WHAT IS THE NAME OF MESSIAH? It seems like a rather simple question, doesn’t it? The answer to this question is seen throughout the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments. Now many may not be aware that the Messiah’s name is seen throughout the Bible, but it is true. In fact, as I will show you in the Bible itself, it appears in three forms, but two of the forms are just alternate versions of the name “Joshua.”
Now I should say up front here that I am NOT arguing that we all need to use the name “JOSHUA” rather than “JESUS,” instead I want to broaden your understanding of the Lord’s name. I want you to realize that there are FOUR FORMS of His name, THREE FORMS are used in the Bible, and the fourth is alluded to. I also want you to know why these different forms are used.
A WORD OF WARNING:
I also want to protect you from the deceptions, half-truths, and innuendos that are being used by those in the “SACRED NAME MOVEMENT” and others who are deceiving people away from the Bible to believe in one of their man-made names, like I mentioned in the last post “What’s God’s Name?” that they are doing to the Father. And just as the Father has more than one name, so does the Son. They always try to catch you by telling you that there is “no letter J” in the Hebrew. This is true, there’s not, as I will explain, but after this then is where they begin leading you down the road of deception.
Here are just a few of the false man-made names these groups are using:
For God: Yahuwah, Yahuweh, Yahua
For His Son: Yahshua, Yahusha, Yahushua, Yashua, Yahawashi, Yehushua, Yehowshuwa
If you read an article on the Internet or someone is speaking to you in person, and they present one of these names to you, please understand that they are presenting you with a name or names that DO NOT APPEAR ANYWHERE IN THE BIBLE. I believe it is absolutely essential that we stay true to what we can see and find in the Bible. A man-made name for God and Messiah (Christ) means that it’s a “false god” and a “false Messiah” or “false Christ,” and you do not want to get attached to any of these “false deities” being followed by these groups or individuals.
THE REASON FOR MY WARNING:
A lady who follows my posts asked why I was “bashing the Sacred Name Movement,” and so if she had a question about this, I imagine others do as well. So I’ve included this to the original post. This was my response to her question: A number of years ago, my brother-in-law got involved in that group, and he began using “Yahuah” for God and “Yahushua” for the Lord’s name. He taught his four daughters that it was okay to curse and swear using the words “God” and “Jesus” because it wasn’t their names anyway. He would always argue with us about these names and why we should not use the words “God” or “Jesus.” As a result, we had to limit our interactions with him; we just got tired of all the fighting.
Then a few years later, he had a heart attack which led to a triple-bypass, but then his kidneys and liver started shutting down, and he had problems with his lungs filling up with fluid. We discovered through his daughters that he had been hospitalized, and he wasn’t going to live much longer. My wife started talking to him more. Before he died, the Lord spoke to my wife and told her that her brother had once been close to him, but he had gotten confused, started using these other names, and wandered away from Him. So the Lord gave my wife a letter to read to her brother. My wife expected a lot of complaints and fighting because it had the name “Jesus” used throughout it. But when she finished it, he responded by saying, “What’s wrong with that? I believe all of that. Jesus is my Lord and my Savior.” And then he started using the name “Jesus” as if it was the most normal thing for him to do.
Not only was my wife shocked, but so were his daughters who were there in the room with him. All of this was on the speaker phone, so they all could hear one another. So my attitude towards the names promoted by the “Sacred Name Movement” is based on this experience, and what the Lord told my wife about their “man-made false names” for Him and His Son. I am not arbitrarily against them for no reason, nor is it based on some theological differences. A man’s life hung in the balance between heaven and hell because of what he took from their teachings about these names, and I do think that is reason enough to oppose their false names.
I should also say that I do make a clear distinction between “the Messianic Movement” and “the Sacred Name Movement.” These two movements are not the same. Although those from the “Sacred Name Movement” does tend to attend Messianic Movement, their goals and agendas are NOT the same as I will also explain later in this post. Now let’s begin this study.
JESUS – THE GREEK FORM OF JOSHUA
First of all, “JESUS” (Gk. Iesous) is the Greek form of the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. Y’hoshua). This was a complete shock to me when I first found this out because I had never heard anyone point this out to me, so when I started researching this topic, I thought I had stumbled across some great new truth, only to discover that it was already well known.
