Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus or Yeshua - What's In a Name?

Do names matter? More importantly, are names important to Elohim (G-d)? I am going to take you on a journey of discovery of sorts, and talk about names in general, but more specifically the name of the Messiah, the Word made flesh that came to dwell among us. This is pretty exciting stuff, so hold on to your proverbial hat!

Let me preface this with saying that I believe names DO matter and that they also very much matter to Elohim. I will attempt to point out a few examples of why I believe this, but I also want to point out first and foremost that I grew up learning, believing, calling and submitting to a Messiah whose name is Jesus.  Now, I realize people "get saved" by that name every day and to some extent it doesn't matter, yet for the purpose of continuity between the Old and New Testaments or Covenants, it does matter and more so I think it matters in witnessing to Jews.  You see, the name that most Christians know as "Jesus" appears in the Tanakh (Old Testament) over 200 times! Surprised? Yeah, I was too.

Without even digging too deeply into the scriptures, I can think of examples in which Elohim told parents to name their child a specific name or changed their names.  A few examples of name changes commanded and ordained by Yahweh are Avram (Abram) to Avraham (Abraham), Yaa'kov (Jacob) to  Yisra'el (Israel) and Sarai (Sara) to Sarah. Now I am going to make a very simple (and maybe too simple to some) observation here. If Elohim didn't think names were important, He would not have changed them or given people new names! Names are somehow tied to your destiny. I am not going to pretend I understand this fully, but I do recognize this as truth any way.  Names are important and precious to Elohim. The Word, the very alphabet and more specifically the Hebrew alphabet is powerful. There is something about the spoken Word, living and active. Words have power to tear down or build up! Elohim spoke the very universe and all that you see into existence by speaking words, His Word. So, it isn't hard to think that names are important to Him. In Genesis 17 we read that Avram (exalted father) had his name changed to Avraham (father of many) and that Sarai (mockery) was changed to Sarah (princess). He was changing their names to match their destiny!  Do you ever wonder about your name? Some believers have been given a new name from Adonai. Wouldn't that be a neat prayer request? "Give me a new name that matches my destiny and speaks to who I really am."

Okay, real quick, here is a short list of some of the names of G-d that I frequently use and their English equivalents or meanings. I prefer to use the Hebrew names for G-d and so here are a few of them:
  • Adonai = Lord which means "Master" (when you see this capitalized in your Bible, it is the tetragrammaton, the Hebrew name of G-d consisting of the four letters, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh).
  • Elohim = G-d
  • Yahweh or YHWH = a most likely imperfect representation of the Name Elohim gave to Moshe (Moses) which is the Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh) but I use it anyway. Imperfect in that there is an ongoing mystery as to how to pronounce the tetragrammaton.
  • Mashiach = Messiah or annointed one. I prefer this over "Christ" for various reasons.
The third command prohibits taking G-d's name in vain. It seems clear to me that this command shows us the importance and sacredness of His name. David Stern in the Complete Jewish Bible explains, "Already by Yeshua's time, no one ever spoke G-d's name exept the cohen hagadol (high priest) when he entered the Most Holy Place in the temple to make atonement for the sins of Israel on Yom Kippur. So strictly was this rule enforced that when the Masoretes wrote down the vowel points for the Torah, they did not write the actual vowels to be used in pronouncing the tetragrammaton." Contrast this attitude of reverence for G-d's name today, which is used flippantly and frequently as a cuss word.

The first mention of the word Yeshua is in Genesis 49:18. In the Hebrew it says, "Liyshu'atekah quytiy YHWH" which is translated, "I wait for thy salvation O YHWH." The meaning behind Yeshua is SALVATION! So, right here where Jacob is blessing his sons, we have this scripture. The very definition of Yeshua's name is salvation. He IS salvation. Period. Let's just insert this Hebrew name Yeshua in place of the word salvation in Luke 2:29-30, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; For mine eyes have seen thy Yeshua!" Simeon's declaration of identifying the Messiah when he was just a little babe as "Yeshua" or salvation takes on new meaning when connected to the Tanakh, as again, this word is used over 200 times in these kind of salvation/Messianic passages! Let's go a little deeper into the word picture in the word Yeshua.

