How Did the Name Jesus Originate

By Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D. Edited by Dr. Michelle Huff


Today many Christians and others assume that the Greek name Jesus was the original name of the Savior who was Hebrew.  If one does the research, one finds out that it is impossible for the Savior’s name to be Jesus. 

 What is the intent of this article?

The intent of this article is to investigate the origin of the Greek name Jesus and its erroneous transliteration of the Hebrew name of our Savior Yahshua.  Our Saviour’s Name in Hebrew is (read from right to left). The English name “Jesus,” which later employed the letter “J,” is a derivation from Greek “Iesous” and the Latin “Iesus” version.

This name “Jesus” commonly used in Christianity today did not exist and would not be spelled with the letter “J” until about 500 years ago. This article will also discuss the grammatical errors involved in the transliteration of Yahshua into Greek and Latin, which radically changed the form of Yahshua’s name.

Another error that will be discussed in this article is that  “Yahshua’s name was not known to most translators at the time. Jewish Masoretic priests, around the 6th century A.D., created the name Jesus by changing the vowel point from the letter “a” to “e” in the Tetragrammaton YHWH. This resulted in changing the pronunciation from Yah to Yeh.

The priests continued the tradition, which was in effect at the time of the Messiah, of teaching the people that the name “Yahweh” was too sacred to pronounce, and to speak this name was blasphemy and punishable by death.  Most people and lower level priests were initially taught to say “Adonai” when they saw the name “Yahweh” or the tetragrammaton written.

 Does the Letter “J” exist in Hebrew, Latin or Greek?

The answer to this question is no. In fact, there was no letter ‘J’ in  any language prior to the 14th century in England. The letter did not become widely used until the 17th century.

The Encyclopedia Americana contains the following quote on the J: “The form of ‘J’ was unknown in any alphabet until the 14th century. Either symbol (J,I) used initially generally had the consonantal sound of Y as in year. Gradually, the two symbols (J,l) were differentiated, the J usually acquiring consonantal force and thus becoming regarded as a consonant, and the I becoming a vowel.

It was not until 1630 that the differentiation became general in England.” Note in the original 1611 version of the King James Version of the Bible there was no “J” letter in this Bible for because it did not exist. James was spelled Iames. Jesus was spelled Iesous.

In the Hebrew alphabet there is no J letter or sound and it is shown follow: Read form right to left.”

The Greek alphabet shows that there is no letter J or sound.

Now the Oxford English Dictionary shows the derivation of the name “Jesus” as follow: “In ancient Latin Jesus is spelled Iesus, in ancient Greek (I-ee-sous), ad. late Heb. or Aramaic yeshua, Jeshua, for the earlier y’hoshua, Jehoshua or Joshua (explained as ‘Jah (or Jahveh) is salvation’: cf. y’shuah ‘salvation, deliverance’, and Matt. 1.21”

Here we see that in the ancient Latin and Greek languages “Jesus” was spelled with the letter “I” for there was no “J” in either of these languages. In Hebrew we know there is no J letter. So Jesus was originally spelled Yeshua, and y’hoshua. Note: Here the Messiah’s name was spelled in Hebrew two different ways due to the tradition of the Masoretic priests. They did not want to pronounce the sacred part of Yahweh’s name, so they changed the ‘Yah, to ‘Yeh, which will be discussed later in this article.

Webster’s New World Dictionary confirms the Oxford World Dictionary, but it shows the derivation of “Jesus” correctly transliterated in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew using the letters “I” and “Y,” showing that there was no J used in these original languages when the scriptures were translated into them.
“In Late Latin Jesus was original spelled Iesus; In Greek it was spelled Ièsous; and in ancient Hebrew spelled  “yÈshÙa,” which is a contraction of yehÖshÙa (Joshua), help of Jehovah < yÀh, Jehovah + hÖshïa, to help.”

Did the angels speak in Hebrew?

In the so-called New Testament of the Bible there were two instances where an angel and the spirit form of the Messiah appeared to humans and spoke to them in Hebrew. First, Gabriel spoke to Mary regarding her unborn son. Since Mary was Hebrew of the tribe of Judah (Lk. 1:27), Gabriel had to communicate to her in the Hebrew tongue, her native language, not Chinese or Greek, for she would not have been able to understand him. “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with Elohim (God). And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS (Luke 1:30-31).” As shown in the Hebrew alphabet, there is no J in Hebrew (see alphabet on p. 8). So the question is what did the angel Gabriel say that the baby would be named?  It was impossible for him to say Jesus because Jesus is Greek for Yahshua.

In another instance, the Messiah appeared in spirit form and in a vision, to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-7) and spoke in Hebrew.  Paul described what happened. “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Acts 26:14).”

