Main Menu
Doctrinal Studies

Hebrew Roots
& Sabbath Issues

The Feasts of Israel
Christians & the Feasts
Sabbath or Sunday
Sunday & Early Church
Jesus' Example
The 10 Commandments
The Law of Christ
Hebrew New Testament?
Jesus or Zeus?
Author of Hebrews
Perversion of Repentance
PFRS Home > Doctrinal Studies > Hebrew Roots & Sabbath Issues

Jesus or Zeus?

Copyright © Tim Warner

Some websites that claim to be "Messianic" are promoting the myth, proclaimed by the "sacred name" cults, that the name "Jesus" means "son of Zeus." This is a lie, and a blatant attack on the name of our Savior. There is absolutely no credible historic evidence that Jesus' name has anything whatsoever to do with Zeus. The only connection is a similarity in part of the sound in the English language.

The New Testament was written in Greek. For an in-depth study of this fact, see our article Was the New Testament Written in Hebrew? When Paul preached "Jesus Christ" he spoke the Greek words "Iesous Christos" (pronounced "Yay-soos"). When He wrote his Epistles to the Gentile Churches, he wrote the name IhsouV CristoV (spelled "Iesous Christos" using English characters). When Luke wrote the book of Acts to a Greek man named "Theophilus," he wrote in Greek quoting Peter as saying:

Acts 4:10-12
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ
(IhsouV CristoV) of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Luke, Peter, or Paul, didn't make it up. The Greek name "Iesous" was the name for Joshua in the Greek Translation (LXX) of the Old Testament, made 200 years before Christ was born by 70 Jewish scribes. There is a plethora of historical proof for this translation and other Greek translations that predate Christ. In fact, the name "Iesous" appears many times in the LXX Old Testament, that was in common use by the Jews of the Diaspora of Jesus' day, as well as in Israel itself. The book of "Joshua" in the LXX is the Book of "Iesous." So, when Jesus was born, the name "Iesous" was already well known among the Jews as the name of an Israelite hero, Moses' successor. Greek was commonly spoken in Israel at the time of Christ, as the following Scripture demonstrates.

John 19:19-20
19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

These are the names that appeared over the cross; Yeshua (Hebrew), Iesous (Greek), Iesus (Latin).

It is a blasphemous lie to proclaim that the name "Jesus" is derived from Zeus, or means "son of Zeus." There is absolutely no historical documentation for this claim. It is simply repeated by those who wish to insult Christians and blaspheme the name of our Savior. You should run from any group that promotes this lie of the Devil.

In the Old Testament, the name of Joshua the son of Nun in Hebrew was originally "Hosea" or "Howshea" (Strong's #1954) meaning "deliverer." In Numbers 13:16, Moses modified his name to "Yehoshua" (Strong's #3091) meaning "Yehoveh saves." During the Babylonian captivity, the name was shortened to "Yeshua" (Strong's #3442) meaning "he will save" (cf. Ex. 33:11 & Neh. 8:17). The name is exactly the same in Aramaic, "Yeshua" (Strong's #3443) and is found in an Aramaic portion of the book of Ezra (5:2).

Two hundred years before Jesus was born, Jewish scribes translated the Old Testament into Greek. They transliterated "Yehoshua" and "Yeshua" as "Iesou" (Yay-soo) and "Iesous" (Yay-soos). In both Greek and Latin, the "s" ending (Iesous {Greek} and Iesus {Latin}) is added in the nominative case only (when the name "Jesus" stands alone or is the subject of the verb). The "s" ending is not used in other cases. If you check a Greek or Latin text of the New Testament, you will find the Greek spelling "Iesou" and the Latin spelling "Iesu" are used when Jesus is not the subject of the verb, while the "s" endings (Iesous and Iesus) are used in the nominative case. In both of these languages it was proper to pronounce Jesus' name as "Yay-soo" or "Yay-soos" depending on the sentence structure. (In Spanish, both "Hay-soo" {Jesu} and "Hay-soos" {Jesus} are still used). In Exodus 17:9,10 of the Greek Old Testament (LXX), we find the name of Joshua as "Iesou" in verse 9 (Joshua not being the subject of the verb) and "Iesous" in verse 10 (Joshua being the subject of the verb). The "s" ending was added to Joshua's name by the Jewish scribes who translated the LXX, in order to conform to proper Greek grammar. This is also the case with all of the New Testament books as well, and in the early Latin translations. Since we do not make this distinction in modern English, the "s" ending is retained in all cases. So, the "s" ending was simply a function of Greek and Latin grammar, and has nothing to do with the name "Zeus."

