Joseph Herrin (12-12-2016)
In my recent prisoner correspondence I received some excellent questions. I thought that in answering it I would write it up to share with my Internet readers as well. The specific question I will be providing an answer for in this blog is whether “Christ” is proper to call Yahshua by. Would it not be better to call Him “Messiah”?
I found an article online that addressed the question very well. I have left off some of the points that I believed contained some error, or would lead people into other topics. The article is posted along with the name of the man who labored to put it into print. The gentleman is a Lutheran pastor. The parts of his answer that I have included contain truth.
MESSIAH OR CHRIST? YESHUA OR JESUS?
Many people in the Hebrew roots movement passionately reject the use of names such as “Christ” and “Jesus” and any word or practice that sounds to them as though it has a Greek rather than Hebrew origin. To them, anyone who uses any form of “Greek” name or practice must surely be wrapped up in worship of the sun god rather than of Yahweh and the Messiah of whom the Torah and prophets speak.
They offer a large variety of evidence to “prove” this, such as:
– Greeks, not followers of the Messiah, called him Christ(os) (Michael Rood, Jeremia Gordon)
– Greeks called all their gods christos, so Christ must not be used as a title for the Messiah (Michael Rood, Jeremia Gordon)
– Greeks, not Hebrews, first substituted the word “Lord” for “Yahweh”
– Zeus (a Greek god) was added to the name Yeshua to make the name “Jesus (Iesous in Greek); therefore following Jesus is the same as following the sun-god
– Greek name endings with sus, seus, and sous (which are phonetic pronunciations for Zeus) were attached by the Greeks to names and geographical areas as means to give honor to their supreme deity, Zeus.” ( J. C. J. Melford, page 126)
– it is gross error to transliterate Yeshua as Iesous (Jesus), in part because the “J” sound of Jesus does not match the “Y” sound of the Hebrew Yeshua
– Dutch theologian named Desiderius Erasmus(1466-1536) in the year 1516 introduced the word “Lord” for Yahweh
– The “Name of blasphemy” christ’ (Romans 5:6 KJV); was first introduced by the devil and “false apostle Paul” in his evil letter to The Romans
– all, or nearly all, of the New Testament was written in Hebrew or Aramaic, not Greek, so the authors could not have used the names Jesus or Christ
– the Vatican must be hiding original Hebrew or Aramaic texts of the New Testament which are older than any Greek texts
– Greek language and belief that practicing the Mosaic law is not mandatory or even beneficial to spiritual growth is a corruption
Some readers readily accept these kinds of claims uncritically, even though the claims often contradict each other. Who was at fault for introducing sun god worship into the church? Erasmus? The Roman Catholic church? Constantine? The council of Nicea? The false apostle Paul? Unidentified Greeks?
All these assertions have one thing in common- they do not identify actual evidence to back them up. For instance, they do not provide actual quotations from, and titles of, ancient sources such as historians of the first century. Radical claims such as these call for weighty, verifiable sources and evidence to back them up. But none is provided.
Here are verifiable facts that address these claims:
EXAMINING CLAIMS ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF “CHRIST” AND “LORD”
1. Hebrews, not Greeks, came up with the name Iesous and used it in place of “Yeshua.” About 150 years BC devout Hebrew men translated the Old Testament into Greek. This isn’t just speculation, You can check this out for yourself. The Greek translation was called the Septuagint (abbreviated as “LXX” because LXX is the Roman number for 70, which reflected the Hebrew belief that 70 men translated it). The simplest way to verify this is to visit www.unboundbible.org You can have it print out Joshua 1:1 (or any other verse that mentions Joshua) with the English next to the OT Greek. It is obvious the Hebrews chose “Iesous” for “Joshua/Yeshua.” That was Greek spelling that to them sounded most like the Hebrew “Yeshua,” The Greek alphabet does not have either a “Y” or a “J,” nor does it have a “sh” sound, so they could not have spelled it either “Yeshua” or “Jesus.” You can also find “Septuagint” in Webster’s dictionary (maybe not a pocket size, but the desk size will have it) because it is so important in understanding the Law and Prophets as well as the New Testament. The Hebrew world chose to use the word “Christ,” not the Greeks This translation was widely in use among Hebrews in the first century, so many Jews called the Messiah “Christ.” Both Hebrew and Gentile followers of Y’shua drew their faith vocabulary and thought from the bilingual Hebrew world, not from the Gentile Greek world.
