The Hebrew name Yehudah, which we anglicize as Judah, is an important name. There were perhaps seven people in the OT and six in the NT with that name. Its first bearer was the son of Jacob/Israel, and since the southern kingdom bore his name that land came to be known as Iudea in Latin and, through Old French, gave rise to our English word “Jew.” The name means “Let Yahweh Be Praised.” Judah may well have been named after his Hittite aunt, wife of Esau, who bore the female form of the name, Judith.
As is customary, the OT form Judah is only used in the NT to refer to OT persons bearing that name. For NT persons bearing that name, the name is transliterated into its Greek form. Greek doesn’t have a Y, so the initial letter becomes I. And it doesn’t have an H, so the medial H in Yehudah simply gets dropped. And the Greek male name ending -AS replaces the Hebrew -AH. With these shifts, the Hebrew name Yehudah comes into Greek as Ioudas, which we anglicize as Judas. (The J was pronounced like a Y in German, but in English we pronounce it dzh.)
There is, however, one exception to this presentation of the name in the Bible. The KJV of the last epistle of the NT, traditionallly believed to have been written by the Lord’s brother, uses the English name “Jude.” That is odd, because if you actually look at the Greek text, it has the same Ioudas as all other NT occurrences of the name. So why Jude and not Judas?
I was curious about the origin of this English form, so I did a little checking. The earliest English versions have some form of Judas:
I couldn’t find a Great Bible online to check that.
But the first English version I found with the form “Jude” was the Geneva Bible (NT 1557; complete 1560). And a set of 1599 notes to the Geneva Bible has this annotation to Jude 1: “This is to distinguish between him and Judas Iscariot.” So it appears that in the production of the Geneva Bible someone took it upon himself to assure that there would be no confusion between the Lord’s brother and the man who gave Jesus up to the authorities.
This innovation was very influential, as the Bishop’s Bible, the Douay Rheims translation of the Vulgate, and of course the KJV all followed it, using “Jude” rather than “Judas.”
OK, so now I”m curious about something, and I have an assignment for all of you returned missionaries who learned a foreign language. Does this oddity in the English translation tradition get picked up in some way in translations into other languages? Presumably if people were simply working from the Greek it wouldn’t, but if translators were familiar with the English tradition, it might.
So I’d like to ask those of you with the capacity to check other language versions of the Epistle of Jude to see how the name is portrayed in Jude 1. Is it shown the same way as Judas Iscariot and the others with the name Judas in the NT? Or has the translator tried to tweak the name in some fashion to avoid any potential confusion between those two persons?
Return and report.