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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: Is Jesus Christ a Name or a Title?

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Is Jesus Christ a Name or a Title?

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 1

There has been much confusion as to the name Jesus Christ. Is it a name? A title? The simple answer is that Jesus was His name, while Christ was His title. We can make the following observations.

1. The Name Jesus Was Common in the First Century

Jesus was a common name in the first century for a Jewish male. In fact, first century Jewish writer, Flavius Josephus, lists twelve different individuals with that name in his discussion of the history of the Jews living during that period.

It was the common Greek version of the Hebrew names Joshua, Jehoshua, and Jeshua. The name means “The Lord (Yahweh) saves” or “The Lord (Yahweh)” is my help. This name stresses His humanity. Indeed, He is Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth.

The Bible says that He was named before He was born by the angel who was sent to Joseph. Matthew records the angel saying the following:

She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 HCSB)

During His earthly life and ministry, this was the name by which the Savior was known. It is found about six hundred times in the four Gospels.

Outside of the gospels, the name Jesus is rarely used. However, we only find it often in the Book of Hebrews.

2. Christ Is a Title

The word “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for “Messiah” or “anointed one.” Christ was the title given to Jesus. Therefore He was Jesus the Christ; Jesus the Messiah. We read the following in John’s gospel:

He [Andrew] first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). (John 1:41 NRSV)

By saying this, they were recognizing the office, or title, of the Messiah. He was the Lord’s anointed, the Promised One.

3. Eventually Christ Became Part of His Name

It is helpful if we understand a little bit of the history of the name “Christ” as well as how it developed. The Greek word “Christ,” (christos) was originally an adjective that meant, “anointed.” During the Old Testament period it developed into a term meaning, “the anointed one.”

Between the Old and New Testament christos further developed into a technical term for the promised Deliverer that the Lord would one day send to His people, the Messiah.

The four gospels apply the Greek term christos in this sense. The long-awaited Deliverer is the “anointed one” or, “the Christ” (the Messiah).

Later we find that Christ became part of Jesus’ name. Today He is mostly commonly known as Jesus Christ. He is Jesus Christ not Jesus the Christ.

4. He Is Now the Lord Jesus Christ

There is also the title “Lord Jesus Christ.” When the word “Lord” is added to Jesus Christ it means, “Yahweh (Jehovah) Jesus the Messiah.” We find that it is used in the Book of Acts when explaining how Gentiles came to faith in Jesus:

If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God? (Acts 11:17 NRSV)

The word “Lord” is speaking of His Deity. Indeed, it emphasizes that Jesus is God Himself. The name Jesus, His human name, emphasizes His humanity. Christ is His title, He is the Messiah. This description is not found in the gospels.

This briefly summarizes what the various names of Jesus mean as well as how they developed.

Summary – Question 1
Is Jesus Christ a Name or a Title?

Jesus Christ is both a name and a title. Jesus was a common first century name meaning, “the Lord saves.” Christ, or Christos, is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” Jesus is, therefore, the Messiah, or the Anointed One.

The meaning of the word Christ developed through time. In the Old Testament it was originally an adjective which meant “anointed.” During the period between the testaments this word took on a more technical meaning. It referred to the Messiah, the promised Deliverer whom the Lord would send to save His people Israel.

Thus, we find that when Jesus arrived on the scene He was asked if were “the Christ.” The title Christ eventually became part of His name. Indeed, today He is known as “Jesus Christ” rather than Jesus the Christ.

The title “Lord Jesus Christ” refers to three aspects of who He is. Lord is the personal name of the God of the Bible, Jehovah or Yahweh. Jesus emphasizes His humanity. Christ is His title, the Messiah.

This gives a brief summation of His name as well as its meaning.

Who Is Jesus Christ? (Introduction) ← Prior Section
Is Jesus Christ the Main Subject of the Entire Bible? Next Section →
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