I’ve seen Jesus (pronounced 'Yey-zoos, IPA: /ˈjeː.zʊs/) as the German name of Jesus ('Jee-zus /ˈdʒiː.zəs/), is that correct?

For Christ (Kryst /kraɪst/), I’ve seen Christus (Krist-oos /ˈkʀɪs.tʊs/), but Google Translate – obviously not the most reliable source – says Christi (Krist-ee /ˈkʀɪs.ti/) when used in certain sentences, and then there’s the feast called Corpus Christi ‘Fronleichnam’, so I’m a little confused.

Can anybody explain this?

  • Welcome to the German Language SE. Feel free to take the tour. If you need specific help, you'll most probably find it in the help center. Have a nice day. – hiergiltdiestfu Mar 4 '16 at 15:16
  • 3
    It's not Yey. You might consider using the IPA. – Carsten S Mar 4 '16 at 23:49
  • There is a common trick to answer such questions: Search for 'Jesus Christ' in Wikipedia (en), from there go to the German page; voila: Jesus Christus. Voted to close because of general reference ... - and no, Google-Translate is obviously one of the poorest sources. – user unknown Mar 5 '16 at 1:42
  • 1
    @CarstenS I’ve added IPA transcriptions. Anyway, ey is indeed used by some English dictionaries for something like /eː/. – Crissov Mar 5 '16 at 16:08
  • 1
    @userunknown The question is obviously more about the form Christi than Christus. Wikipedia is quiet about that, but Wiktionary has a declension table, although without explanation for the alternative forms in Acc and Dat or the uncommon form in Gen. Other dictionaries are probably more verbose, but Duden Online isn’t, for instance. Overall it’s a valid question as the answers show. – Crissov Mar 5 '16 at 16:19

Since the cases in German closely correspond to the cases in Latin, and since the Latin language is such a significant cultural possession of the Roman Catholic church, the name "Jesus Christus" is often declined in German according to the case endings in Latin.

The Latin case endings are:

  • Nominative: Jesus Christus
  • Genitive: Jesu Christi
  • Dative: Jesu Christo
  • Accusative: Jesum Christum
  • Ablative: Jesu Christo
  • Vocative: Jesu Christe

Thus while "Christus" is nominative, you may hear of the "Himmelfahrt Christi" (gen.), or see something dated "nach Christo" (dat.), or "vor Geburt Christi" (gen. again), while the Bach cantata "Komm, Jesu, Komm" (voc.) employs the vocative case which Latin uses for directly addressing somebody, even though no such case exists in German.

  • Actually, "Jesus" is declined using a mixture of Latin and Greek forms (the accusative follows the Latin pattern, the others the Greek pattern). The declination forms for "Christus" are Latin. – Uwe Mar 4 '16 at 15:33
  • Well, Ἰησοῦς is after all not a Greek name but a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew name, and Jesus is a Latinization of Ἰησοῦς, so the unusual-looking Latin case endings are of course modeled on the unusual-looking Greek ones. But this is still the normal way of declining Jesus in Latin, and the spelling used in German (J for initial iota, ū for οῦ) shows that all the forms were overtaken from the Latin—that is, from the Latinized forms of the awkwardly Hellenized Hebrew name—and that none of the German forms come directly from the Greek. – Stephen Mar 4 '16 at 15:53
  • 3
    That's right. I just wanted to give an explanation to those readers who were puzzled because their old Latin school grammar book didn't mention an -u genitive. – Uwe Mar 4 '16 at 16:14
  • Since singular (masculine) nouns and names usually get a suffix only in the genitive case, it‘s not too surprising that almost everyone uses the nominative form Jesus Christus for accusative and dative as well – nowadays. – Crissov Mar 4 '16 at 19:45
  • Random anecdote: I wrote Jesus’ for the genitive in a test in German RE once and my teacher corrected it into Jesu, so the Germanic case-forming rules are obviously considered inacceptable for Jesus. – Jan Mar 20 '16 at 22:51

Normally you would use Jesus Christus. So you would say:

Das ist Jesus Christus. (This is Jesus Christ)

The genitive is Jesu Christi, retaining the Latin form:

Das ist einer der Jünger Jesu Christi. (This is an apostle of Jesus Christ.)

Der gehört zu Christi Jüngern. (That one is one of Christ's disciples.)

Either is often shortened to a simple Jesus or Christus (resp. Jesu, Christi)

nach Christi Geburt, Jesu Zeiten

In older texts and songs (e.g. Luther) you can also encounter Immanuel. I don't really know why, but it is the same person...

As for the pronunciation: 'Yey-zoos seems about right.

  • "Seht, die Jungfrau wird ein Kind empfangen, einen Sohn wird sie gebären, und man wird ihm den Namen Immanuel geben, das heißt übersetzt: Gott ist mit uns." Mt. 1,23. – Veredomon Mar 4 '16 at 15:40
  • 1
    @Veredomon ja, aber warum wurde da Immanuel gesagt und nicht Jesus? – Armin Mar 4 '16 at 15:40
  • Der Prophet Jesaia sagte in Jes 7,14 die Geburt eines Immanuels durch eine Jungfrau vorher, und da Jesus Christus von einer Jungfrau geboren wurde, ist er folglich auch Immanuel. Damit stellt Matthäus Jesus als den prophezeiten Immanuel dar. – Veredomon Mar 4 '16 at 20:21
  • @Veredomon Ahh, OK, vielen dank. – Armin Mar 4 '16 at 20:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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