Dan Popp
It's Jesus, not Yeshua
By Dan Popp
June 8, 2015

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, NKJV)

Christians must avoid two, opposite errors when dealing with our Jewish roots. The first is the deadly and ancient error of legalism.
    For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." (Galatians 3:10, 11, NKJV)
Paul wrote extensively and vehemently against this lie, but Peter and the other Apostles took their stand in exactly the same place. The Jewish ceremonial law involving circumcision, kosher diets and Saturday Sabbath-keeping does not apply to Christians. Period.

The reverse mistake is the foolishness that we don't need to learn anything about the Jewish history or culture; we can cut the Old Testament from our Bibles because it has nothing to say to us. To the contrary, For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4) And of course, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) The people who read the Sermon on the Mount and think Jesus was a hippie don't have the context of the Old Testament. They're just as lost as the Judaizers.

It may be that the folks who go around substituting "Yeshua" for "Jesus" are just harmless know-nothings. But it may be that they're trying to re-Jewify something that God has made universal. I'm afraid that the "Yeshua" people are in the process of falling into the first error – trying to mash up Law and Grace. The Holy Spirit has condemned this in the strongest terms!

Why did the Spirit of Truth inspire all the New Testament authors to write "Jesus" rather than "Yeshua" in the Holy Scriptures? Some people have assured me that the Savior was certainly called "Yeshua" at home. But that doesn't answer the question. Let's accept that statement, even though it's speculation. Why didn't the Apostles ever write "Yeshua?" The Lord gave Simon Bar-Jonah a Greek name, Peter, which Paul freely converted to its Hebrew form, Cephas. No such translation was ever done with the name of Christ in the New Testament.

Let's immediately rule out the possibility that this is some mistake made either by God or by the Apostles. So the use of the Greek name Iésous (Jesus) is intentional and it is correct. Since it is intentional we may ask, What is the Spirit's intention? But I don't think we know that – we're back to speculation. What if God wanted to present His Son as more than just the parochial savior of the Jews? What if He wanted to impart more than the mere sound of the name – what if He wished the Gentile listener to understand the meaning of the name ("The Salvation of Yahweh" or "Yahweh is Salvation.") What if He wanted to crush faux Jews who run around gushing about "Yeshua?"

I don't know.

This reminds me of the discussion about why God presents Himself as male. Clearly He has no female counterpart; He is not just half of His type of being, as I typify only half of the human species. The scoffers who suggest that this is a projection of oppressive men forget that goddesses were well known to (and sometimes worshiped by) the Hebrews. Ashtoreth/Asherah was one, and the Jews were well familiar with the whole Egyptian pantheon, male and female. We're at the same place of saying that God has a reason for representing Himself with masculine pronouns, and that this is not a mistake. Whether we can guess the reason is irrelevant. This is His choice. If we follow Him we will honor His choice. We can know only as much about God as we can infer from His creation, and as He has revealed to us. To chuck part of that revelation because it doesn't suit our wishes is self-deluding and dangerous.

So, back to the Yeshua-ites. If the Holy Spirit knows Christ best, never makes a mistake, and has a purpose (though it may be obscure to us) for identifying the Second Person of the Trinity as "Jesus," what kind of malfunction would we be experiencing to try to correct Him?

One can only speculate.

© Dan Popp


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