I have frequently found that when confused by the many theological theories, and stories, one encounters on a daily basis, the best cure is always to go to the ultimate source of spiritual knowledge, the bible.
I was recently told that “The name of the Saviour is not Jesus, but Yeshua”, by an elder of a Messianic congregation.
Now, the name Yeshua is a form of the Hebrew Joshua, or Yehoshua, and since Jesus, or Iasous, is the Greek form of this same name, Yeshua is a legitimate name to use to refer to the Messiah. I have no problem when one uses Yeshua to refer to the Messiah, but I have a problem with this statement.
When one says that “The name of the Saviour is NOT Jesus, but Yeshua” he is claiming divine knowledge. In short such a statement is making a claim of divine revelation, unless the speaker has a direct statement to that effect from the Scriptures.
Does such a statement exist in the Scriptures?
No, not to my knowledge, and those who make such claims have universally failed to produce one.
This statement is based on a fallacy that says that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and then later translated into Greek. This is more than a fallacy, it is actually a heresy.
There is no evidence for such a text. The “original Hebrew New Testament” is fiction. There is a mountain of textual evidence in Greek, and not one in Hebrew. The Aramaic Peshitta is newer than the Greek, a translation of it, and still is not OT Hebrew.
So, if there is no evidence that the New Testament was written in Hebrew, is there evidence that God planned it to be written in Greek? Is there a place in the Old Testament where God hints that He would use another language when writing the New Testament?
Yes, there is!
Isaiah 28:11 “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.”
Notice that this is not “other tongues”, but “another tongue”. Who is “he” in this context? It is the Lord Jesus, the Messiah! The “another tongue” of this passage is none other than the New Testament Koine Greek! The lingua franca of the Roman Empire, including Israel, in the first century.
Most people who stammer have higher than average intelligence. Their brain moves faster than their body can keep up. This may explain why the Lord would stammer. I am not aware of any other passage that speaks of Jesus stammering, but if scripture says it, it must be true.
Some will accuse me of taking this passage out of context, but I can assure you I have read the whole chapter. There are multiple contexts in the passage. The first few verses refer to ancient Israel, and the last few refer to the Tribulation period. Somewhere in the middle it changes to the first century.
Lets take a few moments to examine the context of the passage;
1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
This initial context is ancient Israel during Jeremiah’s life time. This section refers to Ephraim of the northern kingdom, shortly before they were taken into captivity. Today the descendants of Ephraim live in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among the Pathan tribes. They are now Muslims and don’t drink any more, but don’t think God is done with them.
Somewhere in the passage the context switches to the future of the Tribulation period;
21 For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. 22 Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.
While God decrees judgment against Israel, from time to time, the “consumption, even determined upon the whole earth” is a clue that this particular judgment is not reserved for Israel alone, but for every nation. This judgment is the Tribulation, which will affect the whole earth.
In the middle we have the verse in question; “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.”
What happened in the middle, between the scattering of Israel, and the final regathering for the Tribulation? That is the time when the Messiah came, and that is the time when He spoke to “this people” with another tongue… Greek!
In case we didn’t get it, he speaks again of the Messiah in verse 16
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
There is no doubt that this verse is a reference to Jesus the Christ, and neither is there any doubt that verse 11 is also a reference to this same person.
I find it interesting that he says “ he that believeth shall not make haste”. Humans are always in a hurry. It is counter intuitive that we should wait. We don’t like to wait. We want the Lord to hurry, but His timing is perfect. We often commit our worst sins when we act on an impulse! Wait for the Lord.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. Psalms 37:9
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Is Isaiah 28:11 alone? Is it the only place where the New Testament Greek is hinted at? No. While God does not specify which language He would use for the New Testament, he does say that Hebrew would cease to be the lingua franca of Israel.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness. Jeremiah 31:23
At the time when Jeremiah wrote this verse, Hebrew was the main language of Israel. It would have been inconceivable to the Jews of that day that their descendants would speak another language. Here he is prophesying that the day would come that they would no longer use this language, and would not use it again until they are returned back to the land.
The phrase “when I shall bring again their captivity” is not a reference to their return after 70 years, but to their return after 2700 years. The majority did not return when the Persians allowed them to. This is actually a reference to Chaim Weizmann, the father of the modern Zionist movement, and the establishment of modern Israel in 1948.
After the invasion of the Greeks in c.330 BC, Israel was subjected to Hellenization to the point that when Jesus was born, Greek was the lingua franca, the operating language, of Israel. In fact Greek was the operating language of the entire Roman empire, not Latin.
Cory Keating makes this note;
“It has been universally acknowledged by virtually everyone who has studied the matter that “Greek was the lingua franca of the Graeco-Roman world and the predominant language of the Roman Empire.” Because it was the language of the Empire, it held a place of prestige in that it dominated the political, educational, and economic environment even of Palestine itself.“This means that there would have been cultural, social and especially linguistic pressure to learn Greek in order to communicate broadly within the social structure.”
