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Faith First > The Name and Titles of Jesus

The Name and Titles of Jesus

The name of Jesus comes from the Hebrew word Yehoshua (Joshua) which means "God saves" or "God is salvation."  Thus God's own name is present in the person of the Son. The angel Gabriel revealed this name to Mary (Luke 1:31), thus signifying Jesus' identity and mission.  From his conception, God had destined that Jesus would save the world from sin and death.

When the early Christians reflected on Jesus' life and the meaning of his death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit led them to deeper insights into who Jesus is.  The titles they used when they spoke of Jesus teach us valuable truths about his identity.

Christ. This is one of the most important titles given to Jesus. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew title Messiah. The Messiah was the "anointed one of Yahweh" through whom all God's promises made to the Chosen People were fulfilled.  Jesus was anointed with the Spirit of God to accomplish our salvation through a life of suffering service. He accomplished his task through his threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. As the Great Prophet, Jesus spoke for his Father and shared the full message of salvation.  As the High Priest, Jesus offered his life for all of us on the altar of the cross. (Today he continues to fulfill the role of High Priest at each celebration of the Eucharist.) As True King, Jesus is the rightful ruler of the universe, one who rules gently and compassionately. He uses the power of love and service to attract followers to his way.

Suffering Servant. Jesus was not the kind of Messiah his contemporaries expected; that is, an earthly leader who would throw off the yoke of their foreign oppressors. Jesus, rather, was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah who took on the burdens of his people and redeemed them.

Son of God. Through his work and words, Jesus revealed himself to be the unique Son of God.

Lord. The term Lord has various meanings. A ruler or someone with great power is often called "lord."  The term can also be used as a polite and respectful form of address, much like "sir." However, when used to describe Jesus the title Lord means much more than any of these definitions. Rather, Lord refers to its Greek translation, Kyrios, which in turn renders in Hebrew Adonai. Adonai was the word spoken aloud by Jews whenever the most sacred name of Yahweh would appear in the Hebrew scriptures. Thus, to call Jesus Lord (Kyrios) is to state that he is God. Christians claim that Jesus has the same sovereignty as God and that his death and resurrection have won eternal life for humanity, a gift only God can grant.  Christians believe that Jesus is the only one true Lord, the only one deserving our total allegiance.


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