The Strange History of the Letter J

While searching through an old dictionary from 1778, I found a peculiar thing.

There is not a distinct “J” section, for words beginning with the letter J.

In fact, there were very few words which begin with J that appeared in the dictionary. So few were the J words that they were mixed in with the section for “I” words.

That ‘s right, I’s and J’s were in the same section.

But why?

The History of the Letter J

The reason that there is no distinct I and J section in the dictionary from 1778 is due to the fact that: the letter J was, and still is, a relatively new letter.

I’s and J’s were used interchangeably until 1524, when the “Father of the letter J“, Gian Giorgio Trissino, made the distinction between the the sounds the two letters made.

Trissino made the distinction from the Greek word “Iesus”, a translation of the Hebrew word “Yeshua”. He “found” that the proper spelling should be Jesus, as we now hear it in modern English. Jesus, as it is now pronounced, was the phoneme which we now pass the J sound we have today.

Since that time, the letter J has grown in usage, and now there are 1000’s of words which begin with the new letter.

Even 150 years after the letter J was “discovered”, words which began with J still had not earned their own position in dictionaries.

Is Jesus Really the True Name for the Savior?

The short answer is NO.

Despite the current popularity of the letter J, and in particular the name Jesus, the poplar J, as in Jam, sound did not exist in either Greek, Latin or Hebrew.

Additionally, Greek and Latin languages lacked the “Y” sound, so they replaced it with I. The name became further diluted when translated into English when the letter was replaced with the J.

This occurred in large part because- Greek and Latin relied on 4th century translations of the sacred texts, and Hebrew at the time was nearly a forgotten language. Because of this, they did not have access to the Y sound created by the Hebrew letter Yod/Yud.

In Hebrew however, the name of the savior is more properly pronounced “Yeshua” or “Yahusha”. A translation lost in the King James Version of the Bible, which popularized the modern name.

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