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John E. Hanley wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a couple of questions I have always wondered about and hope you can answer.

  1. Was Jesus a commonly used name in His time or was it unique to Our Blessed Lord?
  2. Since Jesus did some travelling in His time, was He able to communicate with everyone He met?
  3. In other words, was He multi-lingual?

Thank You!

John Hanley

  { Was Jesus a commonly used name in his time or was it unique to Our Lord and was He multi-lingual? }

John replied:

Hi, John —

You said:

  1. Was Jesus a commonly used name in his time or was it unique to Our Blessed Lord?

Yes. . . . Hebrew and Aramaic have no vowels so the name was pronounced several different ways. In fact, Jesus is the Greek version of the word. It is actually Yashua in Hebrew but it can also be Yoshua. In English we would pronounce those Joshua or Hosea. Sometimes it's Yeshua so there are variations on the name.

You said:

  1. Since Jesus did some travelling in His time, was He able to communicate with everyone He met?
  2. In other words, was He multi-lingual?

He more than likely was multi-lingual. Israel had just spent hundreds of years under Greek rule. Much of it had been hellenized (meaning they adopted a Greek culture). . . . He came from Galilee which was known for having Greek-influenced Jews. On top of that, they were currently living under Roman rule, so He probably spoke Aramaic . . . which was the version of Hebrew spoken at that time. More than likely he was fairly fluent in Greek and possibly knew a some Latin.

I hope this helps,

John

John replied:

John —

Thank you for explaining that for me.

I have been curious about this for some time and thought that Jesus had to be a name unique to Our Lord.

Happy New Year!

John E. Hanley

John replied:

Hi John,

I forgot one more pronunciation: Isaiah.

  • How could I forget that one?

Like I said, the Hebrew alphabet only has consonants so that's why we aren't always sure how words were pronounced. In some cases, more than one word would have the same spelling. The Israelites simply would look at the context and know where to insert the vowels and what the word was.

Later on, they came up with a system of dots they would put with the consonants to help them pronounce the word so the consonants for Jesus would be the Hebrew equivalent of:

Y S H : Yod, Shin, and Heth

Jesus means The Lord saves. So in Hebrew the who of the word for Lord is either pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah. Depending on how it is pronounced, Jesus would either be Yashua or Yeshua. The Greeks pronounced it Iesus which in English became Jesus.

As I said in my original reply, there were variations of pronunciation so we get Hosea, Joshua, and Isaiah.

It's sort of like in English the John's are often called Jack, sometime Jake, and obviously Johnny. Similarly, someone called Edmund or Edward can also be called Ted, etc.

I hope this helps,

John

Mike replied:

Hi John,

Based on John's questions and your replies, I have a question.

  • If there were many Jews back in Jesus' time who called themselves Jesus and Jesus means the Lord saves, what does this tell us about Jesus' cultural setting?

My only guess is that every Jewish mother wanted their baby boy to be the foretold Messiah?

Mike

John replied:

Well, the name goes much further back than that Mike.

We see Joshua mentioned in the book of Exodus. The name isn't necessarily messianic.

Many Hebrew names . . . include a reference to God and His attributes . . .

  • Raphael . . . means God or the Lord Heals.
  • Michael means who is like God.
  • Jacob was later called Israel after he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord
    (and in the Old Testament the Angel of the Lord is a pre-incarnate theophany).
  • Israel means God Contended or Contended with God.

In these instances instead of the prefix Ya or Je from Yahweh or Jehovah, we see the suffix El . . . from Elohim — also an Old Testament Name for God. Yahweh or Jehova is

I Am Who Am, God's covenant name.

El or Elohim meaning Might Ones which obviously speaks of God's might.

That said, it was not uncommon for such names. To name a child The Lord Saves is simply a statement of faith, not necessarily a name that the Israelites or later the Jews would associate with the Messiah. In fact, Isaiah said His name would be Emmanuel meaning God with us.

John

John replied:

Thank you John!

That was a really interesting bit of additional information you shared with Mike.

  • I kind of wonder why the Angel of the Lord specified that particular name?

I had given additional thought to the question of whether Jesus was multilingual. I know there are many things that are inaccurately said about Jesus but something I heard made me wonder.

The information said that between the time when He came into this world, which was well documented, and the time when He began His Teachings, He may have spent some time in the Far East.

If that were true, then He would have to have an almost unlimited ability to speak with anyone he met. Probably not true, but it does paint an interesting picture in the mind.

Thanks again!

John Hanley

John replied:

John —

There is absolutely no evidence that He traveled to the Far East in years between the age of 12 and His public ministry.

This is mythology invited by those who want to promote oriental mysticism. They would like to say it influenced Christ. It is nonsense.

The Gospels make it pretty clear that his neighbors knew him very well and they rejected him because of their familiarity with Him.

John

John replied:

Thank you both, one more time!

I sort of suspected as much but am glad you were able to nail these questions down for me.

John E. Hanley

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