. Neither had Joseph or James. If this inscription was authentic and actually referred to these New Testament personages, it was simply mind-boggling, an unprecedented find. And the box itself may once have held the bones of Jesus' brother James" (The Brother of Jesus, Herschel Shanks and Ben Witherington III, HarperSanFrancisco 2003, p. 12).
Shanks and Witherington III go on to say that "one reason the significance of the ossuary inscription is not immediately apparent is that the names we recognize -- James, Joseph, Jesus -- are not the forms that are used on the ossuary. The ossuary inscription is in ARAMAIC. James is Ya'akov; Joseph is Yosef; Jesus is YESHUA" (ibid., p. 28).
That the Messiah's true name is Yeshua is further verified by these authors on page 55 of their book --
"Many Hebrew and Aramaic names appear in SEVERAL FORMS -- Jacob, Jake, and Kobie, for example, are the same name, as are Joseph, Joe, and Yossi (the last two in both cases are nicknames). In ancient times, many of the variants were not nicknames, however, but ALTERNATE FORMS. Thus Yosef could appear as Yehosef. YESHUA, or Jesus, has even more variants. It may be YESHUA, as it is on the James ossuary, or YESHU or YEHOSHUA. The latter is the name of Moses' successor; when it refers to him, we translate it Joshua" (The Brother of Jesus, p. 55).
The name "Yeshua" was very common during Second Temple times; and it has been estimated that 9 percent of the male population of first-century Jerusalem carried this name.
"The power of these statistical conclusions is revealed when we compare the inscriptions on TWO OTHER OSSUARIES. One of these, published by Professor E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University in 1931 (but purchased by the Palestine Archaeological Museum in 1926), is twice inscribed -- once simply YESHU (Jesus) and then YESHUA BAR YEHOSEF, "Jesus son of Joseph." The single inscription on the other ossuary, published in 1981, is so clumsily scratched that paleographers cannot be sure what it says, but the best guess is Yeshua bar Yehosef, "Jesus son of Joseph." No one seriously suggests that either of these inscriptions refers to Jesus of Nazareth -- and with good reason...statistically the chances of this being Jesus of Nazareth are very slim...over a thousand men in Jerusalem at this time were named Jesus [Yeshua] and had fathers named Joseph [Yehosef]" (ibid., p. 59).
How "Yeshua" Became "Jesus"
The first letter in the name Yeshua ("Jesus") is the yod. Yod represents the "Y" sound in Hebrew. Many names in the Bible that begin with yod are mispronounced by English speakers because the yod in these names was transliterated in English Bibles with the letter "J" rather than "Y". As we have seen, this came about because in early English the letter "J" was pronounced the way we pronounce "Y" today. All proper names in the Old Testament were transliterated into English according to their Hebrew pronunciation, but when English pronunciation shifted to what we know today, these transliterations were not altered. Thus, such Hebrew place names as ye-ru-sha-LA-yim, ye-ri-HO, and yar-DEN have become known to us as Jerusalem, Jericho, and Jordan; and Hebrew personal names such as yo-NA, yi-SHAI, and ye-SHU-a have become known to us as Jonah, Jesse, and Jesus.
The yod is the smallest letter of the alphabet, which is why Yeshua used it in his famous saying in Matthew 5:18: "Until heaven and earth pass away not one yod ("iota" in the Greek text) or one kots will pass from the Torah." For emphasis, Yeshua incorporated in this saying a well-known Hebrew expression: lo' yod ve-LO' ko-TSO shel yod, "not a yod and not a 'thorn' of a yod," i.e., not the most insignificant and unimportant thing. When Yeshua declared that heaven and earth might sooner disappear than the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, or the smallest stroke of a letter, he was simply saying that the Torah ("Law" or "Teaching") of Moses would never cease to be.
The second sound in Yeshua's name is called tse-RE, and is pronounced almost like the letter "e" in the word "net". Just as the "Y" sound of the first letter is mispronounced in today's English, so too the first vowel sound in "Jesus". Before the Hebrew name "Yeshua" was transliterated into English, it was first transliterated into Greek. There was no difficulty in transliterating the tse-RE sound since the ancient Greek language had an equivalent letter which represented this sound. And there was no real difficulty in transcribing this same first vowel into English. The translators of the earliest versions of the English Bible transliterated the tse-RE in Yeshua with an "e". Unfortunately, later English speakers guessed wrongly that this "e" should be pronounced as in "me," and thus the first syllable of the English version of Yeshua came to be pronounced "Jee" instead of "Yeh". It is this pronunciation which produced such euphemistic profanities as "Gee" and "Geez".
