Yahweh, Yashua, or Jesus?
By: David K. Bernard
In recent years a group known as the Assemblies of Yahweh has placed an unusual emphasis on the spoken pronunciation of the name of God. The AY maintains that God’s true name is Yahweh and that salvation comes specifically through this name.
Members of this group also assert that the name of the Son of God must be pronounced as Yashua. Any other form, such as lesous (Greek) or Jesus (English), is unacceptable. They say that the name Jesus was derived from the names of the Greek gods Zeus and Dionysus, because the last two letters of each name are identical. One of their writers has even alleged that the name Jesus means “the pig;’ because Je supposedly means “the” and sus supposedly means “pig”.
Scholars generally agree that the original Hebrew pronunciation of the Old Testament name of God was Yahweh or something similar; certainly the pronunciation Jehovah is a later English construction. Most scholars also agree that in New Testament times the Hebrew or Aramaic pronunciation of the name Jesus was Yeshua (not Yashua) and that this name is identical to the Old Testament name Joshua. Let us analyze the position of the AY, then, in the light of Scripture.
First, the AY does not attribute full deity to Jesus Christ as the Bible does, but it speaks of God and Jesus as if they were two separate persons. Its view of Jesus is similar to that of Jehovah’s Witnesses;
both use the designation C.E. (Common Era) instead of A.D. (Anno Domini=in the year of the Lord), apparently because they do not want to acknowledge Jesus as the supreme Lord. The AY exalts Yahweh as the highest name of God, not realizing that the New Testament provides us with a greater revelation of God and His name.
Yahweh of the Old Testament manifested Himself in flesh to be our Savior in the New Testament. The name Jesus incorporates the revelation of God contained in both testaments, for it literally means “Yahweh-Savior” or “Yahweh is salvation.”
Although others have borne the name Joshua, Yeshua, or Jesus, Jesus Christ of Nazareth alone truly personifies the meaning of that name. He was “God with us;’ (Matthew 1:23), who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), and “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Consequently, the name of Jesus is the only saving name, the highest name ever known to humanity, the name at which every knee shall bow, the name that every tongue shall confess, and the name in which we are to say and do all things (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:20-21; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 3:17). For this reason, the Early Church baptized in the name of Jesus, not in the name of Yahweh (Acts 2:38).
Second, the AY wrongly attaches saving efficacy to the pronunciation of God’s name in a certain way-to the vibrations of sound waves. In actuality, the significance of the Name rests in its meaning. It is effective because of the One it represents, and it is effective only when we have faith in the One it represents. When we call the name of Jesus in faith, He responds to our cry and performs a work in our lives.
This is what the Bible means when it says we receive healing and salvation through the Name: “And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong” (Acts 3:16). “Through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:4-3). Answers to prayer did not come to the Early Church because of a certain pronunciation of the Name, but because they invoked the Name in faith.
The seven sons of Sceva attempted to cast out demons by calling on the same name that Paul used with success. They could not cast the demons out because, unlike Paul, they did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Acts 19:14-17). Their problem was not faulty pronunciation but deficient faith.
A study of human language and speech shows that it is a mistake to attach saving efficacy to a certain pronunciation of the name. No one pronounces words exactly alike; voice prints are as unique as fingerprints. Even if we could be certain of the original spelling of the Old Testament name of God, no one can know the exact pronunciation that the ancient Hebrews attached to the individual vowels and consonants. Moreover, ancient Hebrew had different dialects, and in oneof them there was no sh sound in certain cases (Judges 12:4-6).
If salvation depends upon exact pronunciation, what happens to people with speech impediments, accents, or dialects? What happens to people whose languages do not contain certain sounds? For example, Greek does not have an sh, and Korean does not have a final s sound.
Third, the position of the AY would require us to reject the new Testament that we now have, including all known manuscripts and versions. The Greek New Testament, including all ancient Greek manuscripts in existence, uses the name lesous. The AY has to maintain that it was not written by the apostles or the Early Church, for if they used lesous in even one passage, then the AY position is disproved.
While a few scholars believe that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, it is impossible to maintain that the entire New Testament was so written. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by a Gentile, Luke, to another Gentile, Theophilus, and it is unlikely that either of them knew Hebrew or Aramaic. Paul wrote his letters to Gentile churches. Clearly, these writers used Greek. Moreover, a study of New Testament style, grammar, idioms, and vocabulary demonstrates that Greek was the original language.
For the AY position to be correct, Jesus, the apostles, and the Early Church would have had to use the early Hebrew name Yashua and never any other variation, even when speaking or writing in the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek of their day. We do not have a single manuscript or ancient version of the New Testament that does so, and no one has ever recorded the existence of such a manuscript. No scholar has ever produced evidence that there was such a manuscript.
Fourth, the scholarship of the AY is faulty. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary clearly shows that the English name Jesus came from the Latin lesus, from the Greek lesous, from the Hebrew Yeshua. Yeshua, in turn, is a contraction of the original Hebrew name Yehoshua. This long form occurs in Numbers 13:16, and it comes from Yah (a short form of Yahweh) and hoshia (meaning to help,” with the later connotation “to save”).
To be consistent the AY should not use the contracted form Yahshua, but the original form Yehoshua or perhaps even Yahwehhoshia. Moreover, the formation of the English name Jesus was not due to any sinister motive or meaning; it occurred according to standard rules and developments in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English.
It is not accurate to say that the name Jesus came from the combination of two separate words Je and sus, supposedly meaning “the pig;’ anymore than my name David comes from Da and vid, with the meaning of “daytime video.” Moreover, no dictionary says that Je means “the” or that sus means “pig.”
The relation of the endings of Dionysus, Zeus, and Jesus is purely coincidental. In the original Greek there is no connection, for the endings are, respectively, -os, -eus, and -ous. (Both eu and ou are diphthongs, which means that the vowels are to be pronounced as one unit and not to be regarded as separate sounds or syllables.)
Fifth, as a practical matter, God Himself honors the use of the English name Jesus. When people pray by using this name in faith, they receive the Holy Ghost, answers to prayer, healing, and deliverance from demons.
In conclusion, the name of Jesus may be pronounced in many different ways in various languages, dialects, and accents. In all of its forms, it means the same thing: the one true God of the Old Testament has become our Savior in the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth. When a person uses the name with that understanding, and with faith in Jesus as Lord and Messiah, then regardless of the language he speaks, his prayer will reach the throne of God and his invocation of God’s name will be effective.
(The above material appeared in an October, 1988 issue of Pentecostal Herald).
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