What does ‘Christ’ represent?

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In Christianity Christ is the central name. It is supposable the Name of the Christian God. But in fact, that Name is a nickname and also a Latin transcription. It is also originally used to express an expectation that the Lord Jesus would receive a particular office. Everything points in the direction that Christians for centuries are interpreting and using this Name wrongly. What is written about it in the Bible?

The Name Christ is Christianity’s best known and most often used nickname for the Lord Jesus (Mt 1:16). It became popular[1] because it was sustained in most Bible ‘translations’. It is however a Latin transcription[2] of the Greek word Christos – anointed, which is mentioned in the New Testament (NT) more than 500 times.

It is remarkable that a Latin transcription was sustained in the Bible without translation and still became so popular[3]. Despite the fact that most believers over the ages did not understand that language[4]. What can be the reason for that?

Reasons to sustain it
There is an explanation why the nickname Christ is mentioned in the Bible translations. The translators didn’t know what the right way was to translate the Greek word Christos, since its strong connection with Greek culture.

On top of that is the fact that once the Latin Bible translation was published, the church strongly imposed the usage of this translation for a very long time[5]. The word Christ(us) is in such translation normal.

The use of the nickname Christos/Christ(us) also had the advantage that it could be used as means to resist Christians who continued to be connected with Jewry. Since the church leaders from the second century forward wanted to adapt the doctrine to the Roman/Greek target group[6].

The consequence of this translation error[7] is that the nickname ‘Christ’ in Christianity more and more has been given its own meaning. A meaning that has little to do with its original intent and a meaning that even became opposite (Greek: anti) to it.

New Name of God?
In this way ‘Christ’ was interpreted as a new Name of God. Against this interpretation a decisive argument can be put forward. The authors of the NT meant with the title ‘christos’, added to the Name of the Lord Jesus, that they believed He was entitled to receive it regarding Israel. But in both Biblical sense as in that of Jewry of the first century an anointed one was always a human being.

In Christianity however ‘Christ’ was in the end broadly accepted as a newly revealed Name of God[8]. Using the nickname in mockery is since then regarded in Christianity as a serious trespass of the prohibition of using the Name of God wrongly based on the 10 Words (Ex 20:7). But this wasn’t intended with the word Christos by any of the authors of the NT. This becomes clear from their writings.

Redefinition
The nickname Christ thus must be understood in its meaning: ‘Anointed’. What has this for special significance for the Lord Jesus? In the history of Christianity this question has been answered differently. From proof that He was God Himself to even the reduction of His divinity[9]. Traditions were made to counter these extremes.

But it becomes clear that Christianity was unable to understand that meaning in Biblical sense[10]. Up until today the traditional stance remains that whoever doesn’t believe that the Lord Jesus is (the) Christ, is no Christian[11]. Christ is then understood as the God of the Bible revealed as Redeemer of man.

However, as shown above, the title ‘Christ’ doesn’t have the meaning in Biblical sense. Anointment in that sense only means being filled with God’s Spirit or at least being guided by His Spirit for a specific mission, calling, office or ministry. The specific meaning given in de the Bible in connection with the Lord Jesus is His inauguration in the office of messiah, which is confirmed with an anointment (fulfillment with the Spirit of God).

Alternatives
What would be a good translation of the title Christ? Some suggestions:

• Redeemer (or something similar) – but the Hebrew meaning of the name Jesjoea’ already represents that and in Greek normally other words are used for that meaning, like soter. The Bible writers also have not used the title Christ in that sense.

• God’s particular of special envoy – this has the important danger that a wrong meaning is given to the Lord Jesus. The fact is that the word Christ is used adjectively together with His Name. The danger of such a translation is that He could be understood as Angel of God. Something that is unjustly too often suggested. According to the Bible the Lord Jesus is not an angel, but ‘above’ them (Hb 1:4).

• (The Son of) God – that the word Christ would be a synonym for God is nonsense. In Biblical sense God is not anointed. The concept ‘Son of God’ is however rather broadly used in the Bible. It can mean angel, a pious believer or father of all man (Adam). Nowhere in the Bible is mentioned that anointment is required for a son of God. So, no connection with it exists.

• Anointed – but that is rather meaningless for present readers and also a door to too many applications.

• Messiah – this is the application the disciples gave to the anointment of the Lord Jesus[12]. This is therefore the right translation of the word Christ in Biblical sense[13]. However, as said above, a messiah is in Biblical sense always a man.

Another approach
It’s remarkable that wherever in the NT the Latin nickname Christ is read (and understood) as ‘Messiah’, this results in a completely different look on the Lord Jesus. Especially in the case of the word combination ‘the Christ of God’, what seems equivalent to the word combination ‘the Son of God’.

