Should we use the name: Jesus or Yeshua?

Author: BibleAsk Team


The question of whether to use the name “Jesus” or “Yeshua” often arises in discussions among Christians and those interested in the historical and linguistic aspects of biblical names. Both names are associated with the central figure of Christianity, but they stem from different linguistic origins and carry distinct theological and cultural connotations. Let us examine the meaning, usage, historical context, and theological implications of both names, drawing upon biblical references, etymology, and theological perspectives.

Etymology and Meaning – Jesus or Yeshua

  1. Jesus (English) / Ἰησοῦς (Greek): The name “Jesus” is derived from the Greek form “Ἰησοῦς” (Iēsous), which, in turn, is a transliteration of the Aramaic name “Yeshua” or “Yehoshua.” In Greek, it carries the meaning of “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation,” reflecting the central theme of Jesus’ mission on earth as the Savior of humanity (Matthew 1:21).
  2. Yeshua (Aramaic/Hebrew): “Yeshua” is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew name “Yehoshua” (Joshua), which means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh saves.” This name has deep roots in the Old Testament and is associated with figures like Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land (Numbers 13:16).

Usage in the New Testament

  1. New Testament Greek: In the New Testament, written primarily in Greek, the name “Jesus” (Ἰησοῦς) is uniformly used to refer to the Son of God and the Messiah. It appears over 900 times throughout the New Testament scriptures, emphasizing the centrality of Jesus Christ in Christian theology and narrative.
  2. Historical and Cultural Context: During the time of Jesus’ ministry, Aramaic was the common language spoken in the region of Judea. Thus, it’s likely that Jesus and His disciples primarily used the name “Yeshua” in their everyday interactions, reflecting the linguistic and cultural context of their time.

Practice by the Apostles

  1. Book of Acts: In the Book of Acts, which chronicles the early spread of Christianity, the apostles are recorded as proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ in various contexts. For example, in Acts 2:38, Peter declares, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” This usage highlights the apostolic emphasis on the significance and authority of the name of Jesus in the preaching of the Gospel.
  2. Hebrews and Diaspora: While the New Testament predominantly uses the Greek form “Jesus,” it’s plausible that in Jewish communities and among Aramaic-speaking believers, the name “Yeshua” continued to be used colloquially. The apostolic practice likely varied depending on the linguistic and cultural context of their audience.

Theological Perspective

  1. Unity in Diversity: From a theological standpoint, whether one uses the name “Jesus” or “Yeshua” should not be a point of division among Christians. Both names refer to the same divine person—Jesus Christ, the Son of God—who embodies the essence of salvation and redemption for believers.
  2. Cultural and Linguistic Sensitivity: While “Jesus” is the commonly accepted form in English-speaking Christian communities, acknowledging the Aramaic origin of the name (“Yeshua”) can foster a deeper appreciation for the cultural and linguistic diversity of the biblical narrative. It can also serve as a reminder of Jesus’ Jewish heritage and the historical context of His earthly ministry.

Application

We can refer to Jesus as “Jesus,” “Yeshua,” or “YehSou, without changing His nature. In any language, His name means “the Lord is Salvation.” The language changes, but the meaning itself does not change.

The Bible nowhere commands us to only speak or write His name in Hebrew or Greek. In fact, on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles spoke in the languages of the “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene” (Acts 2:9–10). Thus, Jesus was made known to every language group in a way they could readily understand.

The Bible doesn’t give preeminence to one language (or translation) over another. We are not commanded to call upon the name of the Lord in Hebrew only. Acts 2:21 says, “But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” God knows who calls upon His name, whether they do so in English, German, or Hebrew. He is still the same Savior.

Conclusion

In conclusion, whether one chooses to use the name “Jesus” or “Yeshua” is ultimately a matter of personal preference, cultural background, and linguistic tradition. Both names hold profound theological significance, symbolizing the saving grace and redemptive work of the Son of God. While the New Testament predominantly employs the Greek form “Jesus,” an understanding of the Aramaic roots of the name (“Yeshua”) enriches our comprehension of the historical and cultural context of Jesus’ life and ministry. Regardless of the specific name used, what matters most is the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, whose name represents hope, salvation, and eternal life for all who believe (Acts 4:12).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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