This Is What Jesus’ Friends And Family Actually Called Him — And No, It Wasn’t Jesus.
Published in Aug 2021 / Updated in Sep 2021
Jesus is the most popular name in history. However, it might surprise you to learn that his family and friends did not call him by this name when he walked on earth more than two thousand years ago.
Translation issues are the reason the name Yeshua has turned into Jesus.
In any case, English was not as it is today when he lived on earth or even when the New Testament was being written.
As a Jewish man, God’s son would have had a Jewish name, and the language he and his mother used would have been Aramaic. The sound “J” is not present in either Aramaic or Hebrew, which means they certainly didn’t call him Jesus.
In reality, Christ was actually called “Yeshua,” which was quite a common name at the time.
If you are having a hard time believing this, then it’s worth noting that the name has already been found on many burial caves in Israel, some of which date back to the time Christ was alive.
The Evolution Of The Christ’s name
As you probably know, some sounds are not common in all languages. For this reason, people have found ways to pronounce certain names in their own language using the sounds that exist within that language.
That is why the name Jesus is pronounced with a hard “J” in English, although it is pronounced with an “H” in Spanish.
In that way, “Yeshua” ultimately turned into “Jesus,” as pronounced today.
When the New Testament was written, the name “Yeshua” had its first transliteration, and that’s because the New Testament was written in Greek, not Hebrew.
Greek had a very different alphabet in comparison to Hebrew or Aramaic.
The Greek language does not have the “sh” sound found in “Yeshua,” and they instead had to use “s.” On top of that, they added another “s” at the end of the name to make it masculine according to the Greek language.
After that, the Bible was translated into Latin, and the name they used was “Iesus.” This is evident in the abbreviation “INRI” written on the cross on which he was crucified.
The inscription means “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum,” which means “The King of the Jews.”
The name Iesus was popularized by the Catholic church as the denomination spread throughout Europe. In fact, The King James Version of the Bible used the name Iesus in 1611.
The Name Might Have Origins In The Geneva Bible
Historians think the name Jesus originated in Switzerland. However, the origin of the name might not be as straightforward.
The name “Jesus” was used during the writing of the Geneva Bible.
English protestant scholars had to run to Geneva after Catholic Queen, “Bloody” Mary I, ascended to the throne. They used the name “Jesus” according to the Swiss spelling when writing the Geneva Bible.
This bible was a raging success, and it was quoted by Shakespeare and Milton before it found its way to the New World. By the year 1769, many Bible translations used the name, Jesus.
So, this is a name used by English speakers today after an adaptation of a German transliteration of a Latin transliteration of a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew name.
There are obviously other theories about the origin of this name, with many claiming that Jesus is a pretty accurate pronunciation of the name he was given at birth, Ἰησοῦς.
At the time he was born, Israel was not free, and so, his mother spoke Aramaic. In Aramaic, his mother would have probably called him Yeshu or Yeshua.
However, people might have called him using a Greek translation of his name, Iésous, pronounced as “Yay-soos” since many people knew and spoke Greek.
Is It Wrong To Call Him “Jesus” And Not “Yeshua?”
Some people consider the name Jesus to be blasphemous since a “J” did not exist in the Hebrew language. According to these people, “Yeshua” is the name we should use when referring to him.
According to some of them, “Jesus” is even “unbiblical.”
To these people, the right title of the savior is Yeshua HaMashiac. Messiah is actually the Greek word for Christ.
However, such people are advised to take it down a notch since calling something by a different name does not change what they stand for. In fact, differences in spelling can happen even within the same language, such as how Americans write “Savior” instead of “Saviour” as the British do.
So, the name people call him by does not change who he is, as long as they know who they are talking about. After all, the Bible does not command people to use the Hebrew pronunciation or spelling of the name.
Regardless of how the name is pronounced, it still retains its original meaning: “The Lord is Salvation.”
The truth is that different languages pronounced Christ’s name differently, and this was apparent from very early on.
Even in the Bible today, King James Version uses the names Jesus and Joshua interchangeably in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8. In these biblical verses, the name Jesus is used in reference to Joshua from the Old Testament.
What Does The Bible Have to Say About God son’s name?
Generally speaking, the Bible does not insist on us using the Hebrew name “Yeshua.” If anything, it encourages the transliteration of the name into various languages.
Paul, credited with writing most of the New Testament, did not insist on writing Yeshua HaMashiac, but readily translates the name into Greek and writes Iēsous Christos Kyrios, which translates into “Jesus Christ is Lord.” He does not bend over backward, trying to retain the original Hebrew name.
That is clear evidence that a transliteration of the name into Greek can adequately identify Christ.
Similarly, Luke wrote Acts in Greek. In Acts 4:10, he wrote quoting Peter’s testimony:
“Let it be known to you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Iēsous Christos Nazōraios), whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well.”
So, nowhere in the Bible is it mentioned that people must say Jesus’ name in Hebrew for it to hold any meaning. In fact, Peter is not too interested in the differences languages bring to this name, but whether or not people believe in him as the messiah.
In other words, it is not the name that matters but the person it identifies. After all, the Bible explains in Romans 10:12-13:
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: the the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Therefore, those who believe in Christ don’t have to call him in Hebrew if that is not their language.
But yes, Jesus’ mother, family, and friends indeed called him Yeshua and not Jesus. However, it is still okay to call him Jesus because that is still his name.