Unholy War of Names: Yeshua vs Yahshua
Q: Okay, I’m confused. From my understanding, using the name of “Jesus” and “God” are like worshiping a false god, Baal and so on. What I am asking is: do we call God Yahweh (yhvh), or Adonai (and how do you pronounce it?); and what’s the difference between Yeshua and Yahshua? When I am worshiping, I want to talk to Him and know for certain that I am not calling Him someone else’s name or a title. Plus, I have little ones at home, I want to teach them the correct thing. I don’t want to miss Heaven on the account of a technicality. Remember, He’s going to turn people away because He didn’t know them. Well, how can you know someone without knowing their name? You would only know of them.
A: Thank you for your important question. I understand why you feel confused. Let me address each issue in turn, and then I will conclude with some comments and observations.
First, though some have suggested that the English “Jesus” comes from the Greek Zeus, there is actually no link whatsoever. This is a ridiculous fabrication perpetrated by conspiracists who know little to nothing about the language. The etymology of “Jesus” is simple. In the Greek Scriptures, Ὶησους, Iesous is a transliteration of the Hebrew יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua. Exchanging the “y” for an “i” at the beginning, and adding an “s” on the end is common in Greek, i.e. יְהוּדָה, Y’hudah (Judah) becomes Ὶούδας, Ioudas (Judas). From the Greek, Ὶησους, Iesous was transliterated into the latin Iesus, and finally came into English as Jesus. Yeshua (Hebrew) to Iesous (Greek) to Iesus (Latin) to Jesus (English). Nothing nefarious here.
As for use of the word God, the only issue I see here would be lack of qualification, since there are many “gods” of this world. Though some have suggested alternative etymologies, the English word “God” simply means “a god.” The content of our communication can then easily indicate that by “God” we mean the God of Israel, the one true God. The word itself is neutral without context, and does not inherently refer to a specific deity, either true or false, i.e. Baal, or Buddha, or what have you.
Next, regarding the sacred name יהוה or yhvh, there is a long-standing Jewish tradition in which speaking yhvh is prohibited. During the middle ages, Jewish scribes (the Masoretes) devised a Hebrew vowel-pointing system (those dots and dashes beneath and around Hebrew letters) to indicate how words should be properly pronounced. This system included the practice of superimposing the vowel points from אֲדֹנָי, ’Adonai (which means Lord or Master, and is pronounced Ah-doe-nigh) onto yhvh. Thus, when a reader encountered יְהֹוָה, he would be reminded to say Adonai instead. Though remnants of yhvh have apparently been preserved for us in names such as יָהּ, Yah and אֵלִיָהוּ, Eliyahu (Elijah), this practice of substituting Adonai for yhvh has unfortunately resulted in the loss of its definite pronunciation. (The accepted scholarly rendering is Yahweh; however, this cannot be absolutely ascertained, and remains in dispute. For a detailed discussion, please download the PDF, “The Name”.)
The issue concerning the name Yeshua and the manufactured “Yahshua” (and its variants) is somewhat convoluted and, again, conspiratorial. It begins like this: in addition to defacing the name yhvh, the Masoretes further perpetrated a plot to obscure its pronunciation by purposely mispointing other names that begin with the first three letters of yhvh (יהו), such as יֵהוּא, Yehu (Jehu), יְהוּדָה, Y’hudah (Judah), and, most notoriously, יְהוֹשׁוּעַ, Y’hoshua (Joshua). Accordingly, Y’hoshua, should actually be “Yahushua” (or some other variant)—and since יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua is related to Y’hoshua/Joshua (it actually is), and Yeshua came “in the Father’s name” (a distorted use of John 5:43—He’s talking about the Father’s power and authority; for more on this, see endnotes in “The Name” PDF), it should really be “Yahshua” (or some other variant). Of course, in order for all this to be true, then the credibility of the entire vowel-pointing system is called into question, and we have no reason to trust the pronunciation of other forms of yhvh as in names like יְשַעְיָהוּ, Y’sha’yahu (Isaiah) and יִרְמְיָהוּ, Yir’m’yahu (Jeremiah). The conspiracists can’t have it both ways.
