A modern parable
By Scott Nelson
There once was a missionary by the name of Barbara Mayhew. Everyone who knew her called her Barb.
After spending a number of years bringing the Gospel to the people of the Philippines, Barb moved back home to a small town in Minnesota to live near her friends and relatives. Ten years passed. Then one day, Barb received an unexpected phone call.
"Hello! Is this Barb Mayhew?" asked the man on the other end.
"Yes it is." Barb replied. "What can I do for you?"
"Hi Barb. My name is Dan Seavers. I'm the new director of on-going missionary activities in the Philippines. I believe you worked for our organization a number of years ago... am I right?"
"Why, yes." She replied. "What can I do for you Dan?"
"Well Barb, it's like this. We've been receiving a number of interesting reports from the area where you used to work. It appears that shortly after you left, several of your Filipino friends became missionaries in their own right. They took the gospel you had shared with them into the remote areas of the mountain provinces to a couple of small villages. One village in particular has been turned upside-down by the gospel. From what I've been told, it sounds like just about everyone in the village has become a believer! The interesting thing is Barb, your friends also told these people a lot about you and you have become a kind of beloved apostle to them. They talk about you all the time... recounting stories they've heard about you from your friends. And Barb, get this! They built a small church and dedicated it to you... the main road that goes through the village is named after you... and they even sing a song about you!"
All Barb could say was, "Wow."
Dan continued. "The reason I am contacting you Barb is because we believe it would be great if you could go and spend some time with these dear people. They would love to meet you. Another thing is... our sources in the area have heard it rumored that some of them are actually trying to figure a way to come and see you! That's why we believe it'd be better if you went to see them. Do you think you could do it for us... for them, Barb?"
Barb paused for a moment then said, "This is quite a surprise... and all so sudden. I don't want to make a quick decision about something like this. Can I have a couple days and get back to you?"
"Certainly Barb. Take the time you need and please let me know as soon as you decide. If you do decide to go, as usual, we will take care of the arrangements to get you there. I'll wait for your call. It's been nice talking to you Barb. Bye."
Two days later Barb called Dan. "Hello, Dan?"
"Hi Barb." Dan replied. "How are you... and what've you decided?"
"Oh, I'm fine. I've thought and prayed about this a lot since you called... and I believe I'd like to go and spend three months with those dear people."
"That's wonderful Barb." Dan said with enthusiasm. "Three months was the same amount of time I had in mind. This is great. How soon can you leave?"
"It'll take another three weeks before I'm able to go. I hope that's O.K."
"Of course Barb. I can't expect you to just drop everything at a moments notice. I'll start getting everything ready for you". Dan paused for a moment then said, "Uh... Barb?"
Dan's tone caused Barb some concern. "Yes." She replied.
"There's one thing I neglected to tell you about in our first phone conversation... I hope it isn't a problem. I don't see why it should be, but... I need to inform you that you aren't known to the villagers as Barb! Something was lost somewhere along the line in trying to communicate your name to the people. We aren't sure what the problem was, but your new name sounds nothing like Barb."
"Well... are you sure it's me they're thinking of?" Barb asked.
"Oh, there is no question about that." Assured Dan. "It seems that your friends left several photos of you with the villagers. Jon McAfee, one of our associates, has been there and seen the pictures. When Jon was here at our offices last week we went back through the files of the missionaries who'd been in that area and we found your file with your picture. Jon said there's no doubt that it's you they're in love with."
Barb couldn't help asking, "If they don't know me as Barb, what do they call me?"
Dan took a deep breath and said, "Well Barb, I don't think I could do it justice. I think it'd be best if you heard it come from their own lips. Jon says that when they say it, it comes across with great love. But you should know that we believe it would be best if you went along with your new name and not try to correct them. After all, they have a church, a street, and a song with your new name on it!"
Barb thought for a moment then said, "Well, I guess I can go along with it. How bad can it be anyway?"
