What’s In A Name? Part 1

Have you heard about that fellow who walked the dusty roads of Palestine some years back? You know, the one raised-handsmost Christians refer to as Jesus Christ? You have? OK, now raise your hand if you’re aware this isn’t his real name.

Whoops! You didn’t raise your hand? Well maybe it’s time for a history lesson.

Let’s go way back — about 2,000-plus years ago. This was the time when a young man by the name of Yeshua (as he was known among his fellow Hebrews) was traveling the countryside talking about Yahweh, one of the Hebrew gods.

Sidenote: according to Wikipedia, Yeshua is a late form of the Biblical Hebrew name, Yehoshuah (pronounced Yeh-ho-shoo’-ah), and translates in English to Joshua. Hmmm …   

Reportedly, this chap performed a few healings, made some wine, talked a bit confusingly at times (parables), and eventually got himself into trouble with the Romans and was killed.

Some years passed, and around 50-75 CE the Koine Greeks began putting together some stories about this rather remarkable fellow (known today as the New Testament). However, their language prevented them from calling him by his Hebrew name, so they transliterated it to Iesous (pronounced in English as “ee-ay-soos”).

A few centuries passed and around 400 CE, the predominate language of Christianity had become Latin. In order to pass on these intriguing stories, it seemed appropriate to translate the Greek writings into the common language. This was done at the behest of Pope Damascus I, a rather prominent figure of the time. The new book became known as the Vulgate, and included events the Hebrew people had recorded in the years prior to the arrival of Yeshua.

When the translator came to the Greek name of Iesous, he decided to transliterate it as Iesus, yet the Greek pronunciation of “ee-ay-soos” was retained. It was this pronunciation and Latin spelling that dominated the Christian world for nearly 1,000 years.

Meanwhile, the English language was evolving, and here’s something interesting — early on, the letter (J) did not exist. It wasn’t until sometime during the early 12th century that (J) began showing up in some obscure dialects of the Middle English language.

The people seemed to like the new sound and eventually, over the next 500 (+/-) years, letters like (I) and (Y) came to be replaced by (J) (e.g., Iames  became “James”, Yohan becameJohn”). Thus, in 1526 when Tyndale translated the New Testament to the English language from the Latin, he used the letter (J) in the the spelling of the name Jesus. This new spelling eventually became pronounced by the general public as “Jee-zuz.

In Part 2, we’ll discover how and why Christ was added to Jesus’ name.

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53 thoughts on “What’s In A Name? Part 1

  1. I wonder when the “H” part of Jesus H. Christ was added to the name? I think the “H” stands for Herbert. Jesus Herbert Christ. Jesus H. Christ! I likes that. Sounds like many Christians, once again, have absolutely no idea what, or who, it is they’re worshiping. How typical.

    Liked by 6 people

        • Hello Charity. I am glad to see you on a blog. I lost your email and I have been worried about you. I hope you are feeling better. I hope all goes well with the EMDR therapy. IF you want to vent or someone to just listen, write me. I care. Hugs

          Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you, Scottie. Today was my eighth session with my therapist. It’s been rough, tis life. I have to say, I love it that she’s always been secular. There’s no prayers, symbols or scriptures in her office. She doesn’t blast shitty K-LOVE like my old TMJ specialist either. She’s chillax and a great listener.

          A little over a month from now I’m having major surgery in St Louis. I’m have my Monarc TOT sling removed. I’m dreading the road trip home the day after surgery. However, I’m ecstatic that one of maybe a dozen surgeons in the world who does this removal is available for my operation. #dontneedjesusforresolve

          Liked by 1 person

        • I love how upbeat and dignified you are about all of this. You have a presence about you. I admire you and your ability to deal with all that has gone on and wrong. You are amazing. Please keep me informed. Hugs

          Liked by 1 person

        • Geez, Scottie, you’re so sweet. You make me cry. I do it for my kids. I will go through anything and everything so that they won’t have to go through any of it. I do this for them and the generations after them. I go through it all because I love them.

