In the earliest or most authentic forms of the name of Jesus, the voiced pharyngeal `Ayn or `Ayin consonant is always at the end of the name (and not at the beginning, as it is in the form `Isa used by Muhammad in the Qur'an). The scientific linguistic reconstruction of the original 1st. century A.D. pronunciation of the name of Jesus in the Hebrew language and the Judean and/or Galilean Western Aramaic languages is supported by a number of lines of evidence, some of which are shown in the diagram below. In this graphic, phonemic/phonetic transcriptions are in blue, the `Ayn sound is transcribed with its proper phonetic symbol (which looks somewhat like a reversed question mark), and long vowels are indicated by macrons over vowel letters. (Due to the technical limitations of some browsers, in the HTML text of this page, `Ayn is shown with a left single apostrophe mark ` and long vowels are indicated by circumflex diacritics.) Syriac vowel lengths are shown according to the convention that a yod or waw letter used as a mater indicates a historically-long vowel (though most length contrasts seem to have disappeared by the time of the liturgical vowel-diacritic orthographies). For some context on the theological/controversialist aspect of all this, look at the versions of the "Shield of the Trinity" graphic in this small PDF file (which also contains resizable vector versions of the two large images below).
So in terms of Unicode, ישוע = ܝܫܘܥ = يسوع (yēšūʕ, yasūʕ) but not عيسى (ʕīsā)!
The name y-sh-w-` ישוע (Jesus/Jeshua) -- which was reconstructed above as having the 1st. century A.D. Hebrew and Western Aramaic pronunciation Yêshû` -- occurs in the Hebrew of the Old Testament at Ezra 2:2, 2:6, 2:36, 2:40, 3:2, 3:8, 3:9, 3:10, 3:18, 4:3, 8:33; Nehemiah 3:19, 7:7, 7:11, 7:39, 7:43, 8:7, 8:17, 9:4, 9:5, 11:26, 12:1, 12:7, 12:8, 12:10, 12:24, 12:26; 1 Chronicles 24:11; and 2 Chronicles 31:15, and also in Aramaic at Ezra 5:2.
In Nehemiah 8:17 this name refers to Joshua son of Nun, the successor of Moses, since ancient Hebrew Yêshû` ישוע was a shorter post-Exilic version of the name Yehôshû` יהושע or "Joshua". For this reason, Joshua son of Nun appears as Ιησους (Iêsous or "Jesus") in the ancient Greek of Josephus and the New Testament (Acts 7:45, Hebrews 4:8), etc.
For more information on the Hebrew names, see the large image below on this page.
Note that the ancient Greek spelling Iota-eta-sigma-omicron-upsilon-sigma (Ιησους) was actually the closest possible adaptation or borrowing of the ancient Hebrew/Aramaic name Yêshû` (yod-shin-waw-`ayin) into Greek which the rules of the sound-system and morphology of Greek would allow:
The ancient Greek language did not have any voiced pharyngeal `Ayin consonant or palatal sibilant [š] ("sh") sound, and insofar as a [y] consonant sound existed, it was phonologically just a variant of the [i] vowel. So there were simply no Greek letters for `Ayin, "sh", or "y". And in late Hellenistic Greek, omicron-ypsilon was pronounced as a simple long [u] vowel (the [u] in Yêshû` is also long). And finally, if a noun or name was to be "declined" in Greek (i.e. have distinct forms for at least some of the nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative morphological cases), then it needed to have appropriate Greek grammatical endings added on at the end (see the table of case inflections below) -- and almost half the non-neuter nouns in the Greek language had an "s" ending in the nominative singular. So Iêsous [yêsûs] is the nearest that ancient Greek could get to Hebrew and/or Aramaic Yêshû` while obeying the rules of ancient Greek grammar.
By contrast, Arabic `Îsâ عيسى (`Ayn-ya-sin-ya or `Ayn-ya-sin-alif maqsurah) is NOT the closest rendition into the Arabic language of original Hebrew/Aramaic Yêshû` , since Arabic Yasû` يسوع (Ya-sin-waw-`ayn, with the voiced pharyngeal `Ayin or `Ayn consonant in its proper position at the end of the name) is obviously much closer. From this point of view, Greek Iêsous is a much less corrupt and distorted form than Arabic `Îsâ!! (Note that the rendering of [š] into [s] seen in both Yasû` and `Îsâ is a common correspondence seen in early borrowings from Hebrew or Aramaic into Arabic.)
Finally, during the late 16th century and early 17th century, Protestant English Bible translators went through the standard Vulgate Latin translation of the Old Testament then used in the west, comparing it in detail to the Hebrew-language Bible preserved by Jews. As part of this process, the traditional English-language versions of the names of many Biblical figures were changed to more closely conform with the original Hebrew-language forms of their names. So "Noe" was changed to "Noah", "Isaias" became "Isaiah", etc. etc. But the English versions of the names of some major Biblical figures -- such as Jesus and Solomon -- were not changed. This is why, from that time on, the same name (Hebrew Yêshu` ישוע / Greek Iêsous Ιησους) became "Jeshua" in English translations of the Old Testament, but remained "Jesus" in English translations of the New Testament -- introducing a minor inconsistency into the English transcriptions of this name in different parts of the Bible.
For some reason, the myths below sometimes come up in discussions about whether the name of Jesus originally had a voiced pharyngeal `Ayin/`Ayn consonant at the end or at the beginning -- even though these theories are held by small non-traditional Christian groupings, whose quasi-eccentric doctrines do not come close to those of Islam, and are not accepted by mainstream linguists and scholars of ancient languages:
Here's a table of the noun case declension of the name Jesus in both Latin and ancient Greek. For Latin, both a typical modern spelling and the ancient Roman empire spelling (before the invention of the upper case / lower case contrast or the separation of I/J and U/V into distinct letters) are shown. For Greek, both a transcription and the original Greek alphabet spelling (also from before the invention of an upper case / lower case distinction) are shown. Of course, the "lunate" or C-shaped form of the Greek letter sigma was often used (e.g. IHCOYC etc.).
|Nominative||Jesus (IESVS)||Iêsûs (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ)|
|Accusative||Jesum (IESVM)||Iêsûn (ΙΗΣΟΥΝ)|
|Genitive / Dative (Latin also Ablative)||Jesu (IESV)||Iêsû (ΙΗΣΟΥ)|
|Vocative||Jesu (IESV)||Iêsû (ΙΗΣΟΥ)|
Return to AMFonts site main page.