Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Meaning of Jesus’ Name

Sam Shamoun

It is time, once again, to address some of the claims made by Muslim apologist Ali Ataie in his book dedicated to undermining the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this particular rebuttal, we are going to respond to his assertion that Jesus’ Hebrew name actually means “he is saved”, which he then uses to prove that God did not allow Jesus to die on the cross, but rather chose to deliver him before that ever happened.

Ataie writes:

Psalm 20

King David writes: “We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up [our] banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions. Now know I that the Lord saveth his Anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. Some [trust] in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:5-7). Verse 6 transliterated reads: At-tah yadha-tiki hoshiya adonai meshicho, anehu mishemey qodsho bighb-huroth yesha yemeeno. There is no ambiguity here whatsoever. The words for “saveth,” and “anointed” are hoshiya and Meshicho respectively. The Meshicho, or rather Messiah, is the Christ. Can it be any more clear: God saves His Messiah!

The majority of Christians believe Jesus’ true name to be Yeshua, a name that has exactly the same etymological root meaning and significance as the word hoshiya in verse 6. The root word being yasha, “to save.” According to the Strongs’ Concordance, Yeshua means “he is saved,” not Savior.

Hoshiya: 1) to save, be saved, be delivered.

a) to be liberated, be saved, be delivered

b) to be saved (in battle), be victorious

c) to save, deliver

d) to save from moral troubles

e) to give victory to

Christians are quick to quote Psalm 22 or 34 and claim that they are foretelling the death of the Messiah when there is no specific reference to him at all. Yet when he is mentioned specifically in Psalm 20 and other passages presented below as being saved by God, Christians suddenly become ignorant! (Ataie, In Defense of Islam: Confronting the Christians with their own Scriptures, Part I – Refuting Christianity, Chapter 4 Refuting the Crucifixion and Resurrection, pp. 141-142)

To begin with, Ali is simply mistaken since Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua, is the abbreviated form of Yehoshua, which means “Yahweh is Salvation.” Jesus’ name therefore means “Yahweh saves,” a fact that is recognized by Biblical scholars from all stripes and persuasions. See our article for the list of quotes establishing this point.

The New Testament itself attests to this meaning of the name since this is what Matthew wrote concerning the announcement of the angel of the Lord to Joseph concerning Mary conceiving a child by the power of the Holy Spirit:

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS (‘Iesous): FOR he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:20-23

Here we see that the reason why virgin born child will be called Jesus is because HE HIMSELF will personally save his own people from their sins. There is nothing about him being saved by God here, since he is the one who is clearly going to be doing the saving!

The Apocrypha, specifically the book of Sirach, provides further attestation to this meaning of the name:

“Joshua (‘Iesous) the son of Nun was mighty in war, and was the successor of Moses in prophesying. He became, in accordance with his name, a great savior of God's elect, to take vengeance on the enemies that rose against them, so that he might give Israel its inheritance.” Sirach 46:1 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The reason why OT Joshua was given that name is because he became Israel’s great Savior by destroying their enemies and bringing them safely into the promised land.

What this clearly shows is that Jesus’ Hebrew name does not mean “he is saved”, but rather “Yahweh saves”, since he is the God who has come to deliver men from their transgressions. This point is brought out even further elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel:

“even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 – cf. Mark 10:45

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28 – cf. Mark 14:22-24

Jesus forfeits his life as a vicarious sacrifice in order to ransom all those who believe from the penalty of their sins.

Matthew isn’t the only inspired author who proclaims this message. Even Luke agrees with Matthew’s depiction since he goes out of his way to portray Christ as the Savior whom God sent to forgive and save:

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Luke further records the words of the risen Lord himself, who plainly testifies that he has come to seek and save all those who are lost in their transgressions,

“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:9-10

And who further commissioned his disciples to proclaim that forgiveness from sins only comes through his name to everyone that repents:

“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached IN HIS NAME among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:44-47

Luke in his second inspired volume records the Apostles’ fulfilling their commission from the risen Lord by going around preaching and doing miracles in Jesus’ glorious and majestic name, in order to prove that salvation only comes from believing in his all-holy name:

“Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts 3:26

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that BY THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even BY HIM doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is NONE OTHER NAME under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:5-12

“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31

“The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)… And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. TO HIM give all the prophets witness, that THROUGH HIS NAME whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:36, 42-43

“Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus… Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that THROUGH THIS MAN is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:23, 38-39

“Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:29-31

Now this in itself is astonishing since the Holy Bible plainly teaches that human beings are all transgressors who inevitably sin against the LORD:

“If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;” 1 Kings 8:46

“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Proverbs 20:9

“For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Ecclesiastes 7:20 – cf. 7:29; 9:3; Genesis 6:5; 8:20-21; Job 4:17-19; 14:4; 15:14-16; 25:4-6; Psalm 51:5; 58:3; 143:2; Hosea 11:7; Matthew 7:11; 12:34; Luke 11:13; John 7:7, 19; Romans 3:10-20

This is why the inspired record emphatically proclaims that Yahweh alone is able to redeem and save his people from their sins:

“none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption… But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.” Psalm 49:7-9, 15

“But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.” Psalm 78:38

If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O LORD, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared… Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:3-4, 7-8

These same God-breathed Scriptures teach that redemption and forgiveness come through faith in the name of Yahweh, since he forgives solely for his own sake:

For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.” Psalm 25:11

“Save me, O God, by thy name, and judge me by thy strength.” Psalm 54:1

“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.” Psalm 79:9

“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 43:25

With the foregoing in perspective, could the NT documents be any clearer that Jesus is not someone whom God saved, but is Yahweh God himself (though not the Father or the Holy Spirit), who became flesh for the express purpose of redeeming his people from their transgressions and the divine wrath that will eventually be poured out upon all evildoers?

Finally, even if we take Jesus’ name to imply that he would end up being saved by God the Father this still wouldn’t establish Ataie’s desperate polemics. Ataie erroneously assumes that the only way that God could have saved Jesus is by preventing him from being crucified. He conveniently forgets or overlooks the fact that there is another way in which God could have saved Jesus, namely, by raising him from the dead after having been killed by crucifixion.

In fact, this is precisely what the inspired book of Hebrews says happened:

“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;” Hebrews 5:7

The writer goes on to show how God delivered his beloved Son from death:

“Now the God of peace, that brought again FROM THE DEAD our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

Thus, in one sense God did save Jesus, since he did not abandon him to death but resurrected him to a glorious, immortal existence in which Christ now possesses an indestructible life. And because the Son now lives forever, he is able to intercede and perfectly save all who come to God through him:

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren… Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:9-11, 14-18

“who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life… And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” Hebrews 7:16, 23-28

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth… It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:11-17, 23-28

“By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:10-18

So much for Ataie’s tirade against the glorious and wondrous name of the Lord Jesus, his great God and risen Lord, as well as ours.

All Scriptural quotations taken from the Authorized King James Version (AV) of the Holy Bible.

Make sure to check out the next segment of our response.


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