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Biblical Christology – Lecture 2A

  • October 10, 2007
  • Lecture 2-A:
    Biblical Christology
    by Fr. Michael Bazzi


Christology II


Gospel Thoughts (especially Synoptic Gospels) – In this lecture, we will examine the Christology, particularly the names given to Jesus throughout the New Testament and the apostolic age (33-99 A.D). For example, in ancient cultures, one’s name represents the person, himself, and his message. Thus, the name “Jesus,” means God saves. His name reveals His redemptive mission; He will come and save His people from their sins (Mt. 2:21). Furthermore, we will observe 4 stages: 1. apostolic preaching, 2. synoptic Gospels, 3. Pauline writings (13 letters), and 4. Johannine Literature (5 books).

Lord– in Greek: Kyrios, in Hebrew: Adonay (my Lord) and the Septuagint “LXX” referred to God. Even the Pagans used this word for the title of their gods and people of emperor worship.

From the beginning, Christians said that Jesus is the Lord and the Apostles preached the Word of the Lord (Acts 8:25/10:36).  Moreover, Peter said that God has made Jesus the Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36) and that everyone who invokes the name of the Lord, Christ will be saved (Acts 2:21). The title, “Lord,” was used before the title “Son of God” (expressing the reality of Jesus’ Divine Sonship) and later became part of the Creed.

Messiah– means “the anointed one.” The early Church gave this name to Jesus to assure Christians that He is the divinely given answer to the messianic hopes of Israel (Acts 2:36). They preached that Jesus was anointed with spiritual power during his earthly life (Acts 10:37). In addition, At Caesarea, Philippi, Peter said to Jesus: “You are the Messiah” (Mk. 2:29), while Jesus insisted that His role was that of a suffering Messiah and that He did not want to publicize His position, due to the misleading messianic ideals of the Jews (Mk. 8:30-33).  Likewise, during the public life of Jesus, the Gospel recorded many proclamations that Jesus is the promised Messiah. For example, Jesus’ messianic mission was acknowledged by a multitude of people upon His entrance into Jerusalem.

To continue, the Jewish view of the Messiah was not uniform. The Qumran expected two messiahs: from 2 Sam. 7:12-14, the prophet, Nathan, said that King David’s dynasty would continue on the throne of Israel forever (around 980 B.C). But in the post-exile period, when the Davidic line no longer reigned in Judea, the anticipation arose that God would send supreme king and messiah in the future. They believed that this expected messiah would deliver Israel and bring the whole world to worship Yahweh. Unfortunately, there was no suggestion of the messiah being divine, nor was the concept of the messiah ever free of nationalistic overtone.

Later on, Jesus’ followers had seen that His earthly career had not been glorious, nor visibly victorious, established no kingdom, had not delivered Israel, nor had he subjected the Gentiles to the service of Yahweh. Therefore, they said that the moment when Jesus will appear is the moment when God will fulfill all the prophecies, for then the whole world will see the Messiah in all His Power and Glory (Acts. 3:20-21). Furthermore, another early Christian explanation is voiced in Acts 2:36/5:31, where it states that it is the Ascended Jesus who God made the Messiah. Here we have a partial modification of the Jewish concept: for the Messiah to remain a glorious and victorious figure, but His region is in heaven, not on earth.

However, neither of these primitive explanations seems to have much success. The apostolic preachers were not content with saying that Jesus would be the messiah or that he became the Messiah after His resurrection. Rather the concept of the Messiah was soon spiritualized so that the title would be applied to one whose glory was internal, and who delivered Israel not from political servitude, but from the servitude of sin. The picture of the Messiah was broadened to include the suffering (Acts 3:18; 17:3; Luke 24”26, 46—the idea of a suffering Messiah seems to be a Christian innovation, unknown in late Judaism). And so it could now be preached that Jesus was the Messiah during His ministry—a stage of the preaching that was dominant when the Gospels were written. ( It is clear that Jesus claimed to have a unique role in proclaiming God’s Kingdom; the apostolic preachers were simply identifying that role as messiahship) Still, a further development was the understanding that Jesus was the Messiah from the moment of His Incarnation, a development reflected on the infancy narratives (Matt. 1:23; 2:6; Luke 1:31-33). Obviously, Christian though was moving more specifically toward belief in a divine Messiah.

No matter how radical the development and adaptation of the title “Messiah” in the history of its application to Jesus, it was clearly his most frequently applied title. In its Greek form, Christos, it became and has remained almost the surname of Jesus, so that Christians think and speak naturally of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 1:6; Matt. 1:1; John 1:17).

Servant of God (‘bed Yahweh) The Church preaches according to the Scriptures: Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day (1Cor 15:3-4). In Acts, after the cure of the cripple, Peter said “God of Abraham has glorified his servant, Jesus.” Also, in Acts 4:27, Peter and the community said: “they have assembled in this city against your Holy Servant, Jesus, whom you anointed (Messiah)”. Furthermore, Philip explained to Ethiopians (Isaiah 53:7-8) and it applied to Jesus (Acts 8:35).

