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Messianic Jews commonly refer to Jesus as "Yeshua" or "Yehoshua," which are forms of the Hebrew (and Aramaic) name commonly translated into English as "Joshua."

What is the Biblical basis for using these names for Jesus?

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This sounds more like a language question – Marc Jan 8 at 13:18
@Marc Yes, it is a language question. But it's a language question related to the beliefs and practices of a specific group, Messianic Jews, and about the Biblical basis of one of their practices. I think many people will find it interesting and useful to know the Biblical basis of that practice. – Lee Woofenden Jan 8 at 16:56
up vote 19 down vote accepted

This is, as noted, primarily a question about Semitic languages in the First Century. However, as it happens, there is a Biblical record of the relationship between the Semitic name yĕhôšūaʿ and the Greek Iēsous, the diachronic shift that produced yēšûaʿ, and the equation of yēšûaʿ with Iēsous.1


The New Testament is in Koine Greek. Jesus's name here is written as Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous).1 However, it is generally accepted that Jesus spoke primarily Aramaic and/or Hebrew. Determining the precise sounds that Jesus and his friends used to pronounce his name (which is, I suppose, the basis of the preference of the group described in the question) entails speculation about the Hebrew or Aramaic name that corresponds to the Greek name recorded in the Gospels. In this case, whether they were speaking Hebrew or Aramaic is probably not so important. (See below.)

Insights from Septuagint Joshua

As noted in this question and another related question, the name yĕhôšūaʿ is used most frequently in the Bible to the man who served as Moses's "assistant" during the wilderness period and subsequently led the Israelite people into Canaan, as recorded in the eponymous book. This name is transliterated consistently into the Greek of the Septuagint as Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous). Yĕhôšūaʿ, though, has an additional syllable compared to yēšûaʿ, so we remain one step away from a full explanation.

Insights from Late Biblical Hebrew

The Biblical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles provide the link we need. These books were composed during the Persian period (539 - 332 BCE) and so occasionally provide information about the transition between the language of the earlier portions of the Hebrew Bible and the dialect spoken in the first century. In these books, the name yĕhôšūaʿ is used only once, in reference to Moses's assistant (1 Chr 7:27). Otherwise, the name yēšûaʿ is used, most often (only?) to refer to the son of Jozadak, a man referred to in Haggai and Zechariah as yĕhôšūaʿ. This occurs both in Hebrew and in the Aramaic portion of Ezra.2

Starting with Ezra 2:2:

ESV: They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah...
Hebrew: ʾăšer-bāʾû ʿim-zĕrubbāḇel yēšûaʿ nĕḥemyāh...
Greek: hoi ēlthon meta Zorobabel; Iēsous, Neemias...

Yēšûaʿ, then, is a shortened form of yĕhôšūaʿ that was more commonly used later periods. In addition to being capable of an identical referent, both are translated identically into Greek: Iēsous.3


1. I use throughout the technical transliteration style set out by the Society for Biblical Literature. The transliterations in "normal" Latin characters offered in this question and others are no less "correct" (š = sh), but this system has the advantage of precisely representing each Hebrew consonant and vowel with 1:1 correspondence.

2. In Hebrew: Ezra 2:2, 6, 36, 40; 3:2, 8-9; 4:3; 8:33; 10:18; Neh 3:19; 7:7, 11, 39, 43; 8:7, 17; 9:4-5; 10:10; 12:1, 7-8, 10, 24, 26; 1 Chr 24:11; 2 Chr 31:15. In Aramaic: Ezra 5:2.

3. As it happens, in the Septuagint the Greek translation of yēšûaʿ (Iēsous) behaves slightly more like the New Testament's Iēsous than does the Greek translation of yĕhôšūaʿ. Although identical in the nominative case, the Greek term is only partly declinable in the NT: the dative and genitive share the form Iēsou. This is also true in the Greek translations of yēšûaʿ in Chronicles, etc. On the other hand, the dative is (usually) distinguished in the book of Joshua (yĕhôšūaʿ) as Iēsoî.

