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Did you know that Jesus was not the name given to our savior at birth? Among the Jewish people of Israel, the Lord Jesus was born into the Hebrew language and was given the name Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus. We came to call him Jesus in the English language through a process called transliteration. We will explore the wonderful meaning of the Hebrew name for Jesus, the controversy surrounding it, and where it is proven in scripture throughout this article.
The Hebrew Name for Jesus
In the Gospel of Matthew, Mary is “found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18), causing Joseph, her betrothed husband, to battle with the idea of divorcing her, as the child was not biologically his. However, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph with a message from his Heavenly Father, assuring Joseph that this child is of the Holy Spirit and will be the savior of the world.
Upon His birth in a lowly manger in Bethlehem, Mary named our savior Yeshua, the original Hebrew name of Jesus, as instructed by the angel of the Lord. In the Hebrew language, Yeshua means deliverer or savior. Fitting right?
Now, of course, when we read the English Word, we still see his name written as Jesus, but that is simply just a transliteration from the original Greek Bible, which was a transliteration of His name from Hebrew. If you were to read a Hebrew Bible (good luck with that), you would see Yeshua in place of Jesus.
It’s funny that we call it the Hebrew name for Jesus when, really, Jesus is the English name for Yeshua, as the Hebrew name came first.
The Transliteration from Yeshua to Jesus
It is important to note that a transliteration is not the same as a translation. A translation takes a word from one language and assigns to it a word in another language with the equivalent meaning. For example, “casa” in Spanish is translated to “house” in English, or “verde” in Spanish is translated to “green” in English.
On the other hand, a transliteration takes a word in one language and finds letters in another language that sound similar to the original pronunciation. This is typically done with languages that have entirely different alphabets, such as Hebrew and English.
So, how did we get Jesus from Yeshua? The name Jesus is written all over the new testament, as Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenants. The New Testament was written in Greek, mostly by the apostle Paul. Simply put, the Greek transliteration of the name Yeshua is “Iesous” (pronounced ee-ay-SUS) which is in turn transliterated to English as Jesus.
To throw you for another loop, Yeshua is technically not the exact spelling or name for Jesus’ original Hebrew name, as the Hebrew language is made up of entirely different letters and pronunciations. Rather, Yeshua (also the aramaic name of Jesus) is English’s best shot at an accurate version of the original Hebrew pronunciation in an English format.
In all of this jumping around, between, and through different languages, the meaning of Jesus’ name is not lost, and that is what is most important.
Controversy Over the Hebrew Name for Jesus
There are some Christians who would argue that Yeshua is Jesus’ “real name” or “true name” and Jesus is not, so we should, therefore, only call Him by the name Yeshua. However, the processes of this language change through translation and transliteration do not alter the meaning of a word. A Spanish-speaking person calls the place they live a casa, and an English-speaking person calls it a house, and it is the exact same thing either way.
Same goes for the transliteration process. There was no meaning lost in the movements between the Hebrew Yeshua, Greek Iesous, and English Jesus. Each word still means deliverer or savior. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with referring to him as Jesus.
There is also an argument that we should not call Him Jesus because the letter “J” does not exist in either the Greek or Hebrew scriptures, which were the original scriptures. But what about Jerusalem and Judah? Those begin with the letter “j” and are in the English Bibles as well as the English pronunciation of Jesus’ name. All in all, there is nothing wrong with spelling and pronouncing things in your native language. Again, transliteration does not change the meaning of a word, just the pronunciation. Yeshua and Jesus are not two different names.
One last counterpoint to this controversy is that God would not allow his holy Word to be corrupted. If the English Bibles calls Him Jesus, it is not blasphemous for us to do the same.
Yeshua in the Old Testament
This is not a huge thing, but I think it is worth mentioning to avoid confusion. There are a few mentions of the name Yeshua in the Old Testament, before our Yeshua was born and walked the earth; Jeshua in the English Bible. However, they are just lineages where a person has the same name as Jesus rather than references to THE Yeshua, the savior of the world.
Again, this is not a reference to Yeshua, the Christ. Yeshua is also transliterated to Jeshua and later to Joshua, which is a very common name even in modern society.
Yeshua, as Deliverer and Savior
Jesus’ name in Hebrew, Yeshua, means deliverer or savior. Let’s look at a few passages that show how perfectly fitting a name is for our redeemer.
First, we see Jesus as our savior in these New Testament verses:
Salvation through Yeshua is the Heavenly Father’s gracious gift to his children that he unconditionally loves beyond human comprehension.
