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One thing that is consistently odd, yet consistent among most English translations is that the name of the mother of Our Lord, Mary, and Our Lord Himself, Jesus, are translated that way (as well as the author of Sirach, Jesus ben Sirach) while the sister of Moses, Miriam, and his chief, Joshua, are translated that way.

Is there a subtle distinction between the two ways of saying the name or is it just an easier way of referring to characters in the Bible? Do other languages have similar distinctions in their translations or is this an English only thing?

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You might find the name of Jesus in different languages interesting as well (from the original Yeshua). –  Richard Sep 6 '11 at 22:03
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@Richard I take it you mean original יֵשׁוּעַ –  dancek Sep 6 '11 at 22:14
    
Sure, if you wish. I find the transliteration a bit easier to read, myself. :P –  Richard Sep 6 '11 at 22:15
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On your last question about other languages: In Irish, the name Muire is used only for Jesus' mother. All other Marys are Máire. –  TRiG Oct 11 '11 at 12:19

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They are transliterated from two different languages: Hebrew and Greek.

  • מִרְיָם -- Miriam
  • Μαρία -- Maria
  • יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎‎ -- Joshua
  • Ἰησοῦς -- Jesus

The transliterations make sense when compared to the original pronunciations.

Of course Mary and Jesus must actually have had Hebrew/Aramaic names instead of Greek ones. Quite probably their names actually were מִרְיָם and יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎‎. However, they still are only mentioned with the Greek translated versions, so by transliterating from Μαρία and Ἰησοῦς the translators are keeping closest to the original.

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