The Holy and Just One– There are many places where Jesus is Called “Holy” and “Just.” This is quite the implication of his divinity since in Isaiah 40:26; 53:11; 45:21 states that “Holy” and “Just” is referred to God alone. In the New Testament, Peter uses both of these titles for Jesus in Acts 3:14. In addition, Matthew calls Him “Jesus, the Holy One” and He is called “Just” in Acts 7:52.

Prince of– This name is used in Acts 3:15 and Hebrews 2:10. It describes Jesus as the leader of the renewed Israel in the journey toward Heavenly Jerusalem.

The Prophet and Elijah– in John 6:14, Jesus plays the role of the prophet and in Acts 3:22; 7:37, He is represented to be like Moses. Elijah has been taken to heaven (2Kings 2:11) and people expected this Elijah to be Jesus, even though some thought that John the Baptist was Elijah (Luke 1:76). Lastly, Luke portrays Jesus as Elijah (Luke 4:24-26).

Stone rejected by the builders– Used in Ps 118:22; Acts 4:11; and 1Pet 2:4-7.

Judge of the Living and the Dead– the Church has associated Jesus and “Risen Lord” with this title (Acts 10:42; Rom 14:9).

Redeemer– This term is applied to God in the Old Testament (Ps. 19:15; Acts 7:35) when Moses was the redeemer. Redemption means deliverance and liberation. Paul calls Christ, Jesus “Our Redeemer” (1Cor 1:30).

Savior– Used in Acts 5:31; Luke 1:47 and Matthew 1:21 (The name of Jesus means “God saves).”

Son of God– Paul used it in Acts 9:20 and Gal. 1:16.

Although each of the Synoptic has a personal approach to the mystery of Christ, which he expresses through various titles, all three possess a certain common view of Jesus and His redemptive work. They follow the same broad outline in their accounts of Jesus’ earthly career. They all depict Jesus’ mission as a struggle against evil and assert that his death and glorification are part of the definite divine plan of salvation. The Synoptic tradition consists of four main points, which many think were taken over from Petrine kerygma in Acts: the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus’ Galilean ministry, the last journey to Jerusalem, Jesus’ passion and glorification. Accordingly, the more significant Christological titles prominent in the primitive preaching recur in these NT writings with new amplification, e.g., Servant of God, Son of God, Messiah, Lord. Other titles appear that were only implicit in the summaries we posses of the apostolic kerygma: Mater (Rabbi, Teacher), Son of David, and Son of Man. In addition certain epithets are given by each Synoptic writer that characteristically reflects his personal approach to the good news.

The Titles of Christ

Servant of God and suffering and glorified Servant of God:

Mark 8:31                    Matthew 16:21             Luke 9:22


Mark 8:29                    Matthew 16:16             Luke 9:20


Mark 11:3                    Matthew 28:6               Luke 7:13

Son of David:

Mark 10:47                  Matthew 9:27               Luke 18:38

Son of Man:

                        Inflects 7:56, and it means simply “Man.” The late Judaism assumed two forms: 1. that of heavenly Man scheduled to appear at the end of time (Dan. 7:13) 2. The Saints of the Most High or as individual 70 times occurred in Synoptic 13 in John and it is all together 83 times. Jesus also used this title to express: 1. earthly activities in Mark 2:10; Matthew 13:37; Luke 7:34 2. His earthly suffering and resurrection in Mark 8:31; Matthew 10:23; and Luke 12:40.

Markan Titles: Prophet, Son of Mary, and Son of a Carpenter.

Matthean Titles: Son of David, Son of Abraham and Emmanual.

Lukan Titles: Savior, Christ.

Pauline: Son of God, Son of David, Messiah, New Adam, Last Adam, First Born,  Lord, Image of God, Servant of God, Head, God in 3 main places: 1. Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Col 2:9; Tim 2:13; Heb 1:81.

Johannine: Gospel of John/ 3 letters/revelation titles:

The anointed-Messiah, Son of God, Lord, Son of Man, Son of Joseph, the Prophet, Lamb of God, King of Israel, The Word of God, I am, Savior.

The self imposed titles:

The Lamb of God, Light of the World, The Gate or Door, the Good Shepherd, the Truth, the Way, the Life, the True Vine.


ConclusionWe may point out that the rich Christology that shines through these titles is more functional than ontological. In saying that Jesus is Lord, Savior, Messiah, etc., the NT primarily tells us what role or function he plays in regard to men (pro nobis). This has implications for what he was in himself (in se), but such an ontological question is not primary or explicit interest. Even in a late work like John, the statement “The Word was God” (1:1), while bordering on the ontological, still has a strong functional stress; for the very concept of “the Word” implies an audience to whom the Word would be spoken. The functional reference of the NT as compared with the ontological interest of the later Church may be seen in the contrast between Paul’s confession of faith, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19), and the Nicene confession of Jesus Christ, “True god of True God, begotten, not created, consubstantial with the Father.” Paul’s confession assures men that God was present to them in Jesus; Nicaea assures men that Jesus was God. The one statement ultimately leads to the other (once it is understood that God was present in Jesus, in a truly unique way, far beyond his presence in the OT prophets), but from one to the other there is development in doctrine.