MODERN TRANSLATORS KNOW THIS
For example, in the introduction of the book of Joshua, in my Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, it says,
This book describes the conquest of the land of Canaan under the leadership of JOSHUA, the successor of Moses. His name means “Jehovah saves” or “Jehovah is salvation.” The Greek transliteration of his name is “JESUS“ (Heb. 4:8′ Emphasis Mine). (294)
Is there any biblical support for this? Actually, there is, if we compare Acts 7:44-45 in the King James Version with more modern translations.
|ACTS 7:44-45 (KJV)||ACTS 7:44-45 (NASB)|
|Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with JESUS [Gk. Ιησους] into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;||Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with JOSHUA [Gk. Ιησους] upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David.|
In both versions, the same Greek form of His name is used, but in the King James Version, the Greek form is transliterated into English as “JESUS,” and in this same passage in the modern translations, the name “JOSHUA” is used. Why? Because in this passage, JOSHUA SON OF NUN is the one being referenced, but the Greek form of his name is IESOUS, or in English “JESUS.” We can also see this in Hebrews 4:8.
|HEBREWS 4:8 (KJV)||HEBREWS 4:8 (NASB)|
|For if JESUS [Gk. Iesous] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day||For if JOSHUA [Gk Iesous] had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that|
Again, we can see the same Greek form of the name is used, but in the King James Version, the Greek form is transliterated into English as “JESUS” and in the NASB, and other modern translations, it is “JOSHUA.” And again, the person being referenced here is, in fact, JOSHUA SON OF NUN. And this is not a different Greek spelling than the name of the Messiah (Christ), but the same exact spelling!
EVEN HISTORIANS KNOW THIS?
Not only do modern translators know that the name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the name “Joshua,” but so do historians. For example, in Paul Johnson, a Christian, wrote a book called A HISTORY OF THE JEWS (1987), and in it he writes, “Jesus was the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua” (126). Also, Chaim Potok, a well-known Jewish author of THE CHOSEN, THE PROMISE, MY NAME IS ASHER LEV, and IN THE BEGINNING, has also wrote a historical book on his own people, called WANDERINGS: CHAIM POTOK’S HISTORY OF THE JEWS (1978), and he, like Johnson, confirms that the name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the name “Joshua”:
The name of the founder of Christianity was JOSHUA son of Joseph. In the Galilean Hebrew dialect of that day his name was probably pronounced Jeshua. JESUS IS THE ORDINARY GREEK FORM OF THE HEBREW NAME JOSHUA. (371)
I brought in these two outside sources to show that I am not making this up. It is well known and established by both historians, scholars and translators. Of course, my question is that, “If this is so well known that the name ‘JESUS‘ is, in fact, the Greek form of the name ‘JOSHUA,’ then why not translate every occurrence of ‘JESUS‘ as ‘JOSHUA’?” Of course, if translators did that, even though it would be correct translation of the Greek form of His name that’s seen used throughout the New Testament, it would cause an avalanche of complaints from people, businesses, card companies, song companies, movie companies, etc.
EVEN ANCIENT GREEK SPEAKERS KNEW
Nor is this a recent revelation. Instead, I discovered that the awareness that “JOSHUA” and “JESUS” were, in fact, equivalent forms of the same name goes back to when Greek was still the common parlance of the Roman Empire. For example, this was also discussed in the book Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Complete and Unabridged, translated by C.F. Cruse (1998). Eusebius, who lived from 264-340 C.E., is known as “the Father of Church History,” and he wrote in his first book of Church History (or Ecclesiastical History),
The same Moses, under the divine Spirit, foreseeing the epithet JESUS, likewise dignified this with a certain distinguishable privilege. This name, which had never been uttered among men before Moses, he applied first to him alone who, by a type and sign, he knew would be his successor after his death in the government of the nation. His successor, therefore, who had not assumed the appellation JESUS (JOSHUA) before this period, being called by his other name OSHEA [Heb. HOSHEA], which his parents had given, was called by Moses JESUS (JEHOSHUA, JOSHUA) (Num. 13:16). (Book 1, Chapter 3, page 10).
The name “JOSHUA” was NOT given him by his parents, but instead the name they gave him was HOSHEA, or the Greek form OSHEA, but it was Moses who changed HOSHEA’S name into “JOSHUA.” The Greek language does not have a “H” or “huh” sound, which is why in our English Bibles, the Hebrew name HOSHEA is written as OSHEA.
