Is it better to use Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek names for those mentioned in the Bible?

Listening to various podcasts one of the themes I’ve heard brought up by various people is small ways that Jewish culture has been taken out of the Bible. One of the ways I heard mentioned, and previously thought about myself, was when we take the names from the Bible, were they translated in a way to cater to White English speaking people. There are genuine people who believes that Jesus was fair skinned, blue eyed and had long thin straight hair. In sharing the gospel with people I’ve had people seriously rebuttal the gospel as being fake because there would have been no man named Matthew or Luke in distant Israel.

I also see some of the same problems with the names of God. Many don’t even know the name, Yahweh, let alone Yhvh.

We often bring up how contextual analysis of literary techniques and genre are important for understanding the Bible. Could part of that gap be caused by people thinking of their names in english versus being saturated with the fact they were first century , or older for the OT, Jewish men and women.

Could saying Paulos/Saoul ( Paul/soul) or Yehoshua
( Jesus or Joshua ) be a step closer to decolonize American Christianity?

Also while listening to the black Christian based podcast, Jude3, it mentioned that it’s something that some black Christian movements have also done as well. Such as the Black Hebrews sects of Christianity and Judaism. Unfortunately at this time I’ve not been able to find or dedicate much time to Asian Christian reflections outside of those who seemed to have predominantly learned about theology from a western position.

But do y’all think there is any benefit to trying to replace translated names with their original names?

Any good books on it? I thought at first it would be as simple as biblehub a name, but often it says they don’t know the Hebrew name, or if it would have been a Aramaic name, that all they have for many is latin translation of a greek name that itself was most likely a translations that we don’t have.

Every Bible translation has an intended audience in mind and a guiding translation theory. Some translation theories are “foreignizing” in that they want the audience to feel like the text is removed from them and clearly the product of another culture. Often to understand foreignizing translations, you need copious footnotes and other helps like illustrations to make sense of the text, which will not sound natural. Other translation theories are “domesticating” in that they try to make the text feel like it could have been a product of that culture. They want it to sound like God and Jesus “speak our language.” The goal is for the audience to maximally comprehend the text by making as many connections as possible with their own idioms, thinking and speech patterns, and cultural contexts. So some translations where bread is unfamiliar have Jesus say, “I am the tortilla (or rice) of life.” That would be a domesticating translation choice. There isn’t a one right way to translate the Bible, it depends on who is going to use the translation and what they are going to use it for.

Names aren’t usually translated (otherwise Peter would be Rock and Adam would be Human) they are transliterated. That means they are spelled out using the sounds and pronunciation patterns (and in some cases, existing longstanding Christian traditions) of the target language. Transliterating names to fit the phonological system of the target language is standard Bible translation practice. For example, in the minority language we work in the apostles are Matéú, Markú, and Luká.

It’s also standard to use the name God that is available in the lexicon of the language. The English word God comes from a word that originally referred to a pagan deity. Allah is used in Bible translations in Arabic dialects. In the minority language we work in the word for God used throughout the Bible is Anulú’ Mekuíí, which literally means Our Father in Heaven, which etymologically traces back to the Spanish priests who translated the Lord’s Prayer into many of the Indigenous languages 500 years ago. Does that cause some problems with translation in some passages and teaching Trinitarian theology? Yes, it does. But Yhvh isn’t a word with meaning in other languages.

I don’t really understand why anyone would link “colonization” with Anglicizing names for English translations. They are only going to feel “foreign” to people for whom English is not a first language, but if they read a translation in their own language the names would be adapted to their language and spelling systems. The Anglicized names are not the names that are used in other languages.


I don’t particularly understand why they feel that way either. That’s why I asked. It’s mostly a complaint I’m hearing from black Christians about white people trying to take the culture out of the Bible.

I was under the impression the word changed to God was mostly Elohim ( which is not a name but a species of beings that includes gods, angels, and humans) or it was the same word for The Lord or The God as in Yahweh.

One of their complaints also is that christianity is predominantly spread by white people acting as evangelists. That it typically is spread with a sort of westernization of the story. That it’s connected to things like changing Africans names to “ their Christian name which was a white name ) and so on.

I also am under the impression that part of the problem is the mindset of “ these names mean nothing in this culture so let’s give it meaning by assimilating it into the dominant culture”.

That by retaining the earlier names, it leads to whatever the culture is to recognize that it’s not a European religion but a religion that came out of north Africa and near the Middle East.

