This article uses logical arguments, linguistic facts, Jewish history and culture, and scripture to explain how the names of Jesus given to Him in scripture revel the person of Christ.
1. Who is the person of Jesus Christ?
One of the important, yet controversial issues on which Christianity and Islam disagree is the person of Jesus Christ - blessed be His name. This question concerns one of the most controversial personalities in human history. The person of Jesus Christ has many names in the scriptures. Some of these names are easily understandable, and accepted by the majority of people, but other names of Jesus have not welcomed by the other main religions such as Judaism and Islam. In fact, these names are a source of disagreement.
2. Why do people disagree about the person of Christ?
They disagree about who Jesus Christ is, because He is not just a common, regular person. He said himself that He came from heaven, and then lived on earth. As God, who showed Himself in the flesh, Jesus died, was buried and resurrected, and now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is still alive - many acknowledge this is true - and He is sitting by the throne of the Almighty God. For this reason, it is not surprising that many people would disagree about His names and His character attributes. Among the many names that were given to Jesus in the scriptures and in the New Testament that are specific to Jesus Christ are: the Word of God, Emmanuel, and the Son of Man. These are the names of Jesus, and not His attributes. His attributes are many and vary greatly among different religions.
3. Let us consider each one of these names. For example, the first name mentioned was the name, 'Jesus.' When did this name first appear?
The first time this name is mentioned is in the Gospel of Matthew, which is the first book of the New Testament. In the 1st chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, verse 18 and 21, we read, 'This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about...because he will save his people from their sins.' This was the good news the angel delivered to the virgin Mary. Here we see that Joseph, Mary's fiancee, did not give this name to Jesus at that time. It is the name the angel gave to Mary, and he said that His name 'shall be called Jesus.' This name was given from heaven.
4. Was the angel aware at that time of how Jesus was going to enter the world and die?
Yes. The angel knew the fact that the Lord Jesus was to come and die for man's sins, and, then, would be raised from the dead. This event was no mere accident. Everything concerning the person of Jesus was previously mentioned in the Old Testament. Many prophecies about His name, His birthplace, His manner of birth, the timing of His birth, and even the village where He was to be born. So when the angel came to Mary with this message of what name she was to give her baby, he knew exactly what was going to happen. All the attributes given to Jesus are wonderful ones, but the name of Jesus was given to Him from heaven itself, and it is the Greatest name, in the absolute sense.
5. What is the meaning of the words "to deliver his people from their sins," and what kind of sins do these words refer to?
The word Jesus means Savior. The name of Jesus is a very important name: It is a message to all mankind. We know that all mankind make mistakes, and are born to sin. This, too, is a controversial issue as viewed by different religions, and especially between Christianity and Islam. According to our New Testament, Christian belief recognizes human beings are born with the sinful nature, and that there is a difference between being born with a sin nature and actually committing personal sin. A man is a sinner not because he does wrong things, but because he is born with the nature of sin. If men are born with the nature of sin, then this sin needs to be forgiven. The word "sin" and not "sins" in the plural, is talking about a sin nature, as opposed to many individual sins. If a man is born with sin, then this sin should be forgiven, wiped away and cleansed before God Almighty. For the sin to be cleansed and wiped away, an innocent man must die, instead of a guilty one, or the guilty one himself should die. For only an innocent man with no sin can redeem a man with sin. Islam, however, believes a human being is born with a good nature that has the potential to do either good or evil.
6. Was the person of Jesus this innocent man?
Yes. This is true because Christ was the only human ever born of a virgin woman. Both Islam and Christianity admit the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin woman and not from the will of a normal man. He is the only man who has had such a unique birth. We know that Adam, of course, was not born, but was created. He had no mother or father because he was the first human being that existed on earth. So Jesus was the only One who was not born as the result of the union of a man and woman. He did not receive the corrupted human nature of sin, and that's why He alone is the only One qualified to redeem man and deliver him from his sins. For, we know that it is only right and just that either the sinner should die, or another one should take his place, and this substitute should be a man, one who is blameless and does not possess the nature of sin. When God Almighty looked around for someone who possessed such attributes, He could find no one but Jesus. Therefore, He carried the name of Jesus, which is a serious name, as He is the only One qualified to deliver His people from their sins. The words "His people," which are mentioned here, signifies all those who acknowledge Him, all those who look for Him, and all those who accept His salvation and have their sins forgiven. The people of Jesus today are not only the Christians or the Jews of His time, or other nations. The people of Jesus also include everyone who confesses and acknowledges that Jesus was the perfect man who came in the flesh to die on behalf of us, in order to pay the price of our sin, and to save us from that sin.
