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Jesus:

I thought I'd repost a question I asked four years ago, before we had comments: Why is Jesus a common name in Spanish-language cultures, but to my knowledge no other European-language cultures? (I don't know about Portuguese-language cultures; perhaps they're like the Spanish-language.)

It can't just be Christianity, or even Catholicism: I've never heard of Frenchmen, Italians, Poles, or Irishmen with that name. There's nothing theologically wrong with either approach, I'm sure -- but why is it that one huge part of Christendom embraces the name Jesus for its sons, while another rejects it almost entirely?

Eduardo S:
Aren't Yeshwa / Joshua / Jesus the same name? (I'm asking in earnest. I think they are, but am not sure).

If they are, then isn't your question the same as "Why is it that only Spanish-language cultures name kids Pedro (Peter), and only Russian-speaking ones Ivan (John, Juan)?"
8.22.2006 6:39pm
Oris (mail) (www):
This is a wild guess here, but could the naming convention be a result of the Moorish influence on Spanish culture? Muslim men are frequently named some variant of Mohammed or Allah.
8.22.2006 6:42pm
jallgor (mail):
Since there is both a Joshua and a Jesus in the bible I assume they are not the same name.
8.22.2006 6:46pm
Oris (mail) (www):
I think you are correct, Eduardo S., in that they are variants on the same name, but the question is distinct from your examples in that (I believe) the Spanish name for the Son of God is Jesus. So Spanish speakers commonly name their sons the very same name as He to Whom they offer their prayers, while it is almost unheard of to do the same in English speaking countries.
8.22.2006 6:46pm
AV:
The same reason many Muslims name their children Mohammed perhaps? In the Spanish-influenced cultures, it's also common to name the children after saints, especially Jose (Joseph) and Maria (Mary). It's pretty common to come across children named Maria or Jose plus a second name, like Maria Victoria, Maria Cecilia, Maria Teresa, Jose Mario, Jose Leandro, etc.

I also remember there being calendars with the name of saints on each day, so that kids end up being named after those saints depending on their birthday.

My guess? Superstition. Naming a child after a saint, especially the big guns like Jesus, Mary or Joseph, might somehow confer some good luck or maybe even saintly qualities on the kid. Can't hurt. :)
8.22.2006 6:48pm
diana (mail):
I believe that the use of Jesus as a personal name became common in the colonies, but was not in use in pre-Columbian Spain, where the tradition of naming after saints prevailed. The usage would, therefore, be linked to the conversion of large numbers of AmerIndians. Once started, of course, it was a traditino and traditions have a way of continuing.
8.22.2006 6:49pm
Derek:
It's simply a single example of the widespread naming practice in Hispanic culture related to religious terminology. It's not limited to Jesus. Maria and Angel, for ezxample, are both very common names for either gender. Other names which may sound unusual include Milagro, Dolores, Asuncion, Concepcion, etc.

I think the right question is, why do non-Hispanic European cultures have a general taboo on naming children Jesus?
8.22.2006 6:49pm
AV:
Eduardo S.,

Joshua was a prophet in the Old Testament. Totally different guy.
8.22.2006 6:50pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
AV: The question isn't just why Spanish speakers use the name, but why others don't.

Derek: To my knowledge, in most Christian countries the names of saints, and the name Mary, are very common; in that respect there's no difference between them and Spain. The one area of difference is the name Jesus.
8.22.2006 6:54pm
neil k. (mail):
Is it all Hispanics, though? From what I understand it is a common name in Mexico, which would lead to it looking like a common Hispanic name in the U.S.. This Wikipedia article on popular given names only has statistics for Spain, Chile and Brazil, where Jésus is not in the top ten.

Mexico also has fairly restrictive laws about what you can name children, as I recall reading. As in, I think the name has to be on a list.
8.22.2006 7:05pm
PabloF:
For what it's worth, from the "given name" entry in Wikipedia:

In many cultures, given names are reused, especially to commemorate the dead (namesake), resulting in a virtually limited repertoire of names that sometimes vary by orthography. And those namesakes, in turn, were often named after biblical characters, except for the name Jesus, which is almost always considered taboo or sacrilegious when used as a given name in Germanic-speaking regions or in Poland. In the Spanish-speaking world, however, Jesús is a very popular name, without any negative implications.

On the other hand, Mary is almost universally popular among Christians, especially among Roman Catholics. This name, however, in most of the Christian world was considered too holy for ordinary people until about the 12th century, and in traditions of particular veneration of Mary (e.g. in Poland, where both Marian and Marianna, forms of Mary, were used instead of Maria) even until the 19th century (in Poland, until the 17th century, with the arrival of queens of France named Marie[10]).
8.22.2006 7:12pm
Steven Joyce (mail):
Eduardo S. is correct, Jesus and Joshua are two different English spellings of the same Hebrew name.

