- For a disambiguation of the term Yeshua, and other claimed transcriptions of Jesus, see Yeshua. For the article on the person, teaching, and acts of Jesus Christ, see the Jesus article. For the article on the Hebrew term 'Yeshu' which may or may not refer to Jesus, see Yeshu.
Yeshua, spelled יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēšūă‘) or ישוע in Hebrew was a common name among Jews of the Second Temple Period, and is thought by some scholars and religious groups to be the Hebrew or Aramaic name for Jesus. In modern Hebrew, Yeshu (ישו) and Yeshua (ישוע) are in fact the common transcriptions for Jesus.
The name Yeshua is extensively used by Messianic Jews and Hebrew Christians, Rastafarians, explained by the Rastafari movement, as well as other Christian denominations, who wish to use Jesus' Hebrew name.
Among the Jews of the Second Temple Period, the Biblical Aramaic/Hebrew name יֵשׁוּעַ Yeshua‘ was common: the Hebrew Bible mentions several individuals with this name. This name is a feature of biblical books written in the post-Exilic period (Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles) and was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Strong's Concordance connects the name יֵוֹשֻׁשׁוּעַ Yeshua`, in the English form Jeshua (as used in multiple instances in Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles), with the verb "to deliver" (or, "to rescue"). It is often translated as "He saves," to comform with Matthew 1:21: "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (NASB).
The name יֵוֹשֻׁשׁוּעַ "Yeshua" (transliterated in the English Old Testament as Jeshua) is a late form of the Biblical Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yehoshua (Joshua), and spelled with a waw in the second syllable. The Late Biblical Hebrew spellings for earlier names often contracted the theophoric element Yeho- to Yo-. Thus יהוחנן Yehochanan contracted to יוחנן Yochanan. However, there is no name (aside from Yehoshua`) in which Yeho- became Ye-.
The name Yehoshua has the form of a compound of "Yeho-" and "shua": Yeho- יְהוֹ is another form of יָהו Yahu, a theophoric element standing for the personal name of God YHWH, and שׁוּוֹשֻׁעַ shua‘ is a noun meaning "a cry for help", "a saving cry", that is to say, a shout given when in need of rescue. Together, the name would then literally mean, "God is a saving-cry," that is to say, shout to God when in need of help.
Another explanation for the name Yehoshua is that it comes from the root ישע yod-shin-‘ayin, meaning "to deliver, save, or rescue". According to the Book of Numbers verse 13:16, the name of Joshua son of Nun was originally Hoshea` הוֹשֵעַ, and the name "Yehoshua`" יְהוֹשֻׁעַ is usually spelled the same but with a yod added at the beginning. "Hoshea`" certainly comes from the root ישע, "yasha", yod-shin-`ayin (in the hif`il form the yod becomes a waw), and not from the word שוע shua` (Jewish Encyclopedia) although ultimately both roots appear to be related.
In the 1st century, Philo of Alexandria, in a Greek exposition, offered this understanding of Moses’s reason for the name change of the biblical hero Jehoshua/Joshua son of Nun from Hoshea [similar to hoshia` meaning "He rescued"] to Yehoshua in commemoration of his salvation: "And Ιησους refers to salvation of the Lord" [Ιησους or Iesous being the Greek form of the name] (Ἰησοῦ δὲ σωτηρία κυρίου) (On the Change of Names 21.121).
Similarly, the Septuagint renders Ben Sira as saying (in the Greek form of the name): "Ιησους the son of Naue [Yehoshua Ben Nun] who according to his name became great unto [the] salvation/deliverance of his chosen ones" (Ἰησοῦς Ναυῆ .. ὃς ἐγένετο κατὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ μέγας ἐπὶ σωτηρίᾳ ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ) (Ben Sira 46:1-2). However, Ben Sira originally wrote in Hebrew in the 2nd century BC, and the only extant Hebrew manuscript for this passage has "in his days" (בימיו), not "according to his name" (which would be כשמו in Hebrew),  and thus does not comment on the name Yehoshua as connoting יְּשׁוּעָה "deliverance": "Yehoshua Ben Nun, who was formed to be in his days a great deliverer for his chosen ones" (יהושע בן נון... אשר נוצר להיות בימיו תשועה גדלה לבחיריו). Possibly, the translators understood the phrase "was formed in his days" to refer to being transformed by his name change, and thus has "according to his name" as a paraphrastic translation, or else they were working from a different text.
