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Jesus Christ or Jesus the Christ?

Celebrate Jesus as the Messiah and Savior

In our current usage today, many people talk (and think) that Christ is Jesus’s last name, as in Jesus Christ. Though the identifier of Jesus Christ does appear in most of the New Testament, it didn’t start out that way.

Christ

The label of Christ does not appear at all in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, arguably the three oldest books in the New Testament. In addition, the name Christ only appears four times in the book of John, the fourth biography of Jesus. (And of course, the word Christ doesn’t appear at all in the Old Testament.)

Yet Christ is mentioned in every other book in the New Testament, aside from 3 John. Some versions of the Bible include a footnote for Christ, explaining that it means Messiah.

And the dictionary definition of Christ uses Messiah to explain what Christ means.

Messiah

Instead of using the name Christ, the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke use Messiah exclusively. John also predominantly uses that label. Messiah also appears throughout the book of Acts (which Dr. Luke also wrote.) After that Messiah only appears in three other books in the New Testament (Romans, 1 Peter, and Revelation). In this we see a biblical shift from using the label of Messiah to Christ.

In this instance, the dictionary entry for Messiah defines it as Jesus. It also notes that Messiah is usually used with the, as in the Messiah. Another definition for Messiah is Savior.

Jesus the Messiah

In addition to using the label Messiah, Matthew and Mark also refer to him as “Jesus the Messiah” (Matthew 1:18 and Mark 1:1, NIV). Matthew also writes “Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:16, Matthew 27:17, and Matthew 27:22, NIV).

The Christ

In two of the instances where the Christ appears in the Bible, it’s with the explanation that “Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22 and 1 John 5:1, NIV). John also parenthetically notes that the Messiah means the Christ (John 1:41).

Jesus Christ

After not being used at all in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and appearing only twice in the book of John, the label of Jesus Christ shows up often in the rest of the books of the New Testament, in Acts through to Revelation (except for 3 John).

Moving from Messiah to Christ

In looking at the New Testament text, we see a transition taking place, with earlier writers referring to Jesus as the Messiah and later writers referring to him as the Christ. Just as we might say “Jesus, the Messiah,” we could also rightly say “Jesus, the Christ.” But it seems Jesus, the Christ was conveniently shortened to Jesus Christ.

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Why It Matters

You may wonder why this trivial discussion about Jesus Christ versus Jesus the Christ matters. It’s simply to encourage us to not mindlessly say “Jesus Christ” as if it’s his full name.

Instead, we must remind ourselves that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. That he is our Messiah and our Savior.

May we always be mindful of this truth.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

5 replies on “Jesus Christ or Jesus the Christ?”

Yes we must be mindful of the distinction in the title of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each person of the Holy Trinity is a distinct person and each person is committed to the other and is grateful for the Hospitality of the believers.

Andrei Rublev’s Icon of the three persons visiting Abraham and Sarah and promising them a new son, a new humanity is worthy of our attention. This ICON as Icons do, give believers a window into the divine. Rublev’s ICON has been interpreted in the Greek Orthodox Tradition as such to help explain the Eucharist…the Thanksgiving communion meal of the Orthodox Tradition. Further to this ICON, in the book of Acts written by Dr. Luke who was likely an agronomist a doctor of the harvest, someone who studied and appreciated the HOSPITALITY of all Creation, Dr. Luke recorded the Hospitality of Paul and Apollo and the difficulties and the perils they faced as Paul planted the seed of the Gospel and Apollo watered.

In Acts 18:5-6, Paul proves Jesus Christ and the Jews are opposed to Paul’s testimony [check out the Greek interlinear text that implies Paul proves to be Christ Jesus and Galatians 2:20 and also Acts 18:28] and so Paul goes to the Gentiles and preaches the Trinity. In 1 Corinthians 1: 12-13, Paul speaks to the divisions among believers, saying ‘One of you says “I follow Paul,” another, “I follow Apollos”; another “I follow Cephas”; still another “I follow Christ”. Is Christ divided?: Was Paul crucified for you?’.

In 1 Corinthians 3:5-6…Paul writes “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role.I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” The name of Apollos is very important to the Gospel. The Greeks believed Alexander was the incarnation of Apollos the son of their thunder God, Zeus who they believed was the Father of all the Gods. Dr. Luke records in Acts 14: 12-15 how the Greeks of Derbe and Lystra believed that Barn Abbas…a.k.a Joseph was Zeus come to earth fully alive, living in human form, and that Paul being the chief speaker was HERMES in earthen living form bringing letters and Good News to all the earth. However as Dr. Luke records in Acts 19, the worshippers of Ephesus were furious. (Hermes was always depicted with statues with testicles, with balls) The crowd pushed Alexander forward to defend Paul and so Alexander motioned for silence…but when they realized Alexander was a Jew they all shouted in unison for two hours: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. Now the name Artemis is also very important to the Greeks. Artemis was Apollo’s TWIN!

Mark’s Gospel Chapter 15 verse 21 declares Simon to be the Father of Alexander. Now scholars have divided up all the Simons and the Marys so it is hard to see Simon bar jonah as Cephas and the [black] Father who carries the Cross of Jesus. Tradition has given Mary Magdalene Red Hair and yet Patriarchal Grammar, scholarly edits and Patriarchal Tradition make it hard to see the Woman JESUS called Mary as the Rufus, the Red Haired One chosen in the Lord to be the Mother of Jesus and greet her with a KISS (Romans 16:13. Modern sensibility makes it even harder to see how the Mother of Jesus is the son (or child) of the Father. For people of faith who realize how LOVE brings people to life, it is easy. The Father’s Love for Mary, brings her to life, gives her life in abundance. Therefore, believers can easily see the Woman Jesus called Mary as the Bride of Christ the Everlasting Father. They can hear her words from THE CROSS…Father into thy hands I commit my SPIRIT.

Wow! Thank you. I didn’t think you had the power to correct a reply. And thank you for your gracious hospitality…giving me the opportunity to post comments and corrections on your blog.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

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