This page is about the title, for the "Christian" figure, see Jesus
"Christ" is the English representation of the Greek word Χριστός (transliterated as Khristós), which means anointed. 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 Greek Scriptures the Greek Ιησούς Χριστός, 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".
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 Greek Scriptures as a description for Jesus. In the New Testament, it was used to translate Hebrew as Mashiach (Messiah) meaning "anointed". This term implied a match to the criteria of being anointed that Jewish tradition had given to their predicted future saviour.
"The Anointed" 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). The Jews came to expect a savior 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 savior makes these words in some senses equivalent. They expressed their hopes for this savior particularly in their prayers known as the Psalms, which often make reference to God and "his anointed", many of which references "Christian" s interpret as prophetic.
History in the New Testament
In the Greek Scriptures it is indicated that the savior, long awaited, did come: however, there is no record of his being officially anointed with oil as Messiah, priest, or king in the gospels. Instead Luke says he "is inducted by His heavenly Father into His Messianic office" (Ott, Ludwig; see Lk 3:22). However, He is anointed by a woman, reported in Mark 14: 3-9 as happening just before his death, and in a different context in Luke 7. As Jesus demonstrates, over time, to his disciples that he is the savior, they come to call him by that name, which again was a title, i.e. normal usage being "the "Christ" ". After the Resurrection"Christ" became a proper name used to refer to Jesus.
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.
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 appelation in Greek (Χριστός), 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.
Related uses of anointing
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.
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 and left him at different times, and who did not suffer death, because that was impossible for a deity. 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.
Expansions and appropriations of"Christ"
"Christ" " has taken on such power and significance as a theological, religious and/or devotional term that it has been appropriated and/or expanded by various theologians and religious writers so as to take it beyond its merely "Christian" context. The development of Judeo/"Christian" religious concepts in a world religious context may be startling to the orthodox, but is part of the full picture and contemporary meaning of the term"Christ".
One belief is the idea or concept that 'Jesus became "Christ" ;' i.e. his 'flesh was transformed to spirit.' By taking a spiritual and good path through life, Jesus was reunited with his true holy nature (redemption) and preserved forever in God.
However in this view, this psychic force is often called 'the "Christ" ,' or sometimes '"Christ" consciousness,' etc; drawing a separation between God (whose nature some maintain we cannot fathom or comprehend) and the Holy Spirit, which has experience (through Jesus) and therefore compatibility with our mortal and frail humanity. This separation of spiritual concepts is embodied in the "Christian" Trinity.
In many branches of "Christianity" , some limitations on extra-cultural interactivity result in dogmatic interpretations of the meaning of "the "Christ" " to refer only to "Christ" endom" (i.e. confirmed "Christian" s") as opposed to all of spiritual humanity, that may have equal devotion to 'the "Christ" ,' yet may refer to it by another name: i.e. God, Krishna, etc.
In Eastern religious traditions, for example, "God" remains mysterious and unknowable and therefore only implied; described instead by personifications (deities) which are manifestations of particular aspects of God's power. In mortal form, the "Christian" Jesus is akin to these personifications, with the caveat that he alone is the deity; all of God's powers that are relevant or understandable to man, are manifest through Jesus. Thus, where "Christ" is a synonym for the Holy Spirit, the Trinity of Father (God) Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit ("Christ" ) are unified, though each remain distinct.
The interjection "Christ" !" is often used as a sign of surprise or anger, without a direct religious reference - that is, as a swear word. Many "Christian" s find this usage blasphemous, as they feel it cheapens a holy term and violates the Commandment against taking God's name in vain.
"Christ" " is also the name of a British humour fanzine.
A. J. Maas, Origin of the Name of Jesus "Christ" , Catholic Encyclopedia
Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 1957.
Paul A. Hughes, The Gnostic "Christ" : Gnosticism vs. "Christianity"
The Etymological Derivation Of The Name"Christ", NZs Hare Krishna Spiritual Network
Joshua McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today's Religions, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.
Tom Harpur, "The Pagan "Christ" . Recovering the Lost Light." Thomas Allen Publishers, Toronto, (2004)