Question: Is there a division among the people today, as in Jesus’ time, as to whether He is Jesus the Christ?
Answer: At the time the Savior was on the earth, there was a division among the people as to who He really was. Some thought he was just a prophet and others believed he was the Christ.
Yet despite all the confusion, those who searched for the truth, recognized the power of His words and His divine Sonship. In our day, many again are questioning whether Jesus was just a good man, a Prophet, or Jesus the Christ.
40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. (Referring to some prophet who was to come before Christ)
41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? (This refers to the prophecy that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, and thus, they thought should come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth in Galilee.)
42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
43 So there was a division among the people because of him.
44 And some of them (the officers) would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
45 Then came the officers (soldiers) to the chief priests and Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders); and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him (Why didn’t you arrest Jesus)?
46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man (nobody ever taught like he does).
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G. Homer Durham:
Recently, while I was driving on the highway, a car passed. This was not unusual. The bumper sticker was a little different, saying, “Save the Humans.” One sees many bumper stickers these days. This one turned my thoughts to something fundamental, the word “save.” I thought of the plan of salvation. I thought of the world of scholarship, and of Professor Arnold Toynbee’s analysis of the many so-called “saviours” found in history. We know that one Savior truly saves, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is His church. We have taken upon ourselves His name.
What does the average person mean when he testifies that Jesus is the Christ? Of course, it is the witness of the Spirit that counts. But what do the words Jesus and Christ mean? A brief excursion into the meaning of these two words may be useful.
The Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, tells us that the word Jesus came into the English language from Middle English, adapted from the Latin Iesus, which in turn was adapted from the Greek Iesous. This in turn was adapted from the Hebrew or Aramaic word Yeshua or Yehoshua. The earlier root was Joshua. This dictionary goes on to explain that the word Joshua derived from the Jah of Jahveh, meaning that “Jehovah is salvation.” Thus, the word “Jesus” has parallel meaning with Savior. Dr. David Flusser of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem puts it simply: “Jesus is the common Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua.”
Webster’s New 20th Century Dictionary of the English Language, unabridged, sets forth a comparable definition, noting that the Latin-Greek derivation from the Hebrew Joshua means literally, “help of Jehovah.” But in addition, this source states that the word derives from the Hebrew word for Lord God, he who is available to help, to save. In this sense, then, the word Jesus means simply, “God is help.” The dictionaries and the gospel give the answer.
What of the word Christ? It also comes to the English-speaking world from Middle English, derived from the Latin Christus, in turn from the Greek Christos, which meant “the Anointed,”a noun made from the past participle of the Greek verb “to anoint.” Webster also states that the word Christ was originally Jesus’ title. Thus, proper usage of the two words in English would be as Elder James E. Talmage titled his book, Jesus the Christ. Usage and revelation have joined the two as part of a sacred, revered name.
Elder Talmage defined the two words as follows:
“Jesus is the individual name of the Savior, and as thus spelled is of Greek derivation...In the original the name was well understood as meaning ‘Help of Jehovah,’ or, ‘Savior.’” Elder Talmage emphasized that the word Christ is a sacred title, not “an ordinary...common name; it is of Greek derivation, and... is identical with its Hebrew equivalent Messiah..., signifying the Anointed One.”
What was the earliest documented mention of the sacred name Jesus Christ now available to us? Dr. Joseph Armitage Robinson, one-time Norrisson Professor of Cambridge University, held that it is probably found in the opening verse of First Thessalonians. Imagine the impact of those words then, as we read them today in English, as received by the Thessalonians possibly two decades after the Crucifixion:
“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 1:1.)
Note that the phrase “God the Father” is separated by the conjunction, and from the phrase the Lord Jesus Christ. This demonstrates first-century belief in the separate individuality of the Father and the Son, as restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The opening verse of the Gospel according to St. Mark also comes with great force as a historical document fraught with meaning:
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1.)
The Gospel of John the Beloved is even more eloquent. He records the witness of the Savior’s forerunner, John the Baptist, as follows:
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29.)
“Save the Humans”? Think of the Baptist’s testimony: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world”!
How did the Savior of mankind acquire his name in mortality? By revelation. To Joseph of Nazareth, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream, saying:
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:20–21.)
Here is confirmation of the dictionary meaning of the name, as recorded by Matthew: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21.)
Mary also had angelic confirmation of the name, as recorded by Luke:
“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.” (Luke 1:30–31.)
The formal naming of the child when eight days old is recorded by Luke:
“His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21.) The name which means “God is help,” “the Anointed One,” “the Promised Messiah,” has thus come to us.
Some three decades ago, Professor Arnold Toynbee concluded one of the most extensive studies of history ever undertaken. He recorded mankind’s quest for “saviours,” for “the way out.” He identified four categories: (1) the “Creative Genius”; (2) the “Saviour with a Sword”; (3) the “Saviour with a Time Machine,” one dreaming of a utopia or an archaic past which never existed; (4) the saviour as a “Philosopher, Masked as a King.” All these history rejects.
Finally, Toynbee pointed to “the God Incarnate in a Man,” the Lord Jesus Christ. And then he wrote: “This is in truth the final result of our survey of saviours. When we set out on this quest we found ourselves moving in the midst of a mighty host, but, as we have pressed forward, the marchers, company by company, have fallen out of the race. The first to fail were the swordsmen, the next the archaists and the futurists, the next the philosophers, until only gods were left in the running...And now, as we stand and gaze with our eyes fixed upon the farther shore, a single figure rises from the flood and straightway fills the whole horizon. There is the Saviour.”
We know that Savior to be the Lord Jesus Christ. From many, many experiences over my lifetime, I can truly testify to you that He truly is our Savior; and if the Father is approached in prayer, as His Son has commanded us, doors will open to help us move forward without fear in life. That all men everywhere may come to realize and know the significance of Jesus the Christ, the One chosen before the foundation of the world, is my faith and witness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 67; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 285; Excerpts from General Conference, April 1984, “Jesus the Christ: the Words and Their Meaning,” by G. Homer Durham, Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.