This passage is so common that it is easily ignored, but nothing proves the meaning of the name Yeshua more clearly than this does. Because of God’s love for us, despite our constant sin, He sent his one and only son to save us and eternally restore our relationship with Him. All that needs to be done on our part is to believe.
Upon salvation, Yeshua covers us in His own righteousness so that whenever God looks at us, He sees the image of Christ instead of our sin. In this way, we are justified before God and, therefore, saved from the wrath of God upon our final judgment.
The Lord Jesus, both fully man and fully God, came down to the earth to walk among his people and give his life in an unimaginably painful death in order that all of humanity would be saved from the chains of its sin and the eternal damnation that followed. It is a gift given to us from God upon the declaration in our hearts that Jesus is Lord. Yeshua is our savior.
In these passages from both Testaments, we see Jesus as the deliverer:
Even after believing and becoming part of the Kingdom of God, there is suffering to be had in this life, as we live in a world that we are set apart from. Yeshua is the ultimate deliverance from that suffering, as it is through him that we have peace, hope, and joy and will eventually spend eternity in the presence of our creator, God the Father. Yeshua is “the way, and the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6 ESV)
Upon salvation, Yeshua justified us and, therefore, delivered us from an eternity spent separated from our heavenly Father. Yet again, there is still suffering for us on the earth. But He will deliver us and the rest of the world again when He comes back. That is where we can find hope in every circumstance.
God promises to deliver those who trust in him from their troubles. Yeshua is who He sent to do so, showing His people His salvation.
For God’s people in the Old Testament who lived before Jesus walked the earth, and for us as we watch the world crumble in waiting for Him to come back, we must be patient and know that Yeshua will deliver us once and for all, restoring all of creation back to its originally intended purpose. Our God is a god of faithfulness, never breaking a promise. He will not break this one, either.
Even in the Old Testament, before Jesus physically walked the earth, there is a foreshadowing of the ultimate deliverance that Jesus’s sacrifice would offer the world. Jesus wasn’t God’s plan B because humans failed, but rather, He was the original plan all along, and the entirety of scripture points to it, from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament. He delivers us from our afflictions, from eternal damnation, and from the evils of the world. It is in Yeshua, the deliverer, that we have true hope.
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The Meaning of Christ
Though it can sound like it, Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but rather his title. This time, through translation, instead of transliteration, we got Christ from the Greek word “Christos,” which is equivalent to the Hebrew word “Mashiach.” Mashiach, when translated into English, means Messiah. The Greek translation of Mashiach is Christos, which is how English speakers came up with Christ.
Same as the transliteration between Yeshua and Jesus, there is no meaning lost in this process. Whether you call him the Messiah, the Mashiach, Christos, or Christ, He is still the anointed one, the Messiah.
Yeshua and Christ Together
What’s really cool is when you understand the meanings of both Yeshua and Christ and then put them together. As we’ve learned, Yeshua means deliverer or savior, and Christ means anointed one. The Lord Jesus is anointed by God to be our savior.
Let’s look at where we can see Jesus as the anointed one in scripture:
We know this passage as the Abrahamic Covenant, where God makes an unconditional covenant with Abraham to make a great nation of him (the Jewish people of Israel), even when Abraham breaks it (that is what makes it unconditional). It is specifically the very last line, “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” that we see God hinting at Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is the ultimate blessing to all the families of the earth, came from the bloodline of Abraham.
This passage comes after the fall of man, where Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit. This specific part is God’s curse upon the serpent, who is Satan. He says that he will put “enmity between” the serpent “and the woman,” that her offspring will bruise his head, while his only bruises his heel. Although it is not direct, Eve’s offspring is Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross would defeat Satan once and for all, saving all of God’s creation.
Similarly to the Abrahamic covenant being a promise to make a great nation of Abraham, the Davidic covenant is God’s promise to David to make of him a great kingdom, an eternal one for that matter. This was done through Jesus, whose genealogy traces back to David through Joseph. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant; Jesus sits at the right of the throne of the kingdom of God.
When we think of Jesus in the Bible, we often resort to the New Testament, specifically the four Gospels, which tell the story of the good news, that is, the earthly life of Jesus from birth to crucifixion. However, Jesus was woven and intertwined throughout the entire Old Testament, from the beginning of the world, and will continue to be woven throughout the world until His second coming. Yeshua the Christ was chosen, anointed by God, to be the ultimate savior and deliverer of the world before the beginning of time as we know it.
Everything has a purpose in God, down to the name of the baby born of a virgin in a dirty, humble manger in Bethlehem. From the creation of the world, God knew the name of his son, the Son of Man, the Messiah. But even more profoundly, He knew His purpose.
You may enjoy this video about the Hebrew name of Jesus by the WORD in Hebrew:
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”