2. The “ous” ending on “Jesus/Iesous” was not put there by sun god worshipers or by Greeks. The Hebrews first did it in the LXX, as noted above. They had to do this because of how the Greek language works. English is a word order language in which nouns and names are always spelled the same, and you understand what they mean by where they fall in the sentence. It makes a big difference whether you say “Jeff went to the store” or “The store went to Jeff.”
Greek is not that way. Greek doesn’t care what order the words are in. Instead, Greek changes how the names are spelled to help you understand what they mean. This is called “declining” words and giving the nouns “case.” You can find definitions of these words in Webster, too. For instance, if the name “Jeff” was used in ancient (and modern) Greek, it would be spelled different ways depending on their use. A sentence would say “Jeffous (the subject of the sentence) sent Jeffov (the object of the sentence) to get the book of Jeffou (“Possessive”- Jeff’s book).” You’ll notice that “Jeff” always has an ending added to it. It has to have an ending, or the readers wouldn’t understand the sentence, because word order means nothing.
The same thing happened with the name Yeshua/Joshua. Hebrews took the root of the name, “Yes” transliterated it to Greek letters “Ies” and added the case endings so that the name was spelled “Iesous,” “Iesou” or “Iesov” depending on its use in the sentence. This wasn’t an option. Greek speakers did this with every name and nouns, whether it was Simon, house, cow, table- whatever. The “ous” (or other word endings) weren’t added because they indicated Greek gods. They were a natural part of talking Greek.
English does not decline nouns, except for the pronoun “he.” We say, “He (nominative) drove him (accusative) to the store in his (genitive) car.” It wouldn’t make sense to us to instead say “He drove he to the store in he car,” because you have to decline the word for it to make any sense. In the same way, Greek had to decline nouns in order for them to make any sense.
Adding “s” to the end of Christ (or Messiah) was necessary when the words were used by Greek speakers. Nouns in Greek (and some other languages, but not English) must be “declinable.” That means that the last couple letters of the noun change with how they are used in the sentence. When “Christ” or “Messiah” is used as the subject, it is spelled with an “s” at the end (e.g.: Messias). When the noun is used as a genitive (as in “followers of Messiah”) it is spelled with a “u” at the end (e.g.: Christou). English shortens it to the root, “Christ,” because English doesn’t decline nouns. Regardless of exactly how different languages spell it- as Messias, Messiah, Mashiyach, Christ, Christos, Y’shua, Yeshua, Jesus,” etc, it is the same name or title. (Rood himself has used a variety of spellings of names for Messiah and YHWH, some not matching the spellings Gordon uses.)
3. “Zeus” was not added to “Yeshua” to make “Iesous.” In fact, “Zeus” is spelled with a Z, and there is no Z in Iesous. The article by J. C. J. Melford, page 126 … is just plain silly: “It is known that the Greek name endings with sus, seus, and sous (which are phonetic pronunciations for Zeus) were attached by the Greeks to names and geographical areas as means to give honour to their supreme deity, Zeus.” The “s” ending was applied to dogs, roaches, houses, dog piles, rotten meat- literally all masculine nouns. Giving honor has absolutely nothing to do with this. Plus, names were actually spelled with “u” and “n” endings, too, depending on the case (as noted above). It is just grammar, not Zeus. But check this out for yourself by looking at any Greek grammar. What Melford says is just totally ignorant of the Greek language.
4. The Greeks never used the word “Christ” for their gods, or in any sacred context, or as any kind of title of honor at all. The verb form of the word meant “to rub lightly, spread.” It was used for spreading oil after a bath, poison on arrows (both of these are found in Homer), whitewash, paint or cosmetics. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2 (from which this information is taken) adds, “It is anything but an expression of honor. Where it refers to people, it even tends towards the disrespectful” (pp. 334-335). For example, the compound word neochristos meant “newly whitewashed” (see Diodorus Siculus). The Greeks certainly did not choose to use the word for the Hebrew Messiah- nor did the Christians.
