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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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Christ, Ascension of.
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(Χριστός , anointed, a Greek translation of the Hebrews מָשַׁיחִ, Messiah, and so used in the Sept.), the official title of our Savior (occurring first in 2 Esdras 7:29, and constantly in the New Test.), as having been consecrated to his redemptive work by the baptism at Jordan, the descent of the Holy Spirit and his plenary unction, as the prophet, priest, and king of his people. (See CHRIST, OFFICES OF); (See MESSIAH). It thus also distinguishes the individual JESUS (See JESUS) (q.v.), which is his human appellation, from others of the same name; while his relations to the Godhead are expressed by the term "the Word" or LOGOS (See LOGOS) (q.v.), CHRIST (See CHRIST) therefore is not, strictly speaking, a proper name, but a designation of office. "Jesus Christ," or rather "Jesus the Christ," is a mode of expression of the same kind as "John the Baptist," or Baptizer. In consequence of not adverting to this, the import of many passages of Scripture is misapprehended, e.g. Acts 17:3; Acts 18:5; Matthew 22:42. But the word, though an appellative, intended to denote a particular official character, came to be used as a strictly personal designation of the Lord Jesus. Even the term Messiah towards the close of the O.T. came to be used of the expected Redeemer much as a proper name (without the article prefixed); and Χριστός is often similarly used in the N.T. (e.g. Luke 2:11; John 4:25; especially by Christ himself, John 17:3). But as it was not settled in men's minds, when Jesus first appeared, that he was really Messiah, we usually find the article prefixed to Χριστός "until after the resurrection, when all doubt vanished from the minds f his followers. So, while in the Gospels the name is rarely found without the article, it is almost as rarely found with the article in the Epistles" (Fairbairn, Hermeneutical Manual, p. 236).

1. History of the Title.

(1.) Unction, from a very early age, seems to have been the emblem of consecration, or setting apart to a particular, and especially to a religious purpose. Thus Jacob is said to have anointed the pillar of stone, which he erected and set I apart as a monument of his supernatural dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:14). Under the Old-Testament economy high-priests and kings were regularly set apart to their offices, both of which were, strictly speaking, sacred ones, by the ceremony of anointing, and the prophets were occasionally designated by the same rite. This rite seems to have been intended as a public intimation of a divine appointment to office. Thus Saul is termed "the Lord's anointed" (1 Samuel 24:6); David, "the anointed of the God of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:1); and Zedekiah, "the anointed of the Lord" (Lamentations 4:20). The high- priest is called "the anointed priest" (Leviticus 4:3). (See ANOINTING).

(2.) From the origin and design of the rite, it is not wonderful that the term should have been applied, in a secondary and analogical sense, to persons set apart by God for important purposes, though not actually anointed. Thus Cyrus, the king of Persia, is termed "the Lord's anointed" (Isaiah 45:1); the Hebrew patriarchs, when sojourning in Canaan, are termed "God's anointed ones" (Psalms 105:15); and the Israelitish people receive the same appellation from the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:13). It is probably with reference to this use of the expression that Moses is said by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews to have "counted the reproach of Christ" (Hebrews 11:26), τοῦ Χριστοῦ (λαοῦ ), the same class who in the parallel clause are termed the "people of God," "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt."

(3.) In the prophetic Scriptures we find this appellation given to an illustrious personage, who, under various designations, is so often spoken of as destined to appear in a distant age as a great deliverer.

a. The royal prophet David seems to have been the first who spoke of the Great Deliverer under this appellation. He represents the heathen (the Gentile nations) raging, and the people (the Jewish people) imagining a vain thing "against Jehovah, and against his Anointed" (Psalms 2:2). He says, "Now know I that the Lord saveth his Anointed" (Psalms 20:6). "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity," says he, addressing himself to "Him who was to come," "therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Psalms 45:7). In all the passages in which the Great Deliverer is spoken of as "the Anointed One" by David, he is plainly viewed as sustaining the character of a king.

b. The prophet Isaiah also uses the appellation "the Anointed One" with reference to the promised deliverer, but when he does so, he speaks of him as a prophet or great teacher. He introduces him as saying, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord God hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken- hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn," etc. (Isaiah 61:1, etc.).

c. Daniel is the only other of the prophets who uses the appellation " the Anointed One" in reference to the Great Deliverer, and he plainly represents him as not only a prince, but also a high-priest, an expiator of guilt. "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to punish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and the prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks; the city shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times; and after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself" (Daniel 9:24-26). (See SEVENTY WEEKS).

