Prominent Titles of Jesus
Prominent Titles of Jesus
|Title||Selected NT Passages||OT Background||Remarks|
|God||John 1:1; 20:28 1 John 5:20 Disputed as to correct manuscript reading: John 1:18 Disputed as to correct translation: Romans 9:5; Tit. 2:13||Isaiah 9:6 is the classic OT verse on the deity of the coming Messiah, but Daniel 7:13 is at least as strong (see "Son of Man" below). In 7:14, the word often translated as "serve" elsewhere is used of worship offered to God.||Although some of the stronger statements in the NT as to the deity of Jesus are in dispute, the case for His deity does not depend on any disputed texts. It should be noted that the first-century mind (at least among the non-Greeks) was not as prone to logically define things as we are. While Jesus was recognized as divine in the early church, the oneness of God was also upheld without there being an immediate need to define the person of Christ or the Trinity. Those doctrines were not formulated for several centuries.|
|Messiah||Used by Jesus in John 4:25-26; Mark 9:41; Matthew 23:10; Luke 24:26, 46 By Peter in Mark 8:29 By Caiaphas in Mark 14:61 Also see Acts 2:36; 3:20||The term means "anointed one" and was used with regard to kings, priests, and prophets. Eventually it became the leading popular designation of a Davidic leader who would give Israel victory over its enemies and usher in the kingdom of God.||Jesus rarely used the title of Himself, probably because of its political overtones, but when others used it to refer to Him, He never rejected the title. Messianic claims are also evident in such acts as the Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem, and in passages like Luke 7:19-22.In effect, Jesus gave a different meaning to "Messiahship" than was current among the populace. Because it was a Scriptural expression, He did not reject the use of it as a title, but He emphasized its aspects of humility and suffering, which were generally missing from the popular concept.|
|Lord||Relatively infrequent in gospels: e.g., Mark 12:35-37 Very frequent in the epistles: 1 Corinthians 8:6; 12:3; 16:22; Philippians 2:11||The Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT made several hundred years before Christ) used the word Kurios to translate YHWH or Jehovah, the name of God. The same Greek word kurios was then used in the NT to refer to Jesus.||As a form of address, "Lord" could merely be the equivalent of "Rabbi" or "Teacher" (see Luke 6:46). But to call Jesus "the Lord Jesus Christ" was to affirm His deity. Jewish hearers would know that "Lord" was an OT title of God. This is underscored by the NT application to Jesus of OT texts that spoke of God: Philippians 2:11, referring to Isaiah 45:23; Romans 10:13 referring to Joel 2:32; Hebrews 1:10-12, referring to Psalm 102: 25-27. Gentile listeners, too, would be accustomed to hearing the term "Lord" used of the emperors, who were considered divine.|
|Son of God||Used by Jesus in John 10:36, 11:4 (much more frequently He simply calls Himself "the Son")By Satan: Matthew 4:3 By disciples: Matthew 14:33; 16:16 By High Priest: Matthew 26:63 By mockers: Matthew 27:40 By demons: Mark 3:11 In context of His pre-existence: Galatians 4:4; John 3:17||Used in the OT to refer to Israel, angels and kings as being in a special relationship to God (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7; Psalm 89:26 [implied]).||Generally it is held that "Son of God" was not a Messianic title. Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests that possibly it was beginning to be used as such by the time of Jesus. "Son of God" was also used in the Wisdom of Solomon, one of the books of the Apocrypha, to refer simply to a righteous man. Probably that was the Roman centurion's intention in Matthew 27:54 and Mark 15:39 (cf. Luke 23:47). Nevertheless, Jesus went far beyond any other usage. He never spoke of the Father as "our Father" but rather as "my Father and your Father" (John 20:17). Whereas Jewish people customarily addressed God as avi, "my father," Jesus called Him abba, "daddy." Finally, whereas the OT term referred strictly to a status or position, Jesus' use of the term coupled with its use elsewhere in the NT indicates that it referred not only to a special status that Jesus had, but to His very nature.|
|Son of Man||Numerous places in the gospels (see remarks) Once in Acts 7:56 Never in epistles||"Son of Man" is used to mean mankind (Psalm 8:4) or an individual human being (Ezekiel 2:1), but Daniel 7:13, the source of Jesus' use of the term, refers to a divine personage.||This title (except in Acts) was used only by Jesus to refer to Himself as: 1. The equivalent of "I" (e.g., Luke 7:34) 2. When speaking of His sufferings (Mark 8:31) 3. When speaking of His return in glory (Mark 14:62) In Daniel 7, a figure "like a son of man" comes upon the clouds of heaven (cf. Mark 13:26). This figure is divine; therefore contrary to popular belief, the title "Son of man" relates not so much to Jesus' humanity as to His deity (although the notion of humanity is not absent). Besides this, Daniel 7 shows a relationship between the "son of man" figure and the people of God (Daniel 7:14 and 7:27). For these reasons, as well as for its lack of political overtones, Jesus used it as the most frequent designation of Himself.|
For Further Reading
Basic: The Lord From Heaven, Leon Morris, Inter-Varsity Press, 1974.
Advanced and quite technical: The Origins of New Testament Christology, I. Howard Marshall, Inter-Varsity Press, 1976.
*Metaphorical descriptions such as The Door, The Good Shepherd, The Way, The Truth, and The Life, Lamb of God, Bread of Life, The Light of the World, The Word, The Lord of the Sabbath, I Am, etc. are not included.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.