By Femi Aribisala
Several years ago, I was listening to a sermon by Ethel Aderemi, when the Lord suddenly asked yet another of his enigmatic questions. “Femi,” he said, “what is the name of Jesus?” I was dumbfounded. I asked myself: “Is Jesus not the name of Jesus?” What then could be the meaning of the Lord’s question?
I soon discovered that the name of a person is usually not his name. The real name of a person is the very essence of that person. It is his character, personality and profile. I know a lady called Peace; but she is neither peaceful nor peace-loving. Her real name must be “Trouble-maker.”
But in the bible, no one ever acted contrary to his or her name. If your name is “Thief,” then you are a thief. Abigail says of her husband: “As his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.” (1 Samuel 25:25). Jacob’s name means “one who supplants.” All his life, he acted according to that name until God changed it to Israel. He deceived Esau out of his birthright. He deceived his father and obtained his brother’s blessing.
So what is the name of the Lord? The name of the Lord is the very nature, character and personality of God. God revealed to Moses that his name is compassionate, gracious and slow to anger. (Exodus 34:5-7). Likewise, the name of Jesus is the very personality of Jesus. It represents all that Jesus is. The name of Jesus is Saviour of souls. His name is Joshua; it is Saviour from sins. His name is wonderful, counsellor; mighty God. (Isaiah 9:6). It is love; merciful; goodness and holy.
Jesus says to believers: “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (John 14:13). Why then do we pray and get no answers? It must surely be because we don’t really pray in Jesus’ name. We simply attach his name to the end of our prayers and presume thereby that we have prayed in his name. But to really pray in Jesus’ name, we must have the character of Jesus. We must have his faith and his compassion.
That means we cannot tell lies and then pray in the name of Jesus. Neither can we be quarrelsome and pray in the name of Jesus. We cannot walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners and pray in the name of Jesus. To pray in Jesus’ name, we must walk in his name. To pray in his name, we must stand in the righteousness of God. The psalmist says: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalms 66:18).
Jesus said to his disciples: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive.” (John 16:24). This indicates that hitherto the disciples prayed according to their own wishes and desires. Thenceforth, they were to pray only according to the desires of Jesus. Nevertheless, many of us still go to the bank of heaven with forged cheques. We attach the name of Jesus to requests he would never make. We fail to appreciate that praying in Jesus’ name is not “my will be done” but “God’s will be done.” (Matthew 6:10).
Moreover, praying in Jesus’ name is not a formula. We don’t need to say “in Jesus’ name” with every prayer. If it is in his name, then it is in his name. If it is not, it is not. The fact that you put my name on a cheque does not mean you can get anything out of my bank account. The cashier can tell the signature is not mine. And if he contacts me, I will not confirm the cheque.
There are many counterfeiters of the name of Jesus. You will know us by our fruits. We are people who swear and lay down curses “in the name of Jesus.” We go to prayer-meetings and kill our enemies “in the name of Jesus.” We practice witchcraft “in the name of Jesus” and use his name to hold men in bondage.
We need to recognise that Jesus only knows those who know his name. Nobody gets introduced to Jesus in heaven. We must make sure he knows us by name now, by walking in his name. When we deceive and tell lies “in Jesus’ name,” it shows we don’t know him. Jesus says: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Lost in translation
Some years later, I discovered Jesus could not have been the actual name of Jesus. Jesus is not a Hebrew name. The real Hebrew name of Jesus is ‘Yahushua,’ which means “God saves.” Accordingly, the angel must have said to Joseph: “You shall call his name ‘Yahushua,’ for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).
‘Yahweh’ is the Hebrew name for God. ‘Yah-ho’ is usually appended to the beginning or ending of Hebrew names, just like the Yoruba ‘Oba’ or the Ibo ‘Chukwu.’ ‘Shua’ means deliverance. Both are combined to form ‘Yahushua’ (pronounced ‘Yah-hoo-shoo-ah’), which is then shortened for everyday use to ‘Yahshua; and then even shorter still to “Y’shua.” In the process of conversion to English, “Y’shua” became ‘Yeshua’ and then ‘Joshua.’
In order to render Yahshua in Greek, it was transliterated by exporting the Hebrew sound, instead of translating it into the Greek equivalent of its meaning: ‘God-saves.’ This had certain implications. Ancient Greek did not have the ‘y’ and the ‘sh’ sounds found in Yahshua. In order to make the ‘y’ sound in Greek, the letters ‘iota’ and ‘eta’ have to be combined together to form ‘ee-ay.’ And in order to make the ‘sh’ sound, you had to make do with the softer ‘s’ sound of the letter “sigma.” Therefore, Yahshua could only be transliterated into Greek as ‘Ee-ay-soo-ah’ instead of ‘Yah-shoo-ah.’
However, masculine Greek names that end with vowel sounds were usually given the letter ‘s’ as a suffix. Thus, ‘Judah’ became ‘Judas’ and ‘Cephah’ became ‘Cephas.’ This suggests ‘Ee-ay-soo-ah’ should become ‘Ee-ay-soo-ah-s.’ But there was yet another dilemma. It is unconventional in Greek for there to be two vowel sounds before an ‘s.’ So the last vowel sound was dropped, leaving us with ‘Ee-ay-soos’ (Iesous) as the Greek pronunciation for Yahshua. When Latin became the predominant language of Christianity, Greek versions of the New Testament were translated into Latin. In this so-called Latin Vulgate, ‘Ee-ay-soos’ was further transliterated, making it ‘Iesus.’
The letter ‘j’ did not exist in the Old English language. But around the early 12th century, ‘j’ began showing up in certain English dialects, often replacing letters “i” and “y.” Therefore, names like ‘Iames’ became ‘James;’ ‘Yohan’ became ‘John;’ and ‘Iesus’ became ‘Jesus.” The publication of the popular King James Bible in 1611 effectively “ratified” Jesus as the English name of our Saviour. In effect, the name “Jesus” was never heard of until 1,500 years after Jesus walked the earth.