[b-hebrew] Yahoshua/Yehoshua

Joshua Luna joshua at can-do.net
Wed Apr 5 15:07:57 EDT 2006

Hello Baruj Diez,

I think Peter brought up a salient point in regards to what the Greek form
`Iesous represents. Peter already mentioned how the New Testament uses
`Iesous for Joshua (Yehoshua` son of Nun; Acts 7:45; Heb 4:8; the KJV
actually translates both as Jesus). To this I would add that some of the
Cheaster Beatty Greek Old Testament texts use the nomina sacra of `Iesous
(Jesus) for Joshua son of Nun, indicating that the early Christians saw a
similarity between their names (likewise the Greek Old Testament in general
already was using `Iesous for Yehoshua` in the Hebrew Bible). This can be
substantiated by a number of early Church Fathers state that "Joshua" and
"Jesus" had the same name. Of course this is of limited value because this
is true of the Greek text whereas the Greek name represents more than on
Hebrew name.

As others noted `Iesous can represent Yehoshua` or Yeshua` (Yeshua` being a
shortened form of Yehoshua`). Interestingly these names were not seen as
being mutually exclusive. For example, Joshua is routinely called Yehoshua`,
but on at least one occasion (Neh 8:17) Joshua is called Yeshua`. Likewise
Joshua the High Priest is called Yehoshua` (Zechariah) and Yeshua` (Ezra &
Nehemiah). Is this a linguistic issue (Aramaic influences?) or authorial
preference based on common interchange or maybe both?? We could be seeing a
practice of treating the name Yehoshua` similar to how American's treat the
name Joshua. Since my name is Joshua I can verify that I frequently tell
people my name is Joshua and they respond, "Nice to meet you Josh!"

I believe there may be a precedent in the Hebrew Bible for some "give and
take" in regards to names, in particular theophoric names. On a frequent
basis we find names that take a bit of liberty, even within the same book.
It is not uncommon to see Yeshayah(u), Yirmiyah(u), Zecharyah(u), etc. There
are 4 variants of Hezekiah I believe (Hizqiyah(u) and Yechizqiyah(u)).
Inscriptional evidence indicates the Biblical figures Baruch (and possibly
Shema) originally had the Yahwistic theophoric element (Barukhyahu; possibly
Shemayahu). Barukh was a "good guy" in the Bible, so it is difficult to
explain why the Hebrew Bible would simply have Barukh and yet his seal
Barukhyahu. And there is always the Patriarchs (these are of a different
circumstance of course) and examples like Israel/Jeshurun.

Oddly the Jewish tale Toledoth Yeshu indicates "Jesus" name was Yehoshua`
and later changed to Yeshu as a form of disgrace. Yet like the Greek sources
we cannot put too much emphasis on such a later tale, but it may indeed
indicate a real situation (possibly the equivalence of Yehoshua` and
Yeshua`?) George Howard in his work on the Shem Tob Matthew remarks on this
due to the presence of Yeshu and on rare occasion Yeshua` in the text
(although the character of this text is of question in regards to this sort
of question and the variance may reflect the Jewish tradition and not the
text itself?) The Peshitta tends toward Yeshua` as well (I have not seen
Yeshu or Yehoshua` in my copy, but I have not thoroughly reviewed the text
in this regards); but again the value of this reading is only marginally
helpful when trying to figure out the 1st century form of his name.

My thoughts in general are:

. There seems to have been some flexibility in spelling of names in the
Hebrew Bible; this may have carried over to the 1st century
. Depending on context and author Yehoshua` and Yeshua` appear to be
interchangeable (the later deriving from the former and having the same
. The book of Matthew (1:21) indicates his name had a "meaning" that is
roughly analogous to the Hebrew Yehoshua` (v.23 possibly shedding light on
the Matthean understanding of the theophoric nature of the name; of course
the name itself need not be looked at this way)
. The Greek `Iesous indicates that his Hebrew name was indeed Yehoshua`
and/or Yeshua` (or both)

Which one? I tend to think both, possibly with Yehoshua` being "proper" and
Yeshua` being the common/casual form and the proper form in Greek and
Aramaic. but this is only a guess. One could also consider Zechariah 6, but
I am not aware of any 1st century Christian use of this as a proof text in
regards to his name.

Of course Jack Kilmon has deposited in the past that the Galilean dialect
would be Yeshu (of course the Gospels locate him at a number of place and I
wonder how this relates to modern naming conventions where someone named
Ivan or Yurgi is called such regardless of the local variant. I am
interested in learning more about the Galilean sources and the dropping of
`Ayin and He, in this regards I will have to defer to his knowledge).

The issue of pronunciation is stickier (up to this point Yeshua` and
Yehoshua` have been used to represent the spellings, not the pronunciation
of the words). As others noted the "value" of shewa in the 1st century, and
likewise the furtive patach and value of the `Ayin, leave many questions. In
the Biblical period it would appear to me the name Yehoshua` was pronounced
Yahushu(a)` before the exile (based on a number of transliterations and some
perspectives on the pronunciation of Hebrew at this time). How it was
pronounced in Joshua son of Nuns time (14th century BCE, or alternatively
the 12th century BCE) is anyone's guess due to the limited number of
inscriptions from the 8th and 9th centuries, let alone the 14th! Ones
opinion will depend greatly on their position on matres lectionis and later
grammatical and spelling changes (e.g. the inclusion of the definite
article, definite direct object market, changes in prepositions and
articles, etc) and the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton in pre-monarchal
times (and whether they are agreeable to the pronunciation "Yahweh" in the
9th-5th century). Much of this is very speculative and is of limited value
because even if certain elements can be confirmed we then need to verify
they apply equally in the first century.

I personally tend to think the Messiah's name was given as the longer former
and the shorter form became prominent due to a number of factors listed
above (especially the Greek and Aramaic use `Iesous and Yeshua` for both the
longer and shorter spellings). This practice was already established in the
Hebrew Bible and may be no more significant than the use of Joshua/Josh in
modern times. I don't believe we can arrive at the conclusion that Yeshua`
was an "altered" or "lesser" form of the name as the precedent of their
equivalence appears to be established by the time of Ezra & Nehemiah which
is hundreds and hundreds of years before his birth.

As for the meaning of Yehoshua`, it does include the Yahwistic theophoric
element. Joshua's name was originally Hoshea (Num 13:8) which may be derived
from the verb yasha`; what verb Yehoshua` uses is a little more involved (is
it a crude/folk etymology where Yod was just appended; is it from another
similar root like shin-vav-`ayin; what about the 2 fuller spellings of
Yehoshuwa` with a vav before the `ayin, etc) but it is clear it uses the
Yahwistic theophoric element and that the name means something akin to,
"Yahweh delivers". How one understands this phrase (in regards to "Jesus")
in light of Matthew 1:21ff is very similar to how one interprets Mark 1:3
(Matt 3:3) and is outside the scope of B-Hebrew.


Joshua Luna

Message: 3
Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2006 20:07:27 +0200
From: Baruj Diez <barujdiez at yahoo.es>
Subject: [b-hebrew] Yahoshua/Yehosua
To: b-hebrew <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Message-ID: <1299118173.20060404200727 at yahoo.es>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-15

Dear friends,

   I  would  like  to know if there is a sound basis to
claim that Jesus's original name was "Yahoshua" instead
of   "Yehoshua."  I  would  appreciate  very  much  any

   Best wishes,

   Baruj Diez
     Asturias, Espa?a

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