Bible Resources

Messiah

What does Messiah mean? And how about Christ? Learn more about these titles as you read this in-depth article.

The Hebrew word “ Messiah” means “anointed one,” and is usually translated in the CEV as “chosen one.” Anointing is the practice of pouring oil on the head of a person who is chosen to serve God and God’s people. For example, priests were anointed (1 Chr 29:22); prophets were sometimes anointed (Isa 61:1,3); and Cyrus, a Persian king, was even called an “anointed one” (CEV “chosen one”) when God chose him to help the people return to Judea from their exile in Babylon (Isa 45:1).

In the Jewish Scriptures, it is the king who is most often called an “anointed one”
(1 Sam 10:1; 16:1,13). Several psalms about the king make it clear that as God’s “chosen one” (Ps 2:2) or “son” (Ps 2:7), the king is responsible for establishing God’s justice and peace on earth. This means rescuing victims of injustice, “especially the poor”
(see Ps 9:8,9).

God’s agreement with King David was that one of his descendants would always be king
(Ps 89:4). But when Jerusalem was destroyed and the exile began in 586 B.C., the kingdom of David and his descendants was ended (see Ps 89:38-45). After the exile, some people looked for the restoring of the kingship of David’s line. Others suggested that all of God’s people were now responsible for doing what the kings had done.

This matter was still being discussed hundreds of years later when the early Christians expressed their belief that Jesus was God’s “chosen one.” The early Christians saw in Jesus a “chosen one” who rescued the poor and established peace by inviting all people into God’s kingdom. The author of Mark uses the two titles for the king from Psalm 2 and applies them to Jesus: “Christ” (which is Greek for “anointed one”) and “Son of God” (Mark 1:1; see Ps 2:2,7). Matthew identifies Jesus as a descendant of David and so places him in David’s royal line (Matt 1:1). Jesus became known as “Jesus Messiah” (or Jesus Christ; Mark 8:29; 14:61,62), and confessing Jesus to be the Messiah set early Christians apart from their Jewish contemporaries (John 9:22-23; 1 John 2:22).