The word “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “anointed” or, by inference, “the anointed one” (one who has been anointed). In the Old Testament, this referred primarily to the kings and high priests who were anointed for their service. As a reference to a king or priest, the term typically is translated as “anointed” (noun) as in Isaiah 45:1 where God refers to Cyrus (a pagan ruler) as “His anointed.”
The Messianic Expectation
Within Judaism, however, there arose an expectation that one day a great Leader would come to establish God’s kingdom on earth. Christians see this expectation fulfilled in Jesus. Many, consequently, see references to this coming Person appearing as early as Genesis 3:15 when God spoke to the serpent and said, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The New Testament perceives Jesus as the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation. He is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. New Testament authors, writing in Greek, generally translated the Hebrew word “Messiah” as “Christos.” Consequently, many Bibles appropriately translate the word as “Christ.” We should not, however, allow the Greek word “Christ” obscure the deeply Hebrew roots of this word and the concept. The name and title, “Jesus Christ,” can be appropriately translated as “Jesus the Messiah.”
The New Testament, and Jesus Himself, can be properly understood only in the context of the Hebrew Old Testament. There is, therefore, value in referring to Jesus as “the Messiah,” especially when we can help learners understand the Jewish roots associated with the term. Jesus is the ultimate “anointed One.” He is the King of kings. He is also the great High Priest. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and the Old Testament story.
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
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