As for the name יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua, it appears in multiple places in the Hebrew Scriptures, as clearly seen in the Hebrew/Aramaic underlying “Jeshua” in 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, i.e. Ezra 5:2. “Yeshua” is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word for “salvation”—יְשׁוּעָה, y’shuah—as used in Exodus 15:2, Psalm 9:14, Isaiah 60:18 and many other verses. It is true that Y’hoshua/Joshua and Yeshua are related names, but they are nevertheless distinct. While Joshua means “יָהּ, Yah saves,” or similar, Yeshua means simply, “he saves” or “salvation,” as signified by Matthew 1:21, “…and you will call His name Yeshua, for He will save his people from their sins.”
How can you know someone without knowing their name? I’ll give you an example: I have a friend who immigrated to the United States from Poland. Everyone, including his wife, calls him “ZeeZee,” but his name is Zbigniew. Now, in this case, I know in my head that his name is Zbigniew, but I haven’t the slightest clue how to pronounce it. Even if ZeeZee stood right in my face and pronounced his name for me, I probably still couldn’t do it! The point is, I know ZeeZee, and he knows me. The fact that I don’t know how to pronounce his name—and don’t even try—doesn’t affect our relationship one bit. When I call him “ZeeZee,” he knows I’m speaking to him, and when I say “ZeeZee” to someone else who knows him, they know exactly who I’m talking about.
Here’s another example: My children know that my name is Kevin, but never in their lives have they called me that. Indeed, I would find it rather disrespectful and distant if they did. Instead, they know me and love me as “Abba” (“Daddy,” in Hebrew). When they address me formally, when they want to show me affection, or when they need my help, this is what they call me… and I never fail to respond.
No doubt, it is important to know the Name of the One we worship and serve—the One by whose Name we will be saved (Joel 2:32). But if there is anything nefarious going on, it is in the diversion, distraction and division being caused among Yeshua’s disciples over such ultimately nonessential and unsustainable matters. While “Jesus” is not the Master’s name, it is the etymological equivalent, and there is nothing evil about it. The same is true for the word “God.” And even if the pronunciation of the Sacred Name were unequivocally restored (which it hasn’t been), there is nothing in Scripture that requires its utterance—especially in light of passages such as Exodus 34:5-9 (where, in the presence of yhvh, Moses calls Him אֲדֹנָי, ’Adonai—Master!) not to mention the way Yeshua taught us to pray to “our Father who is in the heavens” (Matthew 6:9). As for the dispute between Yeshua and “Yahshua” (or similar), there is simply no valid linguistic or historical support for such a rendering. The Hebrew is clear: ישוע is pronounced Yeshua.
If we are going to miss Heaven on account of a technicality, it’s not going to be because we failed to pronounce the Name of God—it will be because we are self-centeredly preoccupied with the technicalities, when we should be devoting ourselves to the life of service and self-denial that living for Yeshua demands (Isaiah 1:11-17, Matthew 23:23-24 and 25:31-46).
This “Messy Messianics” article was originally published in an abridged format in Messianic Jewish Issues. Messy Messianics, a recurring feature in Messianic Jewish Issues, is provided as a resource for helping troubled friends back from the fringe.
Great response to this topic, Kevin. Back in 2000, I came across an article by you titled “The Sacred Name” in which you clarified this issue so thoroughly. Your insight was a blessing and answered so many questions I had at the time. The closing paragraph to this blog here is so true. We can obsess over minutiae while neglecting to embrace the selflessness and love for each other that Yeshua has commanded for His followers. Shalom, brother.
Thanks, Joshua. “The Sacred Name” article has been reworked and is linked above in the article as “The Name.” Blessings!
