One of my readers commented on my previous article (“On this rock I will build my church”—OK, but which “rock”?). He quoted part of my text, “That’s the ‘rock’ on which the church of Christ is built—the fundamental principle that the being we now (incorrectly) call ‘Jesus is the Christ (chosen one) and Son of the living God.”
The reader then explained and asked:
“‘Jesus’ is the English pronunciation of the Greek name “Iesous”, which is what the authors of the New Testament, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, called the Christ. What do you find to be ‘incorrect’ in this conversion from Greek to English for the sake of pronunciation?”
I’ll answer as follows:
My proper, Christian name is “Alfred”.
Years ago, I visited Mexico on several occasions and sometimes lived there for 3 to 5 months at a time. I had friends in Mexico who called me “Alfredo”. I took no offense.
But the fact remains that my proper, Christian name is “Alfred” and has been ever since my parents gave me that name 68 years ago. Other have called me “Al,” “Alfie,” “Butch” and other nicknames too numerous to mention. But my proper, Christian name has always been and, so far as I know, will always be, “Alfred”.
I’ll bet that the Christ was never once called “Jesus” by his mother, earthly father, family, friends, apostles or disciples or even Pontius Pilate. So far as I know, during His earthly life, the Christ never once referred to Himself as “Jesus”.
Therefore, I conclude that “Jesus” is not His true and proper name. I don’t argue that the Christ takes any more offense at being addressed by the alias “Jesus” than I took when friends called me “Alfredo”.
I will, however, argue that calling the Christ by his proper name is more respectful than calling him by a Greek alias.
• We know that the Greek, and later English, transliterations of the Christ’s name are not His true name. So, why do people insist on praying in the “name of Christ” and then not using the Christ’s actual name? Will the Christ understand that, even when people pray in a name that is not the Christ’s, that they nevertheless mean to pray to the Christ? Probably.
But why take that chance?
Q: If I, in my heart and mind, determine that the proper translation for the Christ’s name is “Billy Bob,” can I pray to “Billy Bob” tonight and expect my prayers to be answered or even received?
A: If my heart is in the right place, maybe so.
But why take a chance on praying to Billy Bob?
Why not pray in the true name of the Christ?
Q: What is wrong with trying to know the name actually used by the Christ while he was alive and then use that name in our prayers?
A: Using the Christ’s actual name violates the “traditions of men”. It is by means of such “traditions” that we have come to call the Christ by a name that the Christ probably never used or even heard once during his earthly life.
We call the Christ “Jesus” because virtually everyone else who speaks English calls the Christ “Jesus”. That makes “Jesus” a technical falsehood that has nevertheless become a “tradition of men”. If I recall correctly, there are verses in the Bible that warn against substituting the “traditions of men” for spiritual truths.
I won’t claim the “tradition” of calling the Christ by the name “Jesus” is sinful or grounds for damnation. But I am saying, Why take a chance? Why not show the Christ enough respect to call Him by the same name, the same sound, by which He was addressed and to which He answered while he was here on Earth?
• Down in Mexico, Mexican friends might call me “Alfredo”. But suppose I had to sign a contract, or a check, or a credit card receipt, and I used the name “Alfredo” rather than “Alfred”. Would that contract stand up in court? Would my check clear the bank? Would the credit card receipt expose me to some unwonted legal liability?
I could probably get away with signing my name “Alfredo” in most instances. But technically, “Alfredo” would be an alias. If I ran into a particularly obnoxious prosecutor (“adversary”), he might conceivably charge me with fraud.
So, why take the chance? Why not use my proper name?
Similarly, why not use the Christ’s proper name?
• As for calling the Christ “Jesus” for the “sake of pronunciation,” my reader implied that the pronunciation of the word “Jesus” in English and the pronunciation of “Iesous” in Greek are virtually identical.
I doubt that’s true. If I understand correctly, the letter “J” didn’t even exist until the 1400s and wasn’t widely used until the early 1600s. It was probably the last letter added to the English alphabet.
Thus, the “divinely inspired” name “Iesous” existed for at least a thousand years before some genius translated “Iesous” into “Jesus”.
More, although I’m not the least bit familiar with the Greek language, I’ve heard that the “J” sound does not exist in the Greek language.
If that’s true, then it appears that the Greek pronunciation for “Iesous” may have been something like “Eye-ay-soos”—but never “Gee-zus” (Jesus). If so, the idea that the “divinely inspired” name “Iesous” was changed to “Jesus” as a convenient pronunciation identical to the original Greek may be mistaken.
But, even if the word spelled “Jesus” is pronounced just like “Iesous,” is the correct pronunciation of “Jesus” the one spoken in English or in Spanish?
In English, the name spelled “Jesus” is pronounced “Gee-zus”.
In Spanish, the name spelled “Jesus” is pronounced “Hay-soos”.
Which one is correct?
