The controversy about what to call the Son of God has been debated amongst scholars’ for thousands of years. Today, as more people become interested in exploring the Christian faith, the desire to understand each nuance of the Bible has become increasingly important to millions of believers around the world. Understanding the many names used to describe Jesus Christ is no exception. Some people claim that the real name of the Savior is Joshua and referring to Him as Jesus is entirely blasphemous. Others even go as far as saying that calling Him different names means you worship the wrong Messiah. But is there enough evidence proving this claim? Are Jesus and Joshua the same name contrary to what others believe?
If we look at the languages used in writing the Old Testament and the New Testament, we will find that transliteration played a significant role in the names we are using to address God’s Son. The names Jesus and Joshua are, in fact, the same. Biblical scriptures do not state that we should favor one particular name over the other, so we can use the two names interchangeably from an etymological standpoint. However, it is important to note that in the Bible, Jesus Christ and Joshua were different men with very different historical backgrounds.
In this article, we will focus on the difference between translation and transliteration and its relation to how we arrived at using these two names today. We will also discuss the real meaning behind the name of Jesus, the controversial use of the letter J, and decide if one name is more acceptable over the other.
Translation vs. Transliteration
Clarifying the difference between translation and transliteration is crucial for understanding why we now address the Messiah, as Jesus. Translation is merely changing a word to its equivalent in another language. An excellent example of this is the Greek translation of the English word Salvation, which is Soteria.
On the other hand, transliteration changes the letters of one alphabet into similar-sounding characters from another language. For example, in the Greek alphabet, the 21st letter is Φ φ, representing the sound “ph.” Since there is no such letter in the English language, this letter is phonetically transliterated into “phi.”
The meaning of the name Jesus
The Old Testament is originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Thus, the use of the Hebrew name Yeshua which means “Yahweh is Salvation.” This name translates to Joshua in English and is still widely used up to this date.
Since the New Testament is written in Greek, the original authors tried to translate Yeshua’s Hebrew name into their language. In doing so, they came up with the name Iēsous. They used “S” instead of “SH” because they do not have a letter corresponding to that sound in their alphabet. The English translation of the name Iēsous is Jesus.
This analysis of how the name Yeshua is transliterated into Greek, and later on, translated into English, leads us to the conclude that Jesus and Joshua are the same. Joshua is a direct English translation of the Hebrew “Yeshua.” Meanwhile, after being transliterated into Greek, the English translation became “Jesus.”
The letter J controversy
The conflict involving the name of Jesus does not end in its Hebrew and Greek translations. Some people also consider the use of the letter “J” in the English translation as incorrect. They believe that since there is no letter “J” in the original languages used in the Old and New Testament, it should also not be used in the English translations of Yeshua and Iēsous.
It is important to note that if a person speaks a particular language, it is entirely reasonable to spell and pronounce things according to that language. In other words, using the letter J in the names Jesus and Joshua are acceptable. After all, they are still referring to the same God.
Which name is more appropriate?
Since we have already figured out that Jesus and Joshua are the same names, what should we call Him then? Is Joshua more appropriate than Jesus? Is there a correct way to call the Savior?
Given the translation history of Jesus’ name, we can say that it doesn’t matter whether we call him Yeshua, Iēsous, Joshua, or Jesus. Even though some religious groups choose to use a particular name, that does not mean that His grace will not save those who call Him in a different name.
The Bible also doesn’t command us to use the Hebrew or Greek versions of Jesus’ name or to pronounce it in those two languages alone. Acts 10:13 (NIV) says,
“for, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Similarly, Joel 2:32 (NIV) states,
“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.”
All translations of His name are equal because they refer to the same God, and they all mean ‘the Lord is Salvation.’
Jesus and Joshua are the same names
Jesus’ name has a long history. The original Hebrew form, Yeshua, was transliterated into the Greek name Iēsous which later became Jesus. While some religious groups claim that there is a correct way of saying His name to worship Him, we must keep in mind that what matters in Salvation is not what we call Him but how we call for Him. The name Joshua and Jesus are the same, and preferring one over the other does not make us more or less Christian. Instead, what makes us Christian is our faith and how we accept the one John the Baptist called the Lamb of God.