The divinity of Jesus Christ is indicated by the specific names and titles authoritatively applied to Him. According to man’s judgment there may be but little importance attached to names; but in the nomenclature of the Gods every name is a title of power or station. God is righteously zealous of the sanctity of His own name (Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12; Deuteronomy 5:11) and of names given by His appointment. In the case of children of promise names have been prescribed before birth; this is true of our Lord Jesus and of the Baptist, John, who was sent to prepare the way for the Christ. Names of persons have been changed by divine direction, when not sufficiently definite as titles denoting the particular service to which the bearers were called, or the special blessings conferred upon them.*
Jesus is the individual name of the Savior, and as thus spelled is of Greek derivation; its Hebrew equivalent was Yehoshua or Yeshua, or, as we render it in English, Joshua. In the original the name was well understood as meaning “Help of Jehovah”, or “Savior”. Though as common an appellation as John or Henry or Charles today, the name was nevertheless divinely prescribed, as already stated. Thus, unto Joseph, the espoused husband of the Virgin, the angel said, “And thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21; see also verses 23, 25; Luke 1:31)
Christ is a sacred title, and not an ordinary appellation or common name; it is of Greek derivation, and in meaningis identical with its Hebrew equivalent Messiah or Messias, signifying the Anointed One. (John 1:41; 4:25) Other titles, each possessing a definitive meaning, such as Emmanuel, Savior, Redeemer, Only Begotten Son, Lord, Son of God, Son of Man, and many more, are of scriptural occurrence; the fact of main present importance to us is that these several titles are expressive of our Lord’s divine origin and Godship. As seen, the essential names or titles of Jesus the Christ were made known before His birth, and were revealed to prophets who preceded Him in the mortal state. (Luke 1:31; 2:21; Matthew 1:21, 25; see also verse 23 and compare Isaiah 7:14; Luke 2:11, Moses 6:51, 57; 7:20; 8:24, 1 Nephi 10:4; 2 Nephi 10:3; Mosiah 3:8)
Jehovah is the Anglicized rendering of the Hebrew, Yahveh or Jahveh, signifying the Self-existent One, or The Eternal. This name is generally rendered in our English version of the Old Testament as LORD, printed in capitals. (The name appears thus in Genesis 2:5; see also Exodus 6:2-4; and read for comparison Genesis 17:1; 35:11) The Hebrew, Ehyeh, signifying I Am, is related in meaning and through derivation with the term Yahveh or Jehovah; and herein lies the significance of this name by which the Lord revealed Himself to Moses when the latter received the commission to go into Egypt and deliver the children of Israel from bondage: “Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3:13, 14; compare with respect to the fact of eternal duration expressed in this name, Isaiah 44:6; John 8:58; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:4; see also Moses 1:3 and the references there given ) In the succeeding verse the Lord declares Himself to be “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” While Moses was in Egypt, the Lord further revealed Himself, saying “I am the LORD: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.” (Exodus 6:2-3) The central fact connoted by this name, I Am, or Jehovah, the two having essentially the same meaning, is that of existence or duration that shall have no end, and which, judged by all human standards of reckoning, could have had no beginning; the name is related to such other titles as Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 1:11, 17; 2:8; 22:13; compare Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12)
Jesus Christ, when once assailed with question and criticism from certain Jews who regarded their Abrahamic lineage as an assurance of divine preferment, met their abusive words with the declaration: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am”. (John 8:58) The true significance of this saying would be more plainly expressed were the sentence punctuated and pointed as follows: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham, was I AM;” which means the same as had He said—Before Abraham, was I, Jehovah. The captious Jews were so offended at hearing Him use a name which, through an erroneous rendering of an earlier scripture, (Leviticus 24:16) they held was not to be uttered on pain of death, that they immediately took up stones with the intent of killing Him. The Jews regarded Jehovah as an ineffable name, not to be spoken; they substituted for it the sacred, though to them the not-forbidden name, Adonai, signifying the Lord. The original of the terms Lord and God as they appear in the Old Testament, was either Yahveh or Adonai; and the divine Being designated by these sacred names was, as shown by the scriptures cited, Jesus the Christ. John, evangelist and apostle, positively identifies Jesus Christ with Adonai, or the Lord who spoke through the voice of Isaiah, (Isaiah 6:8-11; compare John 12:40-41) and with Jehovah who spoke through Zechariah. (Zechariah 12:10; compare John 19:37)
The name Elohim is of frequent occurrence in the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament, though it is not found in our English versions. In form the word is a Hebrew plural noun; (The singular, “Eloah,” appears only in poetic usage) but it connotes the plurality of excellence or intensity, rather than distinctively of number. It is expressive of supreme or absolute exaltation and power. Elohim, as understood and used in the restored Church of Jesus Christ, is the name-title of God the Eternal Father, whose firstborn Son in the spirit is Jehovah—the Only Begotten in the flesh, Jesus Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth, who in solemn testimony to the Jews declared Himself the I Am or Jehovah, who was God before Abraham lived on earth, was the same Being who is repeatedly proclaimed as the God who made covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who led Israel from the bondage of Egypt to the freedom of the promised land, the one and only God known by direct and personal revelation to the Hebrew prophets in general.
The identity of Jesus Christ with the Jehovah of the Israelites was well understood by the Nephite prophets, and the truth of their teachings was confirmed by the risen Lord who manifested Himself unto them shortly after His ascension from the midst of the apostles at Jerusalem. This is the record: “And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying, Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.” (3 Nephi 11:13-14; 1 Nephi 17:40; Mosiah 7:19)
*The significance of names when given of God finds illustration in many scriptural instances. The following are examples: “Jesus” meaning Savior (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31); “John,” signifying Jehovah’s gift, specifically applied to the Baptist, who was sent to earth to prepare the way for Jehovah’s coming in the flesh (Luke 1:13); “Ishmael,” signifying God shall hear him (Genesis 16:11); “Isaac,” meaning laughter (Genesis 17:19, compare 18:10-15). As instances of names changed by divine authority to express added blessings, or special callings, consider the following: “Abram,” which connoted nobility or exaltation and as usually rendered, father of elevation, was changed to “Abraham,” father of a multitude which expressed the reason for the change as given at the time thereof, “for a father of many nations have I made thee” (Genesis 17:5). “Sarai,” the name of Abraham’s wife, and of uncertain distinctive meaning, was substituted by “Sarah” which signified the princess (Genesis 17:15). “Jacob,” a name given to the son of Isaac with reference to a circumstance attending his birth, and signifying a supplanter, was superseded by “Israel” meaning a soldier of God, a prince of God; as expressed in the words effecting the change, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel, for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28; compare 35:9-10) “Simon,” meaning a hearer, the name of the man who became the chief apostle of Jesus Christ, was changed by the Lord to “Cephas” (Aramaic) or “Peter” (Greek) meaning a rock (John 1:42; Matthew 16:18; Luke 6:14). On James and John the sons of Zebedee, the Lord conferred the name or title “Boanerges” meaning sons of thunder (Mark 3:17).
James Talmage, Jesus the Christ