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Question #1: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill, Hope all is well with you. I continue to use your site to further my knowledge in study, thank you so much for your hard work! I am writing in response to the communications you had posted last week with a family who has a member involved with a cult like church. I was involved in a church with very similar circumstances. I wouldn't be surprised if it is the same one. If you would kindly forward what I have to say to this family in hopes it will help to get them through this awful and frustrating experience (you have permission to post this).

First I would like to say I was bombarded with kindness and love by a group of folks, who after a while won me over. Once they had me, I too, was "quarantined" by them. I was NOT to go home and visit family or friends, they were the unbelievers and would sway me back and damn me straight hell with them. I was not to read any literature BUT theirs, use only their bible. I was made to write down what time I woke up, how long did my shower take, how long was my breakfast, my drive to work, what did I do at lunch time, . . . .. on and on and every moment of my life was controlled and any "free" time had to be in the presence of another member. I was involved for 5 years; the fourth year was agony. I was made to feel inadequate no matter how hard I tried, or how much time I put into the women's group, or the singles group. NOTHING I did was EVER good enough. I felt I had nowhere to turn and I would cry to God every night to make me a better person, I just felt like dying. Then a friend (one from among the group) came to me in secret to inform me that we were involved in a cult. Boy, did I feel empty inside, then I felt stupid, how could I have let myself be fooled? Then I got angry, but anger was a sin so it must be my fault for not 'getting it'. This friend and I went to a 'secret' meeting and we were informed that what we were involved in was not right, and the reason we were fooled was because Satan used our lack of knowledge of God and His word against us.

It took me a whole year to get myself out and away from this group. They hounded me, they called non-stop on the phone. They would show up on my job until they got the message I wasn't going back. So . . . they shunned me. They black-listed me. If they saw me on the street they would turn their backs, literally! I would like to tell that family, please know that your daughter is sincere in her heart in wanting and loving God. She is being fooled by Satan through these folks. She WILL one day see that what is going on is not right. It may be a day, a week, a year or even years. She may even get married and have children while involved. All I can tell you is this - be there for her! Be there for her! Keep the lines of communication open at all costs. You will have to keep it friendly and absolutely non-threatening. Don't bring up the church in conversation unless she does and keep your comments neutral and short. Let her feel she is always welcome back home without judgments and 'I told you so'.

I am NOT an expert, all I know is what I went through. If this can help in any way AMEN! If and when she chooses to leave this group, she will be scared, depressed, angry and probably have a hard time making decisions ( all of which I went through). She will be in denial of things. When she's happy and you think it's a good day today, tears and lot's of them. She has to travel through the emotions of it all. Guide her gently and help her to make the choices she needs to make but don't choose for her. Just be there for her.

What happened to me was 25 years ago, when I read things like this, it feels like yesterday sometimes.

I hope this will help.

In Jesus name

P.S., www.carolgiambalvo.com is an excellent site for information on cult recovery.

Response #1: 

Always good to hear from you I hope you are well. This is very kind on your part. I think what you have to say here is powerful and important, and will surely "get to" many who read it much more effectively than my third party observations would ever be able to do.

This is a great link you provide too, by the way. I would recommend it to anyone recovering from this sort of thing or with a loved one so affected.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Dear Brother Bob,

Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ. I love your views on all things Christian and Jewish.

I am a born again Christian and have been for many years. I have also have acquired a Bachelor Degree in Ministries. That said, I grew up as a RC in Ireland and so I never had an opportunity to read the Bible for myself. I taught my two children using ACE Christian materials. Both children were high achievers. Our son became a medical doctor. Our daughter went into teaching and married a doctor; she two children and is evangelical in gifting. They help in their church also.

Our son became a GP and moved around Australia. He had difficulties in his personal relationships and has not been married. He backed out of his relationships when they seemed to become more serious. This happened several times.

During the past three years he has stopped working as a doctor and has been trying to get involved in Christian ministry. However, he seems to be continually at odds with pastors and other church members and he has not been 'successful' to a satisfactory level. He also had a type of psychotic event happen about a year ago, when he believed he was possessed by demons. He used fasting and prayer and reading Scripture to rid himself and believed he was successful in this. [This is out of my area of understanding]. He seemed 'distant' when he came to stay for a while with his father and me.

After prophesying at a church in January, he ran out of the building and a few days later disappeared. He was found about 3 weeks later after giving a phone call to his sister and husband [through a public phone box]. He had collapsed and was dehydrated, having been out in the sun and walking for days, sleeping on park benches. He had given away all his worldly goods, including his cell phone and automobile. He, literally had the clothes he was living in [smelly]. The family were distressed but he refused a medical examination.

He claims that he was carrying out instructions from God through the Rich Young Ruler story. No argument has been accepted even though I did dispute his interpretation of this. I believe there is more behind his actions and they have not been disclosed or discussed.

I investigated his actions as much as I could and discovered that he had given a large sum of money to a missionary organization, leaving 0 in his account. [He had previously had over $200,000 including equipment, furniture and gold bullion]. He is now in a very bad situation but seems unaware of his predicament. He even cancelled his Indemnity Insurances and his medical insurances about a year ago. [I tracked this down]

He is staying with his sister [sleeping in the family room] since February. It is causing a strain on their marriage. Every day he goes out to evangelize by writing a verse and handing it to people. I believe that fear is the root cause of all his strange behaviour. There are many instances that have come to mind as I pray about this matter daily. He says that he is never depressed, so cannot have schizophrenia or bi polar. However, I believe that he is living under a mask of some kind. His sister and he memorized 20 books of the Bible during their time home schooling. Also, he won numerous awards in his studies [too numerous to mention]. He finished his high schooling at a public school and became best student of the school [he has thrown away this trophy with all the others].

I can see this may be a type of repentance, but it is absurd and irresponsible. Now, his brother in law and his sister have to feed and clothe him, and give him money for bus fares etc. They just want to see him back on his feet. However, he will not talk about his behaviour except for a few shallow comments.

