In Christianity, the Christ (Greek word Χριστός (Christos) meaning "the anointed one") is a title for the saviour and redeemer who would bring salvation to the Jewish people and mankind. Christians believe that Jesus is the Jewish messiah called Christ in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Christ, used by Christians as both a name and a title, is synonymous with Jesus.
The role of the Christ in Christianity originated from the concept of the messiah in Judaism. Though the conceptions of the messiah in each religion are similar, for the most part they are distinct from one another due to the split of early Christianity and Judaism in the 1st century.
Though the original followers of Jesus believed Jesus to be the Jewish messiah, e.g. in the Confession of Peter, before the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus was usually referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth" or "Jesus, son of Joseph". Jesus came to be called "Jesus Christ" (meaning "Jesus the Khristós", i.e. "Jesus the Messiah" or "Jesus the Anointed") by his followers after his crucifixion and resurrection. Christians believe that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in his mission, death, and resurrection. The Pauline epistles, the earliest texts of the New Testament, often refer to Jesus as "Christ Jesus" or "Christ". The word Christ was originally a title, but later became part of the name "Jesus Christ". It is, however, still also used as a title, in the reciprocal use "Christ Jesus", meaning "the Messiah Jesus", and independently as "the Christ".
The followers of Jesus became known as Christians (as in Acts 11:26) because they believed Jesus to be the Khristós or Mashiach prophesied in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus was not, and is not, accepted in Judaism as a Jewish messiah, and the concept of a divine messiah was always rejected by Judaism as idolatry. Religious Jews still await their messiah's first coming and the Messianic prophecies of Jewish tradition to be accomplished. Religious Christians believe in the Second Coming of Christ, and they await the rest of Christian messianic prophecies to be fulfilled. One of those prophecies, distinctive in both the Jewish and Christian concept of the messiah, is that a Jewish king from the Davidic line, who will be "anointed" with holy anointing oil, will be king of God's kingdom on earth, and rule the Jewish people and mankind during the Messianic Age and World to come. Muslims accept Jesus (Arabic: عيسى, translit. ʿĪsā) as al-Masih, the messiah in Islam, but don't believe that the messiah is divine or the Son of God, but do believe he will come again.
The area of Christian theology called Christology is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament.
The word Christ (and similar spellings) appears in English and in most European languages. English-speakers now often use "Christ" as if it were a name, one part of the name "Jesus Christ", though it was originally a title ("the Messiah"). Its usage in "Christ Jesus" emphasizes its nature as a title. Compare the usage "the Christ".
The spelling Christ in English became standardized in the 18th century, when, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, the spelling of certain words changed to fit their Greek or Latin origins. Prior to this, scribes writing in Old and Middle English usually used the spelling Crist - the i being pronounced either as /iː/, preserved in the names of churches such as St Katherine Cree, or as a short /ɪ/, preserved in the modern pronunciation of "Christmas". The spelling "Christ" in English is attested from the 14th century.
In modern and ancient usage, even in secular terminology, "Christ" usually refers to Jesus, based on the centuries-old tradition of such usage. Since the Apostolic Age, the
[...] use of the definite article before the word Christ and its gradual development into a proper name show the Christians identified the bearer with the promised Messias of the Jews.
Pre-existence, Incarnation and Nativity
There are distinct, and differing, views among Christians regarding the existence of Christ before his conception. A key passage in the New Testament is John 1:1–18 where John 1:17 specifically mentions that "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Those who believe in the Trinity, consider Christ a pre-existent divine hypostasis called the Logos or the Word. Other, non-Trinitarian views, question the aspect of personal pre-existence or question the aspect of divinity, or both. An example is the Orthodox Gnomic view, which asserts that Christ was, in fact, not a pre-existent divine being.
The concept of Christ as Logos derives from John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In the original Greek, Logos (λόγος) is used for "Word," and is often used untranslated. In the Christology of the Logos, Christ is viewed as the Incarnation of the "Divine Logos", i.e. The Word.
In the 2nd century, with his theory of "recapitulation", Irenaeus connected "Christ the Creator" with "Christ the Savior", relying on Ephesians 1:10 ("when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ") to gather together and wrap up the cycle of the Nativity and Resurrection of Christ.
Christ and salvation in Christianity
"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." — In Matthew 1:21 the name Jesus was selected by Divine direction.
In Colossians 1:15–16 Apostle Paul viewed the Nativity of Jesus as an event of cosmic significance which changed the nature of the world by paving the way for salvation.
Christian teachings present the Love of Christ as a basis for his sacrificial act that brought forth salvation. In John 14:31 Jesus explains that his sacrifice was performed so: "that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do." Ephesians 5:25 then states that: "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it".
In the 2nd century, Irenaeus expressed his views of salvation in terms of the imitation of Christ and his theory of "recapitulation". For Irenaeus the imitation of Christ is based on God's plan of salvation, which involved Christ as the "Last Adam" He viewed the incarnation as the way in which Christ repaired the damage done by Adam's disobedience. For Irenaeus, salvation was achieved by Christ restoring humanity to the image of God, and he saw the Christian imitation of Christ as a key component on the path to salvation. For Irenaeus Christ succeeded on every point on which Adam failed. Irenaeus drew a number of parallels, e.g. just as in the fall of Adam resulted from the fruit of a tree, Irenaeus saw redemption and salvation as the fruit of another tree: the cross of crucifixion.
Following in the Pauline tradition, in the 5th century Augustine of Hippo viewed Christ as the mediator of the New Covenant between God and man and as the conqueror over sin. He viewed Christ as the cause and reason for the reconciliation of man with God after the fall of Adam, and he saw in Christ the path to Christian salvation. Augustine believed that salvation is available to those who are worthy of it, through faith in Christ.
In the 13th century Thomas Aquinas aimed to recapture the teachings of the Church Fathers on the role of the Holy Trinity in the economy of salvation. In Aquinas' view angels and humans were created for salvation from the very beginning. For Aquinas the Passion of Christ poured out the grace of salvation and all its virtues unto humanity.
Martin Luther distinguished the history of salvation between the Old and the New Testament, and saw a new dimension to salvation with the arrival of Christ.
The focus on human history was an important element of the biblically grounded 16th-century theology of John Calvin. Calvin considered the first coming of Christ as the key turning point in human history. He viewed Christ as "the one through whom salvation began" and he saw the completion of Christ's plan of salvation as his death and Resurrection.
The use of "Χ," derived from Chi, the Greek alphabet initial, as an abbreviation for Christ (most commonly in the abbreviation "Χmas") is often misinterpreted as a modern secularization of the term. Thus understood, the centuries-old English word Χmas, is actually a shortened form of CHmas, which is, itself, a shortened form for Christmas. Christians are sometimes referred to as "Xians," with the 'X' replacing 'Christ.
A very early Christogram is the Chi Rho symbol formed by superimposing the first two Greek letters in Christ ( Greek: "Χριστός"), chi = ch and rho = r, to produce ☧.