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12 Days of Christmas Correction – His Name

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 13, 2009


A true American weakness lies in our linguistic skills.  Our language is a true hodge-podge of other languages, butchered English vocabulary and local colloquialisms that don’t always match up with the most obvious definitions.

Each generation chips away at hundreds of words, adds new and “improved” terminology and further deteriorate the American lexicon.

With all its negative aspects, I do like our language for the most part, but it really shows its weakness when we attempt to translate the scriptures.

My favorite deficiency, if that makes sense, is in the way we use names.  We just don’t put a lot of thought into how we take a name from another country, culture or language and write it or say it.

When I was in the Army in Germany, I’d listen to the radio announcers as they were speaking in German get to an American name and pronounce it exactly as if I were saying it.  We don’t take that kind of care when returning the favor.

What’s in a Name?

That’s where this blog starts.  The angel, Gabriel, told Joseph concerning Mary, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name ‘Jesus’, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 2:21)

The Hebrew name that the angel gives to Joseph was a rather common name that when translated means, “The Lord who Saves”.  If the translators of the Bible wanted to simply translate Jesus’ name, they could have called him, “The Lord who Saves the Anointed” (Jesus Christ).

We give our kids names today that aren’t real words in our language, but in those days, they would use a word or phrase straight from their own language when naming their kids.  So when Jesus was called by his fellow Jews, they were calling him “The Lord who Saves” every time.

You don’t see a lot of Americans with the name “Jesus”, probably because we think that is his real name and don’t want to share his name, but you might be surprised to find out that the one name with the closest association to Jesus is extremely common in America.

Follow the etymology of the name Jesus…

His name given by the angel was Yeshua.

When the name was translated to the Greek, since there is no “Y” in Greek, they used the letter “I” (iota).  In addition, they don’t have the “SH” sound, either in Greek, so the “S” (sigma) was used.  The letter “S” was added to the end because if the word ended in “a”, then it could be construed as an ending that could affect the mood or voice of the name’s usage.

Therefore, the name used in Greek was “Iesous“.  If they translated his name into Greek from Hebrew, it would be “Kurios Soter”.

Before the Bible was translated to English, it went through Latin and German first.

The Latin took the Iesous and transliterated it directly from Greek – “Iesous”

When the German Bible was created from the Latin and original Hebrew, the Germans went back to the original Hebrew sound.  The German letter for “Y” is “J”.  They maintained the rest of the word but dropped the “O”.  The name was pronounced, “Ye-sus”, and was later used when the Bible was translated to English, “Jesus”.

Had the translators of the English versions gone back to the original Hebrew (and Aramaic) and used Yeshua and passed it through the to the English the way the rest of the Hebrew was passed on (bypassing the Greek), the name would be “Joshua” in the English.  In fact, the Hebrew name Yeshua in the Old Testament when seen in your English Bible, is transliterated, “Joshua”.

You may know a few people with the name “Joshua”… maybe a friend, neighbor or even yourself.  Did you realize that that name is the closest English word to Jesus’ real name?

But all this aside for a second, it’s not the letters used that really matter, but the name behind the name that matters.  In fact, most of the times when the name “Jesus” is translated to other languages, it is further butchered, but a rose by any other name is still a rose, and the Bible shows us clearly it is who he is and because of what he did that matters:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus (Iesus, Iesous, Yeshua…) every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

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