Bible Review 11:5, October 1995

The Role of the Messiah

The terms “Christ” and “Messiah” do not refer to a divine being but to the function an agent of God plays in bringing the kingdom that is to come on earth as in heaven.

By Bernhard W. Anderson

Bible Review

“Christ” is probably the most frequently used—and least understood—word in the Bible. Many use it unthinkingly as an expletive; others assume it is the second name of the founder of Christianity; some take it to mean God manifest in the flesh, a divine being.

But how is “Christ” used in the Bible?

The term “Christ” (Greek christos) is equivalent to “Messiah” (Hebrew mashiah), which was used for a reigning monarch: David, for example, spoke of King Saul as “Yahweh’s messiah” (1 Samuel 24:6, 10). Eventually the term came to refer to God’s agent who would liberate the oppressed and introduce a new era, the Reign of God. The word literally means “Anointed,” reflecting the ancient practice of anointing and thereby consecrating a person for an office, such as prophet (2 Kings 19:16), priest (Exodus 28:41) or king (Judges 9:15 in Jotham’s fable). The emphasis falls not upon the “nature” of the anointed one but upon his function or office.

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