Ok, supposing what youare saying is true. Then there really is no harm in calling God Yahweh right? Or what if I chose to call Him by some other name? According to what you are saying, if I am understanding correctly the Creator of this universe told us His Name over 6,000 times but He’s not really concerned about us using His name we can just refer to Him with a name that means “a god”? It seems to me He deemed His Name pretty important if He told us what it was so many times and in everything He has done He is pretty specific. Your friend ZeeZee still has some part of his name in his nickname just as any of us would but the name God has stripped out any real meaning of who the Creator of this universe really is. Even in the names He gave to different people in the scriptures all had meaning they weren’t just any old name. You mentioned it was Jewish tradition that replaced the sacred name with Adonai, then changed to Lord etc. What about the verses in scripture that warn about adding to or taking away anything in His Word? I would hate to be those who decided to change His true name. We may not be able to be sure how to say His Name but we can at least refer to Him as YHWH at least that way we still are keeping the meaning of His name and we won’t be calling Him the name of every other false god as so many other religions do.
I would say that there is harm in militantly holding to an attitude that insists we know how to pronounce His Name, and that we need to vocally refer to Him by some form of YHVH. While I would not presume to know the mind of the Universe’s Creator on a subject in which He is not explicit, how can we “use” His Name if we are no longer certain of its pronunciation?
What’s wrong with referring to Him “with a name that means ‘a god’”? I am in no way offended by my children calling me by a generic title, “Abba,” even though there are thousands of other children calling their father’s by the same generic title. I am not in the least bit confused who my children are addressing and how much they love me when they call me Abba. In fact, I don’t find “Kevin” to be a particularly important name at all where my children are concerned. Indeed! Didn’t Yeshua call Him “Abba” and “Father”—even “God”? Why didn’t over 6,000 Scriptural occurrences of YHVH dissuade the Master Himself from using such generic, “impersonal” terms?
As for the Jewish tradition to substitute “Adonai” for YHVH, I am not defending the tradition. However, “Adonai” was not a word they picked at random—it is a valid Scriptural reference to YHVH. Especially since we are not sure how to say His Name, we should consider the viable, Scriptural alternatives to which there is no dispute. Moses called Him “Adonai” (Exodus 34:5-9); David called Him “Yah” (Psalm 68:4); Yeshua called Him “God” and “Father.” How can these be wrong or inadequate?
God is not confused when we address Him according to Scripture without guessing how to pronounce the tetragrammaton; and others won’t be confused who we are referring to if our actions surpass our rhetoric, and our lives become living testimonies of the reality of Yeshua.
In the past, I have communicated my agreement with your messages, so, let me begin by saying “I’m not ‘agin’ ‘ya, brother”.
Your stand on the “unholy war” regarding the names of our Creator and Messiah prompts these comments. Thank you for this opportunity, Kevin.
This stand left me rather startled~~~~that you would treat this subject so lightly, even sarcastically arrogant>>>”ridiculous fabrication”, “nothing nefarious here”, “perpetrated by conspiratists”~~~~I don’t recall you using condescending verbage like this on other topics…
Anyway, it’s seems pretty simple to me… LORD is not our Creator’s Name and Jesus is not our Savior’s Name as given by His Father. You indicated that you would agree with that but, then, why is it okay to use these “transliterated” terms (I call them “evolved butchering”) when we KNOW the correct Names and then encourage others to walk in ignorance of the REAL names as well? Shouldn’t we walk in His TRUTH and encourage others in that TRUTH as well?
Names, as you well know, have great scriptural signifigance and, even in our everyday life, most of us try to remember and pronounce names correctly especially when meeting people with “foreign” names. It seems we do more in this respect to please people than we do our Creator and Messiah!
Scripture tells us to “call on”, “lift up”, “exalt”, “pray in” His Name NOT a title. Yes, He is my Abba, Elohim, El Shaddai, etc. But I call upon and pray in His NAME bcause that is what He said to do.
Thanks, Kevin, for reading all this. I truly believe this is a serious issue to YHWH who told us His Name and the Name of His Son.
What’s in a name?>>>>from YHWH’s perspective (which is really ALL that should matter) LOTS>>>the verses are too numerous to list but Jeremiah 23:26,27 adresses the heart of the matter.>>>>hallowed be Thy Name!
Shalom Jan. Thank you for your respectful comments — they are appreciated!
