From Hebrew to Greek

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From the Hebrew & Aramaic to the Greek

Now when the Torah (the first five books) was translated into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt, by seventy Jewish scholars, according to tradition, in 299-250 B.C.E., the traditional form of the name “Joshua” (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ or Y’hoshua), its alternate form (יְהוֹשׁוּעַ or Y’hoshua), and even its Aramaic-Late Hebrew or “nickname” form “Yeshua” (יֵשׁ֨וּעַ) were all transliterated into the same Greek form as Ιησους (Iesous; pron. “Yay-soos” or “ee-ay-soos“).  Now according to several Messianic Jewish sources, the Aramaic-Late Hebrew form Yeshua was used to form the Greek Ιησους (Iesous).

Even though the Aramaic-Latin form was used by these Jewish scholars to translate the form Yeshua into Greek, it is often not pointed out by these same Messianics that the same Greek form Ιησους, with no distinctions in the spelling, was also applied to all three Hebrew forms of the name “Joshua.” This clearly indicates that they considered all three Hebrew forms to be the same name, “Joshua,” since the exact same Greek spelling is used for all three forms.  It is also this same Greek form of the name “Joshua” that we see used in the Greek New Testament for Messiah’s name.  It is clear from the writings of Eusebius, as we shall see, that when Greek readers read the name Ιησους, (Iesous or “Jesus”), they understood it to be the Greek form of the name “Joshua.”

This same connection was also pointed out in the introduction to the book of Joshua in my New American Standard Bible,

Joshua was indeed a great man of tremendous faith, courage, and leadership ability, who could believe that God could do what He promised.  The Greek form of His name is “Jesus” (Heb. 4:8, in the KJV). (290)

I was simply floored.  Nor, as I discovered, is this a new revelation, although it was new to me.  This was also discussed in the book Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Complete and Unabridged, translated by C.F. Cruse (1998).  According to Everett Ferguson’s article “The Problem of Eusebius,” published in Christianity Today, he notes that

With his great passion for learning, Eusebius became an accomplished exegete, theologian, apologist, orator, statesman, and, of course, historian.

Eusebius, who lived from 264-340 C.E., is known as “the Father of Church History,” and was also the author of several books: Preparation of the Gospel, Proof of the Gospel, The Life of Constantine, Praise of Constantine, Constantine’s Address to the Assembly of the Saints, as well as many other smaller writings and letters (Ferguson).  In his first book of Church History (or Ecclesiastical History), he writes,

The same Moses, under the divine Spirit, foreseeing the epithet Jesus, likewise dignified this with a certain distinguishable privilege.  This name, which had never been uttered among men before Moses, he applied first to him alone who, by a type and sign, he knew would be his successor after his death in the government of the nation.  His 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) (Num. 13:17). (Book 1, Chapter 3, page 10).

Being a Greek-speaker, Eusebius here clearly identifies the name “Joshua” (Heb. יְהוֹשֻׁעַ; “Y’hoshua“) and the name “Jesus,” derived from the Greek and Latin, as the same name. Also, he believed that the reason Moses changed Hoshea’s name to “Joshua” was because he would be “a type and sign” of the future Messianic Joshua, “Jesus Christ.”  In his book, Eusebius goes on to say,

This name, as an honorable distinction far superior to any royal diadem, was conferred on Joshua, because Joshua the son of Nun bore a resemblance to our Savior as the only one after Moses and the completion of that symbolical worship given through him that should succeed him in a government of pure and undefiled religion. (Book 1, Chapter 3, page 10)

“There’s Other Jesus’ in the New Testament?”

In addition to the Lord, there were two other men who were also named “Jesus”  (Gk. Ιησους) in the New Testament.

  • The Father of a Magician.
    “When they [Barnabas and Paul] had gone through the whole island of Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus [Gk. Ιησους],… (The word “Bar” is the Aramaic word for “son” or “son of”; Acts 13:6)
  • A Co-Worker of Paul’s.
    Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); and also Jesus [Gk. Ιησους] who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision (the Jews), and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.  (Col 4:10-11)

There’s only one other individual in the New Testament who is called “Jesus” in the King James Version of the Bible and that’s “Joshua son of Nun.”  The first occurrence of the name “Jesus” for Joshua is in Acts 7, where Stephen is summarizing the events of the Torah [Law of God] while standing on trial before the Sanhedrin:

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 [Gk. Ιησους] into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;(Acts 7:44-45, KJV)

However, modern translators are fully aware that the form Iesous (Iesous) is the Greek way to write the name “Joshua,” because, in the more modern translations, the name “Jesus” is translated as “Joshua” in both Acts 7 and Hebrews 4.

 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 [Gk. Ιησους] upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. (Acts 7:44-45, NASB)

The second occurrence, as I noted, of the name “Jesus” (Gk. Ιησους) being used for “Joshua son of Nun” is in Hebrews 4.  And again, in the more modern translations, the name is translated as “Joshua.”

 For if Jesus [Gk. Iesous] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. (Heb. 4:8, KJV)

For if Joshua [Gk Iesous] had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.  (Heb. 4:8, NASB)

So just by comparing these two references where the name “Jesus” in the Greek New Testament, in fact, refers to “Joshua son of Nun” in both the King James Versions and the more modern translations, we can see that modern translators again are well aware that the form Ιησους (Iesous or “Jesus”) is just the Greek way to write the name “Joshua.”

“The Million Dollar Question”

For those unfamiliar with the expression, to refer to something as “the million dollar question” is to view a question as being the most important or ultimate question, and I cannot think of any other question being any more important to this study than the following: So if the form Ιησους (Iesous) is the Greek way to write the name “Joshua,” why do we have the name “Jesus” in our Bibles?  And as we will see in the next part of this study, it was one man who made this determination.

 

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