I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Messiah or Christ: What's in a Name, But It Isn't a Name...or Is It?

Among scholar, pastors, and students it’s all the rage to speak of Messiah with reference to Jesus rather than the biblical expression "Jesus Christ." Granted, these two terms have the same meaning. Heck, you can even get yourself a couple Bible translations that include Messiah here and there. It's guided by seemingly good intentions. Scholars and pastors want to rattle the pew-sitters' cages, waking them to the fact that "Christ" isn't Jesus the Nazarene's last name, like Stevenson is mine. No, Christ is Jesus' title; he's God's Christ (Greek), his Messiah (Hebrew), both of which mean God’s anointed One. In the OT, only the offices (prophet, priest, king) enjoyed the special anointing of God's Spirit. Jesus, then, is God's CHRIST, the final Prophet, Priest, and King! Christ is not a name but a title, it is stressed. However, this shouldn't be stressed without qualification. There are times when the NT explicitly treats Christos as his name. E.g., in Matt 24:5 it says, "For many shall come in my NAME, saying, 'I am CHRIST'; and shall deceive many." Here is just one instance when Jesus himself seems to suggest that Christ is his name in some sense, since it is so bound up in his personal identity. So, we should be careful in both the hearing and speaking about any absolute claim that Christ is not his name in any way.

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