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You Say Jesus, I Say Yeshua
13 September 2014
As has happened a number of times in the past, I am writing a new article based on someone’s remarks about a previous article. In response to what I wrote in The Day of the Lord, a reader left this comment:
Great article; just found your website while looking for articles on “The fear of man.” I would not agree on your use of “Yeshua” for the name of Jesus. But otherwise you make a lot of sense.The meaning and usage of words has most likely been debated since the creation of mankind. Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Some may like “to-may-toes” while others like “to-mah-toes,” — watch the video! — but they both taste the same, don’t they?
While these statements may be true in some circumstances, there are other cases in which certain words begin to stink, and leave a sour taste in your mouth. There are a number of common religious words in English that I prefer not to use, but I have never really explained why I have made those choices — until now. Today I will discuss my reasons for using:
Although I usually have more than one reason for abandoning each of these traditional Christian terms, the first and perhaps most important motivation has to do with being Jewish. No, regrettably, I’m not Jewish. But Jesus is! And the Bible is! Unfortunately, early in church history, Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity itself, were largely scrubbed clean of their Jewishness. Despite the apostle Paul's warning against this, “Christians” chose to disobey God anyway.
The name “Jesus” has been so misused and abused in the English language that it has almost become useless. When people say that name, which Jesus do they mean?
By using Yeshua instead of Jesus, I’m hoping to wake my readers out of their mental slumber, and make them consider afresh who Jesus really is, particularly His innate and eternal Jewishness. I’m also hoping to avoid confusing the true Yeshua with all of the false versions of Jesus so prevalent in our culture.
Next we come to the English word “Christ” — like “Jesus,” it is derived from the Greek. Wait a minute! How can we use another word for Christ? Isn’t that simply Jesus’ last name? We might as well think of changing George’s name from Washington to Goldschmidt!
This common misconception is definitely part of the problem I am trying to avoid by using the Jewish term Messiah instead. Both “Christ” and the Hebrew word “Messiah” have the same meaning in their respective languages: anointed with oil. Figuratively, it means someone set apart for the holy work of God.
Just like the name Jesus, and probably because of its inextricable connection with that name, the title “Christ” has also been misused and abused. And due to its Greek origin, it has been just as scrubbed of its Jewishness. Although Yeshua is the savior of ALL the ethnic groups in the world, He is nevertheless the Jewish savior of mankind! And because this word is a title and not a name, using “the Messiah” makes that a lot more apparent in English than using the traditional “Christ” — which is NOT Yeshua’s last name!
Therefore, even though saying “Yeshua the Messiah” is slightly more cumbersome, it is a much clearer and more accurate way to communicate who He is, and what He is, than the usual “Jesus Christ.”
Now we come to the third part of that confusing trinity of English words: Lord Jesus Christ. Just as we have found better ways to say the last two words, “lord” is also desperately crying out for replacement. It is SO common to refer to God in general, or Yeshua specifically, as “the Lord” that we don’t even give it a second thought. But what does the English word “lord” really mean?
Most people would probably think that “lord” is a religious term, but it isn’t at all. According to the dictionary entry for “lord,” it refers to “a person who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler.” Only because the Bible refers to God as such a person over all of mankind, and over the entire universe, has the word acquired its capital ‘L’ religious meaning of “Lord.”
Throughout most of human history, the lower-class “common” people understood all too well what a “lord” was: a human master who ruled over them. Because our Western society has moved away from feudalism, most people these days cannot relate to that human meaning of “lord.” The only “lord” they know about is God, making “Lord” more of a substitute name for God than a title describing His position.
Because of this corruption of the true meaning of “lord,” it is much preferable to use the better-understood word master, which takes us back to the original meaning of “lord.” Over the years I have really appreciated modern versions of the Bible, like The Message, which use the word Master when referring to Yeshua, instead of the more religious and archaic “Lord.” I have committed myself to following this excellent example.
Now that we have cleared up who the Son of God is, it’s time to turn our attention to what those who belong to the Master are called. Perhaps even more than the words “Jesus” and “Christ,” the word “Christian” has been defiled beyond redemption due to the un-Christlike lives of “Christians” during the past 1,700 years.
