Once upon a time I was teaching an Adult Sunday school class. The subject of Jesus’ name came up and so I explained that Jesus was never called Jesus. One woman, blurted out “What! Where does it say that?!?” Well, the Bible doesn’t say that specifically, but it is clear when we study the languages of the day that the name Jesus as we know it simply did not exist. Jesus is an english word which is the end result of a transliteration from Greek. Yeshua is what Jesus was called. This is an Aramaic version of Yehoshua, or Joshua. It it a kin to saying Mike, instead of Michael. However many people know this. If you have seen the film “The Passion of the Christ”, or “Risen” you have heard Jesus be called Yeshua.
This however is not the principle focus of today’s title “Under cover Jews”. In fact many of the people of the New Testament (and also the Old) have been given English names, and naturally so as we read an english version of the Bible. This however over time has been just another reason why we miss many things about the Bible which make it come to life. Lets look at a few of these names with there corresponding Hebrew name and meaning.
Matthew - - Mattityahu Which means “Gift of God”. You may have heard of a famous Hasidic Jewish rapper with the same name. However his name was also Levi, pronounced Levy associating with the tribe of Levi.
Mark - - Yochanan Ben Moshe— John son of Mark (Moses) Mark was John’s Surname which in Jewish culture is primarily derived from your father’s first name. Seeing that John’s surname is Mark we can deduce that this was his father’s first name. A name which is really Moshe, or Moses.
John - - Yochanan- Yehochanan- Meaning “Yahweh is Gracious” It is thought that John may have been a priest because of his intimate knowledge of the priesthood and ability to be present in the residence of Caiaphas when Yeshua was being examined. interestingly one can note that any Hebrew name with Ye/Ya or El in it contains the name of God. (Elohim, Yahweh)
Jude- Yehuda- Judah- Often overlooked, the book written by Jude is one of the most “Jewish” books of the New Testament and interestingly quotes from the Book of Enoch, which is not considered part of the Cannon by Protestants. It is however in the Catholic Cannon. The book of Enoch is also among the dead sea scrolls and is certainly worth studying to find context for the quotes which Jude includes.
Paul- Saul - Shaul Contrary to popular belief and many sermons on Sunday morning, Jesus did not change Saul’s name to Paul on the road to Damascus. He simply had two names.
Sha-ul pronounced Sha-ool, was his hebrew name and Paul his greek or latin name as it was both a greek and latin name at the time. He simply used Paul, Paoulos, Pavlos, in Greek and Roman circles, and Shaul in Jewish circles.
There are many other names such as these that have totally lost their meaning and significance over time and translation. I hope this will spur you on to learn more on this subject and always seek out the deeper context of the greatest TRUE story ever told.
May God bless and keep you. If you enjoyed this, please like and share!!