Many are learning that "Jesus" isn’t exactly the original sound or form of the Messiah’s name. It is becoming widely known that his name was spoken more like Yeshua. So how did it change from Yeshua to Jesus? The form of the Messiah’s name, “Jesus” did not come about overnight. It changed slightly each time it was transcribed into other languages over a period of 2000 years.
Transliteration is when the letters of the receiving language are carefully selected to best match and represent the letters and sounds of the original language. For example, the Hebrew letter ב Bet is best represented by the English letter B. This is useful for presenting proper names in another written language. Even then, languages evolve over time and so does spelling and pronunciation.
Let’s start with the original form of the Messiah’s name and show you how it changed into the English form “Jesus”. Yeshua is a Hebrew name popular among Aramaic speaking Jews. Aramaic was the common language of Jews living in the land of Israel and Babel 2000 years ago. Here is how it appears in the Estrangelo Aramaic script of the Peshitta.
Hebrew and Aramaic are read from the right side to the left ←. The letters in right-to-left order are yod-shin-waw-ayin. These can also be written in modern Hebrew script as ישוע . The name Yeshua was first translated into Greek to spread the message of salvation to the Greeks. If we were to write this name with the corresponding letters in Greek it would appear as iota eta sigma omicron upsilon sigma.
of iota and eta
represent the ‘ye’
sound of the yod
|There is no
sound in Greek
the ‘s’ sound of
sigma is the closest
omicron and upsilon
produce the ‘oo’
sound of the waw
Greek letter that
the sound of ayin
added to denote
a masculine name
In early Greek, the eta “η” represented the “h” sound, but in the later Greek of the New Testament it represented the short “e” sound. At this stage you would pronounce the name something like “Ye-soos”.
Soon after, this name was transliterated from Greek into Latin with little change. This gave us the form “Iesus” pronounced “EE-sus”.
The name appears as "Jeʃus" in the original 1611 King James Bible. At this time, the English language was still in development, up until the 18th century. The letter “J” was often being used for a capital “i”, but it wasn’t pronounced differently right away. In the decades following the first edition of the King James Bible “I” and “J” became distinguished. “I” was used for the vowel sound and “J” for the consonant. This is when “J” began to exclusively represent the soft “g” sound. The character ʃ indicates a 'z' sound and so “Jesus” began to be pronounced as “GEEZUS”. The final “s” was never dropped and remains as a vestige of the Greek language.
The reason why "Jesus" sounds so much different from "Yeshua" is because it is based upon a series of modifications and not directly upon Hebrew or Aramaic. If we skip all the inbetween stages and transliterate directly from ancient Aramaic into modern English, we achieve the more accurate rendering “Yeshua”.
The following chart reviews the evolution of the name into English. There are no tricks or conspiracies, just a logical, historical progression of language layers, which attempt to transliterate the original sounds.
There are some who claim that Jesus is a heathen name with no connection or derivation from Yeshua. Some people prefer what is called folk etymology when the real etymology is unknown to them. This leads to fanciful explanations of the origin and meaning of a name or word.
Those who say that Iesous or Jesus is a pagan corruption will have to explain why the Jewish translators who created the Greek Septuagint maligned the name of Moses general, Joshua, by rendering it as Iesous. Or why Josephus wrote the name of his high priest the same way in his Antiquities. Detracters, a.k.a. "sacred namers", note that sus is Hebrew for "horse", however none of the names ending in sus are in Hebrew form, but rather Greek. This is like saying Jehoshaphat contains phat, which in English means "a beautiful woman", so that is what his name really means. That is how silly this reasoning is. Iesous was written for Greeks to read, and they would not interpret it as "horse," which in Greek is hippo. Likewise, a Hebrew looking at the Greek characters ΙΗΣΟΥΣ would not see "horse" either which is סוס in Hebrew. In Greek, sus means nothing. There are no more horses in Jesus, than there are in sustain. So there is no possible meaning of "horse" in the name Jesus.
Sacred namers propose that Jesus can be broken down into two Latin words Je and sus meaning "dirty-pig" even though the name Jesus does not originate in Latin. This is pseudo-etymology which is for entertainment purposes only and should never be confused with legitimate linguistics. The first challenge is to turn "Je-" into "dirty" so they just change the spelling to "Ge" so that it can relate to "Geo" or "earth" and thus "dirt". The letter J is not the letter G, and the two are unrelated. The second part "sus" does mean "pig" in Latin, so what does that do to words like "Tarsus", "Susan", or even dare we, "Sussex"? No, there is about as much pork in "sushi" as there is in "Jesus".
Others imagine that they see Zeus in the -sus ending of Jesus or Iesous. There are plenty of Greek words that contain the combination and sound of "sus" and not one of them refers to Zeus. Compare the spelling and sound of the two in Greek.
Zeus, also written as Dios, has a solar essence, and was the chief god of Greek mythology, but Iesous is logically derived from Yeshua - a salvation essence. The root meanings, the spellings, and the usage is different. These are not related.
Ask those who say that "Iesous" is a corruption, a pagan name, to offer you a better transliteration of "Yeshua" into Greek, for the Greek reader. After decades I have never seen any offerings. This is because ΙΗΣΟΥΣ is simply the best one can do. In reality, it is actually these people who are 'paganizing' the messiah's name by associating it with Zeus. These same people often create and push alternative names for the messiah like "Yahshua". But if we want to bring that name to shame it can be easily done. We simply take "Yahshua" and extricate "Ahshu" from it and now we have a name which is derived directly from that of the Hindu goddess Shiva and Ya is the heathen god of Ebla. And that cloud passing overhead looks like a poodle, therefore it is a poodle.
There is nothing morally wrong with pronouncing this name as "Jesus", it just isn’t very accurate, and it is virtually unrecognizable next to the original. The name that is so well known today was a name the messiah never heard in his lifetime. No one ever called him "Jesus", nor would he have recognized it. The form "Jesus" was unknown to the people of his day. Believers are becoming increasingly passionate about restoring the original form of the Messiah’s name to their speech and writing. This is done, not for superstitious reasons, nor that their prayers will be heard any better, but simply out of respect and love of the truth. There is just something especially satisfying about pronouncing it closer to the way his friends and family would have.
But most importantly what does the name mean? In English and Greek it means absolutely nothing. Only in Hebrew does it have any meaning.
"Therefore she will give birth to a son, and she will call his name Yëshuå, for he will save his people from their sins." – Matay (Matthew) 1:21
The Hebrew name Yeshua means "he will save". In Aramaic that would be and would be transliterated into English as Naħeyohi. The scriptures tell us plainly what his name is, and what it means. It is our responsibility to write it in all languages giving everyone the best opportunity to know and say it with accuracy. But do not forget to have tolerance with variances and dialects, as the way you pronounce it is not likely to be precisely like the original, no matter how well it is represented in your own tongue.