Since Yeshua is spelled "Jeshua" and not "Jesus" in most English versions of the Old Testament (for example in Ezra 2:2 and 2 Chronicles 31:15), one easily gets the impression that the name is never mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet, as mentioned before, "Yeshua" appears there twenty-nine times, and is the name of at least five different persons and one village in the southern part of Judea.
In contrast to the early biblical period, there were relatively few different names in use among the Jewish population of the land of Israel at the time of the Second Temple. The name Yeshua was one of the most common male names in that period, tied with Eleazer for fifth place behind Simon, Joseph, Judah, and John. Nearly one out of ten persons known from the period was named Yeshua.
The first sound of the second syllable of Yeshua is the "sh" sound. It is represented by the Hebrew letter shin. However Greek, like many other languages, has no "sh" sound. Instead, the closest approximation, the Greek sigma, was used when transcribing "Yeshua" as "Iesus". Translators of English versions of the New Testament transliterated the Greek transcription of a Hebrew name, instead of returning to the original Hebrew. This was doubly unfortunate, first because the "sh" sound exists in English, and second because in English the "s" sound can shift to the "z" sound, which is what happened in the case of the pronunciation of "Jesus".
The fourth sound one hears in the name Yeshua is the "u" sound, as in the word "true". Like the first three sounds, this also has come to be mispronounced but in this case it is not the fault of the translators. They transcribed this sound accurately, but English is not a phonetic language and "u" can be pronounced in more than one way. At some point the "u" in "Jesus" came to be pronounced as in "cut," and so we say "Jee-zuhs."
The "a" sound, as in the word "father," is the fifth sound in Jesus' name. It is followed by a guttural produced by contracting the lower throat muscles and retracting the tongue root -- an unfamiliar task for English speakers. In an exception to the rule, the vowel sound "a" associated with the last letter "ayin" (the guttural) is pronounced before it, not after. While there is no equivalent in English or any other Indo-European language, it is somewhat similar to the last sound in the name of the composer, "Bach." In this position it is almost inaudible to the western ear. Some Israelis pronounce this last sound and some don't, depending on what part of the dispersion their families returned from. The Hebrew Language Academy, guardian of the purity of the language, has ruled that it should be sounded, and Israeli radio and television announcers are required to pronounce it correctly. There was no letter to represent them, and so these fifth and sixth sounds were dropped from the Greek transcription of "Yeshua," -- the transcription from which the English "Jesus" is derived.
So where did the final "s" of "Jesus" come from? Masculine names in Greek ordinarily end with a consonant, usually with an "s" sound, and less frequently with an "n" or "r" sound. In the case of "Iesus," the Greeks added a sigma, the "s" sound, to close the word. The same is true for the names Nicodemus, Judas, Lazarus, and others.
English speakers make one further change from the original pronunciation of Jesus' name. English places the accent on "Je," rather than on "sus." For this reason, the "u" has shortened in its English pronunciation to "uh."
In the West, a child's name is often chosen for its pleasant sound, or because another family member had it. The Jews of the Second Temple period also named after relatives (Luke 1:59-63). However, almost all Jewish names have a literal meaning. Occasionally this is seen in English names too, such as Scott (a person from Scotland), Johnson (son of John), and Baker (bread maker). But with Hebrew names it is the rule, rather than the exception.
The name Yeshua literally means The LORD's Salvation, or Salvation from the LORD. In comparison, prior to being transliterated from the Hebrew Bible, the name Iesus did not exist in Greek. Through multiple translations and changes in pronunciation, a tradition of saying "Jesus" has obscured his name, "Yeshua." It has shifted his perceived message and identity from Hebrew to Greek.
This section was adapted from an article by David Biven.
A Blasphemous Name?
Actually, "Jesus" is a very poor transliteration of the Aramaic "Yeshua." The Greeks could have gotten quite a bit close to the sound of the name "Yeshua" had they really wanted to. One obvious possibility would have been "Iesiua." However, Flavius Josephus makes mention that the Greeks changed proper names to suit their own taste rather than attempting to be faithful to original pronunciations. An example of this is to be found in Josephus' description of the lands settled by the descendants of Noah. Josephus informs us that the Greeks changed the names of these lands when they came into power -- notice!
"[T]hey were the Greeks who became the authors of such mutations; for when, in after-ages, they grew potent, they claimed to themselves the glory of antiquity, -- giving names to the nations that SOUNDED WELL (in Greek) that they might be better understood among themselves...[T]hey called nations by their own names...for Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians [Galls], but were then called Gomerites. Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians...[F]rom Madai came the Madeans, who are called the Medes by the Greeks...Elisa gave name to the Eliseans, who were his subjects; they are now the Aeolians...Cethimus possessed the island Cethima; it is now called Cyprus...for such names are pronounced after the manner of the Greeks" (Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, chapters 5-6, translated by William Whiston, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA 1987).
