People ask me from time to time why I use the name "Jesus" for the Lord and Savior of mankind instead of Yahshua or Yeshua (Hebrew and Aramaic equivalents of Joshua). Why call him "Jesus"? They find it inconsistent in view of my using "YHWH"* for the Creator, the only true, living God, in all my writings. They argue that Jesus was actually given one of those names and that, since there is no "J" in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, "Jesus" could not be his name. To someone not familiar with the debate, it may seem a meaningless issue. But it's not, and I have several reasons for using the name "Jesus". But first I think it helpful to explore the historical background for those not familiar with the matter. For the sake of clarity, I will use the English versions of Biblical names, with the English character equivalents of their Hebrew and Greek versions in italics.
The first mention of the name that would become "Jesus" appears in the Bible in Ex. 17:9, but its source is explained in Num. 13:16, which reports that Moses called Hoshea, the son of Nun, Joshua. Hoshea means deliverer (from Hb. yasha, a root meaning open, wide, free). Joshua is the English form of the Hebrew Yehoshuah, yeh-ho-shoo'-ah, or Yah-hoshua. Moses combined Yah, the short form of YHWH with Hoshea, resulting in a name meaning "Yah is salvation". Variants of that name appear throughout the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. Among them Jehoshua and Jeshua, which appear in 1 Chr. 24:11 and 2 Chr. 31:15, but most prominently throughout Ezra and Nehemiah as the name of the priest who returned with Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem. That same priest is identified as Joshua in most English translations of Hag. 1:1 and Zech. 3:1. In all of those instances, the English "J" would have been pronounced as "Y" in the Hebrew.
The Chaldean or Aramaic language also had the name Yeshua, corresponding to Jeshua, which could have been the name actually given to Jesus, based on the general belief among scholars that Aramaic was the common language before the Greek conquest of the Middle East by Alexander the Great. That rationale assumes, of course, that Aramaic was still commonly used by Jews when Jesus was born. I have seen the name spelled as Y'shua, Yahshua, Yeshua, Yah-hoshea, and Yah-hoshua as well as other variations. I have used Yeshua in prayer and conversation with the Father and in limited conversations with others. However, I have resisted the temptation to replace "Jesus" with the Hebrew or Aramaic version in my writings (so far, at least) and in most of my conversations, and even in ministry, as I explain below.
After Greek began to dominate communications in the Middle East, a group of Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek so that Jews who did not speak or read Hebrew could access those scriptures. Their translation is called the "Septuagint" (abbreviated LXX), based on the tradition that 70 scholars produced it. In the Septuagint, they translated Joshua and Jeshua (or Yeshua), for example, as Iesou (ee-ay-soo') or Iesoun, which is the English equivalent for the Greek and is identical to the name given Jesus in the New Testament, as discussed below.
With that background, I will now explain why I still use the name "Jesus" rather than Yeshua, Yahshua, Yahoshua or some other Hebrew or Aramaic antecedent of that name:
Final thought (my sermon)
Regardless of which name we use to identify Jesus, I believe it's vitally important to use his name when talking about him, and it's important to talk about him a lot. I hear too many people who should know better referring to him only as "Christ", without his personal name, even in sermons. "Christ" is not his name. It's a title and should be preceded by "the" when it's used without his name. On the other hand, when we use the name of Jesus, we invoke his authority and a power that cannot be measured. Years ago, when I went into a couple mental hospitals to talk with patients there, all I did was talk about Jesus, what he did during his mortal life and what he does now. I used his name, not his title. Every one of the patients that I visited was expecting a longer stay, hoping only for a brief visit to their homes within a couple weeks. However, each was restored and released after I'd visited them only once or twice.
When we talk about Jesus by his name, he's present in what we say, and his healing power works in a way we do not understand. But we can see the results. Jesus is indeed the same today as he was yesterday and will be in the future.
*YHWH or YHVH is the English representation of the four Hebrew letters that spell the name of the God of the Bible, the one true, living God worshipped by Jews and Christians. YHWH was the name by which he identified himself to Moses in Ex. 3:14. According to references that I've read, the exact pronunciation of YHWH's name was lost in antiquity. After much study, I prefer to pronounce the name "Yahu-wah" (the "h" being aspirated as in "hay", emphasis on the last syllable), but the generally accepted pronounciation in common English is "Yah-weh" or "Yah-way". Some translations of the Bible, such as the KJV and NASB, substitute "the LORD" for his name, following a practice begun before Jesus' birth.
YHWH revealed himself in various ways to the children of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. He also revealed himself in and through his son Jesus Christ and acts, among other ways, in and through Christians by the Holy Spirit. Because the word "God" is being used today to designate all kinds of human inventions, although accepted for centuries in English as a name for YHWH, I prefer to use the name that YHWH chose for himself rather than "God" or "the LORD" as I did in early versions of my writings. Please read The Name of the One True, Living God for a fuller discussion.
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