Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is "Jesus" A Pagan Name?

Many people who are Messianic Jews or followers of the Sacred Name Movement refuse to refer to the Messiah as "Jesus". Their contention is that the Messiah should be referred to by His Hebrew name. Some say that the Hebrew name of Messiah is Yeshua or Yahshua, and some say Yehoshua or Yahoshua (the "Yah" forms go against Hebrew grammar). Either way, they say that Jesus=Je-zeus.

The name "Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew and Aramaic name Yeshua ( יֵשׁוּעַ ܝܫܘܥ). In Greek it looks like this: ιησου (Iesous). This name means "Yah saves". Zeus, the chief Greek deity, is the one whom some people say that "Jesus" is derived from. Zeus in Greek is this: Ζεύς. This looks nothing like Iesous. These words are only related in their sounds. Yehoshua ( יְהוֹשֻׁעַthe long form of Yeshua that is primarily used of Joshua) is also spelled as Iesous in the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament. Interestingly enough, both the Peshitta Old Testament and New Testament refer to Joshua as Yeshua. Yeshua is also used instead of Yehoshua in Nehemiah 8:17 when describing Moses's successor. Joshua's name was originally Hoshea ("Hosea" הושע). Moses changed Joshua's name by adding a yod, which made the name not mean just "Saves" but "Yah[weh] saves" (Numbers 3:16) and changed the pronunciation to Yehoshua. Later on, the name was shortened by removing the heh, resulting in Yeshua. Jesus most likely did not pronounce His own name as "Yay-shoo-ah", as in the Galilean dialect, the letter shin (Sh) was pronounced like the letter semkath (s), the ayin pronunciation was also softened. This results in Jesus probably pronouncing His name as "Yeshu" (Yay-shoo) because of His accent, while others pronounced it in a way closer to Yeshua. So how did Yeshua become Iesous?

Hebrew and Aramaic are about as removed from Greek as Chinese is from English and Spanish. Many letters and sounds that were in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages could not be reproduced in the Greek language. The yod and "eh" sound ("Ye") could be transliterated into Greek as "Ie" (Ee-ay) but would not make the same sound. Shin ("Sh") could not be reproduced, since Greek does not have an "Sh" sound. The closest Greek could come with shin was the letter sigma (equivalent to the English s). The letter vav (waw in the ancient pronunciation) functions as the "oo" sound, so it could be reproduced with the letter omega. The final letter in the Messiah's Hebrew/Aramaic name is ayin, which is virtually unpronounceable (closest you can come is an "Ah" sound) and as such, could not be reproduced in Greek. Since Yeshua is a male name, the final sigma was added to the Greek transliteration. This results in the Iesous pronunciation, which later evolved into the modern English word "Jesus". 

As you can see, "Jesus" does come from Yeshua. There is no common descent between "Zeus" and "Jesus", and those who say so know nothing about the Greek language. I am an Aramaic primacist (so I believe that the name of the Messiah is rendered as Yeshua), but the English language pronunciation of the Messiah's name still means the same thing as Yeshua: "Yah saves". This name tells us who Jesus is and what He came to do: He is God in the flesh, coming to save us from our sins. Someone once said something that makes a great place to end this article: "Sounds don't have meanings, meanings have sounds."