The difference between "Joshua" and "Jesus" in English stems from the fact that the latter comes from filtering the translation through Greek, while the former is the direct translation from Hebrew.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. In the Hebrew parts, Joshua's name is spelled as "Yeshua" or "Yehoshua." After the conquests of Alexander the Great and prior to the birth of Jesus, the Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek, and Joshua's name was spelled as "Iasous." The New Testament was written in Greek, and "Iasous" is ths spelling used for the names of both the new Jesus and the old Joshua. (The latter is mentioned only twice in the New Testament, Acts 7:45 and Heb 4:8.)

Of course, none of this answers the question of why English-speakers don't name their children using the English version of the name of Our Lord.
8.22.2006 7:20pm
neil k.:
To follow up.. Jésus is the 60th-most common name in Chile (0.17%), and the 129th-most common name in the U.S. (0.155%). I can't find statistics for Mexico, unfortunately, although one site I found put Jésus on a list on the 42 most popular boys' names. The name is not popular in France although it did have something of a surge in popularity in the '60s and '70s.

The statistics for Spain are in a 1.5MB Excel spreadsheet here. This would take me about 45 minutes to download so I'll let someone else take a crack.
8.22.2006 7:24pm
Peter B. Nordberg (mail) (www):
AV's first comment poses the tangential issue whether Jesus is a saint. As an incarnated divinity, he might not qualify, though in his human aspect, he might arguably meet the technical definition. The formal doctrinal answer can be left to theologians, I suppose. But I don't think it's customary to reckon Jesus as one of the saints.
8.22.2006 7:30pm
jota:
Not to hijack the threat further on this tangent, but Yeshua is the ancient hebrew for Jesus and Yehoshua is the ancient hebrew for joshua. I don't think the greek translation is entirely relevant in deciding what's what here, as we are referrign to ancient hebrew names of biblical individuals who, if they existed, didn't speak greek.
8.22.2006 7:31pm
Guiri Abogado (mail):
AV, a clarification on the naming of children and the calendar of saints.

It's not that the birthdate of a child determines a name from the calendar of Saints. Instead, at least in Spain (and I would be surprised to find it different in other hispanic cultures), the NAME determines a child's "Santo." So, someone named Maria del Pilar (Pilar), like my girlfriend, her mother and both grandmothers, celebrate on the day that their Saint is celebrated according to the calendar you mentioned (12th of October for Maria del Pilar). People give the person gifts on their "santo", sometimes even moreso than they do for a birthday. Those days that correspond to Saints with common names (Carmen, Pilar, Antonio, Jose, et cetera) are fun to see with so many people celebrating. Of course, to be equitable, my girlfriend made up a date for mi Santo, San Dillon!
8.22.2006 7:55pm
ys:
Who said Anglos are not named Jesus? How abouts James Jesus Angleton (ok, there is a catch there).

And Muslims have no problem with being named Jesus - Issa does fine (along with Daoud, Suleiman, Yusuf, etc.)

As to Yeshua and Yehoshua, you can find research equating those two Hebrew names based on the development of Hebrew in B.C (B.Y :-) times (e.g., http://www.direct.ca/trinity/yehoshua.html)
8.22.2006 7:59pm
PooHPoohBear:
To my knowledge, the Portuguese rarely use Jesus as a first name. However it is not unusual to use it as the second name for women. It is more common to find women named Mary (Maria) and not uncommon among older Portuguese women to find many named "Maria Jesus" or in men Jose (Joseph) Maria/ Mario (Mary). In some families I've met all the daughters first name were Maria and they all were called by their second name. My mother, her sister, and my sister in law are all named Maria. My mom wes Helen, my aunt Tina, my sister in law Lourdes.
One female Arab name is also used in Portugal, Fatima, the holy Catholic site where Mary appeared,presumably named in Moorish times.
8.22.2006 8:07pm
PooHPoohBear:
One passing comment about the name Jesus and the book Freakonomics. If I remember correctly, the name Jesus was most frequently corrolated to the lowest education level for mothers in California. I'm sure demographics has a lot to do with it.
8.22.2006 8:09pm
Steven Joyce (mail):
jota:

You're right that this is just a silly tangent, but the distinction you're drawing (Yeshua==Jesus while Yehoshua==Joshua) isn't fully accurate. While the really old parts of the Old Testament use Yehoshua fairly consistently, the post-Babylonian exile parts use Yehoshua and Yeshua interchangeably. Combined with the evidence from the Greek translations, this suggests that Jesus's name was viewed by his contemporaries as being the same as the name of the Old Testament hero.
8.22.2006 8:10pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Even more curious, to me, is the habit in France of naming boys Marie. Voltaire, of all people, was a Marie.

