You may not have come across the image above before, or the similar variants of it, but it pops up on social media groups every so often. The underlying argument is quite ridiculous, but there does seem to be a sub-culture with Christianity which promotes this as fact quite vigorously. Having seen this get shared at least three times on Facebook in the last month, I decided to add a new category to the blog: Apologetics.
In here will be articles for defence of the faith, though sadly this particular one needs to be against those who are already meant to be a part of the same faith! But many people seem to accept these memes as truth without any further research, so here’s my quick apologetic against Jesus being some pagan deity name for “Zeus”.
The whole argument hinges on the sound of the suffix “sus” being similar to “Zeus” and is apparently also the Latin word for the Greek god’s name, and the “Je” meaning “Hail”, therefore Jesus means “Hail-Zeus”. The whole 'argument' shows a total lack of even very basic knowledge in ancient languages which can be found from multiple sources online. See the image to the right for a breakdown of the Greek words for "hail" and "Zeus".
Another, similarly blasphemous argument, goes further to say that “Je-Sus” is a compound word, and that it means “Earth Pig” because in Latin, “sus” means “pig” or “swine” and the “Je-” means earth in Greek. Whilst the Latin part is technically correct the whole argument is wrong. For a start, “Earth” in Greek is γῆ (Ge) – there is no “J” letter, and the Greek letter gamma doesn't transliterate into a "J" either.
Secondly, “Jesus” isn’t a compound word (two separate words to make one single word). It comes from a single Greek word Ιησούς. And lastly, you can’t prefix a Latin word with ancient Greek word and say it has some sensible meaning! It’s two different languages which don’t mix like that!
But I digress. Back to the other “Hail Zeus” argument.
Claim 1: "PegaSUS means Horse of Zeus"
The first point is total nonsense, which doesn't bode well for the the rest. If you have to invent "facts" to prove your point, you've already lost the argument.
A quick internet search reveals the lies in this meme.
"The poet Hesiod presents a folk etymology of the name Pegasus as derived from πηγή pēgē "spring, well": "the pegai of Okeanos, where he was born."
A proposed etymology of the name is Luwian pihassas, meaning "lightning", and Pihassassi, a local Luwian-Hittite name in southern Cilicia of a weather god represented with thunder and lightning. The proponents of this etymology adduce Pegasus' role, reported as early as Hesiod, as bringer of thunderbolts to Zeus. It was first suggested in 1952 and remains widely accepted, but Robin Lane Fox (2009) has criticized it as implausible."
But let's keep going. If this meme is true, then some basic research should show it quite quickly.
Claim 2: "DionySUS means Wine of Zeus"
One thing is partially true: Dionysus' name does have a connection to Zeus. Except it's not as the image suggests.
"Behind the Name: Meaning, origin and history of the name Dionysos. From Greek Διος (Dios) meaning "of ZEUS" combined with NYSA, the name of the region where young Dionysos was said to have been raised"
The "DIOS-" part is the only aspect related to the name Zeus!
“The dio- element has been associated since antiquity with Zeus … The cult of Dionysus was closely associated with trees … the original meaning [is suggested] as "he who runs among the trees", or that of a "runner in the woods".”
Claim 3: "EpheSUS means Daughter of Zeus"
Ephesus seems to be harder to pin down on an exact etymology, as the name is potentially older than the Greek name.
One suggestion is that it is "Probably from ἐπήορος (epḗoros, “overseer”)" or that is has formed through the Latinised form of the Greek Ephesos which was “Greek city in ancient Asia Minor, center of worship for Artemis”
Another suggestion is this:
Some have suggested that the name Ephesus may have had something to do with the Latin word apis, meaning bee, but although the bee was a dominant symbol of Ephesus and appeared on many of its coins, this etymology is commonly rejected. More attractive, and now generally accepted among scholars, is the hypothesis that the name Ephesus formed from the Hittite name Apasa, which belonged to the capital of an ancient federation called Arzawa, located in western Anatolia.
The name Apasa and thus Ephesus would thus literally mean Later Place
So you see, there isn't even a REMOTE connection to Zeus in this one!
Which leads us to Jesus.
"JeSUS means what?"
Jesus, whose very name, when you know the truth of its etymology, will reveal that that it explains its meaning perfectly as praise to the MOST HIGH GOD (and not anything to do with Zeus).
Jesus: personal name of the Christian Savior, late 12c.; it is the Greek form of Joshua, used variously in translations of the Bible. From Late Latin Iesus (properly pronounced as three syllables), from Greek Iesous, which is an attempt to render into Greek the Aramaic proper name Jeshua (Hebrew Yeshua, Yoshua) "Jah is salvation." This was a common Jewish personal name during the Hellenizing period; it is the later form of Hebrew Yehoshua (see Joshua).
If all of that sounds confusing, then see this image below which will hopefully visualise the transition of language a little better:
To put it simply, “The name Jesus is the Greek transliteration of either the name יהושע (Joshua) or its shortened form (ישוע) Jeshua … The name Jesus means Yah Will Save. The name Joshua is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus, and most probably the name by which Jesus was known by His contemporaries.”
If you want to read further into the etymology of the English name “Jesus”, Carm has done a good article too, or for the more academically minded, there’s this 17 page linguistic Semitic essay by Avram Yehoshua, YAHSHUA, JESUS OR YESHUA? which goes into far more depth than I can cover here. Additionally, see the end of this article for all the various references on each point.
Hopefully this will help clear out the misinformation which gets thrown around the internet on social media, and be a good resource if you ever find yourself in a debate about this Jesus/Zeus nonsense.
- Greek “Ge”: http://biblehub.com/greek/1093.htm
- Latin “Sus”: http://latinlexicon.org/definition.php?p1=1015706