(4.) During the period which elapsed from the close of the prophetic canon till the birth of Jesus no appellation of the expected deliverer seems to have been so common as the Messiah or Anointed One, and this is still the name which the unbelieving Jews ordinarily employ when speaking of him whom they still look for to avenge their wrongs and restore them to more than their former honors.

Messiah, Christ, Anointed, is, then, a term equivalent to consecrated, sacred, set apart; and as the record of divine revelation is called, by way of eminence, The Bible, or book, so is the Great Deliverer called The Messiah, or Anointed One, much in the same way as he is termed The Man, The Son of Man. (See ANOINTED).

2. The import of this designation as given to Jesus of Nazareth may now readily be apprehended.

(1.) No attentive reader of the Old Testament can help noticing that in every part of the prophecies there is ever and anon presented to our view an illustrious personage destined to appear at some future distant period, and, however varied may be the figurative representations given of him, no reasonable doubt can be entertained as to the identity of the individual. Thus the Messiah is the same person as "the seed of the woman" who was to "bruise the head of the serpent" (Genesis 3:15); "the seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations, of the earth were to be blessed" (Genesis 22:18); the, great "prophet to be raised up like unto Moses," whom all were to be required to hear and obey (Deuteronomy 18:15); the "priest after the order of Melchizedek;" "the rod out of the stem of Jesse, which should stand for an ensign of the people to which the Gentiles should seek (Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10); the virgin's son, whose name was to be Inmmannuel (Isaiah 7:14); "the branch of Jehovah" (Isaiah 4:2); "the Angel of the Covenant" (Malachi 3:1), "the Lord of the Temple," etc. etc. (ib.). When we say, then, that Jesus is the Christ, we in effect say, "This is He of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write" (John 1:45); and all that they say of Him is true of Jesus.

The sum of this prophetic testimony respecting him is that he should belong to the very highest order of being, the incommunicable name Jehoiabh being represented as rightfully belonging to him is that 'his goings forth have been from old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2); that his appropriate appellations should be "Wonderful, Counsellor, the .Mighty God"' (Isaiah 9:6); that he should assume human nature, and become "a child born" of the Israelitish nation of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), of the family, of David (Isaiah 11:1); that the object of his,appearance should be the salvation of mankind, both Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6); that he should be "despised and rejected" of his countrymen; that he should be " cut off, but not for himself;" that he should be "wounded for men's transgressions, bruised for their iniquities, and undergo the chastisement of their peace;" that "by his stripes men should be healed;" that "the Lord should lay on him the iniquity" of men; that "exaction should be made and he should answer it;" that he should "make his soul an offering for sin;" that after these sufferings he should be "exalted and extolled, and made very high;" that he should "see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied, and by his knowledge justify many" (Isaiah 52, passim); that Jehovah should say to him, "Sit at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Psalms 110:1); that he should be brought near to the Ancient of Days, and that to him should be given "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and languages should serve him-an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away-a kingdom that shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14). All this is implied in saying Jesus is the Christ. In the plainer language of the New Testament, "Jesus is the Christ" is equivalent to Jesus is " God manifest in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16) the Son of God, who, in human nature, by his obedience, and sufferings, and death in the room of the guilty, has obtained salvation for them, and all power in heaven and earth for himself, that he may give eternal life to all coming to the Father through him.

(2.) While the statement "Jesus is the Christ" is thus materially equivalent to the statement "all that is said of the Great Deliverer in the Old Testament Scriptures is true of Him," it brings more directly before our mind those truths respecting him which the appellation "the Anointed One" naturally suggests. He is a prophet, a priest, and a king. He is the great revealer of divine truth; the only expiator of human guilt, and reconciler of man to God; the supreme and sole legitimate ruler over the understandings, consciences, and affections of men. In his person, and work, and word, by his spirit and providence, he unfolds the truth with respect to the divine character and will, and so conveys it into the mind as to make it the effectual means of conforming man's will to God's will, man's character to God's character. i.e. has by his spotless, all-perfect obedience, amid the severest sufferings, "obedience unto death, even the death of the cross," so illustrated the excellence of the divine law: and the wickedness and danger of violating it, as to make it a righteous thing in "the just God" to "justify the ungodly," thus propitiating the offended majesty of heaven; while the manifestation of the divine love in appointing and accepting this atonement, when apprehended by the mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit, becomes the effectual means of reconciling man to God and to his law, "transforming him by the renewing of his mind." And now, possessed of "all power in heaven and earth," "all power over all flesh," "He is Lord of all." All external events and all spiritual influences are equally under his control, and as a king he exerts his authority in carrying into full effect the great purposes which his revelations as a prophet, and his great atoning sacrifice as a highpriest, were intended to accomplish. (See CHRIST, OFFICES OF).

