By: Deji Yesufu
In the past week, Daddy Freeze told his listeners that Jesus was the invention of Europeans. That the letter “J” was only introduced to the English lexicon in the last four hundred years. His question was this “where then did the word ‘Jesus’ come from?” His argument was further heightened by Reno Omokri who said that “Jesus” is unknown to the scriptures. He said what the Bible talks about one “Yeshua” and not a “Jesus”, whom he also agrees is an invention of modern day Christendom to defraud people. Omokri went further to say that Jesus Christ was not God. In all of this it has been an interesting week in Nigeria’s social media theological climate. My quest in this piece is not even to defuse the theological errors of Freeze and Omokri. A lot of people have done that. What I wish to do here is to draw our attention to the implication of those who inspire us to learn: our teachers. After which, I would point out the errors of Omokri and Freeze.
A man is not more than what he knows. And there is no human being that comes to the earth with ready-made knowledge of the issues of life. What we know is a product of our environment, our upbringing, our formal education, the providential circumstances in our lives and the people we meet each day. The Christian gospel recognizes the essence of knowledge and thus pays great attention to the subject of who one’s teachers are. The Bible goes a step further to state that eternal life is having a knowledge of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3). The Bible would not give us knowledge of modern politics, astronomy or the various fields of science. However the Bible would give us knowledge of how human beings may be saved from the wrath of God to come on the earth. Therefore the Bible is quite particular about those who teach people the Christian message. Because what you know about the Christian message may either save you or damn you.
When Paul the Apostle was rounding off his ministry, he left extensive instructions for the pastoral ministry of Timothy, his son in the faith. One of the things he told him remains quite instructive for the churches today. He said: “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16). This verse is telling us that the eternal destinies of men is hinged on what they know; what they have learnt. For this reason the Christian churches that take the careful discipling of souls seriously are quite particular about who teach the people under them. Even further than this, they know that we are essentially what we know.
In the history of the world, there has never been a time when the world has got so many contending life philosophies as today. When Christianity makes the exclusive claim to eternal life, people very easily debunk this claim by saying: “what then would other religious philosophies lead to?” The Christian message has no apologies in saying that there is no other way to God’s kingdom except through genuine faith in Jesus Christ. One hundred years ago, this claim was even less contended against. But today besides religious philosophies, Christianity must also contend against other secular philosophies. Brilliant minds are daily churching out ideas about this life and the afterlife – so much that anyone that is still professing a two thousand year old philosophy like Christianity is looked upon as anachronistic.
This is the reason we all must be careful about what we are reading and who we are learning from. We all must be careful about who our teachers are. The reason the message of the Bible is true is because the Bible reflects the holiness of God upon the person that adheres to its message. The Christian message states that God is holy. It also states that man is sinful. But it calls us to a relationship with a holy God through our Savior Jesus Christ. Those who come to faith in Christ are accepted as children of God. And as these children of his grow into maturity, they reflect something of the nature of God, particularly his holiness – a testimony to the world that God wishes for all men to come to him.
All of these was made possible after God had sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for the redemption of all humanity. Christ needed to be man to be able to identify with men’s needs. He however needed to also be God to able to solve man’s need. Jesus Christ died – he suffered the penalty of sin which man had brought on himself in his rebellion to God. He however rose again from the dead, defeating death. The only way Jesus Christ could rise from the dead was if he was God. Only God could defeat death. In the process Christ obtained eternal salvation for all who believe in him. And the Christian message remain that only in Christ shall all men obtain eternal life.
So when Daddy Freeze was refuting a lady, who had claimed that salvation is exclusively Christian, by saying that Jesus was the invention of Europeans, Freeze was only revealing his own ignorance and exposing the falsehood in his teachings. Jesus Christ is God and in him alone is salvation for all humanity. Daddy Freeze is deceived; Reno Omokri is ignorant. It is true that the letter “J” is new to the English word. But any kindergarten student in Europe and the Middle East would know that the letter “J” and “Y” are usually interchangeable. This is the reason why “Joshua” is “Yeshua” in the Old Testament. And why the same word is translated “Yesu” in some other languages. In the original Greek “Jesus” was originally “Iesous”. “Iesous” was further translated “IESVS” in latin. It was “IESVS” that was used for the name of the Lord in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate for many centuries until further development in languages led to the same word being pronounced “Jesus” after the “I” and “V” had undergone development in their pronunciations . “Jesus” is the result of language development but its meaning is nothing short of what the Hebrew word “Yeshua” originally meant it to be: “God saves” (Matthew 1:21).
The Christian message needs no editing for modern times. It is modern men that must renounce their pride and submit to the truth of the word of God. And as we pursue this ideals, we all must beware of those who are teaching us. If what you are learning is not leading to greater sanctification of life, you are being deceived.
Deji Yesufu is the author of the books Victor Banjo and Half a Millennium. He can be reached on email@example.com