HCSB: Messiah vs. Christ Pt. 2

After a couple comments on the previous post on Messiah or Christ, I decided to check into the matter a little more. That is, I looked at the criteria in HCSB, namely Messiah in primarily Jewish context and Christ in Gentile context. I looked at two NT books in which the consensus favors the view that they were written to Jewish readers.

Please note: I write this with great respect for the translators of HCSB (and other translations). I am not questioning their motives, integrity, or expertise. My concern is to help those who must rely on translations for their reading, hearing, and studying of the Bible.


Christ: four times: Heb 3:6; 10:10; 13:8; 13:21

Messiah: eight times: Heb 3:14; 5:5; 6:1; 9:11; 9:14; 9:24; 9:28; 11:26

So, Messiah more prominent in Hebrews. But then I have to ask why the four occurrences of Christ?

Heb. 3:6 But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

Strangely this entire section 3:1-18 has to do with Jesus being compared to Moses. Messiah would be expected in 3:6, since it is used in 3:14. Then, why Christ in 3:6?

Heb. 10:10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.

This occurs in the section, chapters 8-10 which focus on the difference between the priesthood and sacrifices of the Old Testament vs. the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus. Given that context, which is thoroughly Jewish from a first century perspective, the use of Christ in 10:10 seems to violate HCSB’s own stated objective.

Heb. 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

This famous and well loved passage seems almost like the old sweater I wear from 25 years ago. It just fits. But again, the question is whether Christ or Messiah should be used. In this section, though the author urges, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith” (13:7). And every leader mentioned in Hebrews 11 is Israelite/Hebrew/Jewish. It seems obvious to use Messiah in this context.

I also understand the issue of “name” in regard to Jesus as a basis for using Christ  (from HCSB Introduction). But this seems to run counter to the other objective. And how much is Jesus Christ truly a name (because the title Christ is attached to Jesus) or a combination of name and title (i.e. in my case, Pastor Rich)? Is it just convention because we are so familiar with this particular text?

Heb. 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.

This use in 13:21 is very similar to 13:8, but with the added thought that the immediately preceding clause references “the blood of the everlasting covenant,” a definite Hebrew/Jewish thought in light of the preceding five chapters.

1 Peter

Interestingly 1 Peter provides the opposite emphasis regarding each translation choice, namely Christ is dominant.

Christ: 17 times 1 Peter 1:1, 2, 3 (2x), 7, 11, 13, 19; 2:5, 21; 3:18, 21; 4:1, 11, 14; 5:10, 14

Messiah: 3 times 1 Peter 3:15; 4:13; 5:1 (but see 1:11 for another possibility)

So the question becomes why those three times is Messiah used? And what about 1:11? The first one is another famous and well memorized text.

1 Pet. 3:15 but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

For me the biggest obstacle to this is that 1 Pet. 3:18 uses Christ rather than Messiah.

1 Pet. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm, but made alive in the spiritual realm.

thus, in this case, it would appear better to use Christ in both or Messiah in both. The next one has the same issue of immediate context, but even more puzzling because the topic is parallel (suffering, ridicule):

1 Pet. 4:13 Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory.

1 Pet. 4:14 If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

And this relates to the next use of Messiah, namely sufferings

1 Pet. 5:1 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you:

The one text in which it seems contradictory in the same sentence does not use Messiah, but messianic.

1 Pet. 1:11 They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow.

So, the question remains: would someone who does not know Greek be able to correlate the uses of Christ/Messiah and why one translation choice in a context would necessitate it rather than the other? And then would the reader be able to keep straight that both terms refer to the same thing? And even more difficult, would a hearer be able to do that?

Author: exegete77

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

2 thoughts on “HCSB: Messiah vs. Christ Pt. 2”

  1. I’ve just quickly looked at the Gospels and Acts, and the numbers are quite interesting:

    Matthew: 16 Messiah, 2 Christ
    Mark: 8 Messiah, 1 Christ
    Luke: 13 Messiah, 0 Christ
    John:17 Messiah, 3 Christ (plus 1 Anointed One)
    Acts: 13 Messiah, 13 Christ

    This is roughly what I’d expected. Luke has an aversion to the sort of sense the HCSB would render “Christ” (which then bafflingly disappears in Acts, which even has two instances of “Christians”). A few of the “Messiahs” in Matthew I’m surprised didn’t go the other way.


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