Questions From Readers
● In Matthew 1:1 we read: “The book of the history of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.” In Romans 3:24 we read: “It is as a free gift that they [the believing sinners] are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” What is the difference between Jesus Christ and Christ Jesus?
The Christian Greek Scriptures open up with the expression Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:1 and Mark 1:1. They close with the same expression in Revelation 22:21. The apostle Paul was the one that introduced the expression Christ Jesus, in Romans 3:24, and he is the only Bible writer who uses this expression, except for just two uses of it by the apostle Peter in his first epistle in the King James Version. (1 Pet. 5:10, 14) In the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible the expression Christ Jesus occurs only fifty-four times, whereas the expression Jesus Christ occurs about 184 times, or more than three times as often as Christ Jesus.
The word “Jesus” is a name, meaning “Jehovah is salvation.” The angel told his prospective foster father Joseph: “You must call his name ‘Jesus’, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) On the other hand, the word “Christ” is a title, meaning “anointed one.” It means the same as Messiah, a word of Hebrew origin. This title Christ or Messiah was used in the prophetic Scriptures before the first year of the Christian Era to foretell the coming of this one whom God would anoint with his spirit to be King of the new world of righteousness, but without directly foretelling his earthly name. (Dan. 9:25, 26; Ps. 2:2) Likewise at his human birth the angel announcer said to the shepherds out in the fields near Bethlehem: “There was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city.” (Luke 2:11) Note the word order, not ‘the Lord Christ,’ but, “Christ the Lord.”
The title Christ could be added to the personal name Jesus after his water baptism and his being anointed with Jehovah’s spirit, at which time he became Christ or the Christ. After Simon Peter made his confession that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus “sternly charged the disciples not to say to anybody that he was the Christ.” (Matt. 16:13-20) When Jesus cast out demons from obsessed Jews and these demons shouted out: “You are the Son of God,” Jesus rebuked them and “he would not permit them to speak, because they knew him to be the Christ.” (Luke 4:41) So, when Jesus was on earth, no one ever called him Jesus Christ. He himself was the only one that referred to his own self as Jesus Christ, and this was only once, privately, when in prayer with his disciples shortly before he was killed. He prayed: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
It is quite evident, therefore, that the expression Jesus Christ, which his apostles took up after this, means Jesus who afterward became the Anointed One of Jehovah; Jesus who was consecrated by Jehovah’s anointing. So, on Pentecost of 33 (A.D.), Peter said: “Let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” Hence, for the first time, Peter used the expression to the conscience-stricken Jews: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.”—Acts 2:36-38.
In the other expression, Christ Jesus, the apostle Paul puts the title Christ before the personal name Jesus. This corresponds with putting the official title before any other officeholder’s name, as, for example, King David, King Solomon, Governor Zerubbabel. Accordingly, the expression Christ Jesus calls attention first to the office occupied or held, and then identifies the officeholder. “Christ Jesus,” therefore, means Jehovah’s Anointed One who bears the earthly name Jesus. It literally means “Anointed Jesus,” and at once it reminds us that Jesus is Jehovah’s official Servant and is to be honored as such Servant, he being the only one occupying that office in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Although Peter and the others of the twelve apostles were anointed with holy spirit, we do not speak of them as Christ Peter, Christ John, Christ Paul, and so on. Only Jesus do the Scriptures entitle Christ Jesus.
In the expression Christ Jesus, the personal name Jesus is preceded by his exclusive official title. Hence it is to be noted that not once do the Scriptures put another title ahead of Jesus’ name, such as Lord or King, to form combinations like the Lord Christ Jesus or the King Christ Jesus. The expression “our Savior, Christ Jesus,” in the Greek text has the pronoun “our” between Savior and Christ, and hence merely identifies who our Savior is. (2 Tim. 1:10) This is in keeping with the expression “Christ Jesus our Savior.” (Titus 1:4) Now we do read, in 1 Timothy 2:5: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus.” However, the expression “a man” is not a title, but calls attention to the fact that Christ Jesus was once a man on earth, the same Jesus. Consequently it is only after the already betitled expression Christ Jesus that we find titles added, but not further titles inserted ahead of this expression. So we read twice the expression “Christ Jesus the Lord” and three times the expression “Christ Jesus our Lord.” However, before the expression Jesus Christ we do find a title inserted sometimes. Repeatedly we read the expression “the Lord Jesus Christ.” All this proves that titles were not multiplied before our Savior’s personal name Jesus; but if one title preceded already, then any other titles were added only after the personal name.
From this it is seen that the Scriptures treat the expression Jesus Christ on a different basis from the expression Christ Jesus.