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Yahweh & Yehoshua

The Holy Name

by Bob Pickle

Yahweh is generally believed to be the correct Hebrew pronunciation for Jehovah, a name used for God in the Old Testament. Yahweh is a word that emphasizes an important aspect of God's character, just as His other names in Scripture emphasize other aspects.

Christ is also called by a number of names in the Bible. His common New Testament name, Jesus, corresponds to the Old Testament "Joshua," which in the Hebrew is Yehoshua, and in Aramiac Yeshua.

Some Christians wish to make the use of Yahweh and Yeshua a test of fellowship. By some of these Christians, "Jesus" is even said to be a name for Zeus or Satan, not Christ. Those holding such views think that Hebrew was the language of Jesus and His disciples, and thus of the original New Testament manuscripts. Thus, they say, the original New Testament used the words Yahweh and Yeshua, and so should we. 

Are such ideas true?

The New Testament: Written in Greek or Hebrew?

Though a case might be made for the books of Matthew and Hebrews to have originally been written in Hebrew, there is no historical, Biblical, or prophetic evidence that the entire New Testament was originally written in that language. Such an idea is based on pure assumption and conjecture.

Nor was the New Testament written in the classical Greek of the intelligentsia of that day. Instead, it was written in Koine, or common, Greek, the universal language spoken by many of the common people throughout the Roman Empire.

The New Testament calls Jesus Iesous (the Greek form for Yeshua), and it calls God Theos ("God") and Kurios ("Lord"). If the New Testament writers could use appropriate Koine Greek words to refer to God and Christ, surely it must be permissible for us to use appropriate English words to refer to them too.. 

The Writers of the New Testament

Luke was a Gentile Christian, not a Jewish Christian. This fact is suggested by Colossians 4:10-14, where Paul does not mention Luke with his Jewish companions, but mentions him separately. It would therefore be expected that Luke would have written in Greek.

John wrote his books long after the fall of Jerusalem while he was in Asia Minor and around Ephesus, all territory of Greek-speaking peoples. Revelation was specifically to be sent to churches in seven Greek-speaking cities. This suggests that John's books were written in Greek, not in a Jewish tongue. 

Further evidence of this is the fact that John often used Roman reckoning of time rather than Jewish, beginning the day at midnight (Jn. 19:14; 20:19). If he had really used the Hebrew tongue in his writing, one would have expected him to use Jewish time as well.

Peter wrote his first epistle from Rome to "strangers scattered" abroad in five provinces of Asia Minor (1 Pet. 1:1). These people would have been fluent in the Greek language. It was in a neighboring province that Paul grew up, and he used this fact to explain why he knew Greek (Acts 21:37-39).

Aramaic Was Jesus's Language

Aramaic first appears in Scripture as a language distinct from Hebrew in Genesis 31:47. In Palestine in Jesus' day, Aramaic had replaced Hebrew as the language of speech. 

Though not the only places in the New Testament where Aramaic words appear, the following verses indicate clearly that Aramaic, not Hebrew, was the language Jesus used in everyday speech:

  1. Mark 5:41 ("Talitha cumi")
  2.  Mark 7:34 ("Ephphatha")
  3. Mk. 15:34 ("Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani")

Might it be possible that when Jesus spoke in Aramaic, He always used the Hebrew pronunciation for the names of God? Such a speculation would be more difficult to prove than the idea that the entire New Testament was written in Hebrew.

Heathen Names Applied to God in Old Testament

Melek, meaning "king," was a common title for Yahweh, used in Psalm 5:2; 10:16; 24:7-10; and many other places. You can use a Strong's Concordance to find other examples. But Molek was also the name of a popular heathen deity (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 32:35; Amos 5:26; 7:43). 

Ba`al, meaning husband or owner, is used to refer to Yahweh in Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 31:32. As the reader likely knows, Ba`al was a more popular heathen deity than Molek.

Since Yahweh is indeed our King and Husband, such titles are very appropriate. And if the Bible writers could use such titles for Yahweh, titles also used of pagan deities, then it is possible that this issue is not quite as vital as some make it out to be. 

"Jesus" and "Zeus"

Does the name "Jesus" refer to Zeus? These two names in their three common Greek forms appear (nominative, genitive-ablative, and accusative) below.:

Iesous - Zeus; Iesou - Dios; Iesoun - Dia

A transliteration into English of these forms would look like this:

Iesous       Zeus 
Iesou Dios
Iesoun Dia

As anyone can see, the only similarity between them is the ending, and that only in the nominative case. Such similarity of endings means nothing, for many Greek words have the same case endings:

fish
fisherman
priest
high priest
king
scribe
strength
head of grain    

Identifying Jesus with Zeus on the basis of the ending is like identifying Congregationalism or Methodism with atheism solely on the basis of their having the same -ism ending. It just doesn't work that way. While "deity" is derived from Dios, "Jesus" is not derived from Zeus.

Character, Reputation, Authority

In the KJV, shem is the typical Hebrew word translated "name." It should be noted that shem in some contexts denotes more than just a simple name:

  1. Shem is translated "fame" or "famous" or "infamous" 9 times, "renown" 7 times, and "base" once (Gen. 6:4; Num. 16:2; Ruth 4:11; 1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chr. 5:24; 12:30; 14:17; 22:5; Job 30:8; Ezek. 16:14, 15; 22:5; 23:10; 34:29; 39:13; Dan. 9:15; Zeph. 3:19). 
  2. In 2 Samuel 7:9, the word "name" refers to David's reputation, for God declares that He has made David a "great name." 
  3. In Esther 3:12 and 8:8, the fact that the decrees were written in Ahasuerus' "name" indicates that these new laws were backed by the weight of his authority.
  4. God's "name" is synonymous with His character in Exodus 33:19 and 34:5-7.

So to the Hebrew mind, a person's "name" was not necessarily a word. "Name" might mean character, authority, or reputation. Even in English, we still use the word "name" this way. Some injure the family name while others make a name for themselves. And how does injuring or making a name alter the pronunciation of their names? Not one bit!

Our loyalty for the name of God should be more concerned with the character the word represents than with the pronunciation of the word itself. Aaron's feast to Yahweh in Exodus 32:5 was really a feast to Satan. What made the crucial difference was not the pronunciation of the name of God; it was the character of the deity being worshipped. We might be using the right pronunciation of the name, but if our Yahweh is more like the Zeus of the Greeks than the Yahweh of Scripture, we are worshipping a false god.

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