The Hebrew Name of the Messiah

Purpose of this Article: to identify the true Hebrew name of the Messiah, and refute the dogmatic claims of those who falsely teach that you can’t be saved if you use the name of “Jesus” when referring to the Messiah.

Name Changing

You may not be aware of it but “Jesus” is a name transliterated from the Latin “Iesus” (yay-soos), which in turn is a transliteration from the Greek “Iesous” (ee-ay-sooce’), which in turn is a transliteration from the Hebrew/Aramaic version of Joshua’s name “Yeshua” (yay-shoo-ah). Yes, “Yeshua” is originally a Hebrew name, but was grafted into the Aramaic language. In other words, while some protest that “Yeshua” is exclusively Aramaic, it is essentially Hebrew.

Compare Numbers 11:28 with Nehemiah 8:17, noting the expression “the son of Nun.” Both are referring to the same person as being “the son of Nun,” that is, Joshua. The KJV has it as “Jeshua” in Nehemiah 8:17, thus indicating a change was made to Joshua’s name.

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. (Numbers 11:28 KJV, emphasis mine)

And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. (Nehemiah 8:17 KJV emphasis mine)

If you’re wondering how we know the name for the Messiah is the same name for Joshua, it’s simply a matter of taking a closer look at his name.

The first hint of this can be seen in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 of the KJV, where when it should have the name “Joshua,” it has “Jesus” instead.

Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David (Acts 7:45 KJV, emphasis mine)

For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. (Hebrews 4:8 KJV, emphasis mine)

Now, compare this to the NASB:

“And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. (Acts 7:45 NASB, emphasis mine)

For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. (Hebrews 4:8 NASB, emphasis mine)

If you take a look at what’s underneath these names you will see that it’s the Greek transliteration for “Yeshua” (Iesous).

Now I am going to provide you with solid proof to show that both Joshua and Jesus had the same name “Yeshua” (Iesous)!

Let’s look at Acts 7:45 and Revelation 1:1 in English (the NASB version)

Now let’s look at these same verses in Greek (the language they were translated from). Note, the highlighted words are the same words that were highlighted in the previous images. Be sure to compare.

It is evident in these images that both Joshua and Jesus had the same name, because the same Greek word is used for both of them when referring to their names!

And here’s further proof from the Septuagint (the oldest known translation of the Old Testament written in Greek), that the name of “Jesus” is the same as “Joshua.”

Image of Nehemiah 8:17 taken from the NASB version.

Image of Nehemiah 8:17 taken from the Septuagint. Notice how the Greek word for Joshua is the same as in the previous images.

Now that we’ve established that both Joshua and Jesus had the same name, we can move on to the next point!

Translating Is Not The Same As Transliterating

With all this talk about transliterating, it’s important to understand what this word actually means. Transliterating is not the same as translating. When you translate a word from one language to another, you are essentially attempting to find a word within that language to match the meaning of the word you are translating. However, when you transliterate, you are attempting to reproduce the same sound of that word in another language. Note: proper names should always be transliterated.

Let me show you what I mean with the following Greek word:See the difference?

Not So Long Ago

As mentioned earlier, “Jesus” was transliterated from the Latin word “Iesus.” Why the English translators chose to transliterate from the Latin instead of going directly to the source, that is, to the Hebrew/Aramaic (Yeshua), makes no sense to me. But they did what they did, and we have to deal with it.

By the way, if you think the name of “Jesus” was always included in the English translation of the Bible, you are mistaken. The image below is taken from the 1611 KJV. As you can see, the Messiah’s name does not appear as “Jesus” but as “Iesus” (Latin).

A Problematic Letter

Did you know that the letter J was originally pronounced as Y? Knowing this little fact has a huge impact on how one looks at Hebrew names, especially the name of “Jesus”!

The tenth letter of the English alphabet developed as a variant form of I in Medieval Latin, and except for the preference for the J as an initial letter, the two were used interchangeably, both serving to represent the vowel (i) and the consonant (y). Later, through specialization, it came to be distinguished as a separate sign, acquiring its present phonetic value under the influence of the French. — The Random House Dictionary of the English Language

“It is one of the few permanent additions to those alphabets, made in medieval or modern times. More exactly, it was not an addition, but a differentiation from an existing letter, I, which in Latin, besides being a vowel (as in index), had also the consonantal value of ‘Y’ (as in maior, pronounced ‘mayor’).”
“At a later state, the symbol ‘J’ was used for the distinctive purposes, particularly when the ‘I’ had to be written initially (or in conjunction with another ‘I’). Either symbol used initially generally had the consonantal sound of ‘Y’ (as in Year) so that the Latin pronunciation of either Ianuarius or Januarius was as though the spelling was ‘Yanuarius.’ While in some words of Hebrew and other origin (such as Hallelujah or Junker), ‘J’ has the phonetic value of ‘Y.’” — Encyclopedia Americana

As you can see, these authoritative sources agree that the letter “J” originally had a “Y” sound, and came from the letter “I,” which would explain why it was transliterated as “Jesus” from the Latin “Iesus.”

