When yelling “Jesus Christ” just isn’t enough, you might add an extra letter in there: Jesus H. Christ. It’s like Jesus’s full name that you break out when you’re really serious. But what does the “H” even stand for?
Well, first of all, the “H” is not a middle initial, because Jesus Christ is not a first name + last name pair. Jesus only has one name, and that’s Jesus. Christ isn’t his surname, but rather his epithet, or descriptive title.
Okay, so about that “H.”
The Chi Rho monogram is often used to represent Jesus Christ’s name. It consists of the first two letters of the Greek word Χριστό, meaning Christ.
There is also a second, lesser-known monogram used to represent Jesus: the IHϹ monogram. It consists of the first three letters of Ἰησοῦς, which is the Greek spelling of the name “Jesus.”
In the early 19th century, Americans looked at this second monogram and misinterpreted it. They mistook the Greek letters IHϹ for the Latin letters JHC.
They concluded that the “J” stands for “Jesus” and the “C” stands for “Christ,” therefore the “H” stands for Jesus’s middle name.
The phrase “Jesus H. Christ” evolved into a humorous, mild expletive over time. By the time Mark Twain was a young boy in the 19th century, the phrase was already in common use, as he noted in his autobiography.
So, there you have it. The “H” doesn’t stand for a single thing. It all came from a misunderstanding!