I have come across a lot of debates going among certain Christians and even the so-called “Reformers” as to what the name of God’s only begotten son is. Is His name Jesus, Yeshua, Isa or just another name? I wouldn’t want to delve into very deep Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew analysis and I also wouldn’t want to delve into any deep theological discourse because I can’t claim to be an authority in those aspects. However, common sense will help a lot here. What is His name?
In the Old Testament, when the Prophecy of His birth came, the Bible says in Isaiah 7:14
“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”Tweet
The Prophecy revealed He will be called “Immanuel” and that is to say; people will behold Jesus and admit “Wow! We have God among us!” Immanuel doesn’t suggest “we have a type of God with us” but “we have God with us.” The begotten son of God is to be the identity of God among the people, a display of divine humility and of course, divine help. This doesn’t mean the name of the Son of God was going to be named Immanuel, it was only communication and a sign of Him being God in the flesh. This alone disproves any opinion that He is not God. The Prophecy agrees that it will be said concerning Him that “God is with us!” If we should explain in context, it is not talking about us having God’s backing or support but having God’s manifest presence.
When Jesus was born, the Angel said in Matthew 1:21
“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”Tweet
The argument about the name of Jesus starts with consideration from the original writings that had the name of Jesus as “Iēsoun” which is the Greek transliteration of Yeshua, a common alternative to Yehoshua from which Joshua became transliterated in common English. If He said “pray in my name”, people argue that we must have to pray with His name in its original form but I think this is where we miss the whole point of praying in His name.
When Jesus said we should pray in His name, He wasn’t asking that we form a ritual of saying “in the name of Yeshua”, He was rather meaning that we stand in the authority of who He is to pray. When I ask you to go to a mall where I am well known with a written document from me and make a demand in my name, you aren’t going there to say “give me some Cheese in the name of George I pray you…” The moment you make your order and show the documents that proved you came on my behalf, you are functioning in my name. Or perhaps, I gave you my credit card and asked you to use as much as you can of it, any transaction you make is made in my name. When a President of a country sends a representative to an occasion where he was invited, whatever the representative says there is credited to the president because whoever came to represent him came in his name.
So, we miss the whole point when the argument about the name of Jesus is based on the speculation that if we don’t mention “Yeshua” in prayers, then God will not hear us. Of course, the name given to Him by Mary is “Yeshua” but as languages continue to evolve, names will continue to adapt and be tone friendly with the evolved language. Joshua never used to be Joshua, Mary never used to be Mary, Judas, Jude or Judah used to be Yahdah! As long as languages evolve, names will change with it but it doesn’t change the personality.
In Nigeria for instance, Enugu is a transliteration of Enu-Ugwu which means “top of the mountain” but because of pronunciation problems in English, it was anglicized as “Enugu” and today it has become its official name because of the ease of pronunciation but it hasn’t changed the location to become something else. Enugu still refers to the location that used to be “Enu-Ugwu”. The same is to be said of “Igbo-Uzor” in Delta state which currently is called “Ibusa”. Igbo-Uzor means “Igbo people who are on the way” but for ease of pronunciation in English, it was transliterated to “Ibusa” in English. Some still call it “Igbouzor, Ibusa or Ibuzor” and it all refer to the same place!
This is the same way it is for the name, Jesus. Jesus is the English transliteration of “Yeshua” in Hebrew and “Iēsoun” in Greek. There is no “God-ordained” language as He communicates to people with languages peculiar to them. Our everyday interaction with other people around us keeps influencing our vocabularies. Today, we have the British English, we have American English and we have Pidgin English and other forms of English. The English language isn’t an ancient language, it developed from a dialect of the German language and have eventually become a global language. Languages aren’t permanent, they keep changing. Therefore, how we spell or pronounce things will change but what remains unchangeable is the person or object that bears the name.
For example, Okra which is an English name for a vegetable known as “Lady’s finger” originated from the Igbo language name for it which is “Okwuru”. Does that change the nature or taste of it? Does that change the functions? No. It changes nothing about it. In the same way, when we say “Jesus”, we are still referring to He who was named Yeshua or Iēsoun. It doesn’t change His function, He knows we are referring to Him just as different people know me by different names as “Onyedika, Onyedikachukwu, George, GracefulGeorge, GG and the rest.”
Certain conspiracy theorists argue that the name, Jesus was derived from the Greek god, Zeus. However, this argument doesn’t stand a test of time and should be dismissed as one of those theories that aren’t true but meant to confuse people and distract them. Zeus is an Indo-European god in the ancient Greek religion and the name is an ancient Greek word which refers to him as “god of the skies and thunder.” The argument is also as a result of the similarity between the spelling of “Jesus” and “Zeus” and pronunciation similarities when Jesus is pronounced with Spanish tongue. However, that two words sound similar doesn’t make them the same just as “address” doesn’t mean “a dress”, Jesus doesn’t mean “hail Zeus.”
So, how did the name Yeshua or Iēsoun suddenly evolved to Jesus? As the Bible got translated into the English language for easier access, so was all the names also translated to English. Every new day, the English Bible keeps undergoing revisions so that it can also communicate with the present-day English language. The English of today never used to be the same as the English of yesterday. Remember that the English language developed from a dialect of the German language with Latin influences and it has continued to change. This is why we have old English and modern English. For example, Godwin is an English name that may seem to mean “God is the winner” when considered with modern English but the name truly means “Friend of God.” Gladys may seem to mean “gladness” with modern English but it truly means Princess or lame when considered from the Welsh origin or “small sword” when considered from the Latin origin.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and therefore a direct translation of Yeshua from the Hebrew word to English will be “Joshua” while the New Testament was written in Greek with Yeshua (a shorter form of Yehoshua) being written as “Iēsoun”. So a direct translation to English from Greek becomes “Jesus.” Both Joshua and Jesus have the same meaning but Joshua was written in Hebrew while Jesus was written in Greek and it reflected in the translations. We aren’t speaking Hebrew or Greek today and in the same way, we are calling the name of Iēsoun in the language that we speak today.
