“Jose (or is it Jehoseph?) and his Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”

Written by Michael Moore

February 10, 2008

The Varied Faces, Names and Shades of Color of the Josephs of History. (Just to name a few)


Throughout the history of Israel and the Jewish people there have been many Josephs, starting with Joseph the son of Jacob. Each one was the namesake of the first. However, the name Joseph took on several forms.

Joseph, son of Jacob

Throughout the Hebrew Bible the name “Joseph” is spelled “YWSF” in the original language (with a single exception, below). Apparently, YWSF is short for the name YEHOSEF “(God) will cause increase” .

In Psalm 81:6 the same individual, Joseph the son of Jacob, is called YHWSF in the Hebrew.

“He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a voice I had not known.”

In this one place, the name Joseph is awarded the full spelling. In all other places in the Biblical narrative, he is called by the shortened form YWSF.

Apparently an even shorter form of Yehosef was in use at a later period: “Yoseh” (or the later form “Yosey”).

In the superior Kaufmann manuscripts of the Mishnah this shortened form YWSH “Yoseh” occurs 357 times and YWSY “Yosey” only 62 times.

In the Eshkol edition of the Mishnah YWSY “Yosey” is found 429 times; (YWSH “Yoseh” does not occur at all.)

In both sources the name YWSF “Yosef” occurs only 11 times en toto (not all the same references, however).

In both sources the form YHWSF “Yehosef”, which predominates in the ossuaries, does not occur at all.


Yoseh ben Yoezer and Yoseh ben Yohanan, the first of the Zugot “Pairs” (from c. 174 BCE)

In the Kaufmann manuscript: YWSH BN YW‘ZR “Yoseh ben Yoezer” occurs 6 times (Hagig. 2:2, 6:7; Eduy. 8:4; Sota 9:9; Avot 1:4 [2x])

In the Eshkol manuscript:

YWSY BN YW‘ZR “Yosey ben Yoezer” occurs 5 times (Hagig. 2:2, 6:7; Eduy. 8:4; Sota 9:9; Avot 1:4 [2x])

However, surprisingly the formal form “Yoseph ben Yoezer” also appears in that edition:

IWSF BN YW‘ZR occurs once (at Hagig. 6:7) for the same person.

(For Yose ben Yohanan: predictably, the Kaufmann manuscript has “Yoseh” (4x) and the Eshkol edition has “Yosey” instead (Hagig. 2:2; Sota 9:9; Avot 1:4; 1:5 )

Joseph the Priest or Yoseh the Priest?

In Mikv. 10:1 and Hal. 4:1, both the Kaufmann and Eshkol manuscripts read YWSF HKWHN “Yoseph haKohen”.

In the Eshkol edition, the formal form YWSF HKWHN “Yoseph haKohen” is used 3 times (Eduy. 8:2; Avot 2:8 [2x])

However in the same passages, the Kaufmann manuscript of the Mishnah uses the informal form YWSH HKWHN “Yoseh haKohen”.

All of these passages are referring to the same priest.

Joseph the brother of Jesus? or Joses the brother of Jesus?

The same phenomenon. Two different versions of the story, Mark’s and Matthew’s, and the two different forms IWSF/IWSHS used by the two authors.

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3)

Of Jesus’ brother: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” (Matt. 13:55)


We would contend that the given individuals were called by the formal name by some and by the informal name by others. Other scholars say that “Jose” is merely the Galilean way of saying “Joseph” (see Anchor Bible Dictionary: “Joseph: 10”. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that both forms were considered to be alternative forms of the other by the ancient sources.

By the way, believe it or not, among the ossuaries the Biblical spelling “YWSF” is by far the rarest of all of the spellings for “Joseph”, occuring on only one ossuary CJO 573: PYNHS BR YWSF (written twice for the same person).


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