As believers, we acknowledge and embrace that Jesus Christ is the core of our Christian faith. Beginning over two-thousand years ago with the crowd of spectators that viewed His crucifixion, people throughout history have sought to understand more about the man who died on the cross so that every human could receive eternal salvation. Often for new practitioners of the faith, this journey of discovery begins with the question, “are Jesus and Christ the same?” Many people around the world refer to Him as Jesus, some call Him Christ, and others use the terms interchangeably or in conjunction with the other. While the person they are referring to is the same, there is much more to the story that is rarely told.
Jesus and Christ represent the same person; however, there is some distinction in each name’s etymology. Jesus refers to the human name selected by God to be given to His Son, and can be interpreted as “Savior”. On the other hand, Christ pertains to a title that translates to “Chosen One”, “Messiah”, or “Anointed One”. When combining these words, we can conclude that one translation of Jesus Christ is the “Messiah who Saves.” Unlike names given at birth today, Jesus Christ is not His full legal name but represents His given name and title.
In this article, we will dig deeper into the etymology of the names Jesus and Christ, discuss the real meanings behind them, and provide some interesting background information you may not have known.
How did Jesus receive His name?
According to the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel went to Mary to relay a message from God. Gabriel told Mary that when she gives birth, she and Joseph, the man she is set to marry, will name the baby Jesus. Hence, when we speak of Jesus, we refer to the human name bestowed by God. Luke 1:31-32 (NIV) says,
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David,”
His given name signifies His distinctive identity and the purpose of His mission on earth. Let’s look at the significance of the name Jesus in the next section.
The meaning of the name Jesus
Over the centuries, the Bible as we know it today underwent multiple translations from its’ original Classical Hebrew text. This includes being translated into other languages such as Aramaic, Latin, and Greek before finally arriving in the English version that is widely used around the world today.
The name Jesus derives from the Latin translation for the Greek word “Iesus”, and Iesus comes from the Greek spelling of the name “Iesous”. The Greek name Iesous is the transliteration of the original Hebrew name “Yeshua” or “Joshua” which in turn means “Yahweh is Salvation”.
The meaning of the name Christ
While the name Jesus pertains to His human form, on the other hand, Christ is a term that derives from the Greek word “Christos”. The title is similar to the Hebrew word “Messiah” or “Anointed One”.
Usage of the names Jesus Christ and Christ Jesus
Frequently you will find Christian authors in the New Testament combining Jesus’s name with His title, such as Christ Jesus or Jesus Christ.
Some passages indicate the title first as seen in 2 Timothy 1:2 (NIV), which says,
To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Lord. Other passages place His human name first, as seen in Jude 1:1 (NIV), that states, Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
When one places “Christ” beside the name “Jesus”, this expresses honor to the Son of God whether you position the title before or after His given name. Moreover, early disciples and followers of Jesus use the title because they believed He was the Messiah.
While usage of the names Jesus and Christ are often used synonymously to refer to the same person, as we have seen in the previous sections, some distinctions are worth mentioning that can add helpful context to the topic. The name Jesus pertains to the human form of the Son of God. While the term “Christ” emphasizes His divine nature. Nonetheless, both of these names refer to the individual that grew up in Galilee and roamed Judea spreading the gospel about God’s love and salvation.
Learning more about Jesus is the only way to mature your faith. Like human relations, the parties’ trust and devotion in the relationship prosper as they find out more about each other. Jesus already knows who you are and loves you. Now it is up to you to understand and get to know Him.