From studying with people I have definitely met some that believes that the names sound like a white persons name and so on.

Maybe once we have more black people in here , or more black guests , maybe some of them can chime in more that perhaps unknowingly our privilege is blinding us to it. Or maybe it’s just silly and a odd form of self inflicted victimization.

The more I keep reading it the more I am leaning towards it’s more of a issue of the other persons lack of education and perhaps part of the churches problem is that since in films the characters are often whitewashed, it leads to some associating the names with the actors that play it. So it’s sort of like a two part problem.

I do think that keeping the original names may help, not because of the act of translating or transliterating words, but that because so many don’t invest in seeing it as another cultures faith. So if I say a name in Greek or Hebrew, purposefully making it sound different it will force them to realize that Jesus is not a white western American guy but a brown middle eastern man.

I guess I never thought about it because I grew up where it was taught that Jesus and his apostles were not white and some of the people even went as far as considering white Jesus a idol of some sort.

Or maybe instead of using names in their original languages , when talking I’ll make a point to mention things that break a whitewash/western view.

Unless you’re aiming to confuse everyone … probably not. Otherwise I expect to start seeing “Yehohonan” instead of “John”.

This is Matthew in Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ‎
This is Matthew in Greek: Ματθαῖος

So, when you say, “use the original” not a transliteration, it doesn’t make sense to me. You can’t “use the original” unless you read Hebrew or Greek. Matthew was the best English spelling (at the time, pronunciations change over time) of the way the Hebrew is pronounced (Matityahu).

The reason Joseph and Mary sound like “white people names” is because white English speakers have been naming their children with names found in the English Bible for generations. The same way Josue and Maria sound like Spanish names and Yusuf and Maryam sound like Arabic names. If you go to different parts of the world “biblical names” will be different. For example Issa (Joshua) and Malia (Martha) are names from African Bible translations.

The idea that Christianity is a “white” religion isn’t going to be solved by making the English Bible sound less English. People just need to be educated. Esau McCaulley has a whole chapter about this in his Reading While Black. There are Africans and Asians in the Bible, it’s just many people don’t pay attention. In the Old Testament, Joseph’s wife and Moses’ wife were Africans (Egyptian and Ethiopian). Simon the Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross (whose sons Rufus and Alexander were evidently prominent in the early church) was Libyan. Phillip baptizes an Ethiopian who was studying Hebrew Scriptures and the Ethiopian Orthodox church traces its roots back to this. Early missionary journeys of Paul went to Asia minor and some of the biblical letters, including Revelation are addressed to churches in Asia. People from Asia, Ethiopia, and Libya are mentioned as present at Pentecost in Acts 2. Early Christian tradition holds that the apostle Thomas spent the rest of his post-disciple life traveling around India. Augustine, the great Christian theologian was an African whose mother Monica was a Berber.


Believe me. You don’t have to explain it to me. I thought when I first heard it that it was just self victimization. I do believe using the Hebrew snd Greek names would obviously help those who don’t understand to understand it better but I agree it’s not our jobs to dumb down everything for uneducated people.

I asked the question in here because many of y’all seem to ride this boat. If y’all also think it’s stupid than I don’t need to worry about it further since I also think it’s stupid.

So next time I hear a person telling me that they feel like by changing the names to American white sounding names is taking away from the Jewishness of the Bible I’ll redirect them to this link.

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Also , what I’m clearly talking about is using their names. It’s not confusing. It’s like my name is Mi no matter where it goes. In Mexico, in Japan, and throughout Africa my name is Mi.

It seems like Matthew’s name is Matthaios. Or at least closer to that than Matthew.

Though before taking the opinion of just mostly white people I’ll ask a handful of others about it. See if when talking about the 12 disciples are being called if using a less Americanized white version of their names will better help them realize the cultural divide.

I’m thinking this is the kind of drive behind why I kept seeing this issue pop up.

I guess for some, in a multicultural country like USA they feel that it’s a subtle form of while supremacy to have their names changed to better fit the white peoples preferences for names. They then are taking that and applying it to the Bible saying it’s just another form of control to whitewash the story. We make them look white, we make them sound white, and so on.

Again, not my opinion, I thought thought I would ask it here to see how others here think about it since they often seem to be more active in this line of reasoning. So I simply wanted to double check snd see if I was being some kind of prick by telling people no I’m sticking with calling Matthew by Matthew and not by some other name.

