What If You Have a Friend Who Calls Jesus, Yeshua?

April 3, 2024 Mario Villella Discipleship

It is well-known that when a person moves to a foreign country, they often begin using their new country’s language. Many of the things that they used to talk about, they continue to talk about, but now with new words. “Phone” becomes “telefon” or “voiture” becomes “car.” Sometimes even proper names get translated so that “Wein” becomes “Vienna” or “John” becomes “Juan.”

As best as I can tell, this happened to my father when he moved from Italy to America around 1930. My mom told me that his given name was Giuseppe, and that he went by Joseph once he moved to America, because that was considered to be the English-equivalent at the time (and still is, according to Google.)

Why do I bring this up?

Well, recently I heard about some of my friends coming across a person who will only refer to Jesus Christ as Yeshua. As I listened, I realized that I’d heard this kind of thing before. The idea goes something like this:

“When Jesus was on this earth, he wasn’t called Jesus. His name would have been pronounced closer to ‘Yeshua.’ So, all these people going around the United States calling him ‘Jesus’ are calling him by the wrong name. How disrespectful and ignorant.”

You can find people online who say things like this. And it’s a silly argument.

Of course they didn’t call him Jesus back then (before English was invented.) They also didn’t use the words Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. I’m pretty sure they didn’t use the words Egypt, Moses, or Pharaoh 3,000 years ago during the Exodus story either. Same goes for almost every other word in the Bible. When we read the Bible, we use an English translation. And when we speak of its contents, we do so in English.

I’m sure there are some Christians who think using the pronunciation “Yeshua” is more authentic, and I suppose it’s fine if they want to speak that way. However, I do think it could certainly become problematic if those people want to insist that it’s wrong for other Christians to speak about our Savior in English.

The Christian Bible is allowed to be translated - every word of it, including the words for God and Jesus. And this tradition goes back to the time period of the Bible itself. In fact, the Bible even translates itself on many occasions. There are hundreds of Old Testament references originally written in ancient Hebrew that get translated into ancient Greek in the New Testament. The Bible is not like the Quran (which in Muslim theology must remain in its original Arabic to be considered “the Quran”) But that’s not what we do in Christian theology. In Christianity, God’s Word has been considered to be translatable even during the time when Jesus walked on this earth.

Therefore, to reject the name “Jesus” and insist that Christians not translate His name is to go against a Christian practice that we’ve had all along. And this practice that we’ve had all along is a good one. God’s message being heard in multiple languages is how Christianity got a big jumpstart back in the first century (see Acts 2:8-11) and it’s a big part of the reason Christianity has spread so much in the past 2,000 years. If every Christian were forced to use the original languages in order to evangelize, much of the world would have been left out.

Praise Jesus that we can worship Him with the words Jesus, Yeshua, Isa, Jesucristo, and many other spellings and forms. Praise God that He did not force everyone who would seek Him to have to learn ancient Hebrew first. 
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Mario Villella

Lead Pastor / Elder

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