Where did the names Jesus and Jehovah come from anyway? This was the question that I starting searching for answers after someone told me that the names were actually Yahweh and Yeshua.
Translating from one language to another is no easy or uncomplicated task. There are some general rules however that are commonly accepted. For example, when a name appears in a foreign text it is transliterated to give an approximate sound-alike word in the new text. Some problems crop up with this approach however when the new language doesn’t have the same set of sounds. For example in the name of the Savior in the Bible.
Yeshua became Jesus through the following transliterations.
1. Yeshua (the Aramaic name) transliterated to…
2. Iesus (Ee-ay-sus) in the Greek… the problem being that they had no sh sound in Greek and the ending of the word would not have indicated a name if they transliterated as is, therefore the ending was changed to indicate the proper usage of Greek.
3. Then it went through German where the I (ee) sound was pronounced from the “J” letter turning the name into Jesus pronounced “Ee-ay-sus” (an approximate to the Greek Iesus).
4. Then bringing it into English with the same spelling “Jesus” gives us the Jee-sus pronunciation of today.
The word Jehovah rather than Yahweh was an even more convoluted process.
First of all I will be using the traditional YHVH to indicate the consonants of the name Yahweh below whereas I usually use YHWH. The reason for the difference is due to the change of the “Vav” throughout time from a “w” sound to a “v” sound.
In the first century, pronouncing the name of Yahweh when reading the Hebrew text of the Scripture in the synagogues was not as simple as replacing it with another word. The favorite euphemism for the Name was “Adonai”. However, this was not a cut-and-dry method.
This worked most of the time when the name was used alone or when it was used with “Yahweh Elohim” (Yahweh God), where it would be read “Adonai Elohim” (the LORD God). However, when the phrase “Adonai Yahweh” (My Lord Yahweh) was used they didn’t want to read “Adonai Adonai” (Lord the Lord) so they changed “Yahweh” to Elohim so it would read “Adonai Elohim” once again.
Near the end of the first century, Hebrew scribes added vowel points to the Scripture to help preserve the language for future generations. They also figured out a way to indicate to the reader whether to read Elohim or Adonai as a replacement. They left the letters for YHVH in the text but used the vowel markers from the replacement word instead of the real vowels.
For example… if they wanted the reader to read Elohim in place of the name they would use the first and last vowels of Elohim “(eh) L (oh) H (ee) M” with the consonants YHVH giving us Y (eh) H - V (ee) H which was not made to pronounce but rather to indicate the reading.
The same is true of the reading of Adonai. “A (ah) D (oh) N (ah) I” would become “Y (ah) H V (ah) H”, however the first (ah) was not used because this was too close to the real name Yah. They shortened it to the vowel which sounds like a short (eh) sound giving us “Y (eh) H V (ah) H” which is difficult (not meant) to pronounce.
Seeing what the Hebrew scribes did with the vowels, the German translators chose to use the first two vowels of Elohim and the last vowel of Adonai with the letters of YHVH to approximate the Name, which gets us YeHoVaH or “Jehovah” in the German Bibles. So, this amalgam of Consonants of the Name and Vowels of the word Elohim is where we get the name Jehovah in some Bibles.
A translator’s job is to relay the message of the original text into a new language. When it comes to names they do their best to approximate them to bring these names into a new culture. The names Jesus and Jehovah were the results of this effort. But in today’s world there is no reason that we cannot go back to the original texts and make our own restoration of the names with the advantage of hindsight. That is why I use the names Yeshua and Yahweh rather than Jesus and Jehovah.
Thank you for reading, and my Yahweh bless you abundantly.
(The images are public domain from pixabay.com.)