Disclaimer: Believers fighting over names and pronunciation, letting it divide us is something Paul warned against (2 Timothy 2:14). But that doesn’t mean that we should not be educated.
While English versions of the New Covenant refer to Yeshua by His Greek name, Iesous, which, when transliterated into English, becomes Jesus, His parents never called Him either of those names. Joseph, His stepfather, was given very specific instructions as to what His name was to be and why.”
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Miriam home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21).
The name Yeshua, in Hebrew actually has a meaning. Just about every Hebrew name has a meaning and the angel, was very specific about the name that the Son of God, the Messiah, should have: His name should be Yeshua. Pronounced slightly differently, putting the emphasis on the last syllable instead of the middle, Yeshua means salvation.
The angel told Joseph, “His name is to be ‘salvation’ because He will bring ‘salvation’ to His people.” It is impossible to pick up on this prophetic word play in the Greek or English versions.
And that of course was the mission of the Messiah, to bring salvation to His people and to be a light to the nations. Indeed, Simeon, the old prophet who had been told he would not die until he saw the Messiah, prophesied as much.
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)
His name was salvation because He would bring salvation.
Jesus vs. Joshua
The name Yeshua is really the same name as Joshua, which in Hebrew is pronounced Yehoshua. Over time, the pronunciation changed. In later books in the Hebrew Bible we find the Hebrew name Yeshua and it is translated in English as Joshua or in the KJV as Jeshua. Joshua means The Lord is Salvation or The Lord Saves. Now, as someone seeking to present the gospel in its original Jewish context to Jews, the name Joshua sounds a whole lot more Jewish than Jesus.
In the Greek both Joshua and Jesus are exactly the same, Iesous. But when referring to the Messiah, they translated Yeshua the Messiah’s name as Jesus. Why? They took the Greek word Iesous and transliterated it to English, Jesus. When Joshua is mentioned in the New Covenant, they do not translate his name as Jesus, even though in the Greek it is the same, but they use the Hebrew transliteration—Joshua—leaving us to think they are two different names. As a result, we lose the Jewish character of Jesus’ name. Joshua is seen as Jewish, and the Jewish Messiah appears as something other.
Yeshua or Yehoshua?
Now, some have claimed that his name was never Yeshua, but Yehoshua all the time. Indeed, the original name was Yehoshua. However we see that it was shortened to Yeshua in the later books of the Hebrew Bible. The name for the high priest to which Zechariah refers, is spelled Yeshoshua in Zechariah, but the same high priest is referred to as Yeshua in Ezra and Nehemiah. (See Nehemiah 7:7 and Ezra 2:2 for examples).
So it appears that the name changed over time from Yehoshua to Yeshua. Yehoshua appears over 200 times and Yeshua appears 29 times in the Hebrew bible. But here is the real proof that the named changed in pronunciation and spelling. Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ successor is referred in Nehemiah, no as Yehoshua son of Nun יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֗וּן but as Yeshua son of Nun יֵשׁ֨וּעַ בִּן־נ֥וּן. By the time Yeshua was born, it is probable that Yeshua had replaced Yehoshua completely. But the meaning remained, Yahweh is salvation/Yahweh saves.
Just a quick closing comment. My goal is not to get everyone in the world to refer to the Messiah by His Hebrew name. For someone who has been communing with Jesus for years and loves that name, it would be the height of arrogance for one to expect them to stop using the Greek/English version. I am confident that Yeshua receives all praise from pure hearted believers in whatever language in which they worship him.