Please allow me to begin by saying I do not take this subject lightly at all. On the contrary, this subject has misled many well meaning believers, and my heart is to help stop the hemorrhage. If I came across as sarcastic, arrogant or condescending, I apologize — that was certainly not my intent. In answering this precious sister’s questions (and for all who would read my response later in this format), I felt it was best to speak in strong, clear terms, as it is vital to communicate that — especially in the case of the Jesus/Zeus issue — these arguments are a distraction at best, and destructive at worst.
I have no problem whatsoever about telling everyone about the name Yeshua. Yeshua means “salvation” — “Jesus” doesn’t technically mean anything. But condemning someone or telling them that they aren’t walking in truth because they say “Jesus” is not the right place to start the conversation — especially since there is legitimate, linguistic history behind it.
As for the legitimacy of the variations on YHVH, and what it means to do anything “in His Name,” well, I’ve already given my extensive answer to that here. At minimum, Mosheh and Yeshua taught us that addressing the Creator directly with a title (i.e. Adonai, Father) is not only permissible, but good.
Again, I agree that this is a serious issue. Looking to the Hebrew for answers is crucial, but we have to let the Scriptures be our guide, and not further compound the problem by reading Scripture through the lenses of our own flawed misunderstanding.
Thank you, Kevin, for responding to to my comments.
I read your article on “…in His Name…”. Honestly, this is NOT a matter of who is right so I won’t “counter”…I want the TRUTH and I believe you do as well.
Oy! You are very learned and I’m just a “precious kosher princess” and His “pure and holy bride” (His words to me,,,) but I MUST walk in the truth He gives me (often in the middle of the night…) as He replaces the lies/doctrines of man with His Truth. May I have the courage to lay down those lies to make room for His Truth. His eye is on those who are seeking His truth so let’s keep seeking!!!!
Thanks, Jan. Agreed — so long as “the truth He gives [you]” lines up with Scripture. 🙂
Oh, yes! If what I “hear” is not confirmed in Scripture “it” goes into my “hold-til-confirmed” box….
It seems Yeshua didn’t come to “unite” but to “divide” us INTO His truth (I think I heard that right..) so, I often wonder if the “division” we see might be caused by the resistance to the Truth…don’t know..(that’s in my “hold-til-confirmed”box).
Thank you Kevin; glad I found this article. It has confirmed some things to me. On a side note; do you recommend a Bible that is true to the original translation of Hebrew or Aramaic? I currently read from the CJB, but that is based of the NIV and would like one that is more true to origin. Thanks
Shalom Dena. Actually, the first part of the CJB is based on the JPS Tanakh; the second part is Dr. Stern’s own translation.
For casual or group reading, I like the CJB or NIV. For study, I include the NAS and KJV, using Young’s Literal as my base. Of course, they all have their flaws, which is why I also study in the original languages. For that, I also use Bible software, as well as various interlinear versions and lexicons.
Thank you for sharing Kevin. I do have e-Sword and use it in comparing Scriptures. I am still old fashioned though and like a ‘real’ book. Thanks again.
I know people that treat the name “Jesus” with contempt. Also, I know people that treat the name “Yeshua” with contempt. There is one body. Your article helps bring understanding so we can be one.
Hello Old Friend!
I hope you are getting along well! Thank you for your insightful comments on this subject. I appreciate your patience and understanding with those of us who are Gentiles and are called, “uncircumcised!” I’m reminded of the dozens (hundreds?) of names and titles which servants of the Most High have given Him throughout Scripture. Although not the specific NAME He gave by which He is to be called, I don’t think that addressing him as “Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25),” for example, would determine whether or not He answered. If one intentionally called Him by the name of a false god, or gave a false god His Name, that’s when one would get into trouble (Exodus 32:4-5)!
I do want to call Him by His rightful name. However, For me to switch from the linguistic derivatives to Hebrew or Aramaic would be like trying to call my father something other than, “Daddy.” Perhaps we’ll get the pronunciation for God and Zeezee correct in eternity. In the meantime, let’s walk in the light that’s available to us.