He leaves the home before they get up [before 7 am] and returns on dark [after evening meal], so he has very little contact time. He does not say where he is going, but uses their computer to find streets, etc. Our daughter also knows that he does have at least one email contact [an ex girl friend who is doing Bible translation in an Asian country].

He was a very talented musician: had singing lessons via computer [from USA], gave away all his electronic equipment now. He also played the piano and wrote songs [a few]. He taught himself to play guitar as well.

My question: Have you ever met someone of this caliber? Is there any way to help this man to get his life into some normality? Is it possible that his salvation was not delivered because his motive was not right? ie, he wanted to be saved before his sister. He made a profession at 6 years of age, three weeks before his older sister. He has gone up for re-dedication in Church a few times as well.

One thing, he has not displayed 'real Christian fruit', but he can conform and appear to have the right attitude at times, almost seen as 'fruit' by some. In fact his father refused to baptize him on one occasion because he was displaying bad fruit [he was about 9 years old]. Later, he did get immersed in baptism [about 12 years of age].

When we meet he displays a 'vacant' look, but smiles as if there is nothing happening [in his head]. I have found that he is thinking deeply, almost cunningly about what to say and do, or even about a future plan he is concocting.

We [husband] and I talk intimately together, and try to work our son out continually. He is always in my heart and prayers.

We have gotten over the 'what did we do wrong' part of this and now I am determined not to 'play his crazy games' by doing things for him that he sometimes requests [like cutting his hair]. We are both trying to enjoy our retirement [my husband does pastoral care in nursing homes and I write books]. We have been married almost 39 years and are still in love!

We paid all our son's university fees [it was tough], and he was at home until he was an intern at 25 years of age.

One of the characteristics he has displayed in the past: if he is going to do something that we might not approve [like getting rid of his car and walking everywhere] he becomes really nice to us, taking us out for a meal and flattering us, then he does his 'plan'.

For example: at Christmas he invited the whole family to his unit in a lush area, made dinner and gave us gifts. [We did too]. One month later, he had disappeared from this location and was homeless and penniless, giving away his last $10,000 a few days before. [Even though I had spoken to a member of that organization last April, telling them that he has mental problems]. They just took his money. I did contact them and they were evasive. I later found that he had given $25,000 to them in September as well.

Another strange action: he changed his name, but just before he disappeared, he regained his original name and texted us to let us know.

I know you are not a psychologist, but you are a deep thinking man, and I love that side of a person. I am similar in nature. My husband and I spend many hours talking about Biblical and other matters and it is very helpful, however, in our son's case, we are still at a loss as how to handle his condition, how to relate to him and how to pray for him and how to help him to move forward in some 'normal' way.

In the meantime, the Lord has given me insights and thoughts that are helpful, even as I write this I am comforted by the Holy Spirit. The point is, we don't want to encourage 'odd behaviour' by condoning his activities, but we don't want to send him over the edge, either, but we find it stressful to be continually walking on eggshells when he is nearby.

Even if you simply pray for our son, we would be grateful. As a member of the Christian family world-wide, our son is part of that and of course, there is always the attacker waiting to devour our children. We have even prayed against all kinds of spirits and spiritual influences that are sending him on a very dangerous journey of stupidity.

I can see our son-in-law trying to get our son back into the medical field from feedback from our daughter. However, I think our son might have his own agenda, which is a frightening thought. He refuses to share the things 'God has told him' because he is not allowed to, which, to me, is deceitful and secretive, defying the Scripture of speaking the truth to one another.

Thank you for your great work and thoughts. You are an achiever and a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

In His Service,

Response #2: 

Dear Friend,

In my personal experience and in my capacity as a professor I have often crossed paths with very talented and gifted individuals who, for whatever reason, were not living up to their potential and/or managed to make a complete mess of their lives. If anything, exceptional gifts seem to make people more prone to such behavior than is the case with those endowed with more pedestrian abilities. That is small comfort, I know, but at least I hope it will be of some use to have confirmed that this is not an unprecedented situation, at least in general terms.

(12) Beloved, don't be amazed at the fiery ordeal of testing you are now undergoing, as if something out of the ordinary were happening to you. (13) But to the degree that you are [truly] participating in Christ's sufferings, be joyful about it, so that at His glorious revelation, you may also rejoice with great gladness.
1st Peter 4:12-13

Stay sober and stay awake [on guard]. Our adversary the devil roams about like a roaring lion, looking for someone he can devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, remembering that your fellow believers in this world are undergoing the exact same sort of suffering [that you are].
1st Peter 5:8-9

As to the specifics, let me say a few things. First, from all accounts, you have been wonderfully good Christian parents, not only seeing to your son's Christian upbringing and sacrificially supporting his preparation for a career, but also doing all that could be asked to try and help him straighten out at present. The fact that you have gone so far as to contact me about this underlines that point. You therefore have no reason to feel guilty in any way whatsoever. That is not to say that we can avoid experiencing pain when those we love are suffering or otherwise erring and we find ourselves unable to help them for whatever reason, but we can put our consciences to rest when we know that we have indeed done not only what good Christians should do but have even gone beyond what many would venture.

Secondly, in my experience and observation, and in my reading of scripture, it is not really possible to tell who is saved and who is not saved, apart from the statements people make (for or against our Lord) and the actions they take. Even then, it is often impossible to say for certain what a person's spiritual status is, especially in marginal cases. If we are wandering from the Lord, we may not even have confidence ourselves in our own salvation (like any other point of truth, confidence in our position in Christ must be appropriated by faith to be useful). Some believe and fall away (e.g., Lk.8:13). Others, like the prodigal son, wander off but eventually come back. Which way a person goes is entirely dependent upon the choices they personally make. True, we are part of the process. We can encourage, we guide, we can help, we can express our outrage and dismay . . . and we can pray. In the end, what a person decides is what a person decides. Our influence is important especially in prayer but the choice comes from the person's own free will.

Thirdly, demon possession and demon influence are not much of a practical concern in most cases. That is because demons can never own a person's free will. The Gadarene demoniac was possessed by a legion of fallen angels, but was still able to run to Jesus and fall at His feet in supplication (even if the demons controlled what he said). In each and every case when a person desires to come to the Lord or return to the Lord, the Lord makes that possible, no matter how impossible the situation may seem to we mere mortals.

Fourthly, and finally, behavior of the type you report (and please keep in mind that with no independent, personal knowledge of the situation anything I say about it may possibly be the result of misconstruing things only the person/persons involved in a situation, as I often say, have any real chance of figuring it out correctly), seems to me to be fundamentally selfish and arrogant. Were a person to take advantage of a wonderful professional education and a profitable career and then merely shun his/her parents, it would amount to pretty much the same thing in my view. What makes this behavior worse, in my opinion, is that it is being done putatively in the Name of Christ. As you no doubt know from readings at the site, I consider the possibility that your son is in direct, personal, audible communication with the Lord as so unlikely as not to be a serious concern. Many people claim to be talking to God . . . in order to have a blank check of authority to do what they want to do.

I will certainly keep you, your son, and you family in my prayers (and I encourage our readers to remember you in prayer as well).

Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:  

Dear Robert,

Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, through the Spirit.

Thank you for your reply to my email. My husband and I are deeply grateful to you for your kind words and encouragement. I must say I agree with everything you propose. This is truly the test of a lifetime. I thought Church trials were bad, but this is heartbreaking in every sense of the word. We know that it is also a trial of our faith, and it has been shaken but not destroyed. We are determined to keep the flag flying for the Lord. I will keep your messages and read them when I feel negative about all this. Thank you very, very much for your deep thoughts and concerns. You are truly a faithful servant of the Lord, and I ask God to bless you and keep you, and to make His face shine on you in delight.

My husband agrees entirely with the possibility that his genius brain-power has deteriorated from being so active. Even last year, my son said he read a book every day when studying demonic influences. He bought $500 books on this subject, and then threw them away.

We caught up with our son on Sunday [We had to delay our departure to get to see him]. We had been celebrating a family birthday with a handful of relatives. My son didn't want to be involved, so stayed away until darkness fell.

He has not improved, in fact I felt that his posture had deteriorated slightly. However, he had walked about 12 - 15 kilometers through the day, maybe more, so he may have been tired. He does the same thing every day. He googles streets and gets his directions and goes on his way. He will not share his secrets with anyone. I tried to browse his history on the computer he uses, but it did not give many clues as he is very adept at using the Internet. In fact, at ten years of age he designed a game while we were driving home, rushed inside and made the game in a matter of hours on the old Amstrad computer. He also made a chess game after that, which worked well.

During his travels around the streets, he met up with a peer, someone he had led to the Lord ten years ago. This doctor asked him to help out with his busy practice in another town. For a week or so, he seemed interested, but has now dropped it. His brother in law offered to pay for his registry fees until he got some money. From our family's feedback, he had to ask him for money to buy new jeans, as his were worn out. He also comes to ask for bus fares etc. In the meantime, he tries to walk everywhere because he does not want to ask for money. He has told him that he will have supporters to fund his ministry of evangelism, but thus far [three months on], nobody seems to be supporting him. He thought that he saw around 200 people in one day, which seems exaggerated as my husband does pastoral care and manages around 20 patients in 4 hours, to give them a small amount of time.

Years ago he used to run ten kilometers a day when he was a member of a running group. He was about 15. He also won trophies in this area. I also know that anorexia nervosa has a demonic strain that incites its victims run and run. I have also prayed about this possibility.

He is very touchy about questions and reacts badly if anything is too close to the bone. When we left on Sunday, on good terms [I gave him a hug and told him I loved him], I made a promise to praise God for what God is doing, has done and will do in future through this weird ministry. Despite this fact, I am turning in circles trying to come to terms with his deterioration and his continual walking. He is also very thin and is fussy about his food!

Ministry point: the fact that he has not been anointed by elders or ministers to do this work is disconcerting for me. Also, he goes alone, which means that he is vulnerable to attack by the prowling lion and his cubs.

Despite all this, the Word of the Lord is being sent out into the streets, verse by verse, and that is a priority for God's work. When I completed my degree I did Church Planting as a subject, and discovered that it is a known fact that mass evangelism is a precursor to revival. I am holding on to that. A tiny glimmer of light and hope.

In the meantime, I feel that he is being driven by a messenger of Satan and not the Lord. However, the Lord is the Lord of all as we know and understands this. I pray with these things in mind.

My prayer and praise is to God, to thank Him for his faithful children here on earth, who pray, especially for the family of God, and to his struggling children, to be strengthened. I am also praying for my son's credibility to be reinstated in his circles and among his peers. I have reminded the Lord about when Moses challenged Him in the Wilderness because of the disobedience of the children of Israel, and how God would be viewed by the non-believers around. So it is today with our wider family, who have not believed the message. How they can gloat over our dilemma now. But the show is not over yet. The battle still rages.

I think 'crunch time' will come, sooner or later. I am concerned that my son will be devastated if he has to admit that he has been wrong. This will be a turning point for him. He struggles to admit his faults to us. But, he will have to face the truth at some stage.

I will keep you informed if anything happens, whether good or bad, or in between. In the meantime, I wish you and your loved ones peace, growth and blessings in the Lord.

Warmly, in our Saviour, Jesus, the Christ,

Response #3: 

Dear Friend,

You are very welcome.

As I mentioned in my last email, the fact that my assessment is not based on personal observation means that it must be taken with a grain of salt (maybe with an entire cellar). When it comes to people who are evangelizing in whatever form, I generally leave well enough alone. Ministry is between oneself and the Lord, of course, and I normally make it my policy not to pass judgment when I am not put on the spot. It is always possible that even if a person is 90% off, he/she is still doing something worthwhile for the Lord. From your account, that seems somewhat unlikely in this case, but I certainly yield to your superior knowledge of the situation.

I will continue to pray for you and your son in any case.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your time and email. I hope everything is going well with your spiritual and physical health. I hope your family is well.

