The Messiah's Hebrew Name: "Yeshua" Or "Yahshua"?

by Dr. Daniel Botkin

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Dr. Daniel Botkin explains the Hebrew linguistics of the
names "Yeshua" and "Yahshua" and how "Yahshua" is a
mistransliteration by Sacred Name advocates to fit an erroneous
interpretation of John 5:43 and how "Yeshua" is far more accurate.
He also clearly establishes the fact that the English name "Jesus"
has absolutely no pagan connection and is simply a derivation
of "Yesous," the Greek transliteration of "Yeshua." Most important,
Dr. Botkin addresses that slander and criticism surrounding the name
controversy in entirely non-Scriptural and not glorifying to the
Holy One of Israel.

""""""The Messiah's Hebrew name is usually transliterated as either
Yeshua or Yahshua. Under normal circumstances I would not bother to
write an article about something as trivial as the difference
between the vowel sounds "e" and "ah." There is a need to address
the subject, though, because some people who use the Yahshua form
say untrue things about those who use the Yeshua form. The opponents
of the Yeshua form claim that this pronunciation is the result of a
Jewish conspiracy to hide the Savior's true name. Those who call the
Messiah Yeshua are accused of perpetuating a Jewish conspiracy
and "denying His name" or "degrading Him" by their use of the Yeshua
form. If you have never read or heard these outlandish accusations,
you probably will eventually. From time to time I receive personal
letters to this effect.

The proponents of the Yahshua form claim that the Messiah's name was
the same as Joshua's, written [vwhy or [wvwhy (Strong's #3091). The
only problem is that neither of these Hebrew spellings of Joshua's
name can possibly be pronounced "Yahshua." The third letter in
Joshua's name (reading from right to left) is the letter vav (w) and
a vav cannot be silent. The letter vav must be pronounced as either
a "v" or an "o" or an "u." (In the case of Joshua, it takes an "o"
sound, giving us "Ye-ho-SHU-a." Strong's confirms this
pronunciation.) For a name to be pronounced "Yahshua," it would have
to be spelled [wv--hy, and no such name exists anywhere in the
Hebrew Bible. You don't have to just take my word for it, though.
Dr. Danny Ben-Gigi says of the Yahshua form that "there is no such
name in Hebrew" and that "people invented it to fit their
theology."[1] Dr. Ben-Gigi is an Israeli and the former head of
Hebrew programs at Arizona State University. He is the author of the
book First Steps in Hebrew Prayers, and he designed and produced
the "Living Israeli Hebrew" language-learning course. Dr. David
Bivin, a Christian, says that the Yahshua form "is rooted in a
misunderstanding."[2] Dr. Bivin is a renowned Hebrew scholar and
teacher and author of Fluent Biblical Hebrew.

I do not know of a single individual that knows Hebrew well enough
to actually read it and understand it and converse in it who uses
the Yahshua form.

Please do not misunderstand. A person does not need to know Hebrew
and Greek linguistics in order to be spiritual. However, if a person
is going to take it upon himself to instruct others about subjectsof a linguistic and Hebraic nature, he should know the Hebrew
language and he should know some basics about linguistics. This is
especially true if he is going to use his Hebrew-based linguistic
teachings to accuse his brethren of being part of a "Jewish
conspiracy" to "deny the true name of the Messiah."

To people who actually know Hebrew people like Dr. Ben-Gigi, Dr.
Bivin, and others it is very obvious that those who insist on the
Yahshua form know very little about the Hebrew language. The only
Hebrew that most of these self-appointed scholars know is what they
can learn from a Strong's Concordance.[3] Strong's is a great study
tool and a fine place to start, but it is not a means by which a
person can learn the Hebrew language.

The English form Jesus is derived from the New Testament Greek name
Ihsou, pronounced "Yesous." According to Strong's, Yesous (Strong's
#2424) is "of Hebrew origin" and can be traced back to Joshua's
Hebrew name, Yehoshua (#3091, [wvwhy). But how do we get the Greek
Yesous from the Hebrew Yehoshua? Someone armed with nothing more
than a Strong's Concordance may have difficulty answering that
question. Someone who reads the Bible in Hebrew, though, knows that
the name Joshua sometimes appears in its shortened form, Yeshua
([wvy) in Neh. 8:17 it is apparent even in English: "Jeshua the son
of Nun." (The letter J was pronounced like a Y in Old English.)
Strong does not tell the reader that the Greek Yesous is actually
transliterated from this shortened Hebrew form, Yeshua, and not
directly from the longer form Yehoshua. The process from "Yehoshua"
to "Jesus" looks like this:

Hebrew Yehoshua Hebrew Yeshua

Hebrew Yeshua Greek Yesous

Greek Yesous English Jesus

There is no "sh" sound in Greek, which accounts for the middle "s"
sound in Yesous. The "s" at the end of the Greek name is a
grammatical necessity, to make the word declinable.

In Neh. 8:17, Joshua's name is 100% identical to the name which
today's Messianic Jews use for the Messiah, Yeshua ([wvy). Strong's
confirms this pronunciation, and tells us that there were ten
Israelites in the Bible who bore this name (#3442). Therefore the
shortening of Yehoshua to Yeshua predates the Christian era by at
least 500 years, and cannot be the result of a Jewish conspiracy to
hide the Savior's true name.[4] To claim that the shortened form
Yeshua is the result of a Jewish conspiracy is to ignore the facts
of history and the facts of the Hebrew Scriptures. The form Yeshua
existed for several hundred years before the Messiah was even born.
Even in the pre-Christian Septuagint, we see the Greek form IHSOUS
(Yesous) in the title of the Book of Joshua. (This is also proof
that Yesous has no connection to the pagan god Zeus.)