I have occasionally encountered German, usually Austrian, men named Maria, but it doesn't seem quite a common as boy Maries in France.
8.22.2006 8:14pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
On two of the tangential points:

I believe that the same prophet whose name is translated as "Elijah" in the Old Testament has his name translated as "Elias" in the New Testament. The example that comes to mind is the occasion when Jesus, on the cross, cries out "Eli, eli, lama sabactani" (please excuse any mis-spellings) and the disciples, or perhaps some other onlookers think that he's imploring Elias.

There was a great conductor named Carlo Maria Giulini, who died about a year ago, so "Maria" is also sometimes a name given to Italian men. And while I'm talking about classical music, I'll note that Constanze Mozart's cousin, a notable composer in his own right, was Carl Maria von Weber.
8.22.2006 8:26pm
Tom Anger (mail) (www):
Aren't Marie and Maria normally used as middle names in France (Jean-Marie) and Austria (Karl Maria)? By the same token, I believe it's not uncommon for French women to bear a middle name typically thought of as male (e.g., Marie-Pierre).
8.22.2006 8:28pm
Sj (mail):

... except for the name Jesus, which is almost always considered taboo or sacrilegious when used as a given name in Germanic-speaking regions or in Poland. In the Spanish-speaking world, however, Jesús is a very popular name, without any negative implications.

So, why is a given name of Jesus taboo in Germanic speaking regions, and not in Spanish speaking regions?
8.22.2006 8:43pm
ys:
Jesus, on the cross, cries out "Eli, eli, lama sabactani" (please excuse any mis-spellings) and the disciples, or perhaps some other onlookers think that he's imploring Elias.

This just means "My god, ..." of course to neatly match with the original Eliyahu, part of which "eli" is.

There was a great conductor named Carlo Maria Giulini, who died about a year ago, so "Maria" is also sometimes a name given to Italian men. And while I'm talking about classical music, I'll note that Constanze Mozart's cousin, a notable composer in his own right, was Carl Maria von Weber.

Let us not forget Rainer Maria Rilke (yes, from the Austrian Empire) whose full name, however, was René Karl Wilhelm Johann Joseph Maria Rilke
8.22.2006 8:50pm
Dave (in NYC):
The statistics for Spain are in a 1.5MB Excel spreadsheet here. This would take me about 45 minutes to download so I'll let someone else take a crack.

Jesus is 32nd, just ahead, ironically, of Angel. Mohamed, by the way, is at 75. Andalucía is the only region where Jesus cracks the top 10.
8.22.2006 8:55pm
ys:
So, why is a given name of Jesus taboo in Germanic speaking regions, and not in Spanish speaking regions?

Could it be related to the Society of Jesus being founded by Spaniards? Just a wild guess.
8.22.2006 8:58pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. In the Hebrew parts, Joshua's name is spelled as "Yeshua" or "Yehoshua." After the conquests of Alexander the Great and prior to the birth of Jesus, the Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek, and Joshua's name was spelled as "Iasous." The New Testament was written in Greek, and "Iasous" is ths spelling used for the names of both the new Jesus and the old Joshua.

My late father in law pointed out a similar occurence in the classics. The Romans for some reason had trouble pronouncing the name of the Greek hero Odeseyus (or however it's anglicized) and so christened him Ulixes, which came into English as Ulysses.
We did the same with Chris Columbus, whose Italian surname was Colombo (and who went in Spain as Colon, the custom then being to change your surname into a close equivalent surname in your new country, or to Latinize it. Just as well we abandoned it, as otherwise I suppose this would be the Victor Conspiracy, which lacks a certain ring).
8.22.2006 8:59pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
The spreadsheet says 'Jesus' is #32 in Spain. It also gives the top ten from each province; only in Andalucia does 'Jesus' appear amongst the top 10 (which is somewhat consistent with the premise that the frequency of the name is related to Arabic influences).

Interestingly, in both Ceuta and Melilla, 'Mohammed' is the #1 name for boys.
8.22.2006 8:59pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
Hah! Four minutes too late, it seems. :)
8.22.2006 9:02pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
Also, the Spanish who settled in Latin America were disproportionately drawn from Andalucia and Extremadura; that may account for the relative frequency of the name in the Americas.
8.22.2006 9:03pm
Eduardo S:
I accept Oris's correction: the question isn't about Jesus vs Joshua, it's about using the same name (spelling, pronunciation) as that of the New Testament fellow in the parents' language.

diana seems to have hit on the answer: tradition? Or perhaps (my take on it): the taboo has been lifted, so there is no big reason not to use the name? In Spanish I know several people named Jesus (heh-SOOS). But in English I know nobody named Jesus (GEE-zhus) and would be surprised to meet one. The taboo is in place.

