What’s in a Name?

For those who read this blog regularly, it will not have escaped your notice that, where possible, I try to use Hebrew or Aramaic when it comes to proper nouns. You will probably have thought me a little too zealous, or even a bit crazy to do this. It might even annoy you. I have to tell you that I have been under the conviction for some time about, in particular, the name of the Son of God.

I have outlined in previous posts that instead of Jesus, I use Y’shua or Yeshua. Some people have questioned this use and asked me if it really matters. After all, God surely knows who we are talking about when we use the name Jesus. Of that I have no doubt.

In a previous post (Lost in Translation), I took the trouble to explain how the process of transliteration from Aramaic to Greek took us from Yeshua to Jesus. I will cover some of that again shortly. But, today, I was struck with a thought that might go some way to helping convince others of the need to get His name right. Now, I don’t intend to get all ‘legalistic’ about it – that is the role of organised religion. In a way, it matters very little to me what name you use when addressing the Son of God. And I don’t use the name of Y’shua in order to impress anyone. I have given up trying to impress men. It is just that this thought I had today might make a difference to where you stand on the issue. Before I explain myself, however, just to make sure that you have got the message of why I am convinced that I should be using the name of Y’shua and not the name of Jesus, here’s a recap of how we got from one to the other.

As you should be aware, God chose the Hebrews to be His chosen people with the aim of bringing the good news of His salvation for all mankind, to the Goyim, or Gentiles…that’s us by the way. In this post-modern age it is very easy to forget that it is because of the Hebrews that we can now walk in the grace in which we do.

Throughout the Old Testament, or Tanakh, God spoke to His people about this future salvation. Just about everything in the Old Testament points either symbolically or literally to this salvation, and in particular, to the person who would bring about such deliverance.

Of course, we know that, on the whole, the Hebrews failed to recognise this person when He came and made peace between Mankind and God. In fact, He incensed them so much that not only did they fail to recognise God’s own Son, they handed him over to be executed for even claiming to be their salvation. Despite this execution, we know that this person overcame death and His story spread across the entire world. We also know that He will return and unite both Goyim believers and the race of Hebrews so that the reconciliation that He made the way for will be completed.

This much we know.

We also know that with any basic study of God’s word that the Creator of the Universe and everything in it, has not only a way with words (“And God said: ‘Let there be light’, and there was”), but He is very particular when it comes to names. My favourite example is Metushelach (Methuselah). He was Noach’s (Noah) grandfather and he lived for 969 years. He died on the day the flood came. His name means ‘when it comes, I will die’. Pick just about any name or place in the Tanakh and do some research into its meaning and you will suprise yourself. The Hebrew language is like no other living language. The letters in each word each have their own meaning and when added together to form a word, they make up the attributes that the letters describe as a whole. For example, when you break down the letters of the word that is ‘righteous’, they mean ONE WHO RULES OVER HIS FLESH. I could go on like this for hours, but don’t take my word for it. Do the research yourself. But, (I can’t resist) here’s one last example: the word for ‘pitch’, as in the tar-like substance that God instructed Noach to coat the ark with, is exactly the same word for ‘atonement’. Think about it.

So, God likes words and He particularly likes to name people and places with names that reveal their purpose. The name He gave to His son is no exception.

We know that God gave to His Son the ‘name that is above all other names’ (Philippians 2:9). The name that God gave to His infant Son can be found in Luke chapter 1:

“In the sixth month, the angel Gaveri’el was sent by God to a city in the Galil called Natzeret, to a virgin engaged to a man named Yosef, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Miryam. Approaching her, the angel said, “Shalom, favoured lady! ADONAI is with you!” She was deeply troubled by his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Miryam, for you have found favour with God. Look! You will become pregnant, you will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua. He will great, and he will be called Son of Ha’Elyon. ADONAI, God, will give him the throne of his forefather David; and he will rule the House of Ya’akov forever – there will be no end to his Kingdom.” [Luke 1:26-33 CJB]

I have deliberately quoted from the Complete Jewish Bible, and used a lot more of the text than I needed to, because I want you to see something important.

First of all, notice that Gaveri’el’s (Gabriel) name ends with the suffix ‘el. Whenever we see this it denotes something or someone that belongs to God. One of God’s many names is ‘Elohim. The word ADONAI literally means ‘Lord’ but is often used to show that the original text used the name that most Hebrews won’t say or write – that of YHWH (pronounced Yahweh, and from which we get Jehovah). Today, modern Hebrews tend to say ‘HaShem’, meaning ‘The Name’, instead of YHWH. Ha’Elyon, by the way, means ‘The Most High’.

Now, the name that God told the angel to tell Miryam to name the child is Yeshua. This is shortened version of Y’Hoshua (Joshua). The name, doesn’t contain the ‘el suffix, but instead the Y’H prefix denoting ownership by YHWH, the highest name of God. The name Y’Hoshua (or Yeshua, or Y’shua) means ‘YHWH is my salvation’. And we know this.

So, to paraphrase the text above; God sent His angel to tell Miryam that she would give birth to a child, who would be called YHWH Is My Salvation because He will do exactly what His name suggests for everyone, and not only that, He will be called the ‘Son of The Most High God’, and will be given a throne, and a Kingdom that will last forever, fulfilling all of the promises that God made to Ya’akov (Jacob) and to David. Now, that’s what I call a name!

We also know that the New Testament (or more accurately ‘The New Covenant’) was written in Greek because it was the common language of the Roman Empire of the day. There can be no doubt that Y’shua spoke in Aramaic because He was a Hebrew. The trouble and confusion came in the transliteration from the Hebrew or Aramaic language into Greek. There was no like for like word for Y’shua. So what the translators did was to join together the closest phonetic sounds and they ended up with ‘IESOUS’. During the translation that produced the King James Version of the Bible (which was translated from the Latin Vulgate), the O was dropped to give us ‘IESUS’. Then, in the 14th century, the letter J was added to the English language and almost all proper nouns in the Bible beginning with I or Y were renamed with a J, hence ‘JESUS’.

What’s in a name? Well, in the name of Y’shua there is a great deal.

Now, let me expand the thought I had earlier today. Whilst it is absolutely true that God knows exactly who we are talking about when we speak of Jesus, there is something that we have overlooked.

Imagine if you were to have a house guest. Let’s say an Israeli called Yosef. Would you call him Yosef? Or would you call him Joseph, or even Joe? No, you would use his rightful name wouldn’t you? It would be impolite (and even considered rude) to rename him just to suit the language which you speak. Or what if you went to a foreign land and your name was Joseph. If someone didn’t say it right, you would correct them wouldn’t you? You would at least prefer that they tried to get it right.

Now, remember that our relationship with Y’shua is a personal one. He is a real person, even if we currently can’t see His shape. Imagine that He is living in your heart (He actually is) and your home. If He were sitting in the room with you right now, would you address Him by the name God gave Him…or by the name someone else gave Him? He would understand if you used the name Jesus. But my guess is, like you, He would prefer that you use the name that God gave Him.

We sing that there is power in the name of Jesus. Whilst I am sure God knows who we are talking about when we do, I am not sure that there isn’t actually much more power in the name of Y’shua.

“Therefore God raised Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above every name; that in honour of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow – in heaven, on earth and under the earth – and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is ADONAI – to the glory of God the Father.” [Philippians 2:9-11 CJB]

Shalom

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