We are beginning a new series named after a book I wrote entitled, Identity Theft—How Jesus was Robbed of His Jewishness. We are going to look at the names of several of the central characters of the New Testament. And let’s start with the most important—the Messiah.
No too long ago a well-known street evangelist banned the use of the name Yeshua on his website and Facebook page. What’s his reasoning?
The popular preacher said, “While I'm sure there are some who feel they are honoring God when they use the name Yeshua instead of the name of Jesus, I would prefer they stay with the English rather than Yeshua.”
He was bothered by a comment that someone left demanding that he use the name Yeshua exclusively—and the fellow demanded it in a less than honoring way. I do agree with him that the comment was quite rude, but to ban people on his site from referring to the Messiah as Yeshua, the name his mother and brothers called him, and that God gave Him, seems a bit reactionary.
I do understand that he is responding to immature people with religious spirits who focus more on names than substance, but still, his contempt for the name Yeshua is misplaced. Personally, I have no problem with people calling the Messiah by the name Jesus, Hesus, Isa or Iseous, but there is something special about his name in Hebrew that we don’t want to miss. Let me make a few points.
1. If we are going to be linguistically correct, the name Jesus is the English transliteration of the Greek transliteration of Yeshua. If the name had not bypassed Greece on its way to England, we would call him Joshua. And in the Hebrew scriptures, the name Yeshua appears nearly thirty times and refers to as many as five different people. My point is that it was a common Hebrew name.
2. The name Yeshua is of significance because the noun Yeshu-á?, using the same root, in Hebrew means salvation. Listen to the words that the angel shared with Joseph, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will “save” his people from their sins.” In other words, name him Salvation because he will save! When we transliterate his name to other languages, we miss this powerful heavenly wordplay.
3. The name Yeshua is the shortened form of Yehoshua, or Joshua, meaning "Yahweh is Salvation."
It is interesting that in the New Testament the name Joshua is used twice. In Greek, Joshua and Jesus are the exact same word: Iesous, but English translators decided to translate Iesous when referring to Joshua, from the Hebrew, but when referring to the Messiah, but they choose the Greek. So in your New Testament you are left to think that Jesus and Joshua are two different names, when in fact, they are the same.
I don’t think our wonderful Messiah minds if you call him by his Greek name, his English/Greek name, his Spanish name or his Chinese name. I don’t believe that Yeshua gets caught up in such things. But God forbid that we allow attitudes of negativity to rise up in us against His actual God-given biblical Hebrew name.
Now, while we are talking about it, let me address a question I have received from time to time. There is a teaching that the English name Jesus actually comes from the word Zeus, the pagan god. Let me be clear—there is no, as in zero, historical evidence for this. The Greek-speaking world has been using the name Iesous for Yeshua since the gospel was preached to them by the first apostles. That is the word Paul used in his writings to the congregations. It’s hard to believe that Paul would use any word connected to Greek mythology.
Now I understand that there are lots of strange people out their obsessing over Hebrew words and Jewish customs and they often express their opinions in a zeal and arrogance that is unbefitting a lover of Yeshua—but let’s not lose something so precious and wonderful because of them.
Learn more about the Jewish Roots for the New Testament through my time-traveling, historical novel, Identity Theft.