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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 2, by Kevin M. Williams

In Israeli society, an adopted child is considered to be as if from your own body. Through this betrothal—truly a match made in heaven—Joseph would claim this son as his own, and rear him with the Torah of Moses, in accord with the prophets.

There are some detractors who insist that Jesus held to a more liberal theological world-view, possibly molded by His earthly father, Joseph. Yet time and again, as we view the early days and years of Jesus’ life, it appears that Joseph is quite committed to his faith, both in Torah and temple observance, and in simple obedience to God’s angelic messenger. It would be inconsistent to have the “Word made flesh” born into a Hellenized, secular home.

Part of Joseph’s obligation was to name this child “Jesus.” Traditionally in Jewish homes, a child is named after an honored relative. In the gospel of Luke (1:67), we read that it caused some confusion for Zechariah and Elizabeth to name their son “John,” since no one else in the family had that name.

We have no clue that a relative of Joseph’s was named “Jesus,” but we have biblical precedent that this name was vital for the Messianic appellation.

It is worth noting that his literal name could not have been “Jesus.” There is no “jay” sound in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. “J” is of Anglo-Saxon origin and unfamiliar in the Ancient Near Eastern tongues. Strong’s Concordance lists his name in the Greek as Iesous. Yet Strong’s also states that this word is of Hebrew origin—Yehoshua, literally meaning, “Jehovah is salvation.” Common to the period, this name, Yehoshua, was contracted into Yeshua.

Why is this name so crucial? Many Jewish opponents to Jesus as the Messiah use following argument: “If Jesus is the Messiah, why doesn’t his name appear in the Tanakh? Certainly God would have given us insight into his name!”

This is a true statement, yet you will not find an Anglo-Saxon name in a Hebrew text written centuries before the Anglo-Saxons were a people. You will, however, find Hebrew names in the Hebrew text.

That might seem obvious, but for many Jewish and non-Jewish people, it is not. “Jesus” has become such an indoctrinated concept, that accepting any other name seems ludicrous. It is, in many ways, one subtle way that has separated the Church from its Hebraic roots and has driven a wedge between Jewish and Christian peoples. To insist on calling the name “Jesus,” after an Anglican tradition, is pure legalism and not based on an honest evaluation of the Bible.

For instance take a look at Isaiah 62:11 (italics mine), “Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

In this text, we find a grammatical error, unless the text says more that we see. “Salvation” is written as a proper noun, yet this is grammatically impossible unless “salvation” is a person. The Hebrew text is yesha (עשי), the root of Yeshua (עושי)—“YHWH is Salvation.” In Isaiah 62:11, the word is both a concept and a person, “and His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” Grammatically, therefore, Isaiah is speaking of a person—a specific person.

The name was no accident. Neither was it Greek or Anglican in origin. It points to the character of the Jewish Messiah in ways both simple and profound.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2001

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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