What was the real name of Jesus? Was it Yeshua?

A reader writes in: What really was Jesus’ name? Wasn’t it Yeshua? Is it an insult to him if we do not use his “real name” with the ancient pronunciation? Do we lose out on salvation if we call upon the wrong name?

First, it is highly probably that his given name was Yeshua, a Hebrew and also a Aramaic version of the Hebrew name Yehoshua o Hoshua (Joshua) in the Old Testament. We know that Jesus in general spoke and taught in Aramaic, so Yeshua (like Barnabas, Thomas) was probably meant to be an Aramaic name. Many people had names from different languages: Peter had a Greek name Petros, and an Aramaic one, Cephas bar-Jonas. Many had “rhyming” names in the second language: Paul was Sha’ul in Hebrew and also had a Latin name Paulus, similarly Silas/Silvanus; one Jewish co-worker of Paul had an Aramaic or Hebrew name Jesus, plus a Latin name Justus (Col 4:11); Joseph Barsabbas’ Aramaic name rhymed with his Latin one, Justus (Acts 1:23). Nowhere does the Bible indicate that the Greek or Latin names were “unclean” or wordly.

Jesus probably grew up with a knowledge of written Hebrew (the Bible). What’s more, it is very likely that he would have spoken in Greek from time to time, in order to speak with Gentiles (e.g., Matt 8:5-13, 15:21-28) or with Pontius Pilate. Two of his disciples had Greek names, Philip and Andrew. During his ministry, some may have addressed him using Greek form of his name, Iesous. After his resurrection and exaltation, the apostles went forth to proclaim his name, consistently using the Greek form Iesous. There is no reference to any other form of his personal name in the Greek New Testament. The Greek Testament was the original version, from which the Syriac, Latin and other versions were made. This means that when Luke wrote Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” he did not write the name Yeshua, but the Greek form Iesous. We are not saved by pronouncing his name with an “sh” rather than an “s”, but because it is the Savior himself who is being named.

For that reason, that is no special benefit to be gained in saying “Yeshua” in place of “Jesus”. The church used this form from the very beginning, from the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached in Greek to Hellenistic Jews (Acts 2:22). “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).

It is by calling upon his name, no matter in what language, that one is saved. There is no special “magic” in removing the final “s” from his name. According to the apostles’ example, it is perfectly acceptable to say Yeshua, Iesous, Jesu, Jesús, Yasu (Cantonese), Иисус (Russian) or – in English – Jesus.

By Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

8 thoughts on “What was the real name of Jesus? Was it Yeshua?

  1. it had been changed prior to Greek, and shortly after the cross, there’s no yeshuas n Greek, that’s not rocket science, nor is man’s opinion, it specifically says on name, and one name only, not withstanding acts doesn’t mean anything, it had many translations by men by then, the y can possible b a j, that’s the opinions and traditions of men..

    1. Hi brother – I’m afraid I cannot follow your point. Are you saying that Greek-speaking Jews didn’t write out the name Yeshua as Iesous/Ιησους? In that case, I’m not sure what your evidence would be. Thanks, Gary

  2. I appreciate your clarity about “names.” A name, in what I’d consider the most Biblical sense, is the essence or character of the person or thing.

    Just like to point out that there are those using “Yeshua” more frequently because this is less offensive to Jewish people, whom we are also seeking to reach. Sometimes it gets around post-moderns disaffection with misuse of “Jesus,” too, associated as it has become with religious spirits.

    1. This very brief comment comes from a person who has blogged on the same topic; the reader who wishes to read his full argument may google Who is this pagan catholic/christian ‘jesus’? in which he argues that the name “Jesus” is pagan and Catholic and therefore to be avoided, and that the Greek manuscripts are also pagan for using the name “Jesus.” Part of my reply was:

      Biblical Greek manuscripts are not “pagan” but Christian. All the NT was originally written in Greek. There is not one manuscript, not one word, of any Christian Scripture that was written in anything other than Greek (if you believe there was, please give me the link of a page of a non-Greek early manuscript that is not a translation from the Greek – they don’t exist!).

      “Jesus” is not from ANY Latin word, it is a transliteration from the Greek word Iesous ( ʼΙησοῦς). [Despite the rhyme] it has nothing to with the Greek god Zeus, they are totally different words in the original Greek. The Latin form is not Iesous, but Jesu.

      In turn, Iesous is the Greek form of Yeshua, which is both Hebrew and Aramaic.

      The Catholic church did not invent the name “Jesus.” It is found on every page of the New Testament in the original. The earliest church, long before there was any pope in Rome, used the Greek form Iesous to proclaim the gospel to the gentiles. Every single book in the NT uses the Greek form, not a single one so much as mentions the Aramaic or Hebrew form.

      You then make the logical error of “guilt by association” – if the Catholic church uses the name Jesus, then anyone who uses that form of Jesus’ name must be in agreement and tainted by any teaching that the Catholic church ever comes up with. This is illogical. In fact, I could show you all manner of people who have conclusions such as yours, who teach doctrines that would make your hair stand on end. Yet it would be wrong for me to say, you are just like them in ALL doctrines….

      1. “All the NT was originally written in Greek. There is not one manuscript, not one word, of any Christian Scripture that was written in anything other than Greek”

        Wasn’t the Gosepl of Matthew written originaly in Hebrew though?

        1. It is possible that he wrote an early form “in the Hebrews’ language” which, following the convention of the 1st century, would probably be Aramaic. My thought is that this was later expanded into the all-Greek gospel of Mattew. This would make sense, given that Mark’s gospel gives absolute proof that Jesus taught and prayed in Aramaic.

          There is no hard evidence of an ancient Hebrew Matthew, the one we know of was translated from the Latin Vulgate in the Middle Ages, probably to convince Jews of the gospel. In the Spanish “convivencia”, Jews, Christians and Muslim Moors translated their books into the others’s languages for apologetic purposes.

          Thanks, Gary

Comments are closed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: