Yahshua To Jesus: Evolution Of A Name

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According to Clifton Emahiser's records, this essay was first written by William Finck some time just before June, 2005. It was updated and elaborations were made in a podcast in November, 2019, under a similar title available here: From Yahshua to Jesus: the Evolution of a Name

By William Finck, © 2006

The purpose of this discussion is to show how the name Jesus came into existence. I am certainly not advocating that one should call upon the name of Yahshua Christ, the Redeemer of Israel, using the name Jesus, however there are serious misconceptions concerning the origin of this name which I am compelled to address.

In order to simplify the presentation here, it shall be taken for granted that the proper English representations of the names of our God are Yahweh and Yahshua, as they are transliterated from the Hebrew. I am aware of the Masoretic spellings found in Strong’s Hebrew lexicon (i.e. Yehowshua, see #3091), yet I would dispute them. For yeho- names from the Old Testament became Ἰω- (Iô-) names in the Septuagint translation, and such is not the case with this name. For more information on this topic, see the recent pamphlet from this ministry entitled Which Is It, “Lord” or “Yahweh”? Furthermore, I am not going to make lengthy quotes from lexicons here, but shall be concise or even only paraphrase them where needed in my illustrations. Yet of course I shall cite my sources.

Many in Israel Identity purport that the corruption of Yahshua into Jesus was part of some overt conspiracy by a wicked ‘church’ to somehow replace Yahweh with the Greek Zeus. These people then claim in support of this contention that Jesus (gee-zus) and Zeus (actually pronounced zooce) are sound-alike words, yet actually they don’t sound alike at all. There is no evidence that in ancient times, the first s in Jesus was ever pronounced like a z. Actually, the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans all had a letter z, and could have easily have used it if they so desired. Also, the Roman supreme god was not called Zeus but Jupiter (or also Jove), so for them any supposed connection is less likely. Romans always preferred their own names for the gods over the Greek names (Mars for Ares, Diana for Artemis, Mercury for Hermes, Juno for Hera, ad nauseum), and may even have been offended if compelled to use any form of the name of Zeus. Here I hope to demonstrate just how the name Jesus truly came into being.

Under the entry for Ἰησοῦς (the Greek name from which Jesus is derived), the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament edited by Gerhard Friedrich (hereinafter TDNT) explains that the early Hebrew Yahshua was after the return from Babylon shortened to Yashua. This is the same name as Joshua of the Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint (hereinafter LXX), a book translated from Hebrew into Greek long before any organized “church” could have made a conspiracy, wherever the name Joshua appears we find some form of the Greek equivalent, Ἰησοῦς. Of the final ς here (which in Greek is written σ if it is not the last letter of a word) TDNT states “The LXX retained the later form [Yashua or Yeshua], and made it declinable by adding a Nominative ς.”

First, the “Nominative ς.” allows one writing in Greek to decline the noun Ἰησοῦς, meaning that the word may be represented in the various Greek cases, i.e. Ἰησοῦς (Nominative), Ἰησοῦ (Genitive), Ἰησοῖ or again Ἰησοῦ (Dative), and Ἰησοῦν (Accusative). Declensions are an important part of Greek grammar not fully utilized in English (the ’s is an example, somewhat representing the Genitive case in our language). So adding the s greatly assists the Greek writer. An example of an indeclinable noun in Greek is Δαυίδ (David), which may have been declinable if it were written Δαυιδός (Davidos) though it never was.

Secondly, it may be apparent that the final a sound in Yahshua was also dropped for Greek, so that Ἰησοῦς (yay-soos) is really only equivalent to Yashu. The only place in the LXX where the final vowel sound was retained is the Ἰησουέ of 1 Chron. 7:27, although some LXX versions have it in a couple of other places as well. In the Hebrew spelling, which has no true vowels, the -ua on the end of Yahshua comes from the letter ‘Ayin, and in later Hebrew (between 600 and 900 A.D.) vowel points were added, and here the ‘Ayin was accompanied with vowel points signifying that it is followed by an a sound. The letter a does not actually exist in the name.

