Below Is the Permission to Publish This Essay
I am attaching a short article on the Jesus=Zeus myth. I happen to be Greek and the whole idea sounds strange because, as I try to point out, there is no relation between the two names in the Greek language, only in English. Feel free to publish it on your website if you want, I leave it up to you.
The Jesus Zeus Myth
One of the common accusations against the name Jesus in the Sacred Name movement is that the Greek form Ιησους, from which the English “Jesus” ultimately derives, is a Greek corruption that aims to invoke Zeus. The main argument in support of this assertion is the similarity in sound between the last syllable of the English form “Je-sus” and the sound of the name Zeus. The theory is propounded in a number of Sacred Name publications including the dictionary at the end of The Scriptures, a “restored” version of the Bible published by the so-called Institute for Scripture Research, and Lew White’s “best-seller” Fossilized Customs.
I quote from Fossilized Customs p. 18 where Lew White, in apparent approval, quotes from a book called Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend by J. C. J. Metford:
“It is known that the Greek name endings of sus, seus, and sous, (which are phonetic pronunciations for Zeus) were attached by the Greeks to names and geographical areas as a means to give honor to their supreme deity, Zeus. Examples are Parnassus , a sacred mountain in Greece; the Greek deity of wine and son of Zeus, Dionysus; the Greek hero of the Trojan War was Odysseus… There are plenty of other Greek words that end with ‘sus, like the city of Tarsus (meaning ‘sweat of Zeus’), and Pegasus.”
The above quote also appears in the book The Scriptures, a “restored” version of the Bible published by the so-called Institute for Scripture Research.
Nobody can know for sure how ancient Greek was pronounced because we do not have any ancient Greek recordings. There is some debate on ancient Greek pronunciation. For me, the best work I have come across is Chrys Caragounis study available online: https://www.apostolicbible.com/un-greek.pdf
Based on that and on the evidence of modern Greek pronunciation (modern Greek is the closest relative to Biblical Greek), let us see how the name Zeus was mostly likely pronounced. In English Zeus is pronounced as "züs" because the -eu takes the sound of a -u or the sound of the -oo as in "zoo".
In Greek, however, the name Zeus is written Ζευς and is pronounced as “Zefs” (with a strong e and a strong f sound) as follows:
Ζ sounds like the -z in Zebra
ε sounds like the -e in there
υ sounds like the -f in fly
ς sounds like the -s in sauce
Now, I can hear you thinking, how in the world could the letter “u” sound like an “f”. It is very simple. In Greek when the letter “u” follows the letter “e” or the letter “a” it sounds either as an “f” or as a “v” (unless two dots are placed over it like this: ϋ). This eu or au combination is called a diphthong and is a well-known rule of pronunciation in the Greek language and attested from very early times.
Furthermore, while the letter –s in English can sound almost like a –z as is the case with the first –s in the word Jesus, in Greek the –s always has a soft pronunciation clearly distinguishable from the –z sound.
If you put the above two pieces of info together it becomes evident that in the Greek language Ζευς and Ιησους do not sound alike!
Ζευς has a strong –z sound; a strong –e sound; and a clear –f sound; all of which are lacking in Ιησους.
Ιησους has a soft –s sound; and a –u sound (ou in Greek corresponds to the English -u and is pronounced like the –oo in zoo); both of which are lacking in Ζευς.
In fact, the only similarity of sound between the two words in Greek is the final –s sound, which happens to be the most common ending in the Greek language!
Greek Names and English Renderings
A word about the final –s and the quotation I gave above from the book Fossilized Customs. Is it true that the Greeks added a sus, seus or sous ending to names to make them sound like Zeus? The answer is a clear NO.
First, some of the names cited like Parnassus and Tarsus are not even Greek. Place names and words in Greek ending in –ssus like Parnassus, are pre-Greek, i.e. they were in use before the Greeks arrived and before Zeus came to the scene!
Second, Parnassus, Tarsus, Pegasus, and other words cited as examples of Zeus-like endings, in Greek do not end in –sus, –seus or –sous.
Parnassus in Greek is spelled and pronounced as Parnassos (παρνασσος).
Tarsus is spelled and pronounced as Tharsos (θαρσος).
Pegasus is spelled and pronounced as Pegasos (πηγασος).
It is evident that these names bear no relation to Zeus.
It is worth noting that the letter –s is simply the most common ending not only of masculine names but also of masculine nouns, adjectives and even pronouns. Its purpose was not to remind people of Zeus but simply to facilitate declension.
The Witness of Ancient Manuscripts
Thousands of Greek manuscripts of the NT have been found in the last 170 years that include the name Ιησους (abbreviated as ΙΣ/IC). Not one has been found with the name Yeshuah or any of its variations. Sacred Namers maintain that these are corrupt. All of them?
Unfortunately for them, other manuscripts outside the NT also contain Ιησους. The Septuagint is the most important. Usually abbreviated as LXX, is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, that was made by Jewish scholars sometime in the 3rd (parts perhaps in the 2nd) century BC. The name Septuagint means 70 because according to tradition, there were 72 Jewish scholars.
How does the Septuagint render Joshua’s name (and other characters with the same name) in Greek? Ιησους. Not once or twice, but more than 200 times! And this is true not only of the Septuagint, but also of many extra-biblical writings. Were these Jewish scholars and the extra-biblical writers part of the supposed conspiracy to profane the name?
How about the other Hebrew names like Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many more? None of them end in the letter -s in Hebrew, not even Moses. Yet in Greek they all end is -s: Μωυσης, Ηλιας, Ιερεμιας, Ησαΐας. Was there a conspiracy to profane these names as well?
Even names that do not end in -s in Hebrew, neither in ancient Greek, in modern Greek sometimes do! For example, Adam and Elisha appear in the Greek Biblical text as Αδαμ and Ελισαι (no final -s). But in modern Greek they can appear as Αδαμος and Ελισαιος. Are the modern Greeks also trying to invoke Zeus? Even though the name Zeus is no longer used in modern Greek?
We have seen above that in the Greek language there is minimal similarity in sound or spelling between Zeus and Jesus. We have seen that the final -s in Greek words was not an invocation of Zeus but a common ending of masculine words. We have seen that the name Ιησους is not a Christian invention but appears in the Greek OT translated by Jewish scholars, and also in non-Biblical Jewish writings. And we have seen that even names that in ancient Greek didn’t take a final -s, sometimes do in modern Greek. Not to invoke Zeus but because it facilitates declension.
The question therefore that arises is this: if there is no similarity between Zeus and Jesus, why does J. Metford, Lew White, the Institute for Scripture Research and many Sacred Name teachers make this association? Why does this myth persist among Sacred Name groups?
There are two options. Either these people know that the association is not valid but prefer to use it since it suits their purposes; or, they do not know much about the Greek language. I would like to think that these people are honest enough not to lie. Which leaves only the second option – namely that they do not know much about the Greek language.
This ignorance is not excusable. To say that the name Jesus is related to Zeus is a serious accusation. Would anyone accuse his neighbour of stealing one million dollars if he did not have some hard evidence to back the accusation? Of course not. How then can anyone make such claims about the name of the Saviour without substantial corroborating evidence?
I invite the good people involved in the Sacred Name movement to review their erroneous accusations. Ultimately, it is not only their record that they tarnish; they also shoulder responsibility for the poor souls they carry to deception.