Which Roman Emperor Was Creamy Caesar?
Pop quiz: which name does not belong with the others?
If you guessed "Creamy" – which I’m really hoping you did – then you’re right. But why? Well, the first three were renowned rulers of Rome who were considered to be divine. The last is, um, a salad dressing. From the sublime to the you know what.
On the other hand, if someone were completely ignorant of history, they just might think that Creamy was yet another in the line of divinized emperors.
Pop quiz #2, and this one is tougher: which name does not belong with the others?
At first sight, you might guess that Jesus is the odd name out. It starts with a J, and the others begin with Y.
But the correct answer would be the last name, Yeshu.
Yeshua is a Hebrew name which is a shortened form of Yehoshua, meaning "The Lord is salvation." Yehoshua is the Hebrew name of Joshua.
Jesus means the same thing. Since Greek has no "sh" sound, the Greek New Testament renders his name as Iesous, which then comes into English as Jesus.
Yeshu was a name used by the early rabbis (most of whom were no fans of Yeshua) to refer to him. It was understood as a Hebrew acronym meaning "May his name and memory be blotted out." Today, it’s the name most Israelis know him as, even though its original, derogatory meaning has long been forgotten by the average Israeli.
Anyone who wants to learn about the Caesars can read history books or even plays. They will discover that Caesar was a title (meaning uncertain, perhaps "hairy") and that there was no Creamy Caesar.
Anyone who wants to learn about Yeshua can read the Brit Chadasha, or New Testament. They will discover that Yeshua is a name telling us that the God of Israel offers us salvation through the person bearing that very name; that he is greater than any of the Caesars because he was the Son of God. Likewise there was no Yeshu. Yeshua is very much alive in memory and in reality, and we can know him by his true name.
You may know a lot about history. But if you don’t know much about Yeshua, take the plunge and read the New Testament for yourself.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.