Jesus? Yeshua? Yahushua? Which is the ‘real’ pronunciation?

From my ministry in Central America, I understand how names change from language to language: the English form of my name “Gary Shogren” is difficult for the Spanish-speaker – the “a” and the “e” don’t have exact counterparts in Spanish; nor does “sh”. I say my name one way if I’m speaking English and another way if Spanish. Not even my mother would recognize my name in the Spanish version! Nevertheless, when my students call me “GAH-ree CHOH-grain” with a foreign accent, I take no offense: I’m still me, the same identity and the same name, with a pronunciation adapted to the relevant language.

A second illustration is from Judges 12:5-6: the judge Jephthah and the men of Gilead defeated the tribe of Ephraim and slaughtered the survivors. In order to distinguish who was who,

the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth” [שׁבלת; note – Shibboleth probably means “running water”], and he said, “Sibboleth” [סבלת], for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan.

So, everyone said the same word, but some pronounced it with the letter שׁ (the Hebrew letter shin) and others ס (samech). Say ‘samech’ and you will die!

And the lethal result?

At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.

There is a dangerous idea today that won’t result merely in the death of thousands of Ephraimites; no, the consequences are infinitely more grave. They teach that if you do not pronounce the name of the Lord with an “sh” sound but with the “s” sound, you insult the blessed name of our savior. They say: Yeshua or Yahushua or Yahshua are acceptable, but Jesus (or Jesús in Spanish) – this is evil or even the sign of your apostasy. These wolves try to rob millions and millions of believers of their confidence in the gospel, simply because they don’t make an “sh” sound in the name of Jesus. This movement exists around the world; it is particularly plagues Spanish-speaking America. And it is based on faulty data, by people who have little ability or desire to do their own research in the original languages: Preacher A quotes Teacher B, he in turn quotes “Messianic Rabbi” C, and the rabbi quotes some pamphlet he once read. One theory has it that the name Jesus was invented by the Roman Catholic church in a plan to make Jesus less Jewish and more Catholic. Another is that Iēsous really means “Hail, Zeus!” the name of the pagan king of the gods. As with the DaVinci Code, such hypotheses excel in cleverness, but fail to provide any shred of proof.

To give but one example, when Paul/Saul wrote to the Romans, he spoke of “Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:4), using the Greek form of the name, that is, “Iēsous” (pronounced yay-SOOS). For a Greek-speaking person, that is “the word of faith that we proclaim; because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:8b-9). That’s how the name of Jesus appears in 100% of ancient manuscripts in every single verse. He is never referred to as Yeshua or Yahshua in the books of the New Testament; if those versions of his name appear in a modern “messianic” version, it’s a paraphrase, or, as some say, a “correction” of the original Scriptures.

It’s likely that during his days on earth, people called him Yeshua. But once the gospel started going forth, the apostles used the Greek form when that was appropriate – Iēsous and Yeshua are, after all, the same name, with the same meaning of “he shall save.” And so, when Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost, he spoke in the current dialect of Greek, koiné, and, according to the firm testimony of Acts 2:22, he spoke about “Jesus (Iēsous) of Nazareth.”

 

Ah, and speaking of Peter: in Aramaic, his name was Kepha. If you saw “The Passion of the Christ”, that’s what Jesus called him in the garden. But out in the Greek world and you would add a final “s” to his name in order to make it recognizable – hence it was Kephas (in 1 Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5, Gal 1:18, 2:9, 11, 14) and also in John 1:12. So, in Aramaic there was no final “s”, but in Greek yes. Now – did Peter respond to his name in either form? Or did he turn around and berate people for distorting his real name? Of course he accepted it, as did the many thousands of Jews who operated in both languages. And Sha’ul in Hebrew sounded like Saulos in Greek, but Saul/Paul would have responded to either form.

Jaquob, the half-brother of our Lord, used the Greek form Iēsous in his epistle.

Matthew 1:16 - the Lord has a very Jewish name, "Iēsous the Christos"

Matthew 1:16 – the Lord has a very Jewish name, “Iēsous the Christos”

The Greek form Iēsous was a very popular name in the first century, but only among the Jews; the pagans never used it, since for them it was a Jewish name! I have personally used the TLG databank and run an exhaustive search in all ancient Greek literature, from the very earliest to the year AD 400. The first appearance of the name is from the 3rd century BC, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), to translate the Hebrew name for Joshua (see Exod 17:9) and a few other people with that name. Later on it’s found in the books by contemporaries of the apostles: Philo (always referring to the same Joshua son of Nun) and Josephus (speaking of Joshua, also of other people from more recent Jewish history). There is a Jewish Christian man in Col 4:11 whose had a Jewish and a Latin name: Jesus Justus. Of the 12,000 plus references to the name Iēsous throughout 12 centuries, there is not one single reference to a Greek, Roman or other pagan person with the name Iēsous!

Yes, many Messianic Jews and some gentile Christians call the Lord, Yeshua; that’s great, so long as they don’t claim that only their pronunciation is legitimate or even that its use brings them closer to God. Others preach about Jesús (hay-SOOS) to Spanish-speakers, and Jesus to English audiences. In Italy, it’s Gesú. In Turkey, İsa. The Chinese confess their faith in ye su. And do you know what? The Lord is not confused; he is powerful and wise enough to recognize his name and hear his people, despite the thousands of accents and alphabets around the world.

