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In the New Testament, sometimes the authors use «Χριστός Ἰησοῦς» (“Christ Jesus”), where «Χριστός» precedes «Ἰησοῦς»,1 yet other times they use «Ἰησοῦς Χριστός» (“Jesus Christ”).2

  1. What is the difference in meaning, if any?
  2. If there is no difference in meaning, why are both phrases used?

Footnotes

1 cp. Rom. 3:24: «δικαιούμενοι δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ» TR, 1550
2 cp. Matt. 1:1: «Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, υἱοῦ Δαβὶδ, υἱοῦ Ἀβραάμ» TR, 1550

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7  
Nothing? Emphasis, at best. Also, I'm sure it depends on the context. – swasheck Feb 25 '13 at 18:26
up vote 5 down vote accepted
+50

I agree with the general consensus here that there probably isn't a great deal of meaningful semantic distinction between Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς and Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς. However, there's an incidental morphologic irregularity that explains at least some of the variation.

In NT Greek, the dative form of Ἰησοῦς is Ἰησοῦ, identical in form with the genitive.1 This leads to a degree of ambiguity in syntactic environments where either case is possible. On the other hand, χριστός is fully declinable. All else being equal, speakers and writers of a language naturally tend to minimize ambiguity. Where we have Ἰησοῦ, which looks like a genitive, acting as a dative, it's helpful to have something before it to alert us to the fact that it's really dative. Χριστῷ fits the bill.2

Here are the statistics:3

Cases

The largest discrepancy in prevalence between Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς (XI) and Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς (IX) occurs in the dative: 10:1 in favor of XI, in contrast to an overall preference for IX. Furthermore, in 4 of the 5 cases of the dative Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ, another appositive dative immediately precedes, resolving the ambiguity.4 This pattern suggests to me that the selection of either Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς or Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς in the NT was frequently motivated by a (no doubt unconscious) tendency to introduce the phrase with a syntactically unambiguous form.5


1. It is a common feature of proper nouns (and rare among common nouns) to be only partially or not at all "declinable." In the NT, we have: Ἰησοῦς (nom), Ἰησοῦ (gen, dat, voc), and Ιησοῦν (acc). Interestingly, the LXX has a distinct form Ἰησοῖ which is most often used for the dative when referring to Ἰησοῦς the "assistant" of Moses.

2. For the purpose of syntax, the phrases Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς and Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς function basically like two appositive nouns, i.e., both words are always in the same case. For more on what the word Χριστὸς is really doing there, see Title of Christ? on Christianity.SE.

3. Using the text of NA-28 with Accordance software; morphologic tagging by William D. Mounce and Rex A. Koivisto, 2013.

4. In three cases that noun is κυρίῳ, the dative of κύριος ("lord"; 1 Thes 1:1, 2 Thes 1:1, 2 Thes 3:12). In 1 John 5:20, we have ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ; the preposition, the article, and υἱῷ all divulge the case of Ἰησοῦ. The single exception is Jude 1: τοῖς ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἠγαπημένοις καὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ τετηρημένοις. Here one really needs to wait for Χριστῷ to figure out what's going on unless, as suggested in BDAG, "the ἐν before θεῷ is to be repeated."

Not surprisingly, when Ἰησοῦ as dative is used without Χριστῷ (37x), the language finds other unambiguous dative markers. It is almost always preceded by the article (31x) or an appositive (3x κυρίῳ, 1x μεσίτῃ). The exceptions are Rev 1:9 (but ἐν requires dative) and 2 Cor 4:14 (but σὺν requires dative).

5. For the null hypothesis that word order is independent of case (dative vs non-dative): χ2 = 72.7045, p < .00001.

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I would say that swasheck's comment regarding emphasis is most likely. It probably should not need to be said, but many people are unaware that "Christ" is not a name, and they tend to treat it almost as a surname for Jesus. (I believe Wright gets around this misunderstanding by rendering Χριστός as "King," but I'm not fully satisfied with that expedient, as it loses its Hebrew roots.) The term is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew meshiach (messiah), and while it has a special eschatological referent in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is used more generally to refer to anointed ones. The NT references to Jesus as Χριστός of course are intended to refer to the special eschatological messiah.

Given the above considerations, I would suggest that Χριστός Ἰησοῦς ("Christ Jesus") has the messiahship to the forefront: "the Messiah, Jesus," whereas Ἰησοῦς Χριστός ("Jesus Christ") would be more along the lines of "Jesus, who is the Messiah."

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There is no difference in meaning. The language allows both. It's just different emphasis, like if I talk about King Bob or Bob the King it is same guy but different ways of saying same thing.

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2  
Can you expand on this? What meaning is intended to be conveyed by choosing one emphasis over another? – Ray May 12 '13 at 2:32
    
That is subjective, authors intent. I can't tell you what each author intended any more than you can tell me. – user1985 May 31 '13 at 22:46

As said: the emphasis tends to be on the first: his humanity (Jesus), authority (Lord), messianity (Christ)

We would perhaps render the texts even more accurately (giving additional respect and emphasis) in our languages if we employed comma and article:

Iesous, the Christ, …

The Christ, Iesous, …

Our Lord Iesous, the Christ, …

Somewhat unfamiliar but nonetheless beneficial in some respect would be transliterating the Greek Name to remind of His disconnectedness with any images and paintings that exist supposedly (and assumed) to illustrate or even show Him, of whom there is no image.

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1  
I'm troubled by the final paragraph, which is just bad theology. But more importantly to this site, I'm curious if you have a source to back up the claim in the first paragraph. – Jon Ericson May 13 '13 at 7:05
    
Why would be bad theology, what Law and Prophets convincingly (to me) and repeatedly (to all) tell us? For the first paragraph I remember a discussion in the Greek class I once attended. I may be wrong and it is difficult to make rules, when it comes to questions of emphasis and style and context. (There is probably worse theology around than my little statement, which is - even if wrong - at least true for me.) – hannes May 13 '13 at 12:49
    
I would like to add on my upper criticized statement: The image of the living God is the live human. So there is an image of Christ. (I was, however, referring to images, painted or carved, which are not images in the likeness-sense of the word.) – hannes May 19 '13 at 8:31

protected by Simply a Christian Jun 29 at 23:42

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