I think our situation is unusual, and totally beyond any expectations that I had for our son.

Sure, it is fine with me to put something on your website. I truly believe that we should share our good times and bad with the world, to show others that they are not alone in their own sorrows. How else can we learn about life?

I watched an interesting programme on TV the other night, about psychological and spiritual stories. How, some people have learned to cope with 'voices' in their heads, while others have gone into monasteries to spend their life in prayer. One of the professors had hypnotized his patient and was talking to a spirit in the woman. The woman was responding and he asked the spirit to go. It was very interesting to watch.

Since then I have been praying 'in the spirit' and asking the Holy Spirit to guide me as I confront 'spirits' that may be tormenting our son, or simply asking them to leave because they are not needed any more.

It is an interesting 'spiritual mind-game' I minister at a nursing home on Sunday morning and it is near to where our daughter lives, so we will combine the tasks on our way. I have a belated gift for our grandson's birthday, and I am hoping that my son will be there and we can see his deterioration or progress. I will keep you informed of any new developments.

I have also challenged the organization who took all of our son's money without question. I believe it is wrong to do that without regard for his family, and can be Biblically refuted. I am a stickler for integrity, especially among the Christian family, who should stand out as beacons for the rest of the world, and simply should do the right thing at all times.

I would love to read what you can glean from this tragic story, and as it is not over yet, we will see what the Kingdom might gain from this experience. I have resisted spreading this information on my own website because it is so 'close to the bone', so you are actually doing me a favour by telling this story for me. I appreciate this and it is in a way an answer to prayer for my longings to share.

Looking forward to hearing from you, my dear brother in Christ. God bless you and your wonderful ministry.

Response #4: 

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much. In my view, this story is similar (as I mentioned) to what many readers have and are going through, and reading about your godly way of weathering the storm will unquestionably be comforting and encouraging to many.

You and your family are in my prayers (and I trust in the prayers of our readers too).

Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill--I hope you are well and had a blessed Easter.

Some years ago you told me where the name "Jesus" came from. I still have that e-mail, so you needn't resend it. However, a Messianic, who is getting her info from some weird source or another, has said that when we pray to "Jesus" we could also be praying to "Zeus", since, as she wrote...well, you can see it here:


"What does Jesus mean? "sus" is a suffix that means "of zeus." Dionysus = son of zeus; Pegasus = lightening of zeus; Tarsus = sweat of zeus.

The original Greek texts had placeholders for the Name. That is why "Lord" and "God" have been inserted instead of the NAME. In the 1611 KJV that Jesus did not appear in that version. The letter "J" appeared in the late 1600s - so either way, people have only been calling on "Jesus" for 400 years."


See? Is there a "sus" suffix in Greek? I know there is in Latin, since you told me that in Latin "Jesus" is "Iesus."

This person also told me that in the original KJV, 1611, had "Elizeus" for "Elisha" where Jesus told the Pharisees that in the time of "Elizeus", there were many lepers in Israel, but God didn't heal them, but Naaman, who was a gentile. She basically said that Satan had "infiltrated" the translators, and that Satan infiltrates churches today, because "Jesus" could ALSO mean calling upon Zeus (!).

I'll bet that, just when you thought you had heard it all from me and those I interact with on CARM, I throw you some other stuff like this. She also averred that "YHWH" had been taken out of the OT by Christian translators, which made her very indignant--until I and others pointed out to her that Jewish scribes had substituted the vowel points for "Adonai" for the Tetragrammatron, out of a dread of saying the sacred Name and possibly misusing it.

Anyway, I would appreciate your input on this, esp. on the suffix "sus". Is there one in Greek?

Thanks and God bless.

Response #5: 

There is no "-sus" suffix in Greek. "Jesus" is an English transliteration of the Greek transliteration (Iesous, Ἰησοῦς) of the Hebrew name "Joshua" (Joshu'a [יושע] or Jehoshu'a [יהושע]; see the link "The Name 'Jesus' " for more detail). In Greek and Hebrew both Jesus is identical to Joshua it's the same exact name. The only reason for the disparity in English is our desire to differentiate between the two in order to avoid confusion.

The Septuagint invented the transliteration of the Hebrew name "Joshua" / "Jesus", and the New Testament writers kept the well-known practice (trying to do anything else would have been very confusing for contemporaries). The name "Joshua" / "Jesus" means "The Lord saves".

The sigma or "s" on the back of the name "Jesus" is not a suffix but a nominative (subject) case marker. That is clear from the oblique cases of the name (i.e., the genitive case is Iesou, Ἰησοῦ , identical except for the absence of the "s"). This is understandable because the sigma/s is the normal nominative singular ending for third declension nouns (of which type "Jesus" is in the Greek). That is why "Zeus" also ends with a sigma/s. It is also a third declension noun. And that is the only similarity between the two nouns. There are probably close to 100K third declension nouns in Greek, and most of the masculine/feminine ones have such a sigma/s in the nominative singular.

As to the transliteration of the name into our language, the "I" becoming a "J" is a question of sound types. In English just as we distinguish between a consonantal "u/y" and vocalic one ("w" and "u" respectively), so we also distinguish between a consonantal "i/y" and vocalic one ("j" and "i" respectively). Latin influence and the Vulgate are to blame for why we switch around these pairs of letters, and that is certainly so in the case of the name "Jesus": consonantal "i" as it is vocalized by us becomes a "j" following the Roman convention. We see this in most biblical words which are transliterated into English: "John" is from Ioannes.

The word "Zeus" goes all the way back to Sanskrit (the oldest surviving exemplar of the Indo-European languages) and originally meant "day", "sky", "heaven". It is related to the Latin words dies "day" and deus "god". "Jupiter" (note the consonantal "j" it's an "i" in Latin) is often taken to be short for dies-pater: the "day father". The connection between this group of words is well documented and easily determined. None of them have any connection whatsoever to "Jesus" (Hebrew, a Semitic language, has no connection with the Indo-European languages except in the case of loan words such as we are considering here).

