For a long time, my brother-in-law got wrapped up in a group who thought Messiah’s name was something that wasn’t even in the Bible – “Old Testament” or “New Testament” – so I did some research on my own and traced His name through the almost all of the Bible. Well, that was several years ago, and I thought this was over. But from time-to-time, I see once in a while the debate continuing between mainstream Christianity and some Messianic group or some Hebrew Roots group. However, recently, I caught a YouTube video by an Orthodox Jew make the claim, “Jesus is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible – not even in one spot!”
Now when he says “the Bible,” he means the Hebrew Bible. He is not including the New Testament in that statement. Now when I heard him say this, I had to go back and hear him again, because I thought I had misheard him, since His name is seen in numerous places in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, you have to look for the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek version of His name, and it is this Greek version – IESOUS – that we translate into English as “Jesus.” What we need to remember is that the Greek New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek, which is a form of translation Greek – rather than Classical Greek – that was widely used when translating something from a Semitic language, such as Hebrew or Aramaic, into Greek.
Obviously, in answer to this Orthodox Jew, we are not going to find a Greek translation of a Hebrew name in a Hebrew and Aramaic text, so we have to go back to His original Hebrew name to see if it is, in fact, used in Scripture. And this is where he was absolutely wrong! His Hebrew name appears in the Tanakh 215 TIMES! And the Aramaic form of His Hebrew name appears 30 TIMES in the Tanakh! Therefore, if we combine the two forms, then His name appears in its Hebrew and Aramaic forms a total of 245 TIMES in the Hebrew Bible! That is hardly “not one time” as he alleges.
Let me first say to those who are from a “Christian tradition,” in the Greek New Testament, His name was written as IESOUS in Greek lettering, or IESVS in Early Latin, and IESUS in later Latin, and it was this later Latin form that originally appeared in the 1611 King James Version of our English Bibles. But then in 1728 when Cambridge University did the first revision of the King James Version, the letter J had officially became the last letter to join the English alphabet, as an actual letter, and in that publication, the name IESUS was spelled “JESUS,” and it has been that way ever since. Therefore, technically, those who argued that the name “JESUS” did not exist until 1728 would be correct.
However, Joseph and Mary would be described today as Orthodox Jews who spoke a combination of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek? Why were they multilingual? They had to be with the Romans there in the land. They had to learn some level of Greek to communicate with the soldiers. The Roman soldiers would not have bothered learning Hebrew since they saw themselves as the conquerors. However, most discourse done between the Jewish people themselves were done in a combination of Hebrew and Aramaic. Now understanding this, there were two possible forms of the name that could have been used for Him:
1. JOSHUA. The first possibility is the name “Joshua” (Heb. Yehoshua). According to Ba-Midbar (Numbers) 13:16, Mosheh (Moses) changed Hoshea‘s name to Yehoshua (“Joshua”). The first time that the name “Joshua” appears in the Scriptures is in the book of Shemot (Exodus), 17:8-16, in the battle between Israel and Amalek. It is in this same passage that the word ’emunah (“faith”) appears in its full form for the first time.
Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua (Heb. Yehoshua), “Pick some men for us, and go out and do battle with Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in my hand.” Joshua did as Moses told him and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Then, whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; but whenever he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur, one on each side, supported his hands; thus his hands remained steady (Heb. ’emunah) until the sun set. And Joshua overwhelmed the people of Amalek with the sword. (Exodus 17:8-13, JPS)
In this passage, the name “Joshua” and the word ’emunah are only 4 verses apart, and both are part of the same passage in the Torah. The word ’emunah is translated here as “steady,” but this same word is also translated to mean “truth,” “faith,” and “faithfulness.” Is it just coincidence that the name “Joshua” and the full expression of ’emunah should appear together in the same passage? No, it isn’t.
The name “Joshua” appears in the Tanakh 215 TIMES! It appears in the books of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, I Samuel 6:14, 18; I Kings 16:34; 2 Kings 23:8; Haggai, and Zechariah.
In the “New Testament,” the name “Jesus” is used in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8, but each of these verses are actually referring to “Joshua” who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land – not to “Jesus” of the “New Testament.” Modern translators understand this, so they translate it as “Joshua” in more modern versions, demonstrating that the writers of the “New Testament” (as well as modern translators) understand that the names “Joshua” and “Jesus” were interchangeable!
King James Version – Acts 7:44-45
Our fathers had the tabernacle of Witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. 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; … (KJV)
Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. 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 7:44-45, NASB)
King James Version – Hebrews 4:8-9
For if JESUS had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. (KJV)
For if JOSHUA had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:8-9, NASB)
Here we have two proof texts from the Bible translators that they fully realize that the Hebrew name Joshua (or Yehoshua) and Jesus are really the same name. It just depends if you are transliterating it from the Hebrew or the Greek. Consequently, we need to ask the question, “Why not change every use of IESOUS in the Greek to “Joshua”? Because they probably feel that it is easier to go with tradition than it is in being accurate. But not only do they know it, but so do Jewish historians know it as well. For example, here is a quote from Chaim Potok’s book: Wanderings: Chaim Potok’s History of the Jews:
The name of the founder of Christianity was Joshua son of Joseph. In the Galilean Hebrew dialect of that day his name was probably pronounced Jeshua. JESUS is the ordinary Greek form of the Hebrew name JOSHUA. (371; emphasis added)
This was also known by the Early Church Historians. For example, in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition, Translated by C. F. Cruse. Eusebius writes,
[Moses’] successor, therefore, who had not assumed the appellation JESUS (JOSHUA) before this period, being called by his other name Oshea, which his parents had given, was called by Moses JESUS (Jehoshua, Joshua) (Numbers 13:17). (Book 1, chapter 3, verse 4).