In older English alphabets, the J letter didn’t exist. Iēsoun used to be translated as “Iesus” in English. You would notice that the early King James Bible (1611) have “Iesus” instead of “Jesus”. The letter J was only differentiated from “I” around the 1500s but became general in the English land around 1630. That is to say that both the “i” and “j” sound shared the same “I” alphabet. The letter J is the last letter to be added into the English alphabet and was placed immediately after “I”. The Hebrew, “Y” sounds “J” which explains why all names that start with Y in Hebrew begins with J in English. For example, Yadah in Ancient Hebrew is Judah in English and Yehoshua (Yeshua) in ancient Hebrew is Joshua in English. This explains how languages evolve and how the spelling isn’t more important than the actual person or object being referred to. The Encyclopedia Americana has this to say
“The form of ‘J’ was unknown in any alphabet until the 14th century. Either symbol (J, I) used initially generally had the consonantal sound of Y as in year. Gradually, the two symbols (J,l) were differentiated, the J usually acquiring consonantal force and thus becoming regarded as a consonant, and the I becoming a vowel. It was not until 1630 that the differentiation became general in England.”Tweet
There is nowhere in the Bible where Hebrew was exalted over Greek or where Greek was exalted over Aramaic and this shows us that God isn’t reached by a specific language and it doesn’t matter if you are calling Him in English, French, Hebrew or Greek! God is the one who programmed languages to evolve from human and it is not going to stop as long as the earth remains. As at the time of Jesus, Greek was the scholarly language and even though Jesus spoke Aramaic, the records were taken in Greek. Yet, both the Old Testament Hebrew, the translated Old Testament (Septuagint), the spoken Aramaic and the written New Testament Greek were all-powerful. Even the Jews of those times welcomed the Greek translation of the Old Testament and most synagogues used it as it is speculated by historians that the scroll Jesus read in the synagogue was the Greek version. Language is simply meant for ease of communication.
If we insist that Jesus must be called “Yeshua”, we would also insist that we must be speaking ancient Hebrew! Yet, even the Jews of Jesus times didn’t speak Ancient Hebrews neither could most of them read Ancient Hebrew writings which fast-tracked the Greek translation of those days. The point shouldn’t be about the language or what names have evolved into these days. It should be about having what God wants us to have! God gave us His son Jesus, He is God among men, He is God’s way of being with men in the flesh and the most important thing is that “we have Him!” Whether we call Him in ancient Hebrew names, Greek names, French names or Modern English names, He is the same God with us! He is the same saviour of the world and He hears when we call because everything including languages proceeds from the things already made by Him.
Isn’t it beautiful that every tongue and tribe can call the name of Jesus in their various forms without difficulties? Isn’t it amazing that God’s revealed word has come to us in our languages? When we read and understand the word, isn’t it beautiful that we can say “God is with us” in our own words? In Matthew 1:21, the Angel said to Mary
“…you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”Tweet
The essence of naming Him Jesus (Yeshua) is because of the role He was going to play; the role of salvation. Today, Jesus still mean the same thing with Yeshua or Iēsoun which is “The Lord is Salvation”. Zeus has no same meaning with Jesus and no matter how some claim that it sounds the same, it doesn’t share the same meaning just like “dog” is not “God”. It is like saying “because Zeus has a beard on his face, every man who has a beard is Zeus.” Isn’t that absolute nonsense? Whether you call Jesus in English, Hebrew, Greek or even Latin, it remains the same! The changes in words and languages cannot change the character behind the name. Names change with time, this is why Judah suddenly became Jude or Judas in the New Testament.
One thing is certain, people who come up with these theories try to appear sincere and they seem to just want a “return to the worship of God” but we never left in the first place and they are only a distraction which is the work of darkness rather than the work of God! The argument about the name of Jesus and the false theories being peddled isn’t what we were asked to do. Before you heard these theories, what did Jesus mean to you? Isn’t it “The Lord is our salvation”? Why would you let the “confusionist theorists” confuse you and make you believe that you have always believed in what you truly have never believed in? How can Jesus, whom you believe His name means “the Lord saves” suddenly start meaning “Hail Zeus” to you? This is just the devil’s distractions. If you speak English comfortably without feeling guilty, why feel guilty when you say “Jesus” which is the English form of “Yeshua”?
Christ isn’t His surname either. Christ means “the anointed one” translated from the Greek word “Christos”. Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus or Jesus the Christ simply means “Jesus, the anointed one.” Jesus isn’t anointed in part just like the Prophets, He has the fullness of God in Him. The Bible says concerning Jesus in Colossians 2:9
“For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.”Tweet
Look at that! The Bible says that ALL the fullness of God lives in “the anointed one.” This isn’t talking about the fullness of God but all of His fullness which means that God is complete in Jesus and Jesus is the complete expression of God. When we say “Jesus Christ”, we are saying “Jesus, who is different from other Jesuses, who is God among men both in manifestation and experience.”
His name is Jesus and He is God with us and also in us. Jesus said in John 14:20
“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”Tweet
He is in the father if you have seen Him you have seen the father but even more amazingly, we are in Him and He is in us. What does this mean about God, Jesus and us? Watch out for my next article.