“The Sacred Name” Controversy

Excerpts from Dr. Michael L. Brown’s book, 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Belief and Practices:

What is the original Hebrew name for Jesus?

The original Hebrew-Aramaic name of Jesus is yeshu‘a, which is short for yehōshu‘a (Joshua), just as Mike is short for Michael. The name yeshu‘a occurs 27 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, primarily referring to the high priest after the Babylonian exile, called both yehōshu‘a (see Zechariah 3: 3) and, more frequently, yeshu‘a (see Ezra 3: 2).[ 161] So, Yeshua’s name was not unusual; in fact, as many as five different men had that name in the Old Testament.

Interestingly, this high priest, Yehoshua/ Yeshua, was singled out in the book of Zechariah as being a symbol of the “man called the Branch” (see Zechariah 3: 8; 6: 9–15)—which was a distinct Messianic title (see Jeremiah 23: 5). Even more significantly, in a symbolic ceremony, this priest was put on a throne and crowned, with the words:

Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two [meaning the kingship and the priesthood].” Zechariah 6: 12–13

It is altogether fitting, then, that the Branch Himself should bear the same name as this high priest who symbolically prefigured the Messiah’s royal priesthood, especially when the meaning of Yehoshua/ Yeshua is “Yahweh is salvation” (see Matthew 1: 21). So, the answer to the first question is quite simple: The original Hebrew/ Aramaic name for Jesus is yeshu‘a.

Why then do some people refer to Jesus as Yahshua? There is absolutely no support for this pronunciation—none at all—and I say this as someone holding a Ph.D. in Semitic languages. My educated guess is that some zealous but linguistically ignorant people thought that Yahweh’s name must have been a more overt part of our Savior’s name, hence YAHshua rather than Yeshua—but again, there is no support of any kind for this theory. The Hebrew Bible has yeshu‘a; when the Septuagint authors rendered this name in Greek, they rendered it as Іησους (Iēsous, with no hint of yah at the beginning of the name); and the same can be said of the Peshitta translators (see #41) when they rendered Yeshua’s name into Syriac (part of the Aramaic language family).[162] All this is consistent and clear: The original form of the name Jesus is yeshu‘a, and there is no such name as yahshu‘a.[163]

[162]. For a more detailed explanation, with easy-to-follow charts, see http:// http://www.aramaicnt.org/ NEW/ index.php? p = 23.

[163] Here is a typical, error-filled statement: “Although some would argue ‘YAHUshua’ -vs-‘Yâhuwshú ` a’ -vs-Yahshua’ -vs-‘Yeshua’ -vs-‘Jesus’ till the Messiah returned, my studies and belief, as well as the works of experts in the Hebrew language, show me that Yahushua [YAH-hoo-shu-ah] is probably the most accurate pronunciation of the Messiah’s name. It makes perfect sense as this pronunciation is the exact name of the Messianic ‘Branch’ prophesied in Zechariah 6: 11–12 as well as Moshe’s (Moses’) successor (known in English as Joshua) who led the Israelites over the Jordan, therefore, with abundant and scholarly evidence [sic], I personally use Yahushua.” See http:// http://www.wwyd.org/. The alleged experts in Hebrew are found at the http://www.eliyah.com website, specifically the http:// http://www.eliyah.com/ yahushua.html. Anyone with a scholarly knowledge of Hebrew will recognize at once that there is no Hebrew expertise on this website at all.

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