Alma 5:44 — LeGrand Baker — meaning of ‘Christ Jesus’
44 For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come.
Two weeks ago, Kirt wrote:
I have a question that maybe someone in the project can answer for me. The name of the Savior being presented in the scriptures as “Christ Jesus” instead of “Jesus Christ” has often subtly caught my attention. Following the Gospel Doctrine lesson on Alma 5, my curiosity was peaked because Alma uses the name of the Savior in this reverse order in verse 44. “For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come.” This, in fact, is the only verse in the Book of Mormon that sequences the name Christ before the name Jesus. It is stated as such numerous times in the New Testament – In many places, the name “Christ Jesus” is mentioned in the same verse as the name “Jesus Christ,”
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Ephesians 1:1-3.)
1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2.)
The fact that the two sequences appear so close to each other in these verses seems to indicate that the writer has a purpose in differentiating between the two titles. One pattern I’’ve noticed is that the title “Christ Jesus” is often preceded by the word “in,” possibly identifying the Savior as the covenantal source. Beyond that, I’m at a loss. Any guidance would be appreciated.
– – – – – – – – – – – – My response:
“Jesus” is the Greek form of “Joshua” – a Hebrew word that means “Jehovah-saved” (Strong # 3091). So the name “Jesus” is a combination of his pre-mortal name (Jehovah) and his post-mortal title (“the one who saved,” or “Saviour”). Elis Rasmussen, my friend and neighbor, who is a former Dean of Religion at BYU, translates “Joshua” or “Jesus” as simply “Saviour,” and The LDS Bible dictionary gives the same definition.
From the New Testament, we learn that Jesus was given that name by the angel who spoke to Mary.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. (Luke 1:30-31.)
But from the Book of Mormon, we learn that this was his name or name-title before he was born.
A name-title is a name by which someone is known, but which is actually a title rather than a name. For example, “the President,” or “Mr. President” are name-titles of anyone who serves as president of the United States. “The Prophet Joseph” is a name-title. “Jehovah” is the covenant name that Abraham’s God taught Moses, and is used as a token of God’s covenantal relationship with the nation of Israel. After the Lord made that covenant with Moses, “Jehovah” was used in the Old Testament as the Saviour’s name-title. It is also the name-title we use to refer to the Saviour in his pre-mortal role at the Council in Heaven.
When the Saviour introduced himself to the Brother of Jared, he said,
14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters. (Ether 3:14.)
And Nephi learned that name from an angel.
19 For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (2 Nephi 25:19.)
That statement by Nephi is very interesting because both the words “Messiah” and “Christ” are used together. That may be a clue to the answer to Kirt’s question. “Messiah” is the name-title used in the prophecies of the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon; while “Christ” is the New Testament name-title used to describe the Saviour’s fulfillment of those prophecies. It would be interesting to know if Nephi used the word “Messiah” twice in that passage and if the second one were translated “Christ” for the sake of modern readers.
“Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah.” Both words mean “the anointed one,” and is a reference to an anointing with olive oil, which was the culmination of the coronation ceremonies of both kings and high priests in ancient Israel. (Isaiah 61:3; 2 Kings 11:12; Exodus 29:22; Exodus 40:13; Leviticus 21:10. In some of the psalms and other Old Testament passages the anointed king of Israel is referred to as the “messiah.”)
The scriptures testify of the Saviour’s having received such a royal anointing in the pre-mortal existence. (Psalm 45:7-8, quoted by Paul in Hebrews 1:9; Isaiah 61:1 clarified and quoted by Joseph F. Smith in D&C 138: 42). And Peter testifies that the Saviour received an anointing in this world at the time of his baptism. “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power…”(Acts 10:38)
There are a number of reasons to believe that “Jesus Christ” is a name-title, rather than a given name.
It is apparent from the gospels that “Jesus Christ” was not the name by which the Saviour was know when he walked on the earth as a man.
Matthew opens his gospel with the words, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” ( Matthew 1:1). Mark opens his with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;” (Mark 1:1) but otherwise, the name-title “Jesus Christ” is not found in any of the synoptic gospels. Luke does not use it at all. John uses it only twice. Once as part of a very formal statement which is the testimony of John the Baptist.
15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (John 1:15-17)
And the other as an equally formal statement by the Saviour himself.
