The word translated as "messiah" in the Bible can apparently have a few meanings in both Hebrew and Greek. It is usually used to simply say "anointed" or "anointed one".

For example, see this usage:

Psa 105:15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.

Dan 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

Strongs anointed messiah





From H4886; anointed; usually a consecrated person (as a king, priest, or saint); specifically the Messiah: - anointed, Messiah.

The words are the same yet one is Messiah and the other is anointed. Many Christians argue that the Daniel verse is referring to Jesus, but What confuses me is that they are the same word, however, when referring to Prophets they are simply anointed, but when referring to Jesus He is "The Messiah".

Usage in the New Testament confuse things further. See this example:

Mat 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Strongs Christ





From G5548; anointed, that is, the Messiah, an epithet of Jesus: - Christ.

The Greek version of the word can mean all those, however, I am not sure Jesus is ever called "messiah" in the New Testament, but I might be wrong.

Christian culture commonly calls Jesus "The Messiah" like it is a title with some significance other than being ceremonially crowned king. But does the word usage support that. Is Jesus "messiah" and also "The Messiah". Or is calling Jesus "The Messiah" (a title) an embellishment of what the word actually means and how it was used.

Considering the meaning of "anoint" this is a very important distinction, where Christians might be embellishing the meaning and significance of the word. From the definition you can see that it is more like a blessing rather than a title.

Strongs anoint





Probably akin to G5530 through the idea of contact; to smear or rub with oil, that is, (by implication) to consecrate to an office or religious service: - anoint

This definition seems to say that Jesus was "a christ" not "The Christ".


4 Answers 4


If indeed the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek, then Matthew simply wrote the Greek word Χριστοῦ (pronounced [khrē-stoo']), which is the genitive of Χριστός (pronounced [khrē-stos']).

Matthew 1:1

Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, υἱοῦ Δαβὶδ, υἱοῦ Ἀβραάμ

Declension Paradigm of the Greek Word χριστός

Nominative, singular number: χριστός

Nominative, plural number: χριστοί

Genitive, singular number: χριστοῦ

Genitive, plural number: χριστῶν

Dative, singular number: χριστῷ

Dative, plural number: χριστοῖς

Accusative, singular number: χριστόν

Accusative, plural number: χριστούς

The Greek word χριστός occurs countless times in the Septuagint. It is an adjective, and its literal English translation is "anointed." It can be used as a substantive with the meaning of "anointed (one)." This appears to be the sense of the word in expressions such as Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, or in English, "Jesus, [the] anointed [one]."

The English word "messiah" is simply a loanword carried over into English.

First, the original word is the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (English transliteration: mashiach). This is an adjective which literally translates into English as "anointed." This word may likewise be used substantively as a noun, meaning "anointed (one)."

Translation of the Hebrew Word מָשִׁיחַ

The Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ is translated into Greek as χριστός (e.g., LXX of 1 Sam. 16:6). It is translated into Latin as unctus (cp. Vulgate of Lev. 4:3). Each of these translations likewise means "anointed" when translated into English.

Translation process: [Hebrew] מָשִׁיחַ -> [Greek] χριστός -> [Latin] unctus -> [English] anointed.

Transliteration of the Hebrew Word מָשִׁיחַ

There are a few occasions where מָשִׁיחַ is not translated, but instead, it is transliterated into these languages.

For example, in John 1:41, it is written,

εὑρίσκει οὗτος πρῶτος τὸν ἀδελφὸν τὸν ἴδιον Σίμωνα καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Εὑρήκαμεν τὸν Μεσσίαν ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον ὅ Χριστός

The Greek word Μεσσίαν is the accusative declension of Μεσσίας. The Greek word Μεσσίας is actually a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ. Koine Greek lacked the phonemes /ħ/ (represented by the Hebrew letter ח) and /ʃ/ (represented by the Hebrew letter שׁ); therefore, the Hebrew letter ח was not transliterated into Greek, and the Hebrew letter שׁ was transliterated as the digraph σσ.

In his Vulgate, Jerome transliterates the Greek word Μεσσίας by the Latin transliteration messias (cp. Vulgate of John 1:41), which is phonetically equivalent to the Greek word Μεσσίας.

Transliteration process: [Hebrew] מָשִׁיחַ -> [Greek] Μεσσίας -> [Latin] Messias -> [English] Messiah.

