Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Most Precious Name of Jesus - Two More Aspects, or Three

1) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : How the name of Our Lord was transliterated into Greek., 2) Great Bishop of Geneva! : Where is Papist in Bible Code?, 3) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : The Most Precious Name of Jesus - Two More Aspects, or Three

I have previously established why Ieshua transliterates as Ιησους rather than as a theoretically barely possible but never met Ιησουας. In a second message where I found a reference to Zadoc in between God and Papist in a Bible Code based on King James, I discussed why Iesus and Iustus are two words that have the same first letter, the same first sound in Romance languages, including English (which became a bit French through the Norman invasion) but excluding Romanian (which has its form Isus from Church Slavonic). Two more aspects can be added to whether Ieshua is correctly transliterated as Jesus or not.

First is explaining the middle sound, I was first thinking of the Shin/Sin matter, but there is also the vowel, so the first aspect is two aspects. Second is whether Greek Antiquity saw other transmiterations, and if Ιησους, Iesus, was the one most probably used about Our Lord when first referred to in Greek and Latin.

As to the first, in Greek of older days, it seems η had the sound of a short E, rather than the sound of EE. That is also true about English for the days when EE got its spelling (which generally speaking for most words is from Chaucer's time, previous to the vowel shift, or, if word came into English use later, adapted to the spelling system of Chaucer's English reinterpreted after the Great Vowel Shift). That is the most probable explanation as to why Hebrew has E/AY, Latin has E/AY, but Greek has what now amounts to EE in this Holy Name. Church Slavonic and Romanian (Isus) follow the later Greek pronunciation.

As to the second, Greek and Latin are simply what one may term as "Sibbolet dialects". There are Indo-European languages now that have the sound of Shin, but in all cases it comes from other sounds. In certain Slavonic contexts it comes from Sin after certain other sounds. In French context it comes from Latin C (Kaph) : Cheval is pronounced Sher-Vull, and comes from Latin Caballus. In Northern and English, German contexts it comes from SK, precisely as in Italian from SC, either before slender vowels or in English and German generally. But the earliest written Indo-European languages in Europe, Greek and Latin, are without any Shin at all, they are Sibbolet dialects. People speaking them but not Hebrew would have been able to make the noice of SH, but not to recognise it as a letter in their own language.

Now, third. There are other transliterations of Ieshua than Ιησους or Iesus in Antiquity. One very casual one was Iason or Ιασων. It was also a Pagan name, that of the leader of the Argonauts. And in St Jerome's Vulgate the Sixth Book of the Old Testament is called Iosue. Herein he followed suit after one post-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament, written after Jewry rejected the LXX.

But in the LXX Joshua Ben Nun is given as Ιησους Ναυη. And since he was the great role model so to speak of Hebrews bearing that name, obviously the then only current Greek form of his name would have been the one used about Our Lord whenever Greek was being used. It is very probable that on the Cross the inscription written by Pilate had Ieshua in Hebrew letters, then ΙΗΣΟΥΣ in Greek and IESVS in Latin ones.

And these are the transliterations that the Church has kept, for Greek and for Latin. Now, a few days ago the Church celebrated St Gregory the Great. The English people got its Christianity from Rome, not from Constantinople, not from Antioch. And if French Christianity (as I mentioned the present forms in English are taken over from French, except for the vowel shift changing a written E from AY to EE) got its earliest Apostles from Greek speaking parts, when Greek went out of current use there and in Italy Latin came into use as new liturgic language for the West. It was understood on the one hand, it was still (up to Alcuin's reform) flexible in pronunciation, a bit like Greek Katharevousa, including texts from LXX and NT and Church Fathers and on, but being now pronounced like Dhimotiki, and it already had a tradition as a written language.

And of course, Christianity has a perfect right to retain its Ancient Roots rather than having them replaced by new transliterations or - in other matters - translations from Hebrew roots, especially as our access to the latter have come to pass via texts of the Synagogue and therefore via sources that lack and reject the Faith.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
II Sunday of Lent

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