Mar 16, 2010

Names and Titles of Jesus Christ (Part 1)

Renald ShowersBy Dr. Renald E. Showers
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

A consideration of some of the names and titles of Jesus Christ is a good place to begin the study of Christology. In biblical times, names and titles had great significance. They were designed to reveal such things as the nature, character, position, and accomplishments of a person. Thus, a study of Christ’s names and titles reveals significant things concerning Him.

Lord: This term was used to signify two things concerning Christ. The Greek word for lord (kurios) meant master or sovereign. Thus, sometimes it was used as a title to reveal that Christ is the Master or Sovereign Lord over all of creation. Peter seemed to have this in mind when he asserted that Jesus Christ “is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).

In addition, the term was used to reveal the deity of Christ. During the course of Old Testament times, Jews came to regard God’s personal name Yahweh (written JHVH) too sacred to pronounce because it signified His absolute deity. Abraham Cohen explained it this way,

To the Oriental, a name is not merely a label as with us. It was thought of as indicating the nature of a person or object by whom it was borne. For that reason special reverence attached to “the distinctive Name” of the Deity which He had revealed to the people of Israel, viz. the tetragrammaton, JHVH (Everyman’s Talmud, p. 24).
Thus, whenever Jews came to that name in their Hebrew Scriptures, they pronounced a substitute title. “Instead of JHVH the Name was pronounced Adonai” (Cohen, p. 25). Adonai meant lord, master, or sovereign.

Because of this practice, when, during the 200s and 100s B.C., Jewish scholars produced the Septuagint (the Greek language version of the Hebrew Old Testament), they used kurios (lord), the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew title adonai, as the substitute for Yahweh (Gottfried Quell, “kurios,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. III, p. 1058). As a result, by New Testament times the title kurios (lord) was commonly used as a substitute for God’s personal name Yahweh and, when so used, was intended to communicate the idea of absolute deity. Thus, on many occasions the early church used the title Lord (kurios) to signify the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. The fact that the blind man whom Christ healed worshiped Him when he called Him “Lord” (Jn. 9:38) indicates that he used that term to signify Christ’s deity.

Jesus: This is Christ’s human and historical name. He did not have this name before He became a human being through His incarnation. The angel told Joseph, “thou shalt call his name JESUS” (Mt. 1:21, future tense).

In addition to signifying Christ’s humanity, this name identified a major aspect of His ministry. Jesus means Yahweh saves; thus, it revealed that Christ would do the work of salvation for mankind. The angel gave the reason for His human name: “for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).

Christ: Christ is the Greek and New Testament counterpart of the Hebrew and Old Testament title Messiah. Concerning Andrew’s statement, “We have found the Messiah,” the New Testament asserts, “which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (Jn. 1:41). The terms Christ and Messiah mean anointed one. Thus, this title signifies that Jesus of Nazareth is the one specially anointed by God to do His work, to accomplish God’s purpose for history, and to fulfill the Old Testament Messianic prophecies.

Immanuel (sometimes spelled Emmanuel): This name emphasized the deity of Jesus Christ. It indicated that He was God dwelling in the midst of the people of Israel. The angel who spoke to Joseph concerning Jesus said, “they shall call his name Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us” (Mt. 1:23). Jesus clearly demonstrated that He was “God with us” when He allowed the Shekinah glory to radiate through His human flesh at His transfiguration (Mt. 17:1–6). The Shekinah glory always signified the unique presence of deity.

The Son of God: John the Baptist gave the following witness concerning Jesus: “And I saw, and bore witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1:34). The combination of the definite article “the” and the singular form of “Son” in this title is very significant. It reveals that Christ is the Son of God in a unique sense. The Old Testament calls angels “the sons of God” (Job 1:6) because He brought them into existence through creation, but Christ was not created. The New Testament calls believers “the sons of God” (Jn. 1:12–13) because they became His spiritual offspring through the new birth, but Christ did not need the new birth. Thus, Christ is the Son of God in a unique sense that is not true of angels or human believers. This is emphasized even more by His enlarged designation “the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).

The uniqueness of Christ’s Sonship in relation to God the Father is revealed by the fact that in the Old Testament and writings of post-biblical Judaism, the Hebrew words for “son” were “often used to denote the relationship which determines the nature of a man” (Eduard Lohse, “huios,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. VIII, p. 358). Thus, the title the Son of God signified that Christ had the same divine nature as God the Father. Because of this, the Jews recognized that when Christ claimed to be the Son of God, He was ascribing absolute deity to Himself (Jn. 5:17–18; 10:33, 36).

The title the Son of God also indicated that Christ is a separate person from the Father (Mt. 3:16–17; Jn. 5:19–22) and is the heir, not the servant, of the Father (Mt. 21:33–39; Heb. 3:5–6).

Related Links
What are the different names and titles of Jesus Christ? -
Names, Titles and Characters of Jesus Christ - Blue Letter Bible
The Deity of Jesus Christ - Moody Ministries
Names of Christ
The Foundations of Faith Vol. 1 - Renald E. Showers (Book)