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        • You are great. A lady of love. Be well, I will be waiting to hear how you do with all of this. Give my best to your family, they are lucky to have you. Hugs

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  2. Thank you Nan. I always learn something new from your blog. I never knew any of the stuff you posted. I knew the bible had gone through translations and had errors, that it had grammar problems. I never understood the language part of it all. Thanks. Hugs

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  3. Very informative! Like Inspired, I wondered where the ‘H’ came from. .. . It’s the usage I’m most familiar with. . . 🙂

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  4. Mmmm, a very good introduction to a part of ‘Faith-follower’s’ various biblical narratives Nan that far FAR too many — religious or fanatically religious — have no clue about! And if I may add a tid-bit… even FEWER realize the far-reaching hand of Roman power and influence over its subjects throughout the Empire, including Iudaea Provincia… or the Province of Judea as the Romans called it.

    I too am very much looking forward to the next part! ❤

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    • Professor one aspect that surprised me in my studies of early Christianity was to learn the influence of Greek thinking upon early Christianity. For the early church Plato was the goto philosopher, indeed early apologists like Justin Martyr argued for the compatibility of Plato’s thinking with Christian thought.

      The irony was that 1,000 or so years later the scholastics under the influence of Thomas Aquinas largely cast Platonism aside and instead sought to reinterpret Christianity in a manner consistent with Aristotle’s teaching.

      In both cases the Christians argued that the early Greek Philosophers had been given a glimpse of the Christian message by ‘God’ and the Christina revelation therefore complemented their thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Peter, that is a good point. And I think your point directly and/or indirectly leads to a Christian theological and Scriptural flaw in their “faith-systems”:

        How far and how thoroughly does a Christian interpolate Canonical Scriptures, believing and applying teachings metaphorically while also maintaining a ‘child-like’ faith (Matthew 18:3), or literal interpolation of Canonical Scriptures believing and applying those teachings? What should be child-like LITERAL belief and what should be more higher cognitive (gnosticism/esoterics?) beliefs? Do you follow (blindly?) a group or do you use YOUR OWN powers of reasoning and critical-thinking? The Canonical Scriptures, as a whole, have NEVER been explicit how, when, or where regarding this theology. A never-ending perpetual conundrum for all Christian believers… for an X-number of years until a NEWER denomination comes up with “their” interpolation and theology.

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  5. Once you’ve covered Jesus (Iesous) and Christ (Christos) you’ll be ready in part 3 to share the story behind the ΙΧΘΥΣ acronym on the Christian fish (Ichthus) that adorns so many vehicles in the U.S.

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  6. As is often the case what they don’t tell the followers is as bad as what they do tell them.

    Imagine all of the people worshipping Jesus, when they are supposed to be worshipping Yeshua. So what happens when Yeshua comes back (any day now) and finds out people are following this Jesus dude. As I understand it the gods get pretty pissed about such things.

    “But we thought it was you!” might fall upon deaf ears 🙂

    Sign me up for installment 2.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When I was a person of faith I used to think that the names in the Bible and their special meanings showed “God’s” hand in the story. Nowadays I realise it is just a human story telling technique.

    It was only in recent months when I was listening to Gary Stevens excellent “History in the Bible” podcast that I really reconsidered this matter. He commented on one text where an enemy of Israel was named as a child with a name that meant something like ‘evil person’. As Gary observed, ‘really what parent would give their child that sort of name’.

    It was then that the blatantly obvious hit me that either the names or their interpretation were totally fabricated by the Bible authors as their way of telling a good tale. Looking back I see that I am still such a prisoner of years of Christian conditioning that it is hard to shake off that way of thinking in regard to all matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How about the fact, Peter, that “Jacob” means “usurper”? No one naming the little baby could possibly know that he would grow up to usurp Esau’s blessing and title. “Hey, Usurper – can you pass the potatoes –?

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      • But Arch the faithful will say that ‘God’ inspired Isaac in regard to the naming.

        We can see how ridiculous it is but the faithful, well they just see it as more ‘proof’ of the divine inspiration of the Bible.

        ‘God’ classes does strange things to the mind.

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    • You’re the first person to agree with me that Yahweh originally wasn’t God’s name. I’ll tell you my theory if you’ll tell me yours —

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      • The Old Testament(Jewish Bible) was written long after the events which it depicts. At the time of the events of the Old Testament, Hebrew was not a language so Yahweh could not have been the name of God. Originally, the name of God was not allowed to be spoken as it was considered to be too sacred. However, later when the Old Testament was written they needed a “placeholder” for the name of God so they used the tetragrammaton YHWH (when spoken pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah).

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