Truth, Understanding, Insight

The name of Jesus

19th March 2007, hej


1) How important is the name of Jesus?

The apostle Peter declared that people that called on this name would be saved.

`Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' (Acts 2: 21).

The name is therefore very important.

Jesus is not the best rendition of his name.

If we go to another country, we would use a name that gives the sound closest to our original name. The name 'Jesus' came to English through a route that changed the sound of the name.

The oldest records of his life are written in Ancient Greek. In those his name is translated from Hebrew to the Greek Ιesοus. Later these Greek texts were translated in to Latin. From the Latin his name was transliterated into the Germanic languages where the 'I' became a 'J', which sounds like an English 'Y', so his name was pronounced Yesous. This came into English as Jesus.

As the English world for over 400 years has used the name Jesus, it is familiar to many people. Therefore, for introductory articles this website uses the name Jesus.

However, since the revival of Hebrew as a modern language and increasing Hebrew scholarship amongst Christians has led to an acceptance of Yeshua (also Y'shua) as a better translation, the in-depth studies use Yeshua.

How do we know Yeshua is his name?

If the texts are Greek, how do we know his Hebrew name?

In the New Testament Joshua the son of Nun who led the nation of Israel into the promised land has the same Greek name. In some translations the Greek name is translated into English as 'Jesus' (Acts 7: 45 and Hebrews 4: 8). This shows that their names are the same. We know the Hebrew name of Joshua was יהושׁע pronounced Yehoshua.

The name Jehoshua means “Yah shall save” and was given to Hosea the son of Nun as he was to be the means by which God would save his people by conquering the land in approximately 1250BCE.

Over time Joshua's name Yehoshua meaning “Yah shall save” was shortened to be written as “He shall save”(ישׁוּע) which is pronounced Yeshua.

ASIDE: This may be due to a simplification based on God's name of Yah. The name of God in Hebrew, pronounced Yahweh, is the statement “He shall be”. The name Yehoshua therefore means “He shall be shall save”. To a Hebrew this is a bit repetitive so it was shorted to “He shall save” or Yeshua. By the time of Nehemiah in 360 BCE, the great leader of Israel from 1250BCE was not called Yehoshua but Yeshua (Nehemiah 8:17).

Before the birth of Jesus, Mary his mother (Hebrew: Miriam) is told that she,

shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

The apostle Matthew says the name given means “He shall save” which indicates that the Hebrew name given was Yeshua.

The scholar Kai Kjær-Hansen demonstrates that Yeshua as a short form had replaced the long form of Yehoshua in New Testament times.

we have reason to believe that in New Testament times the short form Yeshua replaced the long form Yehoshua. ... inscriptions and discoveries of ossuaries from Palestine show that the form Yeshua was a quite common personal name, and that this Yeshua corresponds to the Greek "Iesous". Philo is familiar with the factual meaning of the Greek form, which he renders "soteria kyriou" (the Lord's salvation). In Josephus this Greek form is used about bin Nun (Joshua) as well as about almost 20 people from the end of the era of the Second Temple. I have not been able to trace an inscription from New Testament times which has the long form Yehoshua.

... it may also be mentioned that the Qumran scrolls have examples of bin Nun's name being rendered Yeshua (e.g. Testimonium 4QT 21). If we move on to the time of Bar Kokhba, the rediscovered correspondence material shows that several of the leading people among Bar Kokhba's followers bore the name of Yeshua. One of the less known is Yeshua ben Yeshua (Y. Yadin, Bar Kokhba. The rediscovery of the legendary hero ..., Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 270-271; 222-253). An Introduction to the Names Yehoshua/Joshua, Yeshua, Jesus and Yeshu by Kai Kjær-Hansen

The name of “He shall save”

The apostle John says the reason he wrote his gospel is so people may believe on the name.

but these are written, that ye might believe that Yeshua (He shall save) is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name (He shall save).In John 20: 3

In John's first epistle, he stresses the importance of the Messiah's name. He states twice that the faithful must believe on the name of the Son of God.

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name (He shall save) of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name (He shall save) of the Son of God.” 1 John 1: 5: 13

This same message is given by Paul in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 10: 13). Both Peter and Paul are quoting from Joel 2: 32 which states

whosoever shall call on the name of Yahweh shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance.

Peter says that it is through the name, which expresses the purpose of Yahweh, that those who believe in the work of Yeshua shall be saved.

`To him (Yeshua) give all the prophets witness, that through his name (He shall save) whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins.' Acts 10: 43.