However, by far most Christians would view such a translation as blasphemous or at least as focusing on just one element of the Lord Jesus. Since traditionally nowadays the Lord Jesus can no longer be seen other than He being God Himself and not ‘just’ as Servant of God. But this latter is precisely what the word Christ expresses.

The words ‘the Christ of God’ even represent a relationship of property. Something that was, is and shall be. This is after all stated repeatedly in the Bible. Alas for the orthodoxy, but the dogma that states that the Lord Jesus is equal God, the Father, is in Biblical sense false and untrue. This however doesn’t mean that the Lord Jesus isn’t part of the Godhead or wouldn’t be divine. This article doesn’t deal with that subject.

Moderation of messianism
The translation of the word Christ into Messiah everywhere in the NT also shows that the Lord Jesus wasn’t[14] and isn’t[15] Messiah. The expectation is that He will become Messias after His return. That is what is taught in the NT. Despite the fact that His first disciples as Jews gave their Teacher from early on (Mt 16:16) the title ‘Masjieach’ (Messiah).

But the Lord Jesus did forbid them to use that title openly (verse 20). Also, because in His days that title was too apocalyptically[16] and politically charged. Since it was then a time of great tension about questions on the final restoration of Israel versus the continuous oppression of pagan empires.

It is therefore quite plausible to state that the Lord Jesus would have rejected the use of the nickname ‘Christian’. It is not only presumptuous, but also false. How can a follower of the Lord Jesus claim to be messianic when the Messiah is not yet inaugurated and is still to come? On top of that is the fact that most Christians are not even fulfilled by the Holy Spirit[17]!

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[1] Most of the first followers of the Lord Jesus have never called Him Christ. That nickname only just last became in use by Roman Christians.
[2] Words from the original language transferred into another language of which the original sounding is sustained. For example, the name Jesus is a Latin transcription of the Greek transcription Iesous originating from the Hebrew name Jesjoea’. Both names – Jesus and Iesous – do not occur in the Latin and Greek languages and thus also have no meaning in them. So, there is no connection what so ever between the Latin name Jesus and the Hebrew name Jesjoea’. However, the Hebrew name Jesjoea’ is an existing name in Hebrew and has a meaning in it (God delivers).
[3] Especially since the term Christ in the Roman Empire had a connection with the cult of the emperor. There was also a connection in Greek culture with idolatry in sport.
[4] From the beginning on and a long time afterwards most followers of the Lord Jesus spoke Aramaic, Hebrew and/or Greek. Even after that most new converts spoke non-Latin languages.
[5] The nickname became ingrained over the centuries.
[6] This is due to a misinterpretation of the missionary work of the apostle Paul. He had supposedly taught that non-Jews are set free of the Biblical conditions of the Covenant (Torah). In reality Paul was not the only one who could determine such matters, but the counsel of apostles. They have only given non-Jews respite (time to get used to) about the Torah, what for example is made clear in Acts 15:21.
[7] It has to be regarded as a translational error, because it is an inconsistency. A translation by definition doesn’t leave words not translated or at least gives a translation next to it, like with names.
[8] According to many Christians the true Name of God.
[9] According to some teachings the Lord Jesus was only just a special Human, but not God.
[10] Christianity inherently (from itself) no longer has insight in the things of God. That shows a lack of inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
[11] As such, the nickname Christ is directly connected to the naming of the disciples of the Lord Jesus: ‘Christians’.
[12] Later is became clear to the disciples that He not yet was the Messiah, but that God would later appoint Him in that office. Before His return.
[13] This makes clear that the original nickname christianos for the believers in Antioch has to be understood as ‘messianics’ (believers in the Messiah of God; Acts 11:26). In the Middle-East they are still called as such.
[14] This becomes clear from questions the disciples had about the establishment of the Kingdom of God at the end of His work on earth during His first coming. Seemingly this remained an open issue. Prophecies relating to that seemingly remained unfulfilled, despite the spiritual redemption work of the Lord Jesus.
[15] A messiah is only of use in a physical creation. Since the Lord Jesus now remains in heaven, His assumed messianic ministry is irrelevant for God and man.
[16] This has got to do with the revelations on the final completion by God (End time). Already since the return and resettlement of the Israelites in the Land promised to them (from the fourth century BC) there was a tensed expectation among them about the fulfillment of the old prophecies. Those were about the restoration of Israel as independent nation by the Hand of a Messiah.
[17] Such fulfillment is however the required basis for a messianic calling of a believer.