This is why no one in the Bible has a name beginning with W, X or Y

In today's "Neighbors" column, a reader explains how biblical names were influenced by different sounds and letters as the books were translated.

Bob Lind
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

This column once mentioned that there didn’t seem to be anyone in the Bible whose name began with “W.”

To this, Lyle Janke, Fargo, writes that there isn’t, nor is there anyone with names beginning with “X” or “Y.”

“This comes from my book, ‘Everyone in the Bible,’ by William P. Barker,” Lyle says.

Pastor Sarah Dille, Moorhead, contributes this information:

“The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek.


“Greek does not have an equivalent to the English ‘W,’ so there are no New Testament names beginning with ‘W.’

“Hebrew, however, has the letter called either ‘vav’ or ‘waw’, depending on the school of pronunciation.

“Making use of my Bibleworks software, I discovered that in (the biblical book of) Esther, Queen Vashti is spelled Waszti in Polish, Waschti in German and Wasti in Dutch.

“But what is really more interesting,” Pastor Sarah writes, “is that neither Hebrew nor Greek has an equivalent to the English ‘J.’ So where do all those ‘J’ names come from? To name just a few: Jacob, Joseph, Jesus, James, Joanna and John.

“In the Hebrew and Greek, these names would be pronounced with a ‘Y’ sound: Ya’aqov, Yosef, Yesus, Yakobus, Yoanna and Yo’annes.

“So where did the ‘J’s’ come from? Maybe influenced by the German translation where the ‘Y’ sound is spelled with a ‘J.’ So Yo’annes (John) becomes ‘Johannes’ and Yesus becomes ‘Jesus.’”

Sarah adds that “Martin Luther translated the Bible into German; it was published in 1534. The King James Version, published in 1611, was not the very first English translation, but it became the standard.”

Pastor Sarah serves Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Felton, Minn., and Winchester Lutheran Church, Borup, Minn.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email

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