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When did the pronunciation of Jesus change from Yeh-sus to Gee-zus? Why did the name change? How? Where?

Update: how did the name pronunciation change? Wouldn't there be people to correct mispronouncing the name? Did English speaking regions that pronounced J as a soft G take over educational institutions? What happened to English speakers that read J as Y?

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  • English speakers mispronounce J. The same mistake with Jehovah, Joshua, Joseph and a bunch of other names. Sep 21 '11 at 23:26
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It was a mispronunciation of a European (i.e. German/Old English) spelling of Jesus. Before the 1600s "Js" were pronounced "Y" - as in the name Jürgen. In fact, the letter "J" is extant in no alphabet until the 14th Century. The Greek Ίησους (Yeh-sus) was written "Jesus", but pronounced the same (that is, with a "Y") until after the 1630s when the letter J was generally pronounced "dje". This accounts for the change in pronunciation.

This also accounts for why in the 1611 KJV, all the "J - names" (e.g. Jesus, James) were written with an "I" (e.g. Iesus, Iames).


If you're interested, the English/German form is actually taken from the Latin Iesus, hence the "us" ending, rather than a "ous" ending. The name in Hebrew is ישוע (Yeshua, a shortened form of Yehoshua), which is where we get the name Joshua from. :-)

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The reason why Jesus is pronounced with the J sound we have in English today is because the letter I as a consonant in early Old French shifted to the J pronunciation we have in English today through palatization and affrication. The pronunciation of Biblical names in English that begin with a J was taken over from French in early Middle English. So even though Jesus was spelled with an I in the 1611 King James, it would have been pronounced with a J sound. The same thing goes with other words borrowed from early Old French like the word "joy", which used to be spelled "ioy". The letter J as an independent letter was taken over from a stylized version of the letter I and was used whenever the I was supposed to have the J sound. Here is a YouTube video I did that goes into more detail:How We Got the Name Jesus in English.

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