By Charles H. Welch

The name given to the Saviour at His birth was very common among the Hebrew-speaking people. Josephus mentions no fewer than eleven who bare that name apart from any so called in the O.T. In the N.T. we find the name used of the father of Elymas (Acts 13:6) and of one who was called Justus (Col. 4:11). The Apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus was written by Jesus the son of Sirach. The popularity of the name can be understood from the fact that two outstanding men of Israel were so named, namely Joshua the son of Nun, the successor of Moses (Exod. 24:13) and Joshua the High Priest at the time of the return from Babylonian captivity (Zech. 3: 1).

In the N.T. Joshua is twice called "Jesus" (Acts 7:45, Heb. 4:8), and the uninstructed are usually puzzled by these references, thinking they refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. The full spelling of the name is "Jehoshua" (Num. 13:16), and then by contraction it became Joshua, and Jeshua (Ezra 2:2), and when transferred to the Greek it became Iesous, even as Paul is Paulus and Timothy is Timotheus. Moses changed the name of his successor from Oshea to Jehoshua (Num. 13:16), thereby adding to the word that means "salvation" the name "Lord". Consequently the Saviour's earthly name means "The Salvation of the Lord".

Some Greek writers, ignorant of the Hebrew language, gave the name a purely Greek etymology, deriving it from iasis "healing", which, though bad etymology, has a semblance of truth. If "Jesus" contains the name Jehovah, it becomes almost equivalent to Immanuel "God with us", and so the writer of the first gospel seems to imply (Matt. 1:22, 23). The inspired comment is "He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins".

We must quote Bishop Lightfoot here:

"It is not 'the name Jesus' but 'the name of Jesus' and the name which win be given Him will be 'LORD', i.e. the O.T. name JEHOVAH, long denied to Him, acknowledged during a time by a few, but at last recognized by the whole creation, including such unknown beings as 'things under the earth'."

The name "Jesus" is nearly always linked with His earthly life and ministry. The title Jesus Christ occurs but FOUR times in the gospels, but about 130 times in Paul's epistles, whereas the name Jesus comes about 520 times in the four gospels, and about thirty times in Paul's epistles.

The use of the name "Jesus" in preaching, prayer, and hymns today is to be deprecated. To us He is Lord, the Risen, Seated Son of God, and in practically every passage where the Apostle has used the simple name instead of the full title, a doctrinal and a practical reason will be found in the context.

The title "Jesus of Nazareth" is used to denote His humiliation, and Nazareth itself was a term of reproach. Even Nathanael exclaimed "can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). The title occurs seven times in the Acts and emphasizes the fact that the One that Israel despised, that same One must ultimately be their Saviour. There is no Scriptural warrant for the use of this title in our preaching today. The title is found in the Talmud, where we read of "a disciple corrupting his food publicly as did Jesus of Nazareth". The phrase "to corrupt food publicly" denotes the mingling of true doctrine with heresy, and this charge was laid against the Saviour. Josephus wrote thus:

"Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works -a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal man amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared alive again the third day as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day" (Jos. Ant. XVIII, 3:3).

The reader should consult the article CHRIST JESUS for further notes on the Saviour's name and titles.

An Alphabetical Analysis

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