Hypothesis: Indigenous American peoples were bombarded by Spanish missionaries, and kept hearing the name "Jesus". This could have resulted in the naming boom that diana mentioned. Eventually Spanish and Mesoamerican cultures merged, the Spanish side got used to the name Jesus, and it became commonplace. I can think of few ways to argue for/against this; any suggestions?
8.22.2006 9:12pm
Peter Wimsey:
I find the name "Conception" stranger than Jesus, actually.

Re: saints days - it's true that the saint is determined by the name given to the child, but it is fairly common for a child to be named after the saint whose day is the birthday. This occasionally leads to problems for law enforcement wrt mistaken identity, since many people with the same name will also have the same birthday, and it can be difficult to convince a police officer that you are the wrong Jose Maria Sanchez (or whatever) with the same birthday as the wanted Jose Maria Sanchez.

I think that name days were once more common in catholic Europe - celebrating your saint's name day in addition to your birthday used to be common in catholic parts of Germany, and I don't think it has *completely* died out.
8.22.2006 9:25pm
Dave (in NYC):
For what it's worth, Muslim traditions don't seem to account for this.

First, the analogy is inapt. Muslims do not consider Muhammad divine, so naming a child after him is little different than naming a child after other prominent Muslim prophets and historical figures, such as 'Isa (Jesus), Maryam (Mary), Musa (Moses), Yahya (John), Yusuf (Joseph) or Ibrahim (Abraham). There would be no taboo such as might exist between naming a child after a saint or a prophet and naming the child after Jesus Himself.

Second, assuming it was the case that Christians subject to Muslim influence simply adopted an imperfect analogy, you would expect to see it in other places where Christian populations were under Muslim influence. But Jesus, or variants thereof, does not appear to be a common name among Greeks, Croats, Serbs or Bulgarians. Despite being not uncommon among Muslim Arabs, Isa (or Issa) does not appear to be all that common among Maronites and other Christian communities in Lebanon, but all I have to go on are various parliament lists and Lebanese Army promotion lists and the like, so maybe if someone knows better? Same for Copts, though I have fewer resources to go on, but I can't recall ever hearing of a Copt named Isa.

My inclination is more toward Eduardo S.'s hypothesis. I suppose Central and South American Indians might also have had naming conventions that allowed for naming children after their gods, so when they converted, they did not adopt the taboo, and it spread throughout Spanish America and then back to Spain.
8.22.2006 9:26pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I don't see the taboo against naming a boy "Jesus" having really been lifted for most Protestants. Also, while still common, the name "Mary" does not appear nearly as prevelant.

To be somewhat religionist (like sexist, racist, etc.), it used to be that you could usually distinguish a Protestant Mary and a Catholic Mary because the later invariably used a middle name. I have been told that this was because of all the other Mary's in their Catholic school. It seems like this continued for awhile after most Catholics started attending public school - but the Mary's I know of in K-12 are usually Catholic, and only go by their first name. So, times do change, as do fashions, esp. as to names.

Finally, the reason that I suspect that Jesus might be used some in Moslem cultures is that he is considered a major figure in the Koran. Not as a savior, etc., but as a prophet, and, thus, no different than other major Judeo-Christain figures figuring promiently in their scriptures.
8.22.2006 9:34pm
Harvey Mosley (mail):
I know quite a jew guys names Jesus, all of them either from families from Mexico, or from Mexico themselves, and they all consider Jesse a legitimate variation. I know a lot of people named Jesse (or Jessie or Jessica) that aren't Hispanic. Aren't these people named after Jesus? Or am I missing something?
8.22.2006 9:50pm
Freddy Hill (mail):
I'm not sure that I can buy either of the two dominant hypothesis brought forward: That it originated in Latin America (it does not explain why it is so popular in Spain - other names that are common in Latin America have not made the trip back to Spain) or that it is the equivalent of the Muslim Muhammad (Calling a boy Jesus is calling him God. Calling a boy Muhammad is definitely not in the same league).

I would say that the reason for the stigma attached to the name of Jesus in most Judeo-Christian cultures derives from the commandment: "You shall not take the name of God in vain". The taboo is strong in Judaism, where the name can't even be written (G-d). In English, using "God!" as an exclamation is frowned upon, and the silly "Gosh!" is often substituted. Spanish is a lot less uptight about this. Exclamations such as "Dios mío", "Jesús", etc are common and not considered irreverent.

Another relatively common name in Spanish is Salvador (also in Italy - Salvatore). I have heard that Jesus is ethymologically "Savior". Even if not true, in Christianity only Jesus is the Savior, so the two names are equivalent.


