What’s In A Name? Part 2

So in Part 1, we learned how the Hebrew name of Yeshua changed over the centuries to “Jesus,” the name used today in Christian circles for the itinerant preacher who wandered through the hills of Palestine some 2000-plus years ago.

But where did the added name of Christ come from?

Many are aware that way back in biblical days, God promised the Jewish people a mashiach (also spelled moshiach) — a deliverer, a liberator. While this word translates in English to “messiah” and is considered by many to mean “savior” …

The word “mashiach” does not mean “savior.” The notion of an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who will sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences of our own sins is a purely Christian concept that has no basis in Jewish thought. Unfortunately, this Christian concept has become so deeply ingrained in the English word “messiah” that this English word can no longer be used to refer to the Jewish concept. (http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm)

 The Jewish people saw the mashiach as a future human leader, physically descended from the paternal Davidic line through King David and King Solomon, and often referred to him as “mashiach ben David” (mashiach, son of David).

They visualized this individual as a charismatic leader, well-versed in Jewish laws and traditions, an anointed judge who would make righteous decisions, and a militaristic leader who would win battles for Israel. He was expected to unify the tribes of Israel and usher in a “Messianic Age” (Olam Ha-Ba), a time of peaceful co-existence of all people and a time when the whole world would recognize the Jewish G-d as the only true god, and the Jewish religion as the only true religion.

So the question then becomes … was Yeshua the expected mashiach? Some of the Hebrew people living at the time believed he was. Paul, in particular, was certain he was, and began a crusade to convince not only the non-believing Jews but also the gentiles, the people he believed he had been called upon to reach.

However, since the gentiles had no need for a messiah (deliverer, liberator), they saw Yeshua as nothing more than a Jewish spiritual leader. They could see no reason to acknowledge or worship him above any of their own gods. This meant that Paul had to come up with a way to present him as someone special.

To identify with his mostly Greek audience, Paul removed the Hebrew title of mashiach and began using the Greek word christos (“anointed one”) when referring to Iesous (see Part I). This new title, which translates to the English word Christ, was much more familiar to his intended converts and eliminated any reference to Iesous’s  “Jewishness.”

Paul also knew the gentiles referred to their deities as kurios (“lord” in Greek), so he further assisted his cause by frequently using this title when he talked about Iesous.

As pointed out in Part I, throughout the years as language evolved and changed, Yeshua eventually became known as Jesus. And now, with Paul’s help, he is also referred to as Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Addendum: There is still a division of thought among Jews and Christians as to the true identity of Yeshua. The former still await their mashiach while the latter are certain Jesus was/is the one who will usher in that magical world of peace and tranquility.