As to the fanciful etymologies of the names provided by your correspondent, "Dionysus" is only written "-sus" by English convention. In Greek it ends in "-os", not "-us" (this is a fairly standard Latinizing of Greek spellings when transliterating into English it used to upset my old Greek history professor no end). The same is true for Pegasus and Tarsus: all three of these proper nouns are second declension, not third, and all three have an -os nominative case ending, rather than a lone sigma/s placed directly on the stem as in the name Jesus/Iesous. Bottom line: there is no connection here whatsoever.

I'm no expert on the KJV or its cycle of transliterations. That point about Elisha didn't appear to me to be germane to any of this (unless the person thinks of the KJV as "inspired" or is treating with those who do; I don't think we have "a dog in that fight").

Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
2nd Timothy 2:19

Everything in the Bible is important, but we are also told not to get hung up on "myths and endless genealogies" (1Tim.1:4), and to "avoid foolish controversies and genealogies" (Tit.3:9) and "controversial questions and disputes about words" (1Tim.6:4). That seems to be precisely what is going on here. The word for "God" in the NT is theos, the Greek word, not the Hebrew one transliterated, and the same goes for the word "Lord" (kyrios not YHVH). If the apostles writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit could use the standard terms in the language of their recipients rather the "real" Hebrew ones, we may safely conclude that Jesus is Jesus, regardless of how we spell or pronounce His blessed Name, and that He most certainly hears us and knows whether or not we belong to Him, even if we do not know the precise Hebrew spelling or pronunciation or accent of His Name. That is very good news for us all, even for your correspondent, since he/she is clearly mixed up about many things, our Lord's Name included.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Dear Doctor Luginbill--Thanks again for your patience in this matter. Could you please explain a little bit more on this, or point me to a source that does? First, you say that "Jesus" is the English transliteration of the Greek transliteration; then you say that the Septuagint invented the transliteration of the name "Joshua" into "Jesus." That is a bit confusing. Could you please clarify? Also, I got most of it, though I am a bit rusty about "declensions", unless you mean "case." And the "i/y" thing is a bit hard to grasp, but I think I get it. I posted your letter on the CARM board, for this person to read. She hasn't responded yet, but someone else did--and it is obvious from what she wrote that she didn't even try to understand what you wrote--she thinks you are biased and only told half-truths. It's really sad. She also thought "Yehoshua" is "stupid"; that His name is "Yeshua." I informed her that "Yeshua" is short for "Yehoshua" the way "Will" is short for "William." I hope I got that right. I think I heard someplace that "Lazarus" is a nickname for "Eliezar/Elieazar" (sp?) and that "Demas" is short for "Demitrius." Here is what she wrote; it would be comical if it weren't so sad:


Here in lies the problem.

First: "Jesus" is NOT a transliteration of the Greek as any child can see. The Greek "Ie" does NOT sound like our "J"!

Second: The adding of a sigma to the end of the change from Hebrew to Greek, makes it actually not a transliteration, but a modified grammatical transliteration.

Third: ONLY in the Hebrew does the His Name mean "He saves" or "Salvation".

Much of what Luginbill says is correct but his christian bias makes him add to the truth. He should be ashamed of himself. Yeshua is the Way, the Life AND THE TRUTH! These biased untruths are why so many people want not to be associated with christianity and its "experts".

Response #6: 

It is a bit of convoluted history, but I will do my best to try and make it as simple as I can. The Septuagint is responsible for the transliteration from Hebrew to Greek which is picked up by the New Testament; the Latin Bible is responsible for the transliteration from the Greek alphabet to the Roman alphabet; then the English versions anglicize the Latin spelling:

1. Yehoshua (יהושע) in Hebrew is transliterated by the Septuagint and New Testament into . . .

2. Iesous (Ἰησοῦς) in Greek which is then transliterated by the Vulgate into . . .

3. Iesu in Latin which is then anglicized into . . .

4. "Jesus" in the English versions.

This was not a necessary path but it is the one which was followed. German, for example, omits the "s" in its own adoption of the Name from Latin (as in Bach's "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring").

You may have seen Latin inscriptions where they write V instead of U (i.e., in SPQR: SENATVS POPVLVSQVE ROMANVS instead of SENATUS POPULUSQUE ROMANUS)? In a similar way the first month of the year in Latin is Ianuarius. We don't say/write "Ianuary" but January. In English, just as we have adopted the letter "u" to use where the Latin letter u/v is a acting as a vowel, so we have adopted the letter "j" to use when the i/j is a acting as a consonant. But to the Romans, there is only one letter in each set, and a person has to be able to tell the difference from the context in which the letter occurs. That is why we write Jesus with a "J" and not an "I", namely, because that is our conventional English way of transliterating Latin words: writing consonantal "I"s as J's. Greek similarly has a consonantal "I", and the convention at the time of the Septuagint's translation of the Hebrew Old Testament was to render the Hebrew "Y" (i.e., the yodh) as an "I", the closest thing Greek has to that sound (Greek does not have the "Y" sound; the "Y" in English does come from Greek, but it is, technically speaking, a capital "u"; this is another long story and off the topic).

That is the history of how we get the name "Jesus" in English. It is not really a matter of opinion; it is a matter of historical fact regardless of whether or not a person is a Christian (as I am happy and proud to be).

I think the above answers both your question and the objections of your correspondent except for the fact that despite my Ph.D. and over thirty years of Greek and Hebrew study I have never heard of a "modified grammatical transliteration". If correspondent would be pleased to explain precisely what that is, I would be happy to respond.

As to the canard that Jesus' Name only "means" what it means in Hebrew, if that were true, no word would ever be able to be adopted or adapted from one language into another. The English language consists of somewhere over 95% loan words (English is a Germanic language but only the core vocabulary and a smattering of later borrowings are Germanic; thanks to the Norman invasion, there is much more French than German in English, and, thanks to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, there is much more Latin and Greek than anything else). Consequently, we would all be reduced to speaking like first graders if we were not allowed to know what loan words mean and use them with their proper meaning (and very dumb first graders at that).

