If you read more about Jesus on this site and elsewhere, you will probably come across another name: Yeshua. Who is this Yeshua person, and how is he connected with Jesus? It may surprise you to learn that Yeshua is another name for Jesus!
In fact, Yeshua is Jesus’ Hebrew name because he was a Jewish person. The name is identical with the biblical name Joshua, and it means, “The Lord saves.” When Jesus was alive on earth, he lived in first-century Israel, during the time when Rome ruled over much of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The common languages of the Jewish people during Jesus’ day were Greek and the Semitic languages of Aramaic and Hebrew. When Jesus was walking around in Israel, his Jewish brothers and sisters would likely have called him Yeshua when they were speaking their native tongue.
If that was his original name, then where did the word “Jesus” come from? Jesus is the English translation of the Greek name of Yeshua by way of the Latin. Got that? In Greek, his name would have been Iesus (pronounced Yeh-soos), and this spelling was retained in early Latin translations. However, medieval Latin translators often wrote his name as “Jesus” because, at that time in history, the Latin “J” approximated the Greek “Ie.”1 When later translators translated the Bible from Latin to English, they retained the J.
If Yeshua was Jesus’ original name in his native tongue, why do so few people call him by that name today? The answer is simply, “convention.” The reason that most people are not familiar with Jesus being referred to as Yeshua is because the medieval Latin and English names gained widespread usage, obscuring the original Hebrew. However, with the amazing increase of Jewish people coming to believe in Jesus today, his Hebrew name has been reclaimed and is becoming more commonly used. Many people use it to emphasize his Jewishness, which should never be forgotten!
Should we call him Jesus or Yeshua? Of course, if you were a Messianic Jewish person living in Israel, you would always call him Yeshua! Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference and your native tongue. They are both his name, one from Latin/English and one from Hebrew. We could also call him by the Greek Iesus, the Chinese 耶穌, or the Thai เยซู. It is up to you which one you like better, since they all refer to the same person, just in different languages. On this site, we will use Yeshua and Jesus interchangeably. Yeshua is the name you will hear most from many Jewish followers of Jesus because it highlights the fact that he was a Jewish person.
- Early Latin translations, such as Jerome’s Vulgate (5th century CE), called him “Iesus.” The Latin spelling was standardized as “Jesus” in the Middle Ages. A good discussion on the issue may be found here. For Jerome’s Vulgate, see Robertus Weber and R. Gryson, Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem, 5th revised edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1969). For the standardized late medieval spelling, see Biblia Sacra Juxta Vulgatam Clementinam. Ed. electronica. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005.