Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online
Bible History

Schaff's Bible Dictionary

Definitions in Biblical History

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z   

Who is Jesus Christ?
        Matt 1:1. Christ is the official, Jesus the personal, name of our Lord. It is from the Greek word Christos, which signifies "anointed," corresponding to the word Messiah in the Hebrew. He is called the Anointed in allusion to the custom of anointing with oil such as were set apart to a sacred or regal office, because by the Spirit he was anointed to the threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. The word "Jesus" is derived from a Hebrew word signifying "to save," or "sent to save." Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11,2 Chr 11:21. The word "Joshua" has the same meaning, and is a very common name among the Hebrews, and should have been used in Acts 7:45 and Heb 4:8 instead of "Jesus." Jesus the Christ is a descriptive phrase, like John the Baptist. Matt 26:63; Mark 8:29; Mark 14:61; John 1:20, Gal 4:25, 1 Chr 4:41; John 6:69; John 7:41; John 10:24; John 11:27; John 20:31. The word "Jesus" is almost always used alone in the Gospels, while, in the Acts and Epistles, "Jesus Christ " or "Lord Jesus Christ" is the prevailing expression.

        The first promise of the Messiah was given in Gen 3:16. The Son of God and all true believers are "the seed of the woman." Comp. Acts 13:23; Gal 4:4, and Heb 2:16 with John 17:21,Heb 12:23. The devil and all his servants represent the serpent and his seed. John 8:44; 1 John 3:8. The temptations, sufferings, and ignominious death of Christ, and the fierce opposition and persecution which his followers have endured, are significantly described by the bruising of the heel; while the complete victory which our Redeemer has himself achieved over sin and death, and which his grace enables the believer also to obtain, and the still more perfect and universal triumph which he will finally accomplish, are all strikingly illustrated by the bruising or crushing of the serpent's head. The books of heathen mythology furnish curious allusions to this passage of the Bible. In one of them Thor is represented as the eldest son of Odin, a middle divinity, a mediator between God and man, who bruised the head of the serpent and slew him. And in one of the oldest pagodas of India are found two sculptured figures, representing two incarnations of one of their supreme divinities, the first to be bitten by a serpent and the second to crush him.

        The promise thus given when man fell was supplemented by so many particulars in the course of the centuries that the coming Messiah was the great hope of Israel. In type and symbol, in poetry and prose, in prophecy and history, the Jews had set before them in increasing prominence and clearness the character and life and death of the promised Messiah, and yet, as a nation, they grossly misapprehended his character and the purpose of his mission. They were accustomed to regard his coming as the grand era in the annals of the world, for they spoke of the two great ages of history, the one as preceding and the other as following this wonderful event; but they perverted the spiritual character of the Messiah and his kingdom into that of a temporal deliverer and ruler. We find that about the time of the Messiah's appearance Simeon, Anna, and others of like faith, were eagerly expecting the promised salvation. Luke 2:25-38. At the appointed time the Redeemer of the world appeared.

        He was born in the year of the city of Rome 749 -i.e. 4 years before the beginning of our era- at Bethlehem, in Judea, of the Virgin Mary, who was espoused to Joseph; and through them he derived his descent from David, according to prophecy. Ps 89:3-4 and Ps 110:1. Comp. Acts 2:25, Eze 23:36; Isa 11:1-10; Jer 23:5-6; Eze 34:23-24; Eze 37:24-25; John 7:42. The story of Christ's life is told with so much simplicity, completeness, and sweetness in the Gospels, and is at the same time so familiar to every Bible-reader, that it is not necessary here to repeat it. In one sentence, Jesus Christ was the incarnate God, whose coming was the fulfillment of prophecy; whose life was the exemplification of absolute sinlessness; whose death was the result of man's malice, and yet the execution of God's design and the atonement for the sins of the world; whose resurrection was the crowning proof of his divinity; whose ascension was a return to his abode, where he ever liveth to make intercession for us.

