Before our daughter was born, we spent hours thinking and talking about what her name would be. Often children grow up to become exactly what their name means. For instance, my name means “Helper”. You could not give me a better description as an adult. I am not always the leader, but I love to help. My grown daughter’s name means “youthful” and she keeps us all acting very young. So more than 2000 years ago an angel told Joseph, “His name shall be called Jesus …”. The name had meaning and He would live up to it.
Scripture is full of other names for Jesus. All of them together explain to us who Jesus is, what He came to do, and why we need Him.
How important is a name?
Names often tell something about who a person is or will become. The name of the first human man meant “earth”, because Adam was created from the dust. His wife, Eve, meant “source of life”. From that point forward there is rich history in the naming of children. Some involved rituals, which have been carried down to the present in some religions.
Historically, names had meaning, especially last names. For instance, the last name Larson was derived from Lar’s Son. Harrison came from Harry’s son. The last name Carpenter spoke about a family’s occupation, as did Baker and Potter.
Today first names are often given without much thought to the actual meaning. My parents did not name me knowing what it meant, and likewise was the case for my daughter. We just liked the name.
Sometimes people make up names for their children. This was the case for friends Jamey and Linda who named their daughter Jalin, a combination of each of their two names. My granddaughter’s middle name is a combination of both her grandmother’s names.
Names had symbolic importance in Scripture. They often described where a person was from, some characteristic they should be known for, or a meaningful event. Sometimes when a person experienced a big change in their life, they took on a different name to reflect that change.
The naming process started to change between the Old and New Testaments as it became more difficult to maintain genealogies.
His name shall be called Jesus
Nothing was the way you would expect concerning the birth of Jesus. From His conception to the surroundings where he was born Jesus Christ was destined to be one of a kind. Even how He acquired His name did not fit into human protocols.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, it was common to name a child after grandparents. Instead, an angel spoke to Joseph telling him what to name the baby. I don’t know of anyone today who had an angelic being make such an announcement regarding their child. This was the proclamation.
“She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 ESV
The name Jesus in Greek was a derivative of Joshua from the people’s Hebrew roots. The name meant Yahweh is salvation (God is salvation). How fitting that the Savior of the world would bear that name. It was a common name, something to honor God. But in the case of this Jesus, it was his destiny to actually bring salvation to the world.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name. Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim. Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.” Bill & Gloria Gaither, 1992
Old Testament names for Jesus
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 ESV
This one verse gives us 5 names for Jesus. But what do they really mean in terms of His character, who he is, and what He does? Even more importantly, how does it relate to us?
- Wonderful – a miracle, distinguished, extraordinary (1)
- Counselor – advisor
- The Mighty God – living, powerful
- The Everlasting Father – This name clearly points to the fact that Jesus the Son, and God the Father are one. It means begetter, parent, originator, creator.
- The Prince of Peace – the head or captain, ruler
These names for Jesus point out that He is beyond total comprehension. With these credentials, we can count on Him to be exactly what we need to get us through the rough places in life. He is deserving of our gratitude, loyalty, devotion, praise, and worship.
Other names included in the Old Testament are the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2), Redeemer (Job 19:25), Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), and Jehovah (Isaiah 26:4), to name a few.
New Testament names for Jesus
The New Testament has many other names and titles for Jesus. This is not an exhaustive listing but does include the highlights.
Names that Jesus called himself
- Truth – John 14:6
- Light of the world – John 8:12
- Bread of life – John 6:32
- Living water – John 4:10
- Good shepherd – John 10:11
- The door – John 10:7
- The way – John 14:6
- The vine – John15:1
- Resurrection & Life – Luke 11:25
- I Am – Here Jesus was saying He was God. John 8:58
Jesus’ names and titles show us that He can fulfill all of our needs. When it seems there is no truth to be found, we find it in Jesus. To prevent us from stumbling into spiritual darkness, He brings us light. Our souls are fed and watered by Jesus so we can grow. He provides a way to God the Father. As a vine gives branches their life, so Jesus gives us eternal life. His gentleness is like that of a shepherd with His lambs.
These names of Jesus are a blessing to us.
What others called Jesus
- The Word – John 1:1 – this was John’s first reference to Jesus.
- Lamb of God – John 1:29 – He was the ultimate sacrifice for our sin.
- Shepherd of our souls – 1 Peter 2:25 -He gently guides us where we need to go.
- Saviour – Luke 2:27 – We can’t save ourselves.
- Rock – 1 Corinthians 10:4 – He is solid, a firm foundation for life.
- King of Kings – 1 Timothy 1:17 – As king, he deserves our respect and honor.
- Prince of life – Acts 3:15 – Spiritual life is through Jesus.
- Bright and morning star – Revelation 22:16 – He stands out above all others.
- Mediator – 1 Timothy 2:5 – He goes between us and God the Father.
- Image of God – 2 Corinthians 4:4 – If we want to know what God is like we just have to get to know Jesus.
- Great high priest – Hebrews 4:14 – We don’t have to go to a human intermediary. We have Jesus.
Songs about the names of Jesus
Music was sometimes used in the Bible to declare the names of God, and that continues on into the present. Not only does music say something, but it causes the participant to feel something as well. These feelings that we experience give the words a great sense of awe and wonder for our creator. It leads us to worship Him.
The songs below were written and released over a span of 40 years and have been popular worship songs in many churches.
- What a beautiful name by Hillsong. Authors Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood, 2017.
- Emmanuel author Bob McGee, copyright 1976 C.A. Music
- Jesus name above all names by Whispers of my father. Author Naida Hearn, 1974
- El Shaddai by Amy Grant and Sandi Patti. Authors Michael Card and John Thompson, 1982.
His name shall be called
Angels named the Christ Child “Jesus”, a common name with supernatural meaning. Scripture used many other names and terms to describe what Jesus would be to those who would follow Him.
Music also has contributed to our understanding of who Jesus is. Even the forces of evil recognize that Jesus Christ is the LORD and ruler of all.
The question today is, what do we call Jesus? A good man? The greatest teacher ever? Or do we call him our Savoir, our LORD, and our God?
If you don’t know Jesus personally, please call, text, or chat with someone at chataboutJesus.com. Someone there is waiting to answer your questions.
You might also like to read:
- Lexical aids to the Old Testment – part of the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, Spiros Zohiastes, Th.D., AMG publishers.
- “Why names are so important”, from Christian Today.
- “A historical view of choosing a Jewish name”, from My Jewish Learning.