On the surface, it may seem odd to some people that such a “secular” word as christos would be used for anointing Messiah, which people see as a very spiritual use. But the noun Messiah, also has a verb form, messah. Some of the Prophets use the verb in everyday ways- to rub (messah) a shield with oil (Isaiah 21:5), to paint (messah) a house (Jeremiah 22:14), and apply oil (messah) to a body (Amos 6:6). You can verify that the verb massah is used in these verses by checking a Hebrew text or Strong’s concordance. This shows that the verb form of Messiah is sometimes used in the same nonreligious ways that the verb form of christos was used by the Greeks. This made christos a good match for translators to use, since they were looking for a Greek root that had both verb and noun forms which were used in much the same ways as the Hebrew words. Messah was used more often to describe anointing kings, prophets and priests, but it was clearly used in both secular and religious ways.
5. The Hebrews, not Greek or Christians, chose to use the word “Christ(os)” and “Messiah” interchangeably. The Hebrews themselves translated the Old Testament into Greek in about 150 B.C. in what is called the Septuagint They say that the High Priest himself chose 72 elders from Judea who were experienced in the law, beliefs and customs of the Torah and were able to translate from Hebrew to Greek. This means they were fluent in both languages, and used both Messiah and Christos, Throughout the LXX, “Christ” is used for the Anointed One, such as in Psalm 2:2. You can check this for yourself by looking it up in the Septuagint online at www.unboundbible.org or in a paper copy at a library.
The Apostle John himself used both words when he wrote, “(Andrew said,) we have found the Messiah, that is the Christ” (John 1:42), and “The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah, called Christ, is coming” (John 4:24). John considered “Christ” and “Messiah” to be synonymous, and used Christ when speaking to Greek speakers, and Messiah when speaking to Hebrew speakers. (This article follows the Gospel’s practice of using Messiah and Christ interchangeably, too.)
6. Hebrews roots proponents including Rood also condemn using the word “Lord” for YHWH (often spelled Yahweh). But the Hebrews, not Christians, introduced “Lord” (Greek- kurios) in the LXX just as they did “Christ.” The LXX uses “Lord” (Greek- kurios) for YHWH and “God” for Elohim (eg: Genesis 3:14, Exodus 3:14).
7. The only ancient author to suggest that any part of the NT was authored in Aramaic or Hebrew is Papias, and he said only that Matthew was, not the rest of the NT. Some writers claim that many ancient authors claimed the NT was written in Aramaic, but that is entirely false. I challenge you to find the name, book title, and chapter of even one ancient author or church leader (other than Papias) that said so. They absolutely do not exist.
8. Many Hebrews of the first century B.C. who strictly observed the Torah spoke and wrote in Greek, not Hebrew. One example of this is the book of II Maccabees. Although this book is included in the Apocrypha found in Catholic Bibles, those books were written by Hebrews for Hebrews. II Maccabees records historical events which took place in Israel from 175 to 160 B.C. It is a condensation of a five volume history written by Jason of Cyrene, a strict observer of Torah written for other strict observers. It records how God’s people faced torture and martyrdom rather than break the law of Moses. Yet, the book was authored in Greek, not Hebrew, and continued to be passed down to Hebrews in Greek. They considered it perfectly acceptable to strict observers of Torah to use the Greek language. The Greek Septuagint version of the Law and Prophets was used by Hebrews like these.
9. It is entirely imagination to speculate that the Vatican is hiding ancient Hebrew copies of the Gospels. No matter how logical it may seem to you, this is strictly fantasy until anyone produces a valid copy of such a thing. The fact is that we now have extremely early portions of the Gospels written in Greek, but absolutely none in Hebrew. The earliest portion is a copy of several verses of the Gospel of Matthew that dates to 60-62 A.D., which is within a few years of when Matthew authored his Gospel. Besides the physical evidence of the type of material and ink that was used, documents found with it pin down this very early date.
10. The book of Acts and the epistles were all written in Greek. Almost all the conversations in the book of Acts had to have taken place in Greek, not Hebrew. Think about it.
Luke, the author of Acts, was a Greek and he addressed it to another Greek, Theophilus (both names are Greek). Saul (Paul) and Luke accordingly used the Greek form Christos,” because the vast majority of their hearers would have understood that, but would not have understood “Messiah,” because they did not know Hebrew.
Acts 6 mentions the large body of Greek-speaking Hebrews in Jerusalem, the heart of Hebrew country (6:1). Phillip preached to the Samaritans, (who hated Hebrews, their language, religion and temple) and surely used Greek or Aramaic (Acts 8). The Gentile centurion Cornelius, some of his soldiers, and his whole household could not have understood Hebrew, yet understood Peter preaching- no doubt in Greek (Acts 10).
Paul, Barnabas and others taught the many Greeks who came to faith at Antioch (Acts 11,13). Paul persuaded the Roman proconsul on Cyprus, Sergius Paulus to believe (Acts 13:6-12). Many Gentiles at Iconium believed Paul, but he barely persuaded the crowds in Lystra (who spoke Lycaonian) not to sacrifice to them as gods (Acts 14). Acts never mentions a synagogue in most of the cities Paul visited. Paul could not have communicated in Hebrew to his own coworkers such as Timothy and Titus, who were raised as Greeks. In fact, most of Paul’s coworkers had Greek names- Titus, Timothy, Apollos and Dionysius (names of Greek gods), Eutychus, the seven (Acts 6:6), the teachers at Antioch (Acts 13) and the long list of saints in Romans 16. Some names were Hebrew, such as Barnabas, which indicates that Luke wasn’t trying to expunge everything Hebrew and replace everything with Greek- he was just factually reporting the prevalence of both Hebrew and especially Greek in the early church.
Paul spoke with the judges and jailer at Philippi, a Roman colony, though they surely did not know Hebrew. Paul’s message to the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17), and his defense when on trial before the Roman proconsul Gallio (Acts 18) were in Greek. The idolmakers in Ephesus (Acts 19) surely didn’t riot in Hebrew. Paul spoke Greek to the Roman commander and centurion who arrested him in the temple (Acts 21:37, 22:25), as did Paul’s nephew (23:19-21). Paul didn’t need a translator. Paul made his own defense when on trial before Governors Felix (Acts 24) and Festus (Acts 25-26). Paul surely spoke Greek to the captain and everyone on the ship on his voyage to Rome (Acts 27) and to the superstitious islanders on Malta (Acts 28). Since Paul spoke Greek to them, he always had to use “Iesous Christos” with the Greek endings on the name in order to be understood.
11. An Aramaic NT did not have to exist in order for the Greek NT to transliterate “Yeshua” into “Iesous.” As I mentioned above, Paul and others spoke to many groups of people in Greek, using the “declined” word forms in order to be understood. Luke was quoting him.
12. The New Testament sometimes uses a variety of spellings for names. The Greek form “Iesous” is used for Jesus in the NT, and is used for Joshua in the OT (you can check this in the Septuagint, as I mentioned above.) So every translator who sees “Iesous” in Hebrews has to guess by the context whether it refers to Jesus or Joshua, as in Hebrews 4. It’s a fluke that people commonly translate the Iesous as either Joshua or Jesus. But it is not uncommon to have different spellings for the same name. For instance, Jude, Judah and Judas are all exactly the same name, and are spelled the same in Greek.. You can check this yourself by calling up Mat 1:2, 26:47 and Jude 1 in Greek at www.unboundbible.org. Matthew and Matthias are the same Greek name.
Why is the same Greek sometimes transliterated in different ways? It wouldn’t have to be. Sometimes translators chop off the Greek “s” ending (like in Jude, Herod, etc) and other times leave it on (as in Judas, Jesus).
13. When people translate the Greek New Testament into English (and other languages), why don’t the translators convert Greek forms of names like Iesous into Hebrew forms such as Yeshua? There are a few reasons for this. First, the Greek does not read Yeshua, it reads Iesous. Is it sound translation to write in sounds that don’t actually exist in the Greek original? Second, in conversations recorded in the second half of the book of Acts, such as Paul’s conversations in Ephesus, Philippi, etc, the speakers certainly used the Greek forms of the names (as noted above). To replace words that apostles actually said with Hebrew forms that they did not use is a stretch that translators think would be inappropriate or misleading.
We find the practice of abbreviating names in the Old Testament. The OT uses both YH and YHWH. The short version is most common in names like Jo-shua (Ya-shua; not Yahweh-shua/ Jehoweh-shua. It also appears in its simplest form in Psalm 68:4 “extol him by His name Yah.” Elohim, another title for God, is also used in its shortened form, El, in the Law and the Prophets. People don’t wonder what conspiratorial or occult meaning there is in the abbreviation YH or El, we know it is the name of the Lord, whether full length or shortened.