Yours in dear Lord Jesus whose very Name means Salvation,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill--Thanks for going into more detail for me. Some people will refuse to be convinced. This person is convinced you are telling me only what I want to hear--despite the fact that I usually have no idea what you will tell me, unless I have read it someplace else, and am simply writing to you for confirmation. I had no idea about "sus" endings in Greek or Latin or anything else.

But am I correct about "Lazarus" and "Demas" coming from "Elieazar" and "Demetrius," respectively? I think I read that or was told that by someone, many years ago. Just curious. This person got very indignant at the idea that Yeshua came from "Yehoshua" and write vehemently that "His name is Yeshua, not Yehoshua!" I explained that neither I nor you said His name was "Yehoshua", only that "Yeshua" comes from "Yehoshua." I told her that it's like "Will" coming from "William." She responded that some people name their boys "Will" without having their full name as "William." I told her that may be true, but it is ALSO undeniably true that "Will" IS short for "William." I know a person who is "Larry" NOT Lawrence--but Larry is also undeniably a nickname for "Lawrence." Much ado about nothing, if you ask me.

Thanks for your patience in this matter. Take care and God bless you.

Response #7: 

I am happy to tell people what they want to hear if they want to hear the truth; if they are not willing to hear the truth then they will not be happy with what they hear (as, sadly, seems to be the case with correspondent).

The origin of many biblical names, especially in the NT where they have a Hebrew or Aramaic origin, is often difficult to deduce with dogmatic certainty, largely because of the fact that there was no standardized system of transliteration. So unless we know from the LXX that a Greek spelling represents a particular Hebrew name (i.e., because from the chapter and verse we can see what is being transliterated), we may not be able determine the matter with certainty. For example, even within the LXX there are over a dozen different ways to spell the city "Megiddo".

That said, as to your particular examples, most scholars do see Lazarus as a shortened form of Eleazar (n.b., slightly different from your spelling I am not entirely convinced). Demas may possibly be a shortened form of Demetrius, but here the evidence is less certain (Dionysius Thrax' grammar suggests a different origin, and I have learned enough about Greek names to know that there were many more possibilities and a much wider spread of names which seem to us unique than is obvious from the more popular literature).

On Yeshua and Yehoshua, Gesenius considers the former a "contracted form" of the latter (in his lexicon; he is less confident in his grammar). Although the issue is not quite so simple if one wishes to consider what Praetorious wrote in his 1905 ZDMG article, pp.341-342. Sorting out the specifics takes linguistic "heavy lifting" and no solution will ever be capable of satisfying everyone's questions on the issue.

Since both names are used for Joshua and since the shorter form becomes standard latter, I think your analogy of shorter name-forms in English becoming standard names in their own right is very nice indeed (e.g., "Katherine" to "Kate", etc.). As we see in English usage, there may never be a "good reason" for the changes (I am "Bob" from "Robert" not a shortening that could be predicted, I think), and we also often consider such pairs of names as bound together as essentially interchangeable (as in "Jack" and "John"). Bottom line: the names Yeshua and Yehoshua were considered synonymous and both have to do with "the Lord" and "Salvation".

Yours in the One who has opened the gate of salvation for us all, our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill--Thanks for all this info. So the JEWISH scholars who translated the OT into Greek in the Septuagint came up with "Iesous" for "Joshua," correct? And the JEWISH writers of the NT (plus Luke) continued this practice, using "Iesous" to refer to Jesus/Yeshua, correct? So, when a REAL Jewish Messianic/Christian--one of my friends on CARM and a true Christians, who understands and believes the gospel message--pointed this out to the person who is making such a ruckus out of this, she--the ruckus-y one--got very agitated. And lashed out. I guess it is as my friend stated to me in an e-mail--"The inmates are loose and running the asylum."

Thanks again. I will try not to bother you again. Have a nice week! God bless!

Response #8: 

You're very welcome.

I guess I didn't pick up on what you said before about this being a Messianic correspondent. I have run into many of this stripe before who claim to be "Messianic" but who do not accept Jesus' divinity. So I suppose calling us "Christians" as a group apart was actually accurate. If interested, here are a number of replies to false claims of that ilk:

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism I

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

Yours in the Name of the true Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Thanks. They are a mixed bag...some believe Jesus is fully God, and some believe that Jesus is the totally human Messiah--not God at all. A couple I have run across believe Jesus is fully God, but refuse to label Him and the Father and HS as the "Trinity" or "Triune Godhead", as they feel there is no term that can adequately describe God's nature and relationship and that it is foolish to try. I can respect that. However, they are still too dependent upon their keeping the Torah as well as they can, in order to STAY justified and saved. One told me that "I tell you what matters about salvation--whether or not one is Torah observant and anti-nomian." And "We are saved by grace through faith--and then there are rules we must follow."

They just do NOT "get it." Sad, isn't it? Thanks for the info; I may be able to use it.

Response #9: 

You are very welcome. Constantine's words really ring in my ears on this one: "It doesn't make an iota's worth of difference". Of course, he was speaking of the difference between homoousia and homoiousia, i.e., whether or not Christ is the same or merely similar in essence to the Father and that difference is large enough to swamp faith if it is gotten wrong. We may not be able to describe God as well as we would like but He gave us the Bible so that we might understand what we need to understand. If what we are doing absolutely does qualify as going beyond scripture, that is "foolish"; if, however, we are not availing ourselves of what the Bible actually does say so as to get closer to Him, that is at least equally "foolish". In close cases that may be a judgment call, but when it comes to such basic theology and issues which have been considered fundamental since the beginning of the Church, it would take a very skillful apology to explain adequately why a person is leaving open the question of Christ's deity. In fact, it is not open to question, and when I hear such things I become suspicious (please see the link: "Jesus is God"). The other issue, of adding to salvation, is, of course, not unique to this strain of Messianics. One finds it everywhere in Christendom. It is often difficult to tell whether a person or group is merely teaching the correct position that Christians are followers of Christ and ought to live as Christ lived or whether they are actually assuming that their good works (and lack of sinful works) are a factor in their salvation. When they say it outright as in the case you report, there is clearly a misunderstanding of the gospel (to put the nicest possible spin on it).

