The Gospel of Mark because was the first written Gospel. Mark begins by referring to, “Jesus Christ the Son of God.” Mark 1:1. Nevertheless, would Mary, Joseph, or early followers of Jesus have called him that?
One clue that the answer is no, is the fact that the letter “J” did not come into the English language until the sixteenth century. Further, as a Jew, Jesus had a Hebraic name, and that was Yehoshua (“Joshua”) or, perhaps, Yeshua, a shortened Aramaic version, or even, Yeshu.
The first fifteen bishops of the early Church were Jews. By the time Greek-speaking Gentiles gained full control of the Church in the third-century, they significantly minimized Jesus’ Jewish heritage. This would make it easier to break with the “old covenant” of Judaism (which required compliance with the 613 commandments, something I will discuss in a subsequent post) and institute the “new covenant” of Christianity, which required only belief in Jesus. When a Greek name (Iesous, pronounced “ee-ay-soos”) replaces his Hebraic name, Jesus is more easily withdrawn from his undeniably Jewish roots, which sets the stage for breaking him from his Jewish persona and Jewish teachings. As a result, many end up perceiving Jesus as being the “first” Christian.
As to the term “Christ,” it is the Anglicized version of the Greek word, Christos, meaning, “anointed one.” Yet again, we see a break from the Hebraic term for anointed one, Moshiach, rendered Messiah in English. Jesus’ Jewish name and title in Hebrew would be Yehoshua ha Moshiach, that is, Jesus the Messiah.
The Jewish view of the Messiah is that he will be a mere mortal, born of his parents’ sexual union; he will have no divine attributes whatsoever. This is fundamental Jewish teaching. The Ebionites, one of the earliest groups of followers of Jesus, took this view. They believed that Jesus was mortal, but because of his righteousness, God adopted him. See Mark 1:9-11. Of course, that Jesus is the literal Son of God is a fundamental teaching within most branches of Christianity today. As we shall see, while there are clear convergences between Judaism and Christianity, there are distinct differences, too. This is certainly one of them.