By Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser, Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg and Dr. Yeshaya Gruber
Despite the assertion of some that Jesus’ Hebrew name should be spelled “Yahshua,” there is absolutely no evidence for this name in any known ancient Hebrew or Aramaic sources. In the Judeo-Greek language of the New Testament, “Jesus” is written as Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous). Translated back into Hebrew/Aramaic, the name is Yeshua (ישׁוּע) or Yehoshua (יהושׁוע).
The name Yeshua (ישׁוּע) was common in the Second Temple Period and appears almost thirty times in the Hebrew Bible as well (e.g., Ezra 3:2; Neh 3:19; 1 Chron 24:11). “Yeshua” (Jesus) is a shortened version of “Yehoshua” (Joshua). If Yehoshua (יהושׁוע) means “the Lord saves”, then Yeshua (ישׁוּע) means either “he [i.e., the Lord] saves” or simply “salvation.” In fact, Judeo-Greek does not distinguish between “Yeshua” and “Yehoshua,” transliterating both as Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous or “Jesus”).
The origins of Jesus’ name in Hebrew probably include both the verbs meaning “to be” (היה) and “to save” (ישע). Matthew’s Gospel states the reason for calling the Messiah “Jesus,” in that direct linguistic connection exists between his name and the salvation of God’s people: “You shall call his name ‘Jesus,’ for he will save his people from their sins” (1:21). Insofar as Jesus’ name comes from the Hebrew word for “salvation,” Matthew’s argument makes perfect sense: Miriam’s son must be called “salvation” precisely because “he/the Lord will save” his people from their sins.
The problem with “Yahshua” is not that the original name of Jesus cannot come from both roots (in fact, this may well be the case, since “Jesus” is so closely related to “Yehoshua”). The main issue is this: while the name “Yeshua” is widely attested in Jewish sources, the spelling/pronunciation of “Yahshua” is not attested at all. In the end, we must agree that even though it may sounds appropriate for “Yah to save” from a theological perspective–and thus to speculate that Jesus’ name might have been “Yahshua”– until some evidence is found to the contrary, the name “Yahshua” exists in the hypothetical realm alone; that is, “Yahshua” is only a real name in the minds of those who argue for it.