HCSB: Messiah or Christ

HCSB: Messiah vs Christ

In the Introduction to the HCSB, we read this note:

The HCSB translates the Greek word Christos (“anointed one”) as either “Christ” or “Messiah” based on its use in different NT contexts. The first use of “Messiah” in each chapter is also marked with a bullet referring readers to the Bullet Note at the back of most editions. (p. viii)

Then in the back about that bullet point, we read:

Messiah Or the Christ, the Greek word is Christos and means the anointed one. Where the NT emphasizes Christos as a name of our Lord or has a Gentile context, “Christ” is used. Where the NT Christos has a Jewish context, the title “Messiah” is used.

That sounds good, and generally I can accept such a position. However, this last Sunday our Epistle reading was Ephesians 2:11-22. Here, specifically vv. 12-13, is where the inconsistency of such an approach does not help the reader/hearer, nor does it maintain the desired separation indicated above.

12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.

Note that in v. 12 there is already confusion, since Paul is writing about the Gentile believers (“excluded from citizenship of Israel”), yet the translation offers a Jewish understanding of the word, namely Messiah. Then in v. 13 the Gentile term is used (is it a title or name?), namely Christ. And at the end of v. 13, the Gentiles (“who were far away”) receive the benefits of the Jewish term, Messiah. Again, a contradiction of the stated objectives.

It seems that a better approach is to use “Messiah” (or “Christ”) in the entire section, but not switch back and forth, especially since these two verses seem to violate the guidelines given by the HCSB Introduction. I would favor “Messiah” throughout the NT, because the dividing line is too ambiguous in passages like the above.

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian

5 thoughts on “HCSB: Messiah or Christ”

  1. Excellent analysis. You are correct to point out the inconsistency with our application of Messiah vs. Christ. I appreciate your blog on this matter, as it aids us on the translation oversight committee process of preparations for an updated text in the future. Thanks again!


  2. Someone texted asked about using “Anointed One” as the translation. While that might work, it tends to focus on one aspect of Messiah (Maschiach), but misses the “sending part.” Further, when it functions as a title/name in conjunction with Jesus (either Christ Jesus or Jesus Christ), we would get: Anointed Jesus or Jesus Anointed, a little awkward. But it is worth looking at.


  3. Yeah, I kind of wrestled with this too. The NIV in many examples also has chosen to go with Messiah even though the greek is clearly “χριστός.” I haven’t exactly figured out why there was a change. In the preface of the HCSB, it says, “The HCSB translates the Greek word Christos (“anointed one”) as either “Christ” or “Messiah” based on its use in different NT contexts.” But it doesn’t list a rationale as to *why* there was a desire to translate “Christ” as “Messiah.” In practice, to me it doesn’t keep me up at night agonizing over it. You’re going to have to teach “Christos” just as much as “Messiah” when you teach and preach. But it’s nice to know that the inconsistency will be smoothed out by the 2018 revision. So also, I’m hoping that the inconsistencies with “Lord” and “Yahweh” will be smoothed out as well. Thanks for you response too, Micah. I didn’t exactly expect to hear one of the HCSB guys so directly. I’m thankful you are both keeping these issues in mind and working with them. I hope you had a profitable meeting with the WELS representatives a couple of weeks ago.


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