(3.) But the full import of the appellation the CHRIST is not yet brought out. It indicates that He to whom it belongs is the anointed prophet, priest, and king not that he was anointed by material oil, but that he was divinely appointed, qualified, commissioned, and accredited to be the Savior of men. These are the ideas which the term anointed seems specially intended to convey.

a. Jesus was divinely appointed to the offices he filled. He did not assume them, "he was called of God as was Aaron" (Hebrews 5:4), "Behold mine ELECT, in whom my soul delighteth."

b. He was divinely qualified: "God gave to him the Spirit not by measure." "The Spirit of the Lord was upon him," etc. (Isaiah 11:2-4).

c. He was divinely commissioned: "The Father sent him." Jehovah said to him, "Thou art my servant, in thee will I be glorified," etc. (Isaiah 49:6). "Behold," says Jehovah, "I have given Him for a witness to the people a leader and commander to the people."

d. He is divinely accredited: "Jesus of Nazareth," says the apostle Peter, was "a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs which God did by him in the midst of you" (Acts 2:22). "The Father who hath sent me," says Jesus himself, "hath borne witness of me" (John 5:37). This he did again and again by a voice from heaven, as well as by the miracles which he performed by that divine power which was equally his and his Father's. Such is the import of the appellation Christ.

3. If these observations are clearly apprehended, there will be little difficulty in giving a satisfactory answer to the question which has sometimes been proposed when did Jesus become Christ? when was he anointed of God? We have seen that the expression is a figurative or analogical one, and therefore we need not wonder that its references are varying. The appointment of the Savior, like all the other divine purposes, was of course from eternity: he "was set up from everlasting" (Proverbs 8:23); he "was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20). His qualifications, such of them as were conferred, were bestowed in or during his incarnation, when "God anointed him with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38). His commission may be considered as given him when called to enter on the functions of his office. He himself, after quoting in the synagogue of Nazareth, in the commencement of his ministry, the passage from the prophecies of Isaiah in which his unction to the prophetical office is predicted, declared, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." And in his resurrection and ascension, God, as the reward of his loving righteousness and hating iniquity, "anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows" (Psalms 45:7), i.e. conferred on him a regal power, fruitful in blessings to himself and others, far superior to that which any king had ever possessed, making him, as the apostle Peter expresses it, "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). As to his being accredited, every miraculous event performed in reference to him or by him may be viewed as included in this species of anointing, especially the visible descent of the Spirit on him in his baptism.

4. These statements, with regard to the import of the appellation "the Christ," show us how we are to understand the statement of the apostle John. "Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John 5:1), i.e. is "a child of God," "born again," "a new creature;" and the similar declaration of the apostle Paul, "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord," i.e. the Christ, the Messiah, " but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 12:3). It is plain that the proposition, "Jesus is the Christ," when understood in the latitude of meaning which we have shown belongs to it, contains a complete summary of the truth respecting the divine method of salvation. To believe that proposition, rightly understood, is to believe the Gospel the saving truth, by the faith of which a man is, and by the faith of which only a man can be, brought into the relation or formed to the character of a child of God; and though a man may, without divine influence, be brought to acknowledge that "Jesus is the Lord," "Messiah the Prince," and even firmly to believe that these words embody a truth, yet no man can be brought really to believe and cordially to acknowledge the truth contained in these words, as we have attempted to unfold it, without a peculiar divine influence. That Jesus is the great comer ( ἐρχόμενος, ἐλθών ) is the testimony of God, the faith of which constitutes a Christian, the one thing (τὸ ἔν ) to which the Spirit, the water, and the blood unite in bearing witness (1 John 5:6-9). This historical view of Jesus is not inconsistent with the Jewish Messianic idea, but continuative and expansive of it. (See JESUS).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Christ'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​c/christ.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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