Some names have short and long forms, just as we do in English- Tom, Ths. and Thomas. We don’t look for any mystical or occultic meaning if someone signs his name Tom or Ths. instead of Thomas. One example of a NT name in short and long form is Silvanus.. when he wrote the short form Silas, he wasn’t trying to get across a deep or occultist meaning, he was just abbreviating it.
14. In most European languages a J has a Y sound, so “Jesus” sounds like “Yeshua.” The “J” is pronounced like a Y in German, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Slavic, etc. When “Jesus” was first spelled with a J (which was at least as early as Luther’s German Bible, 1520) probably every language in Europe that used a “J” pronounced it like a “Y.” The hard “J” sound in English (as in “judge”) is a fluke, not the norm. English is derived from European languages, and America is populated primarily by immigrants from Europe. After moving to America and beginning to learn English, it made sense to them to continue to spell “Jesus” as it had been for many centuries, rather than make up a foreign spelling with a Y that was unfamiliar to them, and which would lead to confusion. Many Bibles continued to be printed in Europe and used in both Europe and the Americas, just as today.
German, as one example, could not have used a “Y” because the German alphabet did not have a “Y.” (At the end of the 20th century German began to use a Y, but only in a handful of foreign names and loan words such as Yates and yacht.) German, like Greek, declines nouns, so the spelling of “Jesus” changes with how it is used in a sentence – Jesus Christus (nominative), Jesu Christi (genitive), etc. If you know classical music and chorales (such as Bach), you may have recognized this already in songs such as “Jesu (pronounced “ya-su”), Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
15. Use of Greek language and concepts is a fulfillment, not a corruption, of the Messianic promise. Shortly after the Messiah commanded his followers to make disciples of all nations, the Lord himself miraculously set the pattern of how this should be done. On the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the disciples spoke of the Messiah to people who lived around the whole Mediterranean and middle eastern world. They were amazed that “each of us hears them in his own native language… we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues” (Acts 2:8, 11). Since they were visiting the Jerusalem temple to worship, they presumably knew at least some Hebrew. Nonetheless, the Lord miraculously caused them to hear the Gospel in their own languages, not in Hebrew.
Greek was used by the church because it was used around the world, in much the same way that English is used around the world today. The apostles wrote the Gospels and epistles in Greek because they knew people around the world could read them without needing it translated first. This tradition of putting God’s Word into the languages of the people continues today, as parts of the New Testament have been translated into around 2,100 languages. God’s desire was to bring the Gospel of forgiveness in the Messiah to all cultures, not to transform all culture into Hebrew culture.
WHY SO MANY MYTHS ABOUT “HEBREW ROOTS?”
Many of the false assertions found in Hebrew roots literature would not be promoted or believed if people had even the barest knowledge of Greek, ancient history, Hebrew use of the Septuagint, and modern languages. The problem is that people who are not knowledgeable about these things hear myths about “Christ” and other topics, get excited about these “new” and “little known” tidbits, and repeat them as fact without checking them out. Even worse, some continue to try to defend the myths after learning the facts we note above.
Many of them readily latch on to whatever radical theory they see, while making no serious effort to verify that “traditional” Christian teachings are, in fact, factual and true. Some people don’t even make an effort to find the reason for the “traditional” view, because they don’t want to find it. When I attended a Rood Awakening seminar, I was amazed at the attitude of most of the participants. When very radical and fantastic claims were made, most were thrilled about the new ideas, when they should have stepped back and judged them very carefully.
Many Hebrew roots followers also make the mistake of assuming that whatever they know about 21st century English must apply to Greek of 2,000 years ago. Speculation about hidden, occultic meanings behind IHS, about “Christ” being a title of Greek gods fall into this category. They think that because English does not decline nouns, then Greek must not either (in fact, they know so little about language, this does not even occur to them).
In the end, it is not an important issue whether people pronounce his name Y’shua Messiah or Jesus Christ, because He answers to either whether spoken in faith. As Scripture says, “without faith it is impossible to please God,” not “without learning how to pronounce names in Hebrew and obeying the Mosaic Law it is impossible to please God.”
Dr. John Juedes, Messiah Lutheran Church, Highland, CA
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
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