‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’? – World Baptist News

“Jesus Christ Superstar, do you think you are what they say you are?

A memorable lyric from the 1971 Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. And also a poignant question for today as American Christians seem to gravitate towards one of the two names of the Son of God.

It turns out, again, that there are two kinds of Christians: those who talk about Jesus and those who talk about Christ. And then there are some who split the difference and talk about Jesus Christ, and not just when they hit a thumb with a hammer.

For example, would you normally say, “Jesus calls me to follow him” or “Christ calls me to follow him”?

I recently asked this question on Facebook, and a lively discussion ensued. In one day, 82 comments have accumulated. Lots of personal preferences, mixed in with some very deep comments on when to use one name over another.

“Jesus” may be the “name above all names,” as the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians, but for many Christians, “Christ” is sometimes more specific.

“Jesus” may be the “name above all names,” as the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians, but for many Christians, “Christ” is sometimes more specific.

Just by way of examination, the baby born to Mary in this stable in Bethlehem was given the name “Jesus”. And in the fashion of the time, he would have been known around Nazareth as Jesus bar Joseph, meaning Jesus the son of Joseph.

The three synoptic gospels record Peter’s confession to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.

“Christ” comes from the Greek word χριστός (christos), meaning “anointed”. The apostle Paul in his epistles often refers to “Christ Jesus our Lord” or “Jesus the Christ”. In fact, with the exception of Philippians 2 where he most likely quotes an ancient hymn, Paul in his letters rarely uses the word “Jesus” alone. Almost always it is either “Christ” in the singular, or “Christ Jesus” or “Jesus Christ”.

In modern American English, Christians often refer to Jesus Christ as if Jesus were a first name and Christ a surname. And yet, each individual word is more often used by itself.

What drives some people to talk about “Jesus” and others to talk about “Christ”?

My question is: What drives some people to talk about “Jesus” and others to talk about “Christ”?

Pedantic, perhaps. But still curious. Is it like the regional differences in what is called a generic Coca-Cola? It is a “soft drink” in some regions, a “soda” in others, and a “soft drink” in others.

Probably not. I suspect there is an underlying theological statement at work, albeit unconsciously.

The famous British theologian NT Wright is said to have joked that he could tell in 15 minutes whether the churches heard mainly the Gospels or mainly the Epistles from the pulpit. People in the gospels tend to talk about Jesus, and people in the epistles tend to talk mostly about Christ. (I can’t find this quote because Wright has written and spoken extensively, but it sounds authentic.)

And yet, it’s clear that regional and dialectical differences are at play. Southerners — people who may ask if you want a “Coke” while they serve you a Pepsi — seem more inclined to “Jesus.” There are many reasons for this, including the likely emphasis on the Gospels in preaching and the popularity of a kind of “me and Jesus” theology.

There are also denominations and differences in worship style. Pastors and parishioners of higher church traditions seem more inclined to “Christ” as a more formal way of speaking. This even carries over into church music where more liturgical choirs sing phrases such as “Christ, we all adore you” and revivalist choirs sing “Jesus, keep me near the Cross”.

Do not underestimate the power of music to shape our theology and our language.

Do not underestimate the power of music to shape our theology and our language.

My Facebook friends have also opened up all sorts of additional thoughts on this.

Darrell Hamilton II, a pastor in New York, remembers hearing a white Protestant pastor say a day before Easter, “Jesus died, but Christ is risen.”

“It was profound for me because it gave me insight into why and how this distinction can play out theologically and culturally,” Hamilton said. “In this minister’s cosmology, ‘Christ’ is an idea. In the black church I grew up in, Jesus is not an idea but a historical and ever-present reality.

Stacy Cochran Nowell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntersville, North Carolina, clearly remembers being faced with the “Jesus” versus “Christ” dilemma during his first semester of seminary.

“People only used ‘Jesus’ when referring to his 33 years on earth. Otherwise, it was rather a cosmic language of “Christ”. And if one used “Jesus” to refer to the continued presence of Christ in our lives today, there was an implicit sense that the person was less theologically sophisticated. »

This explanation carries an important adjective that we need to pause and consider for a moment: “Cosmic.” There’s a whole line of theology – made popular again by author Richard Rohr – that speaks of the “cosmic Christ,” usually referring to the transcendent Christ of creation.

Nowell’s seminary experience is confirmed by others who carefully analyze their use of Jesus in relation to Christ.

