What’s in a Name?

According to Shakespeare, nothing. He asked that question, and justified the answer by having Juliet tell herself that a rose would still smell as sweet even if it was called something else.

That’s all good for Juliet, but we should be a little more careful with the names we use in worship, and we should be more aware that, based on what we read in the Bible, names do have meaning to God.

For instance, didn’t God tell Hosea what to name his children? There was meaning in their names. And in Revelations 2, 3 and 22 we are told about new names, and the “name of my God” (3:12): what is God’s name? The Tetragrammaton is made of the 4 Hebrew letters, yud, heh, vav, heh ( YHVH) but no one knows the real pronunciation. Supposedly, Moses was told what God’s true name is when he was sent by God to Pharaoh, so that he could prove he was sent by God to the Hebrew slaves. Knowing God’s true name is something that no one today knows.

Don’t think Jehovah or Yahweh is God’s name, absolutely, because we really don’t know. Jehovah most likely isn’t because it is a name composed of the letters of the Tetragrammaton with the vowels from the word Adonai, which in Hebrew means Lord (when used for God’s name, it is always spelled with a capital ‘A’.) The Masorites took the letters Y-H-V-H and placed the vowel points for the word Adonai under the letters, and Voila! You have Jehovah!

Jesus Christ is a name with no meaning. The etymology is that the Greek’s had no cultural, religious or (even) social identification with an “anointed one.” The name given to the son of Miryam and Yosef when he was born was (and it still is) ‘Yeshua’, which means ‘God’s salvation’; the Greeks didn’t have this name in any of their naming books, so they used a transliteration, a word that sounds like Yeshua. For them, that word/name was Jesu. When the Romans took over the writing of the scriptures, they latinized ‘Jesu’ to ‘Jesus.’ Christ came from Cristos, and I have seen a number of different histories of this word. Anything from the Greek word Chrestos, for ‘good’ to Cristo,  a method of rubbing oil on the leather shields to keep them supple. That meaning was used to identify the anointing by placing oil on the head of the Messiah.

Jesus Christ is not His name. His name is Yeshua ben Yosef, but we know that He is really Yeshua ben Adonai. The Talmud says the Messiah will first come as Yeshua ben Yosef (the suffering servant Isaiah talked about, where Yosef is the son of Yacov/Jacob) and then also as Yeshua ben David. That will be when He comes as the mighty king.

There is definitely substance and importance in the names we give and the names we are given, so far as God is concerned. That is pretty obvious in the Bible, especially in the writings of the Prophets. Every tribe of Israel was given a name (Genesis 29:31 and afterwards) based on how their mother (whether Leah or Rachel) felt about their relation at that time to God or Jacob, and even each other (since they were jealous of each other), and it ended with Benjamin, whom Rachel named before she died, Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) but Yacov changed to Ben-yamin, or son of my right hand, indicating a favored position.

I am not saying that everyone should stop using the name Jesus Christ and instead must use Yeshua ha Maschiach. That would be fine with me, but I think God and Yeshua are big enough to handle this centuries-old misnomer. Whether you call upon the name of Jesus, or Yeshua, you are calling out to the right guy and He will answer. However, I would ask that you be careful about calling on the name of the Lord if you happen to be around during the tribulation. Revelations also tells us about a few new names being given out, and one or two of them refer to someone you certainly do not want to be calling out to.

I am Jewish and feel much more comfortable with ‘Yeshua” than I ever will with ‘Jesus’, and that’s OK. It’s also perfectly acceptable if you use ‘Jesus’. We all know it’s the same guy, and I don’t think He minds too much which name we use (then again, who am I to talk for Him?) What is important is that you realize names do have meaning, and import, and I would ask that you make sure exactly what the name means for the person you call out to in your trouble and need.

The names we give our children used to serve a two-fold purpose: first to identify them as a member of a family, and their name was also a reminder of what they meant to their parents at the time of their birth; it could also be an indicator of who they may grow up to be. Today we name our children not based on our relationship to God but after people who have influenced our lives in one way or another. Nothing wrong with naming someone as a memorial or to honor a parent or ancestor, but some of the names we have today for kids? Really? And the names these movie stars use? Oy! Didn’t they ever hear Johnny Cash sing, “A Boy Named Sue?”

What’s in a name? It could be a lot, or nothing, depending on what you are trying to do when naming someone. Names are important, and there will be a couple of new names floating around during the End Days, so make sure you know which names are the ones to call out to when you call for help.

Comments welcomed (just be nice)