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What Do “Messiah” & “Jesus Christ” Mean?

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What Do “Messiah” & “Jesus Christ” Mean?

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The term Christ is an English derivative of the New Testament Greek word christos, which means “anointed.” The equivalent Hebrew word in the Old Testament is mashiach. This term is transliterated in the King James New Testament as messias (John 1:41 John 1:41He first finds his own brother Simon, and said to him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
American King James Version×
; John 4:25 John 4:25The woman said to him, I know that Messias comes, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
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), a word that has come down into modern English, including many Bible versions, as “Messiah.” Both Christ and Messiah mean “anointed” or “anointed one.”

What was the significance of anointing? The Oxford Companion to the Bible states: “In the Hebrew Bible, the term is most often used of kings, whose investiture was marked especially by anointing with oil (Judges 9:8-15 Judges 9:8-15 [8] The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said to the olive tree, Reign you over us. [9] But the olive tree said to them, Should I leave my fatness, with which by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? [10] And the trees said to the fig tree, Come you, and reign over us. [11] But the fig tree said to them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? [12] Then said the trees to the vine, Come you, and reign over us. [13] And the vine said to them, Should I leave my wine, which cheers God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? [14] Then said all the trees to the bramble, Come you, and reign over us. [15] And the bramble said to the trees, If in truth you anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.
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; 2 Samuel 5:3 2 Samuel 5:3So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel.
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; 1 Kings 1:39 1 Kings 1:39And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.
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; Psalms 89:20 Psalms 89:20I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:
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…), and who were given the title ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:10 1 Samuel 2:10The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder on them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
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; 1 Samuel 12:3 1 Samuel 12:3Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind my eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.
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; 2 Samuel 23:1 2 Samuel 23:1Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,
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; Psalms 2:2 Psalms 2:2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
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; Psalms 20:6 Psalms 20:6Now know I that the LORD saves his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.
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; Psalms 132:17 Psalms 132:17There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for my anointed.
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; Lamentations 4:20 Lamentations 4:20The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the LORD, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen.
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)” (Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, editors, 1993, “Messiah,” p. 513, emphasis added).

In the Bible, anointing is an act of consecration—setting one apart for the holy work of God. It was symbolic of the pouring out of God’s Spirit onto someone (compare Isaiah 61:1 Isaiah 61:1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
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; Romans 5:5 Romans 5:5And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
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)—representing God’s power and intervention to help the anointed perform the duties of a certain office. Jesus Himself was “anointed…with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38 Acts 10:38How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
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).

The Jews of Jesus’ day eagerly anticipated a specific prophesied figure referred to in several scriptures as the Messiah or Anointed One, a great King of the lineage of David who, by the power of God, would restore Israel and rule the world. Jesus of Nazareth was that Anointed One—and He will yet fulfill these prophecies.

What about the name “Jesus”?

How did He receive this name, and what does it mean? In Matthew 1 we find that Mary was discovered to be pregnant during her engagement to Joseph. Joseph was considering how to best handle the difficult situation.

“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21 Matthew 1:20-21 [20] But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, you son of David, fear not to take to you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. [21] And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
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).

The Greek name “Jesus” is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yehoshua or Yeshua, the English form of which is “Joshua.” This name literally means “God is salvation.” So the angel’s message to Joseph was “You shall call His name ‘God is salvation,’ for He will save His people from their sins.” That name tells us of Jesus’ purpose in God’s plan—that it is through Him that God carries out His plan to save humanity from death, giving us eternal life in His family.

(Edited from the Bible study aid Jesus Christ: The Real Story)

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