Thursday, December 22, 2011

On the Name Yeshu

Thanks to an enlightening discussion with a colleague I think I finally figured out where the rabbinic name for Jesus originated. The rabbis came into contact with 'Yeshu' in the Semitic Christian cultures of the East. Because Syriac does not use the 'furtive' pathach (see link below) Yeshua the shortened form of the name Yehoshua would be naturally rendered Yeshu (i.e. so the 'a' vowel is not used). This follows a pattern noticed with respect to other Hebrew words rendered in Syriac. The third and fourth century rabbis must have come across the name Yeshu and found it puzzling or decided to preserve the unusual form in their Aramaic reports about their Christian neighbors. It does not provide any window into the original name of Jesus as it represents only a transformation of the short form of 'Joshua' into Syriac.

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.