7. The second name is "Christ." What does the name Christ mean?
The word Christ comes from the word meaning "anointed one." Anointed one means the one who has been set apart for a specific purpose and who carries a specific anointing to fulfill this specific purpose. In the Old Testament, the oil of the anointing was a specific kind of oil or ointment that was poured upon specific people in that time, who were set apart for a spiritual ministry before God Almighty.
8. Who are those anointed ones? When do we call someone an "anointed one?"
There were three kinds of people in the Old Testament whom we call anointed ones: The prophet who received his office from God Almighty, priests who did the work of the priesthood, and the king. These three kinds of people were anointed with the ointment of anointing, but Jesus was not just called "anointed one," but "The Anointed One." To be called an anointed one, he had to be one of the Old Testament prophets, kings or priests, but He was not any of these three in an earthly way of looking at things. We have never heard that Christ joined the priesthood and offered sacrifices in the temple. He could not have done this, as He did not come from the tribe of Levi, whose descendants were the only ones dedicated the serving in the priesthood. He came out of the tribe of Judah.
The Lord Jesus was not a King in the Old Testament sense either, or else He would have established His own kingdom. And, He was not a prophet in the Old Testament sense, because He authored no books, as did the other Old Testament prophets. This said, it is very important to understand that Jesus was spiritually a Priest, and a Prophet, and a King. He was a unique priest because He offered not just animal sacrifices over and over again each year to atone for the people's sins, but he offered Himself as a sacrifice to save His people from their sins. And, He was also a unique King in that His kingdom was not, and is not an earthly kingdom. It is a spiritual one, and this was clearly stated during His trial when the Jews asked Him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" and Jesus answered clearly, "I am and my kingdom is not from this world." There are many anointed ones, but The Anointed One is the unique person of God Himself as seen in the world in the person of Jesus Christ.
9. When Christ was on earth, was He anointed with oil, as was done in the Old Testament?
Christ was not anointed with oil, because He was not an earthly priest, or an earthly king or an earthly prophet, but instead, He was a spiritual king, priest and prophet. He said about Himself: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me" (Isaiah 61:1a). When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we are not speaking about angels. Instead, we mean the Spirit of the Almighty Himself. Christ was not anointed with oil, but with the Holy Spirit of God Himself because He came from heaven and went back to God. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. As the Bible says, the earthly oil or anointing has no value when understanding who the person of Christ is. Instead, He is anointed with the Holy Spirit. And, in the baptism of Jesus, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the shape of a dove. This was the anointing that came upon Him. (Luke 3:22)
10. Why did the Jews refuse to acknowledge that Jesus was the One whom God anointed, or the Anointed One?
In fact, the Jews had understandable reasons not to admit He was anointed, because He was not an earthly priest or king or prophet in the way they had previously understood. This made it more difficult for them to acknowledge He was Messiah, which means "The Anointed One." In their way of thinking, when the Messiah comes, He will come to rule over the nations, as these nations submit to Him as King of the earth. They believed He would come to deliver the Jews from their enemies and would make their nation the supreme nation on the earth. But, when Christ came, He did not come as a king or as a military leader who would fulfill the dreams of the Jews. Instead, He came as a humble man. When he fed 5,000 people, the crowds wanted to crown Him as their king, because they felt He must be the king who is coming to rule the world, since He had fed the multitudes. Instead, He refused to be an earthly king, because as He said, His kingdom is not from this world. He clearly said that He was going to be crucified for the forgiveness of sins. When it became obvious to them that He was not going to fulfill their dreams of bringing other nations into submission to them, they did not accept Him. They were expecting a strong Messiah who would destroy their earthly enemies. When Christ came around 2,000 years ago, He came to die on behalf of humanity.