But being a Greek-speaker, Eusebius here clearly identifies the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. “YEHOSHUA“) and the name “JESUS,” derived from the Greek and Latin, as the same name. Also, he believed that the reason Moses changed HOSHEA (JOSHUA’S name originally; Numbers 13:16) to “JOSHUA” was because he would be “a type and sign” of the future Messianic “JOSHUA,” “JESUS CHRIST.” In his book, Eusebius goes on to say,
This name, as an honorable distinction far superior to any royal diadem, was conferred on JOSHUA, because JOSHUA the son of Nun bore a resemblance to our Savior as the only one after Moses and the completion of that symbolical worship given through him that should succeed him in a government of pure and undefiled religion. (Book 1, Chapter 3, page 10)
Consequently, the name “JOSHUA” in the Old Testament is the same name as “JESUS” in the New Testament, one from the Hebrew and other from the Greek, respectively. And up until the Babylonian Exile, the name “JOSHUA” had only one basic form. It isn’t until after the Babylonian exile where we see two biblical writers maintain the same name and spelling of “Joshua” and two others who present a different alternative form.
HAGGAI AND ZECHARIAH
Some of the Jews were allowed to leave Babylon in 536 B.C.E. (about 50 years after the Exile) when Cyrus the Great issued the Edict of Cyrus, and with that edict, the first group of Jews was allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. In this first group were the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who were very young when they had been taken from Israel to Babylon in 586 B.C.E., but are now fifty years older when they are now returning to the land of Israel.
In both the prophetic books of Haggai and Zechariah, the High Priest at the time was named JOSHUA SON OF JOSEDECH.
|HAGGAI 1:1||Zechariah 6:11-12
|In the second year of Darius the king, in
the sixth month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor
of Judah, and to JOSHUA THE SON OF JOSEDECH, the High Priest.
|Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of JOSHUA THE SON OF JOSEDECH, the High Priest; and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.|
Even though both Haggai and Zechariah were both young teens when they were taken into captivity and are now fifty years older, they still remember the original Hebrew form and pronunciation of the name “Joshua” (or Heb. Yehoshua). However, years later, when Ezra and Nehemiah come back to the land, they, unlike Haggai and Zechariah, use a different form of the name.
YESHUA – THE ARAMAIC FORM OF JOSHUA
Ezra and Nehemiah were both born and grew up in Babylon. Ezra was sent to the land of Israel in 457 B.C.E. to teach people the Law of God (Heb. Torah), 129 years after the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C.E. Nehemiah, on the other hand, was the cup bearer of the King and was not sent to the land of Israel until 445/444 B.C.E. (or 142 years after the Babylonian Exile). Obviously, these men would have been born in Babylon as stated and grown up reading, writing, and speaking both Aramaic and Hebrew. It is in their writings, as well as the books of I Chronicles and II Chronicles, which according to tradition, were written by Ezra after the Babylonian Exile, that we find the Aramaic form of “YESHUA” being used, rather than the traditional Hebrew form of “JOSHUA” (Heb. Yehoshua). An example of this can be seen in Nehemiah 8:17,
And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of JESHUA the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. (Emphasis Mine)
Although the name “JESHUA” begins with the letter “J” in our English translations, when I looked in a Hebrew Bible, I discovered that the first letter is actually a yodh (or “Y”), and so the name here is really “YESHUA.” But then when I looked at this same verse in my New American Standard Bible (as well as all other more modern versions), the name “YESHUA” (or “JESHUA“) was replaced with the name “JOSHUA.”
The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of JOSHUA the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. (NASB, Nehemiah 8:17; Emphasis Mine)
Consequently, then, the names “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA” (or “JESHUA“) are synonymous and interchangeable, one coming from the Hebrew and one coming from the Aramaic.
YESHUA – HEBREW OR ARAMAIC?
There’s a debate right now as to how the name “YESHUA” originated. Modern day Messianic Jews argue that the name “YESHUA” is a shortened, abbreviated form of the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. “YEHOSHUA“; the “HO” being removed) and, therefore, it is Hebrew. I have two reasons for calling this into question:
- The name “YESHUA” does not show up in any of the biblical writings prior to the Babylonian exile; and
- The name “YESHUA” is used throughout the Aramaic New Testament for the name of Messiah (or Christ).
If the name “YESHUA” is originally Hebrew, then why is it used throughout the Aramaic New Testament (called the Peshitta). For example, here is Matthew 1:21 from the English translation of the Aramaic NT,
And she will bear a son and she will call his name YESHUA for he will save his people from their sins. (Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear New Testament, found at http://www.peshitta.org)
So when a pastor says that the name “YESHUA” is NOT used in the New Testament, that all depends on what language you are looking at. For example, the Western branches of Christianity argue that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, so if you look in the Greek New Testament, then no, it is not there. However, the Eastern branches of Christianity argue that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, and so if you look in the Aramaic New Testament, then yes, it is there. (This is one of the many differences between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity.) It just depends on whether you look into the Greek or to the Aramaic.
