What’s in a Name?: A Case for Using ‘Isa in Arabic Translations of the Bible

As Juliet agonizes over her love for Romeo, forbidden to her merely because he bears the Montague name, the family which is enemy to her own, she poetically spells out the issue that stands at the crux of my reflection in this post.

Yasu‘, the common name of Jesus in our modern Arabic translations of the New Testament, is a name largely unrecognized by Islam, the “other” family. The “Christian family” wants to retain this name, often defending it with great passion. The Qur’an introduces the name ‘Isa for Jesus for no obvious reason, although I will explore possible motivations below, several of which are discussed in the excellent Wikipedia article on “Isa.”

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