What’s in a Name?

A rose. by any other name, would smell as sweet. So said Juliet in the play “Romeo and Juliet.” She was making a point: just because Romeo’s last name was that of the family’s enemy, Romeo, himself, was okay. His name was irrelevant.

Is that the same with Yeshua, mostly  known by the world as Jesus? Is there really a difference?

The etymology of Jesus is that Yeshua, the Hebrew name that means ‘God’s salvation’, could not be translated into Greek because culturally, religiously and in every other way the Greek’s had no such identity to refer to: think of trying to interpret the word “snow” into the language of the people living on Easter Island, who have never seen or had snow, ever, in their history. So what happened with Yeshua is that when translating into Greek they used a transliteration: a word that sounds like the name, which was “Jesu.”  When Latinized, Jesu became Jesus.

Christ comes from a similar evolution of words: Mashiach (Anointed One) also had no Greek counterpart so, using the bastardized Hebrew-Greek of the Septuagint, Maschiach got to be Cristos (the act of spreading oil on a shield, representing the anointment by oil) and that became Christ. So Yeshua ha Maschiach became Jesu Cristos, then (finally) Jesus Christ.

That brings us back to the original question: what’s in a name? For Juliet, Romeo’s name meant nothing, but is that true for God and for His Messiah?

We are told that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, so that begs the question: does it matter to God which name we use? If ‘Jesus’ is a non-name, but ‘Yeshua’ is known to people as ‘Jesus’, when we call on the name ‘Jesus’, or pray in the name of ‘Jesus’, does it have the same level of authority that His real name, ‘Yeshua’, has? Now that I think about it, is ‘Yeshua’ OK? Didn’t the angel tell Yosef to name the child ‘Immanuel’? That means “God with us”. To me, ‘God with Us’ and ‘God’s Salvation’ are much more powerful and authoritative than some translated transliteration. Right?

Aren’t we also told in Revelations , a well as in the writings of different prophets, that the Messiah will be given a new name? A name that only He knows? That seems to impart a lot of importance to which name we use.

Yitzhak (Isaac) was named that because Sarah laughed when the angel told Abraham he would have a son. And Yakov (usurper) was named that by means of his birth (grabbing Esau’s heel) and he lived up to that name, right? And didn’t God tell Nathan the Prophet to change the name of Solomon to Jedidiah (beloved of God) because God loved the child? And didn’t God tell Hosea what names to give his children so that they represented what God wanted the people to know? It seems that names are very important to God.

Jewish folklore (I just learned this) also puts great importance on the name. It is referred to as kishmo ken hu–“Like his name, so is he” (1 Samuel 25:25). Traditionally, at birth the Hebrew name given is something that the child will (hopefully) grow into and represent later in life; then, an English (or whatever language is appropriate) name with a similar meaning is also given.  My English name is Steven Robert (my mother liked Steven and Robert is after one of my fathers best friends) but the Hebrew is Shaul Baer. I doubt very much that my parents gave me a Hebrew name then the English, since they were not religious or knew the Lord, so my Hebrew name came from the translation of the English. Actually, there is some truth to my names: the Hebrew should have been first, then the English, but in my case it is backward, and I was a breech birth, so maybe….?

Where does all this bring us? It brings us here: if names are so important, does that mean all who have called on ‘Jesus’ are not saved? Does the name ‘Jesus” has no value to God? When we pray in the name of ‘Jesus” are those prayers ignored?

Of course, I can’t speak for God or Yeshua; personally, I think that using the name ‘Yeshua’ is important and shows the proper respect for the one who bears it.

We are told, over and over, that God knows the heart. I think, knowing God’s compassionate and understanding nature, if we are truly repentant and come before God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, as David did (Psalm 51), then the names or words we use are secondary to what our heart is “saying”, as far as God is concerned. Therefore, my answer to , “What’s in a name?”  is that the name is important and deserves to be honored, but so long as our heart is in the right place and our T’Shuvah before the Lord is genuine, names and even words are unimportant. Those that are mute from life, who can’t even speak in their minds, can communicate with God, can’t they? If there is someone who recognizes God as the only true God and knows, spiritually, that He exists but just has never heard the name or read the Bible, is God going to ignore that person just because he doesn’t know with which name to call upon Him?

Each of us has to choose for ourselves. Being Jewish I am much more comfortable with the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’ than with ‘Jesus’, which represents many bad things to Jewish people. And for that same reason I understand the vast majority of Gentiles are more comfortable with Jesus. I don’t think God cares that much which name we use, but I do think Yeshua appreciates being called upon with His real name. Just my opinion.

As for me and my house, we will call upon the name of Yeshua, because well, …that’s His name.

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