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It seems that the name of Jesus is mentioned in the Bible under a few different names. Hence the curiosity to know what His real name was when he walked on earth.

  • In which language Aramaic or Hebrew? – Ken Graham Sep 1 '16 at 22:12
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It depends on which language we're talking about. 1st-century A.D. Palestine was a multicultural, multilingual location (not much unlike the same region is at present day). The classic Biblical indication of this, in the canonical biographies of Jesus, is John 19.19-20, which says that when Jesus was crucified,

Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. Now on it had been written, "Jesus the Nazarene: King of the Jews." So many of the Jews read this inscription because the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city, and it had been written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Roman [i.e. Latin].

The common popular modern English rendition Jesus derives from the Latin, which essentially is spelled the same way, except for the fact that initially the letter J was merely a slightly fancier way of writing the letter I. They originally had the same pronunciation and bore similar functions. As recently as the 1580s, when the Geneva Bible was published, Jesus was written Iesus and Jews was spelled Iewes. (Cf. names like Julius = Iulius & Justus = Iustus.) E.g., this is what the aforementioned passage read in the 1611 edition of its King James Version:

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the crosse. And the writing was, IESVS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE IEWES. This title then read many of the Iewes: for the place where Iesus was crucified, was nigh to the citie, and it was written in Hebrewe, and Greeke, and Latine.
emphasis added

By the 1770s the spellings with which we're currently familiar had become the standard. Previous to French importations of words and pronunciations into the English language, Iesus/Jesus would have been pronounced yeh-soos. The original Latin, of the same spelling(s), spoken by someone like Pontius Pilatus at the time of the Crucifixion, would have been something like ee.ay.soos.

Back in 1385 John Wycliffe published an English translation of the New Testament in which the aforementioned passage reads as follows:

And Pilat wroot a title, and sette on the cros; and it was writun, Jhesu of Nazareth, king of Jewis. Therfor manye of the Jewis redden this title, for the place where Jhesus was crucified, was niy the citee, and it was writun in Ebreu, Greek, and Latyn.
with my emphases

In Greek the name is spelled today pretty much the way it was 2000 years ago, in modern Greek as Ιησούς and more anciently as Ἰησοῦς, both of which transliterate into Iesous (or Iēsoûs). Its pronunciation is not terribly different from its Latin counterpart part. However, using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), Wiktionary has the following examples of its transformation in various permutations of Greek over the centuries:

  • 5th BC Attic: IPA: /i.ɛː.so᷇ːs/
  • 1st BC Egyptian: IPA: /i.e.ˈsus/
  • 4th AD Koine: IPA: /i.i.ˈsus/
  • 10th AD Byzantine: IPA: /i.i.ˈsus/
  • 15th AD Constantinopolitan: IPA: /i.i.ˈsus/

Just as with English today, 1st-century Hebrew was a fluid phenomenon, collecting words and concepts from other languages with which it interacted, and it also was being spoken in several different parts of the Roman Empire as well as in parts of Africa beyond the scope of the Imperium. There are many different dialects of English today. Similarly there were many different dialects of Hebrew in the 1st century (as there still are at present). In the neighbourhood in which Jesus grew up and where he lived there was so much influence of the Aramaic language that it's become a topic of warm debate today whether the Jews spoke any Hebrew at all at the time.

What Jesus and the people who knew him would have called him would have depended on which dialect of which language they preferred to communicate in, and often enough it was an admixture of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. (Even the Greek texts of the New Testament themselves are peppered with Aramaicisms from the native tongue of some of their authors.)

According to Steve Caruso of AramaicNT, Jesus' native language was Galilean Aramaic, which was West Semitic and significantly different from the later Eastern, Syriac Aramaic in which the Pešîṭtâ (ancient Aramaic New Testament) was written. Caruso's transliteration of the Galilean version of Jesus' name is yeshua‘, which is similar to Yešū‘, the common Latinisation of the West Syriac version. Victor Alexander, of V-A.com, is currently working on his own English translation of the Pešîṭtâ, in which he transliterates Jesus as Eashoa, which is his take on the East Syriac pronunciation isho‘ (said something like eShow). According to the IVP New Bible Dictionary, the Greek form of the name reflects this Aramaic contraction of Hebrew יהושע (yehošua‘), which is normally rendered in English as "Joshua." Other renditions could be Yahoshua, Yahushua or Yihoshua. (The Hindi version Yahoshoo may inadvertently be correct as well.)

Already from about 400 years before the birth of Christ, Yehoshua had been contracted into Yeshua, which is one of the reasons why, among other quirks of linguistics, the Greek version is also noticeably shorter. Jesus Christ did have many contemporaries, however, who shared his extremely popular name with him. In Hebrew they were typically called Yehoshua (Yeshu[a] in Aramaic) while in Greek they were Iesous (and Iesus in Latin).

(In Greek even the famous Hebrew Conquest hero Yehoshua [Joshua], after whom the 6th book of the Bible is named, is called Iesous. He is often referred to as Jesus of Naue [from his father's name] to distinguish him from Jesus of Nazareth.)

Christ is believed to have spent a few of his earliest years in Egypt, where a plethora of tongues was spoken, including Ancient Egyptian, Kushite, Arabic, Punic and some ancient Iranian languages. The beginning of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles indicates that Jews who spoke these languages, as well as Berber, Elamite, Cretan and others, annually visited Jerusalem for festivals. So there are also these tongues within which to consider "original/ real" form(s) of Jesus's name, which people (perhaps he himself) may actually have used during his mortal life.

A fairly similar question might be what the original/ real form of Caesar or Alexander the Great is. With enough fame and influence (such as Christ, Caesar and Alexander possessed during their lifetimes on earth) the answer to this multiplies exponentially across different societies.

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  • Excellent answer. (Sort of puts mine to shame;) A most salient point: "It depends on which language we're talking about. 1st-century A.D. Palestine was a multicultural, multilingual location (not much unlike the same region is at present day)". – DukeZhou Sep 2 '16 at 15:56
  • Why, thank you. Your answer is concise, precise and straight to the point(s), though :) – Adinkra Sep 3 '16 at 6:15
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My understanding is that, from the Hebrew perspective at least, Yeshua would be one answer.

"The name corresponds to the Greek spelling Iesous, from which, through the Latin Iesus, comes the English spelling Jesus."


References:

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. p. 129.

Stern, David (1992). Jewish New Testament Commentary. Clarksville, Maryland: Jewish New Testament Publications. pp. 4–5.

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  • Thank you. I was reading about Ziusudra the last king of Sumeria before the flood took place. Hence the awaken curiosity. – user2951 Aug 31 '16 at 23:59
  • @user2951 Also check out the Greek ἰχθύς which should be of some interest. – DukeZhou Sep 1 '16 at 0:01
  • And what about Zarathustra? – DukeZhou Sep 1 '16 at 19:52

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