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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 4:25), 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; 2 Samuel 5:3; 1 Kings 1:39; Psalms 89:20 …), and who were given the title ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 12:3; 2 Samuel 23:1; Psalms 2:2; Psalms 20:6; Psalms 132:17; Lamentations 4:20)” (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; Romans 5:5)—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).

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).

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)