The yodh is vocalized with the Hebrew vowel, tsere, a long e as in "neighbor" (but not diphthongized) not with a shva (as Y'shua) or segol (Yesh-shua). The final consonant is the voiced pharyngeal fricative ayin - ע (a rough breathing guttural sound not found in Greek or English) sometimes transcribed by " ` " (Yeshua`). The "a" represents the patach genuvah ("furtive" patach) indicating that the consonant `ayin is pronounced after the "a" vowel, and the word's intonation is moved to the middle syllable (the characteristics of the furtive patach can be seen in other words, such as ruach.  Thus, it is pronounced something like yay-SHOO-a`.
Yeshua as the original name for Jesus
The claim that the form Yeshua is the original name for the religious figure otherwise known as Jesus in western Christianity, is a subject of debate. The English name Jesus derives from the Late Latin name Iesus, which transliterates from the Koine Greek name Ἰησοῦς Iēsoûs
In the Septuagint and other Greek-language Jewish texts, such as the writings of Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, Ἰησοῦς Iēsoûs is the standard Koine Greek form used to translate both of the Hebrew names: Yehoshua and Yeshua. (It was also used to translate the name Hoshea in one of the three verses where this referred to Joshua the son of Nun--Deut. 32:44.)
During the second Temple period (beginning 538 BC – 70 AD), Yeshua first became a known form of the name Yehoshua. All occurrences of Yeshua in the Hebrew Bible are in I Chron. 24:11, II Chron. 31:15, Ezra, and Nehemiah where it is transliterated into English as Jeshua. Two of these men (Joshua the son of Nun and Joshua the High Priest) are mentioned in other books of the Hebrew Bible where they are instead called Yehoshua  (transliterated into English as Joshua).
The earlier form Yehoshua did not disappear, however, and remained in use as well. In the post-exilic books, Joshua the son of Nun is called both Yeshua bin-Nun (Nehemiah 8:17) and Yehoshua (I Chronicles 7:27). The short form Yeshua was used for Jesus son of Sirach in Hebrew fragments of the Book of Sirach. (Some concern remains over whether these fragments faithfully represent the original Hebrew text or are instead a later translation back into Hebrew. ) The earlier form Yehoshua saw revived usage from the Hasmonean period onwards, although the name Yeshua is still found in letters from the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 AD).
In the context of the documentary entitled The Lost Tomb of Jesus, archeologist Amos Kloner stated that the name Yeshua was then a popular form of the name Yehoshua and was "one of the common names in the time of the Second Temple." In discussing whether it was remarkable to find a tomb with the name of Jesus (the particular ossuary in question bears the inscription "Yehuda bar Yeshua"), he pointed out that the name had been found 71 times in burial caves from that time period.
Thus, both forms, Yehoshua and Yeshua, were in use during the Gospel period.
In the Talmud, only one reference is made to Yeshua, in verbatim quotation from the Hebrew Bible regarding Jeshua son of Jozadak (elsewhere called Joshua son of Josedech). The Talmud does refer to several people named Yehoshua from before (e.g. Joshua ben Perachyah) and after Jesus (e.g. Joshua ben Hananiah).
Clement of Alexandria and St. Cyril of Jerusalem considered the Greek form Iesous to be the original, even going so far as to interpret it as a true Greek name and not simply a transliteration of Hebrew. (A similar situation is seen in the use of the true Greek name Simon as a translation of the Hebrew name Shim'on in texts such as Sirach.) Eusebius related it to the Greek root meaning "to heal" thus making it a variant of Jason meaning healer.