11. The third name is "Emmanuel." What does the name Emmanuel mean?
The name Emmanuel is one of the names that confuse many people, and this name has caused disagreement among different religions. This name is the name that was given to Jesus from heaven, and it was also mentioned in the Old Testament, not only in the New Testament, in the story of the birth of Jesus. In the book of Matthew chapter 1 and verse 21, the angel says, "She will bear forth a son" (speaking about the Virgin Mary), and His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God is with us. So the word Emmanuel means God with us. The first chapter of the first book of the gospels points to Jesus as God with us. From this, we see where the disagreement originates among the different religions.
12. The fourth name given to the person of Jesus Christ was the Son of Man? What about this name?
The word Son of Man means He is the son of humanity. It means He took the form of man and appeared as a man - that He took on the form of human flesh. He gave this name to Himself.
13. How can God become a human being? Isn't this limiting God to claim He lived in the form of a human being? How can that be, when He is the Almighty unlimited God?
Jesus ws the one who called Himself the "Son of Man." This name merely reflects His humility, but this does not limit His Sovereignty, for He is the One who sits on His throne and fills the universe. As the Bible says, the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, but He took on a human form. If He wanted to take on human form, no one has the right to question Him, for He can do what He wants. But, more importantly, there is a reason why He came in human form. As we said, the one who would redeem a man has to be a human being, and at the same time must be equal to God, too. Because, if He was only born a natural man, with an earthly father, He would have been born with a sinful nature as well, because all men are prone to sin. No ordinary human being could redeem men. If a normal human being undertook this task, he would not have the essential qualifications, because sin has separated all men from God. So whoever redeems man should be equal to God and to man too, and would therefore come in the form of a man. Therefore, Jesus was given the name Emmanuel - God is with us - for the same reason He called Himself the Son of Man. He was not a normal human being, but the only one who is qualified to be our Redeemer.
14. What about the Name "Allah," - one of the names of God?
The Name Allah is one of the names of God that has a different implication in Christianity than it does in Islam. Both of the religions, Islam and Christianity, acknowledge that Jesus is the "Word of God," but they differ in the implication of what this entails. There is a difference between the spoken word of God, and the Word of God as mentioned in the Gospel of John in the very first verse: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Both the Jews and the Greeks, who were the greatest nations during that time, clearly understood the term "Word of God." In their minds, the "Word of God" was equal to the word "God." The Jews knew that God created the world by His Word, and the word in this sense is not the spoken word, but the noun the Greeks understood to mean "The Word" in person, or what in that time they termed the "mind of God," or "The Logos." He is the Word as it was understood in its meaning in the original language in which it was written, not in the English language in which it was later translated. So, when we say Jesus is the word of God, it means He is the Mind of God and that He is equal to God. In other words, He is God Himself. We can see that this name has serious implications.
Finally, I want to ask you about this One who is called the "Son of God." As you can see, all the names of the Lord Jesus were not simple names. Each one We have examined has created more controversy that the previous one. The name "Son of God" caused serious disagreements, but as I said before, these names were given to Him from heaven. He did not lightly, or frivolously claim to be from heaven. When we hear the word "Son of God," we think in human terms of understanding. We think God took Himself a wife in the same way a man marries a woman. But, every sensible man who uses the simplest reasoning cannot accept the idea God married a woman, and fathered Himself a son, in the way a human father does. God is the One seated on His throne - the One who reigns over the universe. God forbid that He has a son in the commonly understood human way through sexual procreation. The sonship of Jesus is a spiritual sonship, and not a carnal one. He is the One who reigns over the universe; therefore He has no need for human assistance. The name Son of God here signifies that Jesus was born after His likeness, and not through natural sexual reproduction. Jesus, as we read in the four Gospels, came from heaven: God's dwelling place. It is written in the book of Hebrews that He is the essence of God. That is why He was called the Son of God - a name that caused many problems in the minds of people who refused to believe that God would have a son. We refuse this, too, as Christians, if it is understood in simply the carnal sense. But, there is huge difference between begetting a son, and fathering a son. The One who came from heaven is the only begotten Son of God.