Spanish speakers are certainly shocked by the tabu attached to the name in other cultures, America in particular. People named Jesús must find a nickname when they come the the US. Most of them choose "Jesse", which explains why that name seems so common among middle-aged Mexicans living among us.
8.22.2006 10:04pm
John H. Costello (mail) (www):
Just some commentary on the posts:

Saints Days were and, to a great extent, still are common among Orthodox Russians. Aleksander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn's father's name led to him being thought to be Jewish because he was born on a day when "Isaiah" -- normally restricted to Jewish boys -- was expected for the child.
"Jesus" in Spanish is pronounced "Hey-soos." The old TV show "Rawhide" had a character whose name was always written in the credits as "Hey-soos," presumably to avoid both confusion and giving offense to some viewers. This was back in 1959.
Another German 'Maria,' "Klaus-Maria Brandauer.
8.22.2006 10:23pm
Sealion II (mail):
My gut feeling is that it has to do with a key difference between the Bible as translated into Spanish and the Bible in other languages. In the Spanish Bible (I'm thinking of the translation by Cipriano de Valera in particular, which I believe is one of the most widely used) "Jesus" almost always appears as "Jesucristo"; this isn't the case in Portuguese or Italian, for example (or English, obviously). (I didn't check any other languages, but that would be useful to support or contradict the theory.) So, "Jesus" is NOT the name of the Son of God, or, at least, not the name anyone uses; Jesus the Son of God is always "Jesucristo", which means the impact of "Jesus" as an inappropriate name for an ordinary man is much lessened.
8.22.2006 10:44pm
Dan Collins (mail):
What do you mean uncommon among the Irish?

Surely you've heard of Jesus O'Nazareth.
8.22.2006 10:46pm
Cisco (mail) (www):
In my experience (Brazilian citizen here), "Jesus" is a very rare first name, but it's a little bit more common as a middle name and a little bit more common still as a last name ("Maria de Jesus", "José de Jesus", etc.).
8.22.2006 10:51pm
jdmurray:
Dave and Robert, take another look at the spreadsheet. Jesus is number 28. The first four lines are headers and don't contain names.

I know - picky, picky, picky.
8.22.2006 11:01pm
Guiri Abogado (mail):
Sealion II,

At the same time, after sneezing, those in proximity say "Jesus". I strongly suspect that this "bless you" refers to Jesus Christ, not to any other person named Jesus. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. If that is the case, it suggests that Jesus can (often) refer to Jesus Christ. I can't remember, however, what is used in sunday mass, so, who knows.
8.22.2006 11:33pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Correct me if I am wrong but are there no vowels in Hebrew. Therefore, Joshua and Jesus are spelled similarly in Hebrew without the vowels. Furthermore, it was always my understanding that Joshua and Jesus mean the same thing: "God Saves" or "Savior." Moreover, I don't think it was by accident that Joshua was chosen to lead the Children of Israel into Canaan, the promised land, just like Jesus will lead his followers/believers into the heavenly promised land at the end of time (on this earth). Thus, Joshua was an early model (for lack of a better descriptive term) of Jesus, which may be why they also shared similar names.

By the way, it is my understanding that Elijah means "My God is Jehovah." Therefore, a previous poster was correct in stating that Eli means "my God." Thus, the "jah" syllable of Elijah is similar to YWH which is similar to the first syllable of both Joshua and Jesus, which again means "God saves."

As for why Jesus is a common name in Spanish, I've often pondered this question when my mind wandered during church service (quite often) as I am a latino. However, naming children after one's "god" is not really that unusual. After all, in Middle Eastern cultures a child's name quite often incorporated a god's name. For instance, "Elijah" which means "My God is Jehovah." Also, in Babylonia, Bel was a god whom the infamous Bel-shazzar was named after. Even Daniel's Babylonian name was Bel-tashazzar. Marduk was another Babylonian god and so Belshazzar's father's name was Evil-Merodach, which is a derivative of Marduk. I won't take the time to pull my Bible out but I believe Ammonite, Moabite, and Syrian kings' names incorporated the name of their respective gods.

Now that I think about it, even indigenous cultures in South America named children after gods. For instance, although I earlier stated that I was latino, I am actually an Inca. Therefore, I note that Viracocha was not only the chief god in Andean cultures but also the name of the eighth lord of Cuzco and father of the first Incan emperor, Pachecuti.
8.23.2006 12:07am
Hubba Dubba (mail):
Jesus is forgiveness. Hispanics were colonized, so they are very forgiving. Europeans were not colonized, so they have nothing to forgive.
8.23.2006 1:14am
PaulV (mail):
"Jesus" is too often used in vain. People do not name their children because it is used as a cuss word.
8.23.2006 1:14am
Brent:
Christo/Hristo/Hrist/etc is, incidentally, a fairly common name among Southeastern Europeans.
8.23.2006 2:25am
Scott W. Somerville (mail) (www):
I suspect the weight of tradition pushes the name forward in cultures where "Jesus" is an acceptable name (naming a child for a father or grandfather is one of the most powerful motivators), and the taboo against "taking the name of the Lord your God in vain" works against it in other cultures.

