Jesus’ Name and its Meaning in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic

A major theme throughout the New Testament revolves around the power of Jesus’ name. Demons flee, the sick are healed, all of creation bows down in worship, all at the name of Jesus. From a linguistic standpoint, the name of Jesus carries a lot of deep meaning in its original culture, both in the Greek and in Hebrew languages.

Jesus’ name in English comes from the Latin Isus, which is a transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which is a transliteration of the Aramaic name Yeshua, which comes from the Hebrew Yehoshua, or Joshua. The name comes from the Hebrew verb yasha, which means “he saves,” and the proper name “Ya,” which is short for the name Yahweh. Put together, Jesus’ name in its original languages means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.”

Keep reading to learn more about the linguistic shift from Yehoshua to Jesus, and why we say “Jesus” today and not “Joshua.”

From Joshua to Yeshua: Jesus’ Name in His Native Tongue (Aramaic)

As a second temple Jewish man growing up in early first century Israel, Jesus’ native tongue would have been Aramic. As such, his actual birth name would have been Yeshua, which is simply the Aramaic rendering of the Hebrew Yehoshua (Joshua).

At some point in the Hebrew language, the consonant -h was dropped from the name Yehoshua, leading to the spelling Yeshua. This spelling seems to be preferred in later Hebrew, and it’s the spelling that made its way into Aramaic. Thus, Jesus’ birth name. But how did we get from Yehoshua and Yeshua to Jesus? Well for that, we have Greek and Latin to thank.

From Yeshua to Iesous: Jesus’ Name in the Langua Franca (Greek)

While Aramaic would have been Jesus’ native tongue, he definitely would have understood and spoken Greek, as it was the lingua franca of the day. In other words, Greek is the global language that would have been spoken by everyone in the Mediterranean region for commerce and other social purposes.

It’s highly unlikely that Jesus would have been called Iesous by anyone, even by Greek speakers. People probably still referred to him as Yeshua. However, when the New Testament writers put quill to papyrus, they wrote in the Greek language. This means they were limited to the Greek Alphabet. And in order to spell Yeshua in Greek, the writers would have had to make a few concessions.

Y-e-sh-u-a

I-e-s-o-u-s

The first three letters make sense. There is no aspirated -sh sound in Greek, so the name had a soft -s sound. The last three letters take a bit more explanation.

Without getting too deep into linguistics, something you have to understand about Greek is that its nouns decline. This means the ending of the noun changes depending on its case, or its function in the sentence. Neither Aramaic nor Hebrew nouns decline in the same way. So to put the Aramaic Yeshua into Greek, you can’t simply transliterate. You have to give it a declension structure.

So Yeshua then became Iesou + the Greek masculine noun ending -os.

As a second declension noun, the final -s in Iesous isn’t always there in the text. Sometimes Jesus’ name is spelled Iesoun or Iesou. It all depends on if the name is a subject, an object, a direct object, etc. That said, the nominative case, or the default case of the Greek spelling of Yeshua had the final -s and Yeshua was mostly spelled Iesous.

From Iesous to Jesus: Why We Don’t Call Him Joshua

After the Greek Iesous came the Latin Iesus, from which we get our spelling Jesus.

To understand why we spell and pronounce certain names in the Bible the way we do, we first have to understand a bit about where our Bible came from. At first glance, the answer seems pretty simple. Our Old Testament comes from the Hebrew Bible and our New Testament comes from the Greek documents of the early church. Well, yes. But the problem is, we don’t have the original documents. What we have are the copies of copies of copies of the originals. And even then, the earliest documents we have we only have in pieces.

Our most modern translations, like the NIV or the ESV, go back as close as possible to the original documents, using a discipline called textual criticism to determine what the original texts most likely said. This discipline examines all the textual evidence that we have for a particular section of scripture and try to figure out which pieces we have are more likely to be original.

