Episode 03: It may be shocking to learn, but the fact is that many people were named Jesus in first century Israel. So how is it then that his name is the name above all names? In episode three the name of Jesus is explored in depth in order to gain a better understanding of the significance of not only Christ’s name but his mission. The name Jesus means “salvation” and it was preordained in the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures that the messiah would bring salvation not only to Israel but to all mankind.
The Lesson: What does the Name “Jesus” Mean?
I know I’m a little late with this one, two weeks late actually, but my weekend viewing of FFOZ TV has been short circuited by weekend yard projects. I was finally able to carve out some free time to view Episode 3: Call His Name Yeshua.
This episode builds on the basics learned in Episode 1: The Good News and Episode 2: Messiah. Both of those shows focused on presenting a definition of a very basic concept in the Bible, except that in each case, the traditionally Christian audience discovered that the concepts weren’t quite so basic.
Episode 3 focuses on the meaning of the name “Jesus.” I suppose there are Christians in the world who actually believe that “Jesus” was the original name used by the Messiah, that his disciples, his friends, his mother called him “Jesus.” This isn’t possible when we consider that they would all be speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic and in those languages, it’s impossible to make a hard “J” sound.
As always, teacher Toby Janicki offers up the lesson as a mystery that must be solved using three clues. Today’s mystery is “The Mystery of the Name Jesus.” The first verse that leads into the first clue is this one.
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
–Matthew 1:20-21 (ESV)
After using a translation with which most Christians would be familiar, Toby read the same verses again using the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels:
He was thinking this way, but then an angel of HaShem appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Yosef son of David! Do not be afraid to take Miryam, your wife, for what has been formed within her is from the Holy Spirit. She is giving birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.”
As Toby pointed out, many Christians are fond of a hymn called “Jesus, Name Above All Names.” Have they gotten it wrong all these years? Is the true name of Messiah “Yeshua?” Is he offended when we call him “Jesus?” For that matter, how do we know “Yeshua” was/is his original name?
We’ll get to all that in a minute. Toby points to the first clue:
Messiah is named Jesus by direct command of God.
There’s something else. There seems to be a connection between the name Yeshua and what the angel said about him saving his people from their sins.
The scene shifts to Aaron Eby in Israel who provides the episode’s language lesson. As it turns out, we get the name “Jesus” from the Latin and Greek translations of the Hebrew word Yeshua. In Latin, his name is translated as “Iesus” and from the Greek, it’s “Ἰησοῦς”. Aaron says that we know Messiah’s name was Yeshua because it was actually a common name for Jewish men at that point in history in Israel. It’s actually a shortened version of Yehoshua which we translate into English as “Joshua.” Yehoshua means “The Lord is Salvation.”
Also, the name Yeshua, when it occurred in the Old Testament, was translated in the Septuagint as we see it also translated in the New Testament, so we can confidently say that Yeshua is the Hebrew name of Jesus.
And from what Aaron presented in his portion of this episode, the definition of the longer version of Yeshua’s name seems to be the connection in the angel’s words to Joseph. Name him “Jesus” (salvation) because he will bring salvation to his people.
Going back to Toby, we hit the second clue:
Jesus means salvation.
Since Jesus was such a common name at the time, it was important to differentiate the Messiah from all of the other Jewish boys and men called Yeshua, so he was referred to as “Yeshua of Nazareth.”
But we need one more clue and it comes from the Old Testament (Tanakh). Actually there are a lot of prophesies in the Old Testament that speak of the Messiah bringing salvation to Israel. Probably one of the oldest is in Genesis 49 when Jacob, before he dies, blesses his sons.
For Your salvation do I long, O Hashem!
–Genesis 49:18 (Stone Edition Tanakh)
Toby says that according to the Jewish sages, right before Jacob uttered this exclamation, he had a vision of the end times and was longing for the coming of Messiah and his salvation.
Toby quoted from a number of prophesies, and you can find out what they are by viewing the episode, but he also spent some time using word substitution to illustrate his point: salvation = Yeshua and salvation = Jesus. Here’s a couple of examples. First, the original verse in the NASB translation:
Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”
Now with the first word substitution:
Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your Yeshua comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”
…and then the second:
Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your Jesus comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”
I know this program is written for a traditional Christian audience, so these verses are designed to make the greatest impact on them, but if there are any traditional (non-Messianic) Jewish viewers, they might have a hard time with the name “Jesus” being directly inserted into the Tanakh as an equivalent term for God’s salvation.
But the prophesies that Toby quotes also lead to the third and final clue:
The Prophets predicted that Messiah would bring salvation.
The lesson in this episode is as simple as that. The name “Jesus” is an English translation of the Greek and Latin translations of Messiah’s name from Hebrew, which is “Yeshua.” Yeshua relates to the Hebrew word for “salvation” and basically means that Messiah brings salvation. This was prophesied many times by many Old Testament prophets, so his name would have meaning to the Jewish people when linked with his Messianic mission.
What Did I Learn?
Interestingly enough, we find something like it directly referring to Yeshua:
Blessed is HaShem, God of Yisrael, for he has taken note of his people and sent them redemption. He will cause a horn of salvation to sprout for us in the house of David his servant…
–Luke 1:68-69 (DHE Gospels)
This is the blessing said over the infant Yeshua by Zecharyah the prophet at the Temple. As Toby points out, this isn’t Zecharyah asking for God to provide salvation for Israel, it’s the prophet thanking Hashem for having sent salvation in the form of the new-born Messiah Yeshua. Messiah and salvation had come.
I hadn’t made the connection between these verses and the daily prayers of Jews all over the world, all of whom are asking for one who has already arrived and who will come again: Yeshua of Nazareth, the Messiah and King of Israel.
I hope to review the next episode very soon.