But again, if the name “YESHUA” is HEBREW in origin, then why didn’t it show up prior to the Babylonian exile and why is it used in an ARAMAIC version of the New Testament? I have a couple of ideas about this:
- The name “YESHUA” is an Aramaic form of the name “JOSHUA” that was adopted into the Hebrew language during the Babylonian captivity, and so by the time of the New Testament and onward, it was considered Hebrew; OR
- The name Yeshua is the transliteration of the Hebrew name “JOSHUA” into Aramaic.
I personally tend to favor the second option, because according to some research sources, there was a law passed in Babylon requiring the use of the official language, Aramaic. So what if the traditional form of the name “JOSHUA” was transliterated into the Aramaic to form the name “YESHUA” in order to comply with this mandate? This would support the name originating in the Hebrew, as well as explain why we do not see the name being used in Scripture until after the Babylonian Exile.
Not only did Nehemiah use the alternate form “YESHUA” for JOSHUA SON OF NUN, but Ezra uses “YESHUA” in place of the name “Joshua” for JOSHUA SON OF JOSEDECH the High Priest.
|HAGAGAI 1:1||EZRA 3:2|
|In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to JOSHUA the son of Josedech, the High Priest.||Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and JESHUA (or Yeshua) the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.|
Just as Nehemiah did with JOSHUA SON OF NUN, so Ezra has done with JOSHUA SON OF JOSEDECH, the High Priest. Not only did he use YESHUA (instead of JOSHUA) in both cases (as we will see), but in writing the name of JOSHUA‘s father, Ezra again took the shortened Aramaic form, from JOSEDECH to JOZADAK. He does the same here as well.
|ZECHARIAH 6:11-12||EZRA 5:1-2|
|Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of JOSHUA the son of JOSEDECH, the High Priest; and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.||Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and JESHUA the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.|
Again, as we saw before, Zechariah, like Haggai, uses the original Hebrew form for the name of “JOSHUA” and for the name of his father “JOSEDECH.” However, Ezra uses the shortened Aramaic form for both names: JESHUA (Heb. YESHUA) and JOZADAK.
Therefore, Haggai and Zechariah, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah, all mention the High Priest; however, Haggai and Zechariah call him by the original Hebrew form of His name, “JOSHUA” (Heb. YEHOSHUA); whereas, Ezra and Nehemiah call him the shortened Aramaic form, “JESHUA” (Heb. YESHUA). Just as the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) call “JOSHUA” by the original Hebrew form given to him by Moses, but Nehemiah, instead, uses the shortened Aramaic form of his name, “JESHUA” (Heb. YESHUA.
Therefore, we have two biblical examples, Joshua son of Nun and Joshua the High Priest. “Joshua son of Nun” is called “JOSHUA” by Moses and Joshua Himself; however, after the Babylonian exile, Nehemiah calls him “YESHUA” (or “JESHUA” in our English translations). Also, two biblical writers, Haggai and Zechariah, call Joshua the High Priest the name “JOSHUA” and Ezra calls him “YESHUA.”
So as a result, the names “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA” can be seen in the Bible to be two forms of the same name, and which one is used is really just a matter of preference. The Bible supports the usage of both. And just as “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA” are interchangeable, so are “JOSHUA” and “JESUS;” consequently, “YESHUA” and “JESUS” must be seen as biblical equivalent forms of the name “JOSHUA.”
I point this out because there are those who try to argue online and in various places as I mentioned at the beginning that the Messiah only has ONE form of His name (and it usually involves some Hebrew form that begins with “YAH“), and they say that this ONE FORM is “the ONLY CORRECT FORM” and all others are false. But as we can see here from the Scriptures, the Bible does not support this position since both the names “JOSHUA” (Heb. YEHOSHUA) AND YESHUA are used for “the son of Nun” and for the “son of Josedech the High Priest.” Therefore, which form of the name that’s used in the Hebrew text, Yehoshua (“Joshua”) or Yeshua, is merely a matter of personal preference. There is NO SUCH THING as ONLY ONE CORRECT FORM.
