Author: Ron Graham
The Name “Jesus”
—It's origin and meaning
Here are some notes on the name “Jesus”. These are more detailed than any discussion in other lessons on simplybible.com where that topic is addressed. Here we clarify what is meant by "the name of our Lord Jesus"
1 The Exalted Name
Paul makes this powerful statement about Jesus: "God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow..." (Philippians 2:9-10).
These words, "the name of Jesus" don't mean that the name is Jesus. They refer to the name bestowed on Jesus. Paul is using the name “Jesus” to identify the one who has been given the exalted name. Paul is not identifying the name above every name but identifying the man who is entitled to that exalted name.
Paul elsewhere uses an expansion of this phrase, "the name of our Lord Jesus". He says, "We pray that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and our Lord Jesus Christ." (2Thessalonians 1:12).
In that statement, the name that Paul is thinking of is not “our Lord Jesus” or the even more expanded “our Lord Jesus Christ”. Rather, Paul is saying that there is a name possessed uniquely by the man called Jesus who is our Lord and the Christ.
2 The Name “Jesus”
The name “Jesus” is significant and deserves every respect. However it is not the exalted name above all names. Here are some important points to note:
- The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him how and why Mary was pregnant. Joseph was instructed, "She will bear a son; and you shall call his name ‘Jesus’, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
- This name “Jesus” is the English form of the Greek Ιησους (Ieesous, 2424). This is pronounced like “Yee-sous”. It is the Greek form of the name Joshua which in turn is the English form of the Hebrew name “Yehoshua” .
- To support that last point, let's note that Joshua, whose story is told in the Old Testament book that bears his name, is mentioned twice in the Greek New Testament; and there his name is rendered Ιησους Yesous (Acts 7:45, Hebrews 4:8).
- Let's put it simply now, just to be clear: The English name “Jesus” corresponds to the Greek name “Ieesous”, which corresponds to the Hebrew name “Yehoshua” which corresponds to the English name “Joshua”.
- The Lord chose “Jesus” or “Joshua” as the given name for his Son because it means “The Lord Saves” —a very appropriate name for God's Son, the Saviour of the world. However it is a common given name which the Son of God shares with many other sons in this world.
The point I am making is that the name that we glorify is not the name given to the Son of God at his birth, but the name bestowed on him when he was exalted to his Father’s right hand. "God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow" (Philippians 2:9-10). And, "There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12).
3 A String of Divine Names
It was once usual for kings and Queens to have a very long string of names and titles —so long that it might have taken five minutes to announce them all. These days the list is briefer.
In Australia our queen is called, crisply: "Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth". But she holds all sorts of other titles and she has her given names too: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. In the same way Jesus has heaps of names and titles. If Jesus were being announced at some grand occasion, the announcer might introduce him as:
"Jesus of Nazareth; Son of God Most High; Christ, the Messiah; Creator and Saviour of the World; Immanuel, God With Us; King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Great High Priest After the Order of Melchizedek; Wonderful Counselor; Mighty God; Eternal Father; Prince of Peace; Head and Chief Shepherd of the Church, Fullness of God, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End; Bright and Morning Star."
You could no doubt improve that list of our heavenly King’s names and titles. The point is that this kind of name expresses his authority and exalted rank. When we glorify the name of Jesus, and “at the name of Jesus bow”, we don't pay homage to his given birth name as such —because many boys have that name— rather we glorify and bow down to the name above all names that he was given after his death, when God raised him up and exalted him.
Look again at the long name above. What other man on earth shares that kind of name and rank with the Jesus we worship? There might have been other Jesuses in Nazareth, but there is only one Jesus who can lay claim to those divine names and titles and the rank that goes with them.
Even then, we don't glorify the divine titles and nomenclature of Jesus Christ as such. Rather we glorify the position and rank they represent; the unique right of one person to hold that position; and indeed the One who holds it. We glorify this name not only in word and thought but also in the true dedication of our bodies to him in obedience, just as he dedicated his body to us in sacrifice.