"That's the spirit Barb", Dan said cheering her on. "I knew you'd be up to it."
Three weeks later, Barb drove to the airport and boarded her flight to Manila. After a long flight and another long bumpy ride into the countryside, Barb was dropped off at the end of the road several miles walking distance from her destination. As she began the long hike through the hills she thought to herself, "I can hardly wait to meet these dear people and find out what my name is". Barb cleared a small ridge and saw the little village in the distance only a few minutes away. Her heart began to beat stronger with the feeling of anticipation. She didn't know what to expect. As she walked into the village an old lady glanced her way. Then suddenly, the old lady's head spun back around. For a moment she stared wide-eyed straight at Barb. She dropped the bundle of grass she was carrying... put her hands over her mouth and gasped, "Zyka!" Then she turned around and ran through the village shouting, "Zyka Zeejerst, Zyka Zeejerst". Barb stood there, bewildered... not sure what to think of what had just happened. She thought to herself, "Is Zyka Zeejerst some kind of excited exclamation I haven't heard before? Or... oh no! Could it be the name? Oh, I hope it's not my name... what a harsh name Zyka Zeejerst would make. It must be an exclamation of sorts." It wasn't long before all the villagers were gathered around her. Every one of them was repeating, almost chanting "Zyka Zeejerst, Zyka Zeejerst" as they reached out to touch her. When she noticed that many of them had tears of joy rolling down their cheeks she resigned herself to the fact that Zyka Zeejerst was indeed her name. The way it rolled off the people's lips make it obvious. Dan and Jon had been right. Only the villagers themselves could make such a harsh sounding name come across with so much love.
Over the next few days Barb spent much time with the villagers. They talked of many things, but most of the time they talked about the things of the Lord. But everywhere she went, Barb continually heard and answered to the name Zyka Zeejerst.
When the first Sunday of her visit came around, Barb was the guest of honor at the church service. After singing several praise songs, the leader of the congregation gestured for Barb to come to the front. He put his arm around her and welcomed her on behalf of the entire village and told her that the church she was standing in had been named in honor of her. Then he raised his hand to the congregation and started singing. Instantly everyone joined in and sang;
"Zyka Zeejerst is our friend,
Zyka Zeejerst is our friend,
it not been for her,
we not know the Lord,
Zyka Zeejerst is our friend."
Barb's eyes started to fill with her own tears of joy as she began to truly sense the people's love for her.
The next day, while walking down Zeejerst lane, the main dirt trail through town, Barb noticed a man leading his cow by a rope just ahead of her. The man stopped suddenly for some reason but the cow kept on walking and stepped on his foot. As the pain from the weight of the cow standing on his bare foot set in he yelled at the top of his voice, "Ah... Zyka Zeejerst!" Barb was shocked. There was nothing tender or loving in the way this man spoke her name. Suddenly her new name carried all the harshness she originally felt it carried. She couldn't help but wonder if the harsh sound of her new name didn't actually lend itself to the abuse she had just witnessed. She thought, "I can't imagine anyone saying 'Ah... Barb Mayhew' in a similar situation. It just wouldn't work!" Not wanting to make the man feel bad she slipped into the closest hut she could find without the man ever knowing she was there. When she turned around to see who's home she had invaded, a woman greeted her. With a smile on her face, but a perceptible sadness in her eyes she said;
"Zyka, I so glad you here. I only wish daughter Tawani here to see you."
"Where is your daughter?" Barb asked, fearing she was about to find out the woman's daughter had died.
"She go to find you in your home in America! She love you like no other from village. And she work hard and save for many year to go see you. If only she know you coming, she not be gone. She be happiest in village to see you. Maybe she be home before you go."
The brakes squealed and the buss came to a stop in Barb's home town. As Tawani stepped off the buss her heart began to beat with excitement. "This is Zyka's home. Everyone must know Zyka" she thought to herself. Tawani walked to the small service station store on the corner. She walked in, stepped up to the counter, and said to the clerk,
"Zyka? Zyka Zeejerst?"
