The Name of ‘Jesus’

SYNOPSIS:  The name Jesus means more than “savior” – It combines the name of Yahweh with the word “save” or “salvation.”

In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph saw an angel in a dream who announced the name of the child with whom Mary was pregnant – ‘Jesus.’ The name was most appropriate for he  was appointed to “save his people from their sins.” The declaration linked this name to the saving act that God was about to achieve for His people. So, just what does the name ‘Jesus’ mean?

Jesus’ is the English spelling of the Aramaic form for the Hebrew name ‘Joshua,’ or Yeshua. In the Greek New Testament, it is spelled Iésous and pronounced ee-ay-sous (Strong’s – #G2424). Note well the following related passages from the gospel accounts:

  • (Matthew 1:18-21) – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was thus: His mother Mary, having been betrothed to Joseph,— before they came together, she was found with child by [the] Holy Spirit. Moreover, Joseph her husband, being righteous and yet unwilling to expose her,— intended, privately, to divorce her. But when these things he had pondered, lo! a messenger of the Lord by dream appeared to him, saying,— Joseph, son of David! do not fear to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which in her hath been begotten is of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus,— for he will save his people from their sins.” – (The EmphasizedBible).
  • (Luke 1:26-32) – “Now, in the sixth month was the messenger Gabriel sent forth from God into a city of Galilee, the name of which was Nazareth,— unto a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Mary; and entering in unto her, he said— Joy to thee, favoured one! The Lord be with thee! And she at the word was greatly troubled and began to deliberate of what kind this salutation might be. And the messenger said unto her— Do not fear, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God,— And 1o! thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus: the same shall be great, and Son of the Most High shall be called, and the Lord God will give unto him the throne of David his father,— And he shall reign over the house of Jacob unto the ages, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” – (The Emphasized Bible).

In the New Testament, the name is used primarily for Christ, but also for one of his ancestors, an associate of the Apostle Paul, and Joshua, the son of Nun, the successor of Moses and leader who led Israel into the land of Canaan (Luke 3:29Acts 7:45, Colossians 4:11, Hebrews 4:8).

In the Old Testament, the name appears first in Exodus 17:9 – “And Moses said to Joshua, Choose for us men, and go out, fight with Amalek.” The original name of Joshua was ‘Hoshea,’ the son of Nun, one of the twelve men that Moses sent previously to spy out the land of Canaan. He changed the name from ‘Hoshea’ to ‘Joshua’ – “These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua” – (Numbers 13:1-16).

Jesus - Photo by Eran Menashri on Unsplash
Jesus – Photo by Eran Menashri on Unsplash

Hoshea’ means “salvation,” “deliverance” or “help.” It is derived from a Hebrew verb that means “to save, help, deliver” (yasha – Strong’s – #G3467. Compare – Exodus 14:30 [ “Thus Yahweh saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians”] and Deuteronomy 20:4 [“For Yahweh your God is the one who goes with you …to save you”]).

Moses changed the name by prefixing the first syllable of the Hebrew name for God – Yahweh – to the name ‘Hoshea,’ thus, the leader of the nation of Israel became Ye-hoshua. In several of the later books of the Old Testament, the second syllable was dropped and the name shortened to ‘Yeshua.’ The shorter form reflects growing Aramaic influences among the Jewish people after the Babylonian Captivity – (Compare – Nehemiah 8:17; Ezra 2:2).

The name ‘Jesus’ means more than simply “savior” – It combines the name ‘Yahweh’ with the Hebrew word for “save” or “salvation”; therefore, ‘Jesus’ means “Yahweh saves,” or possibly, “salvation of Yahweh.”By itself, this does not identify the ‘Jesus’ of the gospels as ‘Yahweh,” just as the name ‘Joshua’ in the Hebrew Bible did not mean the latter was identical to God. It does imply that the source of the salvation achieved in Jesus was and is ‘Yahweh.’ The promised salvation of the One God of Israel came to fruition in his Messiah, ‘Jesus.’

Joshua,’ the son of Nun, is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of ancient Israel. Moses was the man who delivered Israel from Egypt, but ‘Joshua’ led Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan. In the New Testament, ‘Jesus’ becomes the Greater Joshua who saves his people from their sins, delivers them from bondage to Satan, and leads them into the ultimate Promised Land in the Kingdom of God, the New Heaven and Earth.

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