When the Bible was first translated by Wycliffe from Latin into English, the Latin spelling "Iesus/Iesu" was retained. When William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English from the original Greek in 1525, he followed Wycliffe and also used the Latin spelling (Iesus/Iesu) because English uses the Latin alphabet. The other early English Bibles, Coverdale, Geneva, Bishops, and the 1611 KJV all used the "Iesus/Iesu" spelling. Not until the 1629 edition of the KJV was the "Jesus" spelling used.

The only reason "Jesus" is spelled with a "J" instead of an "I" in our modern English Bibles is because of the evolution of the English language. English eventually dropped the practice of using the "s" ending only in the nominative case, and retained it regardless of case. In the sixteenth century, like Latin, the letter "I" was both a vowel and a consonant. As English evolved, the letter "I" became two letters. "I" retained the characteristics of the vowel exclusively, and a hook was added to the bottom to distinguish the consonant form (J). The pronunciation remained the same as Latin for both the vowel and consonant. By the time the 1629 edition of the KJV was published, the "J" was in wide use and was incorporated in this edition. Even though Jesus' name was spelled "Jesus" in the 1629 KJV, it was still pronounced exactly the same as in Greek and Latin (Yay-soos) and in the previous English versions. This is also very close to the pronunciation in Italian and Spanish, two other languages derived from Latin. Since the seventeenth century, the pronunciation of the letter "J" evolved into what it is today. In Spanish, "J" evolved into the "H" sound, Jesus being pronounced "Hay-soos/Hay-soo." In French, the "J" took on a unique sound. In English "J" evolved in pronunciation to its present form because of French influence on the language. Also, as English drifted away from its Latin roots, the vowel "e" evolved from the "ay" sound (as in Latin and Spanish) to the long "ee" and short "eh" vowel sounds. The "u" also developed a long "ou" and short "uh" sound in English. Hence over the last 500 years, the pronunciation of the Latin spelling "Iesus" slowly evolved from "Yay-soos" to "Jee-sus." The spelling has followed the normal transliteration process from Greek, to Latin, to modern English. The pronunciation in the earliest English versions was precisely the same as the original Greek. The only real change in pronunciation, from the time of Christ until today, is due solely to the evolution of the English language in the last 500 years. The pronunciation remained the same for 1500 years in both Greek, Latin, and was retained unchanged in the languages which use the Roman alphabet - early English, Spanish, Italian, and German.

The important point is this; just as "Peter" is "Petros" in Greek, "Petrus" in Latin, "Pedro" in Spanish, and "Peter" in English, with no harm being done to the person or name, so too can the Greek "IhsouV" be transliterated into the Latin "Iesus" or the English "Jesus" and no harm is done to the name or person.

The fact is, the Greek spelling (Iesous/Iesou) and pronunciation (Yay-soos/Yay-soo) is the ONLY thing we have recorded in Scripture for the name of our Savior. Nowhere in the Bible is the name "Yeshua" used of our Lord. And the only record we have that Jesus' own name was ever actually written in Hebrew characters is John's statement about the inscription over the cross being written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Yet, even in this case, it was probably Aramaic and not pure Hebrew. When the New Testament speaks of "Hebrew" words, the actual words in the text are Aramaic, since Aramaic was the "language of the Jews" at that time (see: John 5:2, John 19:13). If this was an issue when the New Testament was written, surely the Hebrew name "Yeshua" would have been used by the inspired writers. They had no trouble giving a direct transliteration of Peter's names "Cephas" (Aramaic) and "Simeon" (Hebrew). Yet, no such Hebrew transliteration is provided for "Jesus" (Iesous) in the entire Bible. I guess His name is actually "Iesous" after all!

