Well, I attended a Messianic Jewish service last night as a favor to a friend. Long story. But I wanted to relay my thoughts about one aspect of it real quick now – I’m sure more observations and ponderings will probably follow over the next few days.*
Essentially what I want to address is this tendency in Messianic congregations to refer to Jesus as “Yeshua”. The reasoning goes that (and here I quote from one of the members last night), “His mother named him ‘Yeshua’, she never said ‘Jesus’.”
I go on the record here as saying that I have no problem with folks deciding to go that route. None whatsoever. Of course, I do worry that this breeds some sense of elitism as folks can begin to think “well, I call him by the right name, not like all these untaught masses”, but that’s a risk inherent in almost any type of practice so I don’t harp on it.
I do have a problem with people saying that we MUST call him “Yeshua” – this is error, plain and simple. I’m not sure how many of the folks last night would hold this position (if any – hopefully none), but it’s been my experience with Messianic Judaism that the issue of “correct” names can (not will, but can) become legalistic to the point of a salvation issue to them. No good.
Often this manifests in people saying that the name “Jesus” is a pagan corruption and must not defile the lips of a believer. In point of fact it is not, but rather a simple transliteration from one language to the next, as demonstrated in the diagram up top. Even so, I have been told by one Messianic Jew that the name Jesus is actually derived from “Zeus” of Greek fame, and therefore to call our savior by this name is an insult because it stems from a false god. *Sigh* No. Just no.
The other, more subtle, way this type of legalism seeps in is this argument: “Well, wouldn’t you want people to call you by your real name and not some strange title that you wouldn’t recognize in your native tongue?”
Several problems with this, number one being that to have a version of your name in different languages is ACTUALLY a form of honor, in that it is recognized enough to have been transliterated widely.
Think of it like this:
My name has different pronunciations/spellings/variations in the different nations and tongues – most folks with Biblical names do, incidentally. But y’know, if I wasn’t comfortable being referred to as “Tomás” I wouldn’t go to Spain. If I wanted not to be known as “Tomaso”, I wouldn’t go to Italy. If I couldn’t stand being called “Tuō mǎ” I would shun China. You get the idea.
Thing is, Jesus did say ALL nations. And if Pentecost tells us anything (i.e. that everyone heard the Gospel in their own language – NOT that everyone’s own language became Hebrew or Aramaic) it seems to me that “Jesus”, which is our native tongue’s version, is not only perfectly acceptable, but even blessed by our Lord inasmuch as it fulfills the great commission.
So in the end, it’s an issue of personal preference whether you go with “Yeshua” or “Jesus”. Pick as you will, but no enforcing your decision on other folks – we are fully within our rights to call Christ by our own tongue’s pronunciation. I, for one, will now and always call my savior, simply, Jesus.
‘Cause you know, “Yeshua loves me this I know” just doesn’t have the same ring to it…
*And let me stress how wonderful and kind these people were. They welcomed me with open arms and treated me with complete care and respect and I absolutely do not speak ill of them here. This post is simply addressing the question of which name to use for Jesus, not intended to one-up or be critical.