The clerk gave Tawani a puzzled look and shook his head. "Is that a place you are going to?" He asked.
"No." Said Tawani, surprised to find that someone didn't know who Zyka was. "Zyka Zeejerst... she great missionary", She said.
"No, I've never heard of her", said the clerk.
Tawani's heart sank as she walked out the door. She couldn't believe anyone in Zyka's home town didn't know who Zyka was. Then Tawani saw a sporting goods store across the street and decided to see if anyone there knew Zyka. She walked in the door and up to the counter and asked,
"You know Zyka... Zyka Zeejerst?"
The clerk replied, "No...!" And he raised one eyebrow as if to say, "Who or what is that?"
Tawani's heart sank even further. "How can this be," she thought. Then she remembered and reached into her pocket and pulled out an old worn picture and placed it on the counter.
"Here Zyka Zeejerst", she said. "You know Zyka?"
The clerk looked at the picture for a moment and shook his head. Then he picked it up and turned to the woman working with him behind the counter and asked,
"Do you know this person?"
The woman looked intently at the picture for a moment. Then she smiled... looked up at a man standing across the isle and said,
"Hey Dave... isn't this your sister?"
Tawani regained her excitement as Dave came over to the counter and looked at the picture.
"Yup", he said. "That's Barb!"
Tawani got a puzzled look on her face and said, "No. This Zyka Zeejerst." as she pointed to the person in the picture.
Dave chuckled and said, "You can call her what ya like... but that's my sister Barb. She left for the Philippines about a week ago. I believe she's plannin' on being there for three months."
"Zyka gone to Philippines?" Tawani asked as her heart sank again.
"Her name really is Barb, and yes, I'm sorry... but she's gone" Dave replied. He noticed the sadness that came over the young Filipino girl. Wanting to help, he continued, "...but our parents live near by and they would love to meet you. Would you like to meet them?" Tawani nodded and followed Dave to his truck. As they drove to the Mayhew residence Tawani looked intently at Dave and with a puzzled look on her face said, "You say Barb? Zyka is Barb?"
Dave chuckled again and said, "When we were kids I called her a lot of things, but I never called her anything like... what is it... Zykack? Her full-name is Barbara Mayhew. We all call her Barb, for short."
Dave brought Tawani to his parents place and introduced Tawani to them. Tawani stayed the remainder of her trip with Barb's parents... learning all about Barb.
Some time later, back in the Philippines, Barb walked home after another Sunday morning worship service were she figured she must have been called Zyka Zeejerst for the umpteenth time. Her new name had long since begun to wear on her. She thought to herself, "That name! Oh that irritating name! I haven't heard my real name spoken in nearly two months and I'm really beginning to miss it. Why would it be so hard to tell these people the truth about my name. My name is so gentle and kind sounding compared to Zyka Zeejerst. I bet they would enjoy hearing my real name and they would be happy to know the truth." But then she realized that the villagers were at least as much in love with the name Zyka Zeejerst as they were with her. Zyka Zeejerst had become a part of their soul. "Dan is probably right", she thought. "It's best if I don't try to correct them. The shock would be too much for them."
Late that afternoon, Barb and the villagers were gathered outside the first church of Zyka Zeejerst when Tawani's mother let out a squeal and took off running down Zeejerst lane.
"Tawani, Tawani" she shouted.
Everyone turned to see Tawani walking into the village. Then all the villagers ran to greet Tawani who was already being smothered by her mother's hugs and kisses. They all kept saying to her; "Zyka Zeejerst is here! Zyka Zeejerst is here!"
"I know." she said to them.
As Barb reached the group of excited villagers she walked up to Tawani and said, "Hello Tawani."
Tawani looked her in the eye, and after a moment of silence said, "Barb? Barb Mayhew?"
The villagers gasped in disbelief. "Don't you know Zyka Zeejerst when you see her?" they asked.
