Or if you prefer, “bin Miriam,” although no way he would have ever been called that in his life, but near as I know “Yeshua bar Yosef” (“Jesus son of Joseph”) was probably how he was most frequently identified in real life in the Aramaic language he mostly operated in, his mother tongue. It has been reported that he knew Hebrew, then strictly a liturgical language, given the reports of him at age 12 discoursing seriously with priests at the temple in Jerusalem. Greek was the lingua franca for business and ultimately the language the New Testament was written in where he was labeled “Iesos Christos,” translated into English as “Jesus Christ.”
When he was crucified, almost certainly the only clearly documented event of his life beyond the Bible, thanks to Josephus, all of the four Gospels have it in super capitalized letters what they put over his head approved of by the local Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, was “KING OF THE JEWS” (all four gospels in the King James version have this in full capital letters as I have written, with variations across them in specifics, but all including this). We do not know which language was put on the sign he carried to Golgotha, but the Gospel of John, who was supposedly an eyewitness, says that this declaration was made in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, curiously none of these the language he or most of the local population actually spoke in their homes.
Here is the hard core line from me: this guy really lived and most of what he said is for real. The one thing we know for almost sure is that he was crucified in Jerusalem, as reported by Josephus. This was a major public event. I happen to think that once people are dead that is it, so, I do not get excited about the supposed “resurrection.” If that is the bottom line on being a “Christian,” I am not one.
But I have now been twice to what is almost certainly the site of his crucifixion in Jerusalem in the very weird Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It really happened and probably there. What happened after that looks to be up for grabs.
So, whatever one thinks about his death or later events, he presented a serious moral vison, which included multiple appeals for charity for the poor, along with his disruption of the money changers in the temple in Jerusalem, which may have fed in to the local interests supporting shutting him down.
Things Yeshua bar Yosef never said a word about:
sexual identity or preference
As it is scholars note that the Qur’an has far more references to charity for the poor than does either book of the King James version of the Bible. This is true.
Bottom line is that I take seriously that this clearly world-historical individual died a horrific death on a cross, a form of execution I am glad we have moved beyond. Given the many wise and moral things he is reported to have said, I regret that he had to die in such an awful way.
So, getting to current commentary on this long ago event, I note Michael Gerson’s column in yesterday’s WaPo (the appropriate date). He focused on the positive remarks of Yeshua on his death, which appear in Luke, a gospel written by a Greek follower of Paul long after the actual events. This included two items long and widely repeated, although probably not actually said by Yeshua.
I nw provide the last words Yeshua said on the cross according to the four Gospel versions in the seriously flawed but magnificent King James version:
Gospel of Matthew: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani.”
Gospel of Mark: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani.”
Gospel of Luke: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Gospel of John: “It is finished.”
I note that of these accounts, while John was supposedly an eyewitness, his gospel is viewed as the latest written, and the one more widely disagreeing with various consensuses of the former. Mark is supposed the oldest of them while Matthew was written to please Jewish readers.
A bottom line is that “lama sabachthani” is Aramaic, one of the very few places in any gospel that the language in the New Testament. All translations of that passage are minor variations on the KJV “My God, why hast thou forsaken me.”
Michael Gerson, in WaPo, is just out of it in pushing the almost-certainly inaccurate Luke versions of this, even as he admits the existence of the grimmer laba sabachtani version. Gerson understands that this harder line version of what Yeshua said at the end is a serious competitor to his less creditable and more nicey-nice version of the whole thing.
Whatever the reality of the above, I respect the hard death we know for near certain happened this person who probably mostly went by the name, “Yeshua bar Yosef” (Jesus son of Joseph, not “the son of God,” who, after all, let Yeshua down in the end.
Happy Easter, you all who celebrate it.