Consider how flexible a translation the Septuagint seems to be. And yet the First Century writers of Scripture vigorously quoted from it. Though it’s not technically identical to the Hebrew text, it conveys the meaning of the text, and still holds its hearers responsible for being doers. Those of us who have heard the call of the LORD, in any language, are still responsible to answer Him.
“Old friend”? Who are you calling “old”? Look who’s talking!
Thanks for the comments. Miss you, brother.
Shalom my friends! Let me just say that what has been said here is why so many outside of the Body of Messiah do not run to be a part of. We spend so much time on the things that “we” deem critical and forget that the critical to Messiah and the Father are drawing all men unto Him. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and it will never contradict the Holy Scriptures. As Kevin has tried to state so well is that He will know our hearts and motives behind the ways we call out to Him. Let’s not get wrapped up in calling each other out over issues that will not bring us salvation of new members in the Body. We must be seen as together or, as Messiah said Himself, a house divided will not stand. By the way, I am a Christian and have to battle so much against people within churches who do the same thing. If we, Christians and Hebrew Believers cannot stand together who do we think will help demonstrate His love to the world? Remember Saul/Paul would be unto all men what was necessary to reach them with the Gospel. It was not about a name, it was about a Saviour. Love one another and then the world will know us by our love for God and others.
I agree with most of what you’ve said, Norm. Absolutely. However, some of us don’t have access to a Messianic congregation and have no where else to go. It isn’t bad to disagree with one another- but the way we speak to one another is crucial. This portion of Perfect Word ministries is called Messy Messianic- a place to sort through some of the confusing issues, ask questions, hear one another out, and go a little beyond the basics.
In- fighting does weaken any Body, for sure, and I have seen it happen in Christian churches time after time, causing divisions and even split-offs, much to my disappoinment.
At this point in my walk with Yeshua, I find myself a hybrid
Messianic- Christian, which is an awkward place to be. On the one hand, I hear Messianics call Christians “pagans” which is somewhat offensive, because not all Christians are pagans, and on the other hand I find serious fault with the Protestant Christian denominations. Yes, the very word “Easter” goes back to the Greek goddess of fertility Oestra, and so yes, it is pagan, but most Christians don’t know it, even though they wonder why the duckies and baby bunnies are in the picture.However wrong, in their hearts they are sincere about celebrating the resuurection of Yeshua.
When I pray, I call on the name Yeshua, and I sometimes call on the name Jesus- and I’m sure I would be accused of sitting on the fence. But this is where I am. Does it matter what I call myself, and ought I to hide it because I fear criticism? How else will I grow, and in the long term, help others grow, if I don’t put it out there?
I hear offensive things, but I don’t take them to heart so much, unless they are said in love and gentleness. It’s part of maturing in Yeshua, to forgive without having been offered any apology, to make ourselves of no reputation, and to live as peaceably as possible with all. God help us.
about ten years ago i read a book called fossilized customs, it was about the sacred name, when i was finished with the book i through it in the trash, where i believe it belongs,it brought a lot of confusion and god’s not the author of confusion, and it wasn’t because i didn’t know about the sacred name argument’s, because i did,they teach that you have to call upon that, name, to be saved and( they only think they know it)and if you’re saved by faith,(and you’re really not sure) then i wouldn’t want to go down that road,i thank the lord that we can trust the holy spirit to lead us and guide us in to all truth,probably because he knows, where not as smart as we think we are. p.s. when you question them about saying you must call upon that name or you wont be saved,they say i didn’t say that and then you listen to them again that’s exactly what there saying,trust Yeshua the living word!
I agree whole heartedly that the book “Fossilized Customs” by Lew White belongs in the garbage. It is full of half truths and outright lies. It has cause so much division whenever it rears its ugly head in a new bible study group. It is still be printed unfortunately. Lew based a lot of his poorly researched book on the writings of Alexander Hislop who also wrote a very poorly researched book….some would say Hislop deliberately using a great deal of mixed up mythologies to try to show that the Roman Catholic church was the devil. Lying is not the way to prove anything ….except that you are a liar. The idea that Jesus and Zeus are related words come from Lew White’s nonsense.