“I use Jesus to refer to the person, teachings and ministry of Jesus. And Christ as the radical reality of God’s love made real.

Annette ThornburgOwen pastor of Community Baptist Church in Warrenville, Illinois, made a simple distinction: “I use Jesus to refer to the person, teachings and ministry of Jesus. And Christ as the radical reality of God’s love made real.

Ditto for Amy Mears, pastor of the Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville: “The group I lead rarely uses ‘Christ’ as a name; it’s a title. So we refer to Jesus as the person we are trying to follow. We refer to ‘Christ’ (always with the article) when we talk about the messianic role.

And yet another twist on this idea from pastoral theologian Eileen Campbell-Reed: “To my theological understanding, Jesus of Nazareth is the human person, born of Mary and Joseph, raised to be a Jewish rabbi, and a person of the first century who gathered disciples. and wreaked havoc with a deep understanding of love. Christ is the embodiment of God’s love, the cosmic presence, the transcendent being, the fulfillment of the messianic promise. Both Jews and Gentiles who became disciples on the Way came to understand Jesus as the Christ. And one of the early confessions of the church was ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) or simply ‘Jesus is Lord.’ I am therefore more likely to pray in the name and in the spirit of Christ. But talking (or preaching) about what it means to follow Jesus and the teachings of Jesus.

Important reminder here that the first confession of the church, still used in baptisms today, is the declaration that “Jesus is Lord”. Of course, no one would say, “Christ is Lord” because that would be redundant.

I hope I didn’t just compare Jesus to dishes.

Which brings me personally to wanting to come down to the side of “Jesus” for day-to-day conversations and “Christ” for special occasions and referrals. I hope I didn’t just compare Jesus to dishes.

Now back to the main question. Here is a sample of the brilliant ideas offered by my Facebook friends:

“Jesus involves only one specific historical figure to venerate and adore. Christ, meaning the anointed, implies something in which all mankind can participate to do the works of God. Incidentally, Jesus’ preferred term for himself was not Son of God but Son of man. He is humanity fully alive. — Jennifer Mayeau

“I believe there is an underlying theological difference. Christ is a more political usage that accentuates power and authority, while Jesus tends to accentuate a way of life and living. — Quentin Lockwood 3

“The personal name, Jesus, emphasizes his relational and salvific commitment to humanity. The title, Christ, has Jewish roots and identifies him as the fulfillment of the messianic hope. Both are valuable and feature prominently in our understanding of the God-Man. Our audience and context may indicate the best nomenclature to use. —Patrick Wilson

“I use Jesus because Jesus is the teacher. Christ means truly scary theology and history. And I pretty much roll my eyes at any theology other than “Jesus is Lord.” As such, I claim to be a follower of Jesus rather than a “Christian”. Nancy Kiker Bean

“Jesus is the man, Jesus of Nazareth, as Christ speaks to a greater reality. I see Christ as the Christian name of God that grounds ultimate reality in the historical person of Jesus. — queen chuck

“Since Jesus is a common name in the culture and language in which I have primarily ministered, I generally use Christ or Jesucristo to ensure there is no confusion about which Jesus I am talking about. .” — Dexton Shores

“The more I seek to follow Jesus the Christ, the more I use ‘Jesus’.”

“The more I seek to follow Jesus the Christ, the more I use ‘Jesus’. There seems to be an immediacy and intimacy in this proper name that is absent, for me, in the title “Christ”. Charles Foster Johnson

“I worry about people wanting to over-emphasize the distinction, largely because I feel like they tend to ignore the idea of ​​hypostatic union in a really unhelpful way. There’s something something outrageous about the particularity of incarnation that I don’t want to lose in our current, digital, disembodied age. So I tend to use Jesus. — Aaron Coyle Carr

Lots of wisdom on a fascinating question. You say “Christ”, I say “Jesus”. We both follow the same Lord. But one of them might be easier to follow than the other, according to Stephen Shoemaker, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina.

He wrote: “It is the Sermon on the Mount or the Apostles’ Creed; the religion of Jesus or the religion of Jesus; love your neighbor or accept Jesus as your Saviour. Jesus is closer to serpents in worship, Christ closer to incense. Jesus is generally harder to follow than Christ – and sometimes more dangerous.

Amen to that.

Related Articles:

Who is Jesus Christ for us today? | Opinion of David Gushee

Jesus is not the same as Christ | Review of Chuck Queen

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