Must we use the Hebrew name for Jesus?
There are those who teach that we should call Jesus by His Hebrew name of Yeshua. Some of them also insist on referring to Him as Meshiach, rather than Christ or Messiah. There are several reasons why this teaching is missing the mark.
First, Jesus is never called Yeshua in the New Testament, which was originally written primarily in Greek. Instead, He is referred to as Iésous. This was the name that the angel Gabriel told Joseph to name Mary’s child in Matthew 1:21. It is also the name given to biblical Joshua in the Septuagint, the 2nd-century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament which was in use around the time of Christ. The Greek name Iésous, the Hebrew name Yeshua, and the Anglicized names Joshua and Jesus all mean “the Lord is Savior”.
We believe Jesus was called Yeshua by Joseph and Mary at His birth since they both likely spoke Aramaic. As Jesus grew up, no doubt he was also called by the Greek form as well. When Jesus died, the accusation written over the cross was in three languages, Aramaic, Latin, and Greek (Jn. 19:20), representing the three dominant language streams in 1st century Palestine. The inscription would have had three different names, Yeshua (Aramaic), Iesus (Latin), and Iésous (Greek), all referring to the same man, Jesus.
Second, we can refer to Jesus in our own language and don’t need to learn another language in order to preach or pray in His name. In the Old Testament, when God chose the tribes of Israel to be His witness in the world, He spoke to them through the prophets and His scriptures in their language, Hebrew. Now, however, God has spoken to us through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). The beauty of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is that God has created a new people out of every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9). Each of us in our own language can offer worship and praise to God and do not need to refer to Jesus or God in any other language but our own.
We know that God instituted languages at Babel (Gen. 11:7-9). About two thousand years later, God used his apostles at Pentecost to speak through the Holy Spirit in many languages (Acts 2:2-12). Luke quotes the crowd, “we hear them telling in our own tongues (languages) the mighty works of God.” There were 17 languages listed in Acts 2, part of the thousands of languages and dialects that have existed and evolved since Babel. The miracle was that each heard about God in his or her native tongue, not that each suddenly understood Aramaic.
Changing the form of a name from one language to another does not alter the meaning of the name. For instance, imagine you are at visiting France and Germany. The Germans would refer to their country as Deutschland and the country to their south as Frankreich. The French would refer to their country as la France, and the country to their north as Allemagne. Both people would be referring to the same two countries. In the same way, the Jewish people call Jesus Yeshua, and English speakers call Him Jesus. There is no other name by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12) and at the wonderful name of Jesus name every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:11).
Guest contributor Daniel Hayes