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Please forgive the deformed transliteration font -- quite ugly. :-( – Susan Jan 8 at 20:39
Would it bear any fruit to compare how Jesus is referred to in the Gospels of Mark and Luke versus the Gospel of Matthew, which original version is/was/may have been written in Aramaic – KorvinStarmast Jan 8 at 21:05
@Korvin Not sure.... I don't put much weight into the notion of the Aramaic primacy of Matthew myself (though I'm certainly no expert), but regardless, most of the references to Jesus in the Gospels are in reported speech, and much of this was probably originally in Aramaic anyway, so I'm not sure how "fruitful" it would be to try to tease out a difference according to a hypothesized difference in the phase at which the words were translated. (I would be more likely to see any such manifest differences as theological and/or literary in nature.) But did you have something in particular in mind? – Susan Jan 8 at 21:17
What I had hoped might be known (but probably can't be since I know of no Aramaic text yet discovered of any of Matthew's gospel) would be the kind of word form the name for Jesus used in that Gospel (if it were first in Aramaic) would take in Aramaic versus Hebrew versus Koine Greek. – KorvinStarmast Jan 8 at 21:20
@KorvinStarmast I think we have a pretty good handle on that information based on the consistent Septuagint translations (2nd-3rd C. BCE) of both Hebrew and Aramaic yēšûaʿ as Iēsous (Greek, =Jesus). That this relationship between the names continued into the first century is testified in the NT, in Acts and Hebrews, when the character from the book of Joshua is referred to using this same Greek term. – Susan Jan 8 at 21:28

"For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that."  Hebrews 4:8

"εἰ γὰρ αὐτοὺς ᾿Ιησοῦς κατέπαυσεν, οὐκ ἂν περὶ ἄλλης ἐλάλει μετὰ ταῦτα ἡμέρας."  Hebrews 4:8

The easiest way to see the connection is to see that the Greek name "Jesus" really is the name Joshua in the Hebrew. This can be seen in Acts 7:45 as well.

""And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua (Jesus - Iēsous) upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David."  Acts 7:45



Thayer Definition:

Jesus = “Jehovah is salvation”

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Welcome! Thanks for contributing. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. Regarding this answer in particular, are you saying that the Greek word for Joshua in Acts 7:45 is the same word that is used in Greek for Jesus? – Nathaniel Jan 8 at 13:37
+1 for pointing out that "Joshua" is translated as ᾿Ιησοῦς when quoted from the OT to the NT. – Lee Woofenden Jan 8 at 19:00
On a related note, Joshua's name was originally Hoshea, meaning "salvation" before Moses gave him the more fitting name of Joshua/Jehoshua, meaning "Jehovah is salvation." – Brian Weigand Jan 8 at 22:14
Yes, what I was attempting to say that when in the context the word Iesous clearly means the historical Joshua the English translators translate it Joshua. The fact is that every time that this Greek word appears it could have been translated Joshua. So Joshua, the son of Mary is the Messiah. It is interesting that Hoshea was renamed Joshua. "These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua." Numbers 13:16 – Norman Wise Jan 9 at 3:10

In the Old Testament, the legendary military leader who led the conquest of the Promised Land was called Joshua, an English transliteration of the Hebrew יְהוֹשׁ֫וּעַ (Yĕhôshúʿa). In the Greek Septuagint (LXX), a pre-Christian translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, this name is always translated Ἰησοῦς - as we see, for example, here:

Joshua 1:10: καὶ ἐνετείλατο Ἰησοῦς τοῖς γραμματεῦσιν τοῦ λαοῦ λέγων The Greek word Ἰησοῦς is pronounced /Iēsoūs/, from which we get 'Jesus', via Latin.

Translation in the opposite direction, likewise, would render our English word "Jesus" to the Hebrew יְהוֹשׁ֫וּעַ (Yĕhôshúʿa) via the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoūs).

Although the New Testament was written entirely in Koine Greek, we have a biblical basis for יְהוֹשׁ֫וּעַ (Yĕhôshúʿa) as Christ's Hebrew name via the Book of Joshua in Hebrew and Greek (LXX).

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