They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

There’s Just Something About That Name

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ –Matthew 1:1

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” – Matthew 1:21

We are so familiar with and say the name Jesus Christ so often that it almost sounds as if Jesus is his first name and Christ is his surname. You can almost picture his name in the Nazareth phone book as: Christ, Jesus; 77 Cana Rd., Nazareth! However, neither name was actually his name in his Hebrew language! What was his name in Hebrew and was there really something about his name that was different than the other names in his culture? This makes for an interesting study.

“Yeshua” is Jesus’ name in Hebrew and Aramaic, the language that he spoke. The thirty three years he lived on earth, everyone called him by his Hebrew name. According to David Bivin, a well respected Jewish scholar, Yeshua was one of the five most common names given to Jewish males in the first century, along with Shimon (Simon), Yosef (Joseph), Yehudah (Judah), and Yochanan (John). In accordance with Jewish custom, he was given his Hebrew name at his circumcision on the eight day after his birth (Luke 2:21). His name was a common Jewish name, but did it have some uncommon significance when it came to identifying who Yeshua was and what his mission on earth was to be?

In the Bible, Hebrew names are often a play on words. When God told Abraham that he was finally going to have a son at 100 years of age (Genesis 17:17-19), he fell face down and he laughed (Hebrew – va’yitzchak). God told him to name this son of the promise Yitzchak (Isaac) which means, “he laughed”. In the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:19-26), Jacob grabbed his twin brother by the heel (Hebrew ba’ akev), so he was called Ya’akov (Jacob), which means, “he grasps by the heel or he deceives”. There are many other examples like these in the Hebrew scriptures. This same type of word play is present with the naming of Yeshua. When the angel appeared to Joesph announcing the divinely ordained birth of a son to Mary, he said to her, “give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”. This significant word play is lost in English, but is very clear in Hebrew. “You shall call his name Yeshua (he saves or delivers) for he will “Yoshia” (will save) his people from their sins. The Hebrew word for, ”he will save” is Yoshia, which has the same Hebrew root as the name,”Yeshua”. The Messiah’s name is explained on the basis of what He will do. Also, the name Yeshua is a contraction of the word, Y’hoshua (Joshua in English), which means, “YHVH saves”, and also the masculine form of the Hebrew word, Yeshu’ah, which means salvation. You can see that this is what the Bible writer in Hebrew wanted to portray because he says, call him the name Yeshua for he will Yoshia his people. In English, saving people from their sins is no more a reason for calling someone Jesus than for calling him Bill or Jim. Only in Hebrew does it make sense.

How then did we get the name Jesus from Yeshua? The word,”Jesus”, represents the efforts of English speakers to pronounce the name as it appears in the Greek. “Iesous” (yee-soos or yay-soos) was the word that Greek translators used to say Yeshua. The iota (I) was replaced by the letter J in Old English and thus came the name Jesus. Our current pronunciation of the English name, Jesus, seems far removed from the original Hebrew sounding Yeshua.

What about the Christ in Jesus Christ? Christ is the Greek translation (Christos) of the meaning of the Hebrew title, “Mashiach, which means, the anointed one. Christ is a title, not a second or last name. The significance in Hebrew of being known as the “anointed one”, is that both Kings and Priests were given their authority in a ceremony that required anointing with oil. Therefore, inherit in the concept of Messiah (Mashiach) is the idea of being given God’s priestly and kingly authority. To use the title, Maschiah, the promised one in the scriptures, who would be a prophet, priest, and king that would save and lead the Jewish people, is much more revealing than just, ”Christ”.

Jesus Christ’s real name in Hebrew then is, “Yeshua Ha Maschiah”. His name is not a magic word or some magical formula, that if we say it long enough or loud enough, miracles will happen. But, his name is extraordinarily powerful to us in light of its Hebrew meaning. How we say it is not nearly as important as how we carry it. To know that Yeshua is our salvation and that he is our promised and anointed King and Savior is huge. The way to honor his name is to walk in obedience to his commands and to conduct ourselves in a manner that would lift up and honor everything his name stands for.

For further reading:
Listening to the Language of the Bible (Tverberg & Okkema)
Jewish New Testament Commentary (Stern)
A Continuing Quest (Pryor)

When God Calls Your Name – Twice!

