It’s popular today to dispute the name of Jesus as being the correct name to use for our Lord and Saviour. The argument against the name of Jesus is mainly twofold: “J” is a modern English letter and Jesus would have had a Hebrew name. However true these statements might be, neither argument is valid.
The Letter “J”
The New Testament was written in Greek and everyone who penned New Testament scriptures wrote Jesus’ name as Ἰησοῦς (transliterated as Iēsous and pronounced ee-ay-sooce’). Ἰησοῦς is translated into English, German and Portuguese as Jesus. In Spanish it’s Jesús; in Italian, Gesù; in French, Jésus; in Latin, Iesus; and so on. The “I” of Ἰησοῦς equates to the English, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Frech “J” and the Italian “G”. If you check other languages here, you’ll find that all other European languages use a variant spelling of Jesus.
When it comes to pronunciation, not only does every language spell the name slightly differently, but also every language pronounces the name differently, just as we spell and pronounce other words, which are clearly from the same root, differently. In the case of Jesus’ name, the “J” in English and the “G” in Italian both have a hard sound, whereas the German, Spanish and Latin versions have a soft sound, whether a “J” or an “I”. In French and Portuguese, however, the sound is somewhere in between hard and soft.
To argue that “J” is a modern letter and, therefore, incorrect is an argument without basis since we’re dealing with a transliteration of Ἰησοῦς. Further, both letters and pronunciation have changed over time. For example, the original 1611 King James Bible writes Jesus as “Iesus” and Judah as “Iudah”. Thus, the name Jesus with its hard “J” is simply the modern English version of Ἰησοῦς.
The Greek Name: Ἰησοῦς
More foundationally, if Jesus’ Hebrew name was the only way to write and pronounce his name then why did Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James and Jude write his name as Ἰησοῦς? All of these men wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and they all clearly set a precedent for transliterating Jesus’ Hebrew name into another language. And not only did all of these men use the name Ἰησοῦς, both Paul and Luke, who wrote Acts, stress the importance of this name.
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus [Ἰησοῦς] every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;” (Philippians 2:9-10)
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus [Ἰησοῦς] Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
Given that the name of our Lord and Saviour is so important, we must trust that Ἰησοῦς is absolutely correct when written in Greek. And given the precedent set by the authors of the New Testament, there is clearly room for variations of spelling and pronunciation. Indeed, for anyone who wishes to hearken back to another language in order to be “more authentic”, one could make a far stronger argument for using the name Ἰησοῦς than for any of the proposed variations of Jesus’ Hebrew name since none of the New Testament authors recorded Jesus’ name in Hebrew.