Monday, December 14, 2009

Why Use "Yahshua"?

Manly Luscombe wrote:
Kent West,
I read your recent post and was just curious why you refer to Jesus as Yashua. (I assume that Jesus is who you refer to when you say Yahshua.) I am not a scholar in Hebrew but I believe that Yahshua is Hebrew. Why do you refer to a NT person by their Hebrew name?
If you believe we should use the Hebrew names for Jews - Why not do the same with Peter, Matthew, Luke, and others you mention in your email?
Just curious - not fussing - just wondering the reason for this usage.
Thanks, Manly

1) I'm not consistent about it.

2) I don't believe it makes any great difference.

3) But, to answer your question:

Primarily for six reasons:

A) To spur people to think. You never think about what the room looks like from a different angle until you stand on your desk and take a look-see. Therefore, you never see the nuances that have been right there before your eyes the whole time.

B) To remind myself and others that this Gentile, anti-Jew mentality most of us in the United States church have grown up with is a wrong mindset to have. ("The Jews were God's people, but not any more." "The Jews killed Jesus." "God doesn't care about Jerusalem or the Jewish race any more." etc.) The fact is, we, the Gentiles, have not replaced the Jewish nation, but have been grafted into it, into the covenant of Abraham, which has not been replaced by the New Covenant, but still stands as the foundation of the New Covenant (Gal 3, esp v. 29).

C) Jesus was not a New Testament person for about 99% of his earthly life. He was born a Hebrew, under the Old Testament, in a very Jewish town, in a very Jewish culture, and lived a very Jewish life. But we've subconsciously whitewashed that out of his life, and have made him, in our own minds, to be a good-looking middle-American white guy wearing a robe and sandals, forgetting that he wore tassels on his garment (Mark 6:56), the way good Jews did, and probably recited the Shema every morning (Mark 12:29-30), the way good Jews did, and cited the Ten Commandments as being the way to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17ff), which good Jews knew.

D) That was his name. It was the name his mama used to call him to supper. If you moved to a country that mis-learned your name as "Mertinly", you'd eventually shrug your shoulders and quit trying to correct everyone who mispronounced your name, and learn to live with it. But you'd likely feel better when someone actually got it right and called you "Manly". I figure Jesus/Yahshua can handle our mangling of his name, but still, it's a small bit of at least lip-service I can offer. I'm quite inconsistent with this when it comes to other New Testament names, as you've pointed out - Peter, Luke, etc - mostly that's due to lack of consistency on my part, but it also has to do with the fact that many of them lived in either the Greek world, or in a mixed Hebrew-Grecian world. Take Peter for example; at his Jewish home, he was known as Cephas; but in the Greek world in which he spent much time, he was known as Peter (or more accurately, Petros). I would probably be more amenable to calling Yahshua "Yaesu" (or "Yaesus", depending on grammatical considerations), because that's at least Biblical (New Testament), but "Jesus" is that extra consonantal sound-step farther yet.

E) Because we don't know the Hebrew names, we don't see the nuances. Yahshua is Joshua is Hosea (more or less). The first Yahshua (Joshua) was reported in Jewish lore (not Biblical record) to have married Rahab the Harlot; the second Yahshua (Hosea) also married a harlot; the third Yahshua (Jesus), also is marrying a harlot, but one who has been washed clean due to his efforts, not our own. There's a lot of symbolism, etc, that we simply miss, by not knowing the words behind the text.

F) It means something (as most Biblical names do). As you're probably aware, Bible translators have, for centuries, corrupted God's written word intentionally, changing the God-inspired name of YHWH (Yod - Hey - Wah - Hey; the "Tetragrammaton"; the "Four Letters"), which God said would be the name by which he would be remembered throughout the generations (Exodus 3:15) into the man-made alteration of "the LORD" (turn to almost any page in the Old Testament in a main-line version and you'll see this phrase). The name was likely pronounced "Yahweh". The short form of "Yah" is familiar to us in the phrase "Hallelujah", which means "Praise Yah". (The "j" for the "y" sound is a relic of Elizabethan English, and has since morphed into the "j" sound in most modern words.) The name "Jehovah" is a man-made mixing of the vowels from the Hebrew word for "Lord" and these four consonants (in Elizabethan English where "j" = "y" and "v" = "w") - JeHoVaH. Because we don't know this, we don't realize that "Yahshua" means "Yah saves", just as the angel predicted his name to mean (Matt 1:21). Because we don't know this, we don't realize why the Jewish political machinery was so upset about the sign which Pilate hung over Yahshua's head as he hung on the cross. Written in three languages, the sign included the Hebrew form of "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", written as "Yahshua Hanatzoi, Wehemelech Hayuhadim". There it was in plain sight to those who noticed the first letters of the description, announced by the governing authority - YHWH. Pilate had just declared Jesus to be YHWH God, King of the Jews (John 19:19ff). I can just imagine Pilate smirking as he answered the trouble-makers' request for a different sign with, "What I have written, I have written". Because we don't know his name, we miss the pun he uses when he announces that Salvation ('Shua) has come to the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9). (Zacchaeus' Hebrew name, Zakkai, also has meaning, which also colors the story, if you understand some of the background.)

Don't take any of this to mean that I hold the usage of "Yahshua" to be superior to the usage of "Jesus"; what's superior is to know the Man-God behind the name, and there are many who have a better relationship to him than do I, who have never even heard this Hebrew form of the name. But I offer these as my reasons for often using this form.

1 comment:

Nathan R. Hale said...

GREAT post Kent. It's amazing the light that cultural context can shed on Scripture! Thanks for this post.