Names and Titles for Christ


When we look at a statistical breakdown of where the various titles for Christ are used in the New Testament, a pattern begins to emerge.



Synoptic Gospels

Gospel of John


Paul’s Epistles

Son of Man





Son of God



















This is the Aramaic expression used to describe a man.  Ezekiel uses it the most often in this sense.  It is also the title that Jesus used the most often of Himself.


When used in the New Testament, it is ALWAYS used of Jesus unless it is a part of a quote from the Old Testament such as in Hebrews 2:6 that uses the Aramaic expression.


1.         The Background for this Title.


13 I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14 And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language

Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14).


This passage takes us to heaven and gives to us a glimpse of the throne of God.  It is in this setting that we see one who is said to be LIKE the Son of Man.  Daniel sees this “man-like” figure who comes before the Ancient of Days.  This is in contrast to the beasts who have been pictured earlier in the chapter.


Four Preceding Beasts

Man-Like Figure

They enjoy temporary dominion.

He is given eternal dominion.

They represent four kingdoms.

A kingdom is given to him.

Each of these kingdoms is destroyed.

His kingdom will never be destroyed.


The “Son of Man” is not a title in this passage, but the description is so powerful that Jesus is able to take it and to use it and to turn it into a title.


2.         Historical Views regarding the Title.


The traditional view concerning this title is that it emphasizes the humanity of Jesus as He identified Himself with mankind.  He calls Himself “Son of man” because He has become a man and identifies Himself with men.


In more recent times, Reformed scholars have done a turn-around, seeing the reference to Daniel’s vision and therefore emphasizing the deity of Jesus.  It is said that the title “Son of man” does not emphasize the “mannishness” of Jesus, but rather that He is the divine one who was “LIKE a son of man.”


Modern Reformed Scholars emphasize only the deity of Christ

Early Church Fathers emphasized only the humanity of Jesus.


Which of these views is correct?  It seems to me that the actual answer lies in the middle.  This title gives a measure of emphasis to BOTH the deity as well as the humanity of Christ.


3.         Why did Jesus give such preference to this particular title?  There are several possible reasons.


a.         This was a designation that had already been used in the Old Testament and therefore contained aspects of His identity that He wished to communicate.


b.         This designation did not contain the nationalistic or militaristic baggage that might have been attached to other possible titles.  It is possible that Jesus intentionally avoided the title “Messiah” for exactly this reasons.

c.         The symbolic aspects of this title allowed Jesus to gradually unfold the various aspects of His person and ministry.





The terms “Messiah” and “Christ” are each titles that are used of Jesus.  They mean the same thing, but in different languages.






Taken from the Hebrew word meaning, “to anoint.”

Taken from chrio, “to anoint.”


Each title carries the same idea and speaks of “the anointed one.”  As such, it can refer to any anointed person and is not always a reference to Jesus.


1.         Old Testament Background.


The concept of anointing related to three distinct Old Testament offices.  Those holding these offices were initiated into their position through a process of anointing.


a.         Prophets and Kings:  Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel‑meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. (1 Kings 19:16).


b.         Priests:  Then you shall take the anointing oil, and pour it on his head and anoint him. (Exodus 29:7).


This anointing pictured the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the recipient of the anointing.  At the same time, it was understood that these served as pictures of One who would be known as “the Lord’s anointed” (Psalm 2:2; Isaiah 42:1-4; 61:1; Daniel 9:26).


2.         Usage by Jesus in the Gospel Accounts.


Jesus rarely used the terms “Messiah” or “Christ” as a self designation.  Those times He did so were normally in private discussions and when someone else introduced the term.


a.         Peter’s great confession:  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17).


In this case, Jesus accepts and agrees with this use of the title, even though He is not the one who introduced it.  He points out that the only reason that Peter has come to this conclusion is because it has been revealed from the Father.


b.         In giving instructions to His disciples, Jesus speaks of them as followers of the Christ:  For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. (Mark 9:41).


c.         When the Samaritan woman spoke of the Messiah, Jesus told her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:26).


d.         Martha calls Jesus the Christ and He accepts the title from her:  She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." (John 11:27).


e.         Jesus questions the Pharisees about the Christ:  Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, "What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?" They said to Him, "The son of David." (Matthew 22:41-42).


In this case, Jesus is speaking in public, but He does not make any pronouncement that He is the Christ.  Instead He asks the Pharisees what is their understanding of whom the Christ will be.


e.         Jesus uses the title of Himself as He prays to the Father in His high priestly prayer:  And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:3).


There is only one instance in which Jesus publicly proclaims Himself to be Messiah and Christ.  It takes place on the night of His betrayal and arrest.  As He stands before the high priest, He is asked directly about His ministry.


            Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:61-62).


It was only now when the high priest asked Jesus point-blank whether or not He was the Christ that He replied in the affirmative.  The very fact that the high priest asked this question in such a manner when Jesus had made no previous public proclamation that He was the Christ is itself an evidence of His Messiahship.  The question was asked, not because He had made a public claim, but because so many people had seen the prophecies fulfilled before their eyes that the person and work of Jesus served to announce His true identity.


3.         Usage by the Authors of the Gospels.


Though they show that Jesus did not publicly pronounce Himself to be Messiah and Christ prior to the trial before the high priest, that does not mean that the authors of the gospel accounts hesitate to make such a pronouncement.  Very early in each one of the gospels, we find a statement that Jesus is the Christ.


           The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1).

           The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1).

           For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).

           For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17).


After these special introductions of Jesus as the Christ, each of the authors return to a regular using of “Jesus” as they give a gradual unfolding of Jesus as the Christ.  They do this deliberately so that the reader will be brought to the same conclusion that Jesus is the Christ.


4.         Usage in the book of Acts.


Luke uses the term “Christ” regularly in the book of Acts, often in conjunction with the proper name, “Jesus.”  Yet he first introduces the title in that book as a clear reference to the promised Messiah when he presents Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost and explains the prophecy by David of the resurrection of “the Christ” (Acts 2:31).


5.         Usage in the Epistles.


This is one of the most popular titles for Jesus in the epistles.  The epistle to the Romans alone uses the title 68 times.





1.         The Old Testament refers to the Beni-HaElohim, the “sons of God” to refer both to men (Genesis 6:2-4) as well as to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).  In this same way, Hosea 1:10 speaks of the Israelites as being “sons of the living God.”  But at no time is a single individual specifically given the title, “Son of God” in the unique sense.


On the other hand, the Psalmist speaks of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee’ (Psalm 2:7).  This is a Messianic Psalm in which we see the Lord’s anointed (2:2), the Lord’s Son (2:7) and the King (2:6).


2.         Usage by Jesus.


Jesus applies the title of “Son of God” to Himself infrequently and upon several special occasions.  One of these was at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.


            30 "I and the Father are one." 31 The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?"

            33 The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."

            34 Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods '? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God '?” (John 10:30-36).


This passage begins with Jesus making what seems to be an extremely strong statement regarding His divinity:   “I and the Father are one.”  The strength of this statement is seen in the immediate reaction of the Jews.  They took up stones again to stone Him (10:31).  Why?  He asks the same question.  Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” (John 10:32).


Jesus was not ignorant.  He knew that His words had incited their action.  He was well aware of the significance of the statement that He had just made.  That is not the question.  Rather the question is whether THEY were truly aware.


They had already seen Him giving sight to a blind man and hearing to a deaf man.  They had heard how He fed the hungry and gave forgiveness to sinners.  Before it is all over, He will raise a man from the dead.  In all of this, He challenges them to find one thing that He has done wrong.


The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (John 10:33).  They took the words of Jesus to be blasphemous.  They understood that He had claimed to be God.  For a mere man to make such a claim would indeed be blasphemous.  Notice the reaction of Jesus.  He does not retract His statement.  He does not say, “Oh, you misunderstood Me.  I did not mean to imply such a position for Myself.”


Instead, Jesus appeals to Psalm 82:6.  It is a Psalm that calls for justice.  In the Old Testament there were judges who were placed in positions in which they were to rule over Israel.  Their responsibility was to judge the people of Israel.  They judged in the place of God who was the Supreme Judge.  The idea was that any justice they dispensed was to be God’s justice.  Any judgments they made were to be God’s judgments.  Any rebellion against them was considered to be rebellion against God.


Because of this ministry of representation, these judges were called “gods” -- Elohim.  They received their office by divine appointment.  They were called gods because they ruled and judged in the place of God.


When Jesus quotes this passage, He is making a point from the lesser to the greater.  Here is the point.  If these judges of Israel were called gods when they were mere human judges, then how much more is it proper that Jesus who came down from heaven be called the Son of God? 


·        If the Old Testament calls certain men gods...

·        And they were not really God...

·        Then why are you screaming “blasphemy”.

·        When the One whom God sent and sanctified says that He is God...

·        And He is!!!


In essence, Jesus says, “If the Old Testament calls certain men gods (and they were not), then why are you screaming “blasphemy” when the one whom God send and sanctified says that He is One with the Father (and He is)?  If I didn’t do the Father’s work, then don’t believe.  But if I DO the Father’s work, then you know that I am indeed God.”


3.         The Only Begotten Son.


This phrase appears several times in the Gospel of John (1:14; 3:16; 3:18).  There is some debate as to how we are to understand the word monogenes.  The prefix mono  means “only.”  It is the rest of the word that is the subject of the debate.


           Gennao means “to give birth” (only-born son).

           Ginomai means “to be” (only existing son).


It is interesting to note that this same term -- monogenes -- is used of Abraham’s only son, Isaac in Hebrews 11:17, even though Abraham already another son in Ishmael.  It is for this reason that some scholars prefer to view this as the “unique son.”





In only one instance is there a clear cut example of Jesus allowing the title “God” to be used of Himself.  That instance is found in John 20:28 where Thomas sees the resurrected Christ and addresses Him as My Lord and My God.  On the other hand, Jesus says a number of things about Himself that ought only be said about God.


           He says that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

           He claims the power to forgive sins.

           He accepts worship.


Instances in which the New Testament specifically states that Jesus is God are also very rare, though they are not unknown.




John 1:1

The Word was God

John 20:28

Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.”

Romans 9:5

...the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever.

Titus 2:13

Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 1:8

But of the Son He says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

2 Peter 1:1

...the righteousness of God and our savior, Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:18

 ...the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.


Why are there so few instances in which Jesus is specifically described as God in the New Testament?  It is because the term God is normally used of the Father or of God in general while the term Lord is normally used of Jesus.  Thus the Bible avoids language that would allow for modalism in favor of that which points us to the doctrine of the trinity.





The Greek word kurioV can be translated as a title of respect (“sir”).  It is also used in the Septuagint to translate both Yahweh and Adonai.  The New Testament uses this term of Jesus in both of these senses.


1.         An Honorific.


Matthew 8:2 and 20:33 might be examples of such an honorific.  In John 4:11 kurioV is translated “Sir” and is merely a polite address.


2.         Equivalent to God.


This is very obviously the case when Jesus quotes Psalm 110 and asks the Pharisees its meaning in Mark 12:35-37.



The Lord said...

To my Lord...

Old Testament

Yahweh said...

To my Adonai...

New Testament

The Kurios said...

To my Kurio...


The writers of the gospels indicate the John the Baptist is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s command to make ready the way of the Lord (Luke 3:4).  He is preparing the way for the coming of Jesus.


One of the earliest Christian creeds is the statement that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  This is obviously more than a mere honorific.  It is a creedal statement of the deity of Christ.





            In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3).


John pens his book with one major theme in mind.  He wants to show that Jesus is God.  He presents Jesus as both God and also as the Son of God.  What does this mean?  What does it mean to be the Son of God?  He introduces Jesus at the outset by describing Him as the pre-existing Word who created all things.


To the Jews, this term described the Messiah of Israel.  The Jews did not necessarily think of the Messiah as being God in the flesh.  Rather, they thought of Him as being a descendant of David and a king of Israel who would be filled with the Spirit.