Behind each letter of the Hebrew alephbet is a word picture, that when put together, form the complete meaning of the word. Brad Scott explains in his book, The Tanakh: The Dictionary of the New Testament, "The word yeshua is formed from three consonants. These consonants are the yod, the shin and the ayin. Each of these letters has a primitive form and a primitive meaning behind each one. The primitive forms are not in use today. However, they formed the basis for the early round script which eventually became the modern, more square look. The early form of the yod looked like a hand, and its meaning was a deed or action. The early form of the shin was teeth, and its meaning was to consume or to destroy. The early form of the ayin was an eye, and its meaning was to cast our eyes or to look upon. To the Torah observant early Hebrews, this order of the letters helped to form their understanding of the meaning of the whole word. To be saved was to begin with a deed or action - a rescue- followed by the destruction of the thing you were rescued from, and ultimately concluded by a devotion, or casting your eyes upon, that which delivered you." That is the word picture behind the Hebrew letters for the Messiah - Yeshua! This kind of stuff amazes me! Yeshua came to destroy and rescue me from sin and death and now I am casting my eyes upon Him, in total devotion and love for saving me. In this definition, we not only see what Yeshua did, we also see our response which is the complete picture of salvation.

We casually throw words around and forget their meaning. Salvation is one of those words. We ask, "Are you saved?" or say, "I was saved in 1985." I don't want to get too sidetracked on this thought, but because it is the meaning of Yeshua's name and is a crucial concept to understand, I think it is important. How do we understand what this word means? We look to the source of course and not just the New Testament, but the other 39 books of the Word that defined it quite clearly. Why? Because when Mattityahu (Matthew) said that Yeshua would save us from our sins, the hearers of that message at the time were not told what save or sin meant, because they already had the Book and definitions. They already knew the meaning. Let's look at the first example of save in the Tanakh.

The first occurrence is in Sh'mot (Exodus) 2:16-17, "Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock." I love Brad Scott's explanation, "Here is the first example of someone being saved. The daughters of the priest of Midian had come to water their flock, but the shepherds came not only to take their water, but to drive them away. Moshe takes action. He rises up against the shepherds and drives them away.  This is implied from the use of the word vayyaqam, which means to rise up, as in to rise up against. Moshe then gives the women what the thieves came to take. The result is that one of them is given to Moshe in marriage. Imagine, a Hebrew man goes into the territory of the nations, drives off thieves (see Yochanan or John 10:10), gives his future bride water from the well, and takes her as his own! He then has the chutzpah to go back to his own people with her, to a life contrary to her nature. Then he takes her out on a date to a Passover Seder. Hmmmm." Okay, are you seeing the pattern and description of salvation and how it matches what Messiah said and did?!! Yochanan 10:10 says, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." The thief is HaSatan, the enemy of our souls, that is who we have been rescued from and now we are "not our own", we have been bought with a price. We enter into this betrothal with Messiah Yeshua in a covenant/Ketubah and there will be a wedding banquet, a celebration, yet to come! Oh, and He is coming again on a white horse...soon! "And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!".  Are you longing for His return as much as I am? Long engagements or betrothal's are difficult, aren't they?!

From this and many other examples of salvation in the Tanakh, we see that salvation is made up of parts. And I am seeing three. Hmmm. Yet one. Hmmm. 1)rescue 2)destruction of enemies 3) dedication to the rescuer by the one being saved. It seems that modern Christian thinking is only concerned with this first part, being rescued. But is the enemy destroyed when we don't allow the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to sanctify us through obedience to His Word? We get the victory over sin and the consequences of it when we obey His Word! Believe, by the way is not just a "knowing"of something it is an ACTION word, much like love is an action word, not just a warm and fuzzy feeling. (But that is another post!) Is our dedication to Yeshua, our rescuer, a mere occasional "thanks a lot" but yet we go on living the same lives? It seems to me that the concept of salvation has been greatly watered down in our day. This word "save" in the Tanakh says Brad Scott, "involves a literal rescue from the circumstances, a deliverance from enemies, a return to Elohiym's word, a desire to be clean and not to depart from His word, gratitude and praise, and finally a casting of ones eyes upon YHWH for strength. Is it any coincidence that He is rescuing His people from all the lands in which He scattered them, that He will destroy their enemies, that they will look upon Him who they have pierced, and then all Israel will be saved?"

David Stern in his preface to the Complete Jewish Bible says this, "In Matthew 1:21 an angel of ADONAI tells Yosef (Joseph) that Miryam (Mary), his betrothed, will give birth to a son, 'and you are to name him Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.' In English the reason explains nothing - why not name him 'George, because he will save his people from their sins'? Likewise in Greek - the name Iesous has nothing to do with soter, the Greek word for 'save'. Only in Hebrew or Aramaic does the explanation explain. The Hebrew name Yeshua, which is the masculine form of the word yeshu'ah (salvation), is based on the same root (yod-shin-'ayin) as yoshia, which means 'he will save'."