1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:1-5)
Before his resurrection, the name-title “Jesus Christ” is not used in the New Testament, except for the two instances in John. Rather, every time the Saviour is referred to by the authors of the gospels, they call him “Jesus.” Within the gospels others refer to him as the “son of David,” which is a reference to his inherited kingship, and may be roughly equivalent to “messiah”; and the Saviour refers to himself as the “Son of Man” – which appears also to have been equivalent to “Messiah” because it establishes his relationship to his Eternal Father, the Man of Holiness.” (Moses 6:57)
All that suggests that to his contemporaries in and around Jerusalem, his name was “Jesus,” and it was not until after his death and resurrection that the title “Christ” was added by his apostles as a name-title.
So it seems safe to assert that “Christ” (Messiah) was not a part of Jesus’ given name, but is his royal name-title that signifies that he is the Anointed Son of His Father and heir to his Father’s throne. From that, I assume that the words “Jesus Christ” means “Jesus the Anointed One,” and is thus an acknowledgment of his earthly, and eternal, kingship and priesthood.
What I am now going to suggest is that while “Jesus Christ” is his name plus his title, that when the words are reversed – “Christ Jesus” – that combination is actually a different name-title. That is, that in the reversed “Christ Jesus,” the word “Jesus” is intended to convey the actual meaning of the word Joshua – “Jehovah saves” – and therefore the phrase “Christ Jesus” means “the Anointed Jehovah who saved” – and I suppose that, in turn, should be understood to mean “The anointed King and High Priest, Jehovah who saves” or more simply, “the Anointed Saviour.”
Now, having made that assertion, let me demonstrate by showing the context in which Alma, Paul, and Peter used the words in that reversed order.
As Kirt mentioned, the phrase “Christ Jesus” is found only once in the Book of Mormon. It is spoken by Alma, and its context is his first address to the saints at Zarahemla after he had given the powers of government to another Chief Judge, and so is now acting only as Prophet and President of the Church. This statement is his formal claim to authority:
44 For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God [a priesthood title that seems always to be associated with the pre-mortal Council, and therefore with a sode experience], which is in Christ Jesus [meaning “the anointed King and High Priest, Jehovah who saves”]; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come. (Alma 5:44.)
If I have read that correctly, “Christ Jesus” – a name-title which suggests eternal kingship and priesthood – would actually be more accurate than “Jesus Christ” because the latter is the name- title used to denote the resurrected Saviour.
At the beginning of Ephesians, Paul uses these name-titles the same way:
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ [Jesus who is anointed] by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus [the anointed King and High Priest, Jehovah who saves.” Paul uses that name-title the same way Alma does, for, as the next verses show, Paul’s context is also the pre-mortal Council.] :
2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2)
Here Paul uses still a third name-title. “Lord” in the New Testament is always translated from Strong 3962 which means “supreme in authority” (the same connotation as “Jehovah”). So it appears that “the Lord Jesus Christ” is meant to be an abbreviated history of the Saviour and his authority: “The Supreme authority at the Council – Jesus the man who saved – who is the anointed heir to his Father.” The correctness of that interpretation seems to be reinforced in the next verse where Paul uses the name-title again to designate the Saviour’s relationship with his Father:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who [the Father] hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places [that is, at the Council in the temple on Kolob] in Christ [the Anointed One]:
4 According as he [the Father] hath chosen us in him [the Saviour] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (Ephesians 1: 1-4)
If I have read that correctly, Paul’s giving the Saviour the series of four different name-titles (Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ) is not just interesting, but the way Paul uses them is an important part of the message Paul has to convey.
Peter seems to be using the name-titles the same way, only we find his testimony at the conclusion of his letter rather than at the beginning.
10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
One might be able to read the whole history of mankind in that sentence: “But the God of all grace [the Father], who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus [that call occurred at the Council where the Savour was “Christ Jesus”], after that ye have suffered a while [this lonely world], make you perfect, stablish, strengthen [all in this world], settle (“consolidate” – Strong 2311) you [next world].
11 To him [the Father] be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.
13 The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.
14 Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-14.)
In America, the President of the Church called a special assembly of extraordinary people and delivered a message about the eternal meaning of charity and its power to bind us to each other, to the Saviour, and to his Father. (Moroni 7) The way I read these words of Peter, they are written by the same authority, to the same audience, with the same message – illuminating that message by the words “Christ Jesus” at its beginning – and at its conclusion also.