But for hundreds of years, that’s not how Bible versions worked. Take the KJV, for instance, which is based upon a text known as the textus receptus, a group of Byzantine Greek writings that was accepted by the majority of the church before the discipline of textual criticism. The textus receptus was largely influenced by the Latin Vulgate. As such, many of our English spellings and pronunciations favor the Latin transliteration of the Greek over the Aramaic and Hebrew transliterations and pronunciations.

To point out another example, our English New Testament has the name “James” from the Latin Iacomus instead of “Jacob” from the Hebrew Ya’aqov, even though it could have branched off either way from the Greek Iakob.

This is why our English Bibles favor the Latin spelling Iesus over the Aramaic spelling Yeshua or the Hebrew Joshua.

At the end of the day, regardless of how we say the name, it still has the exact same meaning: Yahweh saves.

A Rose By Any Other Name

This has been a rather nerdy post about one of my favorite subjects. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether we say Jesus or Joshua. What matter is that Jesus’ name, his entire identity, is built upon the fact that Yahweh is a God who saves. Yahweh is a God who is defined by salvation. That is the name given to Jesus by the angel and by his parents. That is the identity taken on by God in the flesh. And that is the name to which every knee shall bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. That is the name that every tongue will confess to be Lord. And that is the name that we as Christians are invited to carry with us every day of our lives.

With such a complex topic, I know this is an oversimplification. Let me know in the comments below if I’ve left anything out!

Tyler Martin
Hey, I'm Tyler Martin! I'm a husband, father, content creator, and Bible nerd. I have a B.A. in biblical languages and an M.A. in biblical exegesis. I've spent my life learning about the Bible and I am passionate about helping others discover the beautiful and imaginative world of the scriptures.
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Ted Bowen
Ted Bowen
May 9, 2022 2:58 pm

If it’s true that Joshua transliterates to Iesous in Greek, why isn’t the Old Testament Joshua rendered Jesus as well, when moving it into English? (or vice-versa) How does the Septuagint differentiate between the two names?

Clayton
Clayton
November 19, 2021 9:00 pm

Yehoshua, said: “I came to bear witness to the Truth.” Now what is the Truth? WHAT THE FATHER SAID ABOUT THE SON, AND WHAT THE SON SAID ABOUT THE FATHER. … Worship Me in Spirit and in Truth. … The denominations from Catholic are Apostate Papacy Roman and Pagan Doctrines of men. “I said it”

Stephanie A Fortney
Stephanie A Fortney
November 15, 2021 12:23 am

Well said love it

DJR
DJR
September 20, 2021 11:34 am

Hello, Tyler.

I stumbled across this website and, as a Catholic, wanted to say thank you for the informative entry here.
 
The name of Jesus, and its meaning, is part of the reason why we Catholics refer to the Blessed Virgin (Luke 1:45, 48) as “the Mother of God.” The term comes from the Bible.
 
When we use that term, we don’t say that the Blessed Virgin is the mother of the Holy Trinity, nor that she somehow predates God; we merely mean she is physically the Mother of God (the Son), with the words “the Son” being understood but not expressed.
 
The Bible has the same usage in numerous places.
 
For one, see John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
 
Obviously, the term “God” found at the end of that quote cannot refer to the Blessed Trinity as a whole, as “the Word” is not the Blessed Trinity; He is God (the Son), with the words “the Son” being understood but not mentioned.
 
The Bible calls the Blessed Virgin “the mother of Jesus.”  See John 2:1: “And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.”

You have eloquently told us what the name “Jesus” means: “Put together, Jesus’ name in its original languages means ‘Yahweh saves’ or ‘Yahweh is salvation.’”

Thus, the Blessed Virgin, as so clearly stated in the Bible, is the “Mother of Yahweh” (saves).

Hence, the term “Mother of Yahweh,” which is the exact same thing as saying “Mother of God,” comes from the Bible.  To say “Mother of Jesus” is the same thing as
saying “Mother of Yahweh saves.” 

The term “Mother of Yahweh” merely omits the last word but changes nothing of the meaning, just like saying “and the Word was God” without having to add the words “the Son” to the passage.

