25th January is St Paul’s day (or rather the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul) in the Church’s liturgical calendar hence the bit of theology for today’s post.

What’s in a name?

An almost throw-away comment at last year’s clergy conference set me thinking. It was to do with the phrase “we proclaim Jesus Christ Lord” which doesn’t sound  quite right in English. Most translations put in either ‘as’ or ‘is’ before Lord. Put that way, what the apostle Paul is proclaiming (the Christian gospel, if you like) is that Jesus Christ is the Lord.  Therefore, if we know what is meant by ‘lord’ then we know what he is talking about.

Except that that is not what it says. A better translation (and I asked Dr Paula Gooder  about this) might be “we proclaim Jesus the Christ the Lord”. The word “the” is used slightly differently in English and in New Testament Greek but used here helps to get away from the impression that “Christ” is Jesus’ surname.

This translation then tells us that each of the names has something significant to say.

“Jesus”, which can also be translated as Joshua or Jeshua, means “he saves” in the sense of John chapter 3 verses 16 and 17: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved.” So “we proclaim” the person who saves the world.

“The Christ”, can also be translated as the Messiah or the Anointed One. Anointing with oil is associated with being marked out for some special Divine purpose and that an “anointed one” has God’s Spirit present in a powerful way.  Mark chapter 1 verses 10 and 11 illustrate this: “he saw the  heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased’.” So “we proclaim” the person specially chosen by God who is filled with God’s Spirit.

“The Lord” here is not a title for the nobility in the upper house in Parliament. The Lord is a euphemism, you could say, for God. In order not to accidentally misuse God’s name, “the Lord” is used instead. To call some one “Lord” in this context is to say that they are God as in John chapter 20 verse 28 when Thomas says to Jesus “My Lord and my God”. So “we proclaim” the person who is God.

Saviour, Spirit-filled, God in person: Jesus, the Christ, the Lord.