Paul asked this spirit, “Who art thou, Lord (Acts 26:15)?” The Messiah replied, “I am Jesus [in the King James Bible and most English Bibles] whom thou persecutest.”

One thing is clear. The Messiah knows His name and as was stated and repeated throughout this article it is impossible for him to have said Jesus as it is translated since Yahshua spoke to Paul in the Hebrew tongue.

Pontius Pilate wrote the name of the Messiah in Greek, Hebrew and Latin above His head on the cross (Stake) when the Messiah was crucified.  Luke wrote the following:  “… an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS (Lk 23:38-39).”

Traditionally,  most crucifixes (especially Roman Catholic)  have the Latin initials of the Messiah as follows “INRI,” which means “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex, Iudaeorum”. [Note: there is no letter J (for it did not exist at this time.)   This is translated into English and means “Jesus of  Nazareth, King of the Jews.”]

The French philosopher, historian, and religious scholar Ernest Renan stated in his book, The Life of Jesus, that the Savior was never called Jesus in His lifetime. Renan based his conclusion on his archaeological trips to the Holy Land in searching for inspiration and materials on the Savior.

What is the derivation of the name “Jesus”?

Any good dictionary will show the derivation or the history of the translation of Jesus through the various languages. All agree that the word “Jesus is a transcription or a copy of the Greek name … which is a derivation of the Hebrew Ieshoua, a common Jewish name” according to the book The Names and Titles of Jesusby Leopold Sabourin, S.J.

 Is there an explanation of the error Yeh from Yah?

Now that it is clear that the Messiah’s name was not spelled with the letter J, there is another error that must be addressed.  Many misspell the Messiah as “yÈshÙa,” (which is a contraction for “yehÖshÙa.”).  The error is that it does not have the “Yah” part of the Father’s name in the translation.

In the King James Version of the Bible,  Psalm 68:4 clearly reveals  that the shortened  form of the Father’s name is “Jah.”  King David writes: “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name JAH…” Since there is no j in Hebrew then “Jah” should be spelled Yah or Iah. So yehÖshÙa should be spelled yahÖshÙa.

The error of changing Yah to Yeh is due to the manmade tradition of the Jewish priests. Their reverence for the holy name caused them to believe that it was too sacred to pronounce.  So they changed the vowel points from a to e in the Tetragrammaton YHWH. This changes the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. The letter “a” was the correct vowel to be inserted between the YH obtaining YaH. This is short form of the sacred Name is in Yahshua.

To prevent this pronunciation, the priests changed the vowel points from an “a” to the “e” obtaining YeH.  This is how the letter “e” came to be in the Savior’s name “Jesus,” resulting today in the Jews spelling his name YEHshua.

Now the same error is explained in the Biblesoft’s Strongs New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.  It spelled Yahshua’s name with the letter e Yehowshuwa‘ (yeh-ho-shoo’-ah); or Yehowshu‘ a (yeh-ho-shoo’-ah); from OT:3068 and OT:3467 OT:3091; Jehovah-saved; Jehoshua (i.e. Joshua), the Jewish leader: -Jehoshua, Jehoshuah, Joshua. Now the ancient Greek use their alphabet to write and pronounce the “IE” as the shortened form of Yahweh’s name “Yah.”

What is the Importance of “ous” or “us” in Jesus’ name?

Now the “ua” ending in Yahshua’s name in Hebrew when transliterated into Greek is feminine singular, which presents a problem.  Thus, it necessitates a change when transliterate into Greek (so the reader in Greek could determine the gender of this name).

What most people do not understand is the ending “us” of Jesus name was setup to denote this in the transliteration into Greek and Latin. The “ous” and the “us” ending in the Greek name “Iesous” and the Latin name “Iesus,” respectively, denote the masculine singular gender in Greek and Latin respectively.

In most languages there are endings that denote gender as well as endings that denote singular or plural. (For example, in English we just add the letter ‘s’ to make a noun plural as in boys or girls. In Spanish gender is denoted by the last vowel of the word, such as chico-boy and chica-girl.)
Only the letters “Jes” in “Jesus’ name has any relationship to the Hebrew name Yahshua for the letters “us” denote gender.

This transliteration that observes Greek and Latin grammer further adds confusion to other errors in the transliteration of the name Yahshua.  Latin and English had  already seen  the results of the Jewish Masoretic priests changing the vowel points.

Finally, it also should be noted that Greek has no “sh” sound as in Yahshua Hebrew name.  To denote this “sh” Hebrew sound in the Greek, the letter “s” is used.

Thus, this article has examined all five of the letters in “Jesus” name and showed their derivation from Hebrew, Greek Latin and English.