Throughout church history, there have been those who considered themselves “Christians” who have slaughtered one another, slaughtered the Jews and the Muslims, and worshipped Mary the mother of Yeshua. There are ”Christians” who have been pro-slavery, pro-Hitler, pro-abortion, pro-military-violence, and pro-homosexuality. “Christians” are the ones who perpetrated the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust. It would take a whole library full of books to document all of the vile, evil deeds by which “Christians” have totally destroyed the value and meaning of that name — and brought shame and disgrace to the name of Jesus.
If there is one thing I absolutely do NOT want to be, it’s a “Christian.” But I DO want to be a follower of Yeshua with all of my heart. I definitely do NOT want to be Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Nazarene, Bretheren, Quaker, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Adventist, Mennonite, Vineyardite, Bethelite, or any other man-made label under the sun. The ONLY name I want to be stamped with is the exalted name of THE Son, Yeshua, the name above ALL other names! (Philippians 2:9-11). As Charles Newbold wrote:
There can only be one foundation, Jesus Christ. If what we have is sectarian and contributes to the disunity of the body, it has been built upon the wrong foundation (1 Corinthians 3). Once we see this truth, we should have no need ever to name ourselves in order to identify what we are about.Unfortunately, there is no suitable single word in English to replace the word Christian. “Yeshuaite” just won’t do. “Messianic” would be great, because it is a Jewish equivalent of “Christian” (remember Christ / Messiah above). But the modern Jewish followers of Yeshua have so monopolized the word that it can really be applied only to Jewish believers, and not to non-Jewish believers. Therefore, until something better comes along, follower of Yeshua, although unwieldy, will have to do.
I’ve been using the previous four words in my articles for a number of years now. After recently reading The Harlot Church System by Charles E. Newbold, I have become convinced that there is yet another Christian word in my vocabulary which desperately needs to be replaced.
As Mr. Newbold explained in that book, the etymology of the English word “church” unravels itself to “the house of the master (lord).” In other words, it refers to a building. In contrast, the Greek word ekklesia (ehk-klay-SEE-ah), which is translated as “church” in the English New Testament, NEVER refers to a building.
Unfortunately, in addition to meaning “a building used for ‘Christian’ religious purposes,” the English word “church” is also used in other ways. In some instances, “church” DOES refer to “Christian” people as a group, despite the word’s etymology. Another common meaning is demonstrated in the phrase “go to church.” People who use this expression are generally not referring to the people, nor the building, but a gathering or a meeting of “Christians.”
These multiple meanings make the word “church” ambiguous and hard to understand clearly. You have to try to guess from the context which meaning was intended. It is critical to understand what is meant by the word “church.” If you realize that in the New Testament it is referring to the collective followers of Yeshua, you’re going to go on a quite different spiritual life-journey with Him than if you think that the church is simply a building where religious services are held.
Out of the 114 times the word ekklesia is used in the New Testament, 90% of the time it is referring to the collective followers of Yeshua, either in their entirety, or as a subgroup at a local or regional level. There is a lot more I want to share regarding what I have discovered about the use of ekklesia in the New Testament, but that will have to wait for the next article.
When rendering the Greek New Testament into English, a more accurate translation of ekklesia would be ”called out ones,” because the word is referring to a people and NOT to a building. So when you see the word ekklesia in my articles, be sure to keep this definition in mind.
In light of all this, “church” is one of those words that definitely MUST go! When I refer an individual “Christian” I will continue to use follower of Yeshua. But when I refer to a group of followers, I will mostly use ekklesia, although I might also say “followers of Yeshua” once in a while.
It’s time to take a stand, and declare that the “church” is NOT a building, but the redeemed “called out ones,” the Body of Messiah, Yeshua’s followers. Unfortunately, there is still a lot to write about concerning the man-made institutional church. When referring to that Thing, I will follow Mr. Newbold’s convention in The Harlot Church System by writing the word in italics with a serif font, like this: church.
If the name of Jesus has been misused to the point of near uselessness, the word “God” has been butchered and mutilated beyond recognition! Mankind has had two thousand years to abuse the name of Jesus, but they have had thousands of years longer to apply the word ‘god’ to statues, animals, celestial bodies, ‘love,’ angels, demons, Satan, as well as many other objects, beings and ideas — and even to call themselves ‘god’! When a word can mean anything, in the end it means nothing!
