I refer my native language telugu bible.

This is my observation from my bible. The people listed below are translated using the same name:

  • Jacob son of Isaac
  • James the son of Zebedee
  • James the son of Alphaeus

Both Jacob & James are translated యాకోబు (pronounced as ya - ko - bu ).

What were the criteria followed for name translations? Is it a simple phonetic based translations?

  • I can't read the other language text you posted. Which language is that?
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 0:51
  • @Jacob, It's telugu language. One of the 18 national languages in India.
    – Raju
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 1:39
  • 2
    The exact same issue exists in the Turkish translations I'm familiar with. James, Jacob, and sometimes Judah get mixed up all the time because they are translated inconsistently, sometimes the same as each-other, other times different. I've heard some explanations about phonetics coming from Hebrew vs. Greek and traditions of names in other languages, but none that I really buy. It will be interesting to see what answers can bring to light.
    – Caleb
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 5:41

1 Answer 1


Jacob is a transliteration of the Hebrew יַעֲקֹב (formal transliteration: yaʿăqob). This labels only one person in the Hebrew Bible: the patriarch also known as Israel, the eponymous ancestor of the twelve tribes.

The Septuagint and the Greek New Testament transliterate this word as Ἰακώβ (Iakōb). It most often refers to the patriarch. Once (Matt 1:16), it refers to the father of Joseph the husband of Mary.

The Semitic name Ἰακώβ (Iakōb) was Hellenized to Ἰάκωβος (Iakōbos), following the common pattern of adding -ος (-os) to form a Greek male name. Ἰάκωβος is the name of:

  • the son of Zebedee (Matt 4:21 et al.);
  • the brother of Jesus (Matt 13:55, Acts 15:13, Gal 1:19 et al.);
  • the son of Alphaeus (Matt 10:3 et al.; perhaps the same as James the younger, Mark 15:40); and
  • the father of Judas (not Iscariot, Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13).1

It is not surprising that Hebrew yaʿăqob and its Hellenized form Iakōbos would move into a third language as the same name. The twist here is the English choice of "James" for the latter only. This traditional rendering is based on the Latin Iacomus, an alternative for the Vulgate NT's Iacobus.2 In contrast, the Hebrew yaʿăqob moved into Latin as simply Iacob, whence "Jacob."

1. List courtesy of: "Ἰακώβ, Ἰάκωβος" in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Ed. Moises Silva (Zondervan, 2014), 2:491.

2. Per Wikipedia: Iacobus > *Iacombus > Iacomus via nasalization of the o and assimilation to the following b followed by simplification of the cluster mb through loss of the b. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

  • 2
    kudo's to the translators for considering original scripts (in hebrew,greek etc) for translation. Can't imagine how difficult for them to learn local languages and source languages. Translating from English would be pretty easy for them, but we would have ended up with being far away from original scripts.
    – Raju
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 21:14
  • 1
    Absolutely, agreed - Bible translators are to be admired and appreciated! Of note, the same basic linguistic situation occurs with Joshua/Jesus as well as Judah/Judas (=Jude), probably a number of others.
    – Susan
    Commented Apr 9, 2016 at 21:28
  • @Susan The change from "Yeshua" to "Iasus" occurred in the LXX which raises the question whether Jesus was originally named "Joshua" or if he was named "Jesus". There is no extant evidence of Jesus ever being "Joshua" just as there is no extant Hebrew or Aramaic original NT text (which is why Messianics annoy me by calling Jesus "Yehashua"). Also, doesn't the LXX have Iacobum for "Jacob"? Perhaps the names were changed to minimize the "Jewishness" of the Christian religion due to antisemitism? The Hebrew->LXX->NT->English pipeline is a bit of a mess!
    – user10231
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 12:19
  • @WoundedEgo AFAIK LXX uses Ιακωβ for יַעֲקֹ֑ב ("Iacobum" doesn't appear to me to be Greek.) | For some reason I seem to get drawn into these things, so here's my take on Yeshua, etc.. | As for "... pipeline is a bit of a mess" -- or a treasure trove, depending on your perspective!
    – Susan
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 12:27
  • @Susan Sorry, I meant "Vulgate", not "LXX". A mind is a terrible thing to lose.
    – user10231
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 12:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.