27 December 2010

What was Jesus' last name?

Something I'd never thought of, until I read this column at Slate:
Many people shared the name. Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death. The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters...

So why do we call the Hebrew hero of Jericho Joshua and the Christian Messiah Jesus? Because the New Testament was originally written in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic. Greeks did not use the sound sh, so the evangelists substituted an S sound. Then, to make it a masculine name, they added another S sound at the end. The earliest written version of the name Jesus is Romanized today as Iesous. (Thus the crucifix inscription INRI: "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum," or "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.")...

In contrast, the Old Testament was translated directly from the original Hebrew into English, rather than via Greek. So anyone named Yehoshua or Yeshua in the Old Testament became Joshua in English...

What was Jesus' last name? It wasn't Christ. Contemporaries would have called him Yeshua Bar Yehosef or Yeshua Nasraya. (That's "Jesus, son of Joseph" or "Jesus of Nazareth.") Galileans distinguished themselves from others with the same first name by adding either "son of" and their father's name, or their birthplace. People who knew Jesus would not have called him Christ, which is the translation of a Greek word meaning "anointed one."
More at the Slate link.


  1. Interesting. I had wondered if it came from "Jupiter" + "Zeus" = "Jesus"

  2. So if it were to be Anglicized, it would be Jesus Josephson.

  3. More on this or any question u have can be answered at your local kingdom hall.

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