25 March 2010

Colossians studies 10: Greetings 2 (1:1-2)

by Dan Phillips

(Continued from heah.)

Last time we saw who primarily wrote Colossians: "Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God" (Colossians 1:1). We saw that the letter to the Colossians is not like this post. This is being written by a student of revelation; Colossians was written by a conduit of revelation. As an apostle, Paul spoke for Christ. For he is, as he says, an "apostle of Christ Jesus."

In whose name did Paul write? Perhaps I can assume that most of our readers value those words properly; I daresay many churchgoers don't. Many think that Jesus is the Lord's first name, and Christ His last. If so, this order must mess them up: Christ Jesus. So let's be sure we know what they mean.

CHRIST is yet another non-translation. It is instead a transliteration of the Greek word Χριστός (Christos), which simply means "anointed" (note: only two "n's"). It is from the verb χρίω (chriō), meaning to pour oil on something, to anoint it. A christos, then, is someone who has had oil poured on him.

So you see right off that it isn't a last name; in fact, it isn't a name at all. It's an adjective, used as a noun, a title.

Now here, perhaps some New Ager has stumbled by from a Religious Science or Christian Science site, and his eyes light up. "That's right!" he says. "It's the Christ, the principle of Sonship that is in us all!" You may recall that the Lord saved me out of the cult of Religious Science, founded by Ernest Holmes. The cult's textbook is called The Science of Mind, and it includes a glossary, which defines "Christ" thus:
The total manifestation of God, from the plant to an angel; from a peanut to the entire Universe of expression. Christ in Man means the idea of Sonship, the Perfect Man as He must be held in the Mind of God.
Uh, yeah; except no.

Words, like people, have histories and genealogies. You don't meet someone and instantly pop off with, "Okay, I'm going to say you're a circus clown, from an ancient family of circus clowns who entertained the crown princes of Europe, and...." The person is what he is, and you need to learn who he is and what he is and where he's been and what he's done.

So it is with words such as "Christ." They already have histories, when we meet them. We don't get to make them up. This word's history reaches back into the Old Testament, where the Hebrew equivalent is mâšîach — which means exactly the same thing ("anointed"), and is transliterated "Messiah." So "Christ" and "Messiah" mean exactly the same thing; and both transliterate Greek and Hebrew words (respectively) meaning anointed one.

In the OT, anointing was a sort of inauguration ceremony that identified special individuals. Which sorts? Three:
  1. Prophets (1 Kings 19:16; Psalm 105:15)
  2. Priests (Exodus 30:30; Leviticus 4:5)
  3. Kings (1 Samuel 9:16; 24:6 [Hebrew 7])
The Old Testament prophesies the Messiah, the anointed one (Daniel 9:25-26), who unites in Himself all three offices:
  1. Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
  2. Priest (Psalm 110:4)
  3. King (Psalm 2:6, 9; Isaiah 9:6-7)
JESUS also transliterates the Greek name passably. It is indeed our Lord's personal name, a name given and interpreted by the angel in Matthew 1:21 — "she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (NAS). "Jesus" is the Greek version of the Hebrew name "Joshua," which means salvation, or Yahweh is salvation, in Hebrew.

Here again, Holmes just makes it up in how he defines "Jesus":
The name of a man. Distinguished from the Christ. The man Jesus became the embodiment of the Christ as the human gave way to the Divine Idea of Sonship.
In contrast, the apostle John (who actually knew Jesus Christ) said
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22)
So you see, New Agers can't just come along and pump any meaning they care to into words like "Christ." Paul did not make up the word. He took a word with a long, rich, distinct history, and he plopped it right down on...
...not a concept
...not an ideal
...but a particular historical Person.
Now, briefly: where was Paul? He was in prison (4:3, 18); to be exact, he was in prison in Rome (Acts 28:17-31). To be even more precise, he was in prison for preaching the Gospel to people just like the Colossians; for preaching to them that they could be accepted as righteous by God for Christ's sake, without having to become Jews in any sense. So he had a personal investment, and some very convinced cred, in opposing the false teacher.

Next: who was the secondary writer? "Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother...."

Timothy was a child of mixed parentage (Acts 16:1). I often envied Timothy, raised in a home where his parents spoke Greek and Hebrew! No need for Machen and Weingreen!

Timothy was also a Christian believer who was nurtured up on Scripture (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15). He became Paul's beloved and trusted apprentice (Acts 16:1-3; Philippians 2:19-23).

What role Timothy had in the composition of the letter, we don't know. Perhaps he was Paul's secretary. But Paul presents his apprentice as joining with him in the letter's composition.

Next, I plan to go on to look at the recipients, and see the significance in how Paul greets them.

Dan Phillips's signature


donsands said...

Good study. Well done.

Made me think of this verse:

"The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”"

DJP said...

Very apposite, Don.

Nash Equilibrium said...

You reminded me of a conversation I had decades ago in college: I was speaking with a "Christian" (?) in my dorm who told me that "the concept of Jesus came from Africa," something he had learned in Black Studies. It struck me as so bizarre, that I wasn't quick enough to point out that Jesus wasn't a "concept."

GW said...

Today I was reading John and I had this very question. Why were so many of the average non-educated people so aware of looking out for a Christ , a Messiah, a King and a prophet?

John 1:41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).

John 1:49Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

John 4:28-29 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"

I just finished reading the old testament. Once I got to Isaiah, I would have to admit I was just plodding through. Where is the language in the Jewish scripture that made all these people know that a Christ was coming?

DJP said...

Good, short question, GW, that would require a very long answer.

I have actually answered you in part in my two 1-2-3's, in the post. Please check out those Scriptures.

The hope is first kindled in Genesis 3:15, where in unusual language Yahweh puts hostility between the woman and the serpent, and between his seed and her seed. But then her seed strikes — not the serpent's seed's head, but — the head of the serpent, mankind's enemy. Some individual, a descendant of Eve, would be mankind's deliverer.

This deliverer is then prepared for throughout the rest of the OT in a wide variety of ways, as Hebrews 1:1 says. In picture, He is seen in bloody, vicarious sacrifices such as begin in the Garden (Genesis 3:21) and are later formalized and ritualized in Israel's worship (Leviticus 1 and following). They set forth the principle of forgiveness through vicarious bloody sacrifice (Leviticus 17:11, 14).

There are many other pictures, but to stay with that one, Isaiah 52:11-53:13 takes that language, and shows an individual human being fulfilling what the animal sacrifices depict, in an effectual death for the sins of his people.

That person is named "Messiah" in the verses I give in the post.

Hope that helps.

Stefan Ewing said...

The whole Gospel is packed into the very name of our Lord and Saviour: the (ongoing) fulfilment of God's Old Testament promises in redeeming a people unto Himself united under a King ("Christ"), and His redemptive work that makes it possible ("Jesus").

David Regier said...

Dan, you may not be blowing out the comment threads with these, but they're great foundational posts.

Oh, and I think I figured out why people sometimes say, "Thanks for the post, Phil." when you wrote it:

They think it's your title.

Stefan Ewing said...

Wow, seven comments total (eight including this one) on the Name of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away
But there's something about that name.

(The Gaithers)