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Christ is the English term for the Greek Χριστός (Khristós) meaning "the anointed". In the (Greek) Septuagint version of the Old Testament, Khristós was used to translate the Hebrew (Mašíaḥ,) (Messiah), meaning "[one who is] anointed." Many modern Christians explicitly describe Christ as both fully human and fully God, while the Jewish tradition understands the Messiah as a human being without any overtone of deity or divinity.

Followers of Jesus became known as Christians because they believed that Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ. The majority of Jews reject this claim and are still waiting for the messiah to come (see Jewish Messiah).

The area of Christian theology focusing on the nature of Jesus as the Christ, particularly with how the divine and human are related in his person, is known as Christology.


The spelling Christ 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 /iː/ (see ), preserved in the names of churches such as St Katherine Cree, or as a short /ɪ/, 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 "[one who is] anointed".

Jesus Christ as believed by his followers is the living son of God and will return to judge mankind one day.

Khristós in classical Greek usage could mean covered in oil, and is thus a literal translation of messiah. The Greek term is thought to derive from the Proto-Indo-European root of *ghrei- ("to rub"), which in Germanic languages, such as English, mutated into gris- and grim-. Hence the English words grisly, grim, grime, and grease, are thought to be cognate with Christ, though these terms came to have a negative connotation, where the Greek word had a positive connotation. In French the Greek term mutated first to creŝme and then to crème, due to the loss of certain 's' usages in French, which was loaned into English as cream. Indian ghee, from Sanskrit ghṛtə घृत ("sprinkled") is another obvious cognate, and indeed, has a sacred role in Vedic and modern Hindu libation and anointment rituals.

Christian views

Some may refer to "Jesus" when emphasizing his human nature in an event in the New Testament, and refer to "Christ" in discussing his divine nature.

In the New Testament

In the New Testament it says that the Messiah, long awaited, had come and describes this savior as the Christ (Greek Genitive: τοῦ Χριστοῦ, toú Christoú,; Nominative: ὁ Χριστὸς, ho Christós). 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" ().

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:
"The invisible Christ was imperceptible to the so-called personal senses, whereas Jesus appeared as a bodily existence. This dual personality of the unseen and the seen, the spiritual and material, the eternal Christ and the corporeal Jesus manifest in flesh, continued until the Master's ascension, when the human, material concept, or Jesus, disappeared, while the spiritual self, or Christ, continues to exist in the eternal order of divine Science, taking away the sins of the world, as the Christ has always done, even before the human Jesus was incarnate to mortal eyes.
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.

Esoteric Christian views

See also Second Coming and Esoteric Christianity


For the Rosicrucians there is a distinction to be made between Jesus and the Christ. Jesus is considered a high Initiate of the human life wave (which evolves under the cycle of rebirth) and of a singularly pure type of mind, vastly superior to the great majority of the present humanity.

They believe he was educated during his youth among the Essenes and thus prepared himself for the greatest honor ever bestowed upon a human being: to deliver his pure, passionless, highly evolved physical body and vital body (already attuned to the high vibrations of the 'Life Spirit'), in the moment of the Baptism, to the Christ being for his ministry in the physical world. At the cruxifixion the Christ was released from the bodies of Jesus and entered into the Earth. Christ is described as the highest spiritual being of the life wave called Archangels, having completed his union ("the Son") with the second aspect of God: Wisdom (Christ the Logos); and this great Archangel still is, according to these esoteric Christian teachings, the indwelling Spirit of the Earth: the Regent of the Earth.


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. Gnosticism, a non-hierarchical interpretation of the Christian message, was declared heresy by the formal, hierarchical Christian church at the first Ecumenical Council, which occurred at Nicaea in 325 A.D., although condemnation of such beliefs were held by orthodox church leaders for some time.

Gnostic texts with Jesus Christ include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and many more which have been discovered throughout the centuries.

Creation Spirituality

In his book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ Matthew Fox wrote of "the Cosmic Christ."

Islamic view

Muslims believe Jesus (Isa or عيسى) to be the Messiah (Massih) and a prophet. Although they believe in the Virgin Birth, they do not consider Jesus to be "the son of God". 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 judgement to restore justice and defeat al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl (lit. "the false messiah", also known as the Antichrist) and the enemies of Islam.

Hindu View

In Hinduism, God is often described by both personifications (deities), which are manifestations of particular aspects of God's power, and incarnations (avatars) of God in mortal form, as in case of Shiva or Vishnu. In these religions "the christ" is akin to these personifications. A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who coined the phrase 'Krsna Consciousness', held Jesus' teachings as non-different from the Hindu, Vedic scriptures, and others such as Paramahansa Yogananda often wrote about a "Christ Consciousness" interchangeably with "Krsna Consciousness."


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. In fact, the use of "Χ" to represent the full word goes back to the earliest days of Greek Christianity.

Slang usage

The interjection "Christ!" is often 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 using interjections was taken more seriously in the past, to the point where it was not only considered socially improper, but a sin against God. This led to the creation of many circumlocutions which allowed the speaker to express the emotion while avoiding the transgression. Common euphemisms that have arisen for this usage include "For crying out loud!" (US) and "Crikey" (UK, Aus.), used as an alternative by people reluctant to use "Christ". Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, the prohibition against using the name of the deity as an interjection has become much more relaxed.

See also


Further reading

  • 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.

External links

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