How many different descriptions of Jesus are there in the bible? (Part 1)


The answer is, probably more than most of us would have thought.   As we will see, when reviewed thoroughly, there are very many names, descriptions, attributes, functions and references that apply to Jesus Christ.

With this question, the first thing that may come to mind is the debate about what and how to call Jesus.   There are those who insist that it must be Yeshua.  Many others disagree:

On the website: we read about the transliteration of Yeshua into the name Jesus.

Hebrew/Aramaic                   Yeshua                      

Greek                                    Ie-s-ous                     

Latin                                      Ie-s-us                        

English                                  Jesus                         

We might also add the following:

German                                  Jesus

French                                    Jésus

Spanish                                  Jesús

Italian                                      Gesù

In a Newsweek article from December 2018, we read the following: “Jesus Christ is celebrated as the reason for the season for many Christians–but is that his actual name? Due to the numerous translations the Bible has undergone, ‘Jesus’ is the modern term for the Son of God.

“His original Hebrew name is Yeshua, which is short for yehōshu’a. It can be translated to ‘Joshua,’ according to Dr. Michael L. Brown.” 

“Though his name may actually be Joshua, the name ‘Jesus’ wasn’t born out of creativity but also translation. When Yeshua is translated into Greek, which the New Testament is derived from, it becomes Iēsous, which in English spelling is ‘Jesus.’

“While some religious groups, like Messianic Jews, believe in worshipping Yeshua instead of Jesus, there doesn’t seem to be a complete right or wrong way to do it. It is said in the Bible that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord [will be] saved… (Romans 10:13). 

“Overall, the difference in names is due to translation. While a religious group may prefer one of the other, the Bible doesn’t explicitly deem one translation more respectful.”

To clarify, much more is involved for salvation than just calling on the name of the Lord, as a “magical formula.” We must understand that only in Jesus we can obtain salvation (Acts 4:12), but calling on and believing in Jesus is just the first step. It must be followed by repentance, believing in Jesus as our Savior for the remission of sins, believing in the gospel, proper baptism, the receipt of the Holy Spirit, and living a life of obedience to God until the day we die. 

We further read on the website “It is true that his mother and friends called him Yeshua rather than Jesus, but if you know him as Jesus, does he mind that? Is it incorrect to call him Jesus? There are some who would argue till they’re blue in the face that it is critical to call him Yeshua and not Jesus, but Yeshua’s coming was also God’s time to take salvation to the gentiles. I believe that it was no accident that his name was disseminated in the international lingua-franca of the day: Greek. It was to go far and wide, to every nation on earth.”

On the website, this matter is covered as follows (and we quote selectively for brevity):

“Yeshua is the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is ‘Joshua.’ Iesous is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name, and its English spelling is ‘Jesus.’ Thus, the names ‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus’ are essentially the same; both are English pronunciations of the Hebrew and Greek names for our Lord. (For examples of how the two names are interchangeable, see Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8 in the KJV. In both cases, the word Jesus refers to the Old Testament character Joshua.)”

For clarification, the translation of the Authorized Version (KJV) of the word as “Jesus” is clearly wrong, as the Scriptures refer to “Joshua,” not “Jesus.” Still, the argument regarding the name as such is still valid. Continuing:

“Changing the language of a word does not affect the meaning of the word. We call a bound and covered set of pages a ‘book.’ In German, it becomes a buch. In Spanish, it is a libro; in French, a livre. The language changes, but the object itself does not. As Shakespeare said, ‘That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet’ (Romeo and Juliet, II:i). In the same way, we can refer to Jesus as ‘Jesus,’ ‘Yeshua,’ or ‘YehSou’ (Cantonese) without changing His nature. In any language, His name means ‘The Lord Is Salvation.’

“The Bible nowhere commands us to only speak or write His name in Hebrew or Greek. It never even hints at such an idea. Rather, when the message of the gospel was being proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles spoke in the languages of the ‘Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene’ (Acts 2:9-10). In the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was made known to every language group in a way they could readily understand. Spelling did not matter.

“We refer to Him as ‘Jesus’ because, as English-speaking people, we know of Him through English translations of the Greek New Testament. Scripture does not value one language over another, and it gives no indication that we must resort to Hebrew when addressing the Lord. The command is to ‘call on the name of the Lord,’ with the promise that we ‘shall be saved’ (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32). Whether we call on Him in English, Korean, Hindi, or Hebrew, the result is the same: the Lord is salvation.”