In the US, observant Protestants shy away from the name; secular folks aren't interested, and Jews wouldn't tend to choose it. That leaves Muslims, Catholics, and Mormons--and they aren't looking for ways to draw attention to themselves.

If you combine "Jesus" and "Joshua" (which are the SAME name, just as "Jacob" and "James" are really the same name), you can see how the name works across cultures without these barriers.
8.23.2006 7:19am
Oris (mail) (www):
Mormons would never even consider naming a child Jesus.* The first time I (raised Mormon) heard of people being named Jesus, I was shocked at the blasphemy, and this was after I left the Church. Mormons are in general much more serious about not taking the Lord's name in vain than what I have observed in other Christians, to the extent that "oh my heck" is a common exclamation in Utah, and my mother is offended when I say "geez," no matter how many times I tell her that I intend it as an abbreviation of "gee whiz," rather than "Jesus," which I still never use as an expletive.

*I only know the traditions of American Mormons, so I can't speak to whether Spanish-speaking Mormons would ever name a child Jesus.
8.23.2006 8:59am
Can only guess:
It seems to me that people belonging to nations carved out of a former Muslim kingdom are more likely to use the name Jesus/Christ/Isa. I suspect that has something to do with it.
8.23.2006 9:30am
Joshua (www):
[and yes that's Joshua, not Jesus 8-) ]

I took two years of Spanish in high school, and I recall one of my classmates asking the teacher about the use of Jesus as a given name. The teacher's response was that usually the given name Jesus is spelled with an accented "u" in order to distinguish that person from Jesus of Nazareth, whose name is spelled with an accented "e".

Judging from some of the other comments in this thread, though, it seems that's not quite true.
8.23.2006 10:57am
Jesse (mail) (www):
Harvey Mosley wrote:

I know quite a jew guys names Jesus, all of them either from families from Mexico, or from Mexico themselves, and they all consider Jesse a legitimate variation. I know a lot of people named Jesse (or Jessie or Jessica) that aren't Hispanic. Aren't these people named after Jesus? Or am I missing something?


Jesse is the father of King David, and is mentioned several times in the books of Ruth and Samuel. The Book of Isiah prophesies that the messiah will come from the "root of Jesse" (or "stem of Jesse" in some translations), i.e., will be a descendant of Jesse.
8.23.2006 11:40am
Nick (www):
This is strange, because I was thinking this a couple days ago and thought about blogging on it myself. The only thing I could come up with was that "Christopher" is much more common in European countries, and that it is used instead of Jesus. There really aren't that many people in Spanish speaking countries named an equivolent to Christopher. Is there one?
8.23.2006 12:04pm
Mongoose388:
Nick,
Think "Cristobal" like in Spanis and Cristiano in Portuguese.
8.23.2006 12:25pm
Jesus (mail):
I can't speak for all "Spanish-cultures" but as far as Mexicans are concerned, naming their sons (sometimes daughters) Jesus stems more from a devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe than from a connection with Christ.
My theory is that some mothers (i.e. my mother) feel such a strong connection with the Virgin that they want to be just as "pure" as she was, and in naming their son Jesus they are tapping into that purity by viewing the birth of their son as a result of an immaculate conception rather than as the product of "dirty" sexual intercourse. My mother still has not had the birds &bees talk with my sister because sex is DIRTY! and should not be talked about. My belief is that Mexicans will stop naming their sons Jesus when we allow women the freedom to discuss sex without the stigma of being labeled whores.
8.23.2006 12:43pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Random notes:

Jews use(d) the given name Mary. I had European-born great-aunts on both the Hungarian and Russian sides whose Anglicized names were Mary. I'd have to check if their Hebrew names (or on the Hungarian side where their religious names were Yiddish) were closer to Miriam.


I moved to a newly-developed, mixed-race neighborhood as a child in 1970. For the white families it was a lot less white than the old neighborhoods were (or had been until recently -- cf. White Flight). Interesting anecdote from the supermarket: The (presumably white)receptionist using the PA to page a (presumably Puerto Rican) employee: "GEE-zus, please pick up the telephone."