Now why does the King James Version of the Bible and Eusebius write Hoshea’s name as “Oshea”? Because in the Greek language, there is no letter that makes an “H” or “Huh” sound. It also does not have a “sh” sound, like the Hebrew shin does.
2. YESHUA. The Hebrew name prevailed in Israel until the people were taken captive to Babylon in exile. In Babylon, it was the law that the people had to learn and speak in Aramaic. As a result, there were many Aramaic words that came into the Hebrew language at this time. Now whether the name Yeshua is transliterated from Hebrew into Aramaic, or it was already in the Aramaic language and it was adopted into Hebrew, I do not know for sure, but what I do know is that although Haggai and Zechariah kept the original Hebrew form of the name “Joshua,” Ezra and Nehemiah, who were both born and raised in Babylon, uses the name “Yeshua” for “Joshua” instead in their writings. For example, in Nehemiah 8, we read,
King James Version – Nehemiah 8:17
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 (Heb. Yeshua) the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. (KJV)
And the entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of JOSHUA the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. (Nehemiah 8:17, NASB)
Here we can clearly see that the names “Joshua” and “Jeshua” (or “Yeshua“; the “J” here is the Hebrew letter yodh (or ‘) and it is pronounced as a “y”). We can also see this done with the name of the high priest at the time of the return. For example, in Haggai 2, we read,
Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to JOSHUA the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying…. (Haggai 2:2), KJV, NASB)
We can also see this same name used by the prophet Zechariah. We read,
And take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of JOSHUA the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. (Zechariah 6:11)
Both Haggai and Zechariah were very young when they were taken away to Babylon, but they remembered the Hebrew language and how it was pronounced, so in their writings, they use the original name “JOSHUA,” or the Hebrew Yehoshua.
However, Ezra and Nehemiah were both born and raised in Babylon, and they had learned to speak and read in Aramaic, and in their writings, they use the name YESHUA, like we saw with Nehemiah earlier, and Ezra uses it for the name of the high priest.
then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and YESHUA the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them. (Ezra 5:2, NASB)
Here we can see that while Haggai and Zechariah refer to the high priest as “Joshua the son of Jehozadak,” Ezra, on the other hand, uses the new Aramaic equivalent, Yeshua the son of Jozadak.” Did you also notice that in Ezra’s version, the “eho” has been removed from Yeshua’s father’s name: “Jozadak.”
Now although the name “Joshua” appears 215 TIMES in the Tanakh, the name “Yeshua” appears 30 TIMES! We find “Yeshua” mentioned in Ezra, Nehemiah, I Chronicles 24:11; 2 Chronicles 31:15; and it is used throughout the Peshitta, or the Aramaic New Testament, for the name of “Jesus.”
THE GREEK SECRET
Now what many Christians and Messianics do not seem to realize is that BOTH Joshua (Heb. Yehoshua) and Yeshua were transliterated into Greek using the exact same name and spelling. Consequently, since according to tradition, the Greek copy of the Torah was translated into Greek by 70 Jewish scholars, then this means that they all felt that the names “Joshua” and “Yeshua” were interchangeable forms of the exact same name!
A HINT IN THE PROPHETS
So if both “Joshua” and “Yeshua” were equated with one another, then do we know what form His name probably took? According to Archaeologists, 20% of males at the time were named “Yeshua” since it was quite popular. This is why most Messianics use the Aramaic form “Yeshua.” Although Yeshua began as an Aramaic form, by the time of the 1st century, C.E., it had been in the Hebrew language long enough that it was considered Hebrew. We could say the same thing about the word “captain” in English. It was originally a French word, but it has been so long in the English language that it is just considered another English word.
However, I believe that we find a clue about his name in the book of Zechariah:
The word of the LORD came to me: Receive from the exiled community – from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon – and you, in turn, proceed the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take silver and gold and make crowns. Place [one] on the head of High Priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and say to him, “Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Behold, a man called the BRANCH shall branch out from the place where he is, and he shall build the Temple of the LORD. He shall build the Temple of the LORD and shall assume majesty, and he shall sit on his throne and rule. And there shall also be a priest seated on his throne, and harmonious understanding shall prevail between them. (Zechariah 6: 9b-13, JPS; emphasis added)
God called the High Priest “the BRANCH.” The BRANCH is a common image in the prophets for the Messiah, like in Isaiah 11:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,… (Isaiah 11:1-2, NASB; emphasis added)
And in Zechariah, the implication here is that the Messiah will also have the name “Joshua.” Although it is only implied in the JPS version translated by the Jewish Publication Society (JPS), but it is brought out much more in the Christian translation of the same passage:
And take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, a man whose NAME IS BRANCH, for He will branch out from where He is; for He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will hear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zechariah 6:11-13, NASB; emphasis added)
And since Bible translators know that Yeshua and Yehoshua (Joshua) are really different forms the same exact name, and that both names were translated into Greek with the same exact spelling by Jewish scholars, and even Jewish historians and writers, like Chaim Potok, know that Yeshua is just an alternative form of “Joshua,” then does it really make a difference which form you use? Not really. Personally, I like giving Him back His Jewish heritage, so I will use “Joshua” or “Yeshua,” depending on the moment. But whether you say the name “Joshua” (Heb. Yehoshua), Yeshua (Aramaic), IESOUS (Greek), IESVS (Early Latin), IESUS (Late Latin), or “Jesus” (English), it is really is all the same name, so it really does not matter. How you choose to pronounce His name just depends on what language you are reading at the time.