Why Jah? (why that word)

Today’s post is -NOT- about Second Life, but about how Rastafarians refer to the most high; Jah.

This is no scholarly article, just my insights. In fact this is pretty far from scholarly. :p

You will often see Western Christians make judgmental statements such as “there is only one God and his name is God, there is only one Christ and his name is Jesus.”

– As if English was the language of the Bible.

It wasn’t. “Jesus” didn’t grow up in Jersey, he came from Galilee.

Both of these words are translations. One of them is even a pagan word.

Yet I have lost count of the many times that I have heard people accuse Rastafarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses of not being followers of the faith because we (the both of us), use the words ‘Jah’ and ‘Yeshua’ rather than the modern western-Christian English words.

Look up the etymology of the word god. It refers to pagan germanic dieties. Think about that when you use that word.

So why Jah? Why do Rastafarians (and often Jehovah’s Witnesses as well) use the word Jah?

In short, its the Hebrew word – somewhat. The etymology entry is rather brief. Wikipedia will give you a bit more information.

The spelling started with a ‘Y’ instead of ‘J’ – with the Hebrew Bible using ‘J’ some 50 times. The Hebrew letter for ‘J’ being only about 500 years old. But that doesn’t mean that, lacking a letter for ‘J’, we can just toss in any old word…

‘J’ or ‘Y’, there is importance to this word. Its tradition, its in there in that book, and it pops up over and over again for a reason. We don’t call the Lord ‘Thor’ or ‘Zeus’, or ‘Mars’ for a -reason-. We probably shouldn’t be using the title of those guys either.

As to the other comment, ‘Jesus’ – this is an improper translation. It should be Yeshua. This is not as bad as the above example. The goal here was to say ‘Yeshua’, and in old enough versions of English, you would pronounce ‘Jesus’ somewhat closer to the ‘Yeh-Shu-Ah’ that it is supposed to sound like.

Wikipedia’s entry on Yeshua is not very illuminating.
– Just has a tiny note at the top and a link to a page that only refers to him by the English name save for in footnotes.

This is more insightful:
(if that URL offends you because you don’t think he was actually from Israel but from Liverpool or Brooklyn or something… just read the article anyway please…)
Various Wikipedia articles on Jesus cover the name transliteration history. But they quickly then go back to the English word.

The name Jesus is a transliteration of the Greek transliteration, that over time has lost its proper pronunciation as the English language went through significant changes in the last 2000 years at the hands of illiterate people, who, on finding Bibles and learning to reading – had to guess based on the language they spoke at what their forebears had written.

Yeshua though, is a very specific word with a very particular meaning in Hebrew:
Salvation from the Lord.

While it was not a unique name, despite that meaning… perhaps its important that we pay some respect to Christ having been given that name rather than say “Frank” or “Bubba”.

Someone might have been trying to get a bit of a message across in using that name…

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Iohannes
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 16:20:05

    It is Yeshua in Hebrew, Ιησούς (Iesous) in Greek – though often written in the genitive Ιησού (Iesou) -, and either Iesus or Jesus in Latin. The Latin Vulgate often uses the genitive of the former as Iesu, especially with his title as ‘The Christ’, as in Iesu Christi. Likewise does the Greek as Ιησού Χριστού (Iesou Khristou).

    As for ‘god’, it does come from the German word ‘gott’, which is a term for a deity, much as deus in Latin, or θεός (theos) in Greek. Even in Arabis, the word ;Allah’ is another word for deity or ‘the god’, and is actually used in Arabic versions of the Bible. The wiki on the word notes that Muslims, Arab Christians, Bahá’ís, Arabic-speakers, Indonesian, Malaysian and Maltese Christians, Mizrahi Jews and Sikhs.

    Also noted by the wiki is:

    “The term Allāh is derived from a contraction of the Arabic definite article al- “the” and ʾilāh “deity, god” to al-lāh meaning “the [sole] deity, God” (ὁ θεὸς μόνος, ho theos monos).[8] Cognates of the name “Allāh” exist in other Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic.[9] Biblical Hebrew mostly uses the plural form (but functional singular) Elohim.”


    Because of this, the linguistics really isn’t that big of a deal. The meaning does, since even using the Hebrew Elohim could mean speaking of many gods other than the one sole deity, God, the LORD, to which some say Yahweh is correct, while others say Jehovah. But the pronunciation of the true name of the LORD had been lost due to the practice to not say the LORD’s name aloud so as not to take His holy name in vain. But we do know that the Hebrew was written of these four letters: יהוה (YHWH).

    The ancient name in Hebrew, much like the Egyptian hieroglyphs, did not use vowels. But interesting enough, The word for ‘I Am’ in Egypt is much like that in Hebrew. The LORD hinted to Moses that his name is the great I AM.

    Also from Egypt is the ankh symbol that looks like a cross with a noose on top. It actually represents a sandal strap in the Heiroglyphs, but its meaning is still ‘life’ and still an adequate symbol of Jesus as the cross. After all, Jesus did wear sandals, and there was an importance regarding whether one wipes their sandals at the door of one who did not accept Christ, as well as the washing of the feet by Jesus. Being the Christ, he had many ways of anointing that served to show how if one were to lead and follow him, they must be willing to serve as well.


    • Pussycat Catnap
      Oct 24, 2012 @ 16:31:45

      Regarding ‘I AM’ – we Rastas also use the term ‘I and I’ for a specific and somewhat related reason. To both denote the oneness of Jah, and both being within Jah and the presence of Jah within us all.


  2. Iohannes
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 19:33:40

    This oneness, I feel, expresses itself in the aspects of heart, mind, and soul, as related to the divine love that the LORD calls us to. One could even see it as the pulse, the voice, and the light – that which Genesis tells us were there in the beginning, and to which St. John the Evangelist tells us was there within the Word, the Logos, as the Greeks refer it to and, as we as Christians in general, consider Jesus himself as the Word of God. And that Word, that Logos, is written into the hearts of all, flowing through us, inspiring and enlightening our mind, enacting within our will the Spirit and breathed out in our words of praise and love.

    With the Egyptians, the heart (jb) represented the essence of life, the seat of the mind – both in emotions and intelligence, as well as one’s moral sense. According to Egyptian lore, the heart was weighed on balance against a feather, Ma’at, representing ‘truth’. In similarity do we look upon the final judgement, and to some extent the Book of Life. However, through our love and devotion to Jesus do we gain a certain mediation in the weighing in on salvation through Him.

    The Heart of Jesus as a devotion takes an interesting revelation first in the vision of St. Gertrude. Intriguing enough was that it happened on the feast of St. John the Evangelist.towards the end of 12th century. It was claimed in the vision that St. Gertrude was allowed to rest her head near the wound in Jesus’ side. She heard the beating of the Divine Heart and asked St. John if, on the night of the Last Supper, if he too had felt these delightful pulsations, and why he had never spoken of the fact. St. John replied that this revelation had been reserved for subsequent ages when the world, having grown cold, would have need of it to rekindle its love.

    In mid 17th century, St. Margaret Mary was said to have had Jesus permit her to rest her head upon His Heart as He had before allowed St. Gertrude, and then disclosed to her the wonders of His love that He desired to make known to all mankind.

    In all, the LORD wants to bright forth his heart to all, to let it pulse inside us and His Holy Spirit to flow throughout us, even to unite us as one in His love.

    One thing about saying ‘Ja’ that makes it one perfect way to call on the LORD, is that it also means in some languages ‘yes’. Even ‘yes’ are the first three letters of ‘Yeshua’. So in a way, it’s not just saying the name, but also saying ‘yes’ to He who bears the holy name. =~.^=


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