Now, I am not a linguist or translator, but I do think it is interesting that the name Jesus is a transliteration of the Greek name Iesous, which is kinda funny because there is no "J" sound there at all and for the most part it seems to me a man-produced name. It is my understanding that translators added the j sound because they needed a consonant. The question I have is why translate a name so far from the original as to make it sound totally different?  Honestly, I don't get this! When McDonald's builds a restaurant in China, or Russia or Zimbabwe, they do not transliterate the name McDonalds into something else, it remains "McDonalds" because that is what the original owner named it. Why did His wonderful name get translated and obscured in the Word of G-d? Why not use the name Elohim gave the Messiah in the Hebrew and leave it at that? I can only guess at answering this question. My guess is because names are important and HaSatan knows that. I also think it takes the Jewishness OUT of the Jewish names! Crazy to even say it, but it does. When you read the scriptures using the names of all the people and places with their Hebrew names, it reminds you that it is a Jewish or Hebraic book! There seems to me a bit of (okay a lot of) antisemitism in this translation business, whether intentional or not. As I am fully embracing my Hebrew roots and heritage, I am  embracing these precious names.

After all the years of using the (poorly) transliterated name of my Messiah, I am very much enjoying using his given name, Yeshua. Do I still use the name Jesus? Well, after decades of using this name, yes, it slips out. Is it a big deal? No, it really isn't. Either way, I know who I am talking to or about. Yet, can you imagine if everyone around you kept calling you a name that wasn't your given name? I don't know about you, but it would bother me to be called Matilda (or whatever) instead of my given name, Gail.  No offence to the Matilda's of the world, but please don't call me Matilda!

Now I realize there are different spellings for Yeshua and I am not one of those people that insists it has to be spelled a certain way. I am just happy that it is much closer (than "Jesus" is) to the name He was born with and destined to be called. Ideally, yes, I would love to learn and read the actual Hebrew language (something I am very slowly doing), but for now, I am trying to get back to at least the original names and places (proper nouns) given in the Word because names are very important. Every time I use the name Yeshua, it reminds me of who He is and what He came to do. Save. He completely and perfectly fulfilled His destiny and His name testifies to just that. I LOVE IT!

So, there you go. A very imperfect explanation of why I love and now use the name Yeshua instead of Jesus!

NOTE: After reading more about translating versus transliterating, I have come to understand that proper nouns, such as names for G-d, places, etc, should not be translated but transliterated. Apparently the difference is translating will bring the word closest to the original meaning and transliterating will bring the word in the new language closest to it's original sound by using the available sounds in the other alphabet. Proper nouns should be transliterated not translated as it then keeps the word closest to the original sound of the name. Brad Scott on his Wildbranch website has a 4 part series on this if you want to read more, go to  With this in mind, I have changed a few things in this post! I am always learning...


  1. A very lovely explanation, however imperfect =) Todah, {thank you} for sharing!

  2. Shalom Sigalit and Todah for your kind comments!

  3. Oh, I am always adding, deleting things from posts...a work in progress so to speak...and this one just got revised!

  4. I have been rereading Brad Scott's Tanakh: the Dictionary of the New Testament and meditating on the very passage all week.
    Names are important, they speak of who we are, especially if prayer went into the naming of our children. I find it disrespectful and slightly irritating when people try to shorten my children's names. They all have a specific meaning , when you take letters off it changes the meaning. Samuel means "asked of G-d", if you take off the "el" what does that speak?
    Perhaps that's why some people take salvation so lightly, they just don't see the depth, and identity.

  5. Joanne,
    I think that is my favorite among all of Brad's books and I find myself drawn to rereading it as well. So many words have become watered down and have lost their true and full meaning. Restore unto us the joy of your Yeshua!

    I won't call your Samuel, Sam if you don't ever call my Matthew, Matt! Is that a deal?!

    Shalom and thanks for reading :)

  6. Why do you leave the "o" out of god? That is not a name. Many in the Torah called out to YAHWA. To take his name in vein doesn't mean to not speak it; That is told to us by the Pharasies and Jewish legalism. In fact, we are told to not let his name come to not; and to call upon his name. Yes, we are not to throw around the name uselessly, but to proclaim his name and to call to the HIM. If it was so wrong to use his name why is it found written so many time through out the Torah?

    1. Hello Anonymous and thanks for reading! Sorry I haven't been very active checking comments here and need to get back to blogging that is why the late response to your question. I wrote that 4 years ago. I was newly learning things at that point and out of respect for my Jewish brethren, as a courtesy to them (in case they would come across my blog), I decided to leave the "o" out of God. Yes, I realize it isn't a name. And since we really don't know exactly how to pronounce the tetragrammaton of YHVH, (even though I often use Yahweh personally) I want to be sensitive and not let the issue of that be a barrier to draw others, especially my Jewish brethren to come to know Yeshua as Messiah. Salvation is to the Jew first, then the Gentile. I want to be sensitive to this and not do anything to hinder Jews who may find that "o" offensive. Blessings and Shalom to you :)