James vs. Jacob in NT

Discussion in 'NT Epistles' started by Santiago, Feb 1, 2019.

  1. Santiago

    Santiago Puritan Board Freshman

    My wife and I joined a Hispanic congregation and I immediately joined a weekly Bible study (first time actually studying the Word of God without my English translations). It was a section on the apostles. One verse struck me as odd- “Jacobo hijo de Zebedeo, y a Juan hermano de Jacobo, a quienes apellidó Boanerges, esto es, Hijos del trueno...” (Mark 3:17). I asked why James was called Jacob in this translation. It seemed almost heretical to misname an apostle! Jesus’ brother is also called “Jacob” (Jacobo) instead of “James” (Santiago) in Matt 13:55 (Reina Valera 1960). Yet the book of James begins “Santiago, siervo de Dios y del Señor Jesucristo, a las doce tribus que están en la dispersión: Salud.” It puzzled me that the same man had two names in the same translation - and it does not appear to be a matter of cultural shifting like Saul using the gentile form, “Paul.” He has the same name in English translations, so there is greater consistency, but a little deeper study revealed that “Jacob” should have been applied in all NT instances in both languages and that neither “James” or “Santiago” are accurate.

    Has anyone else struggled with this? Are there any translations that stay true to translating “lacobos” as “Jacob?” Do we continue to use James as a matter of tradition or habit?

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  2. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    I do not have an opinion, but if we are considering James/Jacob, should we also consider Jesus/Joshua?
  3. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Santiago, we are dealing here with a question of linguistics. "James" is the Latinized (and then Anglicized) translation of the name "Jacob." Greek is "Iakob," Latin is "Iames", English is "James." Similarly with Jesus/Jeshua, it is a linguistic thing. "Iesous" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Yeshua" (which is also written "Joshua," by the way). One can use either. However, the prevalence of the name "Iesous" in the Greek New Testament makes it seem more appropriate in my mind to call Him "Jesus" rather than "Yeshua."
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The Greek of Mk.3:17 reads (transliterated) "Iakobon" (Ἰάκωβον). James 1:1 begins, "Ἰάκωβος," no difference other than the terminal letter indicating the case. These are two completely different people, of course. The first, the brother of John and both of them apostles, is different from the author of the General Epistle--who is either the half-brother of Jesus (James of Jerusalem) as most think; or the second of the apostles to go by the name James, son of Alphaeus.

    Hebrew for Jacob reads (transliterated) "Ya'qov" (יַעֲקֹֽב) Gen.25:28. It can be helpful in NT translation to render the OT person in a unique manner, alerting the reader to the OT reference, as in Rom 9:13, "Jacob (Ἰακὼβ) have I loved." Sometimes, we inherit a tradition that has made little translation-adjustments to certain names for the benefit of the reader to aid in telling literary personages apart. Otherwise (and this is actually a case in the KJV) we have TWO Jesus' in Hebrews: our Lord most of the time, and one we usually call "Joshua" (Heb.4:8) the OT general--potential confusion and misunderstanding that most modern translations avoid. Some KJV readers probably have never connected 4:8 to the end of the previous chapter rehearsing Israelite history, and think the Savior is the direct referent in that verse.

    As Lane already pointed out, "James" is a suitable English rendering or equivalent name for any of the OT or NT persons, though it departs from the sound of that name in either original language. Jacob's Hebrew name contains one letter with two different sounds associated (b,v) and a "guttural" letter with no English (or Greek) equivalent). Greek doesn't have a "v" sound, so goes with the "b." "Jacob in Hebrew has a different "k" sound to what we're used to, a back-of-the-throat bark of sorts (Hebrew also has a more "conventional" sounding "k" letter).

    There isn't anything more "sanctified" or preferable about trying to pronounce a personal name--not even the divine Name--in the sounds of an original language. Not unless someone has told you, "I wish you'd try to pronounce my name as if you were a native speaker of my (or some other) language." Shouldn't we just do our best with the letters and sounds we have (and are used to)?

    The name "Saul" is adjusted to "Paul" not as if a consonantal move were made, similar to the v-to-b in Jacob. No, Paul is an alternate name, as "Peter" was to Simon, only with a rhyme. Paul means "little," and is unrelated to the etymological meaning of "Saul" in Hebrew [maybe there is some irony intended, since Saul was head-and-shoulders taller than most Israelites].

    "Santiago" contains both "Saint" and "Iago," only the latter part from the Hebrew, "Yako[v]" and Greek, the hard central consonant softened somewhat (?) for a Spanish pronunciation. In this case, one has to "burrow" halfway into the name itself to discover the verbal connection. The fact there are multiple NT figures who have the same name might encourage some distinction in translating, and the more likely if one expression has been used as a traditional and unique identifier, as in the case of the writer of one of the NT letters.

    An argument may be made that the result is more, not less, confusing. But generally, we just accept that we've been born at a particular time and place, and inherit the many and various aspects of our particular language. The more of other languages you know, oftentimes the bigger picture you gain.
  5. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Keeping in mind that this is a transliteration into our English.
  6. Santiago

    Santiago Puritan Board Freshman

    These answers are so incredibly helpful. Thank you so much for such well thought-out responses. There is so much great information here.

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