Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

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Benjamin Nussli
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Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by Benjamin Nussli » April 13th, 2020, 4:14 pm

Hello everyone.

I had long been under the impression that the original Hebrew form of Jesus was "Yeshua", and that the form "Yeshu" was a Jewish derogatory acronym for "yimakh shemo" (may his name be obliterated). However, after a lengthy discussion with a Jewish friend, I've come to the conclusion that this is an urban legend. (Yeshu seems to be a pretty old form and is used in Judaism to refer to other Rabbi's, in a non-derogatory way).

I thought that perhaps I would turn to Greek, to see if I could find an answer to this.
There are three forms of Yeshua I would know to exist in Hebrew; Yehoshua, Yeshua, and Yeshu. I know that Yehoshua is translated in the Septuagint as Iesous, identical to Jesus in NT Koine. Would Yeshu have been translated the same way?

I guess more specifically, would a name ending in -u be considered feminine in Greek, the same way as -a? I know it's a noob question but I couldn't find anything by searching the internet.

If I understand correctly, Jehu/Yehu was translated as Ιου (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lxx/2ki/9/14/s_322014). Why wouldn't it have been translated with an -s?

My theory is, if the original Hebrew from was Yeshua, then it's Greek form Iesous and Latinized Jesus are correct. But if the original was Yeshu, it would have been translated differently. Is there anything to this?

Also, why is Leah translated as Lea in Genesis 29:16 (Sept) but as Leas in verse 17?

Thank you for your time and patience!
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Jason Hare
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Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by Jason Hare » April 13th, 2020, 4:38 pm

Hi, venyamin. You've asked some hard questions to which you'll get a few answers, I'm sure.

I'd love to take a stab at your questions, but before you begin participating here, you'll need to change your username. We have a policy that users just use their real names and academic affiliation to participate.

Contact me or another moderator to change your name, and we'll get started on addressing what we can from your questions.

You can find the forum policy in this issue here.

By the way, do you know Hebrew?
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Jason A. Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel

Jason Hare
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Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by Jason Hare » April 13th, 2020, 5:03 pm

Oh, and (perhaps more importantly) what grasp do you have of Greek, if any?
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Jason A. Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel

S Walch
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Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by S Walch » April 13th, 2020, 6:16 pm

venyamin wrote:
April 13th, 2020, 4:14 pm
There are three forms of Yeshua I would know to exist in Hebrew; Yehoshua, Yeshua, and Yeshu. I know that Yehoshua is translated in the Septuagint as Iesous, identical to Jesus in NT Koine. Would Yeshu have been translated the same way?
The first thing is to learn the difference between translation and transliteration; translation is the rendering of the meaning of a word or sentence in another language; transliteration is the representation of the letters or sound of the word in question in the intended language.

In this case, names are transliterated; other words are translated (though when it comes to the LXX, some names are translated rather than transliterated! See Genesis 16:13 LXX).

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/translation?s=t

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/transliteration?s=t
I guess more specifically, would a name ending in -u be considered feminine in Greek, the same way as -a? I know it's a noob question but I couldn't find anything by searching the internet.
No, not in the case of name transliteration. As quite a lot of the names in the Tanakh (Old Testament) have their source in the Hebrew language, when it came to transliterating them into Greek, they became what were known as indeclineable, thus they didn't conform to the standards of Greek language, where names could change their spelling depending on how they were used in the text, hence the Greek cases nominative (subject); accusative (direct object); genitive (possessive object); and dative (indirect object). These are simplified explanations; engaging in the study of a Greek grammar or introduction to the Greek of the New Testament would assist in understanding the above.

Several Hebrew names however did become declineable, mainly by omitting the final letter and replacing with the respective Greek equivalent; the use of the name Μαριὰμ (Mary) in the Greek New Testament can show this:
  • It can appear as the indeclineable Μαριὰμ (See Luke 2:5);
  • the declineable nominative Μαρία (see Luke 8:2);
  • the declineable accusative Μαριὰν (see John 11:19, Majority text);
  • the declineable genitive Μαρίας (see Luke 1:41);
  • or the declineable dative Μαρίᾳ (see Mark 16:9, Majority text).
Not all Hebrew to Greek transliterations worked this way in the Greek New Testament; Josephus was pretty good at using Greek equivalents of Hebrew names (see the Greek of his Antiquities of the Jews from the get go on this).
If I understand correctly, Jehu/Yehu was translated as Ιου (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lxx/2ki/9/14/s_322014). Why wouldn't it have been translated with an -s?
See above regarding transliteration and declineability. This is an example of an indeclineable transliteration.
My theory is, if the original Hebrew from was Yeshua, then it's Greek form Iesous and Latinized Jesus are correct. But if the original was Yeshu, it would have been translated differently. Is there anything to this?
'fraid not.
Also, why is Leah translated as Lea in Genesis 29:16 (Sept) but as Leas in verse 17?
This is an example of a declineable name; in v17 it is the genitive form, rather than the nominative in v16.
Thank you for your time and patience!
Hope I've answered your questions satisfactorily!

