What did people in the 1st century call Jesus? Did they actually call him "Jesus," or did they use a Hebrew name? One study Bible claims "Jesus" derives from the Hebrew "Jehoshua," source of the English name "Joshua." Now I can understand how Jehoshua is translated as Joshua, but this still doesn't explain where "Jesus" comes from. The name "Jesus" doesn't seem to mean anything in Greek. Why? Am I missing something big? Similarly confusing are Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8. The person referred to seems to be Moses' successor Joshua, but the actual name there is transliterated "Iesous." I can't help but get the impression I'm calling the Son of God by the wrong name. If our Lord's name is really "Joshua," shouldn't we be saying "Joshua is Lord" at baptism? -- Joe Chiappetta (Chicago)

Certainly, in the first century, people called Jesus by his name. In their own language. They certainly didn't call him by an English word! "Jesus" is the English form of the original. No, you aren't missing anything big. Except maybe that speakers of one language tend to render personal names in new ways, different from their original forms. The confusion arises in this case because Old Testament Joshua (related to the name Hoshea) is essentially the same Hebrew word as the Greek word Iesous, which becomes Iesus in Latin. (On top of this, there are certain theological parallels between the OT Joshua and Jesus Christ.)

In ancient Israel, Yeshua was said by Hebrew/Aramaic speakers; Iesous, by Greek speakers. How we pronounce the word is of no theological importance. Otherwise, we would be obligated to say all OT Hebrew or NT Greek words in their original form and pronunciation--something that would be impossible for 99% of English speakers.

For a comparison, one of the brothers of Jesus was James. Well, at least that's how we say it in English! In the OT, it was Ya'akov (Jacob in English); in the NT, Iakobos (James in English). It boils down, in this case, to translation preference. In other languages James becomes Jacques, Jakob, Tiago... This is not a contradiction.

So when people today call Jesus by other (non-English) words, that is fine. Yes, Jesus is Lord! (Or is it Isa, Gesu, or something else?) The Bible never makes a doctrine of word forms or pronunciations. God reads our hearts, and no language (or pronunciation) can separate us from the love of God.

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