By contrast, the Greeks had a completely different concept of the “son of God.  Their mythology contained stories of the Greek gods joining with mortals and producing offspring such as Hercules and Perseus.  These were supermen—half god and half man.


While each of these concepts has an element of truth within them, they are by themselves wrong concepts.  It is for this reason that John begins his gospel account with a different and distinct title for Jesus.  He calls Jesus “the Word.”  In this way, he will redefine what it means to be the Son of God.


This One known as “the Word” is identified in two different ways.  This does not mean that He is two separate persons, but merely that there are two separate aspects to His being.


The Word was God

The Word became Flesh

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).


It is evident from this second passage that “the Word” is a reference to Jesus of Nazareth.  He is the One who was not originally flesh, yet in a moment of time became flesh.  It is equally evident from the first passage that we are meant to regard the man Jesus as being God.


1.         The Designation of the Word.


John’s reference to “the Word” brought with it all sorts of connotations.  We can see and understand these as we become familiar with the religious and philosophical uses of this term in that day.


a.         The Greek concept of the Word.


Plato had made reference to the Word (Greek: Logos) as that supreme principle of logic that allowed man to make sense of and to understand his world.  As such, the Logos was seen by the Greeks as an impersonal force.


b.         The Hebrew concept of the Word.


In Hebrew, a “word” can describe both the verbal designation of an object as well as the moving energy of that object.  As such, the word of God in the Old Testament is able to refer to more than merely the teachings and proclamations of deity.  It refers to the active power and force of God Himself.


By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,

And by the breath of His mouth all their host. (Psalm 33:6).


The word of the Lord indicated a personification of the manifested power of God.  It is interesting to note that the Aramaic Targums (paraphrases of the Scriptures) often used the Aramaic word Memra (“word”) in the place of God.  For example, the Targums say that Moses led Israel to meet, not with God at Sinai, but with the Memra (Word) of God at Sinai.


c.         New Testament usage.


Both the Jewish as well as the Greek readers of John’s gospel are introduced to a new concept.  The Word is not merely an impersonal force.  Neither is the Word a mere manifestation of one of God’s attributes.  The Word is a person.


A word is the verbal expression of a thought.  By the same token, Jesus is the visible and personal expression and manifestation of God.  Yet he is not only a manifestation of God—the dialog presented by Jesus to His Father in the prayer of John 17 is a conversation between two persons.  Jesus makes reference to the relationship He enjoyed with the Father from all eternity (John 17:24).


2.         Implications of the Logos.


The use of this title points to the fact that God has revealed Himself to us in a way we can understand.  It is because of that self-revelation that we can know truth about God.  He is no longer some faceless unknown Being out in the cosmos.  He is personal and He has revealed Himself to us in a way we can understand.  We can know God.  That is a bold statement, but one that is absolutely true.  We can enter into a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe.


3.         The Word in the Beginning.


            "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2  He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2).


This passage echoes with a resounding reverberation from the Old Testament.  The words, “In the beginning,” take us back to the creation.  But there is a difference.  In the Old Testament, Genesis begins by placing the emphasis upon God’s work of creation.  Here the emphasis here is not upon God CREATING, but rather upon His BEING.


Genesis 1:1 — In the beginning God created...

John 1:1 — In the beginning was...


Here we read that in the beginning, something already WAS.  When you go back in time as far as you can possible imagine, before anything else ever exists, God WAS.  And yet, it is not God who is the primary subject of this passage, but One who is known as “the Word.”


a.         The Pre-existent Word.


John 1:1 does NOT say that “in the beginning the Word came into being.”  Instead, it tells us that at the time of the beginning, the Word ALREADY WAS.  The Greek text renders the verb for being as an imperfect active indicative.  The imperfect tense is used to indicate continuing action in the past.  It pictures action in progress.  We could translate the passage to say: In the beginning ALREADY was the Word.  The point is that when you go back to the very beginning of the creation of all things, the Word was already there.  This same imperfect tense continues to be used four times in the first two verses of John.


            In the beginning ALREADY WAS the Word, and the Word ALREADY WAS with God, and the Word ALREADY WAS God.  He ALREADY WAS in the beginning with God.


