Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Did Jesus Have A Last Name?

"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus..."
Matthew 1:21a (ESV)

Mary and Joseph did not get to pick the name of their first born son. Had this been a traditional pregnancy following the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, Joseph more than likely would have called Jesus, "Joseph" after himself. Zachariah's family members wanted Elizabeth to name her baby, whom we know as John the Baptist, after his father. Interestingly enough it seems Mary and Joseph did not have last names. This might make it hard to look them up in the Nazareth phone book.

The first people to have used a "surname" or last name was the Chinese. The story goes that an Emperor named Fushi decreed the use of surnames or family names around 2852 BC. The Chinese people typically have three names. The surname, or last name comes first, that name is followed by a generation name, and then placed last is the given name, or the first name.

The Romans for most of their history had only one name. However, they eventually began using three names. The given name came first, as a first name, this was followed by the name of their clan, and the last name listed was to designate the family. History shows as the Roman empire declined the use of multiple names began to be discontinued and eventually there was a return to single names.

During the period of time we know as the Middle Ages people had a single name. Gradually another name of distinguishing people began to develop usage. Surnames or last names began to be attached to individuals. These names came from various sources; location, occupation, the use of the father's name, etc.

By the 12th century the use of a second name was so widespread that for some it was considered vulgar not to have a last name. Since this period most people are known by a first name and a last name. We have even gone so far as to add what we call middle names which derived from the earlier practices. While I don't have a generation name, I do have three names, Gregory Dean Metcalf. The Metcalf is our surname or last name. I don't know where or how it originated. The Internet tells me it is of English origin, probably from the area of Yorkshire. It may mean to fatten up a calf before it is eaten or in order to eat it. It may be an occupational name. It may be very appropriate, Lord knows I love beef!

At the time of Jesus, surnames were not ordinarily used. Jesus had just one name. However, if you listen to people today you could get the idea that Jesus did have a last name and that it was Christ. This comes from at least two (2) reasons: 

The word Christ, which is a title, is frequently attached to the name Jesus in many Scriptures throughout the Bible. It is so frequently attached that one might think Jesus name was Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately many people have learned to take the name of Jesus and use it as an expression of vulgarity. Any number of combinations of Jesus ___________ Christ have been concocted by a race of people who by nature hate and despise this lovely and beautiful name.

"Jesus" is a transliteration of the Hebrew word "Joshua." When those who translated the Hebrew into Greek came to the Hebrew letters that spelled Joshua, they simply took the corresponding Greek letter and made up the name Jesus from those letters. 

Jesus, or the Hebrew Joshua means "Jehovah is Salvation, or "is the Savior." This name was given to the Son of God in the incarnation as his personal name. 

The title Christ, Χριστος is the Greek word for "anointed one." It translates the Hebrew word for Messiah in the Septuagint, LXX. This term was applied to the priests who were anointed with the holy oil, especially the High Priest. The prophets were known as the christoi Theou, "the anointed of God." This title is used frequently in the New Testament with the article, "the". Thus, we would say, Jesus, the Christ.

So, in conclusion, Jesus is Jesus only name. Christ is a title designating him as the anointed one, and from this we take it to mean, the anointed one from God. 

This topic was suggested and requested by Brian Todd from Brian Todd Blog



9 comments:

Seams Inspired said...

Great post, Gregg! Now a question arises...Joseph was a common name, so wouldn't Jesus' worldly father, Joseph, have been known as Joseph of ??? or Joseph, son of ??? Just curious.

And a sidenote...In the Greek culture, it is customary to name your firstborn son after the paternal grandfather and father. This distinguishes each family from one another. Since my husband is the youngest of 4 sons, when our son arrived, we felt there were already too many "Peter's" in the family. We bucked tradition and gave our son a different first name, though he does bear his father's name as his middle name. Let me tell you, the tongues wagged for weeks about that! LOL Perhaps that's why I'm still referred to as "The White Girl" ;o)

Persis said...

Good post!

No wonder why Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

Scott W. said...

Good post. This is also one of my pet peeves, although it's understandable where folks get the idea.

On the side, ever notice that the only people we really tend to think of with all three names are criminals, especially assassins. John Wilkes Booth; Lee Harvey Oswald; etc.

The good guys are more often given to initials: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, R. C. Sproul, C. H. Spurgeon.

Just a thought (too much time on my hands apparently!)

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Gregg, Thanks for the history lesson on the origin of names. I learned something new today. Who says you can't teach Old Geezers new tricks? :-)

~Ron

Cathy M. said...

Interesting post. Our family name identifies our ancestors as seafarers (meriwether). It's really something to ponder that someday God is going to give each of us a stone with a new name. I don't really understand it, but I think it will be wonderful.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A thought provoking post Gregg. A very good read.

Yvonne.

Transparent Tulip said...

educational and encouraging. thanks for posting.

LarryJL said...

>>Unfortunately many people have learned to take the name of Jesus and use it as an expression of vulgarity. Any number of combinations of Jesus ___________ Christ have been concocted by a race of people who by nature hate and despise this lovely and beautiful name.<<

First, the only people I have ever heard use Jesus F Christ or Christ as a swear word are... hope you are sitting down... Christians. Period. And being a Jew, I am fairly sure I am around enough Jews to know that in public or private, never heard anyone so disrespectful.

Second, no one expressing racism should write about Jesus or any religion. Get off the internet, go find a spiritual guide who can help you so that Jesus would not be ashamed to have you utter his name even in prayer. You are a disgrace to the love he stands for. Get help.

LarryJL said...

>>Unfortunately many people have learned to take the name of Jesus and use it as an expression of vulgarity. Any number of combinations of Jesus ___________ Christ have been concocted by a race of people who by nature hate and despise this lovely and beautiful name.<<

First, the only people I have ever heard use Jesus F Christ or Christ as a swear word are... hope you are sitting down... Christians. Period. And being a Jew, I am fairly sure I am around enough Jews to know that in public or private, never heard anyone so disrespectful.

Second, no one expressing racism should write about Jesus or any religion. Get off the internet, go find a spiritual guide who can help you so that Jesus would not be ashamed to have you utter his name even in prayer. You are a disgrace to the love he stands for. Get help.