As mentioned above, we know that when we read the promise that “we shall be saved” when we call “on the name of the Lord,” it is very much more than that as we have covered in many sermons and our literature over many years.  It has to become a Way of Life not just by a once-in-a-lifetime acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

What we have covered so far is just one question about Jesus’ Name.   But there are so many more descriptions of Jesus.

In his book “Names, Titles, and Metaphors of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Donald W. Parry lists “more than one hundred names, titles, and metaphors of the Lord, together with references from the Old Testament. And remember that the Lord is none other than the premortal Jesus Christ. Each name or title serves to describe God’s perfections, attributes, divine qualities, sacred character, or His mission to humankind. For example, ‘Beloved, Glorious Lord,’ ‘Righteousness,’ and ‘Wonderful’ describe divine qualities. ‘Fountain,’ ‘Stone,’ ‘Star,’ and ‘Water’ are metaphors that describe one or more aspects of His nature or character. ‘Advocate,’ ‘Judge,’ ‘King,’… set forth [some] of His roles in the plan of salvation. ‘God of Heaven,’… and ‘King over all the earth’ portray His exalted position, majesty, and omnipotence. ‘Redeemer’ and ‘Savior’ describe aspects of the atoning sacrifice.  

“A number of these names and titles appear only once in the Old Testament, but others are attested multiple times. The names Holy One of IsraelGodLordLord GodLord of hosts, and Redeemer, for instance, each appear a dozen or more times in the book of Isaiah. No doubt there are other names and titles that can be added to the list.” 

Another author attests that there are some 200 names and titles of Christ found in the Bible.

We will review just some of these descriptions and will refer, where applicable, to previous Q&As or booklets that we have available. While we may make quite a few comments under some headings, generally we will be brief and limit comments because of the number we will cover in this series.  It might be worthwhile for readers to review each one in more depth at their own leisure.

We will underline the description or name that is attributed to Jesus. 

  1. Creator

The Scriptures show us the might and majesty of the One whom the Father used to create all things as we see in Colossians 1:16-17 where Paul was writing about the pre-eminence of Christ: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”   Also, see 1 Corinthians 8:6.  At the instruction of the Father, He was Creator.

In our booklet: “Do You Know the Jesus of the Bible?” we quote two commentaries, as follows on pages 4 and 5:

“Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible points out, regarding Colossians 1:16: 

“‘Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe; of all things visible and invisible; of all things that had a beginning, whether they exist in time or in eternity… he was prior to all creation, to all beings, whether in the visible or invisible world… Now, allowing… Paul to have understood the terms which he used, he must have considered Jesus Christ as being truly and properly God… Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things, therefore Jesus Christ must be, according to the plain construction of the apostle’s words, truly and properly God.’

“Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible comments on John 1:3:

“‘In this place it is affirmed that “creation” was effected by “the Word,” or the Son of God. In [Genesis 1:1], it is said that the Being who created the heavens and the earth was God. In [Psalm 102:25–28], this work is ascribed to Yahweh. The “Word,” or the Son of God, is therefore appropriately called “God”… he was the agent, or the efficient cause, by which the universe was made. There is no higher proof of omnipotence than the work of creation; and, hence, God often appeals to that work to prove that he is the true God, in opposition to idols… The Being, therefore, that “created” all things must be divine; and, since this work is ascribed to Jesus Christ, and as it is uniformly in the Scriptures declared to be the work of God, Jesus Christ is therefore equal with the Father.’”

In our recent booklet “God the Father is the Highest,” we read in our Introduction the following:

“There is a tendency in many churches to either under- or overemphasize the role and position of God the Father and of Jesus Christ. It is of tremendous importance that we understand the Truth in this regard, as it is revealed in the pages of the Bible. This booklet will show that God is a Family and a hierarchy, and this means, God the Father is the highest in the Godhead; He and Jesus Christ are NOT equal in authority. This understanding has tremendous importance for our daily Christian life.”

  1. The Word

We read in John 1:1-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” And in verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In Genesis 1:1 we read about the creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Later in the chapter, after much creation, we see that the Father and the Word created man: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (verses 26-27).

God the Father created everything through Jesus Christ, the “Word” or the “Spokesman.” God the Father gave the command to Jesus; Jesus as the Spokesman or Executor uttered the word (Psalm 33:6; first phrase), and through the power of the Holy Spirit, creation occurred (Psalm 33:6, second phrase; the word “breath,” ruach in Hebrew, should be translated here as “spirit”; note also Psalm 104:30). 

(To be continued)

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

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