Hey, Jude

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:

Wycliffe Judas
Coverdale Ivdas
Tyndale Iudas

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.

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  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ll report that the Luther Bibel in German uses “Judas,” so there’s no attempt at differentiation there.

  2. Both the João Ferreira de Almeida (the Portuguese Bible used by the church) and the Nova Versão Internacional use Judas for both men.

  3. Reina Valera – Spanish bible used by church – “Judas”

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, guys. The early returns are suggesting that this is just an English thing.

  5. linescratchers says:

    The KLV (Klingon Language Version) retains the English spellings from the King James Version. I didn’t serve on Qo’noS, but I had a friend that did.

  6. Louis Segond de 1910 (french) = Jude/Judas Iscariot

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Interesting. That suggests that the people who created the Klingon version were working from English, not Greek.

  8. They’re not a particularly logical species, I admit.

  9. looking for a name says:

    The Louis Segond version (French version used by the church) claims to be “translated according to the original Hebrew and Greek texts” but uses ‘Jude’ for the epistle and ‘Judas’ for Iscariot.

  10. The bible used by the Church in Japan, published by the Japan Bible Society, uses ユダの手紙, “the letter of yuda.” This form of the the name is the same as the one found in Judas’ name, イスカリオテのユダ, “isukariote no yuda.”

    It’s the same in the Japanese Living Bible, found on biblica.com.

  11. Swedish, Norwegian, Danish – Judas

  12. Huh. As a french speaker, I would never have known!

  13. The German Einheitsubersetzung, which is not the Luther Bible, but what the church used while I was a missionary there, uses Judas.

  14. Finnish–Juudas for both.

  15. The Bulgarian bible has some of the same issues. I don’t recall off the top of my head about Judas/Jude specifically, but I do know that Elijah and Elias are both written as Iliya. This caused all kinds of confusion when discussing Elijah the person versus the “spirit of Elias” as forerunners in general.

  16. Update on my last comment. Judah and Judas are both spelled Юда [Yuda] in Bulgarian. When “Judas Iscariot” is mentioned, it is spelled out: Юда Искариотски

    And just for verification, I looked up Elias/Elijah at BibleGateway.com. Both names are consistently spelled Илия [Iliya].

  17. Judah, Judas, and Jude are all the same in the slavic languages. The Russian was translated from the septugiant in the late nineteenth century–and the politics of the Russian Bible Society probably spread through all the Slavic countries at around that time.

  18. Ignorant Sage says:

    Chinese scriptures use the same name/characters (猶大) for Jude, Judas, and Judah.

  19. Ignorant Sage says:

    Interestingly, the name is pronounced like Yoda (transliterated as Youda), but with a rising then falling tone.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    rick h, just as Judas derives from the Greek form of Judah, so Elias derives from the Greek form of Elijah:

    Eliya or Eliyahu in Hebrew;

    Greek has no y, so that’s dropped, and the -AH ending takes the masculine -AS ending in Greek, so

    Elijah —-> Elias

    The KJV NT used Elias even when alluding to the OT figure Elijah, which caused all sorts of confusion.

  21. I just checked Bible versions in 3 different Filipino languages – Tagalog, Cebuano, and Samarenyo. All three use “Judas Iscariote” for “Judas Iscariot”, and “Judas” for “Jude”.

    These 3 translations were all published by the Philippine Bible Society, which is part of the worldwide United Bible Societies. So the contemporary trend may be to not worry about creating the equivalent of “Jude” in non-English translations.

  22. I just checked three modern English translations: New English Bible (1961), Jerusalem Bible (1966), and the online NIV. All three use “Jude”, just as the KJV and the Geneva Bible do.

  23. FYI, The Beatles’ 1968 hit “Hey, Jude” was originally “Hey, Julian.” Paul wrote it to Julian Lennon when his parents (John and Cynthia Lennon) were getting divorced.

  24. jks,

    It has been my understanding that “Hey Jude” was actually “Hey Jules” because that’s what the guys all called Julian. Paul changed it to Jude because it sounded better. Or something like that.

    Anyway, I didn’t serve a foreign language mission, but I did serve in California, where I collected quite a number of English Bibles. So here goes:

    The following use the Judas Iscariot v. Jude distinction:
    New English Bible (1946), English Standard Version (2001), New Century Version (edited by Max Lucado, 1995), New King James Version (as published by the Gideons, 1985), and New World Translation (used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1984).

    The only English translation I have that doesn’t distinguish between the names is The Scriptures (published by the Institute for Scripture Research, 2002). Both are called Yehudah. It is interesting to note that the Saviour’s apostle who betrayed him is noted as being “from Qerioth”. Also, the Institute for Scripture Research spent a considerable amount of time in the introduction to their translation explaining that they have transliterated names instead of translating, so as to restore glory to the the original names, particularly to those of the Elohim of Yisrael.

    Finally, the Brick Testament has not yet approached the various epistles, but it does reference the apostle Judas without including the traditional birthplace designation.

  25. The Estonian Bible that the church uses makes no distinction between the two.

  26. Kevin, I love these kinds of posts. Thanks.

  27. “It is interesting to note that the Saviour’s apostle who betrayed him is noted as being “from Qerioth”.

    Yep. Judas was the sole member of the Twelve who was NOT a Galileean.

  28. #24. You are correct about “Hey Jules.” However, Paul was a little evasive at times when people asked him about the meaning of the song. At times, he mentioned it was about Julian, but at other times he was somewhat flustered when people asked. I imagine it had something to do with his friendship with John. John was in most respects a very poor father to Julian and I’m not sure Paul wanted John to think (know) that the song was offering comfort to a son who had every reason to dislike and be angry with his own father.

    I could be wrong about that but it seems that the evidence points that way.

  29. All the Spanish and Korean versions on BibleGateway.com use “Judas.”

  30. Judah has cracked the top 1000 baby boys’ names beginning in 2003, and Jude had a small post-Beatles boom in the ’70s, with a much larger following in the past decade. Judas has not made the list in recorded American history (surprise, suprise). An interesting case of connotative vs. denotative meaning.


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