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This post was prompted by a Believer who made the following blog comment … “The Christ Jesus preached didn’t force himself on anyone…” My immediate response was wait! Jesus didn’t “preach” Christ, he WAS the Christ (at least according to the bible).
It was then I decided to write this post and share a segment from my book (see my blog Menu) related to why the title “Christ” happened to be tagged onto this Jewish guy who wandered the Israeli countryside. It’s from Chapter 4, “Paul: A Man with a Mission”:
To the followers of “the Way,” Jesus was the human messiah God had promised. Although they were devastated after his untimely death, the reported after-death sightings revived their hopes and convinced them he would soon return to set up God’s Kingdom.
To the mystery followers, Jesus was nothing more than a Jewish spiritual leader. His death was a mere blip on their radar. Their spiritual hopes for salvation and immortality rested in the mystical connections they formed with their various god-men. Knowing this, Paul began his crusade to reinvent Jesus and convince the Gentiles they could find what they were seeking in the resurrected man from Galilee.
What’s in a Name?
Drawing from his Greek leanings, Paul began referring to Jesus as the christos (Christ), thereby removing the Hebrew title of mashiach (messiah). Although both words mean “anointed one,” the use of the Greek title was more familiar to his intended converts and removed any reference to Jesus’ “Jewishness.” Some sources say christos also held the meaning of “one who is crowned with divinity.”
Paul also knew the mystery religion followers referred to their deities as kurios (“lord” in Greek), so he further assisted his cause by frequently using this title when he talked about Jesus (Lord Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus our Lord).
Bottom line is this: Yeshua was an itinerant preacher who came for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in hopes of returning them to the true worship of Yahweh. Nothing more. That is … until Paul had his “remarkable” vision and gave him the title of “the Christ” in order to reach the mystery followers.
Who were these “mystery followers”? Again, from my book:
In the centuries leading up to the birth of Christianity, various “Mystery Religions” spread and flourished throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.
At the core of these mystery religions was the belief in a dying-rising savior who sacrificed himself in order to give his followers eternal life. He was usually the offspring of a divine-human union and nearly always possessed special powers, including the ability to work miracles. After death, he either returned to life or triumphed over his enemies. (Remember, these religions were in place before Christianity.)
Not all Gentiles were a part of this mystery religion movement, but many of them were; in fact, enough of them that it behooved Paul to appeal to them in his efforts to conceive a new and acceptable version of that Jewish fellow known as Yeshua.
Did he succeed? I’ll let you be the judge of that.