As a side note, I notice that in the gospels, the crowds acclaim Jesus with ωσαννά (hoh-sah-NAH), the Greek form of the Aramaic הושׁע נא or possibly the Hebrew הושׁיעה נא (both meaning something like, “Save, please!” and pronounced like hoh-shah-NAH). So, the middle syllable is SAH in the Greek and SHAH in Aramaic or Hebrew. But does that really change the meaning? Is the Aramaic form worship, and the Greek form an insult? Nonsense! The meaning is the same either way.

Is anyone accused of apostasy or spiritual inferiority because they say “s” instead of “sh” when they call upon the name of their Lord? Let them stand tall and denounce this vile accusation!

“Jesus? Yeshua? Yahushua? Which is the ‘real’ pronunciation?” By Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, professor Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It is good to dive deep into this matter and the following website provides information. To investigate both arguments and then being guided by the word making a personal choice. Because no word of man has the ultimate authority.

    • Dear Doeschka, thanks for writing in. I had to remove the link to the eliyah site, since according to the rules we follow on this blog, we don’t post third-party links.

      In fact, I had already carefully studied your page and found it unconvincing. Yahushua is a pronunciation that is unknown in the original Hebrew, in either Testament or in the Rabbis, and you read the long holem in Yehoshua as if it were a shureq. This is a basic misunderstanding, since we know from the rabbis that it was pronounced with a long “o” sound.

      Besides which, you insist that the first-century believers thought it was imperative to pronounce the name of the Lord as Yahushua, but you offer not one Bible text to demonstrate it. Every text you mention uses the Greek form Ιησους/Iesous, which is the form the apostles freely used from the Day of Pentecost – where the common tongue of the hearers was koine Greek – onward. For example, you quote:

      Acts 9:29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Master Yahushua

      But in the original the name is Iesous. I am certain you have no other manuscript that has Yahushua.

      Your quote of Celsus has to be taken in context: Celsus would not have known the name Iesous as a Greek word, because it was unknown among the Greeks. Iesous was a distinctively Jewish form of a Hebrew name, and would have sounded foreign to Celsus, despite being written out with Greek letters. Like, let’s take as an example, the name of the singer “Shakira,” which means nothing in English or in Spanish but means “Grateful” in Arabic. Iesous sounded just as foreign to a Greek- or Latin-speaker.

      I would not suggest that this issue is a “personal choice.” Among other things, it rests on the research of people who have dedicated their lives to the study of the ancient tongues, to better understand God’s Word.

      I invite you to study the Hebrew tongue as such. My seminary offers it online, but in Spanish, but there are plenty of other places where you can study it indepth.

      Thanks for writing in! Gary

  2. Yes yahushua is the correct name…the letter j is the last known alphabet to man

    • Hi and thanks for sharing. However, if you want to make a case for Yahushua, you will need to present more evidence for this and not simply assert it.

      He is named “He shall save” according to Matt 1:21, which in the Hebrew or Aramaic is Yeshua (transliterated to Iesous in Greek), not Yahushua (“Yahweh will save”).

      Your comment about the last known alphabet is news to me; can you develop this idea?

  3. Thanks for this post. I have been searching to find the right name after hearing that Jesus is of pagan origin. When I examinedcthe Hebrew name, there is confusion there as well between Yeshua, Yahshua & other variations as well.

    Needless to say, this post has been the most logical of all that I have read.

    • Hey, many blessings, thanks!

  4. “Yahushua” is the “light” that shines…

    Thats the vision i had on Oct 27,2012

    • Do you mean to say that, Yahushua is his true name, and that we should use it because you had a vision in October?

  5. Me agrada mucho lo que el Pastor Gary Shogren ha escrito. De hecho
    tengo el libro de que es autor D.A. Hayyim y de veras que no es muy
    agradable, y me atrevo a decir que no es legítimo ni inspirado. Es algo que es producto de su propia mente.En la página 22 de su Código Real tiene muchas “perlas”, veamos ésta: “Por otro lado, y más cerca-
    no a nuestros días, la exportación de prototipos misioneros con ojos azules y piel blanca con imposiciones culturales y teológicas norte a –
    mericanas como europeas, ha creado, especialmente en Iberoamérica
    (América Latina) una imagen del Mashiaj más semejante a los nortea-
    mericanos y europeos de clase media alta, que a un artesano judío
    del primer siglo que reclamó ser el Mashiaj, acentuando el distancian-
    ciamiento cultural de los creyentes de sus raíces bíblicas y hebraicas.”
    Hasta aquí la nota. Saquén conclusiones. por favor.

    • Gracias, hermana. El error es más profundo: que Jesús no fue de ojos azules, sino que sí fue como los españoles y portugueses. No existe evidencia científica, genética, histórica.

      Por favor, visítenos en el blog castellano, http://razondelaesperanza.com

  6. Gary,

    An excellent piece!
    Even in this tiny land of ours,it is hard to understand some in the next county. A different pronunciation almost does sound like another language!
    The damage done by these ‘Sacred Name’ people or ‘Hebrew Roots’ movement is beyond our calculation. It is tantamount somewhat to salvation by works or ‘the law’? It puts people under unnecessary bondage and guilt. It is such a dangerous road for many to follow. Some even get into circumcision, Jewish dietary laws etc.
    Some have even been ‘re-baptised’ because they were baptised under Jesus instead of Yahashua or Yeshua etc. These people can’t agree among themselves how His name was pronounced.
    They ought to spend time studying Acts 2. 8-11!

  7. Amen. Thanks for doing the research to demonstrate the truth!

    When I try to say someone’s name with a foreign accent it makes them feel far away and disconnected from me.
    You’d think there were enough real problems for people to be militant about without inventing more. But the real problems come with more risk than crazy things like this one.
    Love how you bring in Shiboleth; it fits the issue beautifully.


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