Unlocking The Gospels With Tanach: Luke (2)

We are still in Luke’s Gospel – but today,  from  Ein Karem we are moving to Nazareth. Something of incredible importance is happening right before our eyes – however, in order to unlock this mystery, we would need to use our key again and to turn to the Hebrew Scriptures.

THE GOSPEL IN GENESIS

When we read about the angel Gabriel appearing before Mary and telling her about miraculous conception and birth of her son, we can’t help but remember the Divine Annunciation of the miraculous birth in the book of Genesis. You might remember that Genesis 18 begins with a very interesting scene, where God comes to Abraham in the form of three Heavenly Guests. One of the main objectives of this visit was the Annunciation – the announcement of the miraculous birth of Isaac.  This parallel becomes even more striking if we realize that Genesis 18 opens the Torah Portion Vayera – the same Torah portion that ends with Aqedat Izhak, the sacrifice Isaac.  In this sense, the starting and the ending point of the Gospel of Luke are very similar to the starting and ending point of the Torah Portion Vayera: they both open with the Divine Annunciation of the miraculous birth of the son, and end with the sacrifice of this miraculously conceived and born son (called by Scripture, “the only son”).

A closer analysis of both texts reveals even more similarities between them. To both women, the heavenly message seemed incredible and impossible – because indeed, it surpassed all human understanding and imagination. Therefore, their first reaction was that of disbelief and doubt. In Genesis 18, when the Lord announced the birth of Isaac, Sarah laughed with that famous laughter within herself: “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”[1]  When the angel announced the birth of Jesus, “Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”[2] And yet, both of them acted in faith and obedience – and the history of humanity was changed because of their faith and obedience.

BLESSED VIRGIN … MIRIAM

Now let us talk about Mary. While today almost everyone recognizes the Jewishness of Yeshua (Jesus), His mother Miriam (Mary), a 1st century Galilean woman from Nazareth, seems to have been totally alienated from her Jewish background. She is better known by the titles Blessed Virgin or Our Lady. However, in the New Testament—especially in Luke’s Gospel—Miriam is depicted as clearly belonging to her people.

For instance, one has to know the Jewish wedding customs of the time in order to understand pregnant Miriam’s predicament. There were two stages of marriage in Jesus’ time: the betrothal and the marriage, and there might be one year or more between them. One of the main reasons for a betrothal period was to assure that the bride was not pregnant. To become pregnant during this period was a grave sin and a great humiliation. And yet, it was exactly at this time, when Miriam was already betrothed to Joseph and was awaiting the concluding stage of marriage, that the miraculous conception took place.

Miriam knew she was in a very difficult situation. Who would believe her story? And here we see this young Jewish woman, who just entrusted herself completely to the Lord, seeking support and encouragement in Him and from Him. True, she goes to Elisheva (Elizabeth), to the small village of Ein Karem, outside of Jerusalem, but probably on the way Miriam entered Jerusalem to pray and to pour out her soul before the Lord.  And it looks like God comforted Miriam through the story of biblical Hannah – her suffering and humiliation, her miraculous birth and her praise: “My heart rejoices in the Lord…I rejoice in Your salvation”[3] because when Miriam greets Elisheva, she is full of joy and gratitude and praises the Lord with almost the same words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.[4]

 

HIS NAME IS WONDERFUL!

According to Luke 1:31, Mary had to call her son Yeshua. We find an explanation of this name in Matthew: “for it is he who will save his people from their sins.[5] In English (or any other translation), no connection can be seen between Jesus’ name and Him saving people. However, for Hebrew speakers this connection is quite clear: you probably know that Jesus’ original Hebrew name, Yeshua, means salvation. Is there anything else in this name, any additional messages that are lost in translation?

Yeshua is a shortened form of the name Yehoshua (“Joshua”). Yehoshua is a compound name consisting of two parts: The first part – Yeho – is the “prefix” form of the Tetragrammaton—God’s four-letter name: YHVH. The second part comes from the Hebrew verb yasha which means “to deliver,” “save”. Thus, first and foremost the name Yehoshua/Yeshua conveys the idea that God (YHVH) saves – and it was a very popular Jewish name at the time of Yeshua.

However, the Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew provides an additional surprising meaning of the verb yasha:  to grant essence of existence. Thus, the name Yeshua would be closely connected to the tetragrammaton, YHVH, often translated as “the One Who causes to exist”. Some have even suggested that the name Yeshua is hidden within YHVH, as “Yeshua HaNazarei Vemelekh HaYehudim” (Hebrew “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”—the same as the Latin inscription on the cross).

Through multiple translations and changes in pronunciation, the tradition of naming him “Jesus” has obscured both His name and His message. His Hebrew name Yeshua, however, makes perfect sense: He is the One who saves and the One who grants “essence of existence”.

 

FROM MY MOTHER’S WOMB

Sometimes people ask, ‘If Jesus is the Messiah, why don’t we find His name in the Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures)?’ We can find an amazing answer to that in chapter 49 of the book of Isaiah, describing the call and mission of the Suffering Servant: “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” What is the meaning of this prophecy? It means that, even though many of the  titles which describe the character and the mission of the Messiah, were revealed in the Tanach: “Immanuel,” “Wonderful,” “Counsellor,”  “Mighty God,” “Father of Eternity,” “Prince of Peace,” – His personal name was only to be announced just before His birth in time—”from his mother’s womb“.  Remarkably, it happens right before our eyes when Gabriel says to Mary: “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Yeshua”.

 

Excerpts from my  future book are included in this article , so if you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you  can get  them  from  my page:   https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/       Also, I would like to remind you that we offer a course on the Jewisih Background  of the New Testament,  and those interested are welcome to  contact me  (juliab@eteachergroup.com) for more information and for the discount.

 

 

[1] Gen. 18:12

[2] Lk. 1:34

[3] 1 Sam. 2:1

[4] Lk. 1:46,47

[5] Mt. 1:21

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Rebecca Raymond

    Love the connection with the book of Luke and Torah Portion Vayera!!! (Just catching up on your post;)

    Julia, you mentioned Yeshua’s name not being revealed in the Tanach, yet His attributes are. This makes me think of the Father telling Moshe His personal name in Exodus 3, and then in Exodus 6 He tells him that He appeared to the patriarchs by His attributes, one being God Almighty but not by His personal name. (Which makes me think of Jacob asking Him and not telling him). Anyway is there any connection with Yeshua’s attributes clearly seen, yet His name not being revealed??? Does the Father wait to reveal His personal name to Moshe when Israel is being birthed as a nation? Sorry if I’m being scatter-brained, I’m just trying to see if theres any connection and what your thoughts might be. Thank you also for your time:)
    Many Many Blessings and Shabbat Shalom

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you so much for your thoughts Rebecca, it started a whole new train of thoughts for me. If you have followed this blog for a while, you probably know how significant for me the whole issue of Hidden Messiah and Jesus hiding His messiahship is. This is a great mystery, indeed – and probably, the fact that Jesus’ personal name had not been revealed in advance, is part of this mystery: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God”.

  2. rodrigo sanz rojas

    bendiciones a todos

  3. rodrigo sanz rojas

    bendiciones