So where did the transliteration Yahshua come from? This form of the
name can be traced back to the beginnings of the Sacred Name
movement, a movement that grew out of the Church of God, 7th Day, in
the late 1930s. I have in my files an article entitled, "A Brief
History of the Name Movement in America" by L.D. Snow, a Sacred Name
believer.[5] According to this article, "John Briggs and Paul Penn
were the FIRST to pronounce and use the name Yahshua" (emphasisSnow's). This was in 1936 and in 1937, the article states. No
information is given about how Briggs and Penn came up with this
(mis)translation.

Later Sacred Name literature appeals to the Messiah's statement in
John 5:43 as "proof" of the Yahshua form: "I am come in My Father's
name," He said. In the minds of Sacred Name believers, this means
that "Yah," a shortened form of Yahweh, must appear in the name of
the Son. However, the Messiah did not say "My name contains My
Father's name" or "My Father's name must appear inside My name" or
any such statement. He said absolutely nothing here about His own
name. The only "name" mentioned here was the Father's name. He
said, "I am come in My Father's name," which simply means that He
was coming by His Father's authority, on His Father's behalf. If we
take Yeshua's statement "I am come in My Father's name" to mean that
His own name must contain the Father's name, then we ourselves
cannot do anything "in the Father's name" unless our own personal
name happens to contain the syllable "Yah." The folly of this
interpretation is also evident if the same line of reasoning is
applied to the rest of Yeshua's statement: "if another shall come
in his own name, him ye will receive." If the logic of Sacred Name
believers is applied to this half of the verse, it would be
saying "a person's name must contain his own name," which is
meaningless. If, on the other hand, "in his own name" means "by his
own authority," then the statement makes sense.

Why is the Yahshua form used by no one but Sacred Name believers and
people who have been influenced by Sacred Name believers? Probably
because no such name exists in the Hebrew Bible and, to my
knowledge, no such name exists in any extra-Biblical Hebrew
literature. It appears that Dr. Ben-Gigi is correct when he says
that people invented the name Yahshua to fit their theology.

I have read a lot of literature from writers who seek to expose
the "errors" of those who refer to the Messiah as Yeshua. The only
thing these writers actually expose is their lack of knowledge. I
could give several examples of statements which are absolutely
ridiculous. I do not have the space in this publication to give all
the examples I have in my files, and I do not wish to embarrass
sincere people for their honest but misguided efforts. There are
some examples, though, that grossly misrepresent the facts, and some
of these examples need to be exposed.

In one popular booklet published by a well-known Sacred Name
organization, the anonymous author makes this statement: "Most
reference works agree with Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the NT
statement on page 284, which states that the name Yahoshua was
shortened after the exile to the short form Yahshua." This statement
makes it sound like Kittel uses the forms Yahoshua and Yahshua. I
went to the library and looked at this page in Kittel's. The words
Yahoshua and Yahshua do not appear even one time on this page. This
can be verified by going to a library and looking up this page.
(It's in Volume III.) If your library does not have Kittel's, I can
send a photocopy of this page to any skeptics.

This same Sacred Name organization which misrepresents Kittel's also
misrepresented a Jewish author. In a magazine article written by
this organization's main leader, a lengthy segment is quoted from a
book published by KTAV, a Jewish publishing house. When copying this
quotation for his magazine article, this Sacred Name author freelyused Yahshua, making it appear tat the Jewish author used that
transliteration in his book. I got the book from the library,
though, and discovered that "Yahshua" did not appear in the book. I
wrote to this Sacred Name leader asking for an explanation. I told
him that unless he had some other explanation, I could conclude one
of three things: either he deliberately misrepresented the facts, or
he did it accidentally, or the book I got from the library was a
different version from his, in which case I would owe him an
apology. My letter was sent September 1, 1997, and I am still
waiting for a reply. I will not embarrass this man by mentioning his
name or the name of his ministry. It is not my intention to
embarrass anyone.

I am not writing this article to persuade people to quit
saying "Yahshua." If people want to continue using a
mistransliteration that was erroneously contrived by early Sacred
Name pioneers who didn't know Hebrew, it really doesn't matter to
me. I don't that the substitution of an "ah" sound for an "e" sound
matters much to the Lord, either. What does matter, though, is the
spreading of false accusations against Messianic Jews and others who
called the Messiah "Yeshua."

Paul warned Timothy about "doting about questions and strifes of
words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising
[suspicions]" (1 Tim. 6:4). Unfortunately, this is an accurate
description of what goes on among many people in the Sacred Name
movement. Personally, I would rather fellowship with non-contentious
people who call the Messiah "Jesus" than with contentious people who
insist that everyone call Him "Yahshua."

NOTES

[1] Love Song to the Messiah newsletter, March 1999, p. 1.

[2] "The Fallacy of Sacred Name Bibles," Jerusalem Perspective Nov.-
Dec. 1991, p. 12.

[3] These teachers very heavily rely on Strong's Concordance, yet
when Strong proves them wrong, as he does with the pronunciation of
Yehoshua, they insist that Strong's rendering is erroneous! I have a
Sacred Name publication which actually claims that Strong wrote down
incorrect pronunciations because "his understanding of the Name was
lacking." Anyone who wants to disprove this ludicrous assertion can
simply look at Joshua's name in a Hebrew Bible and see that Strong
used the very same vowel marks that are used in the Bible.

[4] There is some debate over whether or not the Jews' final
shortening of Jesus' name to Yeshu (wvy) was a deliberate attempt to
avoid acknowledging Yeshua of Nazareth as Savior.

[5] This article first appeared in a publication called The Eliyah
Messenger in May-June 1966, and was reprinted in 1975 in World Today
Analyzed, a publication of the Assembly of Yahvah in Tahlequah, OK.