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Who put the “J” in Jesus?


Let’s take a moment with the name Jesus, so we have an idea how we got here from the original name. 

So, let’s begin with the 1611 King James Bible – Authorized Version, beginning in Matthew 1:1:

Matthew 1:1 (KJV)

The booke of the generation of Iesus Christ, the sonne of Dauid, the sonne of Abraham.

Now, does the name of the Messiah look like it begins with a “J” to you?  No, it doesn’t to me either.  It looks conspicuously like an Anglicized version of the Greek Ιησους (Iesous), which is the Greek word for the name Joshua, which in Hebrew is the name Yahusha.  Let’s take a look at the 1560 Geneva Bible, and see how those interpreters set it out:

Matthew 1:1 (1560 Geneva)

The boke of the generacio of IESUS CHRIST the sonne of Dauid, the sonne of Abraham.

I don’t see a “J” there either, but rather, an Anglicized version of the Greek Ιησους (Iesous), which is the Greek word for Joshua, which in Hebrew is the name Yahusha.  So how did we get the “J” in Jesus?  Our answer is found in the much later, not Authorized Version, edition of the KJV.  Unbeknownst to most of the “KJV Only” crowd, the text they so venerate is not the 1611 Authorized Version, but rather, the 1769 Benjamin Blaney version (the BBV).  For the passage in question, we find the following:

Matthew 1:1 (Benjamin Blaney of Oxford Version)

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

The word “Jesus” cannot be found in any document prior to 1610, when it was first found in a pleading associated with a lawsuit which sought to enjoin a corrupted publication of the bible, and which apparently attempted to use the word “Jesus” in place of the word of “Iesus.” Many people have set forth the challenge for historians to produce an older document, and to date, no one has done so.  So, the name “Jesus” is 406 years old, and wasn’t used in the Biblical Lexicon until the 1769 Blaney version of the KJV, which for the most part, is still with us today.  By the way, it was Blaney who also elected to eliminate those pesky 14 books of the Apocrypha found in the 1611 Authorized Version of the KJV, which nobody ever read anyway.

Now there were additional – and substantial – changes which were to follow in the hands of Westcott & Hort.  In 1881, they published a new Greek version of the New Testament, rejecting the Stephanus Textus Receptus and the Byzantine literature in favor of the work of Eusebius (St. Jerome) in his Codex Vaticanus, and the forged Codex Sinaiticus, which was discovered for the first time in 1859. Most of the work of Westcott and Hort, therefore, was taken from other scholars such as Tischendorf and Tregelles, and lifted wholesale from the work of Simonides, the forger of Sinaiticus. From these texts, Westcott & Hort developed a new version of a Greek New Testament, from which the New Testament of almost all new English bibles are translated. For those of you in the KJV-Only crowd, and for those of you who adhere to the 1560 Geneva text, Westcott & Hort represented a radical and complete departure.

Take, for instance, the passage found in Ma’aseh (Acts) 18:

Acts 18:21 (1611 KJV)

But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all meanes keepe this feast that commeth, in Hierusalem; but I will returne againe vnto you, if God will: and he sailed from Ephesus.

Compare with the text as set forth in the Eth Cepher:

Ma’aseh (Acts) 18:21 (1611 KJV)

But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Yerushalayim: but I will return again unto you, if YAHUAH will. And he sailed from Ephesus.

Now, let’s compare with the Westcott & Hort version of the same verse:

Acts 18:21 (Westcott & Hort – Greek transliteration)

Alla apotaxamenos kai eipwn palin anakampsw pros humas tou theou thelontos aneechthee apo tees ephesou.

W&H: “But, having set himself off and having said again I shall bend back toward you of the God willing, he was led up from Ephesus.”

Let’s consider those who have followed this “translation.”

NIV: “But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.”

ASV “but taking his leave of them, and saying, I will return again unto you if God will, he set sail from Ephesus.”

CEB: “As he said farewell to them, though, he added, “God willing, I will return.” Then he sailed off from Ephesus.”

ESV: “But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.”

