Christianity Knowledge Base

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This page is about the title. For the Christian figure, see Jesus

Christ is the English representation of the Greek word Χριστός (Christos). The Christian religion takes its name from Christ, as a title given to Jesus of Nazareth, always capitalized as a singularly descriptive title meaning literally The Anointed One. In English translations of the New Testament, the Greek Ἰησοῦς Χριστός (Iēsous Christos), and related phrases, are almost invariably translated Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus, leading to the common, though inaccurate, perception that Christ was the last name of Jesus of Nazareth. The part of Christian theology focusing on the identity, life, teachings and works of Jesus, is known as Christology.

Full etymology[]

The spelling Christ in English dates from the 17th century, when, in the spirit of the enlightenment, spellings of certain words were changed to fit their Greek or Latin origins. Prior to this, in Old and Middle English, the word was spelt Crist, the i being pronounced either as a long e, preserved in the names of churches such as St Katherine Cree, or as a short i, preserved in the modern pronunciation of Christmas.

The term appears in English and most European languages owing to the Greek usage of it in the New Testament as a description for Jesus. In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, it was used to translate into Greek the Hebrew Mashiach (Messiah), meaning "anointed". While many Christian writers claim that this term implied a match to the criteria of being anointed that Jewish tradition had given to their predicted future saviour, in fact, there is no "saviour" concept, as suggested in Christianity, in the Jewish tradition. The "anointed" one more closely means 'leader', or even 'ruler'.

The Greek term is cognate with Chrism, meaning perfumed oil; in fact Christ in classical Greek usage could mean covered in oil, and is thus a literal and accurate translation of Messiah (anointed).

Anointing in the Old Testament[]

In the Hebrew faith tradition, anointing (with oil) was a key element of religious ceremony by which specific people were explicitly marked or set aside for a specific role: priests, kings, and prophets. In some cases other materials were anointed with oil as well, to prepare them for religious ceremony. The importance of anointing is sometimes stressed by mentioning the need for it alongside reference to the person in question: e.g., "The priest that is anointed shall carry of the blood into the tabernacle of the testimony" (Lev 4:16). Many writers feel that some Jews came to expect a leader who would embody the elements of priest, king, and prophet, and whom they therefore termed "the Messias", which served as a title. The association with being anointed and being a leader makes these words in some senses equivalent. They expressed their hopes for this leader particularly in their prayers known as the Psalms, which often make reference to God and "his anointed", many of which references some Christians interpret as prophetic.

Anointing in the New Testament and subsequent rites[]

Anointing is used in the New Testament to heal the sick, to bless for ministry, to give thanks to Jesus, and to prepare for burial. According to Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, as Christ was the anointed one, so is apostolic succession, manifest in those priests who carry on the ministry of Christ, premised upon an anointing. Oil is used in a number of the sacraments of these traditions. Practices vary slightly from East to West. Every Christian in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches is anointed with oil at least once, if he or she receives the sacraments according to each organization's plan. Protestant organizations' rites, however, do not always include anointing with oil.

History in the New Testament[]

See Jesus and New Testament view on Jesus' life.

In the New Testament it is suggested that a savior, long awaited, had come and shall return, and that this savior is Christ.

Distinctions between "Jesus", "Christ", and "God"[]

The term "Christ" is often used synonymously with "Jesus". A difference in usage is sometimes for variety of speech, and sometimes a subtlety intended to emphasize the totality of His person and function in Salvation. For example, Ott refers to "Jesus" when emphasizing an event in the New Testament, while he refers to "Christ" in discussing the nature of God.

The Christian mainstream view[]

There is a temporal distinction between "Jesus" and "Christ", not to mention "God". God, in the Christian belief system, exists outside of the time continuum and is not restricted by the confines of time (e.g., limitations, aging, development, evolution, etc.).

"Jesus", on the other hand, is the temporal manifestation of the "Logos" -- the divine "Word" of God, and, in Christian Trinitarian parlance, the second person of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). "Jesus" was born, lived, suffered, and died. However, for the Christian believer, the story of "Jesus" does not end there. With the Resurrection, there is the fulness of recognition within the Christian community of the interconnectedness of the Logos and the person of "Jesus" -- the human person now intensely glorified and beyond the confines of the temporal sphere of events and effects.

"Christ" is an appellation in Greek (Χριστός, Christos), corresponding to the Hebrew word "Messiah" -- the Savior or Anointed One. This term pertains more to the role to be performed by the "chosen one of God" (another possible translation of the term "Christ"). The problem with this word for the person of Jesus is that the term means different things to different people. Most especially, the term "Messiah" refers most often in Jewish beliefs of the Roman era to the hoped-for leader who would not only be a spiritual leader but a political one as well. Hence, we have grounds for why this term might cause consternation and skepticism -- if not downright hostility -- not only for Romans, but also for the Jewish leadership of the Temple at the time of Jesus.

The Gnostic Christ[]

The gnostics generally believed not in a Jesus who was both a Divine Person and a human person, but in a spiritual Christ who indwelt Jesus. Through the spiritual path of gnosticism, followers of these schools believed that they could experience the same knowledge, or gnosis. Their theology was or is dualistic and premised upon demigods, salvation for the elect, and the actions of God who sends periodic saviors. This was considered heresy by the Early Church as per the first Ecumenical Council, which occurred at Nicaea in 325 ad, although condemnation of the belief existed well before.

Slang usage[]

The interjection "Christ!" is often used as a sign of surprise or anger, without a direct religious reference - that is, as a swear word. Devout Christians find this usage blasphemous, as they feel it cheapens God's Holy Name and violates the Mosaic Commandment against taking His name in vain. Interestingly, there is a phrase in usage, commonly in America: "Oh, for crying out loud!" This is actually a euphemism for "Oh, for Christ's sake!", used as an alternative by people reluctant to swear using the actual name.

Reference literature[]

  • Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 1957.
  • Joshua McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today's Religions, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.

External links[]

This article was forked from Wikipedia on March 25, 2006

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