Jesus as Savior:
Analyzing A Muslims Attempt of Denying Christs Work of Redemption
In one of his blog entries (*), MENJ attempts to disprove Jesus death and resurrection on the basis of the Hebrew form of his name, Yeshua. He boldly asserts that:
"Saviour" or "Saved"?
It is the common Christian argument that Jesus (P) name is "Yeshua`", which they claim means "salvation" in Hebrew. However, the entry "Yeshua`" in Geseniuss Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says that to the contrary:
[H. W. F. Gesenius (S. M. Tregelles [tr.]), "Geseniuss Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon To The Old Testament Scriptures", 1881, Samuel Bagster & Sons: London (UK), p. 373]
We can see from the scanned entry above that the word means "that which is delivered, safe", with the evidence of usage in Isaiah 26:1, 18. "Yeshua`" does not exist as a word other than as this name.
MENJ has wrongly applied the meaning which Gesenius gave for the feminine verbal adjective, the adjectival form of the word, to the substantive or noun form of the word. Gesenius didnt say that the noun or substantival form means "that which is delivered, safe." Notice that for entrée (2) Subt.---(a), Gesenius clearly stated that the substantive means "deliverance, help," precisely the meaning which Christians give but which MENJ said was wrong!
Thus, in his hasty research and sloppy scholarship MENJ overlooked this point as well as a host of other issues.
1) The Hebrew name for Jesus is Yeshua, a name found 27 times in the Hebrew Bible, so we know exactly what his name was. (The name is accented on the second syllable: ye-SHU-a). Yeshua is short for Yehoshua (= Joshua), which means Yahweh is salvation. The first trace of the name is found in connection with Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses assistant. Originally his name was Hoshea (Num. 13:8). The name Hoshea is derived from the hiphil stem of the Hebrew verb "yasha" [yod, shin, ayin] (BDB, 446; Gesenius, 435), which means "he saves, delivers." So the name Hoshea means "salvation" or "he saves, delivers." Moses changed his name to Hebrew "Yehoshua" [English: Joshua]:
"These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)" Numbers 13:16
Moses coined this name by merging the name Hoshea with the prefix abbreviation "Yeho" of the divine name "YHWH" changing the meaning to "YHWH is salvation" or "YHWH saves, delivers" (BDB, 221; Gesenius, 386).
The name Yeshua ("Jeshua" in English translations), as we just noted, is the abbreviated form of Yehoshua ("Joshua") (BDB, 221; Gesenius, 433). We know that from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah:
"And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing." Nehemiah 8:17 ESV
There was a high priest who was also named Jeshua:
"Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God." Ezra 3:2
This same high priest is called Yehoshua ("Joshua") in Zechariah 3 and 6, affirming that the name Yeshua is the abbreviation of this very same name.
2) One must understand what the name Yeshua meant in the first century AD, and the NT tells us that. Because Yeshua is the short form of a name meaning "Yahweh is salvation," it is highly appropriate that this is the name of the Savior of the world, as Matthew 1:21 attests. In that text the angel of the Lord explained its meaning:
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (Iesoun), because he will save his people from their sins."
Hence, God himself explained through his angel that Jesus name means "Savior," just as the NT emphatically indicates in many places:
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11
"They said to the woman, We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." John 4:42
"God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel." Acts 5:31
"From this mans descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised." Acts 13:23
"For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." Ephesians 5:23
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ," Philippians 3:20
"but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." 2 Timothy 1:10
"and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." Titus 1:3-4
"and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hopethe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:10-14
"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7
"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:1, 11
"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning." 2 Peter 2:20
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." 2 Peter 3:18
"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." 1 John 4:14
As Messianic Jewish commentator Dr. David H. Stern says in reference to Matthew 1:21:
This verse is an example of a "semitism" (an allusion to Hebrew or Aramaic) brought over literally into the Greek text. It provides strong evidence in favor of the theory that there was a Hebrew or Aramaic oral or written tradition behind the extant Greek manuscripts, for only in Hebrew or Aramaic does the explanation here of Yeshuas name make any sense; in Greek (or English) it explains nothing.
The Hebrew word for "he will save" is "yoshia," which has the same Hebrew root (yud-shin-ayin) as the name Yeshua (yud-shin-vav-ayin). Thus the Messiahs name is explained on the basis of what he will do. Etymologically the name Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Yhoshua (English "Joshua"), which means "YHVH saves." It is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word "yeshuah," which means "salvation."
