One of the more bizarre and misguided claims made by those in the so-called "Hebrew Roots" movement
is that the name "Jesus" actually means, "Hail, Zeus!" Some will even claim that anyone who uses the name Jesus is offering praise to a false god and is not saved. Their conviction is that true believers must only use the Hebrew name for Jesus since scripture teaches that "...there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
First off, it should be obvious that Acts 4:12 is not talking about the specific word by which we identify Jesus, but about the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Second, as Michael Houdmann of Compelling Truth
"Within this camp of false teachers, there are some that say 'Jesus' actually means 'Hail Zeus.' It's not hard to hear the similarities between the sound of 'Jesus' and a quick mashup of 'Hail Zeus,' but that's not even the bizarre argument these few teachers make. They say that Roman Church officials changed the Messiah's name from YAHSHUA
(which they say means "YAH is Salvation") to a hybrid Greek/Latin word, lésous
, which supposedly means 'Hail Zeus.' They claim this change was made to make their religion more acceptable to the pagan culture. Zeus was chief of the Greco-Roman pantheon of gods, so, according to this theory, the supposed new demigod was easily accepted and Christianity was melded with paganism. One brief thing to mention is that YAHSHUA
is not even correct, as the Hebrew name for the Savior is Yeshua
As further 'proof' for this conspiracy theory, proponents say that when people say Jesus in Spanish it is obvious they are actually saying 'Hey, Zeus.' They also mention sculptures of Zeus with a beard and images of Jesus with a beard.
Looking seriously at the linguistics, the Hebrew name Yeshua is translated into Iésous
in Greek, the same name Gabriel, the angel, told Mary to name her child (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is Greek for Joshua, a Jewish name that means 'he will save his people from their sins.' The Gospel writers wrote in Greek. Yeshua
, and Jesus
are the same name in different languages. Names can and do translate in different languages. For example, John
in France, Juan
in Spain, and Johan
in Germany. His name may sound different, but he himself is the same person. When we are talking about Jesus Christ, we are referring to the child born to Mary in Bethlehem who grew up, gathered followers, taught for three years, died on a cross, then rose from the dead. In English, we call Him Jesus. This person is decidedly not Zeus."1
Further, as Dr. Craig A. Dunning of Watchmen Fellowship
contends, some attempts to connect the English word Jesus to Zeus are dependent upon the work Traina, a pioneer in the Sacred Name Movement
However, Dunning convincing demonstrates why this attempt fails miserably:
"Among the other conspiracies in his [Traina] The Origin of Christianity
, he says, 'They had worshipped Zeus, or Jupiter, as the supreme deity, so now they were told the new name was Theos, or Dios, or God. There [sic] savior was Zeus, so now they were to accept Jesus (lesous
).' Thus, the suggestion that 'the meaning of Jesus is Yah=Zeus.' However; Traina’s assertion offers: no historical evidence; and an examination of the Septuagint (c. 2nd Century BC), the earliest translation of the OT into Greek, demonstrates that Jesus is an acceptable translation. Since Yeshua is the shortened form of Joshua, one only needs to see what the translators used for Joshua. They used Ἰησοῦς (lesous
) to translate the Hebrew name Joshua into Greek from which came the Latin and subsequently the English form 'Jesus.' There is no indication the translators intended to connect Joshua to Zeus or to draw pagan Greeks to follow Joshua by using Ἰησοῦς (lesous
Dunning summarizes as follows:
"Utilizing Hebrew cultural forms can provide a beautiful worship experience. However, suggesting that the Bible can be properly understood only through these forms or that worship is properly done only in the cultural forms of the first century denies the cross-cultural applicability of the Scriptures. More importantly, there is no hint in the New Testament (NT) that Hebrew forms are necessary for understanding or maturing in the faith."4
Simply put, the name Jesus means “The Lord Saves” or “The Lord Is Salvation.” Whether it is spelled Jesus
, the meaning of the name is the same, and we can be sure it has nothing
to do with Zeus.
For more on the claim that "Jesus" means "Hail, Zeus," see here
Courage and Godspeed,