Is there any connection between the acronym יש״ו ימח שמו וזכרו and ישו the person? Is this just a coincidence, or does the acronym actually originate with the historical ישו?

  • the entire name is ישוע, maybe that for this they changed the name to ישו – kouty Jan 29 '19 at 8:08
  • I’m going coincidence – Dr. Shmuel Jan 29 '19 at 10:23
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    Who was the "historical ישו"? Is there any contemporary record in any text of a person who was given that name? Is the question whether this was, etymologically, a known (or potential) name which later, was transformed into an acronym, or whether the acronym was created either because it was similar to the recorded name or it was purely coincidental? – rosends Jan 29 '19 at 11:46
  • @rosends Not everyone holds that saying Yushke’s name outright is permissible. – DonielF Jan 29 '19 at 15:11
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    @DonielF Can’t say ישוע outright? It’s a biblical name(!). – Oliver Jan 29 '19 at 15:24

Jesus' name was Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ), which was a biblical name, as another form of Yehoshua. The New Testament (Matthew 1:21) derives the name (correctly) from the root ישע. The Greek version was Iēsous (the -s suffix was added because of Greek morphology, as in Ioudas from Yehuda). Yeshu seems to me to be a re-borrowing of the graecified Iēsous (maybe in order to mock the Greek pronunciation).

The initials יש"ו as standing for ימח שמו וזכרו is a backronym. Some versions of Toldot Yeshu attribute it to "the sages" or otherwise who gave it to him as a derogatory name.

ותקרא את שמו ישוע ואחר שקלקל מעשיו קראו לו החכמים "ישו" י'מח ש'מו ו'זכרו (source)

ותקרא את שמו ישוע על שם אחי אמו ולאחר שגדלה חטאתו וקילקולו קראו שמו י"ש"ו ר"ל ימח שמו וזכרו (source)

But versions that call him Jesus (יזוש) find acronyms for that name, too:

וכאשר ראה ישוע שבני ישראל אינם מתחברים אליו וקוראים לו בשם יזוש כלומר י״מח ז״כרו ו״ימח ש״מו אז אמר ישוע אין לי חלק באלהי ישראל והלך וגילה פנים בתורה שלא כהלכה (Huldricus)

So the initials of ימח שמו וזכרו did exist in reference to the historical Jesus, but since all of these sources were written centuries after he died, I highly doubt this was ever used in his lifetime (despite the fact that the above stories seem to claim the sages/Jews of his generation did call him that). These stories are written as parodies rather than serious history: one even credits Peter the Apostle with the invention of the Latin alphabet (a, b, c, d אבי ציד "my father was a hunter" = Esau; o, p, q, r, s = אפיקורוס)! These initials were invented by Jews, in the same way, in order to criticize Jesus, whether jokingly or seriously.


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