Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard someone ask, “Why should I believe in Jesus? “ Or perhaps, “What makes Jesus so special?” 

Okay, you can put your hand down.

These days, it’s really not unusual for people to look, with one eyebrow raised in confusion, at Jesus, and at Christianity for that matter. “Some sandle-sporting Jewish carpenter in the middle of the desert named Jesus is supposed to be my savior? Hard pass.”

I must admit, it’s a hurdle that I myself have struggled with. Belief in Jesus Christ seems entirely arbitrary and foreign. I mean, why should we believe in a man named Jesus?

But what if that wasn’t actually his name? What if his real name was a lot less foreign than we thought?

It may surprise you to learn that when he walked the earth, Jesus wasn’t called “Jesus.” In fact, he may have never even heard “Iesous” (Ἰησοῦς), the original Greek word from which we derived the anglicized word “Jesus.”

A Jew among Jews, Jesus’ real name was “Yeshua” (ישוע). And surprisingly enough, “Yeshua” has a meaning. It is a beautiful name that can be translated into English as “Salvation.”

“Jesus” is actually an anglicized version of a no-man’s-land name. It’s neither the original Hebrew, nor the full English translation of the original text. And so, obscured, Jesus’ real name is robbed of its intrinsic power.

But when you learn Jesus’ real name was Salvation, scriptures like Matthew 1:21 suddenly snap into sharp focus.

“You shall name him Salvation, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1:21

Unfortunately English translations of the Bible haven’t helped to reduce the perceived gap between us and Jesus. The Gospels are filled with words like this (e.g. Messiah, Bethlehem) — words that fall short of expressing their concepts fully in the English language. 

Perhaps in reverence and out of good intention, translators of the Bible have made God seem distant, strange, and foreign. And his son, even more so. But I believe our culture is worse off for it.

After ruminating on this for some time, I decided to spend a weekend creating an adaptation of one of the Gospels that fully translated Jesus’ name in to English. Given the verse I mentioned above, it seemed like the Book of Matthew was as good as any to start.

So, using the public domain World English Bible (WEB), I translated the word “Jesus” to “Salvation,” the English equivalent of the original text. In addition, “Christ” throughout has been translated to “the Anointed One,” the original meaning of the Greek from which “Christ” is derived.

Doing this opened my eyes to the deep layers of language and prophecy that are embedded in the ancient text. There are other surprise meanings of names in the Bible that light up the text like a Christmas tree. For example, see the genealogy of Jesus—a fascinating thing happens when you translate them all into English and read them in order.

You can click here to download this version of the Book of Matthew on Apple Books. Take a read and let me know what you think in the comments below.

For now, it’s just the Book of Matthew, but perhaps, down the road, it will turn into a full-fledged translation of the Bible. In either case, I hope that this translation is helpful to you whether you’re an atheist, agnostic, or Christian. And moreover, I hope that it makes the Gospel story more relatable and Salvation himself, more approachable.

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash.