Search the Site



Muh-si´uh; Heb., “anointed one”

An anointed agent of God appointed to a task affecting the lot of the chosen people. At first, the title “messiah” was employed for unnamed historic kings of Israel (1Sam 2:10; Ps 2:2; Ps 20:6; Ps 28:8; Ps 84:9) or for named kings, Saul (1Sam 12:3; 1Sam 12:5; 1Sam 24:7), David (2Sam 19:22; 2Sam 22:51; 2Sam 23:1; Ps 18:50; Ps 89:38; Ps 89:51; Ps 132:10; Ps 132:17), Solomon (2Chr 6:42), Zedekiah (Lam 4:20), and even the pagan Cyrus (Isa 45:1). In the postexilic period, when the monarchy was no more, the title was used for the high priest (Lev 4:3; Lev 4:5; Lev 4:16; Lev 6:22). Rarely it was applied to patriarchs or prophets (Ps 105:15; 1Chr 16:22); once it may refer to Israel itself (Hab 3:13). Jeremiah prophesied the restoration of the Davidic dynasty; however, the title “messiah” was not associated with the coming of the future king who would effect this restoration. None of the prophetic books of the OT uses “messiah” as a title for such a coming king except for Daniel, which refers to the coming of an “anointed prince” (Dan 9:25). The Greek term for Christ (christos) was used in the LXX to translate Hebrew “messiah.” In the earliest writings of the NT this term has already become the second name of Jesus (called “Jesus Christ,” 1Thess 1:1, 1Thess 1:3; 1Thess 5:9; Gal 1:1; 1Cor 1:1). Paul sometimes inverted the names (“Christ Jesus,” 1Thess 2:14; 1Thess 5:18), possibly because he perceived “Christ” as a title rather than as a proper name. In any case, the term “Christ”/“Messiah” identified Jesus as the one who has fulfilled the Jewish expectations of old (Rom 9:5). The Christian confession that Jesus is “Messiah” played its primary role in Christian debates with Judaism. This is evident in the missionary speeches of Acts (Acts 2:31-32; Acts 2:36; Acts 3:18; Acts 5:42; Acts 17:3; Acts 18:5; Acts 18:28) and in certain passages in the Fourth Gospel (John 1:41; John 4:29; John 7:26-31; John 10:24; John 11:27; John 12:34; John 20:31).