Will the real Jesus please stand up? I repeat – will the real Jesus please stand up!
…we’re going to have a problem here.
1. The first person in Jewish history to be named Jesus was also the first “Jewish Messiah”, even though he never had that title. But his actions are what each subsequent Jewish Messiah was modelled on (like Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Judas of Galilee / Menahem son of Jair, and Simon Bar Kochba). He led the Jews to their promised land and helped establish the first Kingdom of Israel. He was the person Moses names as his successor – Jesus son of Fish.
Of course, in our modern English Bibles he is named “Joshua”, but this is a subtle sleight of hand of our modern Biblical translators. Moses actually names his successor “Yehoshua” which means “YHWH is salvation”. In Aramaic, this name was shortened to “Yeshua” from where we get the name “Joshua”. However, in the Greek version of the Torah (called the LXX) that was translated for the Greek king Ptolemy Philadelphus around 280 BCE, the name given to Hosea son of Nun (Nun is Fish in Aramaic) is Jesus. Yehoshua cannot be rendered in Greek since there is no “Y” or “J” sound in Koine Greek. Thus the first letter of his name – yod – was rendered as an iota (I) in Greek. The following vowel is rendered as an eta (H – long E), the shin rendered as sigma (S), and the ending ayin left as “ou” to keep the name masculine. Thus you end up with IHΣOY (Iesou) from where we get the name “Jesus”. So while it may read in our modern English Bibles that Moses names Hosea son of Nun “Joshua”, in 280 BCE for Greek speaking Jews (and Gentiles) Moses names Hosea son of Nun “Jesus”.
While our Bible translators authentically translate instances in the Tanakh of the Hebrew “Yehoshua” into English as “Joshua”, they still leave in other LXX (Greek) names in the Tanakh like “Genesis”, “Moses”, “Exodus”, “Psalms”, “Deuteronomy”, etc. All of those words are Greek in origin and were introduced in the LXX. On the flip side, they authentically translate “messiah” as “anointed” in our modern English versions of the Tanakh or Old Testament, yet leave the Greek version of the word “anointed” (christ) only in the New Testament. There are multiple people named or titled “christ” in the LXX. It is somewhat underhanded.
It might be a coincidence that Jesus is the son of Fish (Nun), and later Christians used the symbol of a fish for Jesus. One other hypothesis is that the abbreviation for “Jesus Christ” in Greek ([Ι]ησου [Χ]ριστου – ΙΧ) is also the first two letters for the Greek word for “fish” – ιχθυς ichthys.
In 2nd Temple Judaism there was a cult of veneration for Moses, but there was also a smaller cult of veneration for Jesus, his successor – and the first messiah.
2. Jesus is the first person named as High Priest for the rebuilt Temple upon the Jews’ return from exile (Zecharaiah 3-6). All High Priests are anointed with oil once taking office, so this “Jesus” was also a “Christ”; the Greek word for “anointed”. Again, in our English bibles, his name is rendered as “Joshua”. The earliest Christians, however, would have read this High Priests’ name as “Jesus” since they could only read Greek. The Greek speaking author of the anonymous letter to the Hebrews used Zecharaiah 3 as his inspiration.
3. Jesus son of Joiada had a brother named John who was High Priest during the reign of Artaxerxes II of Persia. John got in a fight with his brother Jesus and John subsequently kills Jesus in the temple. The fight might have been instigated because Artaxerxe’s general Bagoses had promised Jesus the high priesthood instead of John. Accordingly, Bagoses made use of this pretense, and punished the Jews seven years for the murder of Jesus (Antiquities of the Jews 11.7.1).
4. Jesus son of Sirach wrote an apocryphal Old Testament book that has been named “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach” and he lived around 180 BCE. His wisdom included mixing Greek Homer styled heroes with Old Testament theology. This Jesus was a wandering Jewish preacher who apparently was always close to getting killed due to his teachings.
5. Yesu ha-Notzri was a member of a Jewish sect called “Notzrim” around 100 BCE. He was charged with practicing sorcery and tried by the Sanhedrin. For 40 days a town crier was sent out into the streets of Jerusalem asking if anyone would come forth and speak in his defense. When no one came, he was executed; he was hanged on the eve of Passover. He apparently also had five disciples. How much of that is true or false, no one knows. It’s one of the many notes on Sanhedrin trials found in the Jewish Talmud. If this sounds eerily similar to the Jesus of Christianity, it should. “Yesu ha-Notzri” means “Jesus the Nazarene”. The Notzrim were apparently a Gnostic Jewish sect who flourished under the reign of Hasmonean queen Alexandra Helene Salome (139–67 BCE) among Hellenized supporters of Rome in Judea.
Around 100 CE, the Notzrim sect came to be the Hebrew designation for Christians (Nazarenes).
6. Jesus ben Pandira might have started or belonged to the Essenes (one of the “big three” Jewish sects in the first century besides the Pharisees and Sadducees). He was reported to have been a miracle worker and upset the Maccabean king (106-79 BCE) by continually preaching about the end times, and was eventually executed by being hanged from a tree – on the eve of Passover. Ben Pandira might be the Essene “Teacher of Righteousness”; the Essene suffering, benevolent teacher.
7. Jesus Barabbas, according to some manuscripts of the gospel of Matthew, was a violent insurrectionist who was about to be crucified when the Jews brought the Jesus of Christianity to Pilate in exchange for Barabbas. The name “Barabbas” is literally Aramaic for “son of the father” – so this Jesus is really Jesus son of the Father.
8. Jesus son of Ananias was a homeless preacher who preached solely about the end times starting around the year 62 CE. He caused a disturbance in the Temple while shouting continually “woe to Jerusalem” during the Passover feast. He was brought to the Procurator Albinus by the Jews who were worried that he was possessed by an evil spirit. This Jesus was whipped and punished in front of the procurator without saying a word other than “woe to Jerusalem” and said nothing else in his defense. Albinus, seeing that Jesus was innocent of any crime but simply out of his mind, released him.
Jesus continued to preach “woe to Jerusalem” in the streets of Judea for the next 8 years until, during the war between Judea and Rome, he was killed by a seige weapon.
9. Jesus son of Sapphias was a Jewish rebel during the first Jewish/Roman war (66 – 72 CE) who gathered a group of fishermen and poor people to mutiny against the Jewish general (and subsequent Jewish historian) Josephus. When one of Jesus’ entourage decided to betray him, he was arrested and his group of fishermen and poor people abandoned him.
10. Jesus son of Damneus had a brother named James who was illegally executed by the Sanhedrin. When the High Priest of this Sanhedrin was fired for this transgression, Jesus was subsequently given the High Priesthood.