Is "Isa" Jesus?

I was taken aback by a letter in my state Baptist newspaper recently, criticizing Rick Warren for using the "Muslim name for Jesus" (Isa) in his inaugural prayer.

"Isa" is indeed the Arabic word for Jesus. But as I used to teach my high school students, "Arab" and "Muslim" are not synonymous. "Arab" describes ethnicity and culture. "Muslim" describes religion. In fact, the very term "Arab" predates the rise of Islam by hundreds of years! While it is true that many Arabs are Muslims, there are also significant numbers of Arab Christians.

Because Arabic is the language of the Quran, of course the Quran refers to Jesus as "Isa." But if we're going to be picky about it, we don't say Messiah's name right either. "Jesus" is actually Latin, transliterated from the Greek "Iesous," transliterated from the Hebrew "Yeshua." So the question is -- "Why is Messiah's name in Latin any more acceptable than Messiah's name in Arabic?" The whole argument is just silly. My understanding is that while some Christian Arabs choose to refer to Jesus as "Yeshua" so as to avoid any link to the Quran, there are many other Christian Arabs who still refer to Jesus in their native tongue as "Isa." (Although their "Isa" is the one of the Bible.)

By referring to Jesus in four different languages, Warren was merely emphasizing that Messiah is not just for western civilization, but for the whole world. I thought it was a nice touch.