The Significance of Χριστός

When individuals were "anointed" in the Hebrew Tanakh, they were anointed with a special oil known as שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה (English transliteration: shemen ha-mishchah), or "the anointing oil" (cp. Exo. 29:7). Yeshu'a is referred to as ὀ χριστός (lit. "the anointed one"), yet we never read anything in the New Testament about him being anointed with actual oil. Why then is he referred to as χριστός?

In Acts 10:38, Luke writes,

How God anointed Yeshu'a from Nazaret with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him.

Luke states that God the Father anointed Yeshu'a with the Holy Spirit (cp. Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Compare this with Psalms 45:7, in which it is written,

You loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore, O' God, your God anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your brothers."

The "oil of gladness" is the Holy Spirit which Yeshu'a, who here is referred to as "God" (the vocative "O' God"), was anointed with by his God (the Father), even more than his brothers, for regarding Yeshu'a, it is written (John 3:34),

For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God has not given the Spirit by measure.

In summary, the Greek word Χριστός is a substantive adjective, meaning "the anointed one," and could (and perhaps, should) certainly be translated as such in the New Testament. It signifies that Yeshu'a was anointed with the Holy Spirit more than his brothers, hence he is the anointed one par excellence. In addition, based on the prophecy of Psalms 45:7, Χριστός alludes to the divinity and humanity of Yeshu'a, for not only is he God (vocative "O' God"), but also man ("Your God" implies that he has a God).

In De Civitate Dei ("On the City of God"), Book XVII, Ch. XVI, St. Augustine wrote,

Quis non hic Christum, quem praedicamus et in quem credimus, quamlibet sit tardus, agnoscat, cum audiat Deum, cuius sedes est in saecula saeculorum, et unctum a Deo, utique sicut unguit Deus, non uisibili, sed spiritalli atque intellegibili chrismate? Quis enim tam rudis est in hac religione uel tam surdus aduersus eius famam longe lateque diffusam, ut Christum a chrismate, hoc est ab unctione appellatum esse non nouerit?

which is translated as,

Who is there, no matter how slow, but must here recognize Christ whom we preach, and in whom we believe, if he hears that He is God, whose throne is for ever and ever, and that He is anointed by God, as God indeed anoints, not with a visible, but with a spiritual and intelligible chrism? For who is so untaught in this religion, or so deaf to its far and wide spread fame, as not to know that Christ is named from this chrism, that is, from this anointing?

| English | Latin |

Just before this quotation, St. Augustine quoted Psalms 45:1-9.

  • 1
    Very good. A few things to clarify. So Jesus was anointed, but differently. He is the only one anointed in this way. Is that enough to make the title for Him: "The Anointed One" or "The Messiah"? Maybe I should see what ancient Christians said about this.
    – user2055
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 23:36
  • @fredsbend: See my quotation of St. Augustine which I have included at the end.
    – user862
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 0:35
  • Note that Yeshua was literally anointed in the home of Simon the Pharisee, by the repentant woman who anointed him with a mixture of perfume and her tears.
    – wberry
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 4:27

A simple guide to the development and use of ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (χριστος, cristos) in Scripture:

  • Hebrew "משׁיח" (mâshı̂yach) = with few exceptions, any Jewish man anointed with sacred oil by a Judaic priest;
  • ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (χριστος) in LXX = Hebrew "משׁיח" (mâshı̂yach);
  • Intertestamental period & Gospels = a hoped-for anointed one thought to be a coming, king-like, deliverer and protector of the tribes and nation of Israel (e.g., a titular epithet referring to Jesus in Matt. 1:16), and
  • Pauline Christianity = the last name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Paul, because of his training and background, would not have considered χριστος as simply the last name of Jesus of Nazareth. He believed and taught that χριστος was a title to be applied to ΙΗΣΟΥΣΟΛΕΓΟΜΕΝΟΣΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ/ιησους ο λεγομενος χριστος (cp. texts of P1 P66 P75 01 02 03 N-A28 with Matt. 1:16; 27:17; cp. John 4:25). But just because Jesus was orthodoxly (commonly) CALLED (considered, regarded, declared, thought to be) ο λεγομενος χριστος by very early Judeo-Christians doesn't necessarily mean the title of χριστος should have been tagged to Jesus.