Thanks again for all your good work for Jesus Christ our Lord!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Have you ever heard of a book called The Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend, by C. J. Metford and Lew White's book "Fossilized Customs"? Both of them espouse the "Zeus=Jesus" thing. I have no idea what credentials they have, but apparently they are popular books among some more extreme Messianics. Some are into the "Hebrew only" stuff, believing that Hebrew is somehow more "pure" than other languages and has some special sort of "power." That is partly what the discussion is about--that though Jesus is okay to call Him, it is better to say "Yeshua" because demons would be less likely to overpower someone saying "Yeshua." But I wonder about the very Jewish Sceva and his seven sons...I wonder if they used "Yeshua" instead of "Iesous.."

By the way--do you happen to know when the name "Jesus" spelled as such first came upon the scene? This correspondent thinks Luther started it, since he spells it "Jesus" some of the time in his translation of the NT. He also uses "Jesu" as well. We have a German Luther bible from 1901, Stuttgart. I can't see any rhyme or reason for him to go back and forth between both of those spellings. Wycliffe, I discovered, spelled the Name "Jhesus" or "Jhesu." Not sure what the "h" was for. Do you happen to know when the spelling "Jesus" first appeared in a bible? That may not be your area of expertise, but I figure it is worth a shot, to ask you.

Thanks once again!

Response #10: 

I've never heard of either book. But if the "Hebrew = magic power" thesis had any validity, my question would be, "then why did the Holy Spirit have the apostles write Iesous every since time Jesus is named in the New Testament?" Exorcism was, in my reading of scripture, an apostolic gift/power, which is not being given today (see the link). Trying to interface with demons using any vocabulary or language is very dangerous, spiritually speaking, and a tremendous mistake.

On the spelling of the name Jesus, yes I believe you are correct about Wycliffe et al. English was still settling on standardizing its spelling throughout the 16th and early 17th centuries. Here is the first verse of Matthew in the 1611 version of the KJV:

The booke of the generation of Iesus Christ, the sonne of Dauid, the sonne of Abraham.

In the next version of the KJV, standardized spelling updates of the time are applied: since the "e" on "booke" is silent, it gets dropped (same with the "ne" on "sonne"); since the "u" in David is consonantal, it gets written as a "v" (we discussed that earlier); and since the "I" of Jesus is consonantal, it gets written as a "J" to reflect how the word was then being pronounced. It was only the advent of the printing press and the book revolution which gave us the concept of "one correct spelling forevermore" (something, I note, that is on its way out with the advent of the internet). By all rights we ought to spell science "scientia", and before this wave of spelling-like-it's-pronounced changes came in, that was the way it was usually spelled (it is a Latin loan word); but the suffix "-tia" was being slurred together and our current spelling reflects it.

English spelling is in any case very problematic, and there is no guarantee that English conventions will not change in the future, especially with the information revolution taking place and the general decline of literacy. Given that we allow soft "g"s (cf. "agent"), we could very have spelled our Lord's name "Gesus" (as they do in comic-book type writing occasionally). In Spanish, of course, the consonantal "i" is pronounced like an "h" ("Hesous"), and though I am no expert I can say with conviction that the actual pronunciation of our Lord's name in different languages and dialects throughout the world varies considerably from one place to another. But Jesus is Jesus, regardless of pronunciation, and "the Lord knows those who are His" (2Tim.2:19), however we vocalize His holy Name.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Thanks--Some of these MJers insist that the NT was first written in Hebew, then translated from that language into Greek. They still insist that the Hebrew is "purer". I tell them that, if it was so necessary to have the NT in Hebrew and if it is such a much "purer" language than Greek, then the Holy Spirit did a lousy job of preserving the ancient Hebrew NT text, since all we have are over 5000 copies of the NT, whole or in part, ALL in Greek.

However, I disagree with you, though, about driving out demons. I have read of a few modern cases of this happening, all in the name of "Jesus Christ" NOT "Yeshua Ha Mashiach." Os Guiness and his wife come to mind; they have done so and they are orthodox Christians. However, I do think it is a very rare gift and I do fully agree with you about how dangerous is it, any contact with the demon realm. In my opinion, some MJers are dabbling in it without realizing it, with all of this "Jewish mysticism' and some have integrated Kabbalah into their beliefs, without even knowing it. One former MJer on CARM wrote that Jesus was "definitely" into Kabbalah and maybe had even studied Buddhism! He has rejected the MJ movement, though, thank the good Lord, and is now more of an orthodox Christian.

I don't know if you have heard of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum--I think I mentioned him to you once or twice, but he's a REAL MJ scholar and a real Messianic Jew. He has a doctorate in Hebrew studies and knows biblical Greek and Hebrew and has helped me out on several occassions with the MJs on CARM. He belongs to two congregations, neither of which is Torah observant, though he likes to celebrate some of the OT festivals and has freedom in Christ Jesus to do so, as part of his Jewish heritage and because he likes to see how they point to Christ. You can visit his website at www.ariel.org. He travels extensively, so when I have written, sometimes his assistant answers my questions.

Yours in Christ--

Response #11: 

Yes, that is my bottom-line too. It all goes back to scripture: what does the Bible say. Inevitably, cult groups build their own systems which can easily be shown to have pulled loose from the moorings of what the scriptures actually say if one bothers to consult the Bible (something cult members are inevitably kept from doing; see the link in "Read your Bible": 'Cult Characteristics and Dangers'). That's the basis for my belief that exorcism has not been legitimate since the times of the apostles not what people say they have seen or experienced. I have had close contact with a number of individuals and groups in my life who, by all appearances, are good Christians and trustworthy, but I found out through bitter personal experience that it is better to trust God and His Word rather than anything the eyes see or the ears here even if these are one's own eyes and ears (how much more so in the case of third parties). I try never to put what others say they have seen in the balance with scripture, and I have never been disappointed by this policy. I like much of what Dr. Furchtenbaum has to say, but I can't personally condone festival observance. This was Paul's problem (his one Achilles-heel), and it cost him dearly (as I recall, even though being told not to by the Spirit, he went back to Jerusalem out of a desire to be there for the festival of Pentecost, and the result was a multi-year imprisonment); by the time Paul wrote Hebrews near the end of his life, however, he was very clear on the need to disassociate from rituals that proclaimed a Christ who had not yet come and who had not yet suffered. So I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on these points.