Thirdly, the missing h must be addressed. In Greek, there is no letter equivalent to the letter h (Η, aitch). The symbol Η is there, but represents the uppercase vowel eta, which in lowercase is η. While there is a ch in Greek (χ, chi), a th (θ, theta) and a ph (φ, phi) neither is there an sh letter. While the Greeks designated an aspirant (h sound) before words which began with a vowel by using the symbol () which denotes the presence of the sound, or () which denotes its absence, there was no way for the Greeks to put such a sound in the middle of a word, for they never did so but for one other exception, the double r sound which is beyond the scope of our discussion here. There is no way for the Greeks to represent an sh in writing.

Yet this is not a problem for the Hebrew speaker, since as can be seen in the “Hebrew Articulation” section of the Hebrew dictionary which accompanies Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, in Hebrew the same letter represents both the s and sh sounds. It would not be a problem at all for a Hebrew reader writing in Greek to see the Hebrew letter Siyn (or Shiyn) and write a Greek sigma (ς).

So that Ἰησοῦς is a natural transliteration into Greek of the Hebrew name Yahshua is easily understood once the conventions of the languages are understood. TDNT observes: “The evidence of the NT is to the same effect [as the LXX]. In Ac 7:45 and Hb 4:8 there is a reference to Ἰησοῦς, i.e. Joshua the son of Nun.”

Now hopefully having established that Ἰησοῦς is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew form of Yahshua, and sufficiently explaining how that may be so, attention may be turned to the Greek, Latin and English.

The Greek eta (Η, η) is a difficult vowel, since it has no direct equivalent in Latin or English. Although the majority of scholars usually represent it in transliterations of names with an e (or ê), there are many who more often represent it with an a. Examples of the η changing among the languages are evident in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, where the Hebrew word for Mede is transliterated by Strong as Maday (Hebrew #4075) and the Greek word, no different in the NT than in all classical Greek, is Μῆδος (Greek #3370), which Strong transliterates Mēdŏs and pronounces may´-dos. In Genesis 10:2, the word at Strong’s Hebrew #4074 was rendered in the A.V. as Madai. So we need not look far to see that the a and the e are both interchangeable with the Greek η.

The letter i at the beginning of a word, when followed by a vowel, James Strong represents with a double e in all of his pronunciations in his Greek lexicon. This is correct, although for practical purposes the i becomes equivalent to the spoken English y in these instances, and this is true for the Latin as well, neither Greek nor Latin having a letter y as we know it. In Greek the symbol Υ represented the uppercase upsilon, lowercase υ, and the equivalent of our own u although it is transliterated most often with a y (examples being the prefixes hyper- and hypo-). In the New College Latin & English Dictionary by John C. Traupman, Ph. D. (hereinafter TNCLED) it is explained that in Latin the letter Υ was “adopted from the Greek into the Roman alphabet for the transliteration of words containing an upsilon (for which u was used earlier), and pronounced approximate as German ü ... but its use was restricted to foreign words.” So while the Hebrew had a y, the yowd, neither Latin nor Greek had an exact equivalent, both using an i in words where today in English we use a j, such as in Jerusalem, Joppa, or Jacob, all of which may be discerned from Strong’s concordance.

When the Roman Latin speakers encountered the Greek Ἰησοῦς, which would have been pronounced yay-soos, or as Strong has it, ee-ay-soos, they wrote Iesus. As we have seen, the e is a fair representation of the Greek η. Checking Strong’s Greek lexicon and the “Greek Articulation” section at its beginning, the ou diphthong in Greek is pronounced as the ou in the English word through. In the pronunciation section of TNCLED on page 4, there is no ou diphthong in Latin, yet the Latin u is by itself able to represent the same sound (“ū u in rude”) as the Greek ou, and so the Latin Iesus is a fair representation of the Greek Ἰησοῦς. Again checking TNCLED, the i in Latin would be treated no differently as it would be in Greek, “ī ee in keen”, as Strong represents it as ee where it begins a word and is followed by another vowel.

Here it must be pointed out that the pronunciation guide in TNCLED is split into two sections, the “Classical Method”, and the “Ecclesiastical Method” which became extant among the clergy in the Medieval period. At the letter s under “Classical Method” it states “always s in sing”, but under “Ecclesiastical Method” it states “s in sing... but when standing between two vowels or when final and preceded by a voiced consonant = z in dozen.” So we see that in the Latin of the later ‘church’, Iesus began to be pronounced yay-zus, yet bear in mind that this change affected a large number of Latin words, and not just this one name.