According to Professors David Flusser and Shmuel Safrai, Orthodox Jews, "Yeshu" was how the name "Yeshua" was pronounced by Galilean Jews in the first century. We know from 26:73 below that Jews of Galil had a different dialect than those of Judea. According to Flusser (Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, p. 15) Galileans did not pronounce the Hebrew letter ayin at the end of a word, much as Cockneys drop "h" at the beginning. That is, instead of saying "Ye-shoo-ah" they said "Yeh-shoo." Undoubtedly some people began spelling the name according to this pronunciation. (David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary [Clarksville, Maryland; Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996], pp. 4-5)
MENJ basically corroborates this when he writes:
Another name involving this root is "Jeshua`" (Joshua), which means God + save, just like many other Hebrew names, such as "Yehonatan" - God gave, "Yehoshafat" - God judged. In other words, "Yeshua`" is clearly related to a group of words meaning save.
So Jeshua, which is the very same word Yeshua ("Jesus"), means God + save, or more precisely "Yahweh saves"!
3) There is additional evidence from the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (Septuagint, LXX) confirming that this is the precise meaning of Jesus name. The Septuagint renders the Hebrew Yehoshua and Yeshua as Iesous, the Greek form of Jesus name:
"These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; and Moses called Ause [Hoshea] the son of Naue, Joshua (Iesoun)." Numbers 13:16 Brentons LXX
" for the children of Israel had not done so from the days of Joshua (Iesou) the son of Naue until that day: and there was great joy." Nehemiah 8:17 Brentons
"Then stood up Jesus (Iesous) the son of Josedec, and his brethren the priests " Ezra 3:2 Brentons
Lest MENJ complain about our appeal to the Septuagint we only need to remind him of his own praise of it:
A) First, we would like to introduce to the reader the Septuagint, which shall be the main reference in this discussion other than the Bible itself. Let us delve into the explanation about the Septuagint:. The word "Septuagint" is taken from the Latin word septuaginta which means "70". Therefore, this book is also known as "LXX", which simply means "70". We wish refer to The Hutchinson Educational Encyclopedia (HEE) about the Septuagint:
Septuagint n. a Greek version of the Old Testament including the Apocrypha (c.3rd cent. Before Christ), so called because, according to tradition, about 70 persons were employed on the translation. [Latin: septuaginta 70]
From the citation above, we can conclude that:
1) Septuagint is a Greek version of the Old Testament.
2) It (Septuagint) has already existed three centuries before Christ was born, and therefore it is authentic.
The question arises, why are we focusing our attention on the LXX in our discussion?
The answer is because it would make it easier for us to compare the original phrase of the relevant verses (like John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14) in Greek, since both the New Testament and LXX (Septuagint) were written in Greek. (http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/Bible/Commentary/i-am.htm; link is now defunct and article hasnt been posted on the new version of MENJs site)
Besides, even Gesenius himself admitted that Joshua was rendered as Iesous in Greek.
In fact, the Apocryphal writing Sirach explicitly says that the name Joshua, Iesous, means one who saves:
"Joshua (Iesous) the son of Nun was mighty in war, and was the successor of Moses in prophesying. He became, in accordance with his name, a GREAT SAVIOR of God's elect," Sirach 46:1
4) There is another Hebrew word, y'shua, accented on the last syllable (y'-shu-A), and it means "salvation, deliverance." That is NOT the name of Jesus, but comes from the same root for salvation.
MENJ concludes with the following erroneous assertion:
If Jesus name was indeed, "Yeshua`" as Christians have claimed with no real evidence, it would only support the other theory that Jesus(P) was not resurrected but survived the crucifixion as God Almighty says in the Quran:
"That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not" [4:157]
MENJ makes the great mistake of trying to use the meaning of a name to disprove a verifiable historical fact--Jesus did die on the cross, and he arose from the dead. Apart from his blunder on the meaning of the name, what kind of scholarship is MENJ employing? What laws of logic or sound reasoning can justify such sophistry? Maybe this is the logic of the Quran or Allah, and MENJ is giving us a first hand look at what Islamic logic 101 is like?
More importantly, even if we were to argue that Jesus name doesnt mean Savior, but refers to him being saved, this still doesnt deny his death and resurrection. The Bible says that God did save Jesus from death, yet not by preventing him from going to the Cross but by raising him back to life:
"During the days of Jesus life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Hebrews 5:7-9
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again he says, Here am I, and the children God has given me. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of deaththat is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:9-15
"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by Gods set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." Acts 2:22-24
Amen! We boldly and joyfully confess that Jesus did indeed die on the Cross for unworthy sinners and arose on the third day, thereby destroying Satan, sin, and death, ushering in glorious immortality. And for that we love and praise you for ever and ever, O Immortal and Sovereign King of the ages. Come Lord Jesus, come!
All scriptural quotations taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Holy Bible, unless stated otherwise.
We would like to thank Dr. Michael L. Brown (www.icnministries.org, www.realmessiah.com) and Dr. James D. Price for all their input and comments, without which this paper would not have been possible. We pray that our risen Lord and immortal Savior Jesus Christ greatly bless and protect them along with their loved ones forever. Amen.
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