In my experience, the average Bible-believing Christian of today has little or no idea what χριστος means. Nor do they understand the demonstrable differences in meaning between, inter alia, "called Christ" (KJV), "whose name is Christ" (BBE), "the one called the Messiah" (ISV, NLT), and "the one called Christ" (KJ3).

Note that those are renderings from the Greek of Matt. 1:16 as proffered by selected Orthodox Christian manuscript translation committees. And the appropriate member(s) of the NET Bible translation committee can likely better explain the info I obtained from them at Matt. 1:16, note 10; spec.:

"The term χριστός .... develops in Paul to mean virtually Jesus’ last name."

  • Not quite accurate. משיח is also used to describe a Gentile, the Persian king Koresh ("Cyrus") (Isa. 45:1). And, frankly, the idea of "hoped-for anointed one" is yet to be proven and shouldn't simply be assumed according to what people have understood by hearsay or tradition.
    – user862
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 21:52
  • Was not Jesus the "hoped-for anointed one" in the minds of John the Baptist and Jesus' disciples? (Cp., inter alia, John 1:29-45.) And don't the followers of both Judaism and Judeo-Christianity still look for their respective versions of Messiah ("hoped-for anointed one")? Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 1:27
  • 2
    Last names weren't used the same way back then as now. Can you show some evidence that Paul regarded Christos as the last name of Jesus of Nazareth?
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 3:24
  • Agree with Frank. The notion that Paul uses Christos as a surname has nothing to do with the Greek text, and doesn't account for the fact that he places Christos both before and after Iesous. The truth of the matter is that Paul used the term just as one would expect from a 1st century Jew who believed something of eschatological significance had occurred. I.e. he used the term to refer to Jesus as the Messiah. Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 5:05
  • @PatFerguson: The way you word it, it appears that "hoped-for" is instrinsically related to the meaning of the Hebrew word משיח or Greek word χριστός. The words simply means "anointed one."
    – user862
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 5:59

No, as Jesus is definitely not the messiah. Fulfilled none of the prophecies the Tanach has for the messiah and he and Christianity brought the opposite of those prophecies at the time.

  • all Jews returning to Israel at that time were exiled
  • temple at that time destroyed
  • all world knowledge of G-d, brought more confusion
  • world peace but Christianity brought war

Plus the 39 times the word messiah is used it never is talking about the messiah son of David end time messiah you are thinking of.

  • This answer is pretty off topic but it would be fun to discuss the particulars sometime. Yeshua is both the Mashiyach bin Yosef (Isaiah 53 etc.) and the Mashiyach bin David (Daniel, etc). In the gospels he is both but MBY is emphasized esp in John. When he returns it will be primarily as MBD. Even his closest disciples were frustrated that Yeshua did not try to overthrow Rome, but they misunderstood. In the two revolts, the Pharisees anointed their own zealot messiahs, leading to the Temple destruction and long exile. Because MBD has not yet come in power, your last two points are moot.
    – wberry
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 4:57

Specifically concerning the use of 'Christ' as a title, there is precedent for that within the pages of Scripture.

And he said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.”

1 Samuel 24:6

This is David refusing to kill King Saul when he had the chance, even though Saul was trying to kill David! Chapter 26 has a similar passage. Saul was literally anointed with oil by the priest/prophet Samuel as a sign that God had chosen Saul to be king. (Years later, the military commander Jehu was similarly anointed as king of Israel, replacing Joram, by the prophet Elisha's messenger - 2 Kings 9.)

In English Bibles the Hebrew mashiyach is plainly translated as "anointed" rather than transliterated as "Messiah", but this is a mere style choice. The verse in 1 Samuel could defensibly be rendered as "The Messiah Of HaShem" with capitalization if one so chose.

The fact that Saul was anointed is clearly considered by David to be a divinely assigned attribute and therefore worthy of his reverence. This is as close to the European concept of a title as we are likely to get in the Hebrew Bible.

And of course in the Septuagint the Hebrew mashiyach in these verses is translated into Greek as christos. So a translation of the LXX into English could defensibly have David describe King Saul as "the Lord's Christ".

And there should be no question that in the New Testament, Aramaic Meshikha / Greek Christos is not a name, but an attribute just as it was with King Saul. Whether to consider that the same thing as a title is a matter of semantics I suppose, but I see little difference.

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