This leaves us with the English letter j. According to the table entitled “Development of the Alphabet” on p. XXXIV in the opening pages of The American Heritage College Dictionary, third edition (hereinafter AH), the j appeared in the miniscule script which was prevalent from 300-700 A.D., and the Carolingian script from circa 800 A.D., along with later scripts. But of our language AH states that “The English alphabet reached its total of 26 letters only after medieval scribes added w (originally written uu) and Renaissance printers separated the variant pairs i/j and u/v.” And so we see that in English, j became a distinct letter only during the Renaissance, which began in the 14th century, and that the letter was a variant of the letter i.

However, just because in some European scripts we have a j at an early time, that does not mean that the letter was pronounced then as we pronounce it today, as we do the soft g (i.e. gentle, germane) which seems to have come from the French (where it is represented by a zh in pronunciations of French words which appear in AH), although I have by no means fully researched the matter. The Spanish pronounce the j as an English h. In the pronunciation guide to TNCLED on page 5 we find that the j of Medieval (and Ecclesiastical) Latin (for AH attests that Classical Rome did not know the letter) was pronounced like the “y in yes.” Even closer to our language is German, which pronounces the j as a y, and so Jesus in German would sound much the same as it did in Latin, or in Greek.

Checking AH for the pronunciation of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s last name, we find yoong, and the Swiss city Jungfrau is yoong-frou. A Junker, a member of the old Prussian aristocracy, is a yoong-ker. (In all three cases the oo is said to be pronounced as the oo in our word took.) In AH the name of the sea bird called a jaeger, named from the German word for hunter, is pronounced ya-ger. It is common knowledge that the popular German name Johann, our John, is pronounced yo-hann. The Greek spelling is Ἰωάννες (Iôannes).

Beyond the purpose of this document, it must suffice to say that, in spite of the Jews’ and Arabs’ insistence to the contrary, the Gospels were originally written in Greek. While a form of Hebrew (or perhaps Aramaic) was spoken in first century Palestine, Greek was the common language even there, as the historical and archaeological records also attest. The internal evidence, both textually and contextually, leaves no doubt in the mind of the Greek reader that such was the language they were written in. And so it should be evident that Ἰησοῦς was the name which Yahshua Christ was called by and responded to during His walk upon this earth.

Here it should be manifest that Jesus, or the Latin Iesus, evolved naturally from Ἰησοῦς, having suffered several incremental alterations with changes in language and dialect, and so Jesus is not a name produced by some conspiracy, although it should be kept in mind that Ἰησοῦς, Iesus and Jesus were all originally pronounced yay-soos (or yay-sooce), or at least something quite similar. Stripping away the final s, added for the benefit of the Greek (and later Latin) grammar, all of these versions may be represented by the simple Yesu, a form known to Identity scholars in the 19th century, evidenced in the work of E. O. Gordon (Prehistoric London) and others. As we have seen, Yesu is only a Hellenized form of the Hebrew Yahshua, without the final a.

Evident in many places, today’s ‘Jews’ prefer the spelling Yeshua, and in recent times it is a common name among them, though TDNT states that “With the 2nd century A.D.... Ἰησοῦς disappears as a proper name”, it seems to have revived since the founding of the artificial zionist state in Palestine. I feel quite safe in stating that even in Identity, a writer who uses the form Yeshua has been heavily influenced by Jewish literature, and one should view his work in that context, for it may well be suspect. Non-Judaized Israel Identity writers generally use the form Yahshua.

While I cannot disparage the forms Jesus, Yesu, et al., knowing how those forms came to be, yet in my own writings I use the form Yahshua, and I believe that I have good reason for so doing. First, in English there are not the limitations in pronunciation or spelling which the Greek language imposed, which made the form Iesus necessary in the first place. Secondly, the form Yahshua represents a meaning absent in Jesus, its component parts being derived from the words Yahweh (that name which the ‘Jews’ despise, and thus avoid), and a form of a word meaning salvation or to be saved. So Yahshua conveys a meaning which is not evident in the other forms: Yahweh, Savior or Yahweh Saves, descriptive of the very purpose of Yahshua Christ in the first place, and also of His very essence.

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