The theory that New Testament is a work of fiction written by the Essenes as a populist move against power concentrating in the priestly classes (mentioned by Michener in The Source) notes that Yehoshua is close to a nickname or a diminuitive, which would have registered with contemporaries as would a fable about the great leader, Emperor Vinnie.
8.23.2006 1:20pm
Seamus (mail):

Interestingly, in both Ceuta and Melilla, 'Mohammed' is the #1 name for boys.



Not terribly surprising, since Ceuta and Melilla are enclaves on the coast of North Africa, probably with substantial Moslem populations.


Despite being not uncommon among Muslim Arabs, Isa (or Issa) does not appear to be all that common among Maronites and other Christian communities in Lebanon, but all I have to go on are various parliament lists and Lebanese Army promotion lists and the like, so maybe if someone knows better?


I can't claim to "know better," but I'd note that I used to get my hair cut by a Lebanese Christian named Isa. His parents named him that because he was born on Christmas Day.
8.23.2006 1:32pm
Kira:
In some countries, it is illegal to give one's children certain names. I think (but could be wrong) that in Switzerland it is illegal to name your child Jesus unless you are of Spanish origin. Anyway, even if this particular thing is not correct, legal issues have probably prevented naming one's child Jesus in certain places.
8.23.2006 2:13pm
Nathan Ashby (mail) (www):
I served a Mormon mission in Monterrey, Mexico. I agree with what Oris said with regards to the name Jesus in Mormon culture and from my experience. I would suggest that it was not uncommon to find a Mormon named Jesus, but usually these were converts which were in most cases born Catholic. However, I did meet one boy named Jesus who was not a convert. In fact, he was a third-generation Mormon. I found this to be interesting given my background. I would still say that it would be uncommon for a Mormon to name their child Jesus. However, I would be interested to hear from anyone who has had a broader experience than I have had.

One interesting thing about the name Jesus in Spanish-speaking countries. Although it is a common name, it is not often used in addressing people. Instead, the nickname "Chewie" is used. Why is this? It could be that they don't want to use the name too much. However, the nickname "Pepe" is often used for Jose (Joseph). Is this done for the same reason? If so, then why not a nickname for Maria (Mary), an individual for which many in the Spanish Christian culture hold with great affection? Maybe there is a nickname for Maria that I don't remember or didn't hear very much.
8.23.2006 2:25pm
Joshua (www):
One interesting thing about the name Jesus in Spanish-speaking countries. Although it is a common name, it is not often used in addressing people. Instead, the nickname "Chewie" is used.

Hmm... how do they make the leap from naming someone after the Messiah to nicknaming them after a Wookiee? RRRRRRnnnnnnnrrrrrrrr!!!
8.23.2006 3:02pm
lucia (mail) (www):
I'm not sure how to interpret standard nicknames for Jesus or Joseph. Pancho is a nickname for Francisco and I doubt that has much to do with any religious qualms.

Few Americans think there is anything mysterious when a William is called Bill, but I once had to explain this to a student from China.
8.23.2006 3:15pm
Guiri Abogado (mail):
As for a nickname for Maria, I can't really think of something like Chu or Pepe, because "Maria" isn't like Jesus or JOSE . Instead, Maria del [fatima, pilar, et. al] is the whole first name depending on the corresponding sighting of the virgen. There is no Jesus del XYZ, nor is there a Jose del XYZ because they didn't appear later (well, at least not in catholocism, but LDS doctrine maintains otherwise). It's not a first and middle name, it's actually the whole first name. So, that might be why there isn't a similar apodo, like Chu or Pepe. At the same time, Ma del XYZ or Maripili (pilar) is not uncommon. Also, I could be mistaken, but in Spain I believe "Chu" is used more than Chewie.
8.23.2006 3:20pm
Christ:
It is not "Chewie" but "Chuy" . . .
8.23.2006 3:35pm
Dave (in NYC):
"Christopher" is not really an equivalent, as Christopher was the name of a saint and means "Christ-bearer", not Christ Himself. It is thus not different from other common names that include God or names of God in them, but aren't actually names of God themselves, such as Daniel ("God is my judge"), Abdullah ("servant of God") and Bogimil ("favored by God").