But it’s a chicken before the egg situation. Those names weren’t “white” names until they were imported to English from Hebrew and Greek. It’s not like existing “white” names were imposed on Hebrew and Greek ones.

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It isn’t a name, it’s an initialism; the Tetragrammaton.

Yes to this, and true for other languages as well.

Wikipedia - John (given name)

I do think there is a grain of truth here. Westerners, in my experience, show little regard for the meaning of names. A name is simply what you call someone. Personally, I really like the names, James* and Mara, but I am not going to give my child a name that means ‘supplanter/deceiver’* or ‘bitter’ respectively. Similarly, my longest friend is called Thomas, which means ‘The Twin’ and yet he is an only child.

I don’t think that this disregard for original meaning is so much about ‘colonisation’ vs ‘decolonising’ but more cultural trends, personal preference, people thinking ‘that name sounds nice’ or ‘let’s name them after Nanny Mara’ or whatever.

*James can also mean ‘to follow’ so I guess it could fit for a second-born child.


I’m currently reading through a TLV ("Tree of Life Version) of the new testament, which is a Messianic Jewish translation. In this translation, Jesus is “Yeshua” (which I’d heard of … the Greek [Aramaic - thanks, Christy] version of “Joshua” I guess). But a couple of other things caught me by surprise: Mary, the mother of Jesus is referred to as “Miriam” and James is called “Jacob” (including the book of James - or Jacob). I had never heard of Mary as Miriam before. It would seem to me that the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society should have good insights into their own Hebrew scriptures - so I’m curious about this choice of names - especially “Miriam” for “Mary”. Had you heard of that or do you know the history behind that selection?

[It just now occurred to me to check if all references to any Mary replace it with Miriam. Indeed; Mary Magdalene also is referred to as Miriam - so it isn’t just the mother of Jesus, but seems to be an alternate reference for any “Mary” in general.]

Yahweh is the name of the father.

Where do you get that from? What does it mean?

It does not have to mean white names were imposed onto people. It has to do with how western Christianity has done with those names. Those names have now seemed to have become white names. Just like in some of the previous podcasts, Christianity is not a European religion but it’s often taught that way. Christianity has been used to make
others feel like less. It’s still not what Christianity is about. It’s still a false narrative. But it’s still a narrative that was used and saturated it.

It seems that POC and Jewish people at times have felt that in America , specifically now days, that it’s been whitewashed. That ethnic names were not even tried to be kept. It also seems like when many immigrants came here, they felt like they needed to change their names to sound more american. We also see a practice where once someone was baptized, they were given a Christian name.

So the questions I’m seeing these people ask, and having heard them ask, is would changing Matthew to something like Matityahu help uneducated every day people without decent access to better info, become aware that there is another culture at play. If that became the standard, would it help shift some
of the Americanization that crept into American Christianity. Sure maybe it won’t become the standard to write things in Greek. However, maybe there is a closer mark than something like Matthew.

As pointed out several times in threads, and most recently here, the name of Jesus could also equally be Joshua in English. But if you go around and say Joshua Christ it will definitely bother some people. But I’m pretty sure if you went around saying Jesus, who was known as Yeshua it would also bother those who want to keep a very western Jesus. The same people who are adamant about having a giant picture of a white Jesus on the cross that still looks pretty with heavenly light shinning down on him. It’s a very different picture from something closer to reality of a naked badly beaten bloody brown man named Yeshua. It’s even very different from a pretty brown man in a cloth on the cross.

You can definitely find videos of kids and others at places like flea markets being confused because they see bibles with a black or brown Jesus in it. How many of y’all with kids have ever mentioned to them, or other kids, that Jesus was actually a brown man. Unless actively taught otherwise it seems that most white Christians presume a very white looking Jesus.

It’s what in the books I’ve read, and it’s what shows up when you google it.

What name do you think gods name is? God. Here is my god God.

Since I believe it’s something easy for someone to get answers to I’ll leave it up to you.

The one name I have encountered confusion on is Ahasuerus/Xerxes. Neither of those was his actual name in Old Persian. The first is Greek, the second, Hebrew. His name in Old Persian was actually something like Kshayarksha.

As a side note, I do not think that my grandfather’s cousins Baalam, Ahasuerus, and Atawalpa Cash were well-named.


I did not know that.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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