But Barb couldn't get her arms around Tawani soon enough. "Yes!" she said. "My name is Barb. Thank you thank you Tawani... you know who I am."
THE MEANING OF THIS PARABLE.
Though this story is fiction, it was written as a parable to illustrate a problem that exists among English speaking people concerning a real person and his name. That person is the one known as Jesus Christ.
Did you know that if you could go back to the time of the twelve apostles, if you walked up to Peter and said, "Please take me to see Jesus Christ", Peter would get a puzzled look on his face and say the equivalent of, "Who, or what is that?" Did you know that no one who followed Jesus was capable of pronouncing in English the name "Jesus" even if they tried? The truth is, if you could go back in time and meet Peter, he would probably say something like, "Come, and I will show you Y'shua the Messiah." The sad truth of the matter is that the harsh sounding name of Jesus Christ is the equivalent of Zyka Zeejerst as far as the Messiah, the Son of God is concerned. You might be inclined to think the comparison isn't fair and the name Zyka Zeejerst sounds far more harsh than the name Jesus Christ. If so, this is a subliminal bias due to the fact that you have come to love the name Jesus Christ. Look closely at the name Zyka Zeejerst. It is a simple rearrangement of every sound found in the name Jesus Christ.
The name, Yeshua
Did you know that if you could go back to the time of the twelve apostles, if you walked up to Peter and said, "Please, take me to see Jesus Christ", Peter would get a puzzled look on his face and say the equivalent of, "Who, or what is that?" Did you know that no one who followed Jesus was capable of accurately pronouncing in English the name "Jesus"? The truth is, if you could go back in time, Peter would probably say something more like, "Come, let me introduce you to Yeshua the Messiah."
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she was going to have a son and what the child's name was to be, (Luke 1:31) the sound of the name that Mary heard come from Gabriel's lips was very close to, if not exactly... "Yehoshua" pronounced Yeh-ho-shoo'-ah. In modern Hebrew script, "Yehoshua" looks like and is read from right to left. This name is the blending of two Hebrew words. The first part, "Yeh-ho", is part of God's name that is sometimes used at the beginning or end of a Hebrew name. The second part of the Messiah's name, "shua", is the Hebrew word for deliverance meaning, "saves". The name "Yehoshua" literally means God-saves. The name Yehoshua was then shortened for everyday use the same way a name like Barbara is often shortened to Barb (see the name parable), and the four syllable name Yehoshua was shortened to three syllables, Yeshua.
The translation process.... Hebrew to Greek
Early on, when the Gospels were being written and the story of Yeshua the Messiah was spreading to the Gentile nations, the story had to be translated to Greek. There are two ways a Hebrew name can be brought across a language barrier. Hebrew names always carry a meaning, and one way is to translate the name, which is bringing across the meaning of the name. The other method is the most common and is called a transliteration, which is the bringing across of the sound of the name. If the translators of the Gospel story had translated Yeshua's name down through history, we might well know him as "God-saves" today because that is what his name means.