As a slight aside on naming taboos and Islam and Muhammad, there was a mujahideen leader in Afghanistan in the 1980s whose given name was Abdul Rasul, or Abd-ur-Rasul in a more Arabicized form, meaning "servant of the Prophet." When he reached greater prominence, more people pointed out that the name seemed somewhat blasphemous, as it elevated Muhammad apparently at God's expense. So he changed his name to Abdur-Rabb-ur-Rasul, or "servant of the Lord of the Prophet", to be more politically correct.
8.23.2006 4:47pm
zarevitz (mail) (www):
I don't have the anwser to EV's question. But I thought that you might find it interesing that the femenine version of Jesús is also a name: Jesusa, although not very fashionable now (it was usual in my grandparent's time). Also there is an hypocoristic for Jesús: Chus (and for Jesusa, Chusa). Chus is not offensive at all.
8.23.2006 4:48pm
zarevitz (mail) (www):
I forgot to mention that, for women, "María Jesús" is still a common name.
8.23.2006 4:51pm
zarevitz (mail) (www):
(sorry for the third post in a row) "María Jesús" is for women, and "Jesús María" for men. Same applies to "María José" for women, and "José María" for men. :-)
8.23.2006 4:53pm
dweeb:
It's not that the birthdate of a child determines a name from the calendar of Saints

It is in several traditional Italian families I know - the child is named for the feast day on which they are born.

I find the name "Conception" stranger than Jesus, actually.

Not when you consider children can be born on the day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

I don't see the taboo against naming a boy "Jesus" having really been lifted for most Protestants. Also, while still common, the name "Mary" does not appear nearly as prevelant.

Which may be the answer - it's not used in regions with Protestant influence, but common in countries that sat out the Reformation.
8.23.2006 6:28pm
marc:
Fr Herbert Thurston SJ points out:

In Italy and Spain it has always been a tolerably common practice to call a child after the saint upon whose feast he is born.


He asserts this at the end of his article in the Catholic Encyclopedia in which he shows that the practice he calls "tolerably common" in Spain and Italy was in fact not at all common in the rest of Europe. The use of the name Jesus in Spain may, historically, simply be the consequence of males having been born on feast days of the Lord.

On the other hand, the scholarly Jesuit omits to deal with E.V.'s question specifically or directly (in a context that seems to beg for such notice): so perhaps he was unable to assert any explanation with confidence.
8.24.2006 12:58am
Marc Gersen (mail) (www):
I think it's weird to find WASPy boys named "Christian." Of course, there are enough Muslims named "Islam." So why aren't there boys named Jewish and Hindu?
8.24.2006 3:00am
dw (mail):
Marc Gersen wrote:

"So why aren't there boys named Jewish and Hindu?"

The famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin is one example of the former.

The case of Hindu is more complicated. The name is an external one, identifying a territory, a people, and a religion as a single unit that might not be so clearly uniform to people within the territory. Members of minority religious groups may well take surnames identifying themselves as non-Hindu (Singhs and Jains, for example, names that have also been taken on by some upper caste Hindus) but Hindus themselves are more likely to have names reflecting local cult emphasis and traditions: favored deities, avatars, saints, virtues. That said, names related to "Sindhu" (from which we derive both "Hindu" and "India") are far from uncommon.
8.24.2006 9:51am
Mongoose388:
Marc Gersen "Of course, there are enough Muslims named "Islam." So why aren't there boys named Jewish and Hindu?"

I have met Hispanic Christians named Israel.
8.24.2006 10:39am
Toad:
"So why aren't there boys named Jewish and Hindu?"

Surely you've heard of the names Judah, Judas, Jude, and various other more-or-less equivalent spellings.

I cannot speak as to Hindus, however.
8.24.2006 1:14pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Anyone who has studied Arabic and World History would know. Jesus is a name used in Arabic speaking countries, such as Palestine. My Arablic professor was named Jesus. Arabics conquered parts of Northern Africa, thru Morocco, across the Gibralter and took moorish horses into Spain. The name Jesus followed the horse trails Arabic people rode along the way.

Now, as for the rest of Europe, one has to look to the horsemen of the Huns and Ghengis Khan. Interestingly, iron bits and stirrups were found in Chinese grave sites in Mongolia appx. 400 B.C., despite the claim that these essential items of horse riding equipment were not "invented" in most of Europe until appx. the 1700s.

A little horse sense can give rise to all the answers anyone needs.
8.24.2006 1:57pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
I would add, Moorish horses appear to come from the Arabian horses of the desert Middle Eastern countries, many of them having Russian Akhal Teke horses as their prized ancestors. The desert Arabians were eventually imported to the United Kingdom, from which derives our modenr American Thoroughbred racehorses. Akhal Tekes evolved as a very hardy type, and commanded huge sums of money, if they could be purchased mostly by Royal families. I suspect (as someone who has studies such) that this ancient horse trade is why numerous words, though differing in spelling between the Russian Cyrillic alphabet and Arabic writing, sound and often mean the same. (I had the privilege of being able to study Arabic, Russian, and Spanish as an undergrad).
8.24.2006 2:09pm
Syd Henderson's Cat (mail):
Let us not forget Levon Tostig, who named his son Jesus because he liked the name, and sent the ungrateful brat to the finest school in town.
8.25.2006 10:20pm