Do you realize what this means? It means the name “Jesus” would be more accurately transliterated as “Yesus,” and pronounced as “yay-soos,” just like the Latin “Iesus” from which it was transliterated.

My point in bringing this up is not to suggest that it is immoral to call the Messiah “Jesus,” but to show you how the English language has evolved concerning the letter “J,” and to open your eyes to the fact that Bible translators, for the most part, didn’t make changes where they could have to produce a more accurate transliteration of the Messiah’s name. Interestingly, we are now able to reproduce the exact sound of the Hebrew name for the Messiah in English: Yeshua. But people have gotten so used to using the name “Jesus,” that they have difficulty accepting this. Of course, it could also have to do with them not understanding the process of transliterating proper names. Whatever the case may be, whether we say “Yeshua” or “Jesus,” we are still talking about the same person. Although, it would be more phonetically accurate to call Him Yeshua.

Breaking it Down

  • The reference point of the Messiah’s name is “Yeshua”
  • The Greek transliterates the Hebrew/Aramaic “Yeshua” as “Iesous”
  • The Latin transliterates the Greek “Iesous” as “Iesus”
  • And the English transliterates the Latin “Iesus” as “Jesus”

Which name came first: “Jesus” or “Yeshua”? Yeshua! Therefore, there should be no doubt that it’s more accurate to call the Messiah by His Hebrew name. Yet at the same time, no prejudice should be fostered against those who choose to call the Messiah by the name of “Jesus.” For both of these names are referring to the same person.

It’s important to understand this, because just as there are people who criticize others for using the name “Jesus,” there are people who criticize others for using the name “Yeshua.” Neither one should condemn the other; instead, they should be respectful of each others choice to use either name. After all, both names point to the same person. The difference is that one is the actual Hebrew name of the Messiah, while the other resulted from transliterating that name.

Refuting a False Claim about Acts 4:12

There are groups of people who teach that if you use any other name for the Messiah but His Hebrew name, you can’t be saved. This teaching is based on a misunderstanding of Acts 4:12, where in reference to the Messiah, the Bible says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” A close examination of this verse should prove it doesn’t say what these people think it does. In fact, the key to unlocking the meaning of this verse is found in the words, “Nor is there salvation in any other.” What this verse is essentially telling us is that the Messiah already came. Therefore, there’s no point in looking for salvation in any other person, but the one who loved us and gave His life for us all, that is, the Son of God. Most people today know Him by the name of “Jesus,” who, in His own words, made it clear that He is the Messiah when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV).

Nothing in Acts 4:12 indicates that it’s a prerequisite to salvation to pronounce or spell the Messiah’s name correctly. In fact, it’s not even saying you have to know what His Hebrew name is in order to be saved. The Bible says that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV). Salvation comes as a result of having a loving relationship with God. Therefore, those who make obtaining salvation a matter of speaking the Messiah’s name in Hebrew, are essentially abandoning grace. They remind me of those whom Yeshua spoke to when He said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40 NKJV). Indeed, these people were reading the Scriptures, but they weren’t connecting with the person who inspired them. So it is the same with those who dogmatically say you can’t be saved except by speaking the Hebrew name of the Messiah; they’re looking at a name, but they’re not connecting with the person that name belongs to.

It’s important to note that it was Peter who made the statement in Acts 4:12. Why is this detail important? Well, if Peter wanted us to understand his words in the same way these people do, who say you can’t be saved except by speaking the Messiah’s name in Hebrew, then this poses a serious problem. For Paul wrote his letters and epistles in Greek, using the name “Iesous” when referring to the Messiah. Peter was obviously aware of the writings of Paul, and spoke favorably of him; for he said, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-16 NKJV)