I'll presume from your questions (and use of the term 'noob') that this is likely one of your first foray's into both Greek and Hebrew?
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RandallButh
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Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by RandallButh » April 14th, 2020, 2:23 am

venyamin wrote:
April 13th, 2020, 4:14 pm
Hello everyone.

I had long been under the impression that the original Hebrew form of Jesus was "Yeshua", and that the form "Yeshu" was a Jewish derogatory acronym for "yimakh shemo" (may his name be obliterated). However, after a lengthy discussion with a Jewish friend, I've come to the conclusion that this is an urban legend. (Yeshu seems to be a pretty old form and is used in Judaism to refer to other Rabbi's, in a non-derogatory way).

I thought that perhaps I would turn to Greek, to see if I could find an answer to this.
There are three forms of Yeshua I would know to exist in Hebrew; Yehoshua, Yeshua, and Yeshu. I know that Yehoshua is translated in the Septuagint as Iesous, identical to Jesus in NT Koine. Would Yeshu have been translated the same way?

I guess more specifically, would a name ending in -u be considered feminine in Greek, the same way as -a? I know it's a noob question but I couldn't find anything by searching the internet.

If I understand correctly, Jehu/Yehu was translated as Ιου (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lxx/2ki/9/14/s_322014). Why wouldn't it have been translated with an -s?

My theory is, if the original Hebrew from was Yeshua, then it's Greek form Iesous and Latinized Jesus are correct. But if the original was Yeshu, it would have been translated differently. Is there anything to this?

Also, why is Leah translated as Lea in Genesis 29:16 (Sept) but as Leas in verse 17?

Thank you for your time and patience!


It is common but incorrect to claim that Yeshu was an acceptable form of the name in the first century. The claim is based on ONE ossuary. All other ancient attestations are ישוע. And the one ossuary is peculiar. The name Yeshu is written right up to a border line with no spaceישו, and elsewhere on the ossuary box the full name is written ישוע. So no, the name Yeshu is not first century, it was Yeshuuʕ. (The symbol ʕ marks a voiced pharyngeal fricative, a sound that I enjoy hearing in clear Hebrew speech, though a distinct minority these days, along with a true ħet ח.)
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Benjamin Nussli
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Joined: April 13th, 2020, 3:40 pm

Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by Benjamin Nussli » April 14th, 2020, 10:51 am

Jason Hare wrote:
April 13th, 2020, 4:38 pm
Hi, venyamin. You've asked some hard questions to which you'll get a few answers, I'm sure.

I'd love to take a stab at your questions, but before you begin participating here, you'll need to change your username. We have a policy that users just use their real names and academic affiliation to participate.

Contact me or another moderator to change your name, and we'll get started on addressing what we can from your questions.

You can find the forum policy in this issue here.

By the way, do you know Hebrew?
HI Jason, thanks for the reply, and I apologize about missing the detail about usernames. My name is Benjamin Nussli. Could I get that changed? Sorry for the trouble.

I'm definitely more comfortable in Hebrew than Greek, having studied Biblical Hebrew leisurely, as well as spending time in Israel. I'm learning Greek now. I can read it, but am just learning the Grammar, as you can see. (I also speak Spanish and German).
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Benjamin Nussli
Posts: 4
Joined: April 13th, 2020, 3:40 pm

Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by Benjamin Nussli » April 14th, 2020, 11:23 am

S Walch wrote:
April 13th, 2020, 6:16 pm
venyamin wrote:
April 13th, 2020, 4:14 pm
There are three forms of Yeshua I would know to exist in Hebrew; Yehoshua, Yeshua, and Yeshu. I know that Yehoshua is translated in the Septuagint as Iesous, identical to Jesus in NT Koine. Would Yeshu have been translated the same way?
The first thing is to learn the difference between translation and transliteration; translation is the rendering of the meaning of a word or sentence in another language; transliteration is the representation of the letters or sound of the word in question in the intended language.

In this case, names are transliterated; other words are translated (though when it comes to the LXX, some names are translated rather than transliterated! See Genesis 16:13 LXX).

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/translation?s=t

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/transliteration?s=t
I guess more specifically, would a name ending in -u be considered feminine in Greek, the same way as -a? I know it's a noob question but I couldn't find anything by searching the internet.
No, not in the case of name transliteration. As quite a lot of the names in the Tanakh (Old Testament) have their source in the Hebrew language, when it came to transliterating them into Greek, they became what were known as indeclineable, thus they didn't conform to the standards of Greek language, where names could change their spelling depending on how they were used in the text, hence the Greek cases nominative (subject); accusative (direct object); genitive (possessive object); and dative (indirect object). These are simplified explanations; engaging in the study of a Greek grammar or introduction to the Greek of the New Testament would assist in understanding the above.

