Saturday, December 27, 2008

What's In a Name?

Ever wondered about Jesus' name? There is an article making its rounds this Christmas season that discusses the origins of the name. Apparently, 2000 years ago Jesus' Hebrew name, Yeshua, was a fairly common name in Israel.

Many people shared the name. Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. ... Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death.
Makes you wonder about those who find 2000 year-old ossuaries and claim they prove they found Jesus' final resting place. Nevertheless, the name Yeshua wasn't actually "Romanized", but more likely "Aramaic-ized" during the Babylonian captivity.
The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters—including a descendent of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2).
And since both books were completed after the Babylonian captivity (free from later Roman influence), the change occured within the Semitic languages.
The long version of the name, Yehoshua, appears another few hundred times, referring most notably to the legendary conqueror of Jericho (and the second most famous bearer of the name). So why do we call the Hebrew hero of Jericho Joshua and the Christian Messiah Jesus?
You can read the explanation, if you are into that sort of thing, which is really just a linguistic exercise that occurs between languages. Fun stuff. The only problem is that some people put an inordinate and unreasonable importance on the actual pronunciation of the Biblical names. In fact, ancient Hebrew as a spoken language died out for a short time before efforts to recover it were made, so how some words were pronounced back in king David's time is by no means certain. As long as the meaning is not affected, who cares?

Well, for some, it DOES matter. I don't want to link to any of those people because they are on the rather nutty side. In general, if you come across people or groups who insist on pronouncing Biblical names a certain way, avoid them. No, run away.

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