Saturday, July 15, 2017

What's in a name?

In recent months, I’ve read articles and online debates where people and groups arguing over the proper name of Jesus. Some insist since he was Jewish, we should be called him by his Hebrew name, Yeshua. While I was looking for images to another post, I came across a picture which depicted how Yeshua became Jesus. And it got me thinking, does it really matter if we call Jesus by his Greek name or his Hebrew name? Does it diminish what he came to earth to accomplish? Does it diminish who he truly is?

First, the name Yeshua is the shorter version of Yehoshua, meaning “Yahweh [the Lord] is salvation.” Sometimes the name is shorten further to Yeshu. Therefore, it is the same name for the same person (KjaerHansen). It would be like a woman named Katherine becomes Kathy then becomes Kat. Its three names for the same person. Jesus is the English derivative of the Greek transliteration of Yehoshua via Latin. Transliteration is the conversion of a text from one script to another by swapping letters in predictable ways. It is primarily concerned with representing the characters accurately rather than sounds of the letters. So the A is dropped from Yehsua because there is no Greek character for the Hebrew letter Ayin (YEH SHU). Then the SH is dropped as there is no Greek character for the Hebrew letter Shin (YEH SOU). The Hebrew YH becomes the Greek IE (IE SOU). The S is added in Greek as a nominative case ending which indicates a name (IE SOUS). The O is dropped in the English transliteration for the King James Bible (IE SUS). When J was introduced in English alphabet in the 14 century AD, it replaced “I” in future King James Bibles. Therefore, that’s how Yeshua become Jesus in our Bibles and our lexicon.

Second, Jesus is more than just name. He is Lord and Savior. He is the Messiah or Christ, which is the Greek word for Messiah. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He is Immanuel “God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14). He is the Son of God (Luke 1:35, John 20:31, Matthew 26:63, et al). He is the Son of Man (Matthew 20:28, John 5:27, John 13:31 et al). He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8). He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). And many, many other names and titles. He is my Redeemer. He is more than a given name, an everyday name. At the crucifixion, Pilate wrote a notice which read “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews” and placed it about Jesus’ head on the cross (John 19:19-20). He wrote it in three languages: Aramaic for the native Jews, Latin for the occupying Romans, and Greek for foreigners visiting from other lands. He was proclaimed in the languages of the ancient world. Hebrew: the language of Israel, of religion. Latin: the language of the Romans, of law and government. Greek: the language of Greece, of culture. While Pilate intended the notice to mock and threaten the Jews; however, it had an unintended use. He was proclaimed Jesus king in every language of those who were there. There isn’t a language that God cannot speak. I don’t think he would care if we call our Savior by his Hebrew name or his Greek name.

Third, does it really matter if you call him Yeshua or Jesus? To me, it doesn’t. Call him Jesus or Yeshua, it doesn’t diminish who is he and what he has done for us. “Jesus of Nazareth – the friend and Saviour of sinners. That is what his name – Yehsua – means, and that meaning can become clear even if one uses JESUS in a diaspora language. Anyway, this is what Matthew did” (KjaerHansen). This is what Matthew does in his gospel when he writes “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). If you relate to him by Jesus, do not be burdened to call him Yehsua. He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). He knows his sheep and his sheep know his voice. “It is true that his mother and friends called him Yeshua rather than Jesus, but if you know him as Jesus, does he mind that? Is it incorrect to call him Jesus? There are some who would argue till they’re blue in the face that it is critical to call him Yeshua and not Jesus, but Yeshua’s coming was also God’s time to take salvation to the gentiles. I believe that it was no accident that his name was disseminated in the international lingua-franca of the day: Greek. It was to go far and wide, to every nation on earth” (One for Israel).

In conclusion, to quote Shakespeare “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II). Names do not effect who people really are. The person gives the name its worth, not the other way around. So call him Jesus or Yehsua, it doesn’t change who he is. To many, he is Lord and Savior and a name wouldn’t or shouldn’t diminish that. In my opinion, when someone argues over whether to use Jesus or Yeshua, its all semantics. They are splitting hairs for whatever reason. As I’ve said before, Yeshua or Jesus, he is still my Lord and Savior. Change his name. Call him whatever you wish. It doesn’t change who he is to me.

KjaerHansen, Kai An Introduction to the Names of Yehoshua/Joshua, Yeshua, Jesus and Yeshu. Jews for Jesus, March 23, 1992, retrieved July 4, 2017

One for Israel Jesus vs Yeshua?, retrieved July 7, 2017