Several Hebrew names however did become declineable, mainly by omitting the final letter and replacing with the respective Greek equivalent; the use of the name Μαριὰμ (Mary) in the Greek New Testament can show this:
  • It can appear as the indeclineable Μαριὰμ (See Luke 2:5);
  • the declineable nominative Μαρία (see Luke 8:2);
  • the declineable accusative Μαριὰν (see John 11:19, Majority text);
  • the declineable genitive Μαρίας (see Luke 1:41);
  • or the declineable dative Μαρίᾳ (see Mark 16:9, Majority text).
Not all Hebrew to Greek transliterations worked this way in the Greek New Testament; Josephus was pretty good at using Greek equivalents of Hebrew names (see the Greek of his Antiquities of the Jews from the get go on this).
If I understand correctly, Jehu/Yehu was translated as Ιου (https://www.blueletterbible.org/lxx/2ki/9/14/s_322014). Why wouldn't it have been translated with an -s?
See above regarding transliteration and declineability. This is an example of an indeclineable transliteration.
My theory is, if the original Hebrew from was Yeshua, then it's Greek form Iesous and Latinized Jesus are correct. But if the original was Yeshu, it would have been translated differently. Is there anything to this?
'fraid not.
Also, why is Leah translated as Lea in Genesis 29:16 (Sept) but as Leas in verse 17?
This is an example of a declineable name; in v17 it is the genitive form, rather than the nominative in v16.
Thank you for your time and patience!
Hope I've answered your questions satisfactorily!

I'll presume from your questions (and use of the term 'noob') that this is likely one of your first foray's into both Greek and Hebrew?
Thank you for the informative reply! Looks like I'm off to study declension. You were very helpful!
(It's my first foray into Greek, yes. I've dabbled in Hebrew for some time now.)
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Benjamin Nussli
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Joined: April 13th, 2020, 3:40 pm

Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by Benjamin Nussli » April 14th, 2020, 11:27 am

RandallButh wrote:
April 14th, 2020, 2:23 am

It is common but incorrect to claim that Yeshu was an acceptable form of the name in the first century. The claim is based on ONE ossuary. All other ancient attestations are ישוע. And the one ossuary is peculiar. The name Yeshu is written right up to a border line with no spaceישו, and elsewhere on the ossuary box the full name is written ישוע. So no, the name Yeshu is not first century, it was Yeshuuʕ. (The symbol ʕ marks a voiced pharyngeal fricative, a sound that I enjoy hearing in clear Hebrew speech, though a distinct minority these days, along with a true ħet ח.)
Thank you for your reply!
Might you be able to provide me the name of this ossuary?
I know that Chrstian Arabs say Yesua' (with the glottal "ayin" that you mention is now a minority in Hebrew).
The argument of my Jewish friend is that, originally, Jesus' name was pronounced as Yeshu3 (with the ayin, rather than an "ah"). Which would make it extremely close to the Christian Arab pronunciation, except for the "shin".

Thanks!
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S Walch
Posts: 178
Joined: June 13th, 2011, 4:27 pm
Location: Manchester, UK

Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by S Walch » April 14th, 2020, 11:51 am

Benjamin Nussli wrote:
April 14th, 2020, 11:23 am
Thank you for the informative reply! Looks like I'm off to study declension. You were very helpful!
(It's my first foray into Greek, yes. I've dabbled in Hebrew for some time now.)
No trouble :)

If you're not aware of it already, there is a b-hebrew forum where questions like this may get answered as well:
http://bhebrew.biblicalhumanities.org/
Might you be able to provide me the name of this ossuary?
You're probably looking for this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Tomb_of_Jesus
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Jason Hare
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Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 5:28 pm
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
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Re: Are "Yeshu" and "Yeshua" translated identically in Greek as "Jesus"?

Post by Jason Hare » April 14th, 2020, 11:51 am

Benjamin Nussli wrote:
April 14th, 2020, 11:27 am
Thank you for your reply!
Might you be able to provide me the name of this ossuary?
I know that Chrstian Arabs say Yesua' (with the glottal "ayin" that you mention is now a minority in Hebrew).
The argument of my Jewish friend is that, originally, Jesus' name was pronounced as Yeshu3 (with the ayin, rather than an "ah"). Which would make it extremely close to the Christian Arab pronunciation, except for the "shin".

Thanks!
The first problem you have is in assuming that the "a" is a real vowel in the name יֵשׁוּעַ. It is actually added for pronunciation, not a real vowel in its own right. It's called "furtive patach." As far as I'm aware, both the furtive patach and the final ayin lost pronunciation in Galilean Hebrew at the time, so that it would naturally have been pronounced as יֵ֫שׁוּ. As has been noted above, both יֵשׁוּעַ and יֵ֫שׁוּ (and even יְהוֹשֻׁעַ) would have been transcribed into Greek as Ἰησοῦς.
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Jason A. Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel

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