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Yeshua...  Eesho...  Iesous...  Jesus

As odd as it may seem, the name Jesus is a relatively new invention, only a few hundred years old, that was created by multiple translations and stylistic changes to the original name.

The name of the one born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph about 2000 years ago was written as aramaic text  in Aramaic. Most scholars agree that the common language of the entire region was Aramaic and that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic and was most likely named in Aramaic.

The modern transliteration of the Aramaic aramaic text into English has been written in many forms, including Yeshu', Eesho' or Eshoo. There were, and still are, many different, and often contradictory, dialects of Aramaic, making it impossible to know for certain how his name was actually pronounced 2000 years ago. That same name would be written as  in Hebrew and is commonly transliterated into English as Yeshua, which is a Hebrew contraction for the name Yehoshua meaning Yah is salvation or Yah saves. Many Biblical references, such as Young's Analytical Concordance, have concluded that his name was Yeshua.

The really odd changes to his name all began with translation into non-Semitic languages.

When the name  was translated into Greek, the translators were first faced with the task of deciding whether they should translate the name phonetically to try to keep the sound the same, or whether they should translate the name according to its meaning. Apparently, they chose to use the phonetic approach so that the sound of the name would be preserved, even though the meaning of the name would be lost in the phonetic translation.

Unfortunately, the Greek language lacks some of the sounds used in Aramaic. And to further complicate the issue, all Greek masculine names must end with the letter "s". So, without the proper sounds and forced to add the "s" to the end of the name, the best that the Greek translators could do was translate the name as  which may be pronounced something like "ee-ay-soos". Still, that's pretty close to the original name, except for the letter "s" that was added at the end.

Then, as the books of the bible began to gain wider circulation, the name was again translated, this time from Greek into Latin. In the official Catholic bible version called the Vulgate, the name was established in Latin as "Iesus". In Latin the letter "I" when used as a consonant has somewhat of a "Y" sound, so the name may have been pronounced something like "ye-soos", which is a still pretty good approximation to the original name, except for the "s" at the end.

Over the years, as the pronunciation of the European languages gradually changed, and as the manner of writing the various letters also changed, an embellished version of the letter "I" gradually acquired a sound of it's own and over time became an entirely new letter, the letter "J" with it's current "J" sound. And, along the way, the long "u" sound of "oo" was lost and it became a short "u". So, as the newly invented printing press churned out bibles, the Latin version of the name gradually became written as "Jesus" and the English pronunciation as we know it today was gradually adopted.

Although the spelling "Iesus" or "Iesvs" was used in the King James version of the New Testament from 1611 to 1628, by the year 1629 the King James version began to adopt the spelling "Jesus". Gradually, during the 17th century, the name shifted from "Iesus" to the pronunciation "Jesus" that we are still using today.

Thus, the name  was gradually changed to the English name Jesus.... which is indeed quite a different sounding name.

Fortunately, it seems that the pronunciation of the words in our prayers is much less important that the heartfelt intent of our prayers. And thereby all true seekers receive the same results whether they have learned to call on the sacred name of Jesus or Eeso or Yeshu' or Iesous.

That is to say, the pronunciation of the name is really not very important, but rather it is our intent,  purpose and faith that truly matter.

The ancient Semitic root of the word for "name" is s-m, and while it does certainly mean "name" it also means much more. The s-m of something is that by which it is known, it is that which makes something different in a way that it can be distinguished from something else, it can mean light or sound or vibration, it is the very essence of something.  

So, to call upon someone's "shem" is not simply to call upon the sound of their name, but it means to call upon their very essence... which is far beyond the mere utterance of a name.

Words come and words go, languages come and languages go, yet the magnificent heart of each person remains the glorious temple of God, the abode of Love Everlasting... if only we will cast off our veils of selfishness and allow the Divine Light to shine forth.

Matters such as alphabets and names and spelling are ephemeral matters, they come and go like the shifting sands. For those who are willing to seek it, there is something which is like a rock in the midst of those shifting sands, something more fulfilling than any ephemeral matter... and that "something" is the goal of the spiritual path. Let us strive to focus our attention beyond words, beyond momentary concerns, and strive to discover that glorious ever-present essence which is beyond the name.


Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,

Aramaic Audio Recordings:

http://www.beith-morounoye.org/special/yeshu.wma ... Yeshu' in Aramaic

Aramaic References:


Additional Resources:

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language, by David Crystal, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p.260




updated on 9-Dec-2005