In the case of the name "Yeshua", the Greek speaking world did the best they could to transliterate his name. Usually, this involves a relatively easy process of swapping like sounding letters so a reader would end up making the same sound when pronouncing the name. In many cases this is not a problem. But in the case of the name "Yeshua" there are four problems in bringing it across to Greek. Two of them are the fact that the ancient Greek language did not contain two of the sounds found in the name Yeshua. This may come as a surprise to English speaking people, but the fact is, the ancient Greek language did not contain any "y" sound as in "yes", nor did it have a "sh" sound as in "show". The closest sound a Greek speaking person could come to making a "y" sound was by putting the two Greek letters Iota and Eta together and coming up with an "ee-ay" sound. And the closest a Greek speaking person could come to making the "sh" sound was the "s" sound made by the letter Sigma. With these two changes, "Yeshua", pronounced by a Greek speaking person would naturally come out sounding like "ee-ay-soo-ah". The third problem with transliterating "Yeshua" is the fact that traditionally, masculine Greek names never ended in a vowel sound. Those that did were generally given the letter Sigma or "s" as a suffix. This tradition might well have been derived from the fact that the name of the Greek god Zeus ended with Sigma. This tradition is seen in familiar Biblical names, where Judah became Judas, Cephah (which means "rock") became Cephas, Apollo became Apollos, Barnabie became Barnabas, Matthew became Matthias and so on. So "ee-ay-soo-ah" needed to become "ee-ay-soo-ah-s". The fourth problem is that the two vowel sounds before the "s" do not flow and are virtually never seen in Greek. So the last vowel sound was dropped as it was in other names and we were left with "ee-ay-soos". Aside from the added tradition of giving the name a masculine sound, this is the closest a Greek speaking person could come to transliterating the name Yeshua. By this point, the name Yeshua had lost all of it's meaning and 75% of its sound. The last vestige of it's sound was found in the "oo" (as in "soon") sound. Yeshua was known as "ee-ay-soos" to the Greek speaking world for nearly 400 years. In Greek script, "ee-ay-soos" looks like , and like English, it is read from left to right.
Continuing the translation process.... Greek to Latin
Around 400 A.D. the Latin language became the predominate language of Christianity and the Greek versions of the New Testament were translated to Latin. The Latin Bible, or Vulgate as it is called, also transliterated what was left of Yeshua's Greek name by bringing across the same sound of "ee-ay-soos". This was easy, because all of the Greek sounds in this name are also made in Latin. The letters of the Latin alphabet are different from that of Greek but virtually identical to English. The new transliteration of the Greek name "ee-ay-soos" became written as and was identical in pronunciation to the Greek name. This Latin spelling and on-going pronunciation dominated the Christian world for nearly 1,000 years.
The final translation.... Latin to English
Meanwhile, the English language was still evolving. Before the 12th century, the letter ( J ) did not exist in the Old English language. The sound the letter ( J ) makes has never existed in the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin languages. This fact is why no one in Yeshua's day could have accurately pronounced the English name Jesus. Sometime during the early 12th century, ( J ) began showing up in some obscure dialects of the Middle English language. Over the course of the next 500 years, infatuation with the new sound caused letters like ( I ) and (Y) in the English language to be replaced by a ( J ). This was especially true of male names that began with ( I ) or (Y) because the hard sound was, again, considered more masculine. Names like Iames became "James", Yohan became "John", and so on. During this period, in 1384 John Wycliffe translated the New Testament to English for the first time. His only source was the Latin Vulgate. Wycliffe continued to use the Latin spelling and pronunciation of Iesus. The printing press had not yet been invented and only a few hand-written copies of Wycliffe's Bible were produced. In the 1450's, Gutenburg invented the printing press. Then in 1526 William Tyndale translated the New Testament to the English language from the Latin Vulgate along with the additional help of some ancient Greek manuscripts. Tyndale wanted the Bible translated into the language of the common people and many copies of his translation were printed with the help of the printing press. Tyndale was the first to use the letter ( J ) in the spelling of the name . This new spelling in the hands of many marginally-literate English commoners soon became pronounced by the general public as "Jee-zuz". By the 17th century, the letter ( J ) was officially part of the King's English and in 1611 the most renowned English translation of all, the King James Bible, was put into massive print, complete with pronunciation helps for all proper names including the name of Jesus as we pronounce it today. Every name in the Bible that begins with the letter ( J ), has come to us this same way. Names like "Jeremiah", "Jerusalem", "Judah", "John" and "Jew" are only a few examples. At no time in history when these people and places were being written about did there exist in their language the sound of the letter ( J )!
