Why do we call him "Jesus?"

When he was a baby, he was named Emmanuel (God is with us). His name was Yashua. People called him “Teacher,” “Messiah,” or “Christ.” Why do we call him “Jesus?”

AFAIK, Jesus is kind of a transliteration of “Yehoshua” - “Joshua”. Much like “Paul” (“Saul”) or :Mary" (“Miriam”).

“Jesus” is the Latin form of “Joshua,” which was more or less His real name. He wasn’t actually named “Emmanuel,” although Mary was told that that would be His name.

That, incidently, explains why “Jesus,” in one form or another, is still a common name in Romance Language speaking countries while no one has that name in English speaking countries. “Jesus” is simply Latin for “Joshua.”


Then is “gee-zuss” the correct Latin pronunciation, or is that “Americanized?”

According to thisLatin pronunciation guide, Jesus in Latin should properly be pronounced “Yay-sooss.” I think.


Quite anglicized. In Latin it would be something like: “yeh-soos” , but with a short “oo” sound (remember, in old Latin it’s written Iesvs). Jesus is itself a Latinization of the Greek rendering of Y’shua/Yehoshua.

Oh, and at least in Spanish, the Old-testament Israelite leader is called “Josué” (I guess our Bible translators skipped one of the linguistic middlemen for the OT) and the names clearly reference the two distinct Biblical characters.

Because “Billy Christ” sounded stupid.

JRDelirious, to say that the Latin pronunciation of Iesus has a short “oo” sound is incorrect. It’s a long vowel. Rhymes with “Cayuse” —

Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies.
On my Cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
— but I digress…

Check some source on Latin that indicates vowel length, and thou shalt see that in Iesus both vowels are long.

It’s simply a Latinization of Greek ’Iêsous (hey, no more symbol font for writing Greek? Gosh darn it!). As you know, the Greek ending -ous corresponds to Latin -us with long u — it’s the fifth declension or something like that — while Latin -us with short u corresponds to Greek -os, first declension. This long u explains why in Italian Gesù the accent goes on the final syllable, and why it remained -ù instead of changing to -o (as is usual in Italian).

The original Hebrew of Jesse, Joshua, Josue, and Iêsous is all the same form: Yehôshûa‘. The u vowel is long in the original Hebrew, which explains why it remains long in Greek and Latin. The Yeho- part is short for Tetragrammaton, Yod Heh Vav Heh, the Divine Name that no one knows how to pronounce. The Jews substitute Adonai (‘Lord’) for Tetragrammaton when reading aloud. The Hebrew root shin-vav-‘ayin means ‘salvation’, so the meaning of Yehoshua‘ is: ‘the Lord is salvation’.

I looked in the Ben-Yehuda Pocket Hebrew dictionary for shin-vav-‘ayin, but the only words from this root in modern Hebrew are shivva‘ ‘to cry for help’ and sheva‘ or shavva‘ ‘hue and cry’ (a public call for help). In other words, calling for to be saved.

In Greek, there’s no such thing as h in the middle of a word, so the internal h had to drop out. Also, Greek lacks the “sh” sound, so substituted sigma instead. Added a final -s to make the name fit into the patterns of the Greek declension system. This explains how Yehoshua‘ got turned into “Jesus.”

The Rastafari believe it’s disrespectful to Christ to say his name rhyming with “cheese us”, so they change the pronunciation to have a short e, to rhyme with “chess us.” Remember Bob Marley singing

I’ll never forget no way
They crucified Jessus Christ
I’ll never forget no way
They sold Marcus Garvey for rice

Minor nitpick. Jesse, in Hebrew, is not Yehoshua. It is Yishai, an entirely different name.

Zev Steinhardt

Thanks for setting me straight on Jesse, Zev. But tell me this: Is it based on the same root, shin-vav-‘ayin?

In Spanish, “Jesus” is almost always religiously called “Jesucristo” or “Cristo” - or never called “Jesus” alone in some translations. When he is called “Jesus” alone, it is done reproachfully " Jesus…‘king of Jews’ " by his Roman accusers. Or in other situations, when he was viewed as human or referred to as such, This suggests that to merely call him “Jesus” is to treat him like a mere mortal. So for a human to carry the name “Jesus”, at least in the Spanish context, is clearly distinct from calling someone “Jesucristo”.


Of course the age and target of the translation makes a difference. I believe these Bibles are mainly Protestant.

The Vulgate (which I don’t understand) alternately calls him Iesu Christi or Iesus.

I don’t know if the same distinction is made in other languages. For instance, I know some Orthodox Christians have names such as “Christo, Kristos, Hristo” etc. Are these they same names that Greek or Bulgarian people use in their scriptures to refer to Jesus? Or are they just names related to Jesus.

The Muslims frequently use the given name ‘Îsá (Arabic for Jesus), more frequently than either the Spanish or the Greeks, I think. Sometimes you see it spelled “Issa” but there’s actually only one s in it. However, I never heard of any Christian Arabs using the given name Yasû‘ (their form of it).

According to the master in this column, Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua.”

Shouldn’t Unca Cece have the last word?

I doubt it. Yishai does not have the vav or ayin. The vav can easily disappear depending on the tense of the word, but making the ayin disappear is a lot harder.

Zev Steinhardt

Yes, it was his given name.

If it was you, your name would be Dale Christ. ‘Christ’ can be used to indicate atonement.


Unless you’re quoting from a New Testament verse I’m unfamiliar with, you’re quoting from the famous “virgin” verse in Isaiah7:14, so the person to whom the prophecy was being told was King Ahaz of Judah.

(Disclaimer: Of course, we Jews ;j do not consider that prophecy to be a reference to JC anyway, and we translate the Hebrew word in question as “young woman.”)

From Matthew 1:20-23 (KJV, since it’s what I have handy):

I was wrong, though, about Mary being told this; it was actually Joseph. And, in this passage the angel mentions both the names Emmanuel and Jesus. Obviously, the author of Matthew was trying to connect Jesus’s birth to Isaiah 7:14, misinterpreting it as you mentioned (the Greek version of the Old Testament, which the authors of the New Testament were familiar with, switches “young woman” in the Hebrew version for “virign,” making it look like a different prophecy all together.).


Gosh, should we ignore all the previous posts by knowledgeable people telling us how it was not his given name, but just a local translation?


Sounds to me like the “prophet” referred to in verse 22 is in fact Isaiah, who had been speaking to Ahaz.

But thanks for finding the NT reference.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Well, waddya know… learn something new every day. Gotta talk to a few old priests about their accents, though :stuck_out_tongue: