I was at Bible Study the other night where we watched the new Bible Series that was aired on TV. Someone had asked a question (sorry I forget what), and my Pastor responded by saying something along the lines of "Christ is a title not a name", and then went on to give his reason as to why this is. Now I believe it, but I was sitting just the other day, thinking about what he had said, and wondered about when people say "Christ the Lord". This didn't seem to fit his explanation of Christ being used as a title rather than a name, and I could not find anything anywhere else. So if someone could please explain this to me that would be great.

  • I think LORD is a name. LORD is the Christ. maybe Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 22:51
  • 3
    Its not Jesus' last name. Its a title. But it more or less became a name. Because its a title considered to apply only to him, and thus it sort of becomes like a proper name in a way. Sort of like God becomes almost a name because there's only one. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 4:42
  • @AaronKorn LORD vs lord vs Lord Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 16:46
  • @WelcomeNewUsers LORD is not a name but LORD is what many translations put where original manuscripts have YHWH. which is the name of Almighty God
    – 007
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 23:03

4 Answers 4


The word "Christ" is derived from the Greek translation of the Hebrew word (that is commonly rendered as) "Messiah"; it means "anointed". So "Jesus Christ" means "Jesus the Messiah" or "Jesus the anointed One". The phrase "Christ the Lord" could be understood as "The anointed One, the Lord" but I suspect it's actually a case of people using "Christ" as a name even though it's technically a title.


"Christ" is from the Greek "christos," which means anointed - it's the same as the Hebrew Messiah. "Christ" as such is solely a title, though it has come to be both a title and a name; you can see it rather clearly in some of Paul's writings. Jesus is not just a christ but is the Christ. It identifies Him, and is therefore a name.

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    The distinction between title and name can be murky. E.g., John the Smith vs. John Smith.
    – user3331
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 1:31

As some existing answers and comments already note, the boundary between a "name" and a "title" can be murky or fluid.

Another possibility has recently been argued at length by Matthew Novenson in his book, Christ among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism (OUP, 2012). He spends 30+ pages on the question, attempting to demonstrate that Paul's use of "Christ" is neither "name", nor "title", but a kind of half-way house: an "honorific" -- a kind of illustrious secondary name (see Novenson's discussion of definition and applicability on pp. 87ff.).

A good example of the kind of thing Novenson argues for is in a designation like "Antiochus Epiphanes", in which "Antiochus" is the name, and "Epiphanes" (meaning "god-manifest") the honorific.

Novenson's book is quite accessible, and those interested in this question would find the time spent with his work well invested. There are several substantial reviews of it around the web, too, notably Nijay Gupta's for the Review of Biblical Literature.

Update (10.06.2017) - Those who find Novenson's work helpful might be interested in his newly published follow-up: The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users (OUP, 2017).

  • Oh, I like the idea of it being an honorific, it makes a lot of sense of the NT's language. For those familiar with Game of Thrones, a lot of honorifics are used in it, such as calling Jaime Lannister the 'Kingslayer'.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 29, 2014 at 23:44
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    "Epiphanes" (meaning "god-manifest”) - how does that work? (I followed the link--> wikipedia--> Εncyclopedia Βritannica. It indeed says that, but I’m still not finding “god” in there. I’m with you on “manifest”.)
    – Susan
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 22:42
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    @Susan - This should cover it: Julian Morgenstern, "The King-God among the Western Semites and the Meaning of Epiphanes", Vetus Testamentum 10/2 (1960): 138-197. (If more bibliography required, do add a comment!)
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 9:33
  • @Susan The usage is not commensurate in that his title was consistent with a title because it included the article: Ἀντίοχος Δ΄ ὁ Ἐπιφανής, Antíochos D' ho Epiphanḗs, "God Manifest"; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes
    – user22588
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 18:38
  • @WoundedEgo (Please note that this is not my answer.) Novenson discusses the variations in these formulas at some length (see Chapter 3). Cf. (among others) 1 Macc 1:10.
    – Susan
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:21

Just to add to what both Ryan Frame and Andreas Blass answered.

The word translated Messiah in the Old Testament:

מָשִׁיַח (Hebrew)

mashiyach (maw-shee'-akh) n-m.

  1. anointed

  2. usually a consecrated person (as a king, priest, or saint)

  3. (specifically) the Messiah, the Anointed One

and Christ in the New Testament:

Χριστός (Greek)

Christos (khris-tos') n/p.

  1. (literally) Anointed

  2. (transliterated) "Christ"

  3. (properly) the Messiah, the Anointed One of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

  4. (by function) the (kinsman) Redeemer, the Saviour

  5. (by identity) Jesus, Yeshua, Ἰησοῦς, יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, יֵשׁוּעַ

were originally used only as a title, but in modern usage; since the invention of the Gutenberg press; have been used as both a title and name. In modern usage the title has been relegated be used only in description of Earthly Kings, Emperors, and so on. Where as the usage of the word Christ, in the English speaking world and increasingly in other languages has come to be more exclusive as a name for Jesus. In most of the world now the word 'Christ' pronounced (Krist) in all languages refers to Jesus as the only savior of mankind.

  • What would be an example of a King or Emperor using the title 'Christ' of themselves? Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 15:20
  • @DJClayworth not Christ The original Hebrew and Greek terms which mean 'anointed'.
    – BYE
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 15:50

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