Saint Elizabeth referred to the Blessed Virgin as “the mother of my Lord.” But who is this “lord”? The Bible tells us that also.

Psalm 109:1:  “The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

The first reference to “Lord” is obviously God the Father, and He is speaking to “my Lord,” who is God the Son. 

Therefore, the second “Lord” is God, and saying “the mother of my Lord” is the same thing as saying “the mother of my God.”

And of course there is the famous passage, so often heard at the Catholic feast of Christ Mass on December 25 (Isaiah 7:14):  “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Incontrovertible biblical evidence that “the virgin” is the mother of Immanuel.  But what does the term “Immanuel” mean?

See Matthew 1:23: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us.”

Therefore, the Blessed Virgin is clearly indicated in Sacred Scripture as being the mother of “God (with us).”

The term “Mother of God” merely drops the last two words but changes nothing of the meaning of the term.

Finally, another famous passage from the OT clinches it:

See Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

A Christian cannot deny that the Blessed Virgin is the mother of the “son” being spoken of in that passage and still be true to the basic tenets of Christianity. What Christian denies that the Blessed Virgin is the mother of “the Prince of Peace”?

However, if the Blessed Virgin is the mother of the “son” mentioned there, and the mother of “the Prince of Peace” mentioned there, then the Bible teaches us explicitly that She is also “the mother of the mighty God” because the “son,” the “Prince of Peace,” and “the mighty God,” along with “the Father of the world to come” (the Catholic translation of “the everlasting Father” found in that passage) are all one and the same person.

She cannot be the mother of the person holding one of those titles without being the mother of the person holding all the other titles found in that passage because the person holding all those titles is the exact same person: Jesus Christ.

How can it possibly be otherwise?

Again, thanks for the article.

Daffodil
Daffodil
Reply to  DJR
February 10, 2022 8:29 am

I have a few thoughts in response to your post. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to share them with you.

Who is Jesus? He is 100% God and 100% man.

Was He always 100% God and 100% man? In eternity past, he was 100% God and was in perfect unity in harmony with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He existed before Mary ever came to be.

At God’s appointed time, Jesus came to earth and it was then that He became a human being. The vessel God used for this process was Mary. Mary humbly submitted herself to God’s will for her life. As she praised God, she states, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” She, too, recognized that she needed a Savior and that God is her savior.

She recognized that Jesus as God is her savior and Jesus, the man, is her son.

Two entities, one person. It’s difficult for me to fully understand, but I totally believe what God has told us in the Bible. Just like Mary, we worship him as God-for he is God. But at the same time he calls us his brethren. Totally amazing!

Fils de Yehoshoua
Fils de Yehoshoua
July 24, 2021 8:49 pm

Yesha’yah 43:11
Yohanan 17:12

Yehoshoua ha Mashiah IS YHWH. He’s the one that freed Israël from Égypt and led them through the desert!

Allelou-Yah !

Very informative article, i learned a lot! I think, now that we’ve been enlightened about his name, we should use it. Names shouldn’t be translated. I prefer the full hebrew, Yehoshoua, that have all the essence of the meaning : YHWH is salvation !!!

Glory be to Adonai and may he bless you!

Calel
Calel
January 6, 2021 8:56 pm

his name is Yahuashua HaMashiyach
or Elohim’s Salvation The Anointed One

bbruce
bbruce
November 3, 2020 9:06 am

Rev. 22:18-19; Deut. 12:32; Pro. 30:6

YeshBoy
YeshBoy
April 22, 2020 9:29 am

Hey, what do you think of the meaning deliverer/deliverance in the word yasha. It gives Jesus’ name an even more powerful depth I believe. I like the article! Keep it up. Will definitely pop back to your site for more later!

Hso
Hso
Reply to  Tyler Martin
December 21, 2021 8:16 am

Could I also suggest you talk about “you shall call his name Jesus’ and immediately after the prophetic confirmation “he shall be called Immanuel ” …as meaning God with us rather than savior redeemer.