This has always been a problem, but it is especially troubling in our day. There are many who insist that the “God” of Islam is the same as the “God” of the Bible. As I have previously warned: Be not deceived — Allah, the god of Islam, and the God of the Bible are absolutely NOT the same God!
Words DO have meaning, or else they are useless. You could call a “rose” a “thistle” instead (and according to Shakespeare it would still smell as sweet!), but I doubt if that would encourage many people to telephone the florist and order a dozen “thistles” for Valentine’s Day. Calling a “thistle” a “rose” does not transform the thistle INTO a rose. Likewise, equating Allah with the God of the Bible does not transform him INTO the God of the Bible.
When writing articles, I’ve used term like “the God of the Bible,” ”the God of Israel” and “the Father of Yeshua” in order to clarify which God I’m talking about. As you can see, it is pretty cumbersome and awkward to use a descriptive phrase for God rather than a name. If only He had His own name!
A long, long time ago, this God DID reveal His name to mankind! In the famous story of the burning bush, God assigned Moses the task of returning to Egypt and bringing all of God’s people, the Jews, out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”Even though God said that Yahweh is His name forever, and that Yahweh is what mankind should call Him, the Jews made up their own rules and regulations which forbade the use of His name. These man-made traditions are completely contrary to His command here in Exodus 3 — see Mark 7:5-13. As a result, in the Jewish Scriptures, they don’t write the name Yahweh anymore, but they use the substitute word “Adonai, written with small caps. Without the small caps, Adonai, still referring to God, means “my Lord, my Master.” Even today, Orthodox Jews will not use the name God chose for Himself, nor even the substitute word “Adonai.” They prefer to say “HaShem” — literally, “The Name” — instead of actually using His name, Yahweh.
God said to Moses, ”I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ Say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh (Y-H-V-H) the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, the name you shall call Me from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:13-15)
Because of these unnecessary linguistic gymnastics, no one is really sure how the four consonants which make up God’s name, Y-H-V-H are to be pronounced. Due to the phobia of using God’s name, the unwritten vowels in the Hebrew for this word have been lost from memory. In the King James Bible, the translators added vowels to come up with the English word “Jehovah.” They also followed the example of the Jewish Scriptures by using Lord, in small caps, as a substitute for Jehovah, and using “Lord,” without small caps, to refer to God as Master.
By bending over backwards to avoid using His name, Jews and Christians are really just playing an unprofitable religious game. God Himself told us His name, and declared that it was by the name Yahweh that He wanted to be called. God didn’t ask us to avoid using His name, so why should we? How silly it would be for me to tell people, “My name is Brian... but you’re NOT allowed to use that name!” I don’t think God plays those kinds of games, so I am not going to either.
Such religious rigmarole and tetragrammaton-phobia only results in confusion and lack of clarity. Without a specific name for God, you are always wondering which “God” or which “Lord” people are referring to. For me, the word Jehovah has been so corrupted by its identification with the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult that I much prefer the alternative, and possibly more accurate, Yahweh.
After all this explanation, hopefully you now understand why I use the words that I do. When a word is misused and abused, it leads to wrong concepts, wrong thoughts, wrong theology, and ultimately, to wrong practice. That’s why using the proper word in each situation is SO very important. It’s not merely a linguistic game for the hyper-nitpicky! Words express ideas and ideas shape action. If we communicate using the wrong words, the false ideas we spread will lead people astray. Therefore, I’m doing all I can to use the proper words in my articles, so I can communicate truth instead of error.
Well, ekklesia — you followers of Yeshua the Messiah, the Master, the Son of Yahweh — now that you are armed with better weapons — for the pen is mightier than the sword — it is time to apply Paul’s exhortation:
In the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. (1 Corinthians 14:7-9)In my next article, I will be taking a closer, in-depth look at how the Greek word ekklesia is used in the New Testament.
This article is 49th a series of articles on this Web site related to Modern Christianity and the Church which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
On June 10, 2015, Brian Elliott wrote:
Nice to see you getting rid of those names, Brian. I too have been on this journey and have read a few of your articles. Keep up the good work!