A quick review of the Stephanus Textus Receptus reveals the difference:

ἀλλ᾿ ἀπετάξατο αὐτοῖς εἰπών· δεῖ με πάντως τὴν ἑορτὴν (feasts) τὴν ἐρχομένην ποιῆσαι εἰς ῾Ιεροσόλυμα, (Jerusalem) πάλιν δὲ ἀνακάμψω πρὸς ὑμᾶς τοῦ Θεοῦ θέλοντος. καὶ ἀνήχθη ἀπὸ τῆς ᾿Εφέσου,

But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in YERU-SHALAYIM: but I will return again unto you, if YAHUAH will.  And he sailed from Ephesus.

Apparently, Westcott and Hort decided to eliminate through the doctrine of Lectio Brevia, that portion of this passage which indicates that Sha’ul disclosed that he was required to go up to Yerushalayim to keep a feast.  Given the desire of so many to teach a doctrine of abrogation, it is not shocking that we would find this omission.

Was Sinaiticus forged?  Well, according to Simonides, the answer is “yes” because he admitted that he forged it. The report is that when Tischendorf travelled to the Monastery of St. Katherine at Sinai and later Mt. Athos and discovered the text (half-burned and in the trash), Simonides claimed that Sinaiticus was a forgery, and that he should know, since he was the one who had forged it! Why should we believe this?

According to the scholarship of Elizabeth K. Best, PhD:

  1. Simonides lived on Mt. Athos at the abbeys near and around where several of the Codices used by Tischendorf and Tregelles showed up, right before and during the time Tischendorf was there.
  1. Simonides claimed to be there because of a 'guardianship' of his Uncle Benedict, a monk, because his father had passed away. However, years later, letters between him and his father were found dated as late as 1862.
  1. Issues of forgeries came up involving a student that Simonides employed named Lycurgurs who reported his suspicions. Lycurgurs became a scholar in his own right in the Greek Church, and he reported his concern of Simonides creating forgeries to the well-respected Dindorf, although Dindorf shook off the allegations as unfounded.
  1. The charge of forgery was better known at the time than most know: there was a newspaper quarrel regarding the charge of the Sinaiticus and the Uranius forgeries between Tischendorf and Lepsius. A letter appeared in the "Guardian" claiming that the Sinaiticus find was forged by himself, Simonides in 1839.  Bradshaw immediately disputed the claim in the press, but Simonides did not back down.  (Note: an important fact which has caused some confusion:  Mt. Athos which produced several manuscripts for Tischendorf, has an abbey called St. Katherine, which is different than the abbey of St. Katherine at Sinai.  A curious historical point is that St. Gregory is noted as bringing some texts from Sinai to Mt. Athos in the 1200s.  However, most of the codices from Athos were found in the abbey of Laura, and not in St. Katherine.) 
  1. Simonides had no real reason to lie about the forgery because it ultimately hurt his reputation. He had the skills using old parchments to accurately produce hard-to-detect forgeries.
  1. Simonides died very soon after the allegation in 1867.

Now, a few words about the Codex Vaticanus.  Much has been said about Eusebius, the author of this text, putting horns on the head of Moshe, creating the name Lucifer from whole cloth, possibly creating the name Paul for the Apostle Sha’ul, and omitting notes from the gospel according to the Hebrews which he had taken.  Eusebius’s position in favor of only 39 books in the Old Testament (reiterating the position of the Jews from the Council of Jamnia) was specifically overruled by Pope Damasus in the early 5th Century, and the Catholic Bible has always held as its canon the Apocryphal books which are also found in the Authorized Version of the 1611 KJV and the 1560 Geneva Bible. 

In addition, Westcott & Hort used a doctrine called Lectio Brevia (shortest is best) to render their translation.  This doctrine (the same as is used in the Seder Olam, which renders a dramatically incorrect calendar) has long since been discredited, because Westcott & Hort made claims that the Stephanus Textus Receptus and other Byzantine texts were “conflated” to include language with which they had disagreement, and so, such language was stricken at the discretion of these two interpreters, and no one else.

In conclusion, we see that, for the Berean (the student who insists that the text is primarily Greek) the name is Iesus, not Jesus.  For those who are interested in the name as actually given, and not as translated into the Greek, the name is YAHUSHA (יהושע).

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