Please see the links:

Did Matthew Write his Gospel in Hebrew?

Christians Beware II (question #1: Could Matthew have been written in Hebrew?)

Combating Legalism I

Combating Legalism II

Combating Legalism III

Combating Legalism IV

Combating Legalism V

Combating Legalism VI

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hi--I have corresponded with Dr. Fruchtenbaum and/or his assistant several times, and he observes the OT festivals because he wants to, not because he has to. He feels he has Christian freedom in Christ to do so. He doesn't say we MUST observe them. He belongs to not one, but two, Messianic congregations (he travels a lot) and neither is Torah observant. So, he observes the festivals as part of his Jewish heritage. There is a Christian Jew in my own LC-MS church, Steve Cohen, who is a real go-getter, having started Apple of His Eye Christian outreach to Jews with the gospel, within our church. He wasn't much for observing the festivals before his conversion--he went through the motions, basically--but after his conversion, he could see how Jesus prefigured in all of the festivals and when he observed some of them--like Passover and Festival of Booths--he did so eagerly, as a prelude to Jesus, though he also observes and enthusiastically celebrates Christmas and Easter, plus the Advent and Lenten seasons that precede them. His Jewish family said he seemed MORE Jewish AFTER his conversion, than before! But again, he observes some of the festivals (not all--not the feast of Matzoh, for instance) because he can see the foreshadowing of Christ in them. But he also observes and celebrate the Substance and fulfillment of Christ in Christmas and Easter. Last year, our church had a real Seder meal on Maunday Thursday, with my husband making it as authentic as he could, with guidelines from our church, but he also showed how Christ is foreshadowed in the feast. Afterwards, it segued into the Lord's Supper, which we always have on Maunday Thursday. However, Seder meals are a lot of work and not something we have in our church every year, though a few of the bigger ones do. I have attended only three in my life and I am nearly 60 years old.

So, I see nothing wrong with Christian Jews who observe some of the more major festivals like Passover as part of their heritage--God DID save their people from slavery in Egypt all those millinia ago--so long as they realize that they are the shadow and Christ is the substance and the fulfillment of the shadows. It's when we are told we MUST observe the OT festivals, or we bear the "mark of the beast" for not observing the appointed times God commanded the Jews to celebrate, that I take issue with. I mean, God commanded the Israelites to observe these feasts, not the entire gentile world. But the MJers have told me that, if one is a believer in Jesus--pardon ME, Yeshua--one MUST observe them, because Jesus said not one stroke of the Law will pass away until all has been fulfilled--and Jesus hasn't come back yet, so all hasn't been fulfilled.

Well, gotta go; thanks for writing.

Response #12: 

Yes, I see your point. For me, however, it's a bit like celebrating Christmas. I understand the point of view which says if one appreciates Christ and not trees et al., then it may not do any harm and might even be a positive in some way to some people. Nevertheless, it does pose dangers for those who misinterpret the non-biblical symbolism which has accreted around it. The Bible always has good reasons for excluding what it excludes (as in Christmas) and in including what it includes:

It is impossible to restore them to [true] repentance after having fallen [into sin] as long as they keep crucifying the Son of God afresh and exposing Him to open shame (i.e., continued participation in the sacrificial rites of Law which foreshadowed Christ's work on the cross and suggesting by that participation that His work was ineffective).
Hebrews 6:6

For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.
Hebrews 7:12 NIV

In mentioning a "New [Covenant]", He has rendered the Old one obsolete. And that which is obsolete and antiquated is close to disappearing.
Hebrews 8:13

(12) Therefore Jesus too, in order that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. (13) So then let us go out to Him outside of the camp, bearing His reproach.
Hebrews 13:12-13

Since an entire book of the New Testament is largely dedicated to warning against the dangers of continuing in the Law (especially in its rites and ceremonies which proclaim a Messiah who had not yet come), my policy is while I try not to offend my brothers and sisters who think differently, especially those of Jewish descent to stay as far away from such things as possible and to warn others willing to listen to do the same.

Please see the link:

Should Christians celebrate Jewish festivals?

Yours in the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord who has already died for our sins.

Bob L.

Question #13:  

The internet is a great tap into the minds of humans who reject the Truth and will believe in anything. Here is a link of L. Ron Hubbard type belief of origins; he must have borrowed from the Sumerians; love the reptilian angle, reminds me of the TV series"V"from a few years ago:


If you look at the web site you will see that it is a mishmash of different cults/religions/political views. There's apparently a group of people that think the Book of Enoch and the Sumerian writings (whatever the translation) tell the "truth" about our origins. It reminds me of this scene from Ghostbusters -

Janine Melnitz: Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?

Winston Zeddemore: Ah, if there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say.

They may not be getting paid but their attitude is the same. Having rejected the Truth, they'll believe in anything. Saw a panel of science writers on C-SPAN Book-TV and while derisive about people who have a belief in God they were upset about people not believing in man-made global warming which they claim science has proven as fact; they also loved Al Gore.

Response #13: 

Well-put. Truth has to be rejected before the lie is accepted. It really is ludicrous how people will reject the Bible out of hand and then have no trouble whatsoever believing the most incredible nonsense. For anyone who is paying attention, it's very good evidence for Satan's methods. Cult adherents may not understand how the human heart really works, but the devil clearly does. Appealing to people's arrogance in rejecting the truth ("I am too smart to believe the Bible"), makes them vulnerable and apt to believe anything else (just fill in the blank, so to speak). Exactly what happened to Eve.

See the links:

The Temptation of Eve

Three False Doctrines which Threaten Faith

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.



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