The name of Jesus has spiritual and historical significance for Christians, so it’s understandable that many wonder how his name would have sounded in the Aramaic language he likely spoke. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In Aramaic, Jesus’ name would have been pronounced Yeshua or Y’shua.
In this roughly 3000 word article, we’ll explore in depth what Jesus’ name in Aramaic was, the meaning and origins of his Aramaic name, and how it may have differed from commonly used forms of his name today.
Jesus’ Name Was Likely Yeshua or Y’shua in Aramaic
Jesus’ native language was likely Aramaic, a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew that was commonly spoken in first century Palestine. In Aramaic, his name would have sounded something like “Yeshua” or “Y’shua.” Here are some key facts about Jesus’ name in his native tongue:
The Hebrew Name Yeshua
The name “Yeshua” (or “Y’shua”) comes from the Hebrew name יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēšūă‘) which is a shortened version of the name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yəhōšūă‘) or Joshua. “Joshua” means “Yahweh is salvation.” In English, the name Jesus comes from the Greek transliteration of Yeshua, Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs).
Variations in Aramaic
Since Aramaic was written in the Aramaic alphabet, Jesus’ contemporaries would have called him something like ܝܫܘܥ or ܝܫܘܥܐ, Yeshua or Y’shua. The Aramaic alphabet does not have a letter for the Hebrew letter ש (shin), so the “sh” sound was likely softened to “s.”
Evidence from the Gospels
There are a few pieces of evidence that Jesus was known as Yeshua:
- In Matthew 1:21, an angel tells Joseph to name Mary’s son Yeshua because “he will save his people from their sins.”
- When Jesus healed the paralyzed man in Mark 2:5, he referred to himself as “the Son of Man” or the “Son of Humanity” – bar nasha in Aramaic.
- Mark 5:41 says that Jesus spoke the Aramaic words “Talitha koum” to heal a girl, which means “Little girl, arise.”
Therefore, it is highly likely that those who knew Jesus in his lifetime referred to him by the Aramaic short form of Yeshua, which would have been pronounced something very close to “Y’shua.”
The Meaning and Origins of the name Yeshua in Aramaic
The name Yeshua has profound meaning and origins in the Aramaic language. Yeshua is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew name Yehoshua, which later morphed into the name Jesus in English.
The Meaning of the Name Yeshua
In Aramaic, the name Yeshua means “Yahweh delivers” or “Yahweh rescues.” It comes from the Hebrew root word yasha, meaning “to deliver, rescue, or save.” This root word is found in many Hebrew names such as Isaiah, Joshua, and Hosea.
Therefore, the name Yeshua conveys the idea that God delivers, rescues, and brings salvation to his people. This meaning was embodied in the life and mission of Jesus Christ, who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). His very name declared his purpose and identity from birth.
The Origins of the Name Yeshua
In the Old Testament, the name Yeshua first appears as Yehoshua or Joshua. Joshua was the leader who took over after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. His name means “Yahweh is salvation,” again emphasizing God bringing deliverance and rescue.
Later, in the book Zechariah, an high priest named Yeshua appears. He helped rebuild the temple during the resettlement of Jerusalem. Again, this name signifies God saving and restoring his people.
By New Testament times, Yeshua was a common name among Jewish families. It is estimated over 197 men had the name Yeshua at this time. Yet only one embodied its full meaning and purpose.
According to the Gospels, Mary was told by an angel to name her son Yeshua because he would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). His parents gave him the name to express his God-appointed mission as the Messiah.
Yeshua Vs. Jesus in English
How did we get the name Jesus from Yeshua? In Hebrew, names have specific meanings and purpose. Yet as Christianity spread to Greek and Latin-speaking regions, Jesus’ name was adapted.
Here is a brief timeline:
- Hebrew Yeshua → Greek Iesous → Latin Iesus → Anglo-Saxon Giesus → English Jesus
Therefore, Jesus is the English adaptation of Christ’s Hebrew/Aramaic name, Yeshua. While the name changed, it retained both the original root meaning (“to deliver, save”) and embodied in Christ’s life.
So whether one calls him Yeshua, Iesous, Iesus, or Jesus, his name signifies he is “God who delivers” – the long-awaited Savior of the world.
Variations Between Yeshua, Jesus, and other forms
The name “Jesus” is the English translation of the Greek name “Iesous”, which itself is a translation of the Hebrew name “Yeshua”. So there are some interesting linguistic variations between these names that provide insight into the origin and meaning of the name “Jesus”.
“Yeshua” is the original Hebrew or Aramaic name which is translated into English as “Jesus”. In Hebrew, the name Yeshua means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh delivers”. It comes from the Hebrew root word “yasha” meaning “to deliver or save”.
So the name Yeshua essentially meant “Savior” and was a very fitting name for Jesus Christ.
When the Gospels were translated from Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek, the name Yeshua was translated as “Iesous”. There were no exact equivalent letters between Hebrew and Greek, but “Iesous” was the closest rendering they could come up with.
Later when the Bible was translated into Latin, “Iesous” became “Jesus”. So Jesus is simply the English translation of the Greek, which itself was a translation of the original Hebrew name Yeshua.
There are also other language variations of Jesus’ name to be aware of:
- Yeshu – This was possibly an early form of Yeshua before the medial vav was added. It means “He will save.”
- Isho – The Aramaic form of Yeshua used in some parts of the Middle East.
- Isa – The Arabic name for Jesus, used commonly by Muslims.
- Joshua – This is actually the same name as Yeshua in English spelling. Joshua was a common version of the name in the Old Testament.
Significance and Impact of Jesus’ Aramaic Name Yeshua
The name Yeshua has profound significance and impact for Jesus and his followers. Here are some key points on this important Aramaic name:
Meaning of the Name
The name Yeshua means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” It comes from the Hebrew root word yasha, meaning “to deliver or save.” So Jesus’ very name proclaims his mission – to bring salvation from God to mankind.
Fulfillment of Prophecy
By being named Yeshua, Jesus fulfilled the words of the angel who spoke to Joseph and said, “You are to name him Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). His name aligned with his purpose.
Connection to Joshua
Yeshua is essentially the Aramaic form of the Hebrew name Joshua. Just as Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, Jesus leads his people into salvation and eternal life.
Link to Messiahship
The name Yeshua identified Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The Messiah was prophesied to bring salvation, which is reflected in the meaning of Jesus’ name. He did not come as a political ruler, but as a Savior.
Contrast with Zeus
Unlike the Greek god Zeus, whose name means “sky father,” Jesus’ name Yeshua conveys a relational God who is intimately connected to his people and provides salvation. The names signify vastly different concepts of God.
The name Yeshua has a universal resonance and appeal. It transcends cultures and languages through its meaning of salvation. No matter their background, people can connect with the concept of a loving God bringing deliverance.
Jesus’ original Aramaic name of Yeshua or Y’shua has deep spiritual meaning and historical connections to ancient Biblical names. Although Jesus and other modern forms of his name are more commonly used today, understanding and using his Aramaic name can help Christians connect more deeply with the messaging and roots of their faith.