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I would suspect that Jesus himself was the first to have the name "Jesus", but was there anyone before him with the same name? In other words, was the name completely unique when the Angel Gabriel told Mary to name her son "Jesus" or had the name been bestowed to someone else before? Today, the name is not rare (especially in some cultures), but was it so back then also?

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How is this a question about Christianity? –  Flimzy Dec 3 '12 at 1:17
@Flimzy Well, where else would it go? –  Vreality Dec 3 '12 at 3:18

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Well, to be accurate, are you asking about the Greek name Ἰησοῦς (English transliteration: Iēsous), or the actual Anglicized (English) name, "Jesus"? Or, are you referring to his likely Hebrew/ Aramaic name, יֵשׁוּעַ (English transliteration: Yeshu'a)?

I suspect you're probably talking about his Hebrew/ Aramaic name since that was what he would have been named --- and that is the name that actually has relevance to the phrase, "...he shall save his people from their sins."

So, who was the first to be called יֵשׁוּעַ? Well, I can tell you who was the first to be named יֵשׁוּעַ in the Tanakh, but you must understand that the Tanakh does not record the name of every Israelite who has ever been born. So, there may have been people named יֵשׁוּעַ even before the first one to possess that name as recorded in the Tanakh. In any case, the first one to be named יֵשׁוּעַ in the Tanakh (if I am not mistaken) is recorded in Ezra 2:2:

who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: (JPS Translation)

There was an early Hebrew variant of the name יֵשׁוּעַ, it being יְהוֹשׁוּעַ (English transliteration: Yehoshu'a). This was the name of the one we known in English as "Joshua son of Nun." Both the names יֵשׁוּעַ and יְהוֹשׁוּעַ were transliterated into the Greek Septuagint by the proper name Ἰησοῦς.

Compare Nehemiah 8:17:

יֵשׁוּעַ בִּן־נוּן

Ἰησοῦ υἱοῦ Ναυη

with 1 Kings 16:34:

יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן

Ιησου υἱοῦ Ναυη

For this reason, the KJV translators mistook "Jesus" for "Joshua" in Acts 7:45:

Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;

The passage is not referring to the Lord Jesus, but rather, Joshua son of Nun (Yehoshu'a bin Nun), the successor of Moshe, who brought the Israelites into the promised land.

As an aside, the Hebrew/ Aramaic names יֵשׁוּעַ and יְהוֹשׁוּעַ are actually quite common in the Jewish culture. For example, you can see many people by those names in the Talmud.

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Thank you! This was just what I was looking for! –  Vreality Dec 3 '12 at 3:17

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