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Christ is the English term for the Greek (Khristós) meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew ( ).

The word is often misunderstood to be the surname of Jesus due to the numerous mentions of Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible. The word is in fact used as a title, hence its common reciprocal use Christ Jesus, meaning The Anointed One, Jesus. Followers of Jesus became known as Christians because they believed that Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah, prophesied about in the Tanakh (which Christians term the Old Testament). The majority of Jews reject this claim and are still waiting for Christ to come (see Jewish Messiah). Most Christians now wait for the Second Coming of Christ when they believe he will fulfill the rest of the Messianic prophecy.

For further information on the anointing understood in the term Christ, please see Messiah, Jewish Messiah and Jesus.

The area of Christian theology focusing on the identity, life, teachings and works of Jesus, is known as Christology.


The spelling Christ (Greek Genitive: , toú Christoú,; Nominative: , ho Christós) in English was standardized in the 17th century, when, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, spellings of certain words were changed to fit their Greek or Latin origins. Prior to this, in Old and Middle English, the word was usually spelled Crist, the i being pronounced either as , preserved in the names of churches such as St Katherine Creemarker, or as a short , preserved in the modern pronunciation of Christmas). The spelling "Christ" is attested from the 14th century.

The term Christ (or similar) appears in English and most European languages, owing to the Greek usage of Khristós (transcribed in Latin as Christus) in the New Testament as a description for Jesus. In the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, it was used to translate into Greek the Hebrew mashiach (messiah), meaning "anointed."

Khristós in classical Greek usage could mean covered in oil, and is thus a literal translation of messiah.

Christian views

The New Testament records that the Messiah, long awaited, had come and describes this savior as The Christ. The apostle Peter, in what has become a famous proclamation of faith among Christians since the first century, said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Teachings about Jesus and testimonies about what he accomplished during his three-year public ministry are found throughout the New Testament. Core biblical teachings about the person of Jesus Christ may be summarized that Jesus Christ was and forever is fully God (divine) and fully human in one sinless person at the same time. Scripture asserts that Jesus was conceived, by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of his virgin mother Mary without a human father.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews says:

Various texts titled "Apostles' Creed", dating from the third century A.D., and still in current use among Christians, describe Jesus as

  • The only son of God the Father
  • Having the Virgin Mary as mother
  • Crucified on the authority of Pontius Pilate
  • Having been dead and buried
  • Having "descended into hell" or "descended to the dead" (sometimes omitted)
  • Rising from the dead after 3 days or "on the third day"
  • Having "ascended into heaven"
  • Sitting "at the right hand" of God
  • Destined to return to earth, and then to pass judgment on all humans who have ever lived.

Esoteric views

See also Second Coming and Esoteric Christianity

Christian Science

In the theology of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, the religion's founder, wrote in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that:

Eddy wrote that while Jesus, as a material man, was not the exact ontological or quantitative equivalent to God, he thoroughly embodied the spiritual sonship of God's nature. In Christian Science, the Christ, or divine manifestation of God, continues forever to enlighten humanity and to destroy sickness, sin, and death.

Western Wisdom Teachings

In the Rosicrucian writings of Max Heindel, also known as Western Wisdom Teachings, there is a distinction to be made between Jesus and the Christ. Jesus is considered a high Initiate of the human life wave (the cycle of rebirth) and of a singularly pure type of mind, vastly superior to the great majority of the present humanity.


In Neo-Theosophy, C.W. Leadbeater promulgated a Nestorian/Gnostic Christology that was taught by Alice A. Bailey, is taught by Benjamin Creme, and is accepted today by most Theosophists. This theology asserts that a powerful being from the higher spiritual planes known as the Maitreya overshadowed the being Theosophists know as the Master Jesus during the ministry of Jesus, such that there were two beings (two souls) in one body—Maitreya was the Christ and the Master Jesus was Jesus; the combination of the two beings functioned as Jesus Christ. Those adherent to the Ascended Master Teachings, a group of religions derived from Theosophy, believe in the existence of the Maitreya; however, they believe that although he encouraged the mission of Jesus, he did not actually overshadow Jesus.


The gnostics generally believed not in a Jesus who was a divine person with a human form, but in a spiritual christ who dwelt in Jesus. Through the spiritual path of gnosticism, followers of these schools believed that they could experience the same knowledge, or gnosis. Many of the Gnostic texts say that in order to be called worthy of the title 'Christian' one must also be anointed with Holy oil and that the water baptism alone is incomplete. The Gospel of Philip states several such instances, one being:

Other Gnostic texts with Jesus Christ include the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary.

Hindu view

Swami Tripurari states:
... in theory the sinners of the world are the beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrifice, but it is God the father for whose pleasure Christ underwent the crucifixion, even when the father’s joy in this scenario lies in the salvation of sinners.
Christ represents the intermediary between God and humanity, and his life aptly illustrates the fact that it is sacrifice by which we come to meet our maker.
Thus in Christ the Divine teaches us “the way” more than he does the goal.
The Christ conception represents “the way” in the sense that the way is sacrifice, out of which love arises.
The Krishna conception represents that for which we not only should, but must sacrifice, compelled by the Godhead’s irresistible attributes, etc. depicted therein.

Islamic view

Muslims believe Jesus ( ; `Īsā) to be the Messiah ( ; Masīḥ) and a prophet. Although they believe in the Virgin Birth, they do not consider Jesus to be "the son of God". Muslims believe Jesus was neither crucified nor dead, but was raised to Heaven by God while still living.

Islamic traditions narrate that he will return to earth near the day of judgment to restore justice and defeat al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl (lit. "the false messiah", also known as the Antichrist) and the enemies of Islam.


The use of "Χ," derived from Chi, the Greek alphabet initial, as an abbreviation for Christ (most commonly in the abbreviation "Χmas") is often misinterpreted as a modern secularization of the term. Thus understood, the centuries-old English word Χmas, is actually a shortened form of CHmas, which is, itself, a shortened form for Christmas.

Slang usage

The interjection "christ!" is sometimes used as a sign of surprise or anger, without a direct religious reference—that is, as an exclamation. Some Christians understand this usage to be in violation of the commandment against taking the Lord's name in vain, although the severity of the transgression varies among different groups of believers.

The prohibition against use as an interject was generally taken more seriously in the past, to the point where it was not only considered socially improper, but a sin against God. Many maintain this view.

See also


Further reading

  • De La Torre, Miguel A., "The Quest for the Cuban Christ: A Historical Search," University Press of Florida, 2002.
  • Harpur, Tom, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers, 2004.
  • McDowell, Joshua and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today's Religions, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.
  • Ott, Ludwig, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 1957.
  • Michalopoulos, Dimitris (2006): "Islam and Christendom: The distorted relationship". Entelequia. Revista Interdisciplinar, 2, Otoño 2006. Págs. 201-206.

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