So the Lord saved Israel that day. – 1 Samuel 14:23

This is a powerful sentence for many reasons! However, one of the meanings of this sentence that can get lost on us English speakers, is that within this sentence, we have the words that come together to form the name of our savior… Jesus. Well, sorta. Let me see if I can explain.

First, we have to remember that Jesus was Jewish, so he was born with a Hebrew name. It was a very popular name because he was named after the guy who settled the Promised Land: Joshua. I’m sorta fond of that name myself! But in Hebrew, Joshua is pronounced “Yehoshua,” and this is the combination of the two words in our verse today: Yahweh Yasha, which means the Lord saves. But, how did we get “Jesus” from “Yehoshua”? Well, by the time of Jesus, who grew up speaking Aramaic, the name was shortened to “Yeshua,” which would have been the name that Mary & Joseph named their little miracle baby. But the question remains, why did we change his name to Jesus?

At the time that our New Testament authors were writing, the Greek language was the most common written language, so they used Greek to write out his name instead of Aramaic. They weren’t trying to change his name, there just wasn’t a great way to spell Yeshua in Greek.

The problem is that the name Yeshua is a particularly difficult name to write out in the Greek alphabet for two reasons: First, the two main consonant sounds in his name don’t even show up in Greek. There is no “Ya” sound and there is no “sh” sound in the Greek alphabet, so the “Ya” had to become an Iota and Epsilon (which make the sound of a long “E” and a long “A”). Then the “sh” had to become a sigma, or “s.” But then to make matters worse, if a Greek name ends in “a,” like “Yeshua,” then that would suggest that it is a female name. Male names typically have to end in an s. Therefore, when they put it all together, the name became Iesous. Then when the Roman Empire took over and Latin became the dominant language, they spelled his name Iesus. Even the earliest English versions of the Bible spell his name “Iesus.” It wasn’t until the J was added to the English language (only about 400 years ago), that we started calling him “Jesus.”

What does that mean? Am I going to stop calling him “Jesus?” No. I love that name, however, I don’t ever want to forget that Jesus means “Yahweh Saves.” He saved Israel that day through Jonathan, but he saves us every day through Jesus!

Josh Rose
Discipleship Pastor

To hear more about his name, check out my Christmas Morning sermon entitled “There’s Something About That Name.” (

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