        To prove his character we have the unanimous testimony of eighteen centuries. "The person of Christ is the miracle of history." We claim for him perfect humanity and perfect divinity. He was not only the Son of man, but the Son of God in one undivided person. The term "Son of man," which Christ applies to himself about eighty times in the Gospels, places him on a common level with other men as partaking of their nature and constitution, and at the same time above all other men as the absolute and perfect Man, the representative Head of the race, the second Adam. Comp, Rom 5:12 ff.; 1 Cor 15:27; Heb 1:8. While other great men are limited by national prejudice, Christ is the King of men, who draws all to him; he is the universal, absolute Man, elevated above the limitations of race and nationality. And yet he is most intensely human. The joys and sorrows of our common life are met by his deep and tender sympathy. All love him who know him. His foes are the cruel, the licentious, and the malicious.

        The records of the evangelists are not elaborate, artistic pages with many erasures, as if the writers had toiled after consistency. They are simple, straight-forward, guileless testimonies; and yet the impression they leave upon the attentive reader is that in Jesus Christ the plant of Humanity bore its rarest flower, the tree of Life its most precious fruit. It will be granted that the question of the justice of this claim turns upon his perfect sinlessness. Some have dared to say that while in the Gospels no sinful acts are recorded, there may have been sins which are unrecorded. But without fear he challenged his foes to convict him of sin. John 8:46. He was the only man who has made any such demand. Christ's sinlessness is confirmed by his own solemn testimony, the whole course of his life, and the very purpose for which he appeared. Self-deception in this case would border on madness, falsehood would overthrow the whole moral foundation of Christ's character. Hypocrites do not maintain themselves under such a strain. But besides being sinless, he was perfectly holy. He did not simply resist sin; he blended and exercised actively all virtues. The grandeur of his character removes him at once from all the sordidness, pettiness, and sinfulness of our every-day life. His memory comes to us with the refreshment of the cooling breeze on a summer's day. We can supplicate his help because we have seen him tried and triumphant, and we know his strength is great. All human goodness loses on closer inspection, but Christ's character grows more pure, sacred, and lovely the better we know him.

        But Jesus was likewise the Son of God, and so he is usually called by the apostles. The perfection of his humanity if matched by the perfection of his divinity. His Godhead comes out in many ways. He exercises a supernatural control over Nature. The waves sink at his command, the fig tree withers away, the water turns into wine. By his touch or word, without a prayer or any recognition of superior power, the lepers are cleansed, the blind see, and the lame walk. Higher yet does Christ go; he forgives sins - not with the ostentation of a presuming charlatan, but simply, decidedly, gently. He takes from the sinner his damning load by the same action which brings back health. He likewise intercedes with the Father for men. He claims equality and eternity with God. Twice God proclaims him as his Son. Accompanied by legions of angels, sustained by divine strength, Jesus of Nazareth lives as the express image of the Father, conquers the grave, rises from the dead, and ascends to take his place as God, blessed for ever.

        The Church has the daily experience of her Lord, who is present always in the hearts of all true believers. When souls yearn for cheer, when mourners cry out for comfort, when men need counsel, they seek Jesus; and they are supplied from the inexhaustible fount of his humanity. When the sinner feels the burden of his sin pressing heavily and groans for release, when the insolvent debtor falls at the feet of his Lord, crying, "Have mercy!" when the saint is set amid the perplexities of life, when he enters the valley of the shadow of death, when he comes to the brink of the river, -these are times when the perfect divinity of Jesus is proven to the satisfaction of the soul. "Behold the God-Man!" cries the Church; and this is the exultant exclamation of the soul left to its deepest instincts and noblest aspirations, the soul which was originally made for Christ, and finds in him the solution of all moral problems, the satisfaction of all its wants, the unfailing fountain of everlasting life and peace.

