“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet and fall in love in Shakespeare’s tale of “star-crossed” lovers. They are doomed from the start as members of two warring families. Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person who is called “Montague”, not the Montague name nor Montague family. Romeo, out of his passion for Juliet, rejects his family name and vows, as Juliet asks, to “deny (his) father” and instead be “new baptized” as Juliet’s lover. This one short line encapsulates the central struggle and tragedy of the play and is one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes.
I beg to differ with Juliet. Names mean things and represent much contemplation. Such is the case with the name “Jesus”. In English, Jesus has a complicated linguistic history that isn’t apparent in modern Bibles.
“Jesus” is an Anglicized form of the Greek name Yesous found in the New Testament. Yesous represents the Hebrew name Yeshua, which occurs as “Jeshua” in English Bibles (Ezra 2:2; Neh 7:7).
Yeshua, in turn, is a shortened form of the name Yehoshua (“Joshua” in English Bibles).
Moses’ right-hand man, Joshua, has three names in the Bible. Originally, it was Hoshea, but Moses changed it to Yehoshua (Num 13:16). During the Babylonian exile, it was shorted to Yeshua (Neh 8:17).
“Yehoshua” is a compound name consisting of two elements.
1. The prefix “Yeho” is an abbreviation of God’s four-letter name, YHVH (Yahweh).
The “Name” YHVH is used over 6,800 times in the Hebrew Bible. It appears in most English Bibles printed with large and small capital letters: LORD. This stylized euphemism invented by Medieval printers distinguishes it from the word Adonai, translated “Lord.” In the Hebrew Bible
“Yeho-” is a prefix form of God’s name. It’s used at the beginning of certain proper names: Jehoshaphat, Jehoiachin, Jehonathan (the “J” was pronounced as “Y” in Medieval English).
YHVH also has a suffix form that occurs in some names: “-yah.” In the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) this ending is spelled “-iah” and appears in English Bible names such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and Zechariah. Elijah is Eli-Yah, my God is YHVH.
2. The second element of the name Yeho–shua is a form of the Hebrew verb yasha which means to deliver, save, or rescue. Thus, linguistically, the name “Yehoshua—Yeshua—Jesus” conveys the idea that God (YHVH) delivers, saves, rescues — eventually through his servant Messiah, who bears God’s name.
All that to say, that the name of Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew, means YHVH Saves. This is the substance of Peter’s defense before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Visit Fellowship’s website: www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com for information.