Furthermore, evidence continues to increase regarding the strong influence of the Greek language and culture in lower Galilee, the region where Jesus grew up. Highlighting the evidence of Hellenistic influence in Galilee is the fact that Matthew refers to that region as “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, was located just four miles from the largest Galilean city, Sepphoris which was a Hellenistic-Roman city where the Hellenistic culture, not Judaism, was dominant.
This “Hellenistic culture, which implied the use of Greek, dominated every aspect of life and society.”
In summarizing the importance of this region as a trade route, surrounded by Hellenistic culture, the greatly respected Greek linguist Stanley Porter says, “it is not legitimate to think of Jesus as growing up in linguistic and cultural isolation. Nazareth was situated along a branch of and had a position overlooking one of the busiest trade routes in ancient Palestine, the Via Maris, which reached from Damascus to the Mediterranean.”
Thus New Testament historian H.C. Kee concludes, “This means that for Jesus to have conversed with inhabitants of cities in the Galilee, and especially the cities of the Decapolis and the Phoenician region, he would have had to have known Greek, certainly at the conversational level.”
Because it was God’s purpose to save gentiles, as well as Jews, He inspired the original New Testament, Jewish authors to write in Greek, the same language Jesus had used as His language of ministry. It was not a human decision to use Greek for the New Testament Scriptures, it was one made by God Himself!
So what about the angel who came to the virgin Mary, and told her she was going to have a son. What name did he tell her to use?
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. Luke 1:31
Here it is in the original;
και ιδου συλληψη εν γαστρι και τεξη υιον και καλεσεις το ονομα αυτου ιησουν
He told her to name Him ιησουν, Iasous! (Yes, I have the original bible on my computer. You can find it for free here!)
Ἰησοῦς in our English characters is Iēsous, or Jesus. As Wikipedia says; “The Greek form is a hellenization of the Aramaic/Hebrew ישוע (Yēšūă‘) which is a post-Exilic modification of the Hebrew יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Yĕhōšuă‘, Joshua) under influence from Aramaic.”
One little fact I have not seen anyone mention is the fact that throughout history Jews taught Hebrew to their sons, but rarely to their daughters. Reading of the Scriptures, the Tanakh, was considered a subject for men alone, and women were taught to be house-keepers, mothers, and wives, thus they would have no need for Hebrew.
So, if the first person the angel spoke to was a young girl, Mary, or Miryam, he probably had to speak Greek to her to be understood! This may explain why Jesus had such a large number of women followers, He spoke their language! He wasn’t uppity, speaking only Hebrew to learned men, His message was for everybody!
Is it possible that God would take a transliteration for his name when He came to earth? It seems inconceivable, yet it appears that this is exactly what He did! There is NO evidence to the contrary! Zero! None! Nada!
This is what Jews throughout history have done, when naming their children. They take the local transliterations of Hebrew names for their sons and daughters, in the language with which they find themselves speaking. My son has a Jewish classmate named Benjamin. Should Benjamin some day move to Israel he will probably go by Binyamin (בנימין), but as long as he lives in Canada, speaking English, he will likely continue to be known as Benjamin.
Anatoly Sharansky, the famous Russian-Jewish dissident, changed his name to the Hebrew Natan when he immigrated to Israel.
God told us that Hebrew would die out as a spoken language, In Jeremiah 31:23, and would only be restored in the End Times. He told us that He would come speaking another tongue in Isaiah 28:11. The evidence is that these things are true, and the Greek of the New Testament is actually a fulfilment of these prophecies!
You and I are called to believe the bible, NOT to modify it!
What of the martyrs? What of the hundreds of millions of martyrs who died during the last two millennia? How many of them died for Jesus, and how many of them died for Yeshua? The fact is that the vast majority of them never heard of Yeshua, but they gave their lives for ιησουν, Jesus, or the local equivalent, even the Jewish believers.
There may have been a handful who knew Him by Yeshua, but He will not dishonour those who died for Him knowing only Jesus.
Modern men who tell us “The name of the Saviour is not Jesus, but Yeshua” are disrespecting the Lord, the bible, the martyrs, the saints, and all the evidence He gave us. They are ignoring two thousand years of church history!
You will find that such churches don’t sing any of the old hymns either, for the exact same reasons. They don’t believe that those who came before us made any valuable contributions to the faith! They are lifting themselves up for special honour. Don’t believe such men, but read your bible (the AV), and believe it!
There is a Hebrew Roots version of the bible that some are reading, and which I have recently encountered. I noticed the other day that where the original says “Christos” they have replaced it with, not Messiah, or Mossiach, but with Yeshua. This is not even a valid translation! Such a bible is not trustworthy! Translation requires that you replace the original word with the equivalent word of the language into which you are translating.
Replacing Christos with Yeshua is a paraphrase, which is the authors opinion, and not a translation. Making such an insertion betrays an agenda, and an attitude. This is an arrogant attitude, and not the type of attitude a Christian should display. A servant of Jesus Christ should be humble, and faithful.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. James 4:6
For further investigation I recommend the following;
Can we trust the Greek New Testament? by John J. Parsons of Hebrew4Christians
Evidence from History and the Gospels that Jesus Spoke Greek by By Corey Keating
See also my article In which Language was the New Testament written