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Why is "Jesus" Not in English for a Thousand Years? Evil Conspiracy or Church Fathers Trying to Help their People Understand The Savior?

Someone sent me one of these ridiculous videos from some self-proclaimed "academic" proving that "Jesus" is a bastardization word meant to destroy his true name: Jeshua. I'm sure you've run across these recently yourself. We now live in the world where everything is a conspiracy, especially in Christianity (the shape of the earth, the number of books in the Bible, the name of the Savior, the color of Jews, the origin of the Jews, those evil Catholic Bishops trying to suppress the real Gnostic Jesus, blah blah blah).

At any rate, he makes a point that "Jesus" is not found in English until about 500 years ago (He was actually kind of right, but it goes back farther, to Old English, so another 300-500 years prior to that). He said this is a great conspiracy of the Catholic Church to suppress the truth. So I went looking for the origins of this and it is totally fascinating.

Here's the short of it. Essentially, Jesus comes from the OT name Joshua (Yehoshua), from two elements: God (Yah) Saves (Shuah). By the time of the exile, this had contracted, the theophoric (devine) element had become obscured and it became Yeshua. This, in turn, becomes Iēsous in Greek and then Iesus/Jesu in Latin (Remember your Indiana Jones?).

But the vast majority of all Old English texts do not render the name “Jesus” with the Greek (Iēsous) or Latin (Iesus/Jesu) equivalent, but with a loan-word that states its meaning: Hælend or “Savior.” This is much like we do with Messiah becoming Christos (“Anointed”). In this way, the name "Jesus" becomes Hælend, in order to help the people know what his name meant. It would be the equivalent of simply calling him "Savior," but this becomes the name.

Bede (672-735) and Ælfric of Eynsham (955-1010 AD), both Old English Fathers of the Church, helped the Christians in their days understand that you could see "Jesus" in the OT, because every time you read the word "savior" or "salvation," etc., you were seeing Jesus, since this is what his name literally means (Matt 1:21). Once Ælfric finally made this point very clear, suddenly, "Jesus" started being used for the name rather than the older loan word Hælend. So for example, in Psalm 24:5 (a Messianic Psalm about the Savior storming the Gates of Hell (see vv. 7-10), it reads in the Old English, “... god hælend min” (“God, my savior”). Because hælend is the word chosen in OE for “Jesus,” you can therefore render the translation from the Old English and the prior Gallican Latin as “My God, Jesus.”

Here's the article if you are deeply nerdy and want to read more.

Damian Fleming, “Jesus, that is hælend: Hebrew Names and the Vernacular Savior in Anglo-Saxon England,” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 112.1 (Jan 2023): 26-47.



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I'm a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, in-law, pastor, friend, fifth gen native Coloradan, published author, blogger, podcaster, radio host, CEO, mountain climber, biker, scholar, theologian, thinker, entrepreneur, amateur archeologist, conservative, lover of all things strange and supernatural, conspiracy theorist (yeah, that's not a bad thing), and ...

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