However, the New Testament describes Jesus as part of a Jewish milieu, reading the Hebrew Bible and debating with Pharisees over interpretations of the Jewish legal tradition. The Gospels record several Aramaic words or expressions spoken by him—see Aramaic of Jesus. Moreover, Eusebius reports that Jesus's student Matthew wrote a gospel "in the Hebrew language". (Every time the word "Hebrew" is used to describe a word or phrase in the New Testament, the word or phrase in actuality is what we today call Aramaic, a sister language to Hebrew.)
An argument in favor of the Hebrew form ישוע Yeshua is that the Old Syriac Bible (c. 200 AD) and the Peshitta preserves this same spelling using the equivalent Aramaic letters ܝܫܘܥ (Yēšū‘) to the Hebrew letters of Yeshua (Syriac does not use the 'furtive' pathach, so the 'a' vowel is not used). This is still the spelling and pronunciation used in the West Syriac dialect, whereas East Syriac has rendered the pronunciation of the same letters Išô‘. These texts were translated from the Greek, but the name is not a simple transliteration of the Greek form because its "sh" sound is not expressed in the Greek (although the Greek has a letter sounding like "s"), and ends with the pharyngeal ‘ayin sound, also not found in Greek. It can be argued that the Aramaic speakers who used this name had a continual connection to the Aramaic-speaking apostles and disciples of Jesus, and thus were able to accurately preserve the actual name used for him.
Yeshua was used as the name for Jesus in late additions to the Yosippon; however, its usage here is a translation back into the Hebrew Yeshua from the Greek. The Toledot Yeshu narratives combine the person or persons designated Yeshu in the Talmud with Jesus, but relate that his original name was Yehoshua.
- ↑ Ilan, Tal (2002). Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity Part I: Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE (Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 91). Tübingen, Germany: J.C.B. Mohr. pp. 129.
- ↑ Stern, David (1992). Jewish New Testament Commentary. Clarksville, Maryland: Jewish New Testament Publications. pp. 4–5.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Origin of the Name Jesus Christ" in The Catholic Encyclopedia
- ↑ Brown Driver Briggs Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon; Hendrickson Publishers 1996 ISBN 1-56563-206-0
- ↑ "The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 1990)
- ↑ David Talmshir, "Rabbinic Hebrew as Reflected in Personal Names" in Scripta Hierosolymitana: Publications of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, vol. 37 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press: Hebrew University of Jerusalem 1998)
- ↑ "וֹשֻׁשׁוּעַ", Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company 1987), where it means "a cry for help".
- ↑ "וֹשֻׁשׁוּעַ", William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing 1971), where it means "a cry for help".
- ↑ "שָׁוַע", M. Jastrow, Dictionary of the Talmud reprinted (Jerusalem: Khorev 1990), where שׁוֹשֻׁוּעַ is explained by the verb "to cry for help",
- ↑ Jewish Encyclopedia. entry JOSHUA (JEHOSHUA): Funk and Wagnalls. 1901-1906. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=544&letter=J&search=Joshua%20bin%20Nun.
- ↑ Segel, Moshe Tsvi (1953). Sefer Ben-Sira Hash-Shalem. Chapter 46 verse 2: Mosad Byalik. pp. 317.
- ↑ Price, James D. Yehoshua, Yeshua or Yeshu; Which one is the name of Jesus in Hebrew?, accessed March 6, 2006.
- ↑ William Chomsky, Hebrew: The Eternal Language, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1957 p.140
- ↑ Mendel, Roi (25 February 2007). "Ha-"chasifa" shel qever Yeshu: qiddum mkhirot". Yedioth Ahronoth. http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3368783,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
- ↑ Pilkington, Ed; Rory McCarthy (27 February 2007). "Is this really the last resting place of Jesus, Mary Magdalene - and their son?". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,2022252,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
- ↑ Wycliffe Bible Dictionary. entry HEBREW LANGUAGE: Hendrickson Publishers. 1975.