        Personal Appearance of Jesus Christ. -None of the evangelists- not even the beloved disciple and bosom-friend of Jesus- has given us the least hint of his countenance and stature. This was wise. We ought to cling to the Christ in the spirit rather than to the Christ in the flesh. Yet there must have been spiritual beauty in his face. He won the hearts of his disciples by a word. We are indeed left to conjecture merely, but we cannot read in the hints of his personal power any necessity for taking Isaiah's description of the suffering Messiah in all its literal baldness. There was nothing repulsive about Jesus. He had not the physiognomy of a sinner; a supernatural purity and dignity must have shone through the veil of his flesh. The first formal description of his looks dates from the fourth century-is, indeed, unauthentic, probably a monkish fabrication, and yet, because it is curious and has had a great influence upon the pictorial representations of Jesus, we insert it here. It is ascribed to Publius Lentulus, a heathen, supposed contemporary and friend of Pilate, in an apocryphal letter to the Roman Senate: "In this time appeared a man, who lives till now -a man endowed with great powers. Men call him a great prophet; his own disciples term him the Son of God. His name is Jesus Christ. He restores the dead to life and cures the sick of all manner of diseases. This man is of noble and well proportioned stature, with a face full of kindness, and yet firmness, so that beholders both love him and fear him. His hair is the color of wine, and golden at the root, straight and without lustre, but from the level of the ears curling and glossy, and divided down the centre, after the fashion of the Nazarenes, His forehead is even and smooth, his face without blemish, and enhanced by a tempered bloom, his countenance ingenuous and kind. Nose and mouth are in no way faulty. His beard is full, of the same color as his hair, and forked in form; his eyes blue and extremely brilliant. In reproof and rebuke he is formidable; in exhortation and teaching, gentle and amiable of tongue. None have seen him to laugh, but many, on the contrary, to weep. His person is tall, his hands beautiful and straight. In speaking be is deliberate and grave and little given to loquacity; in beauty, surpassing most men."

        It may be proper to suggest the leading points and principal references respecting the divinity of our Lord.

        I. The names and titles of the supreme Being are applied to him, John 1:1; Rom 9:5; 1 John 5:20; Rev 1:11; comp. Isa 6:1-10 with John 12:41.

        II. The principal attributes of God are ascribed to Christ; as, eternity, John 1:1; John 8:58; Rev 23:13; superhuman knowledge, Matt 9:4; John 16:30; John 21:17; omnipotence, Phil 3:21; Col 2:9-10; omnipresence. Matt 18:20; Matt 28:20; John 3:13; and unchangeableness. Heb 13:8.

        III. The works and prerogatives of God are ascribed to him, such as the creation of all things, John 1:1,Num 1:3; Col 1:16-17, and their preservation, Heb 1:3; forgiveness of sins, Dan 8:9; comp. with Ps 30; Matt 9:2, 1 Chr 24:6; Col 3:13; power to raise the dead and to judge the world. Matt 25:31-33; John 5:2-29;Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10.

        IV. He is the object of religious worship. Phil 2:10-11; Heb 1:6; Rev 5:11-13. We insert here, as a help in studying the harmony of the four Gospels, the chronological table of the life of Christ, from Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament (New York, 1879), vol. i. p. 18. Outline of the Gospel History. The life of Christ has been of late studied with an eagerness, a keenness, and a wealth of illustration that argue well for the future. The question, "What think ye of Christ?" is asked to-day with peculiar emphasis. This new-born interest in the earthly life of the Founder of the Christian religion will bear fruit in the increased reverence of believers and the increased respect of his foes.
        False Christs, Matt 24:24. Our Lord warned his disciples that false Christs should arise. Not less than 24 different persons of such pretensions have appeared, and the defence of their claims to the Messiahship has cost the Jews a great expense of life and treasure. One of them, Coziba, or Barchocheba, lived early in the second century. He put himself at the head of the Jewish nation as their Messiah; they adhered to him. The Romans made war upon him, and the Jews themselves allow that in their defence of this false Messiah they lost between 500,000 and 600,000 souls! In the twelfth century not less than 8 or 10 impostors appeared under the same name, and were followed by great numbers of the Jews. Most of them were punished for their imposture with death, and usually involved a multitude of their deluded followers in persecution and death. The last that gained any considerable number of converts was Mordecai, a Jew of Germany, who lived in 1682. He fled for his life, and his end is not known.

Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'jesus christ' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". - Schaff's

Copyright Information
© Schaff's Bible Dictionary

Schaff's Bible Dictionary Home
Bible History Online Home


Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
Online Bible (KJV)
Naves Topical Bible
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Schaff's Bible Dictionary
Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Matthew Henry Bible Commentary
Hitchcock's Bible Dictionary