Based upon what Josephus wrote above, it is easy to see how the name "Yehoshua" could have become "Iesous" -- as found in the Greek Septuagint for Yehoshua son of Nun (Exodus 33:11) and in the New Testament for the Messiah. Let's face it -- by Biblical standards the Greeks were a PAGAN PEOPLE who worshipped a variety of gods; they were hardly the type of people whose language we should trust for the name of the Messiah!
When asked the following question, an expert in the Greek language came up with a surprising answer: "Since the Messiah's Hebrew name carries the meaning 'YEHOVAH saves,' then the Greek translation 'Iesous' should carry the exact same meaning. Now if the first part of the name 'Ie' comes from 'YEHOVAH', does the suffix 'sous' mean 'saves' or 'salvation' in the Koine Greek of the New Testament?"
In response to this question the Greek expert introduced an interesting dimension to the question of the Messiah's correct name:
"The ending 'sous' is not a true classical Greek ending and came from LATIN. During the classical Greek period, many names and other words, in fact, came into the Greek language from Latin. Find the LATIN meaning of the word and you will have your answer."
So, in light of this response, the next step is to find out what the LATIN EQUIVALENT was for the Greek "sous." The Latin New Testament -- known as the Vulgate -- provides us with the answer --
"Cum ergo natus esset IESUS in Bethleem Iudaeae in diebus Herodis regis, ecce magi ab oriente uenerunt Hierosolymam,..." (Matthew 2:1, Nouum Testamentum Latine, Oxford University Press, 1911).
From this we see that the Latin nominative singular rendering for the name of the Messiah was "Iesus" -- identical to the form found in the 1611 King James Bible. The Greek ending "sous" was therefore rendered in the Latin as "sus." But the question is, did the Latin "sus" mean "salvation"?
The answer to this question is mind-boggling! We will find that the Latin "sus" has, in fact, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the idea of salvation. Instead this word -- which eventually made its way into the English language -- is defined as follows:
"sus \'s?s\ n, cap [NL, fr. L, swine, hog -- more at SOW]: a genus of mammals that is the type of the family Suidae and in former classifications comprised all or most of the swine but is usu. restricted to a few typical Eurasian and East Indian forms and the domestic breeds -- see BEARDED PIG, CRESTED PIG, WILD BOAR" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, 1968, s.v. "sus").
Here we find that the LATIN "sus" means "SWINE" and, more specifically, the type of swine found in the Eurasian region -- that of the land of the Bible! So, shockingly, the name "Iesus," -- rather than proclaiming that the Almighty saves -- refers to Him as a SWINE and is, therefore, an abomination!!
Shift in Identity and Message
Today's tradition of pronouncing the Messiah's completely Hellenized name as "Jesus" has indeed obscured his true name, "Yeshua," and has shifted its perceived meaning much like most of his original teachings.
The name "Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" is often used in everything from idle conversation, to bumper stickers and jewelry, to enforcing false teachings, to justifying wars and political agendas, and is even used as a profanity. The name Yeshua however, has remained pure and holy, known and used only by those who would uphold his name and teachings in the highest regard and thus reserving his holy name for use only in spiritual matters and the most humbled and sincere of prayer and obeisances.
Like all spiritual issues, the decision about what one calls the Messiah is ultimately a matter of personal choice. But, the following verse indicates that the subject of Messiah’s true name might be one part of the great end-time scenario of this world:
"But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:19-22).
So, how should we react? We can react with frustration and indignation out of a sense of wounded pride because we have been wrong for so long. Or, we can rejoice that we now have been blessed by the truth of the Messiah’s real name. We can also rejoice that our Father and His truth do not change, as spoken by the prophet Malachi: "For I am the LORD, I do not change...(Malachi 3:6).
Ultimately, the question must be decided through very fervent prayer and a close study of the Scriptures. If our Messiah, himself, proclaimed his name to Paul "in the Hebrew tongue" (Acts 26:14), should we do any less? Probably Peter sums it up best:
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be?" (2 Peter 3:11).
So, will you continue to use a Greco-Roman-Pagan name to refer to the Messiah simply because everyone else is doing it, or will you use the Hebrew Name that he proclaimed to Paul on the road to Damascus? The choice is yours, but truth is truth, and the consequences will be what they will be.
May YEHOVAH God Almighty bless and keep you as you study and pray about the name of His only begotten Son!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Courage for the Sake of Truth is Better Than Silence for the Sake of Unity!