top of page

His Name Was Called Jesus

St. Thomas Aquinas

"His Name was called Jesus." Names are supposed to correspond to the nature or qualities of the things they designate; and in the case of human individuals they are conferred on account of some personal attribute or circumstance. Thus, some persons are named from the time of their birth (e.g., from the saint on whose feast they are born); some from their relatives, as when the neighbors objected to the name of John for the Baptist and wished him to be called after his father Zacharias (Luke 1:61); others from some event or circumstance, as when Joseph called his first born Manasses (i.e., one who causes to forget), because this birth made him forget his labors (Gen. 41:51); still others from their appearance, as Esau (i.e., hairy) was named from his hairy appearance at birth (Gen. 25:25).

When, however, names are imposed by God they always indicate some free gift from Him. So it was with the patriarch of the Jews, when God named Abraham (i.e., father of the great multitude), because he had been divinely chosen as the parent and ancestor of many peoples (Gen. 17:5). Thus also the first pope received from Christ the name of Peter (i.e., rock), because Christ made him the cornerstone or foundation of His Church (Matt. 16:18).

Hence we see why our Lord, who was sent to bring salvation to the world, was called Jesus (i.e., Savior) by the angel before He was conceived in the womb and received that Name at His circumcision. And to this Name can be reduced all the other names foretold of Him, since they all refer to salvation. For example, He is called Emmanuel (i.e., God with us), because it is the union of the divine and the human in Him that caused our salvation (Isa. 7:14); He is called Admirable, because of God's wonderful design that sent Him for our salvation (Isa. 9:6); He is called orient or sunrise, because as Savior He brought light to those who were in darkness (Zac. 6:12 and Ps. 111:4). Others before our Lord's time bore the name of Jesus, but only in a limited and temporal sense. He alone deserved it in its full meaning, because He alone is the Savior of mankind, and in the highest manner, as being our delivery from soul bondage.

Abraham received his name at the time the law of circumcision was made known to him; and this explains how it became the custom among the Jews to name their children on the day they were circumcised. The giving of the name also indicated that a new being was received in the rite, just as children are named today at their baptism, which is a second or spiritual birth. In the case of Our Lord, there was a further, special fitness in the conferring of the name Jesus at the moment of His Circumcision, because He was to save the world by the pouring out of His blood, and this first shedding of His blood coincided with the giving of the name Jesus, or Savior.

bottom of page