I quite enjoyed this article, Kevin!
what is the spirit, or motive behind what i’m saying or doing?
I am thankful that in the end He will teach us and there will be no more confusion… If I have messed up because of a technicallity,then so be it.. He knows in whom my trust is … I am a simple person and in no way can do all the correct pronounciations of the hebrew…. He has walked me through this life so far, I trust Him to walk me through and into eternity where He will be the one who teaches us.
I came across the name Eliyon/Elyon in a reading once,have never seen it repeated.. looked it up and the definition was Most high God or God most high… have you ever come across this?
You are so dead on. Abba knows our hearts, and knows when we are addressing Him. The trick is knowing His heart, and knowing when He addresses us. That comes with our relationship, with Him
KEVIN….. right on bro…miss you my friend.
OUTstanding article, Chaver/Achi. Only two things missing.
1) Getting from yud, heh, vav, heh (which you didn’t spell out) to YahWeh, the ancient pronunciation, W, vs the more modern V.
2) The Almighty DID tell us to use his name: “This (his name) is my memorial to all generations.” (Ex. 3:15). Can it be a memorial if we don’t remember to use it? Alslo, he said, “My people shall know my name.” (Is. 52:6) That may be yet in the future, but shouldn’t it start soon?
Again, Love the article. There are SO many renderings on the likes of facebook which show NO knowledge of the language in their attempts to manipulate it. Wish every one of them could read this.
Thanks, John. I do deal with Exodus 3 in my paper, “The Name.” See http://www.perfect-word.org/TheName Blessings!
OOOH THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, AND THANK YOU JESUS. NO JOKE INTENDED, BUT any how, I have been having this battle with my son for many years, he is into some kind of cult I fear and he tried to give me those same things about zues and all that. this sure goes come st the right time, i just can’t believe how God can work this way. this is lke a door opening to all my replies. Now to get him to believe it.
I enjoyed your article, but on two points I demur.
1# Abba is not ‘daddy’, but can be ‘daddy’. Its basic idea is intimacy, rather than infancy: when I spoke as a child, I said daddy (abba); when I put away childish things, I said dad (abba)—a point I once mooted with Hebrew scholar Prof. William (Bill) C Williams.
2# “If we are going to miss heaven on account of a technicality, it’s not going to be because we failed to pronounce the name of God” is a corker and correct so far as it goes, I think. But if your following words imply that heaven could be missed on a technicality—namely bothering (excessively much) over what we should not bother so much about, and so not bothering about what we ought to bother about (fiddling while Rome burns)—then although I agree about having spiritual obligations/duties, I demur, especially as it gets a little too close IMO to works-to-salvation, rather than salvation-to-works (to some extent there is a virtuous circle: christification). I suspect that you spoke somewhat in pointed jest, but I’d reword the whole technicality thing thus: “If we think we are going to miss heaven on account of a technicality, we are sadly mistaken.”
Shalom Steve. Thank you for your comments.
1) While the discussion of the name Abba is simply an example, and not the point of the article, I’m not suggesting that Abba is an infantile word. My adult children still call me Abba. The point I’m making is that even if you know someone’s formal name, you can go a whole lifetime never addressing them by that name, and still know them fully.
2) I completely agree that no amount of good works can get us into Heaven. However, the verses referenced at the end of that sentence are a stern warning to all who would excessively focus on the technicalities of Scripture at the expense of a changed heart and life demonstrated by a practical application of the “weightier” matters of Scripture. There are those who believe they will make it to Heaven, but will be completely surprised in the end. While works can never earn our place in Heaven, they may be a good litmus test for us to use in determining where our hearts actually are. I would be remiss if I did not pass these warning on to my readers.
Quite a while back I was reading an article by native-born Israeli Believers about the pronunciation if the Tetragrammaton. In a side note, the author wrote that yahua, yahshua, yahushua, and yahusha were all FAKE Hebrew by well-intentioned but woefully ignorant gentiles who need to leave the Hebrew dictionary of Strong’s Concordance alone.