Don't let Hebrew Roots folks talk you out of the name of our Savior. There is nothing wrong with using the Hebrew "Yeshua" if you prefer. But, just keep in mind that this name is not found anywhere in the Bible in reference to our Savior. It is found in the Old Testament as the name of Joshua the son of Nun (Neh. 8:17), and nine other Israelites in the Old Testament, but never of Jesus. "Yeshua" is probably the correct rendering in Hebrew. But Jesus' name is not given to us in Hebrew. And there is no doubt that Jesus was named after Joshua. Joshua was Moses' successor in the physical sense, and Jesus was Moses' successor in the spiritual sense (see: Heb. 3). Joshua's name (Yehoshua) meant "Yehoveh saves," and the shortened name "Yeshua" meant "salvation." Hence the angel told Mary, "thou shalt call his name Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins." IhsouV is simply Joshua's name transliterated into Greek. It is NOT a Greek name, but a Hebrew name spelled with Greek characters and according to the rules of Greek grammar. Therefore, the meaning is still the same as the Hebrew, "salvation." The Holy Spirit saw fit to inspire the New Testament writers to follow the example of the LXX using "Iesous/Iesou" rather than give a different transliteration of the Hebrew name. It doesn't matter whether Mary called Jesus "Yeshua" (if she spoke to Him in Hebrew or Aramaic) or "Iesous" if she spoke to Him in Greek. Those whom Jesus encountered during His ministry referred to Him with both, depending on whether they spoke Greek or Aramaic. (And we know that Jesus Himself spoke both Greek and Aramaic - see: Mark 5:41). What really matters is that the Apostles wrote the New Testament in Greek. Even Gabrael, when he appeared to Mary, spoke to her in Greek.

Matt 1:21-23
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS
(Ihsou): for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
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.

Note the fact that Matthew had to give the interpretation of "Emmanuel" to his readers. Had Matthew written in Hebrew, the name "Immanuel" (from Isaiah 7:14) would have already been apparent to his readers. "Immanu-el" is a compound of two Hebrew words meaning "Accompanying" and "God." As a compound word it means "God accompanying" or "God with us." Yet, as was the practice with names, this word was transliterated and not translated. The difference being, in transliteration, the phonetic sound of names is retained as much as possible from the Hebrew by using Greek characters. In translation, the meaning of the word is retained using a corresponding Greek word without concern for the phonetic sound. That is why Matthew had to add, "which being interpreted is, God with us." By his adding this comment, we know that Matthew did not write His Gospel in Hebrew, otherwise the interpretation would be self-evident to his readers. He simply would have written in Hebrew, "his name shall be called Accompanying-God." But, since Matthew obviously wrote in Greek, and He recorded Gabrael's words to Mary in Greek, including the Greek name "Iesous," we can be absolutely certain that Mary named her child "Iesous" (Yay-soos) and not "Yeshua."

If you are concerned with the precise pronunciation as used by all of the Apostles, then the only accurate pronunciation according to the Bible is "Yay-soos/Yay-soo." But, for all practical purposes, the English "Jesus" is perfectly fine, in my opinion. If you are concerned about spelling, then the closest we can come is the Latin spelling, "Iesus/Iesu." Of the three languages contained in the inscription over the cross, Latin is the only one that uses the same characters as English.

All the fuss over the precise pronunciation and spelling is largely due to the idea that the name of Jesus has some kind of magical powers. That is not the case at all. The power is in the person of Christ, not in syllables or phonetic sounds. As long as we know who we are referring to, and others know who we are speaking about, there is no problem with the slight variations of Jesus' name in the languages of the world.

Zeph 3:8-9
8 Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.
9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.

Back to the top