With the new official English pronunciation of the name "Jee-zuz", the last remaining sound found in the name "Yeshua", (the oo as in "soon" sound), had vanished. Nothing in this name remains recognizable in either the sound or the meaning of the name Yeshua. It should also be pointed out that the word "Christ" is not a name but a title. It is basically a Greek translation of the title Messiah and means "anointed one". So all that is left of the sweet gentle sound of Yeshua the Messiah is the series of phonetically harsh sounds "Jee-zuz Chr-i-st", which no doubt has lent this name to the abuse it has suffered. At one time, I believed the name Jesus Christ is commonly used in cursing because Jesus is his name and God-less men hate it. But in all my research, I have been unable to find one other language in which his name is used in a similar cursing manner. No other language renders the Lord's name with the phonetic harshness as does the English language. One exception would be the near identical way "Christ" in pronounced in French, and interestingly enough, it too is regularly used in French cursing! Considering the indisputable fact that for nearly fifteen hundred years after Yeshua walked the earth the world never heard the name "Jesus", I can only conclude that the English version of his name is abused solely because of its harsh sound. Remember, the name Jesus has existed for only a few hundred years.
What will you do?
There is no doubt that many prayers that have been prayed in the name of "Jesus" have been answered. I can personally attest to this fact. But this does not prove that Jesus is the Messiah's true name. What it does indicate is that God is good and merciful in spite of our ignorance. It proves that God judges the heart of man and not his head. He is a righteous judge and judges a man on what his heart causes him to do with what he does know. He does not judge a man simply on the basis of what he does not know. If God were to wait until a man's understanding were perfect, man would never receive anything from Him. We should be eternally grateful to God for His goodness toward us even while we are ignorant of so much truth. But you are now no longer ignorant of the truth concerning the name of His Son, Yeshua the Messiah.
The good news is that in this day of information, it is not necessary for anyone to live in ignorance any longer. And unlike Greek and Latin, the English language contains all the sounds necessary to accurately pronounce the Hebrew name Y'shua. You may continue calling Yeshua the equivalent of Zyka Zeejerst if you chose. You may even support your choice with a cliché like "A rose by any other name is still a rose", but you will have missed the whole point of the parable. We are not dealing with inanimate vegetation. We are talking about a living being who feels many things just as you or I would. And this person obviously considers a name as well as an accurate knowledge of him of great importance. Consider how he might feel about being called "Jesus" while knowing that you know better. How would you feel? Unloved? Do you truly love him enough to care? Can you imagine how Barb felt when she finally heard her true name spoken by someone who cared so much for her? And consider this: If you are a person who teaches others, on what grounds can you legitimately expect others to change their ways when you present them with an irrefutable argument if you yourself are not willing to do the same?
It's not as hard to change as you might think. As you begin to pray in "Yeshua's" name and refer to him as "Yeshua" in your discussions, as well as say "Yeshua" when you see the name Jesus in print, over time, you will wonder how you ever got along without his true name. You will find that "Jesus" is no longer "the sweetest name I know." The name Yeshua will have become far sweeter! I can personally attest to this as well.
You can also be a significant part this non-denominational effort to bring back our Lord's true name. You can print out this article and read it at your next family devotional time, your next Bible study, prayer breakfast, Sunday-school class, or any other appropriate gathering of those who claim to love "Jesus". Then make a commitment with them to use only the Lord's true name Yeshua, and the title, the Messiah instead of the harsh sounding Greek word Christ. If others ask why you use the name Yeshua instead of Jesus, you can give them a copy of this article. You can also help to be a part of the movement to return Yeshua's name by copying, pasting, and forwarding this article to as many of your friends and family who love the Lord as you can. Hopefully, in time, even Bible publishers may feel the need to print new Yeshua-correct Bibles.
Consider this possibility. It could very well be that it is God's intention to return the true name of His Son Yeshua to those who truly love him at this time soon before Yeshua's return.
So what will you do with the new knowledge you now possess? What you do with it will speak volumes in heaven. Listen to the importance that God the Father places on knowing a name.
"Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him My salvation." Psalm 91:14-16