We are all familiar with and love the story found in 1 Samuel Chapter 3, of God calling the young man Samuel to be his chosen servant. While sleeping in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle, young Samuel heard the voice of God calling on two separate occasions. Finally, the Lord calls his name twice,”Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answers, “Here I am Lord, Speak, for your servant is listening”. Could it be possible that Samuel knew the Torah and knew that something special was about to happen to him? Do you think he knew the story in Genesis 22:11 where Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, and God also called to him twice, saying, “Abraham! Abraham!” Abraham also answered, “Here I am Lord”! Perhaps did Samuel also think of the story in Genesis 46:2 when God called to Jacob, “Jacob! Jacob!” and Jacob replied, “Here I am!” God told Jacob not to be afraid to go down to Egypt and that God would make a great nation out of his offspring. And, I’m sure he knew the story in Exodus Chapter 3:3 when God called to Moses out of the burning bush-“Moses! Moses! Moses replied, “Here I am!” God then told Moses that he would be his feet and mouthpiece to free the enslaved Israelites from captivity. Don’t you know that Samuel’s heart raced when he realized that it was God that had called his name twice? He knew that God had something big in store for him and he knew how to answer, “Here I am, your servant is listening!”

Now, let’s fast forward to the New Testament and the story of Saul of Tarsus, as he is heading to Damascus to arrest some followers of “The Way”.  You know the story; God knocks Saul down and blinds him, then calls his name out twice, “Saul, Saul”! Saul was a devout student of the text and he knew what was coming next. If God calls your name twice, He is going to have a big job waiting for you!

All these servants of God responded in the right way. They were willing to do whatever the God of Israel asked them to do. And they ended up being some of the greatest pillars of the Hebrew nation.  What will we (I) do if God calls our name twice for some big job in the Kingdom? Will we be willing to do whatever He says and go where He says go? Here am I Lord, Your servant is listening!!

What’s in a Name?! Three Hebrew Children – Daniel 1:6-7 & Daniel 3



The Eastern mindset tells stories that paint a picture.



Nowhere is this more evident than the story in Daniel 3, of the three Hebrew captives that we Westerners know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

To an Easterner names are extremely important, and often a picture of the story is in the names. A closer look at the names in this story will show us how far we have missed some of the meaning intended for the reader.

First of all, why do we know these three Hebrew children by their Babylonian names, only? Almost no one has their Hebrew names committed to memory. And what do their Babylonian names mean anyway?

  • Shadrach – “I’ll do whatever goddess Aku commands.”
  • Meshach – “There’s no one like goddess Aku”, or “who is like Aku?”
  • Abednego – “Nabu’s servant”

Aku and Nabu are Babylonian gods and these were the names given to these Hebrews by Nebuchadnezzar himself in attempt to get them to conform to and worship like he wanted. Even Nebuchadnezzar has Nabu in it and means Nabu, protect my son, or protect my boundary”

Now let’s look at their given Hebrew names, which is what we ought to call them by.

  • Hannaniah – “the Lord shows grace, YHWH is my strength, only the Lord will take care of me”
  • Mishael – “who is what God is? Who is like YHWH?
  • Azariah – “the Lord helps” – God’s servant

Now, the storyline is so much deeper. Will these three Hebrews live up to the name that their parents gave them or will they act and do what their pagan names suggest?

These men come through with flying colors and paint an awesome picture of the power of the God of the Jews. Verse 17 says, ” we don’t have to defend ourselves in this matter” (the Lord will help us-Azariah). “If we are to be thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand (only the Lord will take care of us-Hannaniah). (Who is what our God is?-Mishael), but if not we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

What’s in a name? A lot, evidently, as the story shows. No longer is this merely a children’s story with a nice ending, but a testimony to the power of God and the power of His Name. The three Hebrew children definitely lived up to their given names, and did not live up to their pagan names and triumphed over the evil foreigner.

The moral of the story is never read a Bible story without looking at the names.  The names will also tell a story and make a point to the listening reader.

Another point to make here for all of us,  do you go by your Christian name at school, or work, and your pagan name on the weekends?  Do you have two names, or are you true to your given name, the one that God gave you?