Notice the expression Peter used: “the rest of the Scriptures.” Here, Peter essentially acknowledged Paul’s writings as Scripture! In other words, he placed the writings of Paul on the same level as the inspired Word of God. Now, why would Peter have done that if he opposed the idea of people speaking any other name when referring to the Messiah but His Hebrew name? Remember, Paul used the Greek version of the Messiah’s name, “Iesous” in his writings, a name that didn’t even sound like the original. Yet, Peter didn’t have a problem with this. Why do you suppose that is? Well, unlike those who condemn every version of the Messiah’s name but their own, of course, Peter was sensitive enough to understand that “Iesous” was a name Paul used in his writings in reference to the Messiah because he was writing to Greek speaking people, and wanted them to understand what he was saying. Thus, Paul transliterated the Hebrew name of the Messiah into Greek. If you don’t know what that means, transliterating is simply the process of taking a word from one language, and reproducing its sound in another language. Of course, this can’t always be done perfectly, because certain consonantal and vowel sounds may not be available in some languages, as was clearly the case with Greek. Nevertheless, Paul did his best with what he had to work with, and this should silence the idea that using the name “Iesous” was a conspiracy to hide the true name of the Messiah. Truth is, the so-called conspiracy only exists within the minds of those who don’t fully understand the process of transliterating proper names into other languages, and the phonetic problems that could surface as a result of alphabetical limitations that may exist within those languages.

Having said that, if Peter wanted us to understand Acts 4:12 in the same way these people do, who want us to believe we can’t be saved except by speaking the Hebrew name of the Messiah, I have no doubt that he would have acknowledged Paul as a false teacher. But as can be seen from Peter’s writings, he didn’t denounce the writings of Paul; instead, he acknowledged them as being as inspired as “the rest of the Scriptures.” To me, this is proof that “Iesous” was an acceptable name to use when referring to the Messiah. Moreover, it’s proof that it’s acceptable to transliterate the Messiah’s name into other languages, even if such renderings of His name don’t sound exactly like the Hebrew. And finally, it’s proof that those who are saying no other name is acceptable to God but the Hebrew name for the Messiah, are speaking presumptuously, and have obviously missed the boat on rightly dividing the word of truth, concerning the interpretation of Acts 4:12.

Do you realize what this means? It means we don’t have to look at the name of “Jesus” as a name that is offensive to God, but as yet another transliteration of the Messiah’s name, except in modern English rather than biblical Hebrew. And by the way, if you would like to know what the Hebrew name for the Messiah is, it’s “Yeshua.” Now, there are some who say this name isn’t Hebrew, but Aramaic. However, these people are uninformed, because Yeshua is originally a Hebrew name, but was grafted into the Aramaic language. I suppose you could say it’s both Hebrew and Aramaic now.

So don’t be fooled by uninformed people who want you to believe the name of “Jesus” is evil. We’re still talking about the same person when we say “Jesus” as we are if we were to use the name “Yeshua.” And by the way, don’t be fooled by people who try to tell you that when you call on the name of “Jesus,” you are essentially calling on the Greek God Zeus. They say such things because these names have some similarities in sound. But they are not speaking the truth, because there is no etymological connection between these names. Just because words sound alike, it doesn’t mean they have the same meaning.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I believe it’s important to know the Messiah’s true name. However, it’s more important that we know Him. Is it possible to know Him without knowing His Hebrew name? Are we to assume everyone who ever used any other version of His name but the Hebrew, never knew Him and won’t be saved? Are we to assume that all the works that were done in the name of “Jesus” were done in vain? God is much bigger than that!

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV)

It would be wise for those who have been so bold as to condemn people to hell for using the name of Jesus, to take heed to these words, for they have no proof that God is offended by that name. And if God isn’t offended by that name, and they are speaking out against it in His name, then that would mean they are guilty of elevating their thoughts above God’s thoughts—assuming to speak for Him when they have not been called to speak on His behalf.

Salvation by Grace, not Semantics

Being saved is not a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of having a loving relationship with God. People may tell you that the name of “Jesus” means nothing, that it has no intrinsic value; but when you speak that name, I know who you’re talking about, and I know that name is precious. Never let anyone rob you of your experience in Christ by putting false guilt on you for using the name of “Jesus.” If God doesn’t want His people to use that name, I’m sure He will make it known. But at this time, I have yet to see any solid proof that God is offended by it.

As for me, I have decided to use both names: “Yeshua” and “Jesus.” Both of these names are are referring to the same person. God knows this. And we ought to be discerning enough to understand this as well. If someone has a problem with this, then they are welcome to show me proof that God is offended by it. But if they can’t prove God is offended by me using the name “Jesus” when speaking of the Messiah, it would be better for them to keep silent, because it’s not wise to speak presumptuously for God.

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