The Word did not have a beginning.  The Word was already in existence at the beginning and everything else that exists came into being as a result of the Word.


b.         The Word with God.


When John says that the word was with God, this refers to more than merely a physical proximity.  The phrasing describes a plane of equality and intimacy.  We could translate it to say: the word was face to face with God.  John uses a similar construction in 1 John 2:1 when he describes Jesus being our advocate WITH the Father.


This is the language of fellowship.  That is significant.  It means there was fellowship and communication taking place between the different members of the Godhead BEFORE the creation.  This same true is described elsewhere in the Scriptures.


            And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. (John 17:5).


            Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24).


            Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:3-4).


There was existence before the creation and this existence was personal and not static.  There was no boredom.  There was active relationship.  The Father was active with the Word and with the Holy Spirit.  This is what we call the Trinity.  It is seen in the next verse.


c.         The Word as God.


The statement, “And the Word was God,” is emphatic.  Not only was the Word pre-existent in past eternity with God, but He was God.  When we recognize the force of the imperfect tense, we understand that the Word CONTINUALLY WAS God.  There was not a time in history when He became God.  He has always been God.  In the beginning He was already God.


4.         The Incarnation of the Logos.


            And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).


In verse 1, we identified the Word as being the one who was in the beginning with God and who, in the beginning, was God.  Now we see the Word becoming flesh.  The birth of Jesus stands at the very center of human history.  It is the supreme meeting place of the temporal with the eternal.  It is the place where God and man came together.


The word “became” is the aorist active indicative of ginomai (ginomai), “to become.”  This is in contrast to the description of the Word as it existed in the beginning.  In becoming flesh, the Word did something He had not previously done.  There is a dramatic difference between the verbs of verse 1 and verse 14.


Verse 1

Verse 14

In the beginning WAS the Word...

The Word BECAME flesh...

Imperfect tense indicates continuing action in the past.

Aorist tense indicates an action that took place in a point in time.

Language of continuing existence

Language of change as the Word became something that He previously was not

Takes us back to the time before the creation of mankind

Tells how men beheld His glory, full of grace and truth


The Word took on flesh and, in doing so, brought about a change that will have eternal repercussions.  The One who became God and man stayed that way.  The One who was touched by a band of Galilean disciples is today worshiped by angels.


Why did the Word take on flesh?  It was so that he could dwell among us.  The text reads literally, “He TABERNACLED among us.”  In the same way that people used to have to come to the tabernacle and later to the temple to meet God, it is now through Jesus that we must come to meet God.


In Old Testament times, God met His people at the tabernacle.  When Moses completed the construction of the tabernacle, a great cloud moved into it so that the priests were forced for a time to evacuate.  This was the manifested presence of God.  Later, when Solomon built the temple, the presence of the Lord moved into the temple and, once again, this was seen by the presence of a great cloud.


When the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., it was considered to be a great tragedy to the Jews because there was no place else they could go to experience the presence of God.  The temple was eventually rebuilt by Ezra and Zerubbabel, but we never read that the presence of God returned to the temple.  Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, promised that a time would come when the Lord would return to His temple.


            "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1).


Four hundred years passed and still the Jews waited.  When Jesus came, He was the manifested presence of God.  He was the Word who tabernacled among men.  The Spirit of the living God rested upon Him.  But He was not hidden away in a temple where only a priest could approach Him.  He was among the people.  He was among those who could behold His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.


One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is where Moses goes to the Lord and says, “Lord, I want to see your glory.”  God says to him, “Moses, you can’t do that, because to see me is to die.  Here is what I will do.  I will have you stand in a cleft of this rock and I will cover you with My hand and I will cause My goodness to pass by and then, after I have passed, I will remove My hand and you will see my afterglow.”


The coming of Jesus is the answer to the prayer of Moses: “Show me your glory.”  For the disciples saw the glory of Jesus and recognized it for what it was - the glory of the only begotten from the Father.


There was a single instance where three of those disciples had a chance to see a glimpse of what Moses saw.  It was on the Mount of Transfiguration where, for a brief moment in time, God took away the veil and they saw the glorified Christ.


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