I’d bet that the Spanish version is closer than the English version to the Greek pronunciation of the word “Iesous”—which my reader implicitly claim to be “divinely inspired”. If so, why not pray to “Hay-soos” rather than “Gee-zus”?
Again, my point is that there is a name by which the Christ was commonly called and to which he replied. What is so difficult about finding that name and its pronunciation in the original Hebrew and using it?
• My reader claims that the Bible was “divinely inspired”. OK—which “Bible”? There are probably 20 to 50 versions of the Bible written in English, alone—and each differs from the others on significant points. So, which version of the multitude of Bibles written in English is completely and “divinely inspired”?
Some might answer that the original texts of the New Testament, written in Greek, were “divinely inspired”.
OK–I’ll buy that possibility. However, I will not buy the possibility that every subsequent translation of the Greek texts into Latin and/or then into English versions of the Bible are also completely “divinely-inspired”.
But even if the Greek texts were “divinely inspired” and the “divinely inspired” name for the Christ was “Iesous,” why don’t we call the Christ “Iesous”? Why, do we instead call Him “Jesus”?
If the reader thinks the “divinely inspired” name for the Christ is “Iesous,” why does that reader ever use or even defend the name “Jesus”? If he believes “Iesous” is divinely inspired, but still prefers to use “Jesus”–isn’t that an act of disrespect for the name that the reader, himself, implicitly claims to be “divinely inspired”?
How can anyone reasonably claim that: 1) “Iesous” is the “divinely inspired” name of the Christ; 2) the reader is a “Christian” (a sincere follower of the Christ); but 3) the reader still prefers to use a translation of the “divinely inspired” name rather than the exact, “divinely inspired” name?
I’m not condemning anyone’s name choice as sinful. The Christ may take no offense whatsoever. But wouldn’t it be better . . . wouldn’t it show a greater degree of your respect for Him if we called Him by the name He actually used during His life (or even the “divinely inspired” name found in original Greek texts—which name the Christ presumably never used or even heard in his earthly life) rather than calling Him “Billy Bob” or even “Jesus”?
• But finally, there’s Acts 4:10-12 in which Peter declares,
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
If the Bible is true, then Acts 4:10-12 indicates that there is only one name in all of the earth “by which we must be saved”. Although the original books of Acts was probably written in Greek, I doubt that Peter spoke in Greek—so I doubt that Peter actually used the name “Iesous” when he declared there was “no other name . . . by which we must be saved”. And I’m certain that Peter did not speak in English (even for the sake of “pronunciation”) and say that the one, special name was “Jesus”.
More, given that the “divinely inspired” Bible had not yet been written in any language, Peter was probably not even aware that the Greek translation of these “Acts” would refer to “Iesous”.
So what name did Peter use when he claimed there is “no other name . . . by which we must be saved”? It seems certain that Peter must’ve referred to the actual, proper name, in Hebrew by which the Christ was called and to which He responded to throughout his earthly life.
If the Bible is true, the Christ’s name is no game. There is only one such name by which you must be saved. That name is definitely not “Billy Bob” and it’s definitely not “Jesus” and it’s almost certainly not “Iesous”. Thus, your personal salvation may depend on you finding and using the true and proper name of the Christ. That particular name must be the name the Christ heard and used throughout his life.
Of course, according to Peter, there’s only one such name “by which you must be saved”. If we seek salvation under that one true name, God must provide that salvation.
But, Peter did not say that God would definitely not grant us salvation under some alternative name. If I want to pray in the name of “Billy Bob” and you want to pray in the name of “Jesus”—who knows?—maybe our Father YHWH ha Elohiym will, in His discretion, grant salvation to either of us, or even to both of us.
But why take that risk?
Why not discover and use the Christ’s proper name by which we “must be saved”?
• There’s another possibility in all this. If you’ve watched any of the old costume dramas about knights and ladies in medieval England, you’ve probably heard a messenger enter the castle or the king’s court and say, “I come in the name of Prince John!” Here, the word “name” means “authority”. I.e., “I come under the authority of Prince John!”
It’s entirely possible that when the Bible talks about the “name” of the Christ, it’s not really referring to the Christ’s specific “name” (like “Billy Bob” or “Jesus”) but instead, to the Christ’s authority.
If so, then the specific and true name of the Christ might not be critical. So long as we pray in the authority of the Christ, it may make little or no difference what particular name we use. Thus, I might be able to safely pray to “Billy Bob” tonight (so long as I do so under the “authority” of the Christ) and you can pray to “Jesus”.
But why take the chance?
Why pray to “Billy Bob” or to “Jesus” if there’s just one chance in 100 (or even one chance in billion) that it’s true that there’s “only one name . . . by which you must be saved”?
You are betting your personal salvation on your choice of whatever name you wish to use to refer to the Christ. Why risk using any name other than the name by which the Christ was called and to which He responded throughout his earthly life?
That means that it’s only sensible that you find and use the Christ’s Hebrew name.