FROM HEBREW & ARAMAIC INTO GREEK
Now there are numerous articles online, written by those in the Messianic Jewish Movement, showing how the name “YESHUA” was transliterated to form the Messiah’s name in Greek. However, what you will not find mentioned in ANY of these same articles is that the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. Yehoshua) was also transliterated into the same Greek form of His name. In fact, when I asked a Messianic Jewish rabbi about this connection to “JOSHUA,” he had no idea what I was saying. He said that he had never heard anyone connect “YESHUA” with the name “JOSHUA,” and yet here the connections are within our own Bible. And what I found surprising is that there’s a clear lack of teaching in Messianic Judaism regarding the connection between the names YESHUA and JOSHUA.
Therefore, both forms – “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA“- were transliterated into the Greek form, Ιησους (Iesous; pron. “Yay-soos” or “ee-ay-soos“) by Jewish scholars 250 years before JOSHUA (YESHUA/JESUS) was ever conceived. Consequently, the accusation that this Greek form was the creation of the early Christians is FALSE. The Hebrew Scriptures had already been translated into Greek before JOSHUA (YESHUA/JESUS) was ever conceived or born, so when it came time to write the New Testament, the disciples just made use of the Greek names and words that were already in use.
Now I understand why many Messianic Jews prefer the use of the name “YESHUA” to “JESUS” because they want to restore to Him His Jewish ethnicity and culture. However, the name “JOSHUA” is also a very Hebrew name, it has a long Jewish tradition and history, and I’m wondering why “JOSHUA” couldn’t likewise be seen as a valid alternative since like YESHUA, it was also transliterated into the same Greek form, Ιησους, the same exact form used for our Lord and Savior throughout the Greek New Testament, and since, as Eusebius pointed out, when the ancient Greek readers read His name in Greek, they connected it to the name “JOSHUA” as opposed to the name “YESHUA“? And from what I’ve studied, this has never been a discussion point among Messianic believers.
ARAMAIC ADOPTION INTO HEBREW
In ending this study, we need to realize that just as words from other countries and languages have been brought into the ENGLISH language, like the word “captain,” which is originally FRENCH, but is now seen as being ENGLISH, so ARAMAIC words were brought into the HEBREW language when the Jews were taken captive and lived in Babylon for 70 years. And by the time of the New Testament and Jesus’ ministry, these ARAMAIC words and names were then considered to be HEBREW.
So is there ONLY ONE CORRECT FORM of the Messiah’s name found within the Bible? No, there’s not. There’s actually the following biblical forms: “JOSHUA” (Heb. Yehoshua); “JESHUA” (Aramaic; Post-Babylonian Heb. Yeshua); and the Greek form IESOUS and the Early Latin form, IESVS, which is the fourth form that’s alluded to within the Gospels.
Now according to research, the Aramaic and post-Babylonian Hebrew form, YESHUA was much more popular than YEHOSHUA (“Joshua”); in fact, they say that 20%, or one out of every five, males at the time, all had the name YESHUA, which, of course, means that the Lord was NOT the only one who possessed His same name.
In fact, all THREE of these forms – the Hebrew, Greek and Latin, (probably) YESHUA, IESOUS, and IESVS (Early Latin form) – were written on the sign that was nailed above His head on the cross (John 19:19-20). Later, the Latin form IESVS became IESUS (Late Latin), which is the form that was written and used in the original King James Version in 1611.
At this time, the letter “J” had not yet developed into a letter of its own right, this came after the 1611 publication. The letter “J” was, in fact, the last letter to become a part of our English alphabet. However, in 1629, eighteen years later, Cambridge University gained the right to publish the Bible on their presses, and so for the King James Bible’s first revision, called the “1629 Cambridge King James Authorized Bible,” we find the first time that the letter J is used in the Bible, for names like “Jacob,” “Jerusalem,” and, of course, the name “Jesus Christ.” And this is the way it has been printed in our English Bibles ever since.
In conclusion, then, is it wrong to use any of the biblical forms of His name? Absolutely not! Again, any of the three biblical forms are valid, and no, I am not saying that we need to change or stop using the name “JESUS,” since it is a modern English form of the Late Latin form, IESUS, that was used in all previous biblical publications from the Latin Vulgate of the 4th century, C.E. to the King James Version of 1611. And of course, the Latin Late form is a variation of the Early Latin form, IESVS, which was one of the three languages written on the sign that was nailed above Jesus’ head as He was hanging on the cross